Note: The Seven Pillars is a unique resource that was brought to my attention. I have not had the chance to read it, so I make no claims about its theological content. In fact I’m pretty sure that there will be things in it that conflict with my faith. However, I was really intrigued that it brought together so many different streams of thought from over the ages. I think that it is important to recognize universal truths and reflect on our own beliefs so that we may gain a better understanding of them.
Throughout the ages, the wise have left clues about wisdom, telling us that if properly considered, contemplative questions could produce realizations that transform the world. Our current culture does not emphasize teaching how to consider such questions. We find ourselves marooned and unable to access the secrets that are our birthright, hidden within. A template made by the Seven Pillars House of Wisdom team provides the tools needed to deeply consider the world, a process that contains the potential to reveal our collective and individual roles in shaping the future.
It began as the imagining of the organization’s founder Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, a Sufi. Sufis play a unique part in the gathering of wisdom. They recognize and make way for it no matter the source. With this foundation, a house of wisdom was built in the tradition of great wisdom houses from history, such as the Library of Alexandria, the House of Wisdom of Baghdad, the interfaith House of Worship at Fatehpur Sikri and the Platonic Academy of Florence. This “house without walls” is constructed of the wisdom of the world’s religions, philosophies and imaginings. The bones of the house make a template called The Seven Pillars. When explored, the Pillars may illuminate the experiences of our life, deepen our insight and inspire commitment to address the social and ecological challenges before us with integrity and beauty.
Today, the Seven Pillars House of Wisdom gatherers: scholars, artists, musicians, scientists, mystics and many others offer, The Seven Pillars: Journey Toward Wisdom e-book, created to share their odessy of discovery and creativity.
Wisdom is no ordinary thing, thus, the form of this work had to be dynamic. Journey Toward Wisdom contains text, video, imagery, an original musical score and the art of surrealist painter Cecil Collins. Chapters contain questions and exercises to reflect on. Just as the process taught in Julia Cameron’s popular book, The Artist’s Way, guided us to living an artist’s life, Journey Toward Wisdom guides the discovery of how we may be purposeful and active in the world today.
The Journey of Life Pillar invites us to broaden our perception and engage in a contemplative overview of our lives. The term journey implies movement, and in fact all life is moving. We know that the universe is expanding, just as we are unfolding and growing as we gain in experience. However, there is an essential aspect of our identity that seems unchanging and unique, an ageless sense of ourselves that seems to remain consistent throughout the events of our lives. It is this part of ourselves, which we recognize as “I,” that is capable of reflecting on an overview of our lives.
Birth and death are the two portals that frame our lives, and we all have a limited arc of time in which to be on this journey. From the moment of our birth to the moment of our death, we are in relationship with others and with all of life. As infants, we all needed caretakers and nurturing in order to survive, grow and develop; and the need to belong continues to shape and guide our life’s journey. When we reflect on our lives, we often think about the people we’ve loved, the things we’ve become attached to, what we have been called to study, the teachers who have deeply touched us, and what we have accomplished. We also reflect on the challenges we’ve had, the suffering and the losses we have experienced, as well as the wisdom we have gained from living through them.
One of the gifts of being human is that we all have the capacity to learn. It is a beautiful expression of our need to develop that we seek to make meaning of our lives and to discover a sense of purpose. Each one of us seems to be endowed to grow, to suffer, to learn, to find fulfillment and seek happiness. As we meet each unfolding experience of life, we learn our way through it. The conundrum for us is that in the midst of great personal suffering, a compression occurs that impedes our sense of connection to the larger world. As we hear the stories of others and sense the realms of resonance we share, we are given the opportunity to recognize ourselves in each other, and to see others within ourselves.
When we see the commonality of joys and struggles in all our stories, and look at life from that perspective, perhaps more compassion will be born both for ourselves and others. Hopefully, we will then be better able to affirm the rightness of the strategies we have used and the choices we have made to move through life, as well as the insight we have gained from our struggles. Our understanding of how every single person is on a journey, with many of the same joys and challenges as our own, brings forth a natural sense of forgiveness, and allows us to better appreciate each of us as a contribution to the world, and to each other.
- What are the key notes or themes of your life?
- Where are you on your journey?
- Where do you want to be?
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