In his book of Proverbs, Solomon teaches us to walk in the paths of wisdom and to turn away from the paths of foolishness. The virtues and vices we carry in our hearts are what make us wise or foolish. A virtue is a wise habit and a vice is a foolish one.
The path of wisdom, so Solomon tells us, is like the dawning light of the new day. It begins with a dim glow and slowly grows into the fullness of the shining sun. The path of foolishness, on the other hand, is like a deep darkness because those who walk on it stumble over difficulties they never saw coming.
Because we do not see the nature of our own foolishness, we must gain the light of wisdom. Light allows us to see. Without it we will never know we are on the wrong path and will continuously trip over unknown and unpredictable obstacles.
Mind, when considered in its nature, is made out of intricate patterns and relationships. It is constantly in motion within itself. The currents of thought within our consciousness flow harmoniously so that the various parts of the soul can be in contact with each other and inform one another. These habitual patterns generally work for the good, but sometimes they become distorted and cause problems. The pursuit of wisdom requires that we be on the lookout for eddies of foolishness in the seas of consciousness.
At times the currents of our thoughts can go off course and become trapped within themselves. A vice is a pattern of movement within our angelic nature that has become a self destructive whirlpool. When a part of our mind is stuck in this manner, all our options seem to disappear. We find ourselves trapped in a downward spiral that gains momentum with each ill fated revolution. Our thinking becomes rigid and closed off. The world around us starts to feel smaller and we lose touch with the way things really are.
As our perceptions of the world narrow, the possibilities of escape from this condition narrow as well. Our frantic attempts to solve the problem by the same means that created it in the first place only end up hurting us and the people around us. The longer we persist in our foolishness, the more we ostracise ourselves from the networks of support that could help us get back on track. Because these patterns take away our freedom and limit our options, we need something other than our own habitual thoughts in order to break the cycle. Even when we have little or no support from the outer environment, the light of wisdom is available to all in the depths of our hearts.
While wisdom can rightly be described as a collection of habits that lead us into health and prosperity, it is also another name for Christ. The light of Wisdom that dispels the darkness of foolishness and saves people from themselves is none other than the second person of the Trinity. As Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians, “It is the God who said, ‘Light will shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” The glory of God is reflected in the face of Christ and it shines into our hearts, illuminating our inner darkness.
There are numerous places in the New Testament where Christ is referred to in terms closely resembling the character of Wisdom in the book of Proverbs. The opening of John’s gospel is perhaps the most succinct example of this. When it is read alongside chapter eight of Proverbs, the parallels become apparent. The two passages are as follows.
Solomon says of Wisdom,
“The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water…When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep…when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a little child, and I was daily his delight, playing before him always, playing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
John says of the Word,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him. And without him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him.”
The word that gets translated as “Word” in the passage from John is logos in the original Greek. Logos is an ancient philosophical concept that Christianity inherited from the Stoic philosophers. In Greek it can be used in a few different ways. It can refer to a word that is spoken or a discourse between people; it can also be used to refer to reason, jugement, or understanding.
It is related to our modern word logic, the process by which truth is discerned from falsehood. It is also found in the word dialogue, a conversation that leads us into truth. When used in philosophical contexts, the logos is the wisdom of the cosmos, the truth of what is. It is the pattern and blueprint by which everything is created and everything is sustained.
The logos is a lesser form of God that is able to mediate the infinite and unknowable creator with the finite and intelligible creation. This is what Jesus means when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” and “the Father is greater than I.”
Both Solomon and John are speaking about the same idea – that God has a child through whom and by whom everything was created. This little child, the Son of God, is the nature of all things. Therefore, to become wise is to put on the mind of Christ and to live in accordance with nature.
Wisdom is therefore a skill that we cultivate and also a saviour that liberates us from our inner darkness. The practice of virtue is a participation in the nature of Christ. When we learn to love in the same way that God loves, we become like God. This is the gift of Wisdom in the human heart. It is an act of co-creation by which the Son of God is born within us.
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