Wisdom Book Practice Circle: The Wisdom Way of Knowing | Introduction and Chapter One

We begin again, a Wisdom book practice circle. The Wisdom Way of Knowing – Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault, is the very stuff of what it means to be human, in this time in history and unfolding on our planet.

Reading the introduction and chapter one of this book, one can start to hear there is a vision and a ‘technology’ of wisdom development practices that can be implemented. Cynthia lays it bear:

“I want to introduce you to the Wisdom tradition itself, not cloaked in metaphors and theologies but as its own clear vision of human purpose and the practical technologies for getting there… to show you how to use the teachings of Wisdom to transform your life.” (p xix)

This vision of wisdom needs to draw from springs that bypass our human tendency to divide and conquer. This Wisdom is universal. Cynthia states:

“notice that I capitalize Wisdom for I am referencing not simply to a generic or subjective quality of being but to a far more precise lineage of spiritual knowledge. Wisdom is an ancient tradition, not limited to one particular religious expression but at the headwaters of all the great sacred paths” (p 4).

Cynthia invites people of all faiths, spiritual paths or simply the inquisitive into reading this book. I personally know 30-year-olds who do not belong to a particular faith tradition, nor have a practice, and found this book accessible, enlightening and reassuring.

I was listening to a podcast recently, by Daniel Shcmuchtenberger with Ian Gilchrist and John Vervaeke in December 2023. Here’s the podcast transcript. After three hours of discussing the Psychological Drivers of what they call the Metacrisis and what we may refer to in layman’s terms, as the crumbling of our life and world as we know it. They pondered this question.

Let’s say the Vatican calls you up and says, “We agree, we would like to have a uniquely Catholic version of this, and maybe we’re stoked if there’s a uniquely Muslim and uniquely Hindu kind of enlightenment of similar types. But we would like a kind of Catholic version. How would you change the way we approach our practices, philosophy, etcetera?” Or let’s say that the minister of the Department of Education reached out and said, “We want to implement, K through 12, a wisdom-development process. I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on, how could the institutions start to actually implement wisdom-development practices?”

Their answer reads as follows:
Through their diverse knowledge and research in philosophy, neuroscience (including right and left hemisphere modes of attending), psychiatry, history, religion and other disciplines, they all converged into placing hope in Wisdom and falling in love with the sacred. The podcast ends with an answer but offers no road map for such a direction.

Cynthia in her book Wisdom Way of Knowing offers deep insights in how one enters into this Wisdom consciousness.

“A Wisdom School is as much about creating and tending the receptivity of the container as it is about the delivery of the teaching. Here, then, the Wisdom experience becomes more than the sum of its parts.”

As we will learn further into the book, and practice together in the book circles, this tending of the container is not only the rhythm of prayer and work, or the teachings themselves, but a receptivity and resonance into a higher or finer meaning and knowing. “Wisdom is not knowing more but knowing with more of you”. This is a repeated quote of Cynthia’s and how true it is. Opening not only our minds, but our bodies and hearts, attuning them so one can receive these deeper streams of knowing and being. This begins to be a light in the dark of navigating the unknown territories of our current times. Cynthia is aware the way of Wisdom and Love is costly. It requires the willingness to divest one’s whole being, to truly surrender all positionalities and be vulnerable.

My wisdom school is the mirror of intimate relationships, and life, in a rhythm of centering prayer, prayerful work, Lectio Divina in community and practises to relax and strengthen the body/nervous system. This requires vigilance, humility and support in holy company.

Cynthia closes off the chapter assuring us the ‘divine Lover is absolutely real’. In saying yes to this call the Divine Lover dances with us, giving us exactly what we need for our own salvation. We swim deeper than the waves of ordinary awareness or the flash of mystical experience into a faith stream and thus as Cynthia writes:

Beneath the shattered surface of the world, it became briefly possible to see – not just deduce, but actually see – how tenderly all things are being held in love.” (p 10). 

We begin again, a Wisdom book practice circle in a community of Wisdom seekers wanting to live and ride the road map of Wisdom consciousness. May we support each other in the rhythm of this ancient well-trodden path. We are in good company.

Beth O’Neil lives in Fremantle (Walyalup) Western Australia, where the river meets the ocean. She acknowledges and gives thanks to the original custodians, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation. Beth brings her experience of living Wisdom to facilitating the Wisdom Waypoints book circles, living wisdom groups, chanting, holding the post for online meditation circles, writing the odd blog, and co-leading Solstice events. Beth together with her husband Ken conducts monthly Heart Song service: Chant and contemplating the sacred at St Pauls in Beaconsfield and help facilitate a weekly Contemplative Centering prayer local group. Beth is a midwife. She no longer is on call for birthing women, but lives out the midwifery archetype wherever she is guided to do so. Together with her husband and family, they work at living simply, humbly, justly and in reverence for all that is.

Credits: Painting by Kristin Replogle; Two Sufis Dancing by Jawad Paya; Christi Testamenta by Jacob Boehem

If you would like to purchase your own copy of the book, here’s the link.

And if you’d like to learn more about Wisdom Practice Book Circles, you’ll more information here. The Wisdom Way of Knowing circles are closed for now, but we will be starting another book later in the year. Stay tuned!

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1 thought on “Wisdom Book Practice Circle: The Wisdom Way of Knowing | Introduction and Chapter One

  1. I would like to contact Bev. I live in Denmark Western Australia and wish to find out more about what courses she runs in Western Australia. Thanks so much. Jan Hill

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