Being brought up Roman Catholic, and in time becoming estranged from its fossilized creeds and rituals, not to mention its horrific history, I’ve wondered whatever happened to Western Christian wisdom. I know the story of the Gnostics and the usurpation by the Roman Empire, but something must have lingered on in some hidden corner.
That’s what Cynthis Bourgealut’s ‘Wisdom Way of Knowing’ speaks to. Here’s an extremely condensed version in her words:
From that point (late 5th century) almost until our own times, the Christian Wisdom tradition went underground in the West .Hmmm. Looks like I have some reading to do:
Occasionally bright lights shot free, sparks in the night from a still blazing fire, mostly through the extraordinary lineage of Western mystics: Meister Eckhart ( c . 1260-c . 1327 ), Hildegard of Bingen ( 1098-1179 ), Jacob Boehme ( 1575-1624 ), and in our own time Valentin Tomberg ( 1900-1973 ), whose brilliant Meditations on the Tarot ( first published anonymously in the early 1970s ) has deservedly become the unofficial Bible of Christian Wisdom in the West . But these emergences all required struggling free of the theological milieu of their times , and these visionary souls were for the most part either damned as heretics or ignored .
But to discover where the main channel of Wisdom was actually flowing during those centuries of eclipse in the West , it is necessary to look beyond religious boundaries and cast our eyes on the remarkable river of mystical yearning and knowledge known as Sufism . Certain orders of Sufis insist that Sufism existed prior to Islam , that it derives from schools of understanding far more ancient than Islam itself.Although the traditions of Sufism are rich and diverse , the two most important names to know are Jalaluddin Rumi ( 1207-1273 ) and Ibn al- ' Arabi ( 1165-1240 ).
In modern times the most important figure-in fact , the patriarch - in the recovery of Wisdom is the enigmatic Armenian teacher G . I . Gurdjieff ( c . 1866 ?- 1949 ). Some of the most significant of these contemporary Wisdom teachers include Jacob Needleman , Kabir Helminski , A . H . Almaas , Robin Amis , Bruno Barnhart , Murat Yagan , and my own dear friend and colleague Lynn Bauman .
Cynthia Bourgeault. The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart. (Jossey-Bass, 2003). Pages 18-23.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Ibn al- ' Arabi (1165-1240)
Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)
Jacob Boehme (1575-1624)
G . I . Gurdjieff (1866-1949)
Valentin Tomberg (1900-1973)
A . H . Almaas