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The crisis of our times is that we have science without wisdom. This is the We need to learn from the manner in which science makes progress towards greater .

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Can The World Learn Wisdom?

Nicholas Maxwell points out where the Enlightenment went wrong.

The crisis of our times is that we have science without wisdom. This is the crisis behind all the others. Population growth; the alarmingly lethal character of modern war and terrorism; vast differences in wealth and power around the globe; the AIDS epidemic; the annihilation of indigenous people, cultures and languages; the impending depletion of natural resources, including the destruction of tropical rain forests and other natural habitats, and the rapid mass extinction of species; pollution of sea, earth and air; and above all, the impending disasters of climate change – all of these relatively recent crises have been made possible by modern science and technology. Indeed, if by the ‘cause’ of an event we mean a prior change that led to that event occurring, then the advent of modern science and technology has caused all these crises. It is not that people became greedier or more wicked in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; nor is the ‘new’ economic system of capitalism responsible, as some historians and economists would have us believe. The crucial factor is the immense success of modern science and technology. This has led to modern medicine and hygiene, to modern high-production agriculture and industry, to population growth, to worldwide travel (which spreads diseases such as AIDS), and to the destructive might of the technology of modern war and terrorism, conventional, chemical, biological, nuclear.

This is to be expected. Science produces knowledge, which facilitates the development of technology, enormously increasing our power to act. It is to be expected that this power will often be used beneficially, as it has been – to cure disease, feed people, and in general enhance the quality of human life. However, in the absence of wisdom, it is also to be expected that such an abrupt, massive increase in power will be used to cause harm, whether unintentionally, as in the case (initially at least) of environmental damage, or intentionally, as in war and terrorism.

Before the advent of modern science, our lack of wisdom did not matter too much, since we lacked the means to do too much damage to ourselves and the planet. But now, in possession of the unprecedented powers bequeathed to us by science, our lack of wisdom has become a menace. The crucial question is: How can we learn to become wiser?

The answer is staring us in the face. And yet it is one that almost everyone overlooks.

The Traditional Enlightenment Programme

Modern science has met with astonishing success in improving our knowledge of the natural world. It is this very success that is the cause of our current problems. But instead of simply blaming science for our troubles, as some are inclined to do, we need, rather, to learn from the success of science. We need to learn from the manner in which science makes progress towards greater knowledge how we can make social progress towards greater wisdom.

This is not a new idea. It goes back to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, especially the French Enlightenment. Voltaire, Diderot, Condorcet and the other Enlightenment philosophes had the profoundly important idea that it might be possible to learn from scientific progress how to achieve social progress towards an Enlightened world. And they did not just have the idea: they did everything they could to put it into practice. They fought dictatorial power, superstition, bad traditions and injustice, with weapons no more lethal than those of argument and wit. They gave their support to the virtues of tolerance, curiosity, openness to doubt, and readiness to learn from criticism and experience. Courageously and energetically they laboured to promote reason in personal and social life. And in doing so, in a sense they created the modern world, with all its glories and disasters.

The philosophes of the Enlightenment had their hearts in the right place. But in intellectually developing the basic Enlightenment idea, unfortunately, they blundered. They botched the job. And it is this that we are suffering from today.

If it is important to acquire knowledge of natural phenomena to better the lot of mankind, as Francis Bacon had insisted, then it must be even more important to acquire knowledge of social phenomena, or so the philosophes thought. And they thought that the way to learn how to do this would be to develop the social sciences alongside the natural sciences using similar methods. First, social knowledge must be acquired; then it can be applied to help solve social problems. So they set about creating and developing the social sciences: economics, psychology, anthropology, history, sociology, political science.

This project was immensely influential, despite being damagingly defective. It was developed throughout the nineteenth century by men such as Saint-Simone, Comte, Marx, J.S. Mill and many others. Then, with the creation of departments of the social sciences in universities all over the world in the first part of the twentieth century, it was built into the institutional structure of academic inquiry. Academic inquiry today, devoted primarily to the pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how, is the outcome of two past revolutions, then: the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which led to the development of modern natural science; and the later equally important but seriously defective Enlightenment revolution. This results in the urgent need to bring about a third revolution; to put right the structural defects we have inherited from the Enlightenment.

The philosophes meet to discuss the Encyclopedia

Three Things To Get Right

But what, it may be asked, is wrong with the traditional Enlightenment programme?

Almost everything. In order to implement properly the basic Enlightenment idea of learning how to achieve social progress from scientific progress, it is essential to get the following three things right:

1. The progress-achieving methods of science need to be correctly identified.

2. These methods need to be correctly generalised so that they may be fruitfully applied to any worthwhile problematic human endeavour, whatever its aims may be, and not just applicable to the one endeavour of acquiring knowledge.

3. The correctly generalised progress-achieving methods then need to be exploited correctly in the great endeavour of trying to make social progress towards an enlightened, wise world.

Unfortunately, the philosophes of the Enlightenment got all three points wrong, and as a result their blunders, undetected and uncorrected, are built into academia as it exists today.

The Errors of Standard Empiricism

First, the philosophes failed to capture correctly the progress-achieving methods of natural science.

From D’Alembert in the eighteenth century to Popper in the twentieth, the view most widely held amongst both scientists and philosophers has been, and continues to be, that science proceeds by assessing theories impartially in the light of evidence. The assumption is that no thesis about the world is accepted permanently by science independently of evidence. But this standard empiricist view is untenable. If taken seriously, it would bring science to a standstill. For given any accepted scientific theory – Newton’s theory of gravitational attraction, say – endlessly many rival theories can be concocted which agree with it about observed phenomena, but disagree arbitrarily about yet-unobserved phenomena. For instance, some rival theory of gravitation might predict elliptical orbits for planets in our solar system, but triangular orbits for unobservable star systems in distant galaxies. If empirical considerations alone determined which theories are accepted and which rejected, then science would be drowned in an ocean of such empirically successful rival theories. In practice, however, these rival theories are excluded because they are disastrously disunified. Two major considerations govern acceptance of theories in science: empirical success and unity.

