The great spiritual teachers always balance knowing with not knowing, light with darkness. In the Christian tradition, the two great strains were called the kataphatic (according to the light) or “positive” way—relying on clear words, concepts, and ideas—and the apophatic (against the light) or “negative” way—moving beyond words and images into silence, darkness, and metaphor. Both ways are necessary, and together they create a magnificent form of higher non-dual consciousness called faith.
The apophatic way, however, has been underused, under-taught, and underdeveloped largely since the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. In fact, we became ashamed of our “not-knowing” and tried to fight our battles rationally. Much of Catholicism and most of Protestantism became highly cerebral. God (who is really Mystery) became something you perfectly observed, a service you attended, words you argued about, or worthiness you worked for. But God was never someone you surrendered to.
In the capitalist West, the very word “surrender” is not to our liking. We are all about winning, climbing, achieving, performing, and being the best. In that light, contemplation and non-dual thinking (I use the words almost interchangeably) are about as revolutionary and counter-cultural as you can get.
you getWhen you don’t balance knowing with not knowing, you get into the kind of religion and politics we have today which is very arrogant, falsely self-assured, can never admit when it’s wrong, and can never apologize because “I know!” According to the great spiritual teachers, ignorance does not result from what we don’t know; ignorance results from what we think we do know! Anybody who knows knows that they don’t know, especially when they’re talking about God! Medieval Catholic theology called this docta ignorantia or “learned ignorance.”
from Beginner’s Mind, Transforming the World Through Contemplative Prayer, The Dance Divine: Exploring the Mystery of Trinity, and Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality