image of Spiritual Traditions

Religious Traditions Contribute Wisdom, but are dulled by the fanaticism, rigid traditions, and doctrines that must be adhered to.

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Introduction to Wisdom


One of the definitions of wisdom most often used is that, “Wisdom is when love and knowledge embrace.” By the words used in this statement there is a sense of compassion.  Wisdom literature seeks to lead the reader to a better quality of life.  Wisdom is often most associated with elders, those with decades of experience, perhaps because holistic self-integration takes years.  Wisdom is included in this “Land of Being” because truly this perspective emerges in those deeply integrated, as insights that emerge from a quieted ego consciousness and psyche.   Experience reflected upon thoughtfully can lead to wisdom.


In essence, it could be said that wisdom is a deep knowledge within each person. Children who are terminally ill often speak wisdom because their view of reality is different.  Much of wisdom literature can touch a place of recognition within us.  Wisdom is most often very simply expressed which also helps to open the knowledge within.  Words of wisdom come from great depths, and speak to our great depths perhaps better than any other verbal expression.  And, not surprisingly, words of wisdom in their profound simplicity can be presented in poems, parables, and enjoyable tales.


Wisdom is now mostly handed down from generation to generation through writings.  There was a time when the wise only handed down their wisdom through word of mouth.  We have more access to the centuries of wisdom literature from all over the world than ever before.  Reading such literature can stir within that inner knowledge, helping us tap into what is within.


Because wisdom is an innate knowledge within, the wisest and holiest of people speak of mostly the same topics and tenets.  Wisdom literature is truly cross-cultural.   Eastern (mostly Asian) wisdom and Western (mostly European) wisdom have much in common, though written centuries and thousands of miles apart.  Reading wisdom literature and its common topics is a guide in the discerning what other voices are espousing are beneficial, and those that are not.


Writings are still the best place for finding wisdom;  there are very, very few wise people to actually go to.  Some say that as industry and technology increase, wisdom and its proponents decrease. There are books of collected wisdom, and books specific to certain sages.  


Books such as A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom, The three volumes of Eternal Quest, and Perennial Philosophy (especially good) are examples of excellent collections.  Idries Shah’s Tales of Nasrudin  are wonderful parables that require developing your intuitive thinking.  Evelyn Underhill’s books about Mysticism contain some excellent wisdom. C. S. Lewis’s ScrewTape Letters has its wisdom “hidden” in this story.  My best advice is to make sure whatever the book title, the contents are a cross-cultural selection of wisdom quotes.
 Meanwhile, a couple of my favorites:

If you are going to stand, then stand.

If you are going to sit, then sit.

Whatever you do, don’t wobble.

Zen Wisdom


God requires a faithful fulfillment of the merest trifle

given us to do,

rather than the most ardent aspiration to things

to which we are not called.

St Francois de Sales


The Companionship of Wisdom Literature

Along the way to self integration, there are times when you may feel very alone.  There is a feeling that you are isolated from everyone; even God.   These times are called “desert times,” and, when especially deep, “dark night of the soul.”  They are actually part of the journey. (See “Emptiness Within“)  These are the times when deep integration is going on, way beyond the conscious level. 


During this, even though being alone is not all that appealing and being with others is even less appealing, the writing of people of wisdom are often excellent companions.  They encourage, inspire, and most importantly, embrace us during these times.  Indeed, once you can recognize when you are in a desert, you will find embracing/enduring much easier. 


Because wisdom is a shared knowledge, anytime you feel lost, alone, or are questioning your inner journey, reading wisdom literature can be very, very, helpful; and can give you a sense of community. The words and thoughts often not only innately make sense, but they also help your consciousness merge into the depths.  One does not have to scale a high peak to get to wisdom.  Thanks to the internet and sites like this one, you can access wisdom to both keep you company and keep you going.


If you have never read much, beginning with books of wisdom parables and short quotations may work well for you. In Writings for You, I have included both poetic writings and parables If you are a reader, having a wisdom literature at hand at all times allows for a quicker response to feeling out of sorts.


Cultures can have superficiality to them, as they focus on keeping people entertained and occupied.  There is not much emphasis on wisdom and wisdom writings.  Those disenchanted with their culture may find that what is missing is the deeply meaningful, very thoughtful, but common sense writings.  There can be times when we hunger for substance beyond what is around us, and the psyche usually looks in all the wrong places to fill that hunger.


