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The four dimensions of knowing

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.     Mark’s biography of Jesus Christ 5: 25-34 [c. AD 30]


For decades psychologists have studied the ways by which folk “know”. Know what? Know how they come to know – truly know - what they know...


It seems easy on the face of it. After all, we know what we know. But how do we come to know what we know?


One interesting theory was put forward by Professor James Loder when he was Professor of the Philosophy of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary. He proposed four dimensions of knowing.


First dimension: a baby knows the world around him by putting it in its mouth, handling it and seeing it. Call this knowing the “Lived World.”  


Second, the child realises that there’s not only the lived world out there. He (“he” includes “she” from now on) discovers that he exists. He knows himself and places himself in the very centre of his Lived World. Call this knowing the “Self.”


Third, he discovers something very uncomfortable, very worrying. He begins to know that there are problems that cannot be resolved. When these arise he works to solve them. Some are insoluble and very unpleasant – like the fact that everyone is out to get ahead of me, ahead of my “Self.” Professor Loder called these knowing the “Void”.


There are many Voids that we come to know. One is sickness. Yet another is inability within. And then there’s wrong within, evil within. But the main Void is knowing the fact of death. There must be a way out of death, surely. Many deny knowing these Voids. They just turn up the music.


Fourth, is the dimension which most people only know in part, if at all. It’s a knowing which comes only in the Void – only in extremity. This dimension of knowing comes about when solutions arise within the particular Void – the Void which a person realizes he is in. It is a transforming moment for a mathematician when, in the Void of an equation without any known solution, he discovers that solution, the one and only superb answer which deals with the Void. That “knowing” is given the label of the “Holy.”


Thus we all have four dimensions of “knowing” – the Lived World around us; the Self; the Void; the Holy. The Void may be denied. The “Holy” is only discovered by one who is in the known Void.


Now read carefully the extract in bold above. It describes a woman in the Void. Not only was she ill but also she was bankrupt. Doctors bills had consumed everything.


In that Void she experiences the fourth dimension of “knowing.” She comes to know the Holy. She experiences a “Transforming Moment.”


This extract from Mark’s biography is, in fact, an event within an event. When this dear woman touched Jesus’ clothing Jesus was on his way to the home of a man whose daughter had died. Yes, a man who was in the middle of the ultimate Void - death itself.


Did he, there, come to know the Holy? Yes, he did.


Can you? Yes, if you are in the Void, any Void.....   

 ‘You cannot find knowledge by rearranging your ignorance.’ (Ronald Eyre, theatre and TV director, 1929-1992)
‘What a lamentable condition is that man in, whose knowledge is only sufficient to damn his own soul.' (Richard Sibbes, Bible teacher, 1577-1635)
Richard Syvret

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