There is an ageless wisdom of life. It does not belong to any single religion, philosophy, culture or tradition. It is the accumulated wisdom of sages and enlightened people throughout history. It contains an understanding of nature, human nature, society and about the self. Because it does not belong to any group, there is no dogma that is imposed upon anyone. One takes the truth that one discovers. The famous writer, Aldous Huxley, wrote of this wisdom:
“Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.” (Perennial Philosophy, p. 1)
The principles of the wisdom are available for anyone to study and apply, although parts of it are necessarily hidden from the average person. It has been validated by thousands of years of experience as well as by modern research. Unfortunately, much of it is not well-known and not being taught in schools in view of powerful prevailing religious beliefs or societal culture. It is sometimes referred to as the Perennial Philosophy, Prisca Theologia or Theosophy. Elements of it are found in mystical Christianity, Mahayana Buddhism, Sufism, Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, etc. It covers important essential knowledge that we need in order to navigate life wisely, whether in mundane living or in the higher spiritual life. It has important impact on parenting and education as well as social and political developments.
Some people are afraid to study these things because they think it goes against their religious beliefs. This is an unfounded fear. One is free to reject any theory or proposition if it does not ring true to oneself. But if it does, then we must not be afraid to acknowledge it even if it goes contrary to something that we were taught since childhood. The object of learning is to find truth, regardless of the name or label through which we discover it.
What are important elements of this ageless wisdom that are useful for the average person?
First is a knowledge of who we are. Many people think that we are just this body, that our thoughts are the chemical or electrical byproducts of our brain, and that after death, we turn to dust and nothing else. This is almost certainly untrue, and there are evidences for it.
Second is our origin and destiny. Where did we come from and where are we going after death? Insights into this question will help explain why we are here and what we are supposed to do. But how do we know with some degree of certainty that the answer to this difficult question is true or not? We initially study about alternative doctrines or theories, weigh their reasonableness, and see if there are researches and reliable evidences regarding this matter. Is the soul created at birth as Christians believe or have we lived before in previous lives as eastern religions assert? Do we go to heaven and hell after death or are we born into a future body and face the consequences of our previous actions? This and other related questions are things we must think about deeply, because it will affect the way that we plan our lives.
Third is, after we have assessed the maps of life and believe that we have a better understanding of life’s terrain, then we now decide on what kind of a life we should live, what are the values and principles that should guide us. We clarify what will be our priorities in our lives. These will serve as our life compass. It gives us confidence in our life directions especially during times of doubt and confusion. Such an assessment will affect the way we live and the way we look at money, business or profession.
Finally, once we are clearer about how to live and what to live for, then we must answer the question: how do we carry them out in our life effectively? This is about self-mastery — the development of habits, capacities and skills that will enable us to achieve our highest values and goals.
When life is effectively guided by the above principles, then our thoughts and actions will produce consequences characterized by inner peace, happiness and meaningfulness.