‘Knowledge is Power’ is a proverb that signifies that knowledge is a true and strong power which always remains with the person in all good and bad times. Knowledge makes a person powerful and empowers him to win over any situation or any condition. Knowledge is power means that a person having more knowledge will be able to control circumstances in the life accordingly. Knowledge is power really means that if one has complete knowledge, he or she can be more powerful in the world and does not require other things in life such as anyone’s help, friends, etc. which cannot be defeated by other power on the earth. We can say that knowledge gives power and power gives knowledge. The phrase is also used as a justification for a reluctance to share information when a person believes that withholding knowledge can deliver to that person some form of advantage. This famous phrase is attributed to the well-known English essayist, Sir Francis Bacon, who wrote, “Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.” A proverb with practically the same connotation was also found in Hebrew, in the Biblical Book of Proverbs, translated as: “A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength”. Firdousi’s “Shahnama” also contains the line with the same meaning: “One who has wisdom is powerful”.  The phrase implies that with knowledge through education and other skills, one’s potential or abilities in life will certainly increase. Having and sharing knowledge is widely recognised as the basis for improving one’s reputation and sphere of influence, thus power.

Man is at the zenith of the evolutionary chain. He is the epitome of civilisation. This is attributed to his unique ability to transform data into information and then into usable knowledge. The quest to expand our area of the known drives humanity to explore newer vistas. However, with the ‘area of the known’, our ‘area of the unknown’ increases exponentially. Therefore, knowledge is knowing what we cannot know.  History of human civilisation tells us that the survival of mankind depended largely upon the growth of the knowledge base man possessed. From the Stone Age till the modern era, man continued to struggle for knowing the unknown. He explored the seven seas, the water depths, the high skies, the space beyond our galaxy, the human body and most important of all, the human mind. He struggled to get knowledge about this universe and its constituents. Earlier, his tools were primitive. But now, he is busy in his endeavour of getting knowledge through the most sophisticated tools available, viz. telecommunications
and satellites, electronic devices, lasers, psychology, reiki, vaastu, yoga, transcendental meditation, space science, Internet, medical technologies, etc. Man has capitalised on his capacity to generate or gather ideas in order to empower itself. How else would we trace man’s journey from being the inventor of wheel to the architect of nanotechnology. Man has progressed in many fields, including science and technology, medicine, law, psychiatry, surgery, computer science, software development, space research, ocean engineering, power generation which are some of the areas explored by him.

But how do we know that we know? There exists a causal connection between knowledge and society,
which goes both ways—not only does society shape our knowledge but the reverse also holds true. A new
religious message, scientific insight or technology that develops within the society holds the power to alter the social order. That is how the discoveries of nuclear physicists in the 20th century could virtually alter the hierarchy of science.

French philosopher and historian Michael Foucault’s works analysed the link between power and knowledge. He asserts that belief systems gain momentum and hence power; as more people come to accept the particular views associated with that belief system as common knowledge. Such belief systems also define their figures of authority within a particular society, say, doctors in a clinic or priests in a church. From such belief systems, certain ideas crystallise which transform and normalise themselves as normal and deviant within a specific society. The frontiers of knowledge are being stretched every second—even while we write or read this essay. Human embryos are waiting to be cloned, Androids are being conceptualised and designed and hopefully, someone is on the verge of finding a vaccine for AIDS. Therein lies the power of knowledge—the one who organises knowledge and applies it in current context is the ultimate ruler. The more information that enters one’s domain, the more accessible it becomes for further processing and consequently for its application in the real world. If we think all that we needed to know has already been taught, ponder over Oscar Wilde’s reflection that “nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” This statement bears a lot of truth—the best knowledge is that knowledge that is acquired first hand. First-hand knowledge is nothing but knowledge of the self. The knowledge of self-expands continuously as well—but we must be aware of the ever-changing self. Often we indulge in actions that do not harmonise with our thoughts. When we identify these discrepancies and seek to rectify them, we experience ‘absolute knowledge of self’. We can thus visualise our inner selves from an objective point of view and experience infinite peace. Such is the power of first-hand knowledge.

Knowledge is distinct from simple information. Both knowledge and information consist of true statements, but knowledge is information that has a purpose or use. From the assortment of information that is thrust on us, we have to use our individual mental ‘filters’ to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, it is absolutely necessary that knowledge is not misused. Nuclear power must be used for peaceful purposes and not for development of deadly weapons. We should try to spread the knowledge base in all the fields in the masses and it must be imparted to our rural children, youth, women and farmers. They can emerge as the major facilitators of our economic growth.

Knowledge can be granted or withheld as well as shared or kept secret—it amounts to a source of power in either of these cases. The exercise of power seems endemic to humans as social beings. Knowledge becomes a source of power when it is shared with others. Knowledge for selfish ends results in the birth of evil. We take refuge in the tale of the Ramayana, where Ravana is described as a gifted musician and a knowledgeable authority in the Vedas and the scriptures. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and enchanted Shiva with his music. One day, delighted by the demon king’s music, Lord Shiva granted him a wish: Ravana desired that his life could only be ended by Shiva. As the years passed, Ravana acquired enormous powers through his penance and through the wish granted by Lord Shiva. But, instead of using his powers and his knowledge for the benefit of the world, Ravana used them to attain his own ends. He became conceited with knowledge. Becoming vain with knowledge is akin to being blinded by light.

The greatest novel is yet to be written; the most profound poem is yet to be composed; the best painting is yet to be made. There is not a perfect example of a railroad or a highway or a government functioning in the most efficient way possible. Sciences are being fundamentally revised. Newton waited for an Einstein and Darwin waits to be challenged. All these and more are the result of knowledge, its application and its widespread dissemination. Lives are waiting to be changed by vast knowledge reserves.  Therefore, knowledge is a source that must be harnessed. Learning through education is just one part of knowledge that can be put to great use. Knowledge and consequently, power can be found everywhere and is waiting to be put to productive use to empower humankind—“seek and we shall find it”. To clinch our view, we can state that latest knowledge must be acquired in all the important areas, especially those related to one’s job, business, profession or skill. Researches must be translated into practical solutions. The vast knowledge base must be utilised for meeting the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, disease, disability and bring about a balanced development of society.

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