What does it mean to say that a physical theory is unified? It means that the content of the theory – what the theory asserts about the world – is the same for all the vast range of actual and possible phenomena to which the theory applies. For instance, if Newton’s inverse square law for gravity applies in our star system, it must apply in all star systems. In contrast, a disunified theory asserts that one set of laws apply to one range of phenomena, a different set of laws for another range, and so on. The greater the number of different sets of laws, the greater the disunity of the theory.

The laws of a theory may differ in different ways, some ways being more serious to the theory’s unity than others. Thus, Newton’s law of gravitation might change in time. In ten years time, gravity might abruptly become a repulsive force, or it might change in certain regions of space, or for objects at a certain distance from one another, or for objects of a specific mass and constitution. One disunified version might assert that Newton’s inverse square law, which says that the gravitational attraction between masses is inversely proportional to the square of their distance from each other, holds for all objects everywhere, except for spheres made of gold with masses greater than 1,000 tons moving in space no more than 1,000 miles apart, when an inverse cube law of gravitation holds. In my book Is Science Neurotic? (Imperial College Press, 2004), I argue that eight different kinds of disunity can be distinguished. All, however, exemplify the same basic notion: that a theory is disunified precisely to the extent that it has different sets of laws applying in different circumstances. For perfect unity, what the theory in question asserts must be the same for all actual and possible phenomena to which the theory applies. (For more detailed accounts of this notion of unity, see Is Science Neurotic?, plus my The Comprehensibility of the Universe, OUP 1998, and ‘Has Science Established that the Cosmos is Physically Comprehensible?’, available at

Given any accepted physical theory, more or less unified, there will always be endlessly many grossly disunified rivals even more empirically successful than the original, which may be concocted by accounting for new observations by tacking ad hoc qualifications onto the original theory. But none of these endlessly many empirically more successful ad hoc disunified rivals is ever seriously considered in scientific practice. They are all ignored because, although being more empirically successful, they hopelessly fail to satisfy the crucial requirement of unity.

The Method of Scientific Progress

Now comes the decisive step in the argument. In persistently accepting unified theories, and never even considering disunified rivals that are at least as empirically successful, science makes a big persistent assumption about the universe. Science assumes that the universe is such that all grossly disunified theories are false, i.e., that the universe has some kind of unified structure. This means that it is comprehensible, in the sense that physical explanations for phenomena exist to be discovered – only more or less unified theories being explanatory.

But the metaphysical (and thus untestable) assumption that the universe is comprehensible is profoundly problematic. Science is obliged to assume, but does not know, that the universe is comprehensible. Much less does it know that the universe is comprehensible in this or that specific way. Moreover, a glance at the history of physics reveals that ideas about how the universe may be comprehensible have changed dramatically. In the seventeenth century the idea was that the universe consists of corpuscles – minute billiard balls – which interact only by physical contact. This gave way to the idea that the universe consists of point-particles surrounded by symmetrical fields of force. This in turn gave way to the idea that there is one unified self-interacting field varying smoothly throughout space and time. Nowadays we have the idea that everything is made up of minute quantum strings embedded in ten or eleven dimensions of space-time. Some kind of assumption about the nature of physical reality must be made, but, given the historical record, and given that any such assumption concerns the ultimate nature of the universe – that of which we are most ignorant – it is only reasonable to conclude that it is almost bound to be false.

One way to overcome the fundamental dilemma inherent in the scientific enterprise of having to assume that the universe is comprehensible, is to construe science as making a hierarchy of assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, these assumptions asserting less and less as one goes up the hierarchy, thus becoming more and more likely to be true, and more and more such that their truth is required for science, or the pursuit of knowledge, to be possible at all.

At the top of the hierarchy we have the assumption that the universe is such that we can acquire some knowledge of our local circumstances. If this assumption is false, we can gain no knowledge, whatever we assume. We are never, in any circumstances whatsoever, going to want to or need to reject this assumption, even though we have no reasons to suppose that it is true.

As we descend the hierarchy, assumptions become increasingly substantial, and so increasingly likely to be false. One assumption is that the universe is comprehensible in some way or other. There is something – God, cosmic purpose, a cosmic programme, or a physical entity – present at all times in all phenomena, which in some sense determines how things are and what goes on, and in terms of which all phenomena can, in principle, be explained and understood. Next down the hierarchy is the assumption that the universe is physically comprehensible: the universe is such that some true, unified physical ‘theory of everything’ exists to be discovered, in terms of which all physical phenomena can, in principle, be explained. Next down, is an even more specific, substantial assumption, about the nature of the entities postulated by the ‘theory of everything’: that the physical world is made of corpuscles, point-particles, a unified field, quantum strings, or whatever form the building-blocks of everything eventually turns out to take.

In this way a framework of relatively insubstantial, unproblematic, fixed assumptions and associated methods is created at the top of the hierarchy, below which increasingly substantial and problematic assumptions and associated methods can be changed and indeed improved as scientific knowledge improves. Put another way, a framework of relatively unspecific, unproblematic, fixed aims and methods is created below which much more specific and problematic aims and methods evolve as scientific knowledge evolves. There is positive feedback between improving knowledge and improving aims and methods, improving knowledge about how to improve knowledge. In this way, science adapts its own nature to what it discovers about the nature of the universe.

This is the methodological key to the unprecedented success of science. It is therefore in terms of this hierarchical, aim-oriented empiricist conception of science that we need to conceive of the progress-achieving methods of science. In failing to construe science in this way, the Enlightenment committed its first blunder.

