On Wisdom

Kallistos

As a philo-sophos, I seek wisdom where I can find it. In a sense, I am a wisdom-slut. I read whatever wisdom literature there is, from Great Master K’ung, to St. Thomas.

I can recall once, when I reading Proverbs, perhaps my favorite book in the entire Bible (alongside Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus), a Neo-Pagan friend of mine looked down her nose at me and said “Why are you reading that?” I was shocked by the simple silliness of it all. I pointed out that there was much wisdom in there, and in the rest of the Bible. “With all thy getting, get understanding.” (Which I quoted to her).

What does it matter what the source is, if there is wisdom in it? I’ve even poured over the related Egyptian and Akkadian wisdom literature. I have marvelled at the sublimity of the writings of Benedict de Spinoza; and the subtlety of the Talmud.

While, like x_bluerose_x I don’t really feel the need to seek ancient antecedents or precedence. However, there is plenty of it.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus founded the Museon and Biblioteca at Alexandria. He searched every ship that entered the harbor for books, from all the known world. The sages there copied and studied them. At the behest of one of the Ptolemys the Library sent a delegation to Jerusalem, and asked the Sanhedrin for a copy of the Bible (OT). With the help of seventy elders, they translated it into Greek, creating the LXX. Jews flowed into the cosmopolis of Alexandria, and ideas mingled. Philo read the Philosophers, Philosophers read Philo and the LXX. Travelers visiting Jerusalem made offerings to YHWH at the Temple, in the Court of the Gentiles, and wondered if He was Dionysos or Zeus Hupsistos (the Highest).

How can one call oneself a lover of wisdom yet refuse to read the wisdom of any and all they encounter? How can one call oneself a lover of wisdom and not study wisdom, no matter what the source? I do not believe that there is any reason to shut out anything, even if it is “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” or “Chinese.”

I do not believe that there is any conflict, or rather, that there needs to be any conflict. Despite stereotypes, the Jews studied the Hellenes, the Christian Fathers studied and borrowed from the Stoics and other Philosophers, right down to St. Thomas Aquinas. Heck, even His Holiness the Pope argues that you cannot separate the Hellenic from the Christian. (I know some Protestants try, but they are, IMHO lessened by the attempt). Muslims even studied Hellenic philosophy. If even the “exclusivist” Monotheists were willing to grab wisdom from a “tainted” source as they would call it (theoretically), why should we, who have inherited the great tolerant and free-thinking heritage of the Cosmopolis that was the Ecumenon of the Ancient World, do any differently.

I do not think such divisions or enmity to be wise. Even when Diocletian tried to stamp out Christianity, most of his Governors refused, and considered his action out of keeping with the spirit of things. Constantine tried to set up both “sides” on an equal footing of toleration, and so did Julian who even extended this toleration to all sects of Christianity. When the Christian Emperor Valens fell at Adrianople fighting the Goths, the Pagan Rhetor and Philsopher Libanius wrote a moving eulogy to him. Libanius later criticized Julian when he began to attempt some restrictions on Christianity. Symmachus, the Senator again argued for (unsuccesfully) for a peaceful coexistence.

I see no reason not to walk in their shoes. I do not spurn my Catholic family, such would not be in keeping with the virtues of my faith, (or the Fourth Commandment). They are not my enemies. If one attempts to be my foe, then he becomes my foe. If one attempts to be my friend, then he is my friend.

I refuse to take part in slanders and discord in either direction.

Magister dixit

 

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