REFERENCE to the dictionary shows the words wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and intelligence to be so closely related that their definitions overlap in a most confusing way. The words differ in meaning, but various writers on the mind and its faculties have given definitions of these words in terms that directly oppose the definitions of other writers. There are two schools of writers on metaphysical subjects, and their definitions are likely to confuse a student unless he knows to which class the writer belongs. First are those who handle the mind and its faculties from an intellectual standpoint, among whom may be mentioned Kant, Hegel, Mill, Schopenhauer, and Sir William Hamilton. The other school includes all the great company of religious authors who have discerned that Spirit and soul are the causing factors of the mind. Compilers of dictionaries have consulted the former class for their definitions, and we have in consequence an inadequate set of terms to express the deep things of the mind. Even Christian metaphysicians who belong in the second classification have no clear understanding of the two great realms of mind; first, that in which pure ideas and pure logic rule; and second, the realm in which the
thoughts and the actions of the mind are concerned with reason and the relation of ideas in the outer world. It is only in the last half century that large numbers of Christians have discerned that Jesus taught a metaphysical science.
Poets are natural mystics and metaphysicians, and in their writings we find the safest definitions of the names used to represent the actions of the mind. Poets nearly always make the proper distinction between wisdom and understanding. Tennyson says, "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." Spiritual discernment always places wisdom above the other faculties of mind and reveals that knowledge and intelligence are auxiliary to understanding. Intellectual understanding comes first in the soul's development, then a deeper understanding of principles follows, until the whole man ripens into wisdom.
'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadows before.
The writings of the Hebrew prophets are good examples of original inspiration, which is wisdom. Solomon was famous for his wisdom. Jehovah appeared to him in a dream and said: "Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon replied: "Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and evil." Pleased because Solomon had asked for wisdom instead of riches and honor, the Lord said:
Behold, I have done according to thy word; lo I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart ... And I
have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor ... And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. (I Kings 3:15)
It was after this occurrence that two women appealed to Solomon to decide which of them really was the mother of the child that they both claimed.
And the king said, Fetch me a sword. ... And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, It shall be neither mine nor thine; divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice.
The foregoing is a fine example of intuitive knowing. Instead of indulging in the usual taking of testimony and the various methods of proving the case by witnesses, Solomon appealed directly to the heart and got the truth quickly. No amount of exoteric testimony would have accomplished what the appeal to love brought forth at once.
Although it is sometimes difficult to determine between pure knowing and the quick perception of the intellect, the decision can always be made truly, based on the presence of the affectional nature.
Great philosophers in every age have testified to the activity of a supermind quality, which they have
variously named. Socrates had it. He called it his daemon. Plato named it pure reason. Jesus called it the kingdom of the heavens.
In an article by M. K. Wisehart, printed in the American Magazine for June, 1930, entitled "A Close Look at the World's Greatest Thinker," Professor Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:
"'Every man knows that in his work he does best and accomplishes most when he has attained a proficiency that enables him to work intuitively. That is, there are things which we come to know so well that we do not know how we know them. So it seems to me in matters of principle. Perhaps we live best and do things best when we are not too conscious of how and why we do them.'
"He spoke of the great extent to which intuition figures in his work, and gave me to understand that the ability to work by intuition is one that can be acquired in any walk of life. It comes as the result of prolonged effort and reflection and application and failures and trying again. Then, in the end, one knows things without knowing how one knows them! And I gathered that the Professor meant to say that no man knows anything until he knows it in this thorough, instinctive way.
"People frequently ask Professor Einstein whether, as a scientist, he believes in God. Usually he answers: 'I do not believe in a God who maliciously or arbitrarily interferes in the personal affairs of mankind. My religion consists of an humble admiration for the vast power which manifests itself in
that small part of the universe which our poor, weak minds can grasp!'
"In a discussion, when the Professor is impressed by the correctness of his own views or those of another, he will suddenly exclaim: 'Yes! So it is! It is just! It must be so! I am quite sure that God could not have made it different!' For him, God is as valid as a scientific argument.
"At one time, after prolonged concentration upon a single problem (it lasted for nearly four years), the Professor suffered a complete physical collapse. With it came severe stomach trouble. A celebrated specialist said: 'You must not get out of bed! You cannot stand on your feet for a long time to come.'
"'Is this the will of God?' queried the Professor instantly. 'I think not! The voice of God is from within us. Something within me tells me that every day I must get up at least once. I must go to the piano and play! The rest of the day I will spend in bed! This I am prepared to accept as the will of God!'
