The Difference Between Believing and Knowing

Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychology, went to great lengths to make a clear distinction between believing and knowing. He pointed out that many of us live our lives based largely on the beliefs of others while the road to “individuation” or wholeness requires that we spend a lot more time in pursuit of our own knowing.

In our new book, Do Not Go Quietly, A Guide To Living Consciously and Aging Wisely For People Who Weren’t Born Yesterday, we define the difference between believing and knowing this way. “Beliefs most often depend on what other people say, think, claim and have learned from others. Beliefs are intellectual rather than heart centered; often conceptual rather than visceral. Knowing, on the other hand, results from our own direct and personal experience in life. It generally aligns with an inner yardstick or compass and is far more dependable and consequential.”

We go on to suggest that in this age of information when the God of Opinion and Belief exercises such relentless control over our lives, Jung’s essential distinction between believing and knowing seems to have almost been forgotten. Indeed, in our world education and most careers have come to reward mimicry over originality, advocacy over inquiry. And opinion and hearsay have come to replace facts as the primary currency of exchange today.

Is it any wonder then that our world is facing so many challenges and uncovers so few genuine solutions? Indeed, from our perspective what we have is not just “a failure to communicate,” but the inability to differentiate. Yes, the inability to differentiate between fact and fiction; between copies and originals; between virtual and actual; and of course, between believing and knowing appears to be strengthening the position held by the God of Opinion and Belief. This God of sometimes questionable values and somewhat easy virtue, unfortunately, has become the one most worshiped. While intuition, imagination, curiosity, insight, creativity, originality, revelation, discernment and direct experience have been reduced to minor status.

We exaggerate this somewhat troubling state of the state, of course, but unfortunately not all that much. One need only walk down the main street of one of our cities or towns or glance about in one of our public places to experience our immersion in other people’s beliefs. Like armies of somnambulists many of us spend a significant number of our present moments preoccupied with the technological toys that constantly trumpet what other people are thinking, saying or doing.

Yes, we walk and talk, but often to people who are often not physically present with us. And when we are not doing this we are reading emails, surfing the web, watching videos, tweeting or texting. In short, living in a virtual world! Rarely do we just walk and breathe, walk and observe, walk and feel into the world around us. And even more rarely do we listen within to the sound of knowing.

Even if you happen to be among the dwindling number who do not spend the majority of their precious ‘nows’ in this manner, you may have children or grandchildren, co-workers, friends or significant others who do. Indeed, you may have trouble convincing them that turning strangers into new acquaintances and friends, interacting with and learning from the world of nature, and learning to be alone and comfortable in the silence are not just options, but essential things we must do if we want to keep our sanity, our humanity and above all, learn to differentiate between believing and knowing.

Indeed, we believe these pursuits are essential steps on the road to living consciously and aging wisely. We also believe these practices are necessary especially for those of us who weren’t born yesterday and for whom it is both valuable and essential to use some of the time we have remaining to explore for ourselves the dimensions that lie beyond boundaries of physical existence.

So if you are someone who longs for a life that has greater meaning and purpose; if you are someone who longs from a more direct and personal experience of God, Source or whatever you call the central or organizing power of the universe; we encourage you to always seek the real, the unique and the original. We encourage you to live more of your moments in the now, demonstrate and celebrate the pursuit of your dreams, harvest the wisdom of your experience, listen more often and deeper to that “still small inner voice” and constantly seek to differentiate between believing and knowing. In this ways you will not only inherit greater clarity, peace and joy, but you will contribute to a world of greater sanity and consciousness.

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