While there are several other words in English that refer to wisdom and its possessor, a sage is considered a unique combination of virtues: A monk can be devoted but ignorant, an academic brilliant but not insightful, a counselor kind but not knowledgeable about higher realities.
Becoming a Sage
You become a sage by learning about many different things, taking time to think about them, and sharing your knowledge with others.
In classical philosophy, a sage was someone who had the wisdom to understand the depths of existence and reality. From this, the word evolved to mean a person with profound wisdom that comes from life experience.
A sage is usually older. In books and movies, they’re often seen as a wise old man with long white hair or as a wise woman with gray hair. They can also be portrayed as young adults who’ve had many experiences and are wise ahead of their years (e.g. Harry Potter).
Today, the term also refers to someone who’s reached such spiritual perfection that he or she can give wise advice. A wise sage has the wisdom to know what advice is best for you. They also have the experience and humility to know that they aren’t always right, and they’ll make an effort to understand your situation properly so that they can give you good advice.
Where the Word Sage Comes From
The term “sage” for “wise man” dates back to the 1200s. It comes from the Old French word sa(u)ge, which means “wise.”
In turn, the French word derives from the Latin word sapere, which means “to be wise.” And that makes sense – a wise sage is a person who can give good advice or has a deep understanding of something, mainly because of their experience.
Etymologists believe that the term “wise” has been used since the 13th century (although there’s earlier evidence). At that time, the term was used to refer to someone who was wise and prudent – an elderly or venerable person with good judgment.
Closely Related Ideas
The expression “wise counsel” refers to good advice or wisdom given by a person you trust and respect.
The expression dates back to the time when people sought the advice of wise men – men (yes, just men, back then) who were thought to have a great deal of knowledge and life experience.
Which, these days, we would call “sage advice.”
The Seven Sages
The Seven Sages were seven Greek philosophers who met between 630 and 546 BC, and whose ideas laid the foundation for modern Western philosophy.
The Seven Sages weren’t a school of thought in the strict sense. They didn’t all agree with each other, nor were they in constant exchange with each other. Rather, they were individuals from the worlds of politics, philosophy, and law, who’d come together as a group to exchange ideas.
Although the exact list varies according to source, commonly you’ll find the following among them:
- Thales of Miletus – mathematician and philosopher
- Pittacus of Mytilene – governor of Lesbos
- Bias of Priene – politician
- Solon of Athens – legislator
- Cleobulus – tyrant of Lindos
- Myson of Chenae
- Chilon of Sparta – politician
The Stoics Sages
The Stoics were philosophers, based mainly in Athens and Rome, who believed that happiness is based on accepting things as they’re without getting upset about situations that we cannot control. For them, wisdom was knowledge of divine and human matters, to which was added suitable expertise.
Stoicism amounts to a system of thought, in which there was a concerted effort to rid oneself of negative emotions and cultivate inner joy and strength, that is relevant today.
Among them numbered:
- Zeno of Citium (Cyprus) – the founder of Stoicism
- Chrysippus – most influential Greek Stoic sage
- Marcus Aurelius – Emperor of Rome 161 to 169 AD, Stoic philosopher, and author of the famous Meditations
It is in no man’s power to have whatever he wants, but he has it in his power not to wish for what he hasn’t got, and cheerfully make the most of the things that do come his way.Lucius Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
The Stoics believed that a sage is:
- Never affected by cravings
- Happy in adversity
- Calm in a storm
- Views both man and God from a higher level
The Celtic Sages
The Celtic sages lived in ancient Celtic society and were druids (wise men or women) who lived close to nature and used it as a source of wisdom.
Much of the old Celtic wisdom has been lost, amid the welter of printed Christendom. But it is clear that the era was marked by its adherence to poetry, bards, and storytelling.
Three important groupings were:
- Druids – guardians of knowledge, wisdom, and history
- Bards – performers and entertainers
- Filid – poets who memorized Irish lore
In Star Wars, Yoda Is a Popular Example of a Sage
The figure of the wise sage is a staple in both the real and fictional worlds of religion, literature, and culture. We can see this archetype in the religious figures of many cultures, such as the Greek Muses, the Hindu Brahma, or the Egyptian Thoth.
They can also be found in modern fiction: Yoda from Star Wars is a prime example of a sage and spiritual teacher. In the classic space epic, Yoda plays the role a wise mentor to young Luke Skywalker and reveals to him the power that permeates the Universe and everything in it – the Force.
Or rather, Yoda helps Luke to discover the Force through his own experience.
Try Not. Do, or do not. There is no try.Yoda
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.Yoda
How to Become a Sage
1. You Must Want Wisdom
To become a sage, you must first really want to become one.
Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions, act prudently, and think critically. For example, if you’ve ever heard the statement, “He’s a wise man,” it means that he can take in information, look at all sides of an issue, and then come to practical conclusions and make a wise decision. He’s emotional maturity and common sense.
Most importantly, he knows who he’s; his values are clear and his priorities are in order. And therefore he does the right thing not only for himself but also for those around him.
2. Learn From Experience
Trial and error are the best teachers. To learn from your experiences, you must keep an open mind and be willing to try new things without fear of failure. The more open-minded you’re, the more likely you’re to take something positive away from each experience.
It’s also important to consider the experiences of others. You don’t have to make all of life’s mistakes yourself. There will always be someone who’s gone before you and learned some wisdom that they can readily share with you if you just ask them or pay attention when they talk about their experiences with others.
Pay attention to people in your life who seem to be particularly wise, and think about what they went through that gave them much insight into life.
3. Open Your Ears and Your Mind
To better understand the world around you, it’s important that you open your ears and your mind. Try to listen to others’ points of view and evaluate whether their ideas are new or interesting. If you’re open, you can learn from others and allow them to share their wisdom with you.
Don’t let their learning experiences go in one ear and out the other!
If you’ve listened carefully, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions if something seems unclear to you. If a wise person keeps everything they know to themselves, they cannot hope to truly grow as a person or teach anyone else their knowledge. Be wise by learning as much as you can!
4. Attack Problems at Their Core
To be a sage, you must get to the root of problems.
Many people only see the surface of a problem. They don’t realize that beneath the surface is a deeper cause that’s driving the problem. And if you only fix the surface of a problem, it’ll keep coming back – because it hasn’t been addressed at the root.
When you’re faced with a problem – whether it’s personal or professional – you need to dig deep into the root causes of the problem to find the true origin and make improvements to prevent such problems from occurring in the future.
5. Realize That Nothing Lasts Forever
Everything is in constant change. Something new is always coming down the road, and the old trends are quickly disappearing. It’s important to recognize that nothing is permanent.
If you’re someone who lives in the past, you will never experience new things or opportunities that life can offer. And you’re always stuck in the same, with nothing to offer you to look forward to.
6. Be Willing to Change Your Mind to Learn More
You may hold on to a belief based on incomplete information or a misinterpretation of facts. Wise people know they don’t have all the answers and are willing to change their minds if they learn something new.
However, it may also be that your beliefs no longer align with your current values. For example, maybe you once believed that the military was a waste of money and resources, but then you met someone who served in the Navy and began to appreciate veterans’ service to their country.
Pay attention to your thoughts and note where you feel angry or frustrated when you read an article or talk to someone. Then take some time alone to really listen – without sound judgment – to what’s going on in your head when those feelings come up.
- Are there areas where it would do you good to gain more knowledge?
- Are there areas where your old beliefs may no longer be true?
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New, but Be Careful
You’re at a crossroads. A fork in the road. A beautiful metaphor for the fact that your life can go in two directions: one or the other. But what if you don’t want to choose one direction? What if you want to go both ways at the same time? Or neither and instead, go your own way?
Life is truly a great gift, more precious than anything else this world has to offer. Let’s use our time on this wonderful blue marble wisely and not be afraid of failure or rejection. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but proceed with caution. Learn from your mistakes as much as you learn from your successes.
Both are equally important steps on the path to wisdom.
8. Keep Moving – Do Things That Make You Happy and Give You Pleasure, Physically and Mentally
Do things that make you happy and bring you joy, physically and emotionally. You’ll learn new things when you do things outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself to try new hobbies, meet new people and visit new places, just like the wise travelers do!
If you want to become a sage – start by asking for wisdom when you pray or meditate or whatever you do to receive spiritual guidance, then incorporate the above steps into everything you do, practice them regularly, and watch how they change your life for the better!
The Term Was Used by Carl Jung
Jung was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and a prolific author, who conducted an extended correspondence with the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. Jung’s theoretical work on archetypes, dream analysis, and analytic psychology was influential not only in psychiatry, but also in anthropology, archeology, literature, philosophy, and religious studies.
In his work, Carl Jung defined the term “sage” as a person who’s reached an advanced stage of wisdom and whose main task in life is to lead others to their own potential of wisdom and success.
Why It’s Worth It
The pursuit of self-knowledge can be a long process, requiring patience and perseverance. But the payoff is enormous. When we better understand our inner worlds, we can live more authentic, simpler lives filled with joyful moments that might otherwise have eluded us if we’d lived our lives unconsciously.