What is Wisdom?

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St Teresa of Ávila

The Wisdom tradition underlies virtually all the great world religions, East and West. In the East, it is very much in the mainstream; in the West, it has taken a distinctly back-seat role. For example, in Western Christianity, it was all but exterminated by about 500 CE, but bubbled along deep underground, punctuated by flashes of brilliance from the likes of Teresa of Ávila, Meister Eckhart and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing.

When we speak of Wisdom in these pages, we are not speaking of generic wisdom, as in something one acquires as one gets older. Nor are we speaking of some esoteric, secret way, nor is it a synonym for the “contemplative life,” although the Wisdom path can be esoteric and is almost always contemplative.  A definition can be difficult to pin down, perhaps due to its presence in so many diverse forms.  My working understanding is that Wisdom is not about different or higher or secret knowledge, but  deeper, more complete ways of knowing. It is knowing in all three of the ancient seats of intelligence: mind, boday and hEart.

Cynthia Borgeault, in her book The Wisdom Way of Knowing (Jossey-Bass, 2003), offers a more tchnical definition. She writes that Wisdom is

“a precise and comprehensive science of spiritual transformation that has existed since the headwaters of the great world religions and is in fact their common ground. This science includes both theory and practice. The theory part consists of a unified cosmology—in other words, a comprehensive vision of our human purpose and destiny. The practice involves a systematic training for growing into that purpose.”

I hope we can share ideas, experiences and resources in the pages of this blog.  Please comment and let us know what you think.

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