Chapter 8: Beginningless Beginning, Endless End
If you think that you know Brahman well, then you know little indeed, for the form of Brahman that you see as conditional in living beings and gods is but a trifle. Therefore, you should inquire further about Brahman.
I do not think I know it well, nor do I think that I do not know it, yet I know too. He amongst us knows it who knows that it is other than the unknown and the known.
Knowledge of the ultimate is paradoxical for many reasons. One, the very claim that one knows becomes a hindrance because the moment you say, “I know,” you are not only emphasizing knowledge; you are also emphasizing “I” - and the “I” is the barrier. The ego is the most subtle barrier, but the strongest. So when someone says, “I know,” the “I” destroys the knowledge. The “I” cannot know him because he can be known only when you have disappeared completely. When you are not, only then he is. This is the first problem.
It is said that the oracle at Delphi declared Socrates to be the wisest man alive. Those who heard it came to Socrates and said, “The oracle has declared you to be the most wise man on earth.”
Socrates is reported to have laughed and said, “They should have done it earlier - then I would have been happy. Now it is too late. Go back and tell the oracle that now I am the most ignorant man on earth.
“When I was younger and full of ego, I was also of the same opinion as the oracle - that I knew - because the “I” was so strong, it couldn’t conceive that the ultimate mystery could not be known. The “I” was so strong that I could not think that it was possible for me to be ignorant. Everything that was, was conceived by me as known, or at least as knowable. But as I grew in knowledge, in understanding, I became more and more aware of my ignorance. So now go back and tell the oracle that Socrates himself says that he is simply ignorant, that he doesn’t know anything.”
The people returned. They said to the oracle, “Socrates refuses to accept what you say, and when he himself refuses it means something. He says he is the most ignorant man.”
The oracle laughed and said, “That is why I have declared him to be the most wise man, because only the most wise can know that he is ignorant.”