THERE is an important distinction between Wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom will embrace within her field of operations every form of knowledge; but all knowledge in its entirety does not constitute Wisdom. Wherein lies the difference?
All manifestation at all times consists of two aspects of the Unknowable, which are the Life and the Form. Knowledge gathered in every department of the knowable will map out the form-aspects of evolutionary processes and of being. Now, it is one function of the Wisdom-aspect in an individual to be in intimate touch with the form-side of everything; yet the universe in its aspect of form cannot be understood merely by mental processes, however high they are. Bergson has pointed out how intelligence, when it attempts to understand the manifestations of life, goes astray, since intelligence tends to treat all things as if they were made of lifeless matter. It needs a faculty higher than the mind, which is Buddhi  or Intuition, in order to come into a direct relation with all form, by identifying each form with itself. Wisdom arises when there is this identification of the knower with the thing to be known; unless there is this identification, there is only knowledge. To use a simile of today, Wisdom takes an aeroplane view of all things, constantly flying over the field of facts which are on the plane of the mind, as it were photographing them till no fact is omitted from its survey. Wisdom may thus be described as the essence of fact, surcharged with the spirit of Life.
This conception of the Wisdom was known both in ancient India and in Greece. In India, in the various philosophical schools gathered round individuals who were the heads of these schools, there was an attempt, within the limitation of what was considered worth knowing, to understand the multiplicity of things as one Whole. In every one of the Upanishadic schools the theme was to know life as the Unity. It was realized that this could not be achieved by mere mental processes; an essential element of the problem of acquiring Wisdom was a life of purification and dedication, with the mind and the emotions directed to high ideals through prayers and meditations. In ancient India, the search throughout was to discover, less the thing-as-it-is, and more the life-as-it-is. Of course the word “life” was inseparable from the word “consciousness”. There was very little science in those days, and the knowledge regarding the world was very much circumscribed, going scarcely beyond the boundaries of India. Nevertheless, the aim, starting from India as a centre, was to reach upwards to contact the universe as a Totality.
In Greece, which had much more of art, history, drama, political development and other aspects of Greek culture, the Greek inquirer into the problem of Truth started by accepting the world-as-it-is, but he tried to see that world as from “on high”. The aim was to penetrate behind appearance, and to sense the innermost Reality which is the background of all appearance.
Typical of this process is the attempt of Plato and his followers to see every form as reflecting the Idea or the Archetype. While a man might be a great knower of many things, he became truly wise only when his imagination and aspiration led him to sense the Archetypal World. It was this way of seeking which is fully described by the word coined by Pythagoras, “philosophos,” the lover of Wisdom. All Greeks knew that this conception of loving the wisdom was the contribution of Pythagoras. When we say today that a man is a philosopher, we little realize that if he were really that, he would not be merely a mental possessor of knowledge, but that his emotional nature would be so intense and pure that he would be all the time a lover as well, seeking to find through the objects of his study the Principle of Virtue, which once seen evokes at once in the beholder the profoundest love.
The Wisdom, therefore, is not a matter of accumulating
all the facts concerning Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis. The Wisdom has the
task of understanding the innermost meaning underlying Cosmogenesis
and Anthropogenesis. It is to help in the search for Wisdom that the individual
has at his service a faculty greater than the higher mind, which is Buddhi.
This faculty of Buddhi has as its instrument the koshaor vehicle which
is called in the Hindu system Anandamaya
-kosha, “the sheath composed of Bliss”. Bliss is the Indian equivalent of the love that accompanies Wisdom, which manifests through Buddhi, the Intuition.
It is the purpose of a School of the Wisdom to bring each student to survey things “from the centre”. This means, first, that every possible event or experience in the universe, not merely in the mechanical evolutionary processes but specially concerning every revelation of mankind, has to be brought into the circumference. All these aspects have then to be surveyed as from the centre, so that each aspect is seen in relation to all other aspects. When so surveyed, the aim is to go beyond the mental survey to a realization of the meaning both of the centre and of the circumference.
It goes without saying that into the circumference must be brought all knowledge that exists concerning Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis. But we must bring into Anthropogenesis, the study of the origins of man, not merely the understanding of races and sub-races and their characteristics, but also a careful study of the cultures which have been produced at all periods of history. The word “culture” covers religion, philosophy, every form of art-creation, such as poetry, song, music, architecture, drama, sculpture, painting, dance, etc.; all achievements of mankind in organizing human life to express itself more fully through ways of development and expansion not excluding political growth; economic schemes for betterment; educational methods and ideals - all have to be brought into the circumference.
The aim, of a true School of the Wisdom, then is to enable the individual to cease from being one who gives his intellectual adherence to a particular school of philosophy, and becomes by himself one who little by little surveys the problem of life directly from his own standpoint. It is the School’s purpose to equip its students to become, each according to his temperament and aptitude, philosophers, scientists, ethical teachers, artists, givers of economic law, statesmen, educators, town planners and every other possible type of server of humanity. Some day each student may start a School of the Wisdom of his own.
