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Article Specs

VxAcct: 1

Article ID: 6338

Section: wrenwalker

Age Group: Adult

Posted: June 8th. 2003

Views: 6824

Series 07 - Seven of Sages...

by Wren

"The words of truth are always paradoxical." *

I really like those dumb books. You know the ones. In fact, just the other day, I bought The Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom (by Carl McColman). The 'Dummies' and 'Complete Idiot's Guide' series' are usually well done, well-organized and well-priced. They are an excellent introduction to any topic that you might be interested in. The 'additional reading' suggestions alone could keep you going back to the bookshop or library for many years to come.

And there is also something rather liberating about slapping one of those 'Complete Idiot's Guides' books down on the counter while looking the sales clerk or library assistant square in the eye. "Yep. I'm a dummy, an idiot as it were. I admit it. I embrace it. I don't know anything (or everything) about this topic and here's the proof of that. Just take my $18.95 ($28.99 Canadian) and I will be on my way to enlightenment. Thank you very much."

This process is such good ego therapy that I may even buy some more Dummies/Idiot books about topics that I am not even interested in just for the accompanying slice of humble pie. I wonder if anyone has published the one about deep-sea microorganisms yet. I am really not all that interested in deep-sea microorganisms but still...who could resist browsing through chapters such as "What Your Mother Never Told You About Copepods" or "Learning to Embrace Your Inner Gelatinous Zooplankton"? Okay, maybe I'm just another sucker who always falls for a good Oikopleura labradoriensis sob story involving mucus membranes.

"True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by."**

Sources of wisdom can be found everywhere. And there are many people who throughout the centuries have pointed the way, blazed the trail and opened the many doors of perception so that we might take a peek inside. We call these people Sages.

A sage, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. is one {who is} venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom.

It seems that there is a three-pronged test for 'sagehood' then. Experience alone does not make one a sage; it makes one acclimated and/or knowledgeable about certain matters. Neither will the ability/power to pass/make judgments get one entrance into the 'Sages Hall of Fame'. And as great as wisdom is, wisdom divorced from actual personal experience or the ability to judge the worth of an idea/deed is mere head knowledge that is usually of no real practical use.

As John Keats wrote, "Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it." A sage then is someone whose words or deeds resonate with something that already exists within you -- something that is only waiting to be stimulated and awakened. Sage advice sounds oddly familiar to us even if we have never heard those exact words spoken or written in this exact way before. A genuine sage speaks in the common language of the spirit.

Since I am not one of these (Does anyone know if 'The Idiot's Guide to Practical Sagery' is out yet?), I shall now open the floor to a few of my favorite Sages and let them speak for themselves:

Seven Sages From Across the Ages:
  • Lao-zi (China; sixth century BCE): Author of the Dao De Jing. -- Quote: So the sage is firm but not cutting, Pointed but not piercing, Straight but not rigid, Bright but not blinding.

  • Socrates (Greece; (469(?)-399 BCE): Father of Western philosophy and critical reasoning. In Meno, "Socrates raises the question: How can we ever learn what we do not know? Either we already know what we are looking for, in which case we don't need to look, or we don't know what we're looking for, in which case we wouldn't recognize it if we found it."- (from: The Philosophy Pages) -- Quote: The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (United States; 1803-1882) Author, essayist, transcendentalist. -- Quote: Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.

  • Mahatma Gandhi (India; 1869-1948) Spiritual and political leader of India, proponent of non-violent resistance, philosopher, essayist, author. -- Quote: To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.

  • William Blake (England; 1757-1827) Artist, poet, visionary. -- Quote: Exuberance is Beauty.

  • George William Russell (aka A.E.; Ireland; 1867-1935) Writer, poet, mystic, artist. -- Quote: The gods have returned to Erin and have centred themselves in the sacred mountains and blow fires through the country. They have been seen by several in vision, they will awaken the magical instinct everywhere, and the universal heart of the people will turn to the old druidic beliefs.

  • John Dewey (United States; 1859 - 1952) Educator, philosopher, ethical and social theorist. -- Quote: The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.

But, of course, there are more. Many, many more. And what strikes one as one reads the works of these great thinkers is the fact that they were also doers. While many of us think of sages in purely religious or spiritual terms, these men did not reject the world 'out there' and construct some nice little mental la-la land for themselves. They wrote about war and politics and social injustice and stupid people who do stupid things. They wrote about these topics because these are the very things that humans care about, worry about, wonder about and try to understand. Sages do not become Sages by ignoring the world. They become Sages because they sense the undercurrents flowing through the tides of current events and give them a voice.

Will the modern Pagan/Heathen communities ever produce some real honest-to-goodness sages? I don't know. There are some who show potential. There are a few who are beginning to wax philosophical. And that is a glimmer of hope. For that is our next step and if we don't take it -- and take it soon -- we may never progress beyond where we now stand.

For many -- too many -- Paganism is a bubble. A bubble constructed to escape from the rest of the world. We use it much like a little vacation home where we can rule as lords and ladies and warriors and bards and forget about the car that needs a new motor or the in-laws who surely must be visiting spawns from hell. And if such a bubble is all that modern Paganism really is, well then -- 'Party on, Dudes!'

It certainly would explain why fights over ritual procedure or who is a 'real' whatever feature so prominently in most Pagan venues. A bubble is a pretty closed system. Kinda cramped in there too what with all those new seekers coming in. We may be running out of room in here. Maintaining a bubble is sort of hard as well. Always somebody mucking about with a pin. "Hey! Don't burst our bubble! We need this special little place so that we can feel like special little people until we have to go back... shudder... out there!"

But then again, perhaps the reason why many folks seem to be getting a little bit bored or a lot bit jaded is because we have built up this bubble and it is now time to step out of it. We've outgrown it. We can feel that. We are restless and we want something more...and could it be...out there?

A way to connect our spiritual beliefs with the rest of our lives? A working philosophy of Paganism that is not defined solely by our labels of Witch, Wiccan, Heathen, etc. or by how many books that we have read or how we choose to cast a circle or call in, up or merry-go-round the elements? That's bubble work. We've done it. And done it and done it and done it. And I don't know about you, but I've got a pin in my pocket and I am just itchin' to use it!

You don't gain any other type of experience by living in a bubble except experience about how to live in a bubble. You don't learn how to judge anything living in a bubble except how to judge what is in and what is out of the bubble. And whatever wisdom one gains from living in a bubble is at the same time limited by the defined space in such a confined enclosure. A bubblehead is as a bubblehead does because that is all that a bubblehead knows.

But there is a growing tension. And I think -- and I hope -- that we are ready to cast our bubble aside and engage the world in wider terms. And that is how we will gain experience. And that is how we shall learn to make good judgments. And that is how we shall attain wisdom. And that is how we will at last grow some real Pagan Sages.

Or at least that is what my Inner Gelatinous Zooplankton tell me.

Wren Walker
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, June 9th., 2003

* Lao Tzu
**E. S. Bouton




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