The 2nd and 3rd Blunders of the Enlightenment

Having failed to identify the methods of science correctly, the philosophes naturally failed to generalise these methods correctly. Specifically, they failed to appreciate that the idea of representing the problematic aims and associated methods of science in the form of a hierarchy can be generalised and applied fruitfully to other worthwhile enterprises besides science. Many other enterprises with problematic aims would benefit from employing a hierarchical methodology generalised from that of science, thus making it possible to improve their own aims and methods as the enterprise proceeds. There is the hope that in this way, some of the astonishing success of science might be exported into other worthwhile endeavours with quite different aims.

Third, and most disastrously of all, the philosophes completely failed to apply such generalised progress-achieving methods to the immense and profoundly problematic task of making social progress towards an enlightened, wise world. The aim of such an enterprise is notoriously problematic. For all sorts of reasons, what constitutes a good world, an enlightened, wise or civilised world, attainable and genuinely desirable, must be inherently and permanently problematic. So here above all, it is essential to employ a generalised version of the progress-achieving methods of science, designed specifically to facilitate progress when basic aims are problematic.

How To Create A Wise Society

In short, properly implementing the Enlightenment idea of learning from scientific progress how to achieve social progress towards an enlightened world would involve developing social inquiry primarily as social methodology, not primarily as social science. A basic task would be to get progress-achieving methods, generalized from those of science, into personal and social life, so that actions, policies and ways of life may be developed and assessed in life somewhat as theories are assessed in science. The task would be to get these methods, designed to improve problematic aims, into other institutions besides science – into government, industry, agriculture, commerce, the media, law, education, international relations. A basic task for academic inquiry would be to help humanity learn how to resolve its conflicts and problems of living in more just, cooperatively rational ways than at present. This task would be intellectually more fundamental than the scientific task of acquiring knowledge. Social inquiry would be intellectually more fundamental than physics. Academic thought would be pursued as a specialised, subordinate part of what is really important and fundamental: the thinking that goes on, individually, socially and institutionally, in the social world, guiding individual, social and institutional actions and life. The fundamental intellectual and humanitarian aim of inquiry would be to help humanity acquire wisdom – wisdom being the capacity to realise, that is, apprehend and create, what is of value in life, for oneself and for others. Wisdom thus includes knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides.

Academia would seek to learn from, educate, and argue with the world beyond it, but it would not dictate. Ideally, academia would have sufficient power (but no more) to retain its independence from government, industry, the press, public opinion, and other centres of power and influence. If it pursues this course, academia would become a kind of people’s civil service, doing openly for the public what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments. Academia would seek to help humanity realize what is of value in life by intellectual, technological and educational means.

One important consequence flows from the point that the basic aim of inquiry would be to help us discover what is of value, namely that our feelings and desires would have a vital rational role to play within the intellectual domain of inquiry. If we are to discover for ourselves what is of value, then we must attend to our feelings and desires. But not everything that feels good is good, and not everything that we desire is desirable. Rationality requires that feelings and desires take fact, knowledge and logic into account, just as it requires that priorities for scientific research take feelings and desires into account. In insisting on this kind of interplay between feelings and desires on the one hand, and knowledge and understanding on the other, the conception of inquiry that we are considering resolves the conflict between Rationalism and Romanticism, and helps us to acquire what we need if we are to contribute to building civilization: mindful hearts and heartfelt minds.

If the Enlightenment revolution had been carried through properly, the three steps indicated above being correctly implemented, the outcome would have been a kind of academic inquiry very different from what we have at present. We would possess what we so urgently need, and at present so dangerously and destructively lack: institutions of learning well-designed from the standpoint of helping us create a better, wiser world.

© Nicholas Maxwell 2015

Nicholas Maxwell, Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science at University College London, is the author of How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution, published by Imprint Academic. For more, see

Wisdom is understanding how to apply Knowledge in the real world. Wisdom is . Wisdom is something you learn through activity in the world. It must be.

Knowledge you learn. Wisdom you earn.

how to learn wisdom

These are the words of wisdom I wish I knew when I was younger. Feel free to skip the introduction by clicking on this interlink: 11 Wise Lessons. What’s the difference between intelligence and wisdom? Personally, I associate intelligence not only with the utilization of knowledge to find solutions to tricky problems but also with the capacity for abstract thought or the comprehension of complex issues. Wisdom, on the other hand, appears to be entirely different than everything intelligence stands for. It is much more intuitive, rather than based on pure logic as intelligence mostly is. I’m a fairly young person, so why do I think I have any important pearls of wisdom or wise lessons about life to share at all? “Is he that self-opinionated?” one might think. During my life, I had the very honorable experience of getting in touch with a huge variety of people, from all different kinds of backgrounds.

I’ve talked to the elderly and the young had discussions with people that were about to die as well as those who lost a beloved one. But many – if not most – of the wisdom and lessons I would like to share with you came from my personal experience, for instance from the time when my life was hanging by a thread – the time I had hit rock bottom.

Lessons that life teaches us

I am, however, not perfect and all-knowing, which is why I would like to invite you to share your wisdom in the comment section below. Everyone has important wisdom for life to share, don’t be shy and tell us about your wise lessons! I will integrate your statement into this article when time permits.

Solomon Ibn Gabriol


The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening, the third memory, the fourth practice, the fifth teaching others.
Solomon Ibn Gabriol

Before we get to the interesting part of this article, I think it might be helpful to define what wisdom really is.

Wikipedia describes Wisdom as “a deep understanding [ … ] resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action.

Wisdom is difficult to teach. The intelligent can learn, comprehend, understand and meet rational decisions based on logic. A wise person knows out of experience. It is the inner knowing what to do in a given situation. In some cases, the decision that is met appears to be irrational, but more often than not it turns out to be the right thing to do. The wise person knows from within, supported by the insights gained from a reflective disposition.

