“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them”. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

I have been contemplating the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘belief’. Aldous Huxley quite clearly links belief with conditioning, those influences around us that form an imprint on our way of living, often at a pretty deep and unconscious level. Others might take a different perspective on belief –    ‘The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; they did not engender those beliefs, and they are powerless to destroy them.’ (Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way).

What I notice in examining a number of perspectives on beliefs is that it does tend to have a more ‘concrete’ or absolute feel about it. There is much counsel about holding our beliefs lightly but in my experience the opposite can often be true – there is a sense of attachment or fixedness about them. A belief can often be a way of navigating the world safely offering us a compass for working our way through life and in that sense can be extremely powerful and uplifting or damaging and painful if today’s crises are anything to go by.

For me ‘knowing’ has a different quality. Interestingly the sense of certainty is there but held very lightly, almost like gossamer. There is an ethereal quality about the knowing which is both light and yet strong.  It almost feels like a work in progress where new information filters in or new possibilities are weighed against it in a process of ‘inquiry’ and curiosity. And even within all of that knowing still has a depth and ‘is-ness’ quality about it.

What I notice also is that a knowing can appear as a sudden thing – almost like a veil being removed from our eyes revealing a completely new vista, or it can emerge over time. Most often it cannot be ‘proven’ in the way we typically seek proof and it also feels like a very personal thing. That’s not to say the same ‘knowing’ can’t be shared by many people but it even so it still feels personal – I guess like a relationship with one’s own soul.

Take reincarnation for example – is this a belief or a knowing? It’s a concept I often find myself talking about in a fairly assumptive manner as if it’s a commonly held concept. But I know that many would say ‘I don’t believe in reincarnation’ so in that sense it can be described as a belief. For me though it’s a knowing. It’s something I feel I have a deep sense of, and relationship with. I have no proof in the traditional sense and yet it informs my life in a very deep way. At the same time, I find myself continuously examining it, seeking new information or ways of understanding it like a living part of my being, my DNA.

So perhaps that’s all as clear as mud but if I had to crystallise it, I would say a knowing feels deep, is held consciously, is alive and underpinned by grace. What do you think?

Lorraine Flower