Understanding

"God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed."

- Saint Augustine (354-430) - early and extremely influential Father of the Christian Church. 

"When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely - the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears - when you give your whole attention to it." 

- Krishnamurti "You are in the World"

"The first thing is to acquire wisdom; gain understanding though it cost you all you have."

- The New English Bible, Proverbs 4:7

From these quotations it can be seen that the process of understanding involves much more than the simple "capturing" or acquisition of a fact. Even something as seemingly straightforward as two plus two equals four only has real meaning when more of its significance within Arithmetic and the wider world of Mathematics is made clear to us. Knowledge that we receive can be transformed when we absorb it and give it significance by connecting it to other areas of knowledge and experience already within us, so making knowledge a part of us. This process can take time which explains why very often people only appreciate some of the subject material they encountered in school very much later in their lives.

It is also important to make a distinction between knowledge that is based on commonly agreed methods of experimental enquiry, such as are found in Science, and knowledge that is based on the response of the whole person to a given situation or experience. This category of knowledge and understanding also needs the response of the whole person who then understands through absorbing the experiences by means of a combination of the many subtle senses we possess. Our experience of beauty, sadness, destiny and all those things that defy straightforward analysis comes within this category.

Furthermore, it is an interesting question as to whether we can ever understand a thing fully. Even our understanding of scientific principles is provisional as experiment, experience and intuition cause one theory or explanation to be replaced by another. For those with a belief in God, understanding will always be incomplete since God by definition is so much more than our capacity to understand. Nevertheless, believers in God suggest that the evidence on which their belief is based is powerfully given through areas of human experience, even paradoxes such as good and evil, life and death, mystery and love. What do you think?