The thistle and the goldfinch

Once upon a time there was a precocious young lad who wanted to know where one could find real wisdom. So the boy went to see an aging man in the neighborhood who had a reputation for being wise.

The boy asked the old Sage why wisdom was so rare and so hard to find.

The old man looked deeply into the boy’s eyes and smiled. “It is not where to look but how to look,” explained the Sage. “Wisdom can be found everywhere in God’s created world.”

“Please sir, teach me how to look for wisdom.”

The great Sage smiled again and led the boy on a short walk to a field of thistles. “What do you see?” asked the Sage of the boy.

“I see a field of worthless thistles,” responded the boy.

“Look closer,” said the Sage.

“I also see some Goldfinches eating the seeds from the dried thistle flowers.” The young boy thought about this more inclusive observation and exclaimed, “Oh, I get it.  The thistles are not worthless after all, because they provide food for the goldfinches. Is that your lesson in showing me how to see God’s wisdom?”

“This is just the beginning of my lesson. There is more to finding true wisdom than discovering that nothing in God’s creation is wasteful,” replied the Sage. “There are even deeper things to observe in this field.”

“What deeper things?” inquired the boy.

“One can observe this thistle field and discover the secrets of the human heart and mind.  All nature’s processes symbolize something of the human mind and its different qualities.”

“I don’t understand,” said the boy scratching his head.

The Sage was still looking at the boy, but his focus seemed to go inwards. “The field—or ground—represents the information we possess in our memory. The plants, which grow in this field, represent the thoughts we entertain—that are rooted within and grow out from the memory.”

“But thistles have hurtful thorns,” complained the insightful lad.

The Sage continued. “Thistles, like other weeds, are often the first plants that take over the ground. Similarly, before one acquires true wisdom, selfish ideas come forth. These ideas serve to protect our first feelings of self-importance over others and make us “prickly.”

“What do the Goldfinches teach?” asked the boy.

“Humans can possess spiritual ideals, which allow the heart and mind to soar above our selfish thoughts and gain a higher viewpoint of what is most important. Like the Goldfinches, spiritual love not only functions above earthly selfish love and its thorny disposition, but can transform those hurtful ideas into a new quality. When a Goldfinch eats a thistle seed it is transformed into the more noble structure of a beautiful bird,” said the Sage. “Nature lets us see things about ourselves that would otherwise remain invisible.”

The young boy took this all in, then asked, “Can nature teach us more than the Bible?”

“They actually teach similar lessons—if you know how to look,” volunteered the old man. “For instance, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise to live on a cursed ground of thorns and thistles, that same symbolic language is being applied.”

The boy’s eyes widened as his brain began to form new synapses.

“You now have a taste for how to find true wisdom,” said the delighted Sage.


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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