How Does Wisdom Emerge?

Existential Opening

In the last post, I discussed the condition for the possibility of wisdom to emerge. I called this an “existential opening.”

Now, once an existential opening has occurred, then the question of wisdom is “on the table.” Our question today, therefore, is: “How does wisdom emerge?”

What follows are first thoughts, not final steps.


Oddly enough, the starting point is faith. As Raimon Panikkar states, “By faith I mean the capacity of opening to something ‘more,’ a capacity not given us either by the senses or the intelligence” (The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery, p. 30).

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you call this “capacity of opening to something ‘more'” faith or a postulate of reason (Kant). In either case, you posit something (and to speak of “something” is already, at this point, to say too much) that is neither confirmed nor disconfirmed. Could it be? You don’t know, yet you don’t dare close the door.

Staying with the Question

If, provisionally and for our purposes, we define wisdom as knowing how best to live and living that knowledge consciously and completely, then we need to see how we can angle or incline our lives to the actuality of wisdom. And that leaning or angling starts with a very vague, yet also pointedly vague, question: “what is this ‘something more’?”

In order for wisdom to emerge in and for and through me, I must stay with this question. I must have faith (that word again) that asking this question is worth it; that this question is answerable not in intellect alone but most especially and thoroughly in conduct; and that fragments of clarity shall shine some light upon me as the philosophical inquiry unfolds.

To faith, therefore, must be added the virtue of courage.

Love of the Spirit of Questioning

And what, after a time, becomes apparent to me as I stay with this question is that something almost miraculous is occurring. Not only do I care about answering (in at least but not just a propositional way) the question of moreness that I’ve put to myself time and again; I have also come to care about something to do with the nature of questioning itself.

With what do I fall in love, pray? I fall in love with the very spirit of questioning.

Let’s not be cute, okay?, and say glibly, “It’s good to ask good questions.” I don’t mean that. What I’m saying here is that loving philosophy just means falling, and then being, in love with the very spirit of questioning. In other words, the moreness I’ve been seeking is beginning to make its presence felt in a surprising way: in my very disposition or, clearer yet, in the depths of my being.

Coming behind my Back

Wisdom starts to emerge “behind my back.” The moreness I seek is the moreness I become. Yet not through my efforts alone, really, but instead through a wholehearted innocence, a receptivity that opens me up to radiance.

What I want to know, do I not?, is how to live, and what wisdom begins to reveal is that this knowledge is coming to live in me. It is taking up residence in me without any program of my own.

Wisdom is a kinda funny thing.