Three Levels of Learning: Getting Closer to The Truth

All learning is in one way or another a quest to find, what Mahatma Gandhi called, The Truth. As I see it today, the quest to learn anything or to find the truth behind anything, becomes closer to The Truth when you pass yourself, and the information you learn, through three levels of learning/questioning, and is the farthest from The Truth when passed only through one. The three levels of learning are:

  • The Experiential or Subjective or Child-like
  • The Intellectual or Objective or Parent-like
  • The Conscious or Intelligent or Adult-like

FYI: The Child, Parent Adult parallelism is drawn from Thomas Anthony Harris’s I’m OK — You’re OK, in case you know of it already.

The Experiential

This is the first type of learning we all go through and the most familiar with, the experiential learning, or the the child-like learning. It is what we we learn from the experiences we have in this life. It is similar to how a child learns to do anything; learning by doing and making mistakes.

Learning by doing.

It is subjective. A child’s learning is from its perspective. It cannot do all the mistakes in the world. Hence in this form of learning we either extrapolate our experiences and create a general view of the world, or we don’t give a shit about the world at all.

It is basically limited to what we can learn from our experiences.

The Intellectual

Though The Experiential learning is handy and the easiest, a person having only experiential knowledge sees the world only from its limited experiences. Another level of learning is the Intellectual or the Parent-like. This is the second form of learning that we are familiar with. It is similar to the things we learn form our parents and others beyond ourselves.

Learning from others.

It is objective. When we read a book, written by someone else, we are learning something from someone beyond ourselves, like how you are reading this article.

It is an intellectual form of learning, where we take in something from outside. It is the study to perform an activity, say from a teacher. We learn from them, and then perform. It is beyond our experiences and hence have no choice but to accept or reject it.

The Conscious

In Experiential learning we learn by experience. In Intellectual learning we learn from someone else’s experience. The Adult-like learning starts with the realisation that both of these learning are only parts of the same Truth.

Everything is only part truth.

It is the intelligent part of you that gets to choose what it needs to solve the problem at hand. It is that which can weigh the things you learned from experiences and from others and choose what is right for you. It is that developed mind that can hold an idea that completely contradicts its current beliefs and still learn something from it.

It is the conscious ability to understand that what you learned from your experiences is as valid as what somebody else learned from the same experience. It is the ability to accept someone else’s Truth or answer, to be as valid as what you’ve discovered. It is the realisation that there is no Absolute Truth, but infinite subjective and objective truths that cumulatively adds to what we believe is the Absolute.

What Does All This Mean?

None is better than the other, and all are indispensable to reach The Truth you seek. With only subjective, you are like a child that sees only half of a coin and believes there is nothing more. With only objective, you see the child’s side of the coin, as well as your side of the coin, but still believes in the coin. With only intelligent learning there is no coin, no root in existence, only philosophies that are based on transient clouds.

It is in the experiences of the child you see the reality around you. It is in the objective you see the reality of others around you. It is in the intelligent that you see the world for the illusion it is.

It is in the equal application of all types of learning and questioning that one may simultaneously see their side of the coin, the other’s side, and smile at the illusion itself.

Right now you have in your brain all that you have learned so far, your experiential learning. At the same time, while reading this you are learning something new through your Objective eyes, an intellectual learning. When you are able to hold this new information, compare it with what you know already, to see what is right in you as well as in this new information, and then choose what is right for you, then you may say you have reached closer to knowing The Truth.

It takes courage to see a problem for what it is.

Many fights start because we see only through the child in us, which sees only its side of the argument. It is the easiest way to believe what we believe is right. It takes conscious effort to try to understand what the other side of the story is. It is difficult to think that the person you are fighting against might be right too. When people don’t then are born, arguments, fights and world wars. It takes even more conscious effort and knowledge, to take a step back and see if an argument is even relevant at all.

Quoting Carl Sagan, it is nothing but “rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot…. a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”.

So the next time you feel like hitting someone, or throwing a tantrum, or killing yourself, take a breath, and ponder for a moment, “Is this it?”


Wishing you the best,

Ashik