Spiritual growth, wisdom and psychology

Spiritual Growth Definition: What is Wisdom?

Spiritual growth and wisdom... what are they?

Spiritual growth and wisdom have something to do with living right and positive change. Or does it? I have been fascinated with this aspect of spirituality for over two decades now. This is what it is all about.

This page is a combination of short quotes, contributions by readers on the topic (taken from an earlier page that is now gone) and links to the truckload of articles on the topic by Katinka Hesselink (that's me) and others on my sites.

Accepting things we cannot change

The essence of wisdom is to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things that we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Adapted from the Serenity Prayer

The section on accepting things we can not change was particularly meaningful for me right much time do I spent being frustrated and anxious about the actions of someone I know who will never change. I'm typically very good about not trying to control or change others but I have a family member I am responsible for and it's testing my limits.  (RuthCoffee)

The Capacity to understand Sunyata (~emptiness)

One reader on a previous version of this page said:

Whilst people may refer to various things as knowledge, experience, strategy, etc. as wisdom, pure wisdom itself is actually defined as 'The capacity to understand Emptiness'.

This sort of true. Certainly in Mahyana Buddhism, the the realisation of 'emptiness' is the deepest kind of wisdom there is. However, the word 'emptiness' can easily get in the way of understanding here. One way of putting it is that nothing we grasp onto is the way we think of it.

More definitions of wisdom and spiritual growth, by readers

Wisdom is understanding.

Wisdom-is the ability to change your life around and show people how u did change yor life aroud and to be honest and truthful

Development is beyond the body. The body is critical to growth, but so is constant growth of the mind, spirit and the body achievements (not getting fatter and fatter, but health body goals and successes). The person never stops developing and in my opinion most likely still develops in ways God knows after the mortal death.

Wisdom is sensibility and sensitivity at the same time.  (sponias lm)

Wisdom is perfection of knowledge and spiritual growth take place through the practice of wisdom.

Spiritual growth can be measured only be the individual and is the ability to see the best in yourself and others despite appearances. Wisdom is knowing what is your best choice at every decision and comes from knowledge, love and intuition.

To me spiritual growth means getting closer to God.

For me it means learning to "harm not others and harm not myself," it means celebrating life, all life as being sacred. It means striving to learn from my enemies and my friends alike.  (ayngel boshemia)

For me it is a lifelong experience of continuing to discover more and more of my true nature. 

I would ask the vital question "Who is it that needs to grow - spiritually or otherwise?" Is the "you" that needs to grow a concept or thought? Do you really exists as an entity at all?

For me, spiritual growth has had a lot to do with grounding myself in everyday life. I'd prefer to have my head in the clouds but apparently I require roots as well. (Jacqueline Marshall)

Spiritual growth, for me, is always a lesson in love - who am I critizing? why am I fault-finding? trying to stay in a loving place even when I feel angry. Removing from myself anything that allows me to criticize or grumble about another human being. That's a full time job! Spiritual growth is a process! for sure!

What is spiritual growth? I can't say what it is, just a little of what it is not. It is not wallowing in the past, or worrying about the future. And it is connected I think with staying 'in your body' which has a tranformative power. (AnnRadley)

The 'acceptance' part is a struggle for me. I would cite the famed story of Edison and his 10,000 attempts at creating a working lightbulb. Perhaps Edison's wisdom was in realising that 'he hadn't failed 10000 times; he had succeeded in finding 10000 ways that wouldn't work. And having found the ways that won't work, it was inevitable that he'd find the way that would!' (ArtSiren LM)

Physical health and spiritual growth

Is spiritual growth linked to health?

To me health and spiritual growth are not linked.

Right now I'm as exhausted physically as I've been in a long time. I've been moving house: painting the walls of my new apartment, packing all my books into boxes etc. Very tiring. I can get myself to do things (more packing mostly) - but the moment I sit down I feel a deep fatigue.

YET - this same weekend that I'll be moving into my new place - I've also created this page on spiritual growth and wisdom.


How much of your energy do you waste getting annoyed at people that we know will never change?

How much of your energy is wasted obsessing over what is inevitable?

I know I struggle with that - and facing up to those tendencies has always been a way to a deeper appreciation of life and yes - happiness. But the facing up part is the hard part. It won't work to just tell myself I should not get annoyed. That's just the start - I have to delve into myself to find the emotional source of the annoyance. I've cried many a tear - and what a relief it was... Because these are the kinds of tears that are followed by the happiness that comes from being able to be happy with what is.

