An Essay on Knowledge

“The past not only contains, in its depths, the unrealized future, but in part the realized future itself”—Tagore.

The spark that led to the discovery of fire also ignited man’s thirst for knowledge—a quest that also marked the beginning of man’s passion for tinkering with nature and all things heretofore realm of the uncertain and unknown was the force that gave us the ability to comprehend ourselves and our surroundings with insight, developing new axioms and newer truths. This insight helped humanity to progress from the simple tool-making stage to a complex, super-computer stage where technological superiority aided by science plays a dominant role. However, all stages left their indelible imprints in the vast reservoir of human knowledge and each stage was symbolically linked to the other, in the sense that each left valuable resources for the next.

The material transformation of our knowledge systems ushered the realization that knowledge is power and the “sublime shades of the forests” were merely to provide utility to man. This transformation emphasized the ‘purposefulness’ of knowledge and initiated the ‘discriminatory’ character of modern knowledge, thereby introducing the separate worlds of man and nature.

Ironically we seem to have arrived at a stage today where probably man’s quest for knowledge has come a full circle. The insight/knowledge that was garnered after the ‘first spark’ has paradoxically brought us to a state where the determinate nature of knowledge systems vindicates the ‘uncertain and relative’ nature of the manifested reality. In contemporary times we confront a reality that is uncertain, relative and consequently paled by an ontological and epistemological crisis, not only regarding knowledge systems but also about ‘our’ very being. This ontological and epistemological crisis confronts contemporary society in a manner that may be unprecedented in human history. Especially the purveyors of knowledge and knowledge systems are the ones who are caught up in this philosophical and sociological crisis that has sterilized the growth of new truths and new ideas that are instrumental in producing alternative ‘visions of existence’.


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An increasingly technological society with little faith in the fellow strugglers, bereft of compassion, empathy and ‘depth of sentiment’, where even the sacred and the high divine ground id institutionalized in a manner that implies merely a mechanical performance of rituals without the feeling of a conscious divine bliss, we await the first dawn of a new millennium.

The deep knowledge gives freedom to its receiver. This “freedom of power in our language, freedom of expression in our literature, freedom of soul in our religious creeds and freedom of mind in our social environment”, is said to be the chief inspiration of human civilization. But if e consider the contemporary conditions prevailing in the land, which saw the unique integrated contribution of several races in the enhancement of its cultural life, we can discern the ‘rigid rules of the dead’, that still binds our social and cultural moorings.

The social and cultural life if India is still bonded by the fetters that were placed upon it because of the so-called, ‘civilizational necessity.’ Ever after five decades of free transmission of knowledge we have not been able to create ‘free’ society from such civilizational necessities, rather we have strengthened these fetters with the initiation of a ‘pedagogical laboratory’ that accentuates the “irrational habits bred by an inert racial mind”.


Seemingly, as we near the third millennium we feel more and more defeated about our social and cultural destiny. Knowledge and its transmission is a “universal activity, requiring universal cooperation” which shall fail if e deliberately define a destiny that constricts the expansive participation of the human spirit.

Like the past that partly reflects the future, the millennium that is embodied in the womb of the new dawn can also be palpably pervading hope that man ever sustains in his heart, we can make a prognosis of the baggage that the new millennium shall unfold. The suicidal passion unleashed by the technological tiger shall widen the hiatus between the mind and the body. The human spirit shall suffer further onslaughts and faith in ideals shall become clichés, unless the retreated few return to reassert the common destiny of man and renew the search for the unity of human consciousness and common human destiny.

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