Friday, August 31, 2007

13 Virtues - Wisdom

There are many tasks involved in finishing the Dedicant's Path in ADF. One of these is to write about the 9 virtues. The requirement reads as such:

Written discussions of the Dedicant's understanding of each of the following nine virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility. The Dedicant may also include other virtues, if desired, and compare them to these nine.(Suggested 125 words min. each)
I have given a few months thought on these and come up with 13 virtues for myself. 9 of them are from the ADF dedicant's manual, 3 of them are virtues that are personally important to me regardless of spiritual path, and one comes directly from my own intrestes in CR.
This is the first in a series of 13, and is from the ADF Dedicant's Path.

Dictionary Definition. Accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : Knowledge : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : Insight : good sense

Dedicant Handbook Definition. Good judgment. The ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.

Of the two, I prefer the dictionary definition provided here. One reason is because it includes “accumulated philosophic [and] scientific learning.” Education is an essential part of wisdom, which is missing from the dedicant handbook definition. While I believe that an iron-age Celtic woman could be wise with little or no formal education in a pre-literate society, to be uneducated - and uninterested in being educated (either through self-study, group-study, or more formal styles of education) - is an unwise choice in modern society and leads to serious gaps in a person’s understanding of the universe. This intellectual source is the first of three that I believe are necessary for wisdom.

Before I can discuss the next aspect vital to wisdom, I must take issue with the dedicant handbook’s use of “correctly” in its definition, as in “the ability to perceive people and situations correctly”. While some situations may have a correct way of being perceived, most do not. Also, I would argue that humans even more rarely have a correct way of being perceived. In my own definition I would substitute the word clearly for correctly. Clearly could involve seeing many sides, not just one correct side, as the term “correctly” implies. I feel that clearly perceiving a situation or a person calls for emotional maturity and intelligence that creates empathy and compassion. This emotional component is the second source of my three aspects of wisdom.

To round out my personal definition of wisdom, I think much can be gleaned from the Irish legends regarding the salmons of wisdom. Druids and poets would often wait for years to catch a salmon that had eaten the hazel nuts of wisdom and so could bestow wisdom upon those who ate them in turn. From these legends I can understand another source of wisdom. It is wisdom gained from ecstatic spiritual practices, especially meditation. I see these legends as metaphorically speaking of searching the still space within for wisdom, or in an Irish Celtic context imbas. Ecstatic practices allow a person to discover inner truths and insight, in other words to eat the salmon of wisdom. This may take years to consciously develop, but is necessary to create real and well-tempered wisdom.
For me wisdom is based on the triad I have discussed above: intellectual, emotional, and spiritual sources. While each on its own is important, it is the combination of the three that leads to the deep wisdom that is a virtue.

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