Not knowing is the highest form of knowing – Susanne Cook-Greuter

Not knowing is the highest form of knowing

Susanne Cook-Greuter

Susanne’s keynote presentation on IEC 2018 was the introduction to the unforgettable Fooling community process, that was led from the main stage by her, Doshin Nelson Roshi and Angela Halvorsen Bogo.
She prepared our ego for the process by reminding us that we all have the fool inside.

Even if some of us may bristle at the notion of being fool, especially if we cherish our identity as integral.

Lets face it: often we take ourselves too seriously. We think that we have an important knowledge to share and we carry heavy weights on our shoulders, like raising our collective consciousness as allies of evolution. Susanne gave us a tool to make it a lot easier.

Before Susanne, Shakespeare already said it in Twelfth Night: „Anyone who does not wish to see a fool should smash his mirror”.

Let’s watch the whole presentation here!

Scroll down to read en extract of Susanne Cook-Greuter’s presentation.

Susanne proposes that there is a relationship between the late stage capacity to see through the function of the ego and the archetype of the fool. Both show and increasing infinity for fun and laughter and both take itself too seriously.

Some people explore the astounding need to explain everything under the sun and the related capacity to fool ourselves about what it means to know. They potentially relized the illusion of knowing and the futility of trying to make ever better maps of reality.

What is ego?

As Susanne defines in Ego Development Theory: the ego underlies our universal drive to explain.

It represents the striving of human beings to understand themselves and the world they live in. Ego is the tireless organizer, interpreter and synthetizer of experience. The ego’s task is to turn experience into a coherent narrative about the world and make us thereby feel safe, important and to belong.

How does it do that? It does so by telling a culturally influenced story about who we are, why we’re here and for what purpose. When we are not able to tell a good story about ourselves our past and our future we feel lost and anxious. Ego is all about denying our mortality therefore facing and embracing this is a part of late stage realisation.

Human development moves from the newborn’s unconscious union with the mother to a conscious union with everyone and everything.

As we grow up we construct meaning by learning the vocabulary and the scripts available to us from our languages and our cultures. Languages divide the seemless experience into separate objects with distinct boundaries and evaluative attributes. We are so totally immersed in a sea of symbols that we hardly notice the way it lose us into the dream of knowledge. The idea of a seprate self in western cultures is just one result of this phenomenon.

It is ironic that concepts such as purpose and soul as well as ego are symbolic abstractions that do not exist outside of language and our agreed-upon definitions. Yet we treat them almost always as if they were palpable real thing.

Stage 4 Represents the ideal adult in modern Western society, it trusts that humans can figure out solutions to all problems if not now in the future. However people at stage 4 do not yet fullly recognise their historical, geographic, cultural and liguistic coditioning. The discovery of having been socialized in specific beliefs what is about what is real is an aspect of the next of this 4-5 stage.

Stage 4-5 Individuals are now aware that other people have their own perspectives and unique programming to deal with on their own way of telling their stories. One realizes that life and the world is stranger and less predictable than one believe. Great uncertainty to one really is outside of social conditioning is part of the confusion and the challange of stage 4-5. At the same time self-questioning allows for a sense of curiosity of freedom and the open road.

Stage 5, TEAL if you need other label People gain a more integrated way to feel good, powerful and certain aboout themselves. Rational analysis is an important part of meaning making yet it is supported by access to intuition, dreams, cerativity and other resources. Individuals now fully realize the interdependence of people and systems. Many also feel empowerd masterful and proud of their understanding as they indeed know a lot more about themselves and the world than people at any earlier stage. Pride, how much one understands is one of the shadows of this level along with its inner certainty and sense of importance. While stage 5 does recognize the pattern of vertical development it still trusts that more knowledge and control over the vagary of life are attainable and will give us a way out of the current global calamity.

Stage 5-6 Constitutes radically new perspective. You can look at the whole paradigm of constructive developmental theory and see both’s gifts and its limitatons. It embraces the fundamental uncertainty about knowing and it shows an increasing capacity to see through our human yearning for meaning and wholeness.

People at this stage often experience profound existential crisis as there is now really no ground to stand on. It’s not just relative. All theories are seen for what they are, ego’s attempts to create order certainty and predictablity.

Well there can be tremendous suffering associated with seeing through the games of our ego’s play, the pain can be appreciated now indeed embraced as a portal to deeper compassion and fuller being.

Construct-aware is the name we have used for this aspect of construct awareness. The ego is always trying to make us feel secure and important. It executes its mandate with exquisite finesse, this includes to a tendency to adopt any ideology that resonates with our own ideals and yearnings, gives us sense of power and belonging and promises us a sense of immortality.

The ego tries to serve even the lofty spiritual notions to feel good about itself true for import a famously diagnosis tendency as spiritual materialism. Mature integration as a human being entails an increasing capacity to notice egos unflagging efforts at explaining and remaining in charge.

Historically and culturally fools have played an essential role in holding up the mirror to power vanity and entitlement. They laugh at all that is pretentious, inauthentic, exagerated and unpoetic. They are masks intellectual arrogance expose rigidity and dismantle ego inflation. They shake people out of conventional patterns of thought and behavior. They are joyful, imaginative and can play with abandoned like very young innocent children. They turn the world in its head by making people see the ultimate insignificance of many of the things they hold dear by pointing out unwarranted beliefs and misconcepstions.

At the same time wise fools are also laughing at their own ignorance, confusion and yearnings. They have formed everything that is uncertain in the universe, the random and unknown factors of our existence.

As we know a few hundreds years ago: all of us are fools. Prone to fall in the typical and very human trap of self-delusion we can earn to take ourselves less seriously and laugh at egos fully while appreciating its hapless and important tasks.

The ability to laugh wholeheartedly at the human condition is a mark of egos maturity and the wise fools.

Fooling is the practice to strengthen this awareness.

Fools like people at stage 5-6 are marginal to society, as outsiders they can observe the human drama while accepting their part of it. They look at the human condition from a radically honest and yet often deeply caring and imaginative perspective.

Let’s unlearn thinking we know and wishing things to be different than they are. Humor and laugh there are wonderful remedies for pointing to folly and self importance wherever they show up. Let’s learn to smile kindly at our foibles and clay feet. The very laughter gives us angel wings, a powerful antidote to taking ourselves too seriously.

Getting over ourselves is likely the biggest challenges that allies of evolution can face, we are not all that different than the rest of humanity, we all benefit from practicing being okay with what is. Especially with making mistakes and making fools of ourselves.




MAY 24

14:00 – 15:00 Opening circle and meeting each other 15:00 –  15:30 Thought Leader Key Speech 15:30 – 16:00 Break 16:00 – 18:00 Afternoon process 18:00 Suggested Program: Have dinner with community, socialize, enjoy the spa and the garden together.


MAY 25

9:00 – 12:30 Big Circle

  1. Opening and encounter
  2. Thought Leader Key Speech and sharing
  3. Coffee Break
  4. Open Space Process – offering and choosing workshops, discussions, presentations.

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch and rest 14:00 – 17:00 Open Space (breakout groups) 17:00 – 18:00 Big Circle (harvesting) 18:00 Suggested Program: Have dinner with community, socialize, enjoy the spa and the garden together.


MAY 26

9:00 – 12:30 Big Circle

  1. Opening and encounter
  2. Thought Leader Key Speech and sharing
  3. Coffee Break
  4. Open Space Process – offering and choosing workshops, discussions, presentations.

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch and rest 13:30 – 16:00 Open Space (break out groups) 16:00 – 17:00 Big Circle  (harvesting and closing)

With Love, The IEC team

This page is under redesign, please check back later. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Your Cart