Wisdom of Life

11 Wise Lessons about life …

… and the essential wisdom to be prepared for life. Doesn’t it all revolve around the question: What is important to you in life? Maybe you have already a definite answer to the question – in which case I would like to congratulate you. But if not, I hope the important virtues of wisdom and the many lessons in life that I’m sharing with you will inspire you when deciding what is important to you. I’m also including quotes of wisdom or wisdom sayings to each of the following essential lessons of life:

#1 There’s a lesson to be learned in everything you experience

Edward Young


On every thorn, delightful wisdom grows.
In every rill a sweet instruction flows.
Edward Young

Everything you undergo teaches you a lesson. The question is: Do you have the courage to discover what lesson was taught? Are you brave enough to make use of the wisdom you gained?

Life can be really tough, especially in times of coping with setbacks and failures. But I know from experience: everything that happens teaches a lesson – whether you like the lection or not. Often, it took me months to let go of the (ego-based) grief, self-pity, and anger about what had happened. But once that work was done it gave way to a reflective approach to discovering the valuable insights and wisdom that were taught.

Remember that this process takes a lot of time. Wise lessons might not immediately catch your attention, but they will come as very profound realizations once you are ready to comprehend them. With the insight that time provides, you will be able to accept the situation and be courageous enough to let go of anger and bitterness. Only then, with an impartial point of view, profound but wise lessons can be drawn from the things that happened to you, hence increasing your knowledge about the important wisdom about life.

#2 Happiness comes from within

Abraham Lincoln


People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

No one is in charge of your happiness but you. No one has the responsibility to make you happy. It is a very common misconception to believe things that lie outside of ourselves can make us happy. If you ask an unhappy person what it would take to make them happier, they will most likely enumerate the many (material) things that lie beyond their grasp. What they do not realize is the profound wisdom that true happiness comes from within. People think abundance can make them happy. We associate the possession of luxurious cars, big mansions and the many other tangibles this materialistic world has to offer with happiness.

But the reality is: If you aren’t able to appreciate what you already have, you will never be able to be truly and profoundly happy for a longer period of time, even if all your material wishes came true. It is the wisdom that comes from personal experience that has shown many people that one will never be fully satisfied by the accumulation of fancy tangibles.

If you make your happiness dependent on external influences, you set up a barrier that prevents you from discovering the happiness that lies within you. In such a case, you would be trying to fill an emptiness within you that cannot be filled with things from the outside.

#3 Anger is self-destructive

Buddha wisdom


Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

Anger is destructive in nature. It makes people forget all the good qualities that characterize them as human beings. Anger turns people into instinct driven animals that are blinded by their aggression. And in this state of being it so happens that we tend to do evil things we painfully regret later. Retrospectively I would say that by holding on to anger, I harmed myself the most. The very wise lesson stated by Buddha brings it to the point: Your anger and hatred will hurt you the most, which is quite an important wisdom for life, I think.

#4 Forgiveness will set you free, but revenge not

Thomas Szasz


The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.
Thomas Szasz

Forgiveness is the characteristic of the strong. It really takes a lot of strength to forgive and to let go of the hurt. The alternative to forgiving is vengeance, but it will not help you to reduce the pain. Revenge – to me – is simply not the right way to let go of the emotional baggage I carry around when someone hurt me. In the end, the realization prevails that there’s no difference between you and the person that hurt you if you opt for revenge. The process of forgiving is essential to be able to let go of the hurt. Forgiveness can set you free. It can help you in releasing the built-up resentment and the emotional baggage you carry around. Life is too short to waste your time with hatred.

#5 Regret is more painful than failure

John Whittier


Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’
John Greenleaf Whittier

Throughout our lives, we are mostly worried about things that won’t happen anyway. We are afraid of failure when in reality the regret about not having tried can be by far more painful than failure in itself. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you prefer to laugh at all the awkward failures you’ve experienced or to regret all the missed opportunities you rejected out of fear of failure. To me, failure is an inevitable aspect of my life. A “challenge” if you so want that I will have to face every once in a while. With it comes the realization and wisdom that the only fool-proof way to avoid any kind of failure is to not try at all. The attempt to avoid failure at any cost – by not trying – is an irreversible mistake, which I regard as the worst failure of all.

The most common regrets of the dying:

  • I wish I hadn’t spend so much time working
  • I wish I had stayed in contact with my friends/family
  • I wish I had spend more time with my children
  • I wish I hadn’t tried to please everyone
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express what I was feeling

 #6 Money is just paper with numbers on

Ann Radcliffe


How strange is it, that a fool or knave, with riches, should be treated with more respect by the world, than a good man, or a wise man in poverty.
Ann Radcliffe

I think most of us will agree that money is essential to survive in this modern world. It takes no wisdom or really wise lesson to realize that. We all need enough money to support our living, to afford housing and to feed our families. The question is, do you really want to coordinate your whole life to the one and only goal of acquiring as much money as possible? Do you really want to stuff your life with gadgets and other things you won’t really need anyways? Money is nothing more than a lot of coins and notes with numbers on. It doesn’t buy you happiness; it doesn’t buy you time that was lost and it will not take care of you when you are in need. Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

The pearls of wisdom I’ve drawn from my experience is that no matter if you’re a billionaire or broke, at the point of death you’ll lose all your money and tangibles, but no one can take the wonderful experiences you carry in your heart.

#7 Other people’s mistakes are lessons for you, too

A wise man learns by the mistakes of others, a fool by his own.
Latin Proverb

When I was a child I sometimes had the feeling that my parents “punished” me for mistakes others committed. When someone did something very stupid, you can bet that I got a lecture about it as well. Nowadays, I know better of course. They taught me to learn from other people’s mistakes, even though I did not realize that for a very long time. I believe that even though we learn a lot more from our own mistakes, learning from other people’s mistakes helps us to stay out of a lot of trouble. There’s an old saying, “Learn from other people’s mistakes because you don’t have time to make them all yourself” – and it perfectly fits here.

