When I “hit bottom,” it was also true that I “became empty.” In those moments lying on the couch in our family room in an empty house, every last ounce of hope, of knowledge, of faith—even of the drive to know or to believe—all of it drained out. That’s when the wailing cries came from deep within. It was like I had just appeared out of my mother’s womb. I had no idea who I was or what I was. I felt completely empty. Looking back, this seems to have been key to what happened next.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 5:3
I was so poor in those moments, I didn’t even know it. I had no definition for life, no presumption of knowledge. Then it was like God said, “Aha! Now you’re ready.” As Life unfolded before me that week, I gaped in awestruck wonder. Because I knew nothing, I was able to wonder.
Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:3
Young children do not presume to know. Yet this doesn’t stop them from enjoying life. On the contrary, they seem to be more alive than any of us.
Writing about this—writing about anything—is risky. It has a tendency to make one think one knows something, whether the writer or the reader. I always thought that what I most wanted was knowledge. But when my knowledge became worth nothing, I found out I didn’t really want knowledge of God; I just wanted God. There seems to be a different order of knowledge: direct experience. That’s what I really wanted. Notice that I didn’t say “knowledge based on direct experience”; as soon as it becomes a derivative, a codification, it’s no longer God; it’s theology. There’s nothing wrong with theology, but you shouldn’t confuse it with God. And there’s nothing wrong with knowledge, but it certainly is overrated. Why? Because as soon as you think you know, you’ve put a ceiling on your experience of God. You’ve closed off the possibility for wonder.
In practice, this means that when you read scriptures or hear spiritual teaching, if you are constantly comparing it to “what you already know,” you are potentially missing out on something entirely new. Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” The only way we can have ears to hear is if we empty ourselves and become innocent. Innocent not just of bad deeds, but innocent of knowledge.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
— Matthew 5:8
Knowledge is inevitably about yesterday’s experience—or someone else’s experience. It can be quite useful. It can help reassure you that you’re not going down the completely wrong path. That’s why religion is useful. It’s a codification of and record of and community of practice for God-experiences. It’s a finger pointing to what is possible. But until you go down the path yourself, like Paul “resolving to know nothing” but Christ, until you allow yourself to be emptied, emptied of all your ideas about God, emptied of everything you think you know, you will not have become like a little child, and the kingdom of heaven will still elude you. That remains true for me today, and it’s the message I most need to hear. Book or no book, blog or no blog, I resolve to know nothing. I’d rather see God. In other words, I’d rather directly experience Life, Love, Spirit, That Which Cannot Be Named, That Which I Don’t Know And Never Really Will.