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The Origin of Ignorance
Jack: Dear James, I am not clear about ignorance. What is the origin of ignorance?
James: To have ignorance you have to have knowledge first. Remember, knowledge is always knowledge “of” something. There is no special object floating around anywhere with the name “knowledge.” If you don’t have an object of knowledge, what will you be ignorant of? If you have ignorance first, where will you get the knowledge to remove it? In this sense you might say that ignorance does have a beginning, insofar as it comes into being with knowledge; it depends on knowledge. But knowledge has no beginning. It always is because the self always is. You can’t have knowledge without consciousness, and the self has no beginning, so ignorance can’t have a beginning either because it depends on the self. It is a power in the self. Without it the self cannot be limitless. Ask yourself when you become ignorant of the self; or anything else, for example. You can’t find a time when it began. It was always there, hiding the self. Like knowledge, ignorance isn’t a thing, it’s ignorance of something. If it is a thing it begins and ends but it is not a “thing” in time that begins. It ends, however, when knowledge comes. When ignorance goes it looks like knowledge begins but it doesn’t begin. It was there all along.
Jack: I would ask a further question, James, regarding what I mention above in regard to Dayananda’s statement: “If knowledge is, ignorance cannot be.” Doesn’t ignorance sort of coexist with knowledge when it is superimposed on awareness? But then, like I said, it is only apparent ignorance, not real. In a non-dual reality only awareness truly exists. Ignorance is a flash in the pan…?
James: Yes. Good thinking. Both are eternal and beginningless but ignorance is relatively eternal, meaning that it ends when knowledge comes. When you realize the self you realize that you always knew it, which means that the knowledge was always there.