Knowing to be: the kind of knowledge that will change the world…


“All men by nature desire to know.”

This is how Aristotle’s Metaphysics (350 BCE) begins.

There is no doubt knowledge has played a key role in the rise of human beings’ development throughout history. All societies from the hunting and gathering society, the horticultural and pastoral society, the agrarian society or the industrial society, have rested on “knowledge” in order to evolve. Nowadays, we are framed in a society whose dominant mode of production and wealth is the creation, dissemination and utilization of knowledge (also known as “intellectual capital”). This is known as the Knowledge Society (encyclopedia.com).

In his extraordinary (and open-access) book “Knowing knowledge” (2006), George Siemens highlights that learning and knowledge are cornerstones for society and organizations and recommends changes required in order to align corporations and educational institutions with developing trends. After defining knowledge as “the codification of information or data in a particular way,” (p. 21) Siemens proposes the existence of five types of knowledge:

  1. Knowing about (e.g. basics of a field)
  2. Knowing where (… to find knowledge when needed)
  3. Knowing to do (e.g. drive a car, solve a math problem, manage a project.)
  4. Knowing to be (i.e. to embody knowledge with humanity, to be compassionate, to relate, to feel…)
  5. Knowing to transform (including knowledge’s adjustment, recombination, innovation or alignment with reality).

He points out that our society has prioritized the creation of “storage structures” of knowledge within journals, books, libraries or museums on the “about” (1) and “doing” (3) levels. In contrast, knowing “where” (2), knowing “to be” (4) and knowing to “transform” (5) have been unattended to. According to the author, this bias has also been reflected in the process of dissemination of knowledge through schools and universities, which fail to attend the full array of “knowing”.

Aligned with this criticism and particularly with regards to the lack of interest of educational institutions in promoting individuals’ known to be, we find the work of the Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo. Highly interested in education, in one of his masterpieces “Changing education to change the world” (2016), Naranjo addresses the cultural and ecological crisis of the 21st century. He advocates the compelling need for making the educational system more ethically and spiritually directed in such a way that it enables us to develop our consciousness instead of merely focusing on the sustainability of current economic or cultural societal models.

In a short video (2006) available online, Naranjo asserts that the world in crisis in which we live is due to the education that we have which dehumanizes students, killing their creativity and contributing to making them conforming and passive, instead of educating them for life through the development of their consciousness and better emotional health.

Thus, Naranjo identifies education’s shift of focus towards “knowing to be” (using Siemens’ term) as a key path for moving towards a better world. As he details in his own website:

Since our gravest and most basic common problem is the underdevelopment of consciousness and the healing journey against the stream of deterioration is difficult, we need to emphasize prevention – and we have the vehicle for it is compulsory education, if only we realize how destructive it has been to seek to educate the young to be the reflections of what we are, and how, when we believe that we are passing on our values, we are being arrogantly blind to how and to what an extent we transmit our plagues (source).

In this challenging task, Naranjo believes it is essential to impact the mind of teachers, who need to undergo an experience transformation, becoming people who not only know their subject but who are truly concerned with the happiness of the students.

From your perspective as a student or as a teacher: what do you think of all this?

By Gloria Nogueiras


  1. Aristotle (350 BCE). Metaphysics. Available here.
  2. Naranjo, C. (2006) Claudio Naranjo’s Educational vision (13 minutes)
  3. Naranjo, C. (2016) Changing Education to Change the World: A New Vision of Schooling. Nevada, CA: Gateways Books & Tapes [From the Spanish publication: Naranjo, C. (2004) Cambiar la educación para cambiar el mundo. Barcelona: La Llave].
  4. Siemens, G. (2006) Knowing knowledge. Lulu. com. Available here.

To explore further

  1. “On Education” – Claudio Naranjo interviewed by Occidente (48 minutes)
  2. Website of Claudio Naranjo
Knowing to be: the kind of knowledge that will change the world… was last modified: May 4th, 2020 by MIUC

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