Each of the handsomely designed, richly illustrated volumes in this uplifting series is devoted to the ageless teachings of one of the world's major religions or cultures. Excerpts from the most eloquent practitioners of the religionbe they poets, philosophers, or spiritual leadersare paired with evocative images, whether paintings, sculptures, or photographs. The volume on Judaism, for instance, is illustrated with paintings by Marc Chagall. Details of Pompeiian frescoes grace the pages of the volume on Ancient Rome. The words of the Buddha are accompained by images that depict important events in his life. The teaching of Jesus are paired with illuminations from the 15th-century Book of Hours of the duc de Berry.
The introduction to each volume provides a concise summary of the basic tenets of the religion or culture and discusses its relevance to our lives today; the philosophy of reconciliation at the heart of the Tao; the Ancient Greeks' continuous and manifold investigation of the world; the reworking, transforming, and "uplifting" of Nature as practiced by the followers of Islam.
As aesthetically pleasing as they are inspiratonal, the books in the The Wisdom Of series offers spiritual guidance and advice for all readers, whatever their personal beliefs may be.
Other Details: 22 full-color illustrations 56 pages 4 1/4 x 4 1/4" Published 1996
Read an Excerpt
As I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know
that ye are my disciples.
To understand Jesus, we would have had to walk with him, step lightly down to the lake. To understand him, we would have had to return to Tiberias, catch our fish for the day there, grill it between two stones, and suddenly feel a hand laid upon our shoulder; after the tiring journey, this was the sign to take a seat.
Then to listen. Not to be surprised if Nature herself grew stillonly those who think of themselves as wise feel unconcerned.
His voice is not as deep as one might think. It bears a trace of his smile, which in no way detracts from the profundity of what is said. His followers didn't understand immediately, yet it is enough to have felt the ocean spray lash one's face to know one must learn how to swim.
His words are like sown seeds, grain tossed into the earth that must survive the winter of our doubts and useless explanations. Then one day, "the Word is made flesh." That is, you understand because you have lived and put into practice what has been said. As if knowledge of love only revealed itself in actsprecise, tender, or proud acts that have a certain indescribable "gratuity" about them. Then we understand that Jesus's God is in us. Our limits are in fact infinite birthplaces. His teaching exists for us to make the very best of ourselvesand even something more. That pleasure doesn't keep shop along some street; it can be neither bought nor sold. Strange peace and joy, pure echoes of an unknown presence.
Jesus's words must not be separated from his life (for once we have someone who says what hethinks, and does what he says!). Let us then place each of his teachings once again in their context of shared wine and bread, of wounds and shed blood. For these words have a face and this face has all the faces of man. It is the face of the sage who teaches the way of bliss and patience when confronted with failure and suffering; the face of the man who walks the earth together with his hunger, his thirst, and his friends. He cares for the sick, he listens even more tenderly than he speaks, while the possessed find sparks of freedom in his gaze. He puts no label on certain kinds of behavior deemed unacceptable: whether one is an adulterer, a sinner, a criminal, or a prostitute, he sees only suffering men and women in search of an impossible love, in need of pardon or recognition.
"No one has ever spoken like this man," said the centurion, and his power to captivate, despite the caricatures that some have tried to paint throughout the centuries, has come down to us intact, continuing to inspire the maddest and the wisest of our fellow beings.
His words remain to be discovered now and forever, for the Gospel will be understood only by those who incarnate and live it. The Greek term metanoia invites us constantly to go beyond the mental, in other words, beyond the known. Although in general the term is wrongly translated as "conversion" or "penitence," it is rather an invitation to go beyond human intelligence that is closed upon itself. In its place we would have to write "metamorphosis" or "transformation" in our Gospel to understand its message better.
Dostoevsky knew nothing more beautiful than Christ; he perceived in Him what is both the most human and the most divine, the most enlightened and the most obscure. Beyond all the dualisms endlessly opposing death and life, crucifixion and resurrection, blood and light, he saw no other face that could bring together all faces in this way.