The Dissolution of Certainty

July 2, 2023 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

The dissolution of certainty is the gateway to real freedom.” Jacob Needleman

The one character trait that most of us find unacceptable is that of the “know-it-all.” Yet, in our current dualistic world of true or false and right or wrong, certainty has become a most desired state of mind. We seem to unconsciously seek knowing it all.

The Ego Protects

Let’s not forget that the human ego can be a very self-protective psychological mechanism. Our internal psychological barometer demands certainty for survival. The quest for survival drives much of our psychological conditioning and therefore our behaviors and mindsets.

Although survival is most often thought of in terms of “life or death,” it also considers things like “survival of my politic, or religion, or way of life.”

Being certain about our belief systems offers comfort and stability. This type of thinking supports status quo comfortability.

But, for the most part, history’s greatest thinkers abhor any notion of certainty. That’s because certainty blocks creativity and new thought. There can be no growth in the mind of the person who adamantly believes they are right and anyone that disagrees is wrong.

A Conundrum

What we desire with certainty is virtually unattainable. We wish to know for sure that our beliefs are fundamentally inviolable, that we cannot be wrong. On the other hand, however, we all know for sure that we are fallible and continue to discover that we have often been wrong about a host of issues.

In my studies of the theological mystics and contemplatives, I have learned to appreciate the value of “not knowing.” The only thing I can be absolutely certain about is that I can be (and will be) wrong about any number of my deeply held beliefs.

Curiosity Demands Uncertainty

I think it is for that reason that philosopher Jacob Needleman can state that “the dissolution of certainty is the gateway to freedom.” Whenever we approach life with curiosity we must begin with at least a tinge of uncertainty. And it is that uncertainty that initiates an openness to ideas different from our previous beliefs and even standards.

Only with the dissolution of certainty can one discover the new, the unexpected, and, oddly enough, a greater sense of confidence—for with uncertainty comes a sense of openness to better ways of thinking and living.


Good for You!

Photo courtesy of DoubleAnti at istockphoto

2 thoughts on “The Dissolution of Certainty”

    1. Interesting you would talk about the Now, the everlasting Present. I am beginning to write a book with the working title: Who are You Becoming? It’s Your Choice. In my opening chapter/intro I write about the phrase, “You are who you have been becoming.” Or… you are today the sum of all your past, and you will be tomorrow precisely who you are today. You get to choose to “manage fate” by means of your choices today. All that exists is the Now. Life is lived in the present tense only. Both past and future reside in this thing we call the Present.

      Pretty philosophical stuff. but the book will be practical wisdom from the lips of an elder. Hmm… we’ll see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Next Chapter Podcast
Living a life of meaning Living a life with adventure Living a life with awe