Without knowledge of the deeply fulfilling wisdom literature we miss out on this wonderful companionship that is possible as well as a place to turn in the times of feeling empty.  Sages and are full of common sense, humor, humility, simplicity and beauty of thought.  They are loving people who have taken the journey to holistic self integration, and speak compassionately to others.  If something or someone is said to represent wisdom who does not have these qualities, do not waste your time; especially when there is such a wealth of credible wisdom writings available.


Having their companionship during your journey is indispensable.  There are going to be times that they alone can speak the words you most need to hear.  To end this discussion of Wisdom, the following section takes on one of the most difficult topics, and provides the perspective of wisdom: Of light and its shadow, especially in terms of love and its shadow of attachment/infatuation/lust.


Of Lights and Shadows


A rather imprecise but valuable metaphor is: “For every light there is a  shadow; and for every shadow there is a light.” “And the greater the light, the greater the shadow.”  One aspect of shadows is just what it implies: when we produce “lights” shadows are also produced that if not dealt with, lead to tragedy. In life’s journey, people’s greatest “light,” as in their capacity to achieve great accomplishments, can be ruined by their shadows.  Here are just some examples for your intuitive understanding:
  • People who become famous, fall into the shadows of “feeling entitled,” and abuse to others whom they feel superior to. 
  • People who gain power, and fall to their shadows of corrupt use of that power and lose their own “humanity. 
  • People who have the “light” to reach out to others, must be careful of the shadow of not taking care of themselves or those closest in their lives.


Another form of Light and shadows is mistaking the shadows as the light


“Charlatans,” “Cult leaders,” even “Charismatics,” seem ever so sincere, caring, want the best for you. They often tell you what you most want to hear. But these are people of the shadows who entrap people into something unfortunate.  People who have developed strong discernment skills are less likely to be drawn into the entrapments.


Of all insights wisdom can provide regarding mistaking “shadows” for “lights,” differentiating “love” from the shadows of “needy attachment,” infatuation, and lust may be the most personally valuable wisdom.  Songs, writings, TV shows, and movies are replete with the “shadows” of love and passion.


Love versus the shadow of Needy Attachment:  When we have to have an intimate relationship to fill a personal void, “we say ‘I love you,’ which really means ‘I need you.”  True love is based in giving life to another’s life, without the intention of drawing that person closer in affection.  True love is also letting go of an intimate relationship when the other person needs to separate.  Yes, there will be grieving, but that is what love is.  Needy attachment is often evidenced by how quickly meeting someone can spin into an intimate relationship.  All that “I saw you across the room and fell in love with you,” most often means, “I am tremendously attracted by you.”  A person can quickly become infatuated with someone, placing all the qualities they are looking for upon that person.  


People mis-take attachment, in its hold on the psyche, as Love.  The psyche (that part of our mind that is focused on surviving/thriving in life) looks for deep emotional needs to be met and pushes to have someone fill this.  Relationships are often created on the mutual basis on filling this need, and often include a high level of infatuation.  When the need is being met, all is well within. The  “I love you” said and expressed in many ways always is really saying, “Ahh, you meet my need.” When one pulls away from the other person, which happens when whoever in the relationship recognizes there is no real substance, they are typically met with a terrible lashing out by the other person, and/or a clinging that can drag both down. Wisdom literature addresses this dynamic and encourages a person to go beyond such relationships based on attachment.  “Infatuation” is like a bridge between attachment and lust.  Attachment is an emotional need, lust is a physical need.


When infatuation/lust replaces love, relationships tend not to fall apart but to “explode.”  Need for another person now becomes a hunger and an incessant desire.   If the other person does not respond there can be terrible fixation and anguish.  If the person responds in kind, there can be immense intensity to the relationship that brings “great highs” in energy and feeling.  Unfortunately there come the “great lows,” and enormous depression and suffering if the other is the first to pull away.   Such relationships often have a pre-conscious watchfulness — each person wants to be the one to pull away first to avoid the avalanche of suffering.   Some people “jump” into such relationships and “jump” out as quickly leaving the other person swirling in confusion and lost-ness.


How many love songs are there about “I long for you, but you don’t see me;”  “Don’t you know I need your love;”  “You are all I desire;” “You left me and my world now means nothing to me”?  All songs like these point to the issue of the light and shadow of Love.  They express very real human dilemmas.  The only unfortunate part to songs and movies that express the shadows again, and again, and again, is that very rarely are there songs that express what the light of love truly is, and encourage souls to this.


