TEACHING OF THE MASTERS #7
We have previously discussed the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. In this essay we need to explore what is meant by the omniscience of God. Since all of us are limited in our ability to know the Infinite and Absolute Being, we can nevertheless try to formulate some ideas of what omniscience can possibly mean. Let us say that we need to “stretch” our minds so that we develop a greater understanding of nature and how we fit into it.
Omniscience is derived from the Latin Omnis (all) and sciens (knowing). In Hindi or Sanskrit it is sarvagya. The question now is what or who is all-knowing, and what does all-knowing mean. The universe is infinite and as far as anyone can tell, it is eternal, so how can we form any ideas about omniscience that applies on the universal level? Fortunately we have intelligence that helps us to understand things if we apply it both objectively and subjectively to seek knowledge.
Knowledge is derived by certain means, and all people seeking knowledge use them consciously or unconsciously. The means are:
1. Observation. We observe things and events all around us, and we develop an awareness that certain things always happen under the same circumstances. For example, if you apply heat to water, it would become hot and then evaporate. This can be repeated by anyone anywhere, and the same results would occur. This then becomes knowledge.
2. Experimentation. This involves keen observation, measurement and recording of the results. Others repeat the experiment, and if the same results are obtained, then this becomes knowledge. All scientists use this method and scientific knowledge increases over time. All the scientific advancements around us are derived by this method, and we are all benefiting, as our lives have been made better.
3. Analogy. This involves comparing things and events, and if they always bear the same relationships, then we develop knowledge. A simple example would be, whenever there is smoke there must be fire.
4. Intuition. This type of knowledge develops from within oneself. Expressions such as “I have a hunch”, “I just got a bright idea”, or “I woke up with this idea”. Spiritual knowledge is nearly entirely intuitive knowledge, as we realize this at a personal level. It is an inner experience, and cannot often be explained in a meaningful way to others.
5. Authority. This is knowledge derived from authoritative sources such as books, scriptures and experts in different fields of knowledge. A great deal of our knowledge is derived from this last category.
There is an overlap in all of these ways of obtaining knowledge, but no matter how each of us derives knowledge, our type and level of knowledge vary, so no two of us can have exactly the same knowledge at any time in our lives. In the acquisition of knowledge by any means we have to use our rational ability, and mentally categorize them in memory for use as is needed.
Now coming back to omniscience, who has the capacity to have all the knowledge in the universe? Certainly, it could not be a person for people have finite abilities, and cannot grasp infinite knowledge. So again we must return to God as the only Being that has this ability. Just as we have ascribed omnipotence and omnipresence to God, just so we must ascribe omniscience to Him. All the knowledge that people have is merely partial discoveries of the knowledge already present in nature, in the universe and in God’s mind. But since we have a tiny fraction of the intelligence of God, we are able to have a tiny fraction of God’s knowledge. But sometimes we get carried away by our ego and assert our importance, forgetting that God holds the strings to our puppet-like lives. We need to accept any knowledge we have with a good dose of humility.
We can look at omnipresence from two viewpoints:
1. God’s viewpoint. This, as already mentioned, is that all knowledge is “contained” in God, and manifest in the universe. The intricate biochemistry and biological functions in all of us are beyond our full understanding. Even if we know why a function occurs in us, we do not know how it occurs. Similarly, we have minimal knowledge of our solar system, and next to nothing of the infinite universe. Yet all the knowledge is in God’s mind, and only He knows how and why we are all here, and our ultimate destiny.
2. Human viewpoint. In spiritual teaching it is often stated that if you know the basic component of things then you do not have to know the individual things in their various forms. For example, if you know gold, then you know that it is gold in the bangles, earrings, brooches, necklaces etc. If you know clay, then you know that everything made of clay is just clay. If you know one mountain, what need is there to try to know every mountain? By extension, if you know the basic component of all things in the universe, then you do not have to know each thing in the universe. This type of knowledge is meaningful only after you have withdrawn your physical senses from the material universe, and turned your mind inwards to “see” the basis of all existence. When you know God, is there any need to know in detail all the things that proceeded from God? You now know the source. This is the teaching of the masters.
Dr. Jagessar Das
omniscience, intuition, analogy (inference), experimentation, observation, infinite knowledge