Human beings have always sought to discover the reality of themselves and the universe. Throughout the ages we find attempts to transcend our ordinary states of consciousness and to understand nature visible and invisible. The results of this adventure of the psyche and spirit are preserved in the various intellectual and spiritual systems of mankind. The findings, impossible to express fully in everyday language, generally take symbolic form, whether in myth, allegory, simile, or numbers.
These traditions relate directly to us today. As James Long writes:
Our greatest hope lies in the fact that Truth does exist. Through the millennia it has come down to us like a river whose source is in the Unknown. At times its current flows strong and clear over the surface of the earth, enriching human hearts. At other times, not finding a channel of receptive minds, it disappears and moves quietly underground, and the soil it once made fertile lies fallow. But always the river flows.
How has this "wisdom of the ages" been passed down to us? Has it not been through the lives and works of the great teachers of the past — the Master Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Confucius, Lao-tz\bu, Plato and others? Each of them labored with one end in view: to revive in the consciousness of man a recognition of his divine potential and to restate the spiritual values embedded in the sacred traditions of antiquity.
How can we discover this truth for ourselves? The Bhagavad-Gita suggests: "Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error. . . . There is no purifier in this world to be compared to spiritual knowledge; and he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time" (ch. 4). This last is particularly significant. Because we are each connected directly to both the inmost and outermost reaches of the cosmos, through our own efforts we can recognize and experience reality in proportion to our ever-growing capacities, and will receive intuitive insights if we open ourselves to them. Whether we immerse ourselves in one particular stream of knowledge, compare a variety of approaches, or simply look within, putting into practice whatever we discover is key: for we must "live the life in order to know the doctrine."
In considering the vast reaches of the wisdom tradition of humanity, only a few points can be touched upon in this Special Issue. Our contributors have each shared a phase of this multifaceted subject that was of particular interest to them. We hope that together these interpretations will provoke thought as well as a desire to examine the spiritual heritage of mankind in greater depth.
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As we are mysteries, so we can be revelations to ourselves. Were a man to seek truth so earnestly as to find his way into his own soul, and discover its mysterious faculties and what armies wait there at his command, he would hold in hand the key to all situations and understand every need of humanity. Every secret of human nature would be clear to him.
For we do not live by philosophic or theological speculations about life, but by the knowledge of life we ourselves have acquired. Truth is not intricate and remote, a thing to be led to by much discussion. It is the reality behind all these outward aspects of life, the eternal purpose ever pressing towards manifestation, that which keeps the stars in place and mankind from self-destruction. Intellect is not enough, nor are even morality and good deeds alone. To make any true advance we must lean upon the wisdom of the heart, which is divine, and have some trust at least in our spiritual nature, some assurance that in our inmost being we are incorruptible — that we have godlike qualities that can be brought into action and can make our minds the vehicles of an immortal self. — Katherine Tingley