#8 Bending over backward will break your spine

Lao Tzu


Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
Lao Tzu

What other people think of you should be none of your business. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and you cannot change what others think of you anyways. Take notice of criticism and be thankful for feedback, but think about how much emphasis you want to put onto what other people think of you. The moment you begin to bend over backward for others, by trying to please everyone, you will lose much of your integrity; it will figuratively break your spine. You can put a mask on in order to influence what other people think about you, but sooner or later, though, they will get a glimpse of what lies behind. Stay true to yourself and there is nothing for you to regret. If you spend all your time seeking validation, gaining respect and approval from others, then you’ll eventually forget who you really are.

Another wise lesson I had to learn the hard way is that every person is on a different journey – in terms of their personal and spiritual development but also in regards to the level of knowledge and wisdom they have acquired so far. With this wisdom comes the realization that you will not be able to force them to go down a specific path. Convincing them of doing so, or trying to change someone’s opinion who has already made up his mind is a waste of your energy. Eventually, they will discover this path/knowledge for themselves.

#9 Connecting with yourself is worthwhile (above anything else)

William Hazlitt


The seat of knowledge is in the head, of wisdom, in the heart.
William Hazlitt

People externalize because they have no trust in themselves. Instead of taking responsibility by taking action they wait for someone else to do it for them. It is the underlying foundation of many people’s lives. It suggests them that they need guru’s show them the right way, politicians to fix their society’s problems. Obviously, this leaves a lot of room for manipulation by those who are entrusted with this power and unfortunately, many people’s high expectations are painfully disappointed more often than not.

Develop a healthy trust in yourself and take responsibility for your life, if you do not want to make your whole life dependent on others. Connect with the inner wisdom that is within you, instead of waiting for others to impose their “truths” upon you. 

#10 Discovering your life’s purpose will give you a meaning

Confucius wisdom

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life

Your life has a purpose. If you had no purpose, you wouldn’t be alive. It’s as simple as that. The difficulty really lies in discovering that life’s purpose, which takes a lot of reflection, thinking and experience. I also believe that a person’s life purpose can change as one gets older. The purpose of your life might have a lot do to with your passions, and if you seek for the works where you put your whole heart into, you might find some important hints as to what your purpose could be.

#11 Making the best of every situation leads to your triumph

John Wooden


Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.
John Wooden

There are elements in our lives that we can neither change nor influence. I’ve come to the realization that every person on this planet carries a burden on their shoulder, from health-related problems, poverty, strokes of fate to problems with their relatives or partners. And with this realization comes the wise lesson that you may not be able to change certain aspects of your life, but you can always make the best of it. All it takes is acceptance about the situation you find yourself in and the courage to discover the new opportunities that present themselves.

The following articles might also be of interest to you:

This article about the 11 essential lessons for life was presented to you by our personal growth blog.

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Why Wisdom Can’t Be Taught

how to learn wisdom

As revealed to
Marshall Vian Summers
on October 20, 1993
in Boulder, Colorado

About this Text

What you are reading in this text is the transcription of the original voice of the Angelic Assembly as it spoke through the Messenger Marshall Vian Summers.

Here, the original communication of God, which exists beyond words, is translated into human language and understanding by the Angelic Assembly who watch over the world. The Assembly then delivers God’s Message through the Messenger, whereafter it is transcribed and made available to you and to all people.

In this remarkable process, the Voice of Revelation is speaking anew. The Word and the Sound are in the world. May you be the recipient of this gift of Revelation and may you be open to receive its unique Message for you and for your life.

Volume 2 > Greater Community Spirituality > Chapter 7

Wisdom is understanding how to apply Knowledge in the real world. Wisdom is cultivated by following Knowledge and by developing skills in the world. It is based upon the cultivation of discernment and discretion, two very fundamental aspects of your education. Let us explore what Wisdom is, and then we shall discuss how it can be developed most effectively.

Wisdom deals with the application of the Greater Power which lives within you at this moment and which seeks to express itself through you. Gaining access to this Greater Power and learning of its grace, its intelligence and your intrinsic relationship with it represent the focal point of your education in life, the highest expression of your purpose and the reclamation of your greatest relationships, both with your Creator and with others who live with you here. Learning how to gain access to Knowledge, how to receive Knowledge, how to accept Knowledge, how to interpret Knowledge, how to apply Knowledge and how to become a vehicle for its expression in life requires the cultivation of Wisdom.

Knowledge lives within you at this moment, but your ability to receive it, to relate to it and to express it requires the development of a whole new understanding and approach to life. Here you are not taken away from the world. Here you are not elevated beyond physical life but are brought into the world with a greater purpose and mission. This purpose and mission remain mysterious. You cannot define them although you can give definition to their expression. However, even their expression cannot capture their full meaning and importance for you and for others.

This requires a different kind of education. Learning to deal with the tangible world in a practical way and to open yourself to the mystery of your life, with reverence and humility, represents a new threshold in learning. It is passing through this threshold and the many thresholds beyond it that will generate Wisdom in your life—the ability to know what must be done and the skill to learn how to do it and how to carry it forward effectively.

Wisdom, then, represents the ability to translate Knowledge into the finite world. This is your function—to be a vehicle for creativity and creation. This is the highest expression of your mind and your body—to be vehicles for the Greater Power that lives within you, which represents the essential and immortal aspect of yourself and of everyone who lives here. Wisdom is an experience, an experience of openness and recognition, an experience of being in contact with two realities simultaneously—the reality of your physical life in the world and the reality of your divine life, your spiritual life, which represents your intrinsic relationship with God and with all of God’s messengers.

