Journey of a Seeker: the difference between knowledge and wisdom

Journey of a seeker the difference between knowledge and wisdom

My journey into spirituality started with books – and if memory serves me right, the one that started it all was Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsh. While I have returned to those pages many times over the years, there have, of course, been numerous books along the way – ranging from Doreen Virtue’s angel books to Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Interspersed with these more spiritual, esoteric and woo-woo tomes have been books on philosophy and psychotherapy – ranging from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Ursula K. Guin’s magnificent translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Over the years, I have gone from a mad quest for more books and knowledge to being much more discerning about what I read and slowing down the pace at which I read spiritual/psychology books. Because each of the books that I read offers up a different facet, a different perspective on the meaning of life and living, of spirituality, of the universe and our place and role in it. Through all these words and all the different perspectives, the one big thing I have learnt is this:

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is the difference between consuming and applying. Click To Tweet

The difference between knowledge and wisdom

Each book, article, quote, podcast that we consume offers us some bit of knowledge. When we find a piece that resonates with us, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole in search of more information. As we go down that path, we are bound to find a network of tunnels that will send us running after even more knowledge on a variety of connected topics.

Gaining all of this knowledge is what I equate to consuming. And like consuming, it’s very easy to go overboard, to want more and more and more. All of that consuming only arms us with fancy quotes and snippets of information that can make us appear intelligent, but the consumption and regurgitation of words does not make us wise or spiritually awake.

Equally, we can find a wide variety of ideas and perspectives, some contradictory and some that simply stop resonating with us. But when we are stuck in consuming knowledge, those non-resonant bits start to attack our beliefs like termites. This is when confusion and contradiction come in to rule the roost.

What makes a strong foundation is pivoting from knowledge seeking to wisdom seeking.

True wisdom comes from the application of knowledge – the stopping and thinking and soaking in and questioning of everything that you read and hear and consume. Of doing the work of understanding if this piece of knowledge resonates with you, taking the time to work with it if you feel so called, and to then deciding if you want to build your spiritual house on its foundation. It’s equally important, I have found, to understand why a certain piece of knowledge does not resonate with you. Here, in this simple yet difficult pivot, is where true growth, spiritual awakening, and wisdom lies.

Understanding this difference between knowledge and wisdom is one of the reasons why I made a conscious decision to not share my spiritual reading list on the bookshelf. Because that list of books would help you to gain mere knowledge. It’s the books that are dog-eared and underlined, falling apart at the seams from notes and use, that form the core of your wisdom. And those, I believe, cannot be shared in a pithy list, because they would be different for everyone.

But, I digress. The point here is this:

Mine your knowledge to find the nuggets of wisdom that will inform your life, your outlook, and your beliefs. Your life will be richer and sweeter for it! Click To Tweet
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Posted in Journey of a Seeker, Soulful living and tagged , , , .

43 Comments

  1. wow this is such a rich post, I feel I got so much from this! Both the quotes you shared are so true, I had never thought of it this way before, but you are so right. Thank you so much for linking up with #mg

  2. I haven’t yet indulged into any books relating to spirituality. Wisdom and knowledge are two separate aspects which should never be mistaken for the other. You’ve given a beautiful depiction of what each one stands for. 🙂

    • That’s true, yet it’s so easy to go down the knowledge rabbit hole rather than to sit with an idea and really understand and absorb it before moving onto the next subject. Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  3. The quote about the difference between knowledge and wisdom is moving. Just a thought- It might be the case that committing to one path of spirituality may make it easier to practice while the knowledge of a whole lot of diverse outlooks can muddle up the mind. It can be just my perspective.