We all need interdependence (that place between total dependence and total independence), and that is not the issue here.  Attachment is placing needs upon another that, truly, can only be met from within and in the source of all Love — That Presence which is Intimate and Infinite. Holistic self-integration helps each person mature into relationship with That Presence which is Intimate and Infinite.  With this, what we learn of Love we then take into loving relationships with others.  We can learn the red flags of attachment, infatuation, and lust, shadows. 


The following quotations are a “global” acknowledgment and call to travel past the shadows of love. These can be difficult to fully grasp in the first reading, but thoughtfulness will help as you read them several times.  (Wisdom speaks counter to much of what the psyche demands, and in that humility is a must when reading/hearing wisdom:)


This is the great trial or strife of human life,

whether a person live to the lusts of the beast,

the guile of the serpent, the pride and wrath of the fiery dragon,

or give themselves up to the meekness, the patience, the sweetness,

the simplicity, the humility, of the Lamb of God.

William Law.


The craving for worldly desires, which is chronic in humanity,

is like the patient’s craving for water.

There is no end to this craving.  The typhoid patient says

“I shall drink a whole pitcher of water”.

The situation is very difficult.  There is so much confusion in the world.

Sri Ramakrishna


Embellished for them is the evil of their deeds, when they pursue their lusts.

Qur’an 47:14


…. dangerous are the senses, they even carry away forcibly the mind

of a discriminative person who is striving for perfection.

An individual of steady wisdom, having subdued them all (the senses)

becomes fixed in me, the Supreme.

Their wisdom is well established, who senses are under control.

Thinking of sense objects, individuals become attached thereto.

From attachment arises longing; and from longing anger is born.

From anger arises delusion; from delusion, loss of memory is caused.

From loss of memory, the discriminative faculty is ruined

and from the ruin of discrimination, they perish.



Every person is tempted,
when they are drawn away by their lust and are enticed.

Then, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin;

and sin when it is finished, brings forth death.

(paraphrased from: James 1:14 and 15)


Every desire is insatiable, and therefore is always in want.  Sextus.

We should mark and know the very truth: that all virtue and goodness,

and even that eternal good, which is God,

can never make any person for to us a good or happy, so long as it is outside the soul.

That is, so long as the person is holding converse with outward things

through the senses and reason,

and does not withdraw into themselves and learn to understand their own life,

who and what they are.

Theologia Germanica


Whosoever will remember their lusts shall understand

that the end of such pleasure is sadness.



Of all the acts of devotion by which God’s favor is sought.

None has greater value than the resistance of passion,

because it is easier for a person to destroy a mountain with their nails

than to resist passion.



Under the sway of strong impulse, the person who is devoid of self-control

will fully commits deeds that they know to be fraught with future misery.

But those of discrimination, even though moved by desires,

t once become conscious of the evil that is in them,

and does not yield to their influence, but remains an attached.

Srimad Bahagatam XI. vii


To be overcome by pleasure is ignorance in the highest degree.


There is a difference between spiritual and corporal pleasures —

corporal ones you beget a desire before you have obtained them

and, after you have obtained them, a disgust.

But spiritual pleasures, on the contrary,

are not cared for when we have them not, but are desired when we have them.

St. Gregory the great


The more of your own self you throw,

the more into you, God will flow.

Be aware then of your self; self’s burden you will rue.

It will impair you more than a thousand devils do.

Of all the wonders of the world humanity is still the greatest,

for God or the devil, they may be, according to their will

Angelus Silesius


The Supreme Self (Paramatman) and the incarnate self are one in essence,

and are both on the primal ray from the absolute (the tree of life).

The incarnate self evolving in the souls of humanity,

struggles up toward to enjoy the buddhic consciousness

the fruit of the experience and aspiration; while the Supreme Self is a witness and inactive.

The incarnate self is even worse in delusion and ignorance, suffering and sorrow,

but when having conquered the lower nature and risen above it;

then it perceives the Supreme Self;

then its sorrows ceases, ignorance and delusion are dispelled, and the truth is made manifest.

The pairs of opposites are discarded, and perfection having been attained, the two selves.

Become one Self, in complete identity.

G. A. Gaskell


Not by the slothful, nor the fool, nor the undiscerning, is Nirvana to be reached —

which is the untying of all knots.



This Self is not realizable by study, or even by intelligence and learning.

The Self reveals its essence, only to those who applies themselves to the Self.

Those who have not given up the ways of vice, who cannot control themselves,

who are not at peace within,

whose mind is distracted, can never realize the Self,

though full of all the learning in the world.

Katha Upanisad