"And with the will of God, as set forth by Einstein, the specialist had to be content. Every day the Professor got up, put his bathrobe over his night-shirt, and went to the piano to play.
"I asked many questions to elicit the lessons of his experience that might be of most use to the rest of us. I learned that he reads little. 'Much reading after a certain age,' he says, 'diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy
habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theaters is apt to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.
"'I have only two rules which I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.'"
So we find that there is in man a knowing capacity transcending intellectual knowledge. Nearly everyone has at some time touched this hidden wisdom and has been more or less astonished at its revelations. It certainly is a most startling experience to find ourselves giving forth logical thoughts and words without preparation or forethought, because we nearly always arrive at our conclusions through a process of reasoning. However, the reasoning process is often so swift that we are likely to think that it is true inspiration, especially when we have received either the reflected uplift of other wise ones or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This quickening of the intellect is the John-the-Baptist or intellectual illumination that precedes the awakening of the ideal, the Christ understanding. Some Truth students become so enamored of the revelations that they receive through the head that they fail to go on to the unfoldment of the One who baptizes in "Holy Spirit and in fire." The Old Testament writers had a certain understanding of the first and the second opening of the mind to spiritual Truth; Isaiah said:
The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a high way for our God (Isa. 40:3).
Elijah had intellectual illumination, and the Israelites were taught that he would come again as a forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus said that Elijah had come again in the personality of John the Baptist:
I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not ... Then understood the disciples that he spake unto them of John the Baptist (Matt. 17:13).
The history of the Israelites is a sort of moving picture of man's soul and body development. When we understand the psychology of the different scenes, we know what we have passed through or will pass through in our journey from sense to Spirit.
Intellectual understanding of Truth, as given in the first baptism, is a tremendous step in advance of sense consciousness, and its possession brings a temptation to use for selfish ends the wisdom and the power thereby revealed. When Jesus received this baptism He was "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (personal ego) before he could take the next degree in Son-of-God consciousness.
But Jesus knew that the illumination of the personal is not the fulfillment of the law, and He rejected every temptation to use His understanding for selfish ends.
Unless the disciple is very meek he will find the mortal ego strongly asserting its arguments for the application of the power of Spirit to personal needs. The god of mammon is bidding high for men that have received the baptism of Spirit, and many
sell out, but their end is dust and ashes. No man can serve two masters; one cannot serve both God and Mammon.
When we discover in ourselves a flow of thought that seems to have been evolved independently of the reasoning process, we are often puzzled about its origin and its safety as a guide. In its beginnings this seemingly strange source of knowledge is often turned aside as a daydream; again it seems a distant voice, an echo of something that we have heard and forgotten. One should give attention to this unusual and usually faint whispering of Spirit in man. It is not of the intellect and it does not originate in the skull. It is the development, in man, of a greater capacity to know himself and to understand the purpose of creation. The Bible gives many examples of the awakening of this brain of the heart, in seers, in lawgivers, and in prophets. It is accredited as coming from the heart. The nature of the process is not explained; one who is in the devotional stage of unfoldment need not know all the complex movements of the mind in order to get the message of the Lord. It is enough to know that the understanding is opened in both head and heart when man gives himself wholly to the Lord.
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This relation of head and heart is illustrated in the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus. They were cousins; the understanding of the head bears a close relation to the wisdom of the heart. They both received the baptism of Spirit, John preceding Jesus and baptizing Him. Here the natural order of spiritual
illumination is illustrated. Man receives first an intellectual understanding of Truth which he transmits to his heart, where love is awakened. The Lord reveals to him that the faculty of love is the greatest of all the powers of man and that head knowledge must decrease as heart understanding increases.
However, we should remember that none of the faculties is eliminated in the regeneration. Among the apostles of Jesus, Thomas typifies the head, representing reason and intellectual perception. Jesus did not ignore Thomas's demand for physical evidence of His identity, but respected it. He convinced Thomas by corporal evidence that there had been a body resurrection; that He was living, not in a physical or ghost body, but in the same body that had been crucified.
Jesus plainly taught that He had attained control of the life in the body and could take it up or lay it down. We may construe the death and the resurrection of Jesus in various ways, many of them fanciful and allegorically far removed from practical life, but the fact remains that there is good historical evidence of the physical reality of the Resurrection in its minutest detail.