    • It could well be the case, but before committing to a path, I think you also need to know the other options available to you. Which is why the allure of gaining more and more knowledge, which eventually muddles the mind unless we take the time to really see if the information rings true for us or not. And sometimes, even after following one path, we can get disillusioned after a while and look for other answers. At that time it’s even more important to go slowly and be more discerning. Just my 2 cents. 🙂

  4. I am a seeker of both and I have run into similar situations with books on spiritually and psychology that have left my head spinning but also left me wanting to know more. In my twenties, I wanted to learn about the many different religions throughout the world and get to know each philosophy but as I did that, it opened up my mind to the point where I can’t be confined to a set religion now. I’ve learned too much, if that is even a thing. I love learning new things but at some point you have to make your own decisions about what you believe in and know how to read between the lines. That leads the way to wisdom. At least for me. #mg

    • Making your own decisions about what you believe in is the key, isn’t it? I’ve found that with all the reading, we sometimes are unable to make our own decisions. And sometimes, we also find opinions that are contradictory – in those cases, if we haven’t already spent some time thinking about what we believe, we can eventually run into trouble! That has been my experience, at least!

  5. I haven’t read books on spirituality yet but I can imagine how deeply they can impact our thought process and make us more wise. And yes, they could mean different things to different people. Loved the quotes.

    • They can have a deep impact on our thoughts for sure! Creating art is also a form of spiritual practice, though – at least in my books! Our art practice is constantly changing us and helping us evolve, isn’t it?

  6. I have read just one spiritual book – it’s the Sai charit manas. The lessons given in that book did affect me to some extent, or I could say they added to my knowledge. However, it was only after experiencing certain things in life and applying those lessons during those situations did I gain the wisdom which was the aim behind reading that book.
    I liked your post and the quotes. Guess, I could come again and read it some time.

    • My father is a Sai devotee – he used to read some paragraphs out from those book to me when I was a child! Experience is one of the greatest teachers – and I also find that your world view helps define your experiences. xx

  7. I love that first quote. Makes so much sense. We’re all so busy consuming that we forget to apply what we’ve read and internalised. I haven’t read books on spirituality. Perhaps it’s time to do so. Will look up the titles you mentioned and see if they strike a chord with me.

    • Yes, we’ve increasingly become a consumption-driven society. And social media just enhances our FOMO, so we consume more and more! Discernment is so important – especially in areas of spirituality, psychology, and philosophy. Hope you find something here that piques your interest! 🙂

  8. Quite a thought provoking article. Odd also that of all the books I have read including Plato and Kant, the first thing that popped into my mind was the Calvin & Hobbs series of cartoons. In terms of ‘wisdom over knowledge’ this would be at the top of my pile – the outlook of a 7 year old boy and his toy tiger. Bizarre – and in no way trite!

  9. Walsh is one of my favourites. Read all of his books 🙂 And I also adore the simple wisdom in Richard Bach’s books. Your point about consumption is true. That’s why my focus these last 2 months has moved more towards creation than consumption. I am writing more, enjoying the process more and spending more time with myself. It’s liberating and wonderful. I hope we all get to apply the principles that we read about , every step of the way.

    • Walsh is brilliant, isn’t he? I love Bach too! Even his flying books have so much beauty. And creation is truly where the fun is! Spending time lost in creating something you love cannot be equaled or surpassed by anything else.

  10. “It’s the books that are dog-eared and underlined, falling apart at the seams from notes and use, that form the core of your wisdom.” This is such a rich post but I especially love that statement. It’s interesting that through the many perspectives, you were able to draw out an overarching message about knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

  11. You highlighted the issue very well. I always share this with people that those who are visiting spiritual guru for insights merely collect and dump it. No one applies. What guru talk about is purely common sense stuff. Nothing new. If we can listen to our inner voice it will enrich our lives.

      • I think there’s a misconception, religion and spirituality are often considered as two sides of a coin whereas you can be spiritual but not religious. One comes from within whereas other one is external force/ influence. Not everyone understands this.

        • Oh, I agree! Spirituality and religion are quite different. And yet, there are lots of spiritual teachers/gurus who want you to surrender to “them” and follow their way only because they are “enlightened” ?

          • We have seen how enlightened these people are… quite some examples from the recent events. You can be enlightened only by yourself.

  12. Love the quote and I’m definitely interested in the books especially Deepak Chopra’s book. Thanks for sharing your perspective, you’ve given me some things to think about. 🙂

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