Wisdom

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Dual aspect of wisdom

In writing about the meaning of "wisdom", H. P. Blavatsky adopts the definition of Lactantius, an early Christian author: "The first point of Wisdom is to discern that which is false, and the second, to know that which is true".[1]

Mme. Blavatsky argues that the vulgar idea of wisdom differs from the philosophical one. To support this claim she quotes St. James, who talks about two kinds of wisdom. She wrote:

St. James teaches two kinds of wisdom; a teaching with which we fully concur. He draws a strong line of separation between the divine or noëtic "Sophia" -- the Wisdom from above -- and the terrestrial, psychic, and devilish wisdom (iii, 15). For the true Theosophist there is no wisdom save the former.[2]
With regard to “psychic” wisdom, however, which James defines as terrestrial and devilish, it has existed in all ages, from the days of Pythagoras and Plato, when for one philosophus there were nine sophistae, down to our modern era. To such wisdom our century is welcome, and indeed fully entitled, to lay a claim.[3]

In a letter to Alfred Percy Sinnett, Mahatma K.H. also stated that the Western culture of the time was drawn to the lower "wisdom":

The truth is, my dear friend, that notwithstanding the great tidal wave of mysticism that is now sweeping over a portion of the intellectual classes of Europe, the Western people have as yet scarcely learned to recognise that which we term wisdom in its loftiest sense. As yet, he only is esteemed truly wise in his world, who can most cleverly conduct the business of life, so that it may yield the largest amount of material profit — honours or money. . . . By most of your gold worshipping countrymen our facts and theorems would be denominated fancy-flights, the dreams of madmen.[4]

Divine wisdom

According to Mme. Blavatsky the source of the higher of "noëtic wisdom" is Buddhi-Manas:

For, divine Wisdom being diffused throughout the infinite Universe, and our impersonal HIGHER SELF being an integral part of it, the atmic light of the latter can be centred only in that which though eternal is still individualized— i.e., the noëtic Principle, the manifested God within each rational being, or our Higher Manas at one with Buddhi. It is this collective light which is the “Wisdom that is from above,” and which whenever it descends on the personal Ego, is found “pure, peaceable, gentle.” Hence, Job’s assertion that “Wisdom is with the Ancient,” or Buddhi-Manas. For the Divine Spiritual “I” is alone eternal, and the same throughout all births; whereas the “personalities” it informs in succession are evanescent, changing like the shadows of a kaleidoscopic series of forms in a magic lantern. It is the “Ancient,” because, whether it be called Sophia, Krishna, Buddhi-Manas or Christos, it is ever the “first-born” of Alaya-Mahat, the Universal Soul and the Intelligence of the Universe. Esoterically then, Job’s statement must read: “With the Ancient (man’s Higher Ego) is Wisdom, and in the length of days (or the number of its reincarnations) is understanding.” No man can learn true and final Wisdom in one birth; and every new rebirth, whether we be reincarnated for weal or for woe, is one more lesson we receive at the hands of the stern yet ever just schoolmaster—KARMIC LIFE.[5]

Since Buddhi-Manas is a spiritual state of consciousness the higher wisdom always remains beyond the grasp of those who are selfish:

The quality of wisdom, ever was, and will be yet for a long time — to the very close of the fifth race — denied [but] to him who seeks the wealth of the mind for its own sake, and for its own enjoyment and result without the secondary purpose of turning it to account in the attainment of material benefits.[6]
So strong is human selfishness, that wherever there is the smallest personal interest at stake, there men become deaf and blind to the truth, as often consciously as not. . . . There was a time when the acquirement of Divine Wisdom (Sapientia) required the sacrifice and devotion of a man’s whole life. It depended on such things as the purity of the candidate’s motives, on his fearlessness and independence of spirit; but now, to receive a patent for wisdom and adeptship requires only unblushing impudence. . . . Now, even as of old, the genuine and sincere observer of life and its underlying phenomena, the intelligent coworker with nature, may, by becoming an expert in her mysteries thereby become a “wise” man, in the terrestrial sense of the word, but . . . never will a materialist wrench from nature any secret on a higher plane. . . . No “wisdom from above” descends on any one save on the sine qua non condition of leaving at the threshold of the Occult every atom of selfishness, or desire for personal ends and benefit. . . . Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom only to him, who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves for knowledge in order to confer benefits on others, not on his own unimportant personality. And, as it is precisely to this personal benefit that nearly every candidate for adeptship and magic looks, and that few are they, who consent to learn at such a heavy price and so small a benefit for themselves in prospect—the really wise Occultists become with every century fewer and rarer. How many are there, indeed, who would not prefer the will-o’-the-wisp of even passing fame to the steady and ever-growing light of eternal, divine knowledge, if the latter has to remain, for all but oneself— a light under the bushel?[7]

Ancient Wisdom

Online resources

Articles

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 311.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 312.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 312.
  4. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 92 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), ???.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 313.
  6. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 92 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), ???.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 314-315.