Spiritual understanding shows us that the resurrection of the body from death is not to be confined to Jesus, but is for all men who comprehend Truth and apply it as Jesus applied it. He had the consciousness of the new flood of life that comes to all who open their minds and their bodies to the living
Word of God, and He knew that it would raise the atomic vibration of His organism above the disintegrating thought currents of the earth and thus would save His flesh from corruption.
When Jesus told the Jews what He discerned, they said that He was crazy ("hath a demon"). One who teaches and practices the higher understanding and reality of man's relation to the creative law is not sane—from the viewpoint of mortal man.
When the higher understanding in Jesus proclaimed, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death," they took up stones to cast at Him. This startling claim of the power of the word of Truth to save one from death is beyond all human reason, and it is resented by the material thoughts, which are as hard as rocks.
Jesus did not let the limited race thought about man keep Him from doing the works of Spirit. He knew that the light of Truth had arisen in His consciousness and He was not afraid to affirm it. He went right ahead healing the sick and teaching the Truth as He saw it, regardless of the traditions of the Hebrew fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He kept the light shining in His consciousness by being loyal to it and by making for Himself the highest statements of Truth that He could conceive. The Christ Mind speaking in Him said: "I am the light of the world."
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Spiritual understanding is developed in a multitude of ways; no two persons have exactly the same experience. One may be a Saul, to whom the light comes in a blinding flash, while to another the light may come gently and harmoniously. The sudden breaking forth of the light indicates the existence of stored-up reservoirs of spiritual experience, gained from previous lives. Jesus saw that Saul had a spiritual capacity that, turned into right channels, would do great good; so He took some pains to awaken in Saul the true light and thereby restrain the destructive zeal that possessed him. "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel."
The spiritual nature develops in man as the other attributes of his character develop. "As he thinketh within himself, so is he" is a statement of the law that has no exception. Man develops the capacity to do that which he sets out to do. If one makes no start one never goes.
In idle wishes fools supinely stay;
Be there a will, then wisdom finds a way.
—George Crabbe: The Birth of Flattery
No one ever attained spiritual consciousness without striving for it. The first step is to ask. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Prayer is one form of asking, seeking, and knocking. Then make your mind receptive to the higher understanding, through silent meditations and affirmations of Truth. The earnest desire to understand spiritual things will open the way and revelation within and without will follow. In Dan. 10:12 it is written:
Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thy heart to understand, and to humble thyself before thy God, thy words were heard: and I am come for thy words' sake.
Daniel humbled himself in the presence of the universal Mind, and thereby opened his understanding and made himself receptive to the cosmic consciousness. Daniel and his companions were superior in wisdom and understanding to all the native magicians and seers in the whole Babylonian realm. The Scriptures say that God gave Daniel knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom, and "Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." Cultivate purity of mind and body, and you will open the way for the higher thoughts, as did Daniel. He "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
Spiritual understanding is developed in the feminine realm of the soul. This development is pictured in Acts 16:14: "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened."
Thyatira means "burning incense"; it represents the intense desire of man for the higher expressions of life. When this inner urge comes forth with power (seller of purple), the Lord opens the heart and we receive the heavenly message, like the disciples who said one to another: "Was not
our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?"
Wisdom consisteth not in knowing many things, nor even in knowing them thoroughly; but in choosing and in following what conduces the most certainly to our lasting happiness and true glory. —Landor
Knowledge dwells in heads replete with thoughts of other men, wisdom in minds attentive to their own. —Cowper
She [knowledge] is earthly of the mind, but wisdom heavenly of the soul. —Tennyson
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.
— Psalms 51:10.
For wisdom shall enter into thy heart,
And knowledge shall be pleasant unto thy soul.
— Prov. 2:10.
But the path of the righteous is as the dawning light.
That shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
— Prov. 4:18.
A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh;
But envy is the rottenness of the bones.
— Prov. 14:30.
My son, forget not my law;
But let thy heart keep my commandments.
— Prov. 3:1.
Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart,
And lean not upon thine own understanding:
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
And he will direct thy paths.
— Prov. 3:5,6
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom,
And the man that getteth understanding.
For the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver,
And the profit thereof than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies:
And none of the things thou canst desire art to be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her:
And happy is every one that retaineth her.
Jehovah by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding he established the heavens.
— Prov. 3:13-19.
Preceding Entry: The Twelve Powers of Man 71-82: 7. The Work of the Imagination in Regeneration
Following Entry: The Twelve Powers of Man 97-109: 9. The Will Is the Man