Why You Should Know the Difference Between Scribe Knowledge and Warrior Knowledge

Warrior Knowledge Vs Scribe Knowledge

Words often limit us in ways we don’t even know. That’s why I love words like schadenfreude – apart from just being plain fun to use, it helps illuminate the limitations of language itself.

The way we talk about things has a profound impact on the way we think about things – and ultimately – the decisions we make… even how we act without realizing it. Words are powerful, even when we don’t realize the power they have over us.

Today I want to talk about one instance where the power of words often secretly sabotages our mindfulness and meditation practice: the lack of a coherent way to distinguish between experiential knowledge, and intellectual knowledge

In the simplest terms, think of this as the difference between knowing what [the western version of] love is (scribe), understanding it through pop culture and worldy observations… and feeling love. Being in love (warrior).

This difference in understanding between these two modes is so profound that I am shocked we don’t have a mainstream, common use word yet to describe it.

I think it is because this first type of knowledge – “Scribe Knowledge” – can seem so rich, fulfilling, and complex.

I mean, imagine someone, let’s call him Cupid, who spent the last 40 years of his life studying love academically. He studied biochemistry, psychology, sociology, and more. He who wrote papers, gave lectures, entered debates, and conducted research. He became the world’s leading expert on love. But, never once has he been in love – experienced love.

Then one day, at age 65, our scribe becomes a warrior – he falls in love. Finally, he experiences the thing he’s been studying. His understanding shifts into a different plane – something he has difficulty explaining through research, lectures, and words, but finds that art is oddly articulate in this matter. It “feels like” something.

Imagine Cupid trying to explain this new understanding to his colleagues, who have yet to fall in love themselves. He might think to himself, “uuhf, they just don’t understand!”

Scribe Warrior
Learn from language/books Learn from direct experience
Learning history Learning to drive a stick shift
Relatively easy to transfer (communicate) knowledge Difficult to transfer knowledge
Words. Instructions. Feelings. Insights.
Math skills Social skills
Learning what metta Practicing love and compassion

 

It’s like if an alien came down to earth, who couldn’t feel pain. We could try to explain to the alien what it was like, using metaphors, words, and stories, but ultimately this type of communication can never match experience. It’s as if its on a different plane of knowing.

That’s because love and pain, just like the skill of meditation or the insights it offers, are “Warrior Knowledge” – if you want to have this type of knowledge, YOU have to experience it directly. Scientists call it “tacit knowledge,” and one study explains just one aspect of the difficulty with it:

It is not only that we have difficulties expressing and articulating what we know, we may not even be conscious of what we know or how the tacit knowledge connects to our explicit knowledge.

In other words, a lot of Warrior Knowledge is buried in System 1. 

Why does this matter in meditation?

Failing to understand and appreciate the difference in these modes creates all sorts of problems – as meditators, peers, and instructors.

First, it’s incredibly easy to confuse something we learn in Scribe Knowledge and think we have become warriors. Especially when we let our “meditator egos” take hold, we want to progress, we want to attain mindfulness, and so we find an excuse to have “arrived” at an insight when we really have not.

We must all realize that ultimately, we can be scribes too, but we MUST be warriors. 

I believe Scribe Knowledge can be essential in helping us have the warrior experience (otherwise, what am I doing here), but we HAVE to learn to have the warrior experience.

Blogs, books, and lectures are meaningless without practice and application.

Blogs, books, and lectures are meaningless without practice and application.

There’s a difference between “getting” something and “REALLY getting” something. It’s the difference between articulating the logic behind an insight, and having that insight. After you’ve had the insight for real, you can look back knowing you didn’t have it before. But in the moment, Scribe Knowledge can feel awfully convincing.

Whether we over-intellectualize mindfulness intentionally, or do it unknowingly, our practice can become derailed.

Second, when we’re sharing mindfulness with others, we need to be cognizant of this difference. Beginners don’t have a foundation of warrior knowledge, and we must ensure our explanations/teachings don’t rely on that knowing being there. Our explanations need to be coherent, down to earth, and relatable for THEIR warrior brain, not ours. A teacher knows he can only point to the moon. As students and practitioners, we should accept this as well.

If you’re a beginner and have been frustrated with resources in the past – I believe this is a big reason meditation and mindfulness explanations can be difficult to connect to.

As this quote (apparently which traces back to Nietzsche) captures:

They who dance are thought mad by those who hear not the music.

Warrior Knowledge is not ubiquitous, no matter how deeply we feel something.

The Scribe and Warrior Work Together

Finally, our Scribe Knowledge should be working to augment our warrior practice.

If the scribe isn’t working with the warrior, something is WRONG!

If talking on an online forum or with friends about mindlessness in society energizes you, while your practice suffers, consider the extremely practical question: Is it possible for your Scribe Knowledge to actually help level up your warrior knowledge (direct practice and experience)? What changes do you need to make to have these modes work together?

Don’t let reading about mindfulness (your Scribe Knowledge gathering) undermine or supplant your actual practice (your Warrior Knowledge process).

Think critically about the difference between these two modes in your life.

Keep an emphasis on your practice. Make it your constant.

Can you recruit your system 2 to split your time evenly between warrior and scribe mindfulness time? (An hour on reddit = an hour of mindful practice)

Are you trying to wake up, or “earn a P.h.D. in waking up” ?

Are you making an effort to LIVE mindfully?

-Taylor

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