Book Review- The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault

by Mark Votava


Cynthia Bourgeault has written a wonderful book!  The Wisdom Way of Knowing demonstrates how the Western world has lost the experiential life of Wisdom through becoming too rationalistic, intellectual and based on creeds.  She states how this has caused us to lose focus on the Wisdom in our spirituality.  There has been a transfer of practice-based embodied Wisdom to an overemphasis of the intellectual beliefs of the mind which Cynthia draws us back to some balance in our being.

  • Midwives of the Spirit

“Working within the raw materials of the physical world, we are to give ‘birthing’ and ‘body’ to the names of God so that the invisible becomes visible.  We are midwives of the Spirit.”

  • A loss of memory about our Wisdom heritage

“One of the greatest losses in our Christian West has been the loss of memory (in fact, almost a collective amnesia) about our own Wisdom heritage…”

  • The intimacy of knowing and being known

“…the questions of the world have to hurt you before anything real can begin.  That is the other precondition of a Wisdom way of knowing: it requires the whole of one’s being and is ultimately attained only through the yielding of one’s whole being into the intimacy of knowing and being known… It doesn’t happen apart from complete vulnerability and self-giving…”

  • Wisdom goes beyond our rational understanding

Wisdom is a way of knowing that goes beyond one’s mind, one’s rational understanding, and embraces the whole of a person: mind, heart, and body…”

  • A state of presence

“…real Wisdom can be given and received only in a state of presence…”

  • The quality of our aliveness

“Each one of us, and every action we make, has a quality of aliveness to it, a fragrance or vibrancy uniquely its own.  If the outer form of who we are in this life is conveyed by our physical bodies, the inner form – our real beauty and authenticity – is conveyed in the quality of our aliveness.  This is where the secret of our being lies.  Quality is the innermost, energetic essence of our life…”

  • Becoming a powerful servant of humanity

“When the attitude of prompt surrender has become permanently engrained in a person while still in bodily life, that person becomes a powerful servant of humanity…”

  • The embodiment of freedom

“Rather than something to be defended, freedom would simply be something to be lived…”

  • The awakening of conscience

“When conscience awakens in a person, it brings not only the obligation but also a mysterious ability to be present in exactly the right way.”

  • Allowing our outer lives to break up

“We need to experience our own personal aliveness as part of that great cosmic aliveness.  Above all, however, we need to allow our outer lives to break up, if necessary, in order to release the divine aliveness within and to understand once again the meaning and beauty of this gesture.”

How can we learn to embody Wisdom in everyday life?