Wisdom’s Way of Knowing
Mind, Heart, and Body
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Wisdom is not the result of mental effort; it is a way of being—a way of being whole and fully open to a knowing that is more than rational thought alone. Do not confuse this kind of knowing as lightweight, saccharine, or ephemeral. Wisdom teachers would say exactly the contrary is true. To see in such a way is the hard work of keeping all inner spaces open—mind, heart, and body—all at once. This is at the center of any authentic spirituality and does not happen easily or without paying respectful and non-egoic attention—which I could call prayer. Contrary to the grace versus “works righteousness” split that became popular after the Reformation, it is a lot of work and practice to remain fully open to undeserved and unmerited grace (Philippians 2:12-13). The dualistic mind is unable to resolve that paradox. As usual, it just takes one side of every argument.
Cynthia Bourgeault writes, “[The Wisdom way of knowing] requires the whole of one’s being and is ultimately attained only through the yielding of one’s whole being into the intimacy of knowing and being known…. It doesn’t happen apart from complete vulnerability and self-giving. But the divine Lover is absolutely real, and for those willing to bear the wounds of intimacy, the knowledge of that underlying coherence—‘in which all things hold together’—is both possible and inevitable” (The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart, p. 10).
Since the Enlightenment, we’ve become overly reliant on the mind, to the neglect of heart and body. By heart, I don’t mean just feeling and emotion. Tilden Edwards, founder of the Shalem Institute, describes the spiritual faculty of heart as “a quality of intuitive awareness…a sense of inclusive, compassionate, undefended, direct in-touch-ness” (in an interview with Carole Crumley). This “undefended knowing” allows us to drop beneath the thinking mind, to touch upon real experience, unhindered by ego’s sense of self, without fear or agenda.
This year we’re going to approach the Wisdom Lineage from a healthy middle, a place between two alternating mediocrities of knowing: all heart and little head (lacking rational, historical, scientific grounding) or all head and little heart (lacking inner experience and true love). We need head and heart, grounded in our physical and sensory body, for a holistic and mature faith.
Gateway to Silence:
May I love with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.