Dionysius has a special word for it; he calls it agnosia. You must have heard the word agnostic; Bertrand Russell used the word for himself. The atheist says there is no God, but he says it as if he knows – that “as if” is always there – as if he has explored the whole reality and has come to know that there is no God. In declaring there is no God he is declaring his knowledge. He is a gnostic: he knows. Gnosis means knowledge. The theist says there is a God – as if he knows, as if he has attained, arrived. He is also a gnostic; he has gnosis, knowledge.
An agnostic means one who says, “I don’t know, neither this way nor that. I don’t know whether God is or God is not. I am utterly ignorant.” Hence Bertrand Russell says, “I am agnostic.” He must have discovered the word in Dionysius: agnosia. But Dionysius’ use of the word is far more potential, far more pregnant than Bertrand Russell’s; Bertrand Russell’s cannot be more than a logical statement. He is a logician, a mathematician; he has never meditated, he has never gone within himself. He says he is an agnostic, but he has never tried to go beyond it, as if agnosticism is the ultimate and there is nothing more to do about it.
My feeling is that he is not a true agnostic. The atheist says, “I know there is no God,” the theist says, “I know that there is a God,” and the Bertrand Russellian agnosticism says, “I know there is no way of knowing” – but that knowledge, that tacit knowledge is there.
Dionysius says that one can know God only when one comes to the moment when one knows nothing: the state of not-knowing is the opening of the door. By agnosia he means exactly the same as the Upanishads mean. One of the most famous Upanishads, the Kenopanishad, says:
It is conceived by him who conceives it not.
Who conceives it, knows it not.
It is not understood by those who understand it.
It is understood by those who understand it not.
Or it reminds one of the Zen Master Yung-chia. In his Song of Enlightenment he says:
You cannot grasp it;
You cannot get rid of it.
In not being able to get it, you get it.
When you are silent, it speaks;
When you speak, it is silent.
Or it reminds one of the great Socratic statement: “I know only one thing, that I know nothing.”
Agnosia means the state of not-knowing. That’s what samadhi is, that’s what meditation is all about: the state of not-knowing.