Becoming an intermediary represents an expression of real purpose in life. However, this requires a very unique kind of skill. It requires a remarkable openness to certain things while distancing yourself from many other things, for you cannot be open to everything at once. There are many things that are competing for your attention, and there are many things that will overwhelm you should you open yourself to them. There are many kinds of relationships available to you and many kinds of involvements with people. Where you place yourself and what you open yourself to is an expression of your development in Wisdom.

Here we must speak of discernment and discretion. Discernment is knowing what something is, as it truly exists at this moment. Discretion is the ability to hold Wisdom within yourself, to hold an awareness within yourself without sharing it with others inappropriately. Discernment is knowing what you are dealing with. Discretion is knowing how to communicate with it. Both of these require the willingness to be instructed, the willingness to learn, and the willingness to revise or unlearn things that have proven to be counter-productive for you. This requires restraint. This also requires that you hold in abeyance many of your needs—the need for recognition, the need for validation, the need to express yourself, the need to be accepted by others, the need to overcome your adversaries, the need to be unique or special and the need to have all of your wishes fulfilled. These needs must be overcome in order for you to have this greater presence of mind and security in life.

With Wisdom you will know the right thing to say to the right person in the right place at the right time. Until you are with the right person in the right place at the right time, you remain silent and observant, without condemning yourself or anyone else. Here you wait for that moment when your gift must be delivered, and you are prepared to give it in whatever form is appropriate. You may have to wait a very long time for this moment and exercise tremendous patience and forbearance. The ability to do this represents Wisdom—knowing what something is and knowing how to deal with it effectively.

Wisdom is not something that you possess alone. It represents a relationship—your relationship with the Greater Power in your life and with Creation itself. Wisdom must be able to guide and instruct you in areas which are beyond your understanding and capacity. Your understanding and capacity are growing slowly. While you are integrating this learning and understanding, you must be open to be shown things and to have things demonstrated to you.

Here you learn to rely upon Knowledge within you and upon Knowledge in the universe, which is God. Here you do not need to rely upon your fears, your passions, your needs or your compulsions, or upon the needs or compulsions of others. Now, you are governed by a true and Greater Power within you and are not swayed and dominated by the vacillating wishes and interests of the world around you. This represents freedom. This is what it means to overcome the world—to have a new foundation in life and a greater authority, which is your true authority in life, and to become an authority for your own mind and your own body. Then, everything is set in the correct proportion—your body, your mind, your spirit, your Creator. All are set in the right relationship, each with its proper range of authority. Do not think for a moment that you will be weak, helpless or passive in this relationship. Indeed, you will be asked to assume greater responsibilities and a greater authority in your life than you had ever considered possible.

Governing your body and your mind is certainly a great challenge. It calls upon Knowledge, which is the very essence of who you are, to guide and to manage your activities effectively. You are the captain of your ship, and you must manage everything that occurs within it. However, you do not assume to direct your ship, to justify it or to determine its origin or its destiny. This must come from a Greater Power because this responsibility is beyond your capacity. Being in right relationship with your body, your mind, your being and the being of life itself, which is God, represents Wisdom.

We cannot give you a simple definition of what Wisdom means, for it is too great for this. Anything that is great and meaningful in life is beyond definition. What can be done here is to describe its aspects and its expressions in different ways. You have experienced Wisdom before in those moments when a greater understanding overtook you, when you found yourself experiencing a remarkable objectivity and openness, a clear vision and a directed mind. Perhaps this was only for a moment. Perhaps you clicked into it and then clicked out of it, but within this moment you had an experience of Wisdom and an experience of how to be in the world.

Knowledge and Wisdom are different although they are related. Knowledge is complete and intrinsic within you. As a student of Knowledge, you learn to gain access to Knowledge, to learn of its meaning and purpose in life and to reclaim your relationship with it, your union with it and your mission with it. Wisdom is something you learn through activity in the world. It must be learned. Knowledge cannot be learned; it can only be reclaimed. Wisdom is something that you learn. It is relevant to your life here. Knowledge is relevant to your life everywhere. In other words, Knowledge is already complete within you, and you are learning to come into proximity to it and to reclaim your relationship with it. Wisdom is something that you develop as you go along. It is a set of skills in learning how to be in the world. It is related to your worldly experience, and in that regard it is temporary.

The ability to experience Knowledge and the ability to experience greater purpose, meaning and direction in life rest upon the cultivation of Wisdom. Here a partial understanding is indeed dangerous, for you may know one thing, but what you know is incomplete, and you may be tempted to use it for selfish purposes, for self-defense, for acquisition or for domination over others. Without real Wisdom and the understanding of how to use what you know, Knowledge will remain latent within you and will not become an effective force in life. This is why the reclamation of Knowledge is slow and why it is a very gradual process with many steps in learning. You must understand and integrate what you know and allow it to direct your life very slowly. It does not happen all at once, for you do not yet have the desire or the capacity for Knowledge in a complete sense. This desire and capacity must be gained gradually over time.

Knowledge will change your life and give you a new foundation, a new understanding and a new vision. It will change the direction of your thinking and give you a whole new set of ideas upon which to build a new and greater understanding and ability in life. This represents fundamental change, change at the very center of your being in the world. It must happen gradually because it rests upon Wisdom, which is the ability and understanding of how to be in life and how to be a medium in life for a Greater Power and a Greater reality.

Becoming wise in human affairs seems to be a formidable task in and of itself. However, becoming wise in dealing with life in the Greater Community represents a whole new threshold in learning and a greater challenge and opportunity for you. Here we are not speaking only of human life, where Wisdom is being applied in a very limited context. We are speaking of the Greater Community, which is a much greater context for you. This offers many new challenges and places a greater requirement upon you to learn The Greater Community Way of Knowledge and to develop the Wisdom necessary to experience it and to express it.

