Now the obvious question that comes to mind is: if such a New World was discovered today, would we know how to truly ‘see’ it? Would we be free from any predetermined mental images and expectations we may have of a different world – think for instance of the fantasies of science fiction – in order to grasp the reality and diversity that would present itself to our eyes?
There is a story that talks of how the native Americans did not see Columbus’s caravels coming, as the ships were not parts of what they were used to seeing above the waves of the sea. Whether this anecdote is authentic or only speculative, we can still understand the personal everyday experiences where, when something happens that is outside of what we consider likely, it can escape our immediate attention and conscious awareness.
The question Calvino poses therefore, is not directly related to any particular event that has happened at any specific time. Socrates for instance, also focused on the importance of being truly open to what we do not yet know. In fact, he argued that ‘wisdom begins with wonder’ – the capacity of wonder so typical in children – a wonder that can survive well into adulthood, only if our insights extend to ‘knowing that we do not know’. Our consciousness must not allow itself to be caged by the memory of past experiences, and objectively observe the world around it, with a truly open, ‘virginal’, gaze and innocence.
If a New World were discovered today, would we know how to truly ‘see’ it? If humanity finds itself in a new era, would it know how to recognize it? Would we know how to discard from our minds all the images that we associate with our expectations of a different world, in order to grasp the true diversity that would present itself to our eyes.
Our gaze nowadays, is certainly not ‘virginal’, as it is strongly conditioned by the constant stimulation of information (verbal, visual, sound, subliminal) we seem to be bombarded with every minute of the day, especially by the social media that exerts such a powerful influence. Our absorption of this uninterrupted flow of information, has the effect of also creating within us the same endless flow of opinions, conjectures, prejudices (or just simple assessments); in short; it creates the illusion and belief that ‘we already know’.
All of this over-stimulation has the effect of polarizing our consciousness, constantly pushing us to react either for or against, keeping us in a state of perpetual tension with someone or something – today we are for this issue, tomorrow we are against another. We are left with no option but to form an opinion, as our identity depends upon it. But reacting in one way or another, does not move us towards real knowledge, much less true cognition.
In a Hermetic book on the Tarot, an anonymous author says that the process towards true knowledge, consists of four steps: intuition, awareness, action and transmission. The perceptions of the heart give us an intuitive sense of ‘reality’; the consciousness assimilates and processes our life experiences guided by the heart to bring us awareness; our actions in life then reflect this interaction of the head and the heart; and finally, our total being ‘communicates’, it radiates.
This should be the ideal process, the one that generates ‘knowledge’ – intuition, reflection, practice and radiation. When even one of these aspects is missing, the knowledge we obtain is not complete – since it is not truly rooted in us, and does not escape the wear and tear of time.
Our modern society is fundamentally focused on intellectual knowledge. The knowledge of the mind is focused on the visible aspects of existence, those that appear on the surface, and very often resolve themselves into an accumulation of data, which is then cross-pollinated with other data, until they form at best, a specific overall mental image. That process however, only reflects what appears on the surface at best.
Through the accumulation of more or less ‘rational’ data and information, we can become acquainted with knowledge, but never truly ‘wise’. Moreover, this accumulation of data bears no true relevance to our deeper selves. A well-structured computer can also accumulate data and present it in a more structured way than we can, as a certain branch of science is struggling to prove. However, this approach cannot, even remotely, address issues such as the origin and function of life, which are the realms and essence of true knowledge.
From a structural point of view, many elements distinguish a human being from a computer, the most important of which is the heart, with its vitality and subtlety. Indeed, the human heart, in addition to its complex biological functions, has a whole series of qualities and properties, one of which is as the seat of intuition.
It is intuition that guides the search for the ‘knowledge that affects our deepest being’. It is like a need, a vital necessity, that at a specific point in our personal evolution, grabs us and pushes us towards a new way of thinking, a specific knowledge that is rudimentary to our true destiny as human beings. In this way, we do not just become ‘acquainted’, but we begin to know what is essential to know.
Then it will become necessary to put this knowledge into practice, into action.
The Gnostics of the first centuries, argued that true knowledge consists of ‘actions arising from knowledge’; that you truly assimilate something only at the moment when you put it into practice, when you see the real consistency, the fruits, of what you have only approached theoretically up until then.
Finally, where would all of us be without the invaluable contributions of the Greek philosophers. These were human beings who investigated, studied and contemplated, and then related to us, what they had comprehended (from etymology); what they had deduced from the knowledge they had obtained.
Heart: Head: Practice: Relationship.
This path transforms us, generating in us a new vibratory state, which attracts into our life system a new insight that coalesces into a more complete reflection. It drives us to a more mature action that becomes a living example of true evolution. An endless, virtuous spiral that honors the original meaning of being human: being ‘humus’ – fertile ground.
We then gradually become ever more capable of perceiving the ‘new’, as we have replaced the comfort and familiarity of our brain’s ‘data bank’ with the wonder of the discovery of the profound meaning of life on Earth.