Wisdom Sings the World

Poetry, Creation and the Way of Dwelling

By Doug Thorpe

Subjects: Poetry
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781930337558, 270 pages, December 2010

Table of contents

Introduction: Poetry of Dwelling

1. Dwelling in Chaos
Interlude: “All things counter, original, spare, strange…”

2. Eden of the Imagination
Interlude: The Tree of Life

3. The Song of Songs: Wisdom Sings the World through Beauty

4. The Wisdom of The Odyssey

5. Jerusalem and the Promised Land

6. “The land is not able to bear his words:” Israel/Palestine and the War over Living Waters
Interlude: Wisdom Walking on the Land

7. Chartres, The Labyrinth and Dante: The Mother Sings us Home

8. Alchemy and the Grail: Vessels of Wisdom

9. The Rhythm of Things: Mandalas, Sandpaintings, Modern Art

10. Leslie Silko’s Ceremony and the Grail

11. Finding the Grail in Ceremony and The Brothers Karamazov

Conclusion: A New Heaven and a New Earth
Appendix: A Taste of Wisdom: Education, Theory and Contemplation

Wisdom, this book argues, is found in the poetry of things.


There has been much fascination of late with the esoteric side of Christianity—witness the phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol, as well as the attention paid to various Gnostic Gospels.

This book will not add to this list.

Instead it goes back to the source of those books which lies in an encounter with Wisdom, not as a concept but as the living reality that underlies all of creation, and that accounts for the power found in works like The Song of Songs and The Divine Comedy, in the important Native American novel Ceremony, and in experiences with labyrinths, mandalas and the hermetic/alchemical and Grail traditions explored so fruitfully by Carl Jung and his followers.

Thorpe takes the reader on a journey through these texts and images, in part for the sheer pleasure of their company (as he's found over the course of decades of teaching), but also to suggest why books like The Da Vinci Code ultimately fail: we are getting a story about Wisdom and not the deep mystery that lies within everything around us.

We are not getting the poetry in things.

These essays are not intended as academic exercises; they are closer in style to the essays Thorpe has written for Parabola magazine—meaning that while the book has rich intellectual content it is written in a lyrical style that seeks to evoke something of Wisdom Herself, a style already displayed in his book Rapture of the Deep, which won the David Family Environmental Book Award.

The book will appeal to the educated reader who is interested in his or her own spiritual work and who also has an interest in the meaning of art in a spiritual context, and in particular in connection to the Wisdom Tradition or what is sometimes called The Perennial Philosophy.

Doug Thorpe is Professor of English at Seattle Pacific University. He is the author of A New Earth, a study of the metaphorical buildings in The Pearl, The Temple of George Herbert, and Blake's Jerusalem; and Rapture of the Deep: Reflections on the Wild in Art, Wilderness, and the Temple, which won the David Family Environmental Book Award. He is also the editor of the anthology Work and the Life of the Spirit.