Great things are possible only to strong souls and it's from the trivial events of daily life that strength is won. (L.W. Rogers)

The wise and the foolish

Learning from others is essential to spiritual growth ...

But which others?

There is no easy dividing line between wise people and fools. If / when you're open to others you find out each brand of wisdom - even while discarding (after examination) 50% of what they say or do as rubbish... The other 50% may just contain jewels.

Spiritual growth and personal development

Spiritual growth has been linked to spiritual experiences and growing success.

To me spiritual growth has mostly to do with growing in wisdom.

Spiritual experiences may happen.

Success may follow.

But neither success nor spiritual experience are proof of spiritual growth.


We live in a changing world, an unfair world. Some of us are born into great circumstances (I consider myself lucky that way). Others are born into places where it will take a lot to get out.

In order to get out, to be different, to grow beyond what you learned as a kid - you need courage.

This applies to all of us. Whether we are rich or poor, whether our parents had a great education or not even finished highschool - we all have a choice: do we stick with what we grew up with, or change into something different.

That takes COURAGE.

Sometimes it's just easy to be what you are.

Sometimes it seems like all you can do is hang on, change is just too much to ask.

Sometimes - or all the time - doing things differently, being different, just doesn't seem even possible.

Take courage, and change just that one little thing you know you CAN change. When that has become your new normal, you may just be ready for the next small change.

Ups and downs in spiritual growth

Can you have a spiritual growth plan?

Sometimes it's obvious people are growing spiritually: they are calmer, nicer, more balanced.

But sometimes genuine spiritual growth requires going through what's called a dark night of the soul. Because you grow spiritually, you become more sensitive - and that's not easy. This sensitivity may bring along a deep sorrow about the state of the world. It may mean that unresolved issues from your past come up to haunt you...

Although in the long run this is good - in the short run it may make a person less happy and even less kind to others.

How are THEY doing?

Part of real spiritual growth is recognizing that unless you can see into a persons soul - you can't really tell how another is doing on the spiritual path.

Spiritual growth is something of the soul, not of the personality we can see.

The wisdom to know the difference - discernment

Knowing what's what is just plain hard. What should we accept, and what should we change?

Trying to change too much is not going to work - we have our lives to live in the meantime. That's why new years resolutions usually don't stick.

Change can be as small as not drinking soda anymore.

Or parking your car a bit further from work.

Or making a point to smile at the cleaning lady - perhaps even talk to her.

One thing that helps is to read up about spiritual growth. To read about spirituality in general. Perhaps join a discussion group (or start one) that focuses on some book you think is inspiring.

Life, Stephanie ...

Stepping out of your comfort zone...

Wisdom - and facing challenges

It is so easy to get stuck in a rut.

I've recently been impressed by the necessity (for me) of stepping outside of my comfort zone.

It's so easy to just be comfortable with the choices I made 10 years ago about how I would live my life - but do those choices really make as much sense as I thought they did? Or do they limit more than help?

I guess it has to do with stepping outside my comfort zone - to face the world that is, instead of the world as I'd want it to be.

Hesselink, K. (Katinka)

Theosophical Wisdom Classics:

Other articles.

Anonymous / Various Authors

Algeo, John

Ashish, Sri Madhava

Behari, Bepin

Blavatsky, H.P.

Bradford, Hope

Burnier, R. (Radha)

Codd, C.M. (Clara)

Collins, Mabel

Das, Ram


Don Miguel Ruiz

Humphreys, Christmas

Jaqua, M.R.

Judge, W.Q. (William)

Krishna, P.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu

Leadbeater, C.W.

Leeuw, J.J. van der

Marsh, Eric

Martin, Donald

Mello, Anthony de

Ravindra, Ravi

Ram Das

Ram, N. Sri

Roman, Alberto

Sanat, Aryel Aryel Sanat on a more psychological interpretation of The Secret Doctrine than has so far been stressed in theosophical circles. (off site)

Sender, Pablo D. 

Shearman, Hugh

Spanger, David

Taimni, I.K.

Truden, Nikolay Sisoev

Wadia, B.P. 

Walsh, Roger

Weeks, Nicholas

More intellectual articles on the same subject:

- More can be found in Buddha's World, under " The Path ", Krishnamurti's quotes and articles, and the information on Sufism and in my Esoteric Studies Guide under ' practical wisdom '.