In his book, The Book of Not Knowing - Exploring the True Nature of Self, Mind, and Consciousness, author Peter Ralston sets out to carefully guide us along the essential path of personal growth and self-understanding. In the process, there are a number of assumptions to which he has us first direct our attention:
Our two main cultural assumptions regarding not-knowing and self play off each other and create a powerful interplay of consequences. In our culture, not knowing is bad, and one of the main things we we don't know is who or what we are--what a self is. Since we feel we have to know what a self is in order to be one, we rely on our cultural perspectives to tell us what a self is or should be. From this mental-emotional blueprint we proceed to construct a self using programs, beliefs, assumptions, and conclusions. What we invariably end up with is a sense of self that is isolated and conceptually oriented. With no discernible alternative, we just assume that this is simply an inevitable part of being human. In our culture, these two "facts of life" work subtly in tandem so that we are completely dissociated from an experience of real-being.
Operating from these core cultural assumptions fosters a number of negative conditions that we each mistakenly suppose are a result of some flaw within ourselves, or simply a part of life that we have to put up with. The conditions are so pervasive, so familiar, and so distressing that we rarely allow ourselves more than an occasional glimpse of their existence. Although they influence entire domains of our experience, these conditions are so elusive that our first challenge is simply to locate them. In an attempt to simplify the nature and scope of these consequences, they are identified here as five general effects:
Essentially everyone has these issues to a greater or lesser degree. Some people are more sensitive to one or two of these effects, while others may relate more readily to a different set. Yet if we look deep enough, and through all of the disguises that frequently cover up their presence, everyone will discover all of these dispositions operating in some form within themselves.
The essence of our journey towards discovering who and what we are is in discovering how these effects arise within us, the profound influence that they have on the way that we live, and how we can essentially learn to effectively use our mind to break free from the limits of prior knowing. This is by no means an effortless task and at times can become quite difficult even frustrating if in fact you are someone who does not like change or is mistrustful of that which often cannot be sensed with the naked eye alone. - JD