Hast thou heard the secret counsel of God? And dost thou limit wisdom to thyself?Job 15: 8
Based on Pilate’s famous question “What is truth,” I would like to ask the question: “What is wisdom?”
Wisdom is now often seen as the ability to apply knowledge properly and skillfully.
Wisdom in the times of the Bible was something completely different, most probably, even if it is often named in the triumvirate of understanding, knowledge and wisdom. But in a different order.
We see wisdom today as the top of the knowledge hierarchy or the pyramid of knowledge. We gain knowledge through understanding and become wise.
Most of the triumvirate enumerations in the Bible place wisdom at the beginning, then understanding, and only at the end knowledge, which is a translation error, today having a cerebral connotation rather than a relational as in knowing a person. In German, this is the difference between Wissen and Kennen. I will use Kennen as the relational form of knowing.
So is wisdom the foundation, understanding builds on it, and Kennen is the highest?
This is a performance-oriented thinking, the same performance-oriented, individualistic thinking that made us replace relational knowledge with cerebral knowledge.
I can cerebrally know alone, but relational knowing is the function of a relationship, obviously.
But back to wisdom and its place in the triumvirate.
Wisdom is a river from which you drink and absorb it in such a way that understanding occurs that leads to Kennen, identification. Yet there is always the danger that drinking from the river and thus separating the water from its flow, it will become stale. In other words: taking from wisdom and understanding it, you might just become cerebral, intellectual knowledge, “Wissen”. “Wissen” is easily fossilized and then becomes religion.
In this context, let’s look at a translation of a well-known Bible verse:
In your realizing that I am what the Scriptures are all about, you will discover uniquely for yourself, face to face with me, that I am what you are all about and rivers of living waters will gush out of your innermost being!John 7:38 Mir
The flow of wisdom and your life within this flow will make you realize that Scripture is only about one thing, the true Word of God, the I am.
Through this understanding you will get to know yourself and the I am so much that wisdom will flow from even you.
The river that Ezekiel describes comes to my mind. It has flowed from paradise through the wound in Jesus’ side to the new creation.
Wisdom, chochmah, is best translated as a stream of consciousness.
The deeper we dive into this stream of consciousness, the more we recognize who we really are, who our counterpart is, and especially who our divine counterpart is.
There is a movement described in Ephesians, but truly misinterpreted by the church:
Submit yourself to one another. Wives, submit to your husbands. Etc.
We have translated the word from an understanding that is fixated on hierarchies and obedience. This understanding has a place in the eternal flow of consciousness, but it is not the goal.
Hupotasso, which we translate as to submit, consists of hupo and tasso. Hupo involves movement and is often translated from below. Tasso means to set, to put, but also to place in order.
Submitting to each other is only possible if you are basically at the same level.
A good translation would therefore be: placing yourself alongside somebody coming from underneath.
Since the level of consciousness, which understood the world as hierarchical had no understanding of the individual, it additionally made the mistake of assigning certain functions to certain hierarchical levels: the man to whom the woman was to submit had the function of the priest. But now there is no man or woman.
But back to wisdom.
The flow of consciousness leads us deeper and deeper into the relationship with God and ourselves. That is the dimension of Kennen (knowing) that the Bible speaks of. And the approach in this relationship happens from below until we realize that we can take our place next to him that we have always held.
You made him a little lower than Elohim, you crowned him with glory and honor.Hebrews 2: 7
Then God created man in his image: he created him in the image of God; as man and woman he created them.Genesis 1:27
I have written elsewhere how the effects of this river, which can be observed in human history, even are lived through and experienced in every single human life.
I would like to summarize this in a short, poetic presentation for me:
In God I am created and live
In God we find family and heal
In God I discover power and conquer
In God we obtain community and submit
In God I explore individuality and succeed
In God we encounter grace and share
In God I unearth creativity and becomeRalph Rickenbach, 2020
In God we recover oneness and I am
This flow of consciousness is equivalent with truth. The Hebrew word for truth is ämet. It is written in three letters: the first, middle and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So truth is at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of this river–therefore everywhere. In other words, this flow even is truth.
The first letter aleph stands for strength, the mem stands for water and river, and the tet stands for the cross. In this way the flow of consciousness is connected to the life of Jesus, and the life of Jesus is an expression of the greater truth in this world.
By living out this truth in our world, God shows us that he holds nothing back from us. Here again is the Greek word for truth, aletheia: holding back nothing. Jesus embodies this truth as an archetypal person.
But like a person who changes from a baby to a child to a young man and to a man – women also go through this in their own way – we as humanity learn according to our level of consciousness, or in other words, our maturity.
Ezekiel would have said: it depends on how deep we are immersed in the river.
What is our position in this river now? What is it that God wants from us? I would like to describe this with a poem:
It is said that before entering the sea a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled, from the peaks of the mountains, the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear, because that’s where the river will know it’s not about disappearing into the ocean, but of becoming the ocean.Khalil Gibran
The river of Ezekiel pours into the sea and brings life. While many of us are in the river, few have taken the step to pour ourselves into the sea.
I would like to describe this in more detail:
We climb into the river, i.e. we become aware.
We are ankle deep in the river and our concerns are about survival. Our courage lets us go deeper.
We are knee deep in the river, obedient to the request of our companion and leader, and some go further individually.
We swim and are happy with everyone else.
But now there comes the sea. Oneness and vastness. Now it’s time to leave fear behind.
The next step in our faith is one of the largest we have ever taken. Many are now getting out of the river and going back to the temple.
That was OK then. Ezekiel has been shown that more stages will come in the future. He himself was allowed to stay in the river up to swimming, deeper than most of his contemporaries, as a prophetic act. But he saw that there was much more to come in the future: the sea. However, it was the right to do for him to get out then, because the further course of the river was not yet accessible to him. He lived in the first verse of humanity’s poem. Back to the temple.
But the temple is destroyed. It was just an outward sign of a deeper reality. If we now enter it again, that is mere religion. It is the desire to go back to Egypt. It is Paul’s, then Saul’s, decision to persecute Christians in order to remain faithful to the law. It is the decision of the church to stick to its tradition. It is “Wissen”, intellectual knowledge, fossilized by leaving the ever-flowing, ever-changing stream of wisdom.
The sea is calling!