The words ‘Knowledge and power’.
Knowledge and power are both quirky things. Individuals all over the world, have various ways of either being motivated by, or inspired by these words.
For example, knowledge can be more than just the result of ‘education or schooling’. Knowledge, as it has been revered in the past, cannot be separated from the process of growth due to challenging life experiences. It was therefore, more akin to wisdom. Gnosticism is informed by esoteric knowledge, having spiritual messages and lessons. However secularized, simplified and dismembered from its core as it is in today’s world, the word is still meaningless without some kind of value, application or practice. In that sense, in order to demonstrate knowledge, a complimentary skill or action is useful.
Power, on the other hand, hasn’t been associated with wisdom. It is its own figurehead, standing on its own with kabillions of followers. Power is everyone’s BFF, their ‘fave’, and their savior. Each one of us has a very different understanding of what power actually is…how it is applied and practiced. The power to execute a task, to influence, to control, to help, does take specific knowledge.
It’s also useful to ponder at this point, whether the knowledge acquired results in power that is either heteronomous, or autonomous. In ‘revising the old adage’ section, I use the example of a Doctor who has graduated from Harvard and practices in a prestigious medical facility. Although tremendously educated and talented, this doctor is subject to the rules and regulations of the medical facility. In other words, he (or she) is subject to an external law or standard, and even though this individual may be powerful in that environment, certain freedom is limited. Generosity may be limited, although compassion is not. Billing is controlled, substances are controlled, knowledge is contained. There is a different relationship with clients, and different communities both personal and professional that may not blend well.
The individual who has a grass roots foundation is autonomous. He or she has a great deal of freedom to practice, explore, learn, expand, communicate, grow and continuously refine their art and humanity. The boundaries of ‘personal and professional’ aren’t distinct, since this person can be generous, compassionate, altruistic and cooperative with clients and the community simultaneously.
The phrase, ‘Knowledge is Power’.
Take the phrase, knowledge is power. If you have a stolid preference – or strong belief – that this combination of words emanated from Sir Francis Bacon, you’d be partially correct. In his ‘Meditations’, he used the Latin phrase: “nam et ipsa scientia potestas est”, which literally means, ‘for knowledge itself is power’. That changes the meaning of the phrase in subtle ways, which is important to contemplate. In his work, ‘Novum Organum’ published in 1620, he wrote, “Knowledge and human power are synonymous…”
- In the King James version of the Bible, it can be found in Proverbs, where ‘A man of knowledge increaseth strength’.
- In the Quran, a question is posed; “Are those who have knowledge equal to those who do not have knowledge?”, so the phrase, ‘knowledge is power and it can command obedience.’, was recorded in the Nahj Al-Balagha, a 10th-century book.
- There is also an old Indian proverb written in Sanskrit that states (paraphrased) that the difference between a King and a scholar, is that the King is recognized in his country whereas a scholar is recognized everywhere…(implying that knowledge is power)
It appears that the saying is global, historical and ubiquitous, so in my opinion, the origin actually doesn’t much matter. Our experience with both knowledge and power, is both different and the same in the past and present.
But in a world that has been and is still power hungry, how can we modestly interpret the best meaning and guidance? Anything wise or humble is easily shoved aside in favor of a competitive, dog eat dog maxim…
Knowledge is power, version 10001.0375+
Knowledge and power are both subjective. It doesn’t come down to one meaning for all. Let’s say one person has obtained a PhD. from Harvard, comes from a wealthy family and has all the best things (including education), and another might be someone who never finished High School, but has a talent for natural healing and has amassed a vast knowledge of herbs and ecology. One may command a six figure salary (or even 7 figures), the other, a humble 5, during a good year.
There is another Indian saying – also paraphrased – that knowledge gives of itself in all seasons, is always useful, and imparts a secret wealth…
While the opportunities between these two individuals are vastly different, the ‘wealth’ gained by each individual – and therefore the ‘wealth’ they distribute, is vastly different too.
While one may be part of a much larger establishment, say a doctor in a prestigious medical facility, the other has dirty fingernails and a Love of Earth.
While one may prescribe antibiotics, medications and deliver vaccines and perform surgeries, the other may humbly support people and animals with greater success.
Ironically, these two people may criticize each other with the same words…”He/She is clueless.”! And they’d both be correct in their own way, because knowledge and power and how to use them is subjective!!
Understanding knowledge, and understanding power
Maybe it’s better to ask questions for deeper understanding. Things like, ‘If knowledge is based on faulty or outdated information, is it still knowledge…or is it ignorance? If knowledge or power, or both are used to harm others, would that be abuse instead? How do you want to use knowledge? How do you want to use power? Sometimes it’s much better to seek clarity from within, rather than from a dictionary or from other people.
My conclusion and my opinion, it that this comes down to a very personal decision…about how it feels to resonate with the degree of knowledge you have, what you might want to learn, and how you use both knowledge and experiences to express your own personal power. If, as an individual, you have delved deeply into your own mind and body, have expert knowledge of your self, then your power to compassionately understand and forgive yourself (and others) is greatly amplified. This in turn, expands your empathy, and integrity on a Journey toward realizing unconditional Love.
What you do, is a matter of choice. Personally, I feel knowing that kindness is power too, is very, very, satisfying.