Inquiry: Moving into the unknown.

26th April is the birth day of an extraordinary philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was even praised by his teacher, a world renowned philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, for his excellence in philosophy. He has not written many books, but what so ever he wrote deserve applause. He was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

Inspite of his `good position and command on philosophy only one book was published in his entire life, a slim one- about 75 pages, titled as  Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. His only other published works were an article, “Some Remarks on Logical Form” (1929), a book review, and a children’s dictionary.

Post humorously his manuscripts were published, one of them is Philosophical investigations, which is considered as the most important book of 20th century in the field of philosophy, according to an survey.

Wittgenstein says ‘Is what I am doing [my work in philosophy] really worth the effort? Yes, but only if a light shines on it from above.’

He has also said ‘I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view.’

Osho says One of the great logicians of our times, Ludwig Wittgenstein, has written a book on pure logic. He was a strange person, verging on the mystic side, but never saying anything about it. Only once in a while, writing about logic, he would give certain indications which show that he was aware that there is much more to existence than just logic. In this book, TRACTATUS, he says, “One should not say anything about something which is inexpressible.”

I wrote him a letter. I was a student and I wrote him a letter saying, “If you are true, you should not have said this much even. You say, `One should not say anything about the inexpressible’ — but you are already saying something about it. You are saying, `It is inexpressible.’ You are already giving some indication.”

He was sick and he died very soon. His brother answered me, “Your question he received with great respect, and he said to me, `It is true that if nothing can be said, then even to say this is to say something. I am sick and I am tired. If I get well I will answer, but if I die you answer for me: in the second edition of TRACTATUS we will leave this sutra empty, just a space.”



I do not consider ‘gnostic’ a category of belief. The theist believes in God, without knowing, without any experience. His belief is just an escape from doubt. To remain in doubt needs tremendous courage. Not to escape from doubt is one of the fundamental qualities of a seeker, and belief is an escape. It covers up your doubt, and it gives you a sense of relief, a false confidence that you know, although deep down you still know that you know not. So the believer is divided into two split layers. On the surface is the belief which he thinks and projects himself to be. Underneath is his reality, like a wound: the doubt, which he denies but cannot completely eradicate. It is there, part of his reality. So the believer is always in a state of conflict. He is schizophrenic. A small thing goes against his belief — and the doubt comes up…

Belief is an escape. The theist is pretending that he knows. The atheist is pretending he also knows that there is no God. Neither the theist has tried to look into existence, nor has the atheist tried. And the atheist’s work is even more difficult than the theist’s work, because the theist is trying to find something — its presence, its existence; at least he has a hypothesis to work upon. The atheist has no hypothesis at all; he begins with the idea, “There is no God.” Then what are you going to search and seek for? For no-God? It is difficult to have the idea of what God is; it is more difficult to have the idea of what no-God is.

Perhaps the theist may stumble by chance on God, but the atheist cannot stumble on no-God by chance, because no-God simply means something absent. You cannot stumble on something absent. The theist at least has a possibility of transforming his belief into a hypothesis that, “I don’t believe that God exists, but hypothetically I assume God exists, and I will try to search for him.” What hypothesis can the atheist have? He is denying. Negativity cannot be the hypothesis. Positivity can be the hypothesis. The atheist is in a much more difficult situation. But he is also, in another way, more comfortable than the theist.

The theist cannot get rid of the doubt. It is going to remain always underneath his belief. He cannot throw it away. Belief and doubt are two aspects of the same coin. You throw one, and the other also is thrown. You save one, and the other is also saved. But the atheist, in another way, is more comfortable: there is no God — so there is no question of doubt. You cannot doubt something which is not. You can doubt something which is, or may be. But if you have decided there is nothing like God, you cannot doubt. You cannot believe; you cannot doubt. But you cannot progress in your search either. The atheist has thrown away the doubt far more deeply, far more profoundly than the theist. With the theist the doubt is just hiding behind his belief. With the atheist there is no belief to hide behind; he has thrown the doubt very far away, very deep in the unconscious. Of course you cannot get rid of it unless you know. But you can deceive. The atheist can deceive more easily than the theist. Hence atheism has been growing, theism shrinking.

As man has become more intelligent, more educated, more cultured, atheism has become more prominent and theism has become something out of date. Even those who go to churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, know deep down that it is all just social conformity. It is good; they use these places just like clubs. They don’t believe; they don’t even bother…Theists are almost bogus; atheists, a little more solid, because they have not covered their wound with a belief. If the wound is there and it hurts, they have accepted the hurt and the wound. A little more courageous, a little closer to beginning the search — because you can deceive yourself your whole life in believing and thinking that you know, but how long can you go on saying, “There is no God”?…

Inquiry is a risk. It is moving into the unknown. One knows not what is going to happen. One leaves everything that one is acquainted with, is comfortable with, and one moves into the unknown, not even perfectly certain whether there is anything on the other shore, or whether there is another shore even. So people cling either to theism, or those who are a little stronger, intellectual, the intelligentsia — they cling to atheism. But both are escapes from doubt. And to escape from doubt is to escape from inquiry — because what is doubt? It is only a question mark. It is not your enemy. It is simply a question mark within you which prepares you to inquire. Doubt is your friend.

