“The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.” ~ General Omar Bradley
Education – whether formally given or self-taught – is necessary, but not sufficient to the expression of balanced wisdom. I have known highly-educated medical doctors, for instance, whose fervent devotion to the principles of Western allopathic medicine was as fanatical as religious extremist’s zealous and inflexible views on spirituality. Likewise, I have met scientists who become so consumed with the minutiae of their speciality that they have clearly lost the forest for the trees in their ongoing discovery of the natural world.
Education is a double-edged sword. It can facilitate the expression of wisdom, but it can also frustrate its articulation. Education provides the mind with intermediary points of connection between inner or “invisible,” thought and feeling and outer or “visible,” words and actions. Education brings a sense of order to the mind yet an overly rigid structure can restrict or even block the flow of wisdom, original and creative thought. It is the willingness to release the white-knuckled grip on a particular mental construct that opens the floodgates to wisdom.
Wisdom moves from the inside out. It is not manufactured externally, neither is it directly a product of the mind. Wisdom is known as a clear pathway is given for its expression into the field of theoretical consideration or practical circumstance. Education – and I am careful to note again that I mean more than formal, traditional classroom education – sets in the mind the railroad switches as it were through which the brilliance that is within you makes its way from the originating depot to its destination. As such, the quality and content of education received is vitally important to achieving brilliance with wisdom.
Intelligence is not always accompanied by wisdom. It is possible to be classified as being intelligent while suffering from a deficiency of social graces, ethical boundaries, personality or feeling. Wisdom contains all of these, for it illuminates on a basis that is fitting, no matter what the circumstance, place or framework in which it operates.
Wisdom has suffered at the hand of the drive for specialization in academia and industry that was catalyzed by philosophers likes Descartes and further accelerated by the scientific and educational institutions over the centuries that followed the Renaissance. Despite the many advances in intelligence, in the accumulation and organization of the growing body of knowledge of the natural world, I, like General Bradley, am concerned that we find a way to balance this apparent progress with wisdom and conscience.
Knowledge is a bottomless pit in which mankind can lose himself if he is not careful. Similarly, the brilliance associated with intelligence can be more blinding than elucidating if it is not sufficiently counterweighted by wisdom.
Brilliance without wisdom is fool’s gold. Power without conscience is a fool’s mate in the game of life.
Take care that you worship at the altar of neither.