Perennial Wisdom — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Perennial Wisdom


Perennial Wisdom
Sunday, January 15, 2017

I don’t believe that God expects all human beings to start from zero and to reinvent the wheel of life in their own small lifetimes. We must build on the common “communion of saints” throughout the ages. This is the inherited fruit and gift, which is sometimes called the “wisdom tradition.” It is not always inherited simply by belonging to one group or religion. It largely depends on how informed, mature, and experienced your particular teachers are.

Most seminaries, I am afraid, have merely exposed ministers to their own denomination’s conclusions and do not have time for much native, interfaith, or ecumenical education, which broadens the field from “my religion, which has the whole truth,” to some sense of “universal wisdom, which my religion teaches in this way.” If it is true, then it has to be true everywhere.

There have been many generations of sincere seekers who’ve gone through the same human journey and there is plenty of collective and common wisdom to be had. It is often called the “perennial tradition” or the “perennial philosophy” because it keeps recurring in different world religions with different metaphors and vocabulary. The foundational wisdom is much the same, although never exactly the same. As in the Trinity, spiritual unity is diversity loved and overcome, never mere uniformity.

Here is a good succinct summary of the Perennial Tradition:

  • There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things.
  • There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality.
  • The final goal of all existence is union with Divine Reality.

I am trusting and hoping that these Daily Meditations contain more than my little bit of truth, precisely because I have found some serious validation in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, along with the testimonies of many other witnesses along the way. I am trying to connect the dots within and between a few thousand years of Jewish and Christian interpretation, mystics, saints, church councils, friends of God, theologians, and philosophers of the ecumenical Body of Christ. This is the force field of the Holy Spirit that you and I continue to be part of whenever we are living, thinking, and praying in loving union with God and God’s work in this world. I only have courage to talk this way because these are not just my ideas!

Gateway to Silence:
Give us wisdom. Give us love.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2013), 4, 26; and
“The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, Vol. 1 No. 1 (CAC: 2013), 5. (This issue is no longer available in print; however, an e-book, published by Franciscan Media, is available from Amazon.)

Image Credit: The Way of the Prophet (detail), silhouette image art work by Mike Van, concept by Vivienne Close.
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