Helping People to Meet God • Make Friends • Grow in Faith

Human knowledge and wisdom

Recently, we were thinking about the current world situation, our human preoccupation with data about the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of wisdom that sometimes surfaces in the ways we deal with such important issues. Our attention was drawn to the poem ‘The Rock’ by T.S. Eliot. This relates to the well-know DIKW Pyramid (diagram) which purports to illustrate the way that data is only the start of a process that lead to wisdom – and the process gets harder as you try to ascend the pyramid.(ref)

We think Eliot’s poem say this well, and speaks of how the wisdom of God surmounts this pyramid, whilst we humans often get stuck and confused at lower levels by all the data, information and supposed knowledge that assails us each day.

Opening Stanza from Choruses from “The Rock”

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

T. S. Eliot (1934)

Phil & Sue Bagshaw

Reference: Rowley, Jennifer (2007). “The wisdom hierarchy: representations of the DIKW hierarchy”. Journal of Information and Communication Science. 33 (2): 163–80.

PS: We wrote an opinion piece recently to express our concerns about the state of human society and the mess we’ve made of our planet. Neo-liberalism has encouraged us to compete aggressively, to the disadvantage of all. As explained here—we need to follow a new way that values everyone equally and respects all of creation.