There are things that have been transmitted by reliable informants, but only in a summary way. The clarification of practical wisdom consists in showing people how to discover them in their own personal experience.
What this quote is referring to is that all the great scriptures of humanity lay out a picture of reality, what we are, what reality is, what our relationship or ideal relationship to that reality is, and some of the ground rules of relating to that reality if we’re going to be right with what we are and right with what reality is and fulfill the purpose that we’re all here for. But the phrase “in a summary way” means that the real details of how to really live that aren’t there. So you go to church and you hear, here’s how it is. Here’s what God said. But how do you really negotiate that and make that happen in your life? As opposed to here’s this thing you’re supposed to do and you just jump from where you’re at into that place. It’s no different than if you have a New Year’s resolution. How do you jump from the New Year’s resolution to actually making that happen? You have all this great intention and a concept of what you want to change about yourself or what you want to experience but what’s the nuts and bolts of really making that happen.
So the clarification of practical wisdom is, what are the nuts and bolts of getting at what is being said in a summary way in all these traditions?
It’s called the unity of knowledge. “What I have learned as a Sufi is something that man cannot credit because of what he has already been taught. The easiest thing to grasp in Sufism is one of the most difficult for the ordinary thinker. It is this – all religious presentations are varieties of one truth and all the different dimensions of that truth more or less distorted. This truth manifests itself in various peoples who become jealous of it, not realizing that its manifestation accords with their needs. “ This is a very crucial line.
All the religious models and expressions that we’ve been exposed to both from the west (the ones we grew up with), and the ones that we’ve imported from the East, all developed in particular milieus and climates. They all grew out of an understanding and direct experience of certain fundamental truths, but they intersected people on the mountain where those people were. The Truth is there on high to aspire to, the essence of what we are and the essence of what reality is. If you say there’s some kind of pinnacle experience of really getting in the right relationship to what am I and what is God, and humanity is creeping up that mountain toward that pinnacle, then different cultures are at different places at different times.
But each one of those religious expressions or scriptural prescriptions was addressed to where people were on that mountain at that point in time, basically cultural adaptations to address where is somebody is at and how do they move from where they are to the next stage. Often times when we look at it or we experience it, all the details of that cloud the essence of what all those different traditions share in common.