Why is Wisdom important for you? Because it will harmonize your life. It will establish the priorities of your life and bring you back into right relationship with yourself and with everyone around you. Consider these words. Consider how great this gift is and how essential it is for your well-being, your advancement and your contribution in life.

What could we offer you that is greater than this? We could offer you heaven itself, but heaven is what you will find when you go home to your Spiritual Family. What you need now is to gain a real foundation for living in the world and to discover the real purpose which you have brought with you from your Ancient home. This is what you need while you are in the world. Here you must find the right people in your life that you will need. Here you must develop an understanding of how to carry Knowledge and Wisdom in a world that cannot recognize Knowledge and Wisdom and does not even want them necessarily.

Your gift is meant only for certain people in certain situations, and even these people must be ready for your gift. Everyone else can help you in mundane ways, but your gift is meant for certain people. Knowledge will speak to them but will remain silent with everyone else. Perhaps this will only be one or two people in your life. Perhaps it will be hundreds or thousands. You cannot dictate this; you can only accept it and learn what it means.

Who you need to communicate with and what you need to offer are determined by your nature and design in the world, which give real meaning to your individuality. You as an individual are designed to fit within the context of life as it is and as it will be. But can you hold yourself back and learn to wait for those special moments to give yourself to those unique people that you are destined to be engaged with? Can you allow a Greater Power to express itself through you without trying to use it to fulfill your needs or your ambitions? Can you be this open and receptive? Can you be this patient? Can you have this forbearance? Can you hold yourself back or stop yourself from becoming engaged with people for other reasons and purposes?

Beyond the mundane requirements of your life, you need only adhere to this Greater Power and its mission, realizing that its meaning and purpose in life far exceed your understanding. However, you can experience what this Greater Power means for you individually. It represents a fundamental experience for you. It cannot be given to you all at once. You do not yet have the capacity for it, and you do not yet have the Wisdom to experience it or to express it.

Knowledge and purpose in life will indeed seem a great burden to you until you can learn to position yourself with them correctly and become a vehicle for their expression in a constructive way. Life gives many demonstrations of people who experienced something with great meaning but could not express it or contribute it in a constructive way. They tried to use it to gain power or advantage. They tried to use it to attack others. Irresponsible leadership, fanaticism, demagoguery—all of these things are expressions of the great error of attempting to have Knowledge without Wisdom, of attempting to know something without knowing how to carry it in life.

How do you develop Wisdom? This requires a preparation, an association with those people who can share this preparation with you and a commitment to contribute the fruits of your preparation to those people who need it. This will take time, for you must learn many important lessons along the way. You cannot rush out and have this experience with whomever you want. You cannot apply it to solve every problem that you see. You cannot use it to validate yourself or to justify your involvements with others. Here you must have faith and great patience with your preparation. And as we have faith and great patience with you, you must also learn to have faith and great patience with others. You must wait for them as we must wait for you.

This faith and patience, along with your preparation, will enable you to bring a greater Wisdom and a greater understanding into the thousand involvements of your everyday life. This is Wisdom—knowing how to do what you came here to do. It will take a lifetime for you to learn this completely, as it will take a lifetime for you to fully learn how to express what you came here to do. Can you be patient and have a great understanding grow, step by step, stage by stage? Can you wait and allow your life to become clear and evident to you, without trying to fill in all the gaps, without trying to assign value where value has not yet been realized and without trying to use your growing understanding as a means to fulfill all of your desires? This is the great challenge in education: to learn what is important, to learn what is unimportant and to be able to tell them apart in all of their manifestations.

You may think you can know everything or have access to all Knowledge, but if you cannot undergo the preparation, if you cannot carry the responsibility, if you cannot patiently learn to express Knowledge correctly and appropriately with the right people at the right time, then your awareness will become a great and intolerable burden for you. It will disassociate you from the world rather than enable you to come into the world as a representative of a Greater reality.

Ambition in learning can be very destructive here. Many have failed because of it. We want to safeguard you against failure. We want you to take the slow and careful path of learning. Many have failed in attempting to learn greater Knowledge and Wisdom. In the attempt to learn Greater Community Knowledge and Wisdom, many will fail as well. They will fail because of their impatience. They will fail because of their ambitions. They will fail because of their unwillingness to learn the essential lessons and to integrate themselves correctly and appropriately according to their nature and to the greater truth which they are attempting to realize and to express. They will fail because they will associate with the wrong people in the wrong ways. They will fail because they will attempt to use the truth themselves, without allowing the truth to guide and to direct them correctly. They will fail because they have not yet learned to discern the voices within themselves and the relationships that surround them. And they will fail because they are indiscreet, because they say things to the wrong people at the wrong time. All of these lead to failure.

To safeguard against this failure, you must learn a Greater Community Way of Knowledge. This provides the slow and sure way while others rush by you attempting to have what you are learning to have, attempting to be what you are learning to be and attempting to understand what you are learning to understand. You must take the slow and steady path. This will assure your success. If you follow the steps to Knowledge, you will learn the way to Knowledge. However, if you rush ahead or if you make outrageous assumptions about your abilities or about your role in life, then you will falter and fail. The one who is taking the real steps to Knowledge and is learning them correctly will pass you by. And you will become broken down by the side of the road, unable to participate and unable to move forward.

All education has the risk of failure and misappropriation. Therefore, you must learn The Way of Knowledge and you must learn The Way of Wisdom, which is how to carry Knowledge in the world. Wisdom requires many things, and these things take time to develop. You must take this time to develop and not try to control the learning process or make outrageous assumptions about what you can do, what you have and who you are. Who you are must be revealed to you over time, through demonstration. What you have must be revealed to you over time, through demonstration. And who sent you here and what mission you are a part of must be demonstrated to you over time.

