What is Wisdom?
Maybe it is most helpful in starting with what Wisdom is not. Wisdom is not a philosophy, a teaching of beliefs and ideologies, or an esoteric metaphysical system to be studied. And it is not a New Age fad. Metaphorically, Wisdom can be portrayed as an underground stream that flows through all of the great religious/spiritual traditions. While this stream is not exclusively identified with any one of them, it can express itself at the deepest levels of all.
Wisdom describes a “way of knowing”—a higher level of human consciousness—which is capable of directly engaging reality without judgment. It is characterized by an alert, present-moment awareness moving throughout the world with a compassionate intelligence. In this way, Wisdom is more about experience than it is about belief. It is not about knowing or believing more; it is about experiencing life more deeply and doing so with more of us.
The access point of Wisdom is essentially through spiritual practice.
What is unique about a Wisdom School?
At their core, Wisdom Schools are a lineage of spiritual knowledge focused on cultivating open hearts and open minds. In order to break through to new levels of awareness, this Wisdom work is best accomplished in a residential retreat setting apart from a person’s usual routines.
Within this supportive environment, a balanced movement between contemplative silence, cognitive input/dialogue, and simple work with conscious attention is offered. In this way, Wisdom Schools provide a container in which the rich spiritual heritage of the Christian contemplative tradition can be explored.
The particularities of a Wisdom School maintain (and contribute to) the foundational understanding that Wisdom cannot be accessed through our minds alone. To more fully engage in lives of compassionate social action, the transformation of the entire human being is required.
Why are Wisdom Schools re-emerging now?
We are currently living in an age of breathtaking change—culturally, technologically, ecologically, globally, and spiritually. Wisdom Schools seek to bring ancient spiritual practices to this context of rapid social change in order that new levels of human consciousness and spiritual insight might be made manifest in these times of transition.
In this work, Wisdom seekers find more than personal growth and inner change; they find themselves becoming active conduits in this emergence. It becomes both gift and calling.
Is this Wisdom School “Christian?”
Firmly grounded in the Christian mystical tradition, the trajectory of this Wisdom School is unmistakably Christian. Whereas Wisdom is deeper and greater than any one spiritual tradition, it seems to express itself most authentically within the distinctiveness of a specific tradition. Therefore, one can best access the deep roots of Wisdom by taking one’s spiritual tradition down to where its depth opens up to the kind of spaciousness and inclusivity that characterizes Wisdom.
While we will be informed by the wisdom of other sacred traditions, this Wisdom School follows the path forged by the classic Christian contemplative tradition. This tradition has bequeathed to us the practices of contemplative prayer, lectio divina(sacred reading), and chanted psalmody. The Benedictine rhythm of ora et labora (prayer and work) provides the basic model for this work.
How is a Wisdom School different from a retreat or a seminar?
Wisdom Schools seek to strike a balance between the mind, heart, and body. Beginning with the primary features of retreats (silence) and seminars (intellectual input), Wisdom Schools then add in specific spiritual practices along with bodywork, and ground them all in a balanced daily rhythm.
The intentional movement each day between mind, heart, and body offers a container for conversion. Because Wisdom is not about knowing more— but knowing with all dimensions of the mind, heart, and body—this balanced rhythm between three modes of learning facilitates the possibility of transformation.
What will the core texts be?
The Wisdom Way of Knowing, by Cynthia Bourgeault
The Roots of Christian Mysticism, by Olivier Clement