Wisdom (Video Script)
Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge. Thus wisdom, by definition, requires application.
All religious and spiritual traditions in the history of the world have addressed wisdom. Religious scholar Huston Smith popularized the term “wisdom traditions” to signify the inner core of truth of religion without the trappings of literal doctrine and ritual. Wisdom can be regarded as the applied knowledge of the unseen forces and unseen realms of spirit in contrast to “worldly wisdom” or mundane human based knowledge.
Amongst the great historical wisdom traditions, the wisdom literature of the Hebrew bible is particularly noteworthy. For example, throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is compared and contrasted with foolishness. The “Fool” in this context does not signify one who is merely silly or stupid, but one who is deficient in morality and disinterested in development. In contrast the wise person seeks knowledge of God and God’s ways.
King Solomon, generally regarded as the author of much if not all of the book of Proverbs, stands out as an iconic symbol of wisdom. In addition to his writings, Solomon is best known for the building of the first temple in Jerusalem and for his wise judgments.
Scripture indicates that Solomon’s wisdom derived from his prayer for an understanding heart to judge his people and know good and evil. The Hebrew bible states that the whole world sought an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart.
Probably the most famous story of Solomon’s wisdom recounts a case involving two women who came before Solomon to settle a disagreement about who was the true mother of a baby. Known as the Judgment of Solomon, it represents a dramatic example of the paradoxical nature of wisdom.
After hearing both sides, Solomon instructs that the child is to be severed in two with a sword, with each woman receiving half of the body. Upon hearing Solomon’s proclamation, the real mother gives up her case to protect the child. Solomon recognizes the loving woman as the true mother and awards the child accordingly.
In this case we glimpse the nature of wisdom. By ordering the severing of the child it would appear that Solomon was simply administering property law by awarding half to each claimant.
Acting in wisdom, Solomon approached the predicament from a spiritual perspective, and judged by love rather than the material facts of the case.
Thus Solomon transcended the material dimension of the problem and acted in the spirit of the truth – in love. The paradoxical nature of Solomon’s solution is typical of wisdom. It defies worldly understanding and follows the unseen reality of spirit.
The wise men associated with the birth of Jesus represent another iconic symbol of wisdom in the Bible. As they journeyed to pay homage to that special child, they faced a dilemma. Would they adhere to earthly authority and protocol or trust the unseen forces of spirit?
Rather than follow the instructions of King Herod, whose intention was to kill the baby Jesus, they avoided that evil by following their own inner guidance. With knowledge of astrology, numerology, and other esoteric disciplines they correctly read the signs and omens and were guided by the spirit of truth. Like Solomon, the wise men in the nativity story took an indirect approach to solve the problem.
As an adult teacher, Jesus would also reflect this pattern in his advice to his disciples who were told to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. This paradoxical or apparently contradictory nature of wisdom in Jesus’ teachings was evident in many of his sayings:
- The meek shall inherit the earth.
- Turn the other cheek.
- If a man requests your coat, give him your cloak also.
- The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
- The servant of all is the greatest of all.
- Give if you would receive.
- Go the extra mile.
The wisdom of Jesus’ teachings only makes sense to those who have applied them in the midst of life.
- Wisdom does not find fault or condemn others.
- Wisdom does not cherish grudges.
- Wisdom loves others, even when they speak unkindly of you.
Wisdom and Fear
One of the greatest paradoxes in wisdom is that God is love and yet the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. It is not enough to have knowledge of universal laws – we must live according to those laws or suffer the consequences.
There is an impersonal aspect of God that is not a respecter of persons. As an expression of the mind of God, nature reflects this impersonal quality of the Divine.
If we are wise, we have a healthy respect, or even fear, for the impersonal forces of nature that have the power to destroy individuals and even entire cultures. Living in harmony with universal laws, whether of the strictly physical or metaphysical, is wisdom.
Interestingly, the Cayce readings interpret the Biblical psalm about the fear of God as the beginning of wisdom from the standpoint of impersonal, universal law. We reap what we sow. This is the law. Wisdom is the fear to misapply this knowledge in our dealings with others. Or one could simply say that fear of misapplying God’s universal laws is the beginning of wisdom.