By Travis Meeks
"That ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free." -Old Adage
The classic concept of a mystic includes obviously a sense of the mysterious, the wise, and indeed the idea that person might be a sage. A sage is one that looks into mysteries, is a seeker of knowledge and of truth, philosopher and wise man and much more. It is about more than finding knowledge in the final analysis, it is about a journey of gaining experience and more that might enlighten and bring about wisdom. It may be a continual and perpetual journey with no one ending point. While other personality types and roles seek to control, the sage lets go and is not concerned with these issues. Carol S. Pearson, author of "Awakening the Heroes Within" states:
"Sages have little or no need to control the world; they just want to understand it."
Mrs. Pearson outlines some of the psychological goals of the Sage, or of awakening the sage within us. I think this very good information is pertinent to the mystic within all of us as well.
Goal: Truth and Understanding
Fear: Deception; Illusion
Response to Problems: Study, understand or transcend them
Task: Attainment of knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment
Gift: Skepticism, wisdom, nonattachment
The chart above has us take a look at some of the key aspects of being a sage. If a goal is truth then certainly a degree of skepticism is necessary. The sage has to participate in self monitoring or introspection (looking within) about their own fears, in what areas do they tend to deceive themselves, what are their illusions. All human beings experience some level of denial about various issues and in point of fact we all use psychological defense mechanisms to shield us from trauma or fear. These mechanisms include things like rationalization, blaming of others in a variety of forms, and a variety of other more complex examples (displacement, sublimation, projection, reaction formation, regression, repression, intellectualization). Perhaps the two we might see as being particularly apt traps for the sage, are rationalization and intellectualization explaining things away or reducing everything to cold logic sometimes reducing very important lessons to being less than important. That is also why the sage must seek more than just intellectual knowledge but also wisdom which has the connotation of experience, knowledge tempered with experience sometimes becomes wisdom.
I found an anonymous definition for wisdom that I thought was very fitting:
"A composite term for enlightenment, judgement, wile, and intuitiveness."
While important parts of this information contains the concept of skepticism and finding the truth, I do think that an element of faith can be a part of a sages life, especially since I find the idea of sage somewhat synonomous with the idea of a mystic. The connotation for me however of a mystic does involve some aspects of not only spirituality but of faith and belief. What is interesting about the definition of wisdom is that it includes intuitiveness which may be something that is a part of faith, but also may be something more. Nonattachment means for me a sense of objectivity. One can maintain serenity and grasp a sense of inner peace and remain ignorant of things going on around you, and by that remain at peace. So beyond peace and serenity there must be knowledge so that peace is not just the bliss of the unaware. Within this search for the truth, there is the danger of "ivory tower" scholars who could be pompous, critical or judging.
In the scientific community many scientists fear the criticism of their colleagues because they become embroiled over territorial fights for grant and money and prestige and ultimately who is right or wrong. Sometimes it is just politics. Trying to remain above these petty and poisonous debates can be problematic. Carol Pearson provides a deeper insight when she comments on this "The discipline of the Sage is to cultivate a desire for truth strong enough to counter the Ego's need to be proven right...... Often these deep insights reveal to us our own egotism and the way it has limited our lives and freedom... The Sage helps us let go of our Ego concerns to open us to a deeper truth about life. Facing such essential truths is ennobling and humbling." Being open is a part of the whole process. We are all influenced by our environement and our parents or where or how we grow up, and this in turn makes us who we are. In addition there is the biological aspect, the genetic component of who we are. The classic nature versus nurture conflict.
We are a product of both our nature and how we were nurtured environmentally. From this we have blinders or filters, prejudices and blocks that influence our openess or ability to perceive. We sometimes wear rose colored glasses on some issues or with some people. There may be many truths as opposed to one ultimate truth. Therapeutic reflection on the path of the Catholic clergy addresses many of these issues in "Journey to Freedom" by Father James Sullivan. It looks at roadblocks to freedom, our filters, self esteem and happiness, conditioned reflex to blame and also looks at real and neurotic guilt. Healing our own wounds is a part of the path of the wounded healer but an important part of the path of the Sage as well. To see truly one has to have that inner knowledge of self. Perhaps most compelling is the concept that one can choose a path without having to judge the path of others to be wrong because yours is right for you. Choices might be right for you that are not necessarily right for another. The Sage moves beyond some of the context of right and wrong and even ultimate truths sometimes finding things to be relatively contextual.
In our search for wisdom and for truth and enlightenment and understanding we sometimes forget to realize that it is a continuing quest more than a final resting place. We cannot idlely sit upon our laurels. Instead we are challenged by Homer when we seek the path of the Sage and perhaps even the Mystic when he gives us this simple idea:
"Dare to be wise. (Epistles I, 2) "
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