The etymology of unknowing

The word “unknowing” does not generally have positive connotations. It is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as an adjective (though also used as a barely distinguishable present participle) meaning:

Not knowing; not possessing knowledge or understanding; ignorant; ill-informed; naive.

The sense in which I’m using it is almost the opposite of this. I’m talking about a letting go of the knowing that paradoxically makes us unaware and unwitting – that is to say, the knowing in which we reside most of the time. The words “unaware” and “unwitting” that I used in that last sentence to describe “knowing” are taken from Chambers’ definition of “unknowing”. What we’re dealing with is not a binary between ignorance and knowledge but an ebbing and flowing between knowing and unknowing, the boundaries between them hard to discern.

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