In the room of our mind there lives in each of us a third eye: The “Mind’s eye”. With this eye there are four windows through which we can gaze at reality: Knowledge, Belief, Understanding and Wisdom.
Pure knowledge is nothing. We can know nothing. It is demonstrated by its’ owner in sentences full of contradiction and confusion. It is held by an orphan whose only inheritance is a Latin Bible and the last words of their parent expressing the opinion that there is nothing more important in life than to follow those unreadable words.
The window of knowledge is covered in dirt and does not allow any light to pass through its’ glass. Our perception of reality is not widened by looking through it because it may as well be a wall.
The orphan can take the dying message to heart, in which case the knowledge has become belief. The orphan does not really comprehend it, but will invest all their trust in its’ truthfulness. Belief is everything, and it is often confused with knowledge. We can know nothing, but believe anything. Everything we think we know is only strong belief. Belief is the axiom. Knowledge is the theorem. Belief is the idea that we breath air, that the sky is blue, that the earth is round, that there is a God, that we have eleven fingers, that one and one make two, that blood is green, that all physical things consist of tiny little particles called atoms. Belief is everything.
The window of belief is only the window of knowledge, but washed and polished so that we can actually use it as a window. However the absence of the dirt reveals less of a view into reality, than it does the fact that the window was not very wide in the first place. You must press your cheek against the wall and put your mind’s eye to the window as you would when peeking through a keyhole. You must strain your mind’s eye to see anything through the window of belief.
The orphan could take the time to learn Latin, read the Bible, and ponder upon its’ meaning. In the process learning, organising thoughts, forming opinions, absorbing the thoughts and opinions of others. The knowledge has changed into understanding. Understanding is the sort of thing found in textbooks. It is the insight that allows you to learn a language, soak up a mathematical formula whilst seeing clearly how it works, what its’ purpose is. It is what comes from reading a book; picking up second hand thoughts and wrestling with them until they give up their meaning. When you have a body of beliefs built on other beliefs, with everything logically fitting together into one big picture, you have found understanding. It is a big window. It is the window that allows you to stand back and enjoy the view of reality with a relaxed eye, everything fitting together, seeming so beautiful, so amazing and incomprehensible, and yet able to be appreciated. It reveals reality as the most carefully constructed artwork. It is the big picture itself.
Wisdom however, cannot be inherited. It cannot be acquired from the outside world in the way that the other three can. The outside world may stimulate the discovery of wisdom by providing knowledge, understanding and belief, but in the end wisdom must come from within. It is pure thought leading to gems of insight that cannot be conveyed with words, only approximated; For to give word to wisdom is to transform it into knowledge, and this can never again become wisdom. Only two people who arrived at the same conclusion on their own can use words to communicate the wisdom they share while being confident that both understand exactly what it is that the other speaks of. It is thinking outside the box, it is realising that there is no box, it is questioning everything and anything until the questions become statements and those statements must themselves be questioned. It is where you can arrive at a deep understanding completely independently, only reading a book or seeking a respected opinion in order to confirm that wisdom which you already have. Wisdom is what forms your Identity. Certain kinds of wisdom are shared among many people, other kinds of wisdom are specific to individuals. Wisdom is the widest window through which we can see reality. It is a window so wide that you cannot see where the room of your mind ends and reality begins. It is so wide that you may doubt there is even a window at all, you can simply extend your hand, your whole body into the image before you and experience everything that reality has to offer. When gazing through the window of wisdom you no longer need to wrap your mind around reality: Reality wraps itself around you.
Alex Herlihy – 2010