Wisdom, Madness and Folly
“And I gave my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this was also a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much grief and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccl 1:17-18).
Image 67This needs to be understood. What is the connection between wanting to know wisdom, something which seems admirable, and wanting to know madness and folly, which is usually seen as less desirable? What does ‘a striving after wind’ mean and how does this relate to the persuit of wisdom, madness and folly? How are grief and sorrow associated with wisdom and knowledge? And if grief or sorrow are increased with its attaininment, why would anyone choose to seek to attain knowledge or wisdom?
To get to any sense of what is meant, we will need to go to the original Hebrew and explore what the etymology and meanings of words used. Tranliterated from the original Hebrew, these two verses would read something like this: ‘I gave my heart to have da’at (knowledge) of chochma (wisdom) and to have da’ata (knowledge) of ho’lailot (madness) and sich’lut ( folly). And my da’at (knowing) informed me that this was also a raion (striving) for ruach (breath, wind, spirit). Because in great chochma (wisdom) is ka-as (vexation, grief, frustration) and increased da’at (knowledge) increases machov (sorrow, heartache, discomfort)”
“And I gave my heart to know wisdom..”
If Solomon gave his heart to attain it, the first lesson that Solomon teaches us, is that to obtain Wisdom, we need to first be in touch with our hearts. To approach the matter of ‘acquiring wisdom’ with the head will only result in information, which masquerades as genuine wisdom. Many people have a great deal of information without seeming to have obtained much wisdom. Information is a poor substitute for the real thing. Information comes from the outside, reinforcing our ego-based materialistic view that we need to fill our inner emptiness by getting something from outside. True wisdom, and the sense of quiet wholeness that this implies, arises from within; and through this centre, we are connected authentically with the world. As with most spiritual teachings, the real journey only begins when we first find our heart and are then willing to listen to and follow where our heart leads. Solomon “..gave his heart” to follow the path of consciousness. He wanted to have the authentic da’at of wisdom, not merely information.
Solomon says he also gave his heart, at the same time, to know ho’lailot and sich’lut.
Ho’lailot, in Hebrew, has several meanings. It means to praise, to shine and to give light, and to be mad, crazy, wild and excessive. It is the root of the word “hallelujah”. The connection in these three meanings is found in the concept of ecstasy, the intense experience of being ‘ex stasis’, literally “outside of oneself”, the radiant and selfless state of being with and praising Spirit. The Hebrew word Sich’lut means to be foolish. A individual in a state of ecstatic bliss would usually look like a fool in the view of most people who live in a conventional and inhibited world. Later (2:13) Solomon tells us that wisdom might seem better than foolishness but that in the end, to be authentic, they are mutually interdependent. These experiences – wisdom, ecstasy and foolishness – are interrelated. The kind of wisdom that has no foolishness and god-inspired joyfulness remains ego-information, foolishness without practice and devotion becomes insanity or stupidity and bliss without discipline and humility soon turns into manic inability.
So Solomon, sometimes referred to as the wisest man that ever lived, teaches us that the true path to wisdom and knowledge also includes and implies a journey into experiencing both ecstasy and foolishness, madness and folly, which are basic elements of any authentic Shamanic or conscious undertaking, as is well documented in all Shamanic writings.
“I perceived that this was also a striving after wind.”
Apparently, Solomon’s journey was successful, because the verse then continues with “my knowing informed me” (v’yada’ati, the same word as ‘da’at’) of something else, namely “..this was also a rai’on for ruach.”
The word rai’on means an imagination or compelling idea. The word ruach means wind, breath and also body-spirit. In the work of consciousness, it is by accessing our dreamingbody consciousness, our Imaginal Self, that we find our inspiration. The traditional translation, promoted by rationalist dogma, suggests that this ‘striving after wind’ is a pointless exercise, trying to obtain the unobtainable. King Solomon the Wise teaches us something different. The mundus imaginalis, the ‘world of imagination’ described by the mystics as the meeting place between the human and the divine, is the source of creativity and religious experience and the foundation of a soul-based, rather than an ego-driven, existence.
Solomon came to know that his journey to genuine wisdom was driven by the desire to be a true servant of God. And the excesses and the successes, the humiliations, the rewards, the madness and the mistakes and the love and the joy that will likely be encountered along the way, are really leading us back to God, a humbling experience of wholeness and the interdependence of all of creation.
“Because in great wisdom is a lot of frustration..”
Finally, in the following verse, Solomon informs and even warns us that the attainment of true knowledge and wisdom does not put us in an unrealistic or childish place of eternal happiness, but rather that, along with the attainment of genuine insight comes the understanding that there is a great deal of suffering that is a real part of human existence. Such an awakened consciousness keeps us aware both of our own struggles and the sufferings of others. From our own opened heart, we find compassion and sensitivity to others. This leads to an awareness of what community means to us and demands of us. It is in this realisation that we find genuine and lasting peace.