What is This Big Thing Called Knowledge? Pt.3: The Whole in the Parts

Knowledge is about connecting, structuring and putting together the fragments. In a way it is a constant attempt to glue together the bits and pieces into a meaningful bigger picture. It’s always about striving towards threading and stitching meaning from the isolated patches of our fragmented world together. The biggest irony in all of this is that knowledge is and will always be partial or fragmentary.

The Parts in the Whole

It is by definition partial since knowledge will always be knowledge to an individual or collective of individuals that are locked inside a space-time bubble. A culture or generation will create or use knowledge that is meaningful according to the narrative of their time or according to the pressing problems they need to solve for their survival or thriving. Not to mention political, religious and economic influence on which knowledge ought to be given attention to or discarded, censored or if possible barred from people’s consciousness altogether. Yes, we’re humans.

Once again this comes to show how knowledge is not that universally applicable as we would like to believe. It is made to change its outfit to fit neatly with the people, setting and hour of the day. The other thing is embodiment. We are both limited and enabled by our biology.  What we see, hear, taste and feel are only a sliver in the whole bandwidth of frequencies out there. We are just tuned into a very narrow frequency range of reality. So basically what we know is made possible by accessing that small range of sensory input only. The rest flies over our head, so to speak. Imagine if your vision right now filters out everything except colours in a particular shade of blue. What would you see? You would still access what is out there and make knowledge out of it but it would be rather limited.

The same can be said about the way we perceive our reality. We are only glimpsing into a fragment of it, limited by our biology and if that is not enough, we are interpreting it according to what is meaningful to our culture and time.

A third reason is that our knowledge is structured and filtered by our brain and using the faculties of our mind and intellect. Now here is the thing; The mind and the intellect need fragmentation and partiality to function. You manage to grasp what you do because you have a very basic model that treats objects separately with defined physical borders and distinct properties. You are only seeing the parts of a presumed whole and you wouldn’t be making any meaning of the world if you hadn’t this. It all makes sense to us because of this basic model of things being just parts separated from each other in time and space.


Synthesis and our View on the Courtyard

The relevant word here is synthesis. We observe our world as containing separate forms and objects with their own distinct behaviours and properties. But from this apparently world of disparate objects we try to make connections, abstractions, generalisations and theories about the fundamental operations at work. We attempt to make a whole out of the parts. Some say we are moving towards the age of synthesis in which we are trying to understand ourselves and the Universe in more holistic terms combining together understanding from the different fields – Science, Art, Spirituality, etc. The analogy is to an internal courtyard surrounded by windows of a building. You can view the courtyard from one window and have a very partial view of it. This is the case with seeing reality from one subject area, for example Science. Alternatively you can augment your understanding of the courtyard by looking through different windows. You will have a more ‘holistic’ picture, albeit still partial or incomplete.

Many spiritual traditions do in fact talk about transcendental knowledge – the one you get by transcending beyond the partial and dualistic understanding of the mind. This is why the so-called mysteries and higher truths cannot be grasped by and through the mind but through the ‘heart’ because the mind works through partiality or that is, through seeing only the parts. But according to some spiritual traditions, the truth is a type of ‘knowledge’ which can only be understood as whole, outside the mind’s analytical understanding of the parts.


The Whole in the Parts

To someone who is unacquainted with these concepts outlined above, the idea of whole and parts might come across as a little bit confusing at first. Once past this initial head rattle, we can go further down the rabbit hole into the weird Science of the small – Quantum theory. Scientific giants and pioneers of the 20th century such as Theoretical Physicist David Bohm, whose contributions to Quantum Physics has been rather extensive, mentions how our Scientific problem is that we are looking at the parts and not in a holistic way.

Bohm postulated the Holographic model of the Universe and together with Psychologist Karl Pribram, put forward the Holographic model of the brain. In really concise laymen’s words – the idea is that the Space-Time reality around us, chairs, tables, stars and galaxies, is very much like a holographic projection. In a classic holographic projection, if you cut the photographic plate in half and pass it in front of the laser light again, you still get the whole holographic image at the other end (for example a holographic image of a tower). No matter how many times you split the photographic plate, the whole image of the tower remains the same. Why? Because in a holograph, every part contains all the information of the whole. What Bohm is saying in non-scientific terms, is that in the Universe, even the smallest of particles, contain the information about the whole Universe. The whole is literally in the parts.

This is something that is confirmed by the work of present day theorist Nassim Haramein. Haramein is extremely close to solving one of the biggest problems in Science – one that Einstein had tried to solve, unsuccessfully, till his death. Basically it is trying to join together two seemingly irreconcilable theoretical standpoints – Quantum theory, the science of the insanely small and Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Haramein’s answers lend on the idea of a Holo-fractal Universe. I will not go into the Science and mathematics behind it but it suffices to say that currently our best model to understand the underlying principle of the Universe is by understanding that there are no parts making up a whole but One whole that is in everything we perceive as ‘parts’.

What we are saying here is that in our present day Science has advanced to a stage where it is pointing all the way back to what we knew and intuited long time ago through other channels of knowledge – myth, ancient Cosmogony and spiritual insights. Here is the Knowledge spiral in action: going back full circle to align with ancient wisdom but moving forward through augmenting and synthesizing one knowledge system with another. It is understanding that one gateway of knowledge such as rational thought does not cut it on its own.  We are starting to understand our limits in knowledge – for instance that our mind and intellect are limited by a dualistic paradigm of parts in a whole and once we start transcending this paradigm, we enter a second renaissance in human knowledge.

Category: Philosophy

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Article by: Gilbert Ross