These things will be demonstrated through contrast—the growing contrast between the experience of Knowledge and the experience of being without Knowledge, the contrast between the experience of acting with Wisdom and the experience of acting without Wisdom, and the contrast between acting with certainty and acting with ambition. Learning this contrast will set you apart and give you a new foundation in the world. To serve humanity in a real way, you must be set apart from its foolishness and from its errors, from its fears and from its aggressions. You cannot go where everyone else is going and have any possibility of learning the real purpose and meaning of your life. Realizing the contrast between this and what everyone else is doing or appears to be doing will enable you to become wise.

Therefore, commit yourself to learning the way to Knowledge. Commit yourself to taking the steps to Knowledge. And commit yourself to learning how to wisely receive Knowledge and how to carry this greater power, ability and relationship in your life. If you move too fast, you will falter. If you move too slowly, you will falter. Over time you will find your pace in learning, and then you will be able to increase your pace and accelerate your advancement. You cannot do this based upon your will, your wishes or your ambitions. You must do this based upon a growing understanding and ability within yourself. Knowledge will indicate how fast you can go, and Knowledge will enable you to accelerate your pace as your learning increases and expands.

Knowledge is your foundation now, not your mind. Your mind will find its proper engagement in learning to deal with the particulars of life and in learning to solve little problems. However, fulfilling your greater needs and your greater requirements and finding your greater destiny and your greater relationships with other people—all of these must be guided by a Greater Power within you that represents your true nature and association with all life. This is Knowledge. Yet being able to receive Knowledge, to accept its benefits, to carry out its greater responsibilities and to meet its greater opportunities requires a new approach to life. It requires a new way of being in the world, a new foundation for relating to others, a new experience of yourself, a new sense of being in time, a new experience of having a body and a new sense of having responsibilities to the world and to those who sent you here. Together these represent Wisdom—the art of being in life with a great purpose and a great mission.

Consider these words, but do not think that you can fully understand them. These words are meant to take you into The Way of Knowledge, not to define The Way of Knowledge. You must make the journey, not simply try to understand it. You cannot understand it until you make the journey yourself. Making the journey is a path of learning Wisdom. As your Wisdom grows, as you gain this new foundation, this new ability and this new experience in life, Knowledge will emerge within you. And you will be able to receive it, to follow it and to express it with those people for whom it is intended, according to your nature and design and according to the greater purpose that you are learning to serve.

Jun 14, 2012 By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience.

Can The World Learn Wisdom?

how to learn wisdom

A recent PBS documentary about China began with these words boldly appearing on the screen:

By three methods, we may learn wisdom:

First, by reflection, which is noblest;

Second, by imitation, which is easiest;

And third, by experience, which is the bitterest.


The documentary focuses on the rapid modernization that China has experienced and will continue to pursue. Confucius’s words serve as an effective guidepost when attempting to come to terms with the new China: We can reflect upon changes in the country, perhaps compare China’s situation with similar situations, see what unfolds because of the changes, and so on.

Without taking too much of a leap, it struck me that this quotation could serve as the guidepost and/or inspiration for an effective writing program as well. Here’s how I would apply it:

First, by reflection, which is noblest

An effective writing program must provide students with many opportunities to engage in personal writing—or writing that allows them to make sense of their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions. Personal writing can take many forms—journal writing, blog writing, personal narratives, personal essays, poetry, and so on. These forms of writing naturally allow students to reflect. Reflection should also be an important feature of any academic writing assignment. After students complete an expository essay, a persuasive essay, or a literary analyses, they should be asked to reflect upon their writing experience: What do they like best about their writing? What didn’t turn out quite as well as they would have liked? What did they learn from this writing? What will they do differently next time? Confucius calls reflecting the “noblest” method of gaining wisdom. Certainly this holds true with writing because what could be nobler than having students think and write for themselves?

Second, by imitation, which is easiest

Skilled writing teachers regularly share with their students well-made writing samples—from short passages to complete articles, narratives, and stories. After a discussion of a particular sample, writing teachers often ask their students to develop their own writing, following the level of detail, structure, voice, and/or sentence style exhibited in the original. This type of writing helps students appreciate the skills of accomplished writers, and it gives them new ways to express themselves in their own writing.

Imitating can also be done on the “quick and easy” by simply writing a well-made sentence on the board and having students write their own version following the structure of the original. If done on a daily basis, this activity can expand the students’ understanding of writing at the sentence level. (See “Daily Sentence Workouts.”)

Confucius calls imitating the “easiest” method of gaining wisdom. Again, this basically holds true when students are writing to imitate because they are following the lead established by someone else (although, I must admit, imitating is not always as easy as it first appears).

And third, by experience, which is bitterest

A third element of an effective writing program is to give students plenty of opportunities to write to share and write to show learning. When students write to share, they are developing articles, essays, stories, poems, and plays for a specific audience (their classmates, family members) or for a specific purpose (entering to a writing contest, submitting to a Web site).

Students write to show learning when they develop academic essays addressing concepts covered in particular content areas and when they answer essay questions on tests. Writing to share or show learning requires a great deal of careful planning, writing, and revising (except, of course, when answering test questions when there is very little time to work).

Confucius calls experiencing the “bitterest” method of gaining wisdom. Certainly writing to share and writing to show learning can lead to disappointment or rejection if, in fact, the students’ finished pieces are not well received (which doesn’t happen very often), not favorably assessed, or not accepted for publication. The hope is that students learn from these experiences and strive to do better on their next writings. That’s when wisdom is gained.

The Bottom Line: If you’re new and interested in building a writing program, consider reflection, imitation, and experience as important aspects to address. If you’ve been around awhile, ask yourself if your students get enough exposure to each one. If not, it may be time to make some changes.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: How to Learn More - Gain Knowledge and Wisdom

learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is the noblest;. Second, by imitation, which is easiest;. Third, by experience, which is the bitterest.-- Confucius. Rhonda.

how to learn wisdom
Written by Takasa
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