Wisdom and a System of Beliefs

This “Dialogue” is a brief sketch of how one may appropriate the wisdom found in a system of beliefs, a religion/faith or a paradigm of existence that is different from one’s own.

The intention here is to grasp the wisdom of the other that addresses and/or illuminates the profound depths of our own life experiences and beliefs.

This wisdom may be found in the poetry, symbols, mythology, and rituals of the other. We then have another basis for relating to the profound mystery and depth of our own life.

We also may have another symbol system, or poetry, for describing that experience. In western civilization, it is the Hebrew, Greek and Roman perspectives which form much of the basis for western thought and culture.

There are other many other systems of belief such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Shamanism, etc. However, remember that we do not necessarily want to become, or merge into, someone else or what the other represents.

The idea is to appropriate the wisdom we find, relate that to our own personal and cultural wisdom, apply perhaps some alternative healing principles, and expand our understanding of both our own and the other paradigms.

In order to accomplish this, I am suggesting the following guidelines and methodology as a way to proceed. First, it is crucial that we start with our own beliefs; our own poetry, paradigm, mythology, symbols, and rituals, which point to our own experience. Some see Mystics as models but it is important to remain clear in relation to one’s own ground.

It is also significant that we don’t pretend to be someone other than who we are. We are constantly relating to our own life using the senses and filters of our own cultural background and experiences. This is our inescapable bias. We are held accountable to it and thereby responsible for it.

There is no intention here to prove, defend, criticize or correct concepts or doctrines. The method is to focus on the profound depths of human consciousness through both sets of beliefs at the same time. This is not a plan to judge the truth or value of one set of values from the perspective of another.

In addition, we must guard against any tendency to compare two sets of values or beliefs from a still hidden third point of view. Using the poetry of another belief system or paradigm, in addition to our own, we need to grasp how the other has actually experienced a state of profound human existence and how they then articulate or point to that experience in words, signs, and symbols. One expectation is that we would be enriched as a result of the exchange and would have new insights.

A further aim is to articulate one’s own particular understanding of the profound depths of our own life in images and poetry other than those we usually use, for example through meditation, and thereby further clarify our own self-story.

There could be dialogue, both internal and external, like this: “Is this what is meant?” or, “Can that be said another way?” Appropriate responses could be something like: “Yes, that is what I have experienced,” or “Up to now I don’t know about that.”

Another intention is to allow understanding, for ourselves and others, of the meaning relative to the central event or happening which gave birth to a particular belief, faith, religion or paradigm.

There is another good possibility that this kind of activity can enrich the whole field of human experience in abundance as well as further the development of cultural understanding wherever it is occurring around the world in our time.