Recently I saw a bumper sticker: “Agnostic: Because I Don’t Know and Neither Do You”. The saying was mildly amusing but also mildly disturbing. It seemed to elicit some of the common agnostic stereotypes – arrogance, combativeness, and nihilism – that tend to obscure its humbling and ultimately optimistic message. While I generally stay away from unnecessary hair-splitting, this observation has compelled me to introduce some clarifications.
The book introduces a way for skeptics to turn their critical thinking into a secular equivalent of a spiritual path. The mindset it encourages can be described as “skepticism without cynicism”. Even such vague definition may help one decide if the book is of interest to them, and perhaps experience it in a somewhat different light.
In spiritual circles, not-knowing is sometimes treated as a “post-truth” euphemism. Many sophisticated spiritual teachers emphasized its value and encouraged students to question their convictions. However, after concluding that we cannot know anything for certain, they often encouraged their followers to “look into their hearts”, suggested a metaphysical scenario that apparently agreed with their intuitions, and then proceeded with treating it as a self-evident Truth.
My approach, in contrast, allows no such escapes. Meditative insight is not portrayed as a glimpse into some fundamental reality or a mystical revelation but simply as a new perspective that has unexpectedly unfolded before us. No matter how holistic, refreshing, and inspiring, it is just another observation deserving the same level of scrutiny as its more mundane counterparts.
Some readers may view such perspective as gloomy and hopeless – yet I find it liberating. Having cut through the layers of wishful thinking and self-deception, hardcore agnosticism leaves me face-to-face with the uncharted present – unknown, unknowable, and endlessly creative. This eternal mystery is easily accessible to me because I don’t know… and neither do you!