And I had talked about the third category, the agnostic. The theist is the weakest of the three: less cultured, less educated, less intellectual — just a mediocre person. The second category, the atheist, is more intellectual, more cultured, and tries hard not to be bothered by the question, and puts the question absolutely away as far as he is concerned, by arguing that there is no God. If an atheist and theist discuss and debate, the atheist is always bound to win. The theist cannot win; his arguments are poor. He is not argumentative. His belief is very simple, but the atheist is more complex. He also has a belief: his belief is that there is no God. You can call it an unbelief, a nonbelief, but it is a belief. He fights for it with the same fanatic attitude as the theist. You discuss with any communist — all communists are atheists — and they have that same fanatic attitude as any theist. The agnostic is the most superior of the three. The agnostic says, “I have no grounds to say yes, I have no grounds to say no; hence, I will keep my mouth shut about God.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, a disciple of Bertrand   Russell… Bertrand Russell is one of the significant agnostics of this age, and Ludwig Wittgenstein was his best disciple. Russell has praised Wittgenstein so generously; it rarely happens from a teacher’s mouth to so praise a disciple, a student. Wittgenstein was just a student in Russell’s philosophy class. Russell was teaching philosophy in the university of Cambridge, and Wittgenstein was just a student. But Russell had the penetrating eyes to find if there was something, and Wittgenstein was something of a genius. Wittgenstein showed him his notes. And Russell said, “Publish them!” Just his notes that he was taking in the class, any idea that was occurring to him — just his notes and Russell said, “Publish it. It is far superior to any of my books. I will never get such a student as you again. I am proud, and I am fulfilled, in a certain sense, that you came to my class.” Wittgenstein has not written much, just two or three books, and those are all maxims, small sentences. One sentence says, “You should not speak about something that you know not — either for, or against. One should be silent if one has not a solid yes or no in his experience.” In another passage he says, “There are things which cannot be spoken of, hence you should resist the temptation to speak about them.”

The agnostic is the most superior. He does not commit himself, he remains uncommitted. It is better to remain uncommitted, because that keeps you alert that you have not started the search yet. The theist has arrived at a conclusion, the atheist has arrived at a conclusion; you have not even begun the search. The agnostic is the best of the three, comes closer to me. The theist is the farthest from me, the atheist a little closer, the agnostic much closer — but you can remain there.

There is no necessity that you will move into the enquiry. You can say it is an ultimate question. That is what agnostics say. Whenever the question is ultimate, you cannot say yes or no about it. But his silence is not the silence of a gnostic. I had not included gnostic in the three categories I discussed, knowingly. The word agnostic comes from the word gnostic. Agnostic means one who declares that, “I am not certain this way or that.”

Who is a gnostic? A gnostic is one who knows. That is the meaning of gnostic: the knower. The agnostic is silent because he does not know what is right and what is wrong; what is yes, what is no. The gnostic is also silent — because he has come to experience a reality which is inexpressible. I am a gnostic.

And I would like you all to be gnostics, to come to a point of experience where things beyond words happen, where language is left far away back, light years back, where there is no possibility to conceptualize your experience. You cannot say, “God is,” you cannot say, “God is not.” You cannot say, “I cannot say these things.” You can be simply silent. And those who can understand silence will understand the answer. You can help people — that’s what gnostics can do — you can help people to come to silence. Call it meditativeness, awareness — those are just names, but the essential quality is absolute silence, nothing stirring in you, nothing wavering in you. And in that state, godliness is. It is all over the place. It is within you, it is without you.

So I had left out the category ‘gnostic’ knowingly because the gnostic cannot be put with the other three categories. He is a totally different person. He knows — these three know not. One believes that he knows. One believes that he knows not; he knows that God does not exist. One knows certainly that he is not in a position to say yes or no. But all the three are ignorant.

The gnostic knows — but because he knows, he is in a difficulty which only a knower can be in. He cannot accept any category because all categories fall short. Even to say, “God is,” is not enough. It does not cover the whole experience of godliness. To say, “God is not,” that too is not enough — because certainly there is no person, so you can say, “God is not,” but there is such a presence! The person is not, but such a tremendous presence that who cares for the person. And the presence is infinite, eternal. Once tasted, it is going to remain with you forever. The gnostic is the really religious man.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse name:

From Unconciousness to Consciousness

Chapter title: I am a gnostic
Chapter #14
12 November 1984 pm in Lao Tzu Grove


Osho has spoken on spoken on notable Psychologists and philosophers like Adler, Jung, Sigmund Freud, Assaguoli, Aristotle, Berkeley, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Laing, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Russell, Sartre, Socrates, Wittgenstein and many others in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. The Hidden Splendour
  2. The New Dawn
  3. This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
  4. Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
  5. Beyond Enlightenment
  6. Beyond Psychology
  7. Light on The Path
  8. The Discipline of Transcendence
  9. The Dhammapada
  10. From Bondage to Freedom
  11. From Darkness to Light
  12. From Ignorance to Innocence
  13. The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
  14. From Personality to Individuality
  15. I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
  16. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 4
  17. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1

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