When we value accrued knowledge and information above all else, we are blind. This blindness, the preoccupation with the non-essential, is not ignorance. (Who could call us ignorant in the information age?) We have no word for this essential ignorance, but many words existed in the ancient cultures that knew gnosis. One of those words is ignosis.
The need for a word such as ignosis tells part of the story. Originally it meant incomprehension of the essential, but as the apprehension of the essential decayed in the process of acquiring knowledge, the only derivative that remained was “ignorance”, which has come to mean not knowing a fact or series of facts. This degrading of the word meaning “lacking gnosis” into a word describing a lack of factual knowledge indicates the path we must retrace if gnosis and Sophia are to be restored as the transcendent center of existence.
Of knowledge and ignosis, the ancient Brahmanic wisdom of the Upanishads has this to say: “Those who are in ignosis are in darkness; those who think they know are in greater darkness still.”
The greater darkness can be called Error. Error is not a mistake or an incorrect statement. It refers to an entire mode of thinking which may be locally accurate and logical, but which is speciously based. The German word irren, from which “error” comes, is derived from the word meaning “crazy or foolish”. Following Error can be called Errance, which leads further into Wrong. For the most part, mere knowledge and information may be correct, but insofar as it is rooted in ignosis, it is basically foolishness. So is fashion. So are all too many of the cultural fictions that animate our civilization.
Errance – error – foolishness – these lead to depravity, which is subject to the shadowy ways of darkness, a force in its own right.
Bereft of the essential, evil ricochets back and forth off of itself until it self-destructs.
“To the origin” is the cry for the essential. “More” is the cry for the non-essential.
The essential is qualitative, not quantitative. However, the absence of the essential creates a vacuum in which value drifts towards the quantitative. More knowledge, more goods, more information, more fixits … we live in an economic environment that can survive only if it is growing. It can only thrive on More. Quantity is addictive. Consumerism is our cultural addiction, a frenzied attempt to stuff the awful void of the non-essential with substance that has brand names.
Progress is a keystone of our civilization. It is identified with technology. As the story goes, every new technological wonder contributes to progress. But the fact is that every technological advance is neutral and can as easily serve regress. Look at the automobile. Look at nuclear energy.
In fact, we are not truly better off than we have been. Daily, evidence mounts. In addition to the downside of each technological advance, the more these advances are deployed, the more desperate is our day-to-day frenzy to keep up with them. “More” has become a madness. But what is worse is that all this technological advance, at an ever-increasing rate, is using up our natural home, and, in the process, is rendering it uninhabitable. This will become clearer and clearer in the twenty-first century. Is there any way that we can think of this as progress?
This dedication to “more” is Error, foolishness. And for the first time, tragically, it constitutes the environmental destruction which becomes daily more irreversible.