In the attempt of the School towards this objective, there is knowledge of two types to be used as the material of study. There is what may be called Ancient Theosophy, that is, all truths in past ages in the religions and philosophies of India, Greece, Egypt and China. This vast body of knowledge is scattered in many books and traditions, but they all combine to give a definite conception of the world as having for its basis a mental and spiritual structure. We have in addition what can well be termed Modern Theosophy, commencing with the teachings, both old and new, given by the Adept Brotherhood, the Guardians of Humanity, through H. P. Blavatsky and several of her disciples. But in addition, we have to take specially into account all of the knowledge that modern Science has gathered in her many departments of research. While scientific theories may often be challenged, it is not so with the facts discovered in scientific research. Every such fact is an inseparable part of all the other facts; they have been taken into account in the teachings of Ancient and Modern Theosophy.
There are two lines of Milton which describe clearly what is the conception which I have of the individual who has achieved the object of the School of the Wisdom. They are:
“He that has light within his own clear breast,
May sit i’ th’ centre and enjoy bright day.”
In these two lines we have four thoughts. First, that of “light”; second, that it must be within a man’s “own clear breast”; third, to “sit in the centre”; and fourth, to “enjoy bright day”.
To sit in the centre is the objective I have in mind for each student, so that he stands in what Carlyle has termed the “centre of immensities and the conflux of eternities”. In other words, all the past is joined to what is the present, and there is no field of collective human activity nor individual action in the processes of the universe that is not within his purview. But this sitting in the centre can only happen when within his own breast there is clearness. This necessitates a perfect peace; not a negative quiescent peace, but one that broods over all things in a spirit of tenderness. When the light has been so born and is reflected in his own clear breast, then the seeker of Truth not only sits in the centre, but he comes to that ideal state of being which is to “enjoy bright day”.
This intense sense of Life must always accompany the true student. There can be no Wisdom which is unaccompanied by an ever-increasing sense of Wonder. It is this Sense that has well been described by Newton regarding himself:
“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
Finally, there cannot be any Wisdom in a man’s nature until he has fully understood the relation which he bears to all his fellowmen. All Wisdom fails in its endeavour unless it finds, in part, at least, a solution of the
“infinite passion and the pain
of finite hearts that yearn”.
The Latin poet Terence said what has been a beacon light in European culture: Homo sum, humani nil alienum me puto:“I am a man; I count nothing human indifferent to me.” The aim of all studies in a true School of Wisdom is not the perfection of the individual as such, but only in order that the individual may use every faculty of his being towards “lifting a little of the heavy Karma of the world”. Until the seeker for Wisdom seeks not only for himself, but also for all men, what he acquires is not worth name of Wisdom. That is why as long ago as 1921 I said: “Loving action is Divine Wisdom at work, and whoso acts lovingly mill inevitably come to the Wisdom.” This can be achieved swiftest with the aid of Theosophy. But when all is said and done, the Wisdom has to be lived. It is only in the process of living that the individual tomes to his own centre, and lives surrounded by that Light which is indeed “bright day”.
Essential in the progress towards acquiring Wisdom is a man’s growing intimacy with all aspects of Nature. The Voice of the Silence teaches: “Help Nature and work with her.” The first step towards helping Nature is to know what Nature is. The message which each tree, flower, meadow, lake, rock, mountain range, sea, sky and cloud has, must be listened to and understood. Equally, too, can a man find a message in the beauty of bird and beast. Nature must not only be admired; she must also be loved. Nature is one volume of the innumerable volumes of the Secret Doctrine of the Wisdom.
One proof which the student finds in himself that he has achieved Wisdom is an irresistible urge in him to create. What Shakespeare describes about the state of mind of the poet is not less true of every man who, having become in a measure one with Wisdom, feels the urge to “make,” i.e., to re-make, the world of thought and feeling which surrounds him. The Greek word “poet”means one who “makes”. Shakespeare describes the poet’s eye:
“ … in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from
earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”
Every student of the School of the Wisdom, as he comes towards finishing his course of study, will feel in himself that he must body forth those new aspects of himself which he has discovered, in essay, poem, song, sonata, symphony, painting, sculpture, dance, drama, and in all other forms of creation which have within them the nature of Art. The true nature of Art has been described by Carlyle: “In all true works of Art wilt thou discern Eternity looking through Time, the Godlike rendered visible.” Thus it follows, that every thought, feeling and action of the man who has acquired Wisdom is all the time revealing the Eternal and Godlike.
This is the summation of all possible human achievement, and it is towards this that a true School of the Wisdom leads its followers. Wisdom liberates; he who has acquired Wisdom is free of dogmas and creeds, rites and ceremonies; nor does he any longer feel the need to be guided by any kind of a Guru or Guide, Philosopher and Friend. He comes to a realization of the true relation which he has towards Infinite Being, which has been described by Plotinus in the last words of his great work:
“This, therefore, is the life of the Gods and of divine and happy men, a liberation from all terrene concerns, a life unaccompanied with human pleasure, and a flight of the alone to the ALONE.”
Buddhi in Indian philosophy is a high form of the intellect; Buddhi in Theosophical terminology is a form of consciousness distinct even from the “higher mind”; it means the Intuition, that faculty which is “the unperceived fore-known,” as Lawrence of Arabia described it.
Last update: January 2009