In the Near East “wisdom teacher” is a recognized spiritual occupation. I was taught that there were only two categories of religious authority: one could be a priest or a prophet. That may be how the tradition filtered down to us in the West. But within the wider Near East (including Judaism itself), there was also a third, albeit unofficial, category: a moshel moshelim, or teacher of wisdom, one who taught the ancient traditions of the transformation of the human being.
They spoke to people in the language that people spoke, the language of story rather than law.
Jesus not only taught within this tradition, he turned it end for end. Before we can appreciate the extraordinary nuances he brought to understanding human transformation, we need first to know something about the context in which he was working.
Jesus was not a priest. He had nothing to do with the temple hierarchy in Jerusalem, and he kept a respectful distance from most ritual observances. Nor was he a prophet in the usual sense of the term: a messenger sent to the people of Israel to warn them of impending political catastrophe in an attempt to redirect their hearts to God. Jesus was not that interested in the political fate of Israel, nor would he accept the role of Messiah continuously being thrust upon him.
Rather, he stayed close to the ground of wisdom: the transformation of human consciousness. He asked timeless and deeply personal questions: What does it mean to die before you die? How do you go about losing your little life to find the bigger one? Is it possible to live on this planet with a generosity, abundance, fearlessness, and beauty that mirror Divine Being itself?
These are the wisdom questions, and they are the entire field of Jesus’ concern.
-Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest and one of CAC’s [Center for Action & Contemplation] core faculty members.
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. [One] experiences [oneself] . . . as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of [one’s] consciousness. . . . Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. —Albert Einstein
“If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light” (Luke 11:34). That’s why the Buddha and Jesus say with one voice, “Be awake.” Jesus talks about “staying watchful”, and “Buddha” means “I am awake” in Sanskrit. —Richard Rohr
‘It is more useful to realize that we each carry a Jesus and a Nicodemus within us; that is, we each have a divine inner voice that opens us to truth and a mediating social voice that is reluctant to show its truth to others.
…quiet pain comes from not honoring what we know to be true, even if all we know to be true are the questions we are asking.
True and False Self (D. W. Winnicott) – – it is the True Self that lets us know what is authentic and what has become artificial, while the False Self is a diplomat of distrust, enforcing a lifestyle of guardedness, secrecy, and complaint.
In everyday terms this means that each time we experience a change in reality as we know it, we must choose whether to declare or hide what we know to be true. At such moments we either need to bring the way we have been living into accord with that shift of reality, or we need to resist the change […] having to admit that what was essential is no longer essential and then needing to summon the courage to make the act of living essential again.’