Experience and Knowledge (Q. 321)

Q: ‘Experiential’, seemingly, is becoming a stumbling block in current discussions within spirituality and non-duality. There are the ‘experiential’, usually ‘anti-intellectual’ types (who deprecate ‘merely intellectual’, or ‘conceptual’ approaches), and those who defend the proper use of mind and the intellect, without denying the validity of experience.

 Would it be possible, though, to dispense with either of the two concepts: ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’?; they appear to overlap, practically being synonyms and, indeed, one can say “I know pain in the belly”, or, “I know such and such emotion”, “I know (I am acquainted with) life”, etc., without resorting to the word ‘experience’ – the word ‘acquaint’, conveniently, is derived from the Latin via old French: cognoscere, gnoscere. The other alternative would be to dispense with the word ‘knowledge’ and use instead ‘real’/’unreal’, ‘reality’, which is, precisely, sat/asat in sanskrit – and expressions using these terms are quite frequent, as everybody… realizes (‘is cognizant with’, then, would have to be ruled out). Just today I wrote in a comment that true understanding is an experience, but now I have my doubts. Ultimately, certainly, the only Experiencer/Knower is brahman/atman (though he remains ever unmoved). Continue reading