Still in my Earth Week mode, and going with the flow, I’ve come to the Wisdom Waterfalls! Ever been there? On Earth Day I went with a couple of very wise friends to a beautiful falls in our area, O Kun de Kun Falls, named after a Ojibway chief. We had the place to ourselves, probably because there was still snow on the trail. The falls height is 30 ft. and the river was running high, with snow melt, so the tremendous power of water flow was mesmerizingly evident (it’s a lot tamer in the photo above). Boom! Crash! I’d like to imagine here that this power we witnessed is the power of a collective, a society, that is gathering more and more wisdom.
As I moved past the halfway mark of 50 years on the planet, the requirements of wisdom development pressed harder upon me. The alchemical stories I interpret are all about that development, which, like the waterfall we visited, is completely natural. Wisdom development is not for the literati, it is not esoteric. In stories of personal change, in film and fiction and more, disenfranchised folks, the poor servant or the plebeian of color, often represent the voice of wisdom. They are in this case wise for they are not typically as protected from Earth’s lessons as those who are more comfy. Wisdom is actually woven into the very fabric of the Earth’s astounding diversity of life. However, the natural developmental power of embodied human wisdom can be diverted to other purposes. It can be arrested, just as a river can be dammed. And in my society, which is overbalanced on the archetypally masculine side (air and fire element), the understanding of how to ride the river of archetypally feminine wisdom development is sorely lacking.
Wisdom, our innate human heritage, is not feminine in and of itself, though there are prominent female Wisdom archetypes, such as Sophia. In fact wisdom requires the understanding of and balancing of both masculine and feminine, as in Vienna Teng’s song Landsailor which I blogged about recently. The reason we lose our wisdom development when we are clueless about feminine earth element is because earth element holds the very knowledge of development itself. Erda, Gaia, holds an innate blueprint that we actually connect with in order to understand human development. Our wisdom path can be augmented, surely, by certain kinds of information. However, we develop deep and lasting wisdom not through studying books, not through literacy, that skill my society holds so dear, but through human experiences. Gaia presents us quite naturally with doors that we must walk through; well, there are many one can avoid once past childhood. And in fact my society is full of folks who are perennial adolescents or young adults. Our society is like a huge party where only folks under 50 are invited; Wisdom must somehow hang around outside the door, or sneak in dressed up like a younger person. An extreme metaphor, but cogent all the same. Of course there are advantages to being the wallflower. You learn to keep your mouth shut, and learn through observation:
If we do go through some human developmental door, it is like stepping into a certain classroom, Gaia’s classroom, and in that classroom we learn important wisdom lessons. We learn about sexuality (i.e. masculine and feminine), self authority, balance, we learn true humility (not the fake kind), we learn true compassion (not the fake kind), we learn patience, we learn how to reconnect with the greater parts of ourselves, we learn broader perspectives of all kinds, such as the “7th generation” idea that is popular now in Euro-Western culture and elsewhere. And along the lines of earth element, I must again stress, that it is different to know intellectually that humanity is called to consider the whole (that being the basic concept behind the 7th generation thing) and knowing this in your bones. To walk the Earth aware of 7 generations (supposedly it originally referred to looking 3 generations behind and 3 generations ahead, but who cares any more) requires an experiential knowing of this truth. It doesn’t just mean listening to NPR, perhaps wistfully (if you are of the mostly white persuasion) thinking that Native Americans know something Whitey doesn’t know, and continuing to walk the same old worn path. Being a wise elder means we make actual choices in line with what we know to be true. This is not an easy road, and in my society, not a simple one. Wisdom is not for sissies, for it requires first to change, and second to be the change: to stand up in some way for that what you know to be important and true. Fact is that once you know it in your bones, you cannot do otherwise without hurting yourself. That’s how you know the change is come.
In order that we don’t get a blog that’s too long for folks to put up with, I’m going to point all y’all towards a white guy who’s got it figured out for us literate folks; Bill Plotkin. He has published a book of depth and beauty (he uses lots of David Whyte’s poetry, for one thing) and, of course, wisdom, that’s titled Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Community and Wholeness in a Fragmented World (click to go to Plotkin’s Animas Institute site). In the book, he outlines 2 different developmental trajectories. One, the Egocentric circle, is the one that’s the result of the formal education and other conditioning in my society at large. The other Plotkin calls Soulcentric or Ecocentric.
Dig that! Who wouldn’t want to get to the developmental Stage 6 and be an Artisan in the Wild Orchard? A Master in the Grove of Elders? The Sage in the Mountain Cave? By the way, this book has been translated into several languages, including Russian. On Plotkin’s site is a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: If we surrendered to Earth’s Intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees.
I dream of a world where this book is required reading in my society.