A Wisdom School, Overview

This post starts out talking about a character in my writing, but it’s not about my writing, or writing, or even science fiction. Bear with me.

In my Casitian Universe Series, I have a character named Jal’end’a. She’s Casitian (from another planet, for those of you who aren’t familiar,) and before she arrived on Earth, she started out as a physicist, then moved to more spiritual pursuits (not so unusual on the planet of her birth.) She became a contemplative.

Here’s an excerpt of the novel about that chapter in her life:

Jal’end’a hadn’t started out studying religions. Ever since she was a teenager, Jal’end’a had been on a search to understand the universe’s origins. She had originally decided to study physics, and had been trained by some of the best teachers on Casiti. She had remained unsatisfied by the process of translation of texts written by the ancients, and the theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding what many thought of as the earliest moments of the universe.

The deeper Casitian physicists delved into the origins of the universe, the more they found the face of the divine. Some physicists were working to use their methodologies to understand the divine, as Jal’end’a’s major teacher did. She had even begun to work with a number of other teachers in crafting theories that unified various fields of knowledge: from origins of the universe, lyre’es’gkin, theories of the mind and brain, and other phenomena.

In the end, Jal’end’a felt the call to go within herself, to sit, to contemplate, to connect deeply with the divine wisdom inside of her in order to understand the divine wisdom of creation. So she withdrew from science, requested permission to be supported by the community, and lived alone, in a small dwelling far from the city.

In the first novel, she was recruited to embark on a path of talking with mystics of many Earth traditions. She helps the Casitians understand how the mystical underpinnings of every religion on Earth basically share very common wisdom, even though it was obvious to her that the way that most of the religions operated didn’t seem to reflect that wisdom.

Of course, for many of you, the second paragraph in the excerpt might bring you up short, especially if you are an atheist, or if you agree with Stephen J. Gould’s premise of “Non Overlapping Magisteria” that is, science and religion function in non-overlapping spaces, and one can’t use one set of tools and ideas to delve into the realm of the other.  I’m going to go into much, much more detail on that in my next post in this series.

In between the first series of Casitian novels and the second (what I’m writing now) she founds a “school” (which on Casiti is like a religious sect, educational institution, research institution, and monastery all melded together) which brings together what she learned about Earth’s religions, with what Casitians had done for thousands of years, into a coherent set of ideas and principles. And in writing the second series, and delving deeply into the school she founds (the main character of the second series is a member, and later leader of this “school”,) I’ve come to realize that the school that she founds in my imagination is a school I’d want to belong to, here, now, on Earth, at this time. I guess that’s not so surprising.

Wisdom schools (although different, here) have existed in the past. I’ve been reading a great book by Cynthia Bourgeault, called “The Wisdom Way of Knowing.” I’d highly recommend it. Here’s a salient quote:

You will find the “practice” part of the Wisdom tradition still at the base of all the great world religions. It’s remarkable how, no matter which spiritual path you pursue, the nuts and bolts of transformation wind up looking pretty much the same: surrender, detachment, compassion, forgiveness. Whether you’re a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Sufi, or a sannyasin, you will still go through the same eye of the needle to get to where your true heart lies.

So here are the outlines of those principles, and these are the topics of each of the next seven posts in this series:

  • The magisteria (realms of knowledge) of science and spirituality (including religions, the organized variety of spirituality) do in fact, overlap. Hugely, they must. And in order for us to broaden our horizons, we must embrace wholeheartedly the principles of science (Occam’s razor, etc.), understand the scientific basis (that is, observation and trial and error, not science in the modern sense) of most traditional practices, both spiritual and medical, as well as expand and shift science in very particular ways (one example is fully and completely understanding and detailing observer/researcher bias, another is studying the placebo affect, which is a woefully ignored subject.)
  • Dive down deep into just about any religion or spiritual tradition that’s been around for more than 1,000 years, and you find some very common practices and ideas for how to live a happy, fulfilled life, without violence or strife. Bring those to the fore, study them deeply.
  • Back to science – new brain science suggests that these practices actually work in specific ways on the brain, and have the intended consequences. (Who knew?) I wrote a little about this earlier, but I’ll dive in more.
  • The primacy of experience, and the value of tradition and historical wisdom
  • Pluralism is key, for two reasons, one, more than one thing can be true at the same time.  Two, it is likely human beings actually can’t understand the universe, so multiple ways of understanding it (including metaphor) is the only way to be able to embrace it.
  • Our bodies, the bodies of all beings are sacred, and have wisdom, in and of themselves. How do we learn that wisdom?
  • Like all bodies, the planet is sacred, and as the beings capable of the most damage, we are the most responsible for its stewardship, not only for ourselves and future generations, but for other beings that we co-exist with.

Anyway, I’ll be diving into each of those topics in depth. I’d love feedback and conversation as I embark on this series.