The 8 Limbs Of Philosophia

In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines what he takes to be the “eight limbs of yoga.” Inspired by his example, I want to ask, “What could be the X limbs of Wisdom?

1. Austerities

Many traditions underscore the need for tapas (or austerities). Christian mystics speak of “silence and solitude.” Buddhists observe Noble Silence during certain periods. Many point to fasting during important calendrical times. Which austerities should be a part of the path of wisdom?

2. Movement Practice

Classical Athenians revered the beautiful male form and saw gymnastics as a crucial part of paideia. Obviously, Patanjali made a point of including various asanas, or ways of making the physical form painful and detoxified so that the practitioner could continue on the yogic path.

In the case of philosophy as a way of life, I submit that beautiful physical practice should be underscored. Weight lifting, therefore, would not do, but physical activities that combine strength, ability, and intelligence (e.g., parkour, rock climbing, perhaps horseback riding, etc.). could count.

The gross physical body is to be cultivated in order that its strength, flexibility, and quietness would be sufficient to support the greater inquiry into Wisdom.

3. Purgation/purification

While Ken Wilber makes it seem as if Cleaning Up is an invention of the twentieth century, the truth is that various spiritual and mystical traditions stressed purgation (Christian mysticism) or purification (e.g., Eleusian mysteries). What would purification look like for one on the Path of Wisdom? My hunch is that a samskaric investigation could be at the heart of purification.

4. Ethical Practice

Here, I imagine an ethical practice consisting of two related parts. Part 1: being vigilant about one’s thoughts, being very careful with one’s words (Spinoza used to wear a ring that said caute (“careful”)), likewise being truthful in one’s speech, and being gentle and deliberate in one’s deeds.
Part 2: cultivation of the salient virtues for one on said path, virtues such as temperance, courage, and empathy.

5. Logic

Here, we start to make the turn toward “disciplines of thought.” An elementary understanding of symbolic logic and, more generally, of philosophical reasoning would be appropriate. The point? To strengthen one’s capacity for reasoning and to more broadly strengthen one’s mind.

6. Metaphysics

Theoria: what is reality? What is human beings’ place in the cosmos? And what is the nature of wisdom?

7. Philosophical practice

One would need to learn two things. First, how to deliberate and take action (Aristotle, NE). Second and more broadly, how to inquire in a philosophical sense. The latter I’ve been doing for the past 11 years.

8. Wu Wei 

My sense is that the highest expression of wisdom comes in the form of total embodiment and effortless, spontaneous action, action that is good and clear and decisive.