THE TEACHER OF WISDOM
rom his childhood he had been as one filled with the
perfect knowledge of God, and even while he was yet but a lad
many of the saints, as well as certain holy women who dwelt in
the free city of his birth, had been stirred to much wonder by
the grave wisdom of his answers.
And when his parents had given
him the robe and the ring of manhood he kissed them, and left
them and went out into the world, that he might speak to the
world about God. For there were at that time many in the world
who either knew not God at all, or had but an incomplete knowledge
of Him, or worshipped the false gods who dwell in groves and
have no care of their worshippers.
And he set his face to the sun
and journeyed, walking without sandals, as he had seen the saints
walk, and carrying at his girdle a leathern wallet and a little
water-bottle of burnt clay.
And as he walked along the highway
he was full of the joy that comes from the perfect knowledge
of God, and he sang praises unto God without ceasing; and after
a time he reached a strange land in which there were many cities.
And he passed through eleven
cities. And some of these cities were in valleys, and others
were by the banks of great rivers, and others were set on hills.
And in each city he found a disciple who loved him and followed
him, and a great multitude also of people followed him from each
city, and the knowledge of God spread in the whole land, and
many of the rulers were converted, and the priests of the temples
in which there were idols found that half of their gain was gone,
and when they beat upon their drums at noon none, or but a few,
came with peacocks and with offerings of flesh as had been the
custom of the land before his coming.
Yet the more the people followed
him, and the greater the number of his disciples, the greater
became his sorrow. And he knew not why his sorrow was so great.
For he spake ever about God, and out of the fulness of that perfect
knowledge of God which God had Himself given to him.
And one evening he passed out
of the eleventh city, which was a city of Armenia, and his disciples
and a great crowd of people followed after him; and he went up
on to a mountain and sat down on a rock that was on the mountain,
and his disciples stood round him, and the multitude knelt in
And he bowed his head on his
hands and wept, and said to his Soul, 'Why is it that I am full
of sorrow and fear, and that each of my disciples is as an enemy
that walks in the noonday?'
And his Soul answered him and
said, 'God filled thee with the perfect knowledge of Himself,
and thou hast given this knowledge away to others. The pearl
of great price thou hast divided, and the vesture without seam
thou hast parted asunder. He who giveth away wisdom robbeth himself.
He is as one who giveth his treasure to a robber. Is not God
wiser than thou art? Who art thou to give away the secret that
God hath told thee? I was rich once, and thou hast made me poor.
Once I saw God, and now thou hast hidden Him from me.'
And he wept again, for he knew
that his Soul spake truth to him, and that he had given to others
the perfect knowledge of God, and that he was as one clinging
to the skirts of God, and that his faith was leaving him by reason
of the number of those who believed in him.
And he said to himself, 'I will
talk no more about God. He who giveth away wisdom robbeth himself'
And after the space of some hours
his disciples came near him and bowed themselves to the ground
and said, 'Master, talk to us about God, for thou hast the perfect
knowledge of God, and no man save thee hath this knowledge.'
And he answered them and said,
'I will talk to you about all other things that are in heaven
and on earth, but about God I will not talk to you. Neither now,
nor at any time, will I talk to you about God.'
And they were wroth with him
and said to him, 'Thou hast led us into the desert that we might
hearken to thee. Wilt thou send us away hungry, and the great
multitude that thou hast made to follow thee?'
And he answered them and said,
'I will not talk to you about God.'
And the multitude murmured against
him and said to him 'Thou hast led us into the desert, and hast
given us no food to eat. Talk to us about God and it will suffice
But he answered them not a word.
For he knew that if he spake to them about God he would give
away his treasure.
And his disciples went away sadly,
and the multitude of people returned to their own homes. And
many died on the way.
And when he was alone he rose
up and set his face to the moon, and journeyed for seven moons,
speaking to no man nor making any answer. And when the seventh
moon had waned he reached that desert which is the desert of
the Great River. And having found a cavern in which a Centaur
had once dwelt, he took it for his place of dwelling, and made
himself a mat of reeds on which to lie, and became a hermit.
And every hour the Hermit praised God that He had suffered him
to keep some knowledge of Him and of His wonderful greatness.
Now, one evening, as the Hermit
was seated before the cavern in which he had made his place of
dwelling, he beheld a young man of evil and beautiful face who
passed by in mean apparel and with empty hands. Every evening
with empty hands the young man passed by, and every morning he
returned with his hands full of purple and pearls. For he was
a Robber and robbed the caravans of the merchants.
And the Hermit looked at him
and pitied him. But he spake not a word. For he knew that he
who speaks a word loses his faith.
And one morning, as the young
man returned with his hands full of purple and pearls, he stopped
and frowned and stamped his foot upon the sand, and said to the
Hermit: 'Why do you look at me ever in this manner as I pass
by? What is it that I see in your eyes? For no man has looked
at me before in this manner. And the thing is a thorn and a trouble
And the Hermit answered him and
said, 'What you see in my eyes is pity. Pity is what looks out
at you from my eyes.'
And the young man laughed with
scorn, and cried to the Hermit in a bitter voice, and said to
him, 'I have purple and pearls in my hands, and you have but
a mat of reeds on which to lie. What pity should you have for
me? And for what reason have you this pity?'
'I have pity for you,' said the
Hermit, 'because you have no knowledge of God.'
'Is this knowledge of God a precious
thing?' asked the young man, and he came close to the mouth of
'It is more precious than all
the purple and the pearls of the world,' answered the Hermit.
'And have you got it?' said the
young Robber, and he came closer still.
'Once, indeed,' answered the
Hermit, 'I possessed the perfect knowledge of God. But in my
foolishness I parted with it, and divided it amongst others.
Yet even now is such knowledge as remains to me more precious
than purple or pearls.'
And when the young Robber heard
this he threw away the purple and the pearls that he was bearing
in his hands, and drawing a sharp sword of curved steel he said
to the Hermit, 'Give me, forthwith, this knowledge of God that
you possess, or I will surely slay you. Wherefore should I not
slay him who has a treasure greater than my treasure?'
And the Hermit spread out his
arms and said, 'Were it not better for me to go unto the uttermost
courts of God and praise Him, than to live in the world and have
no knowledge of Him? Slay me if that be your desire. But I will
not give away my knowledge of God.'
And the young Robber knelt down
and besought him, but the Hermit would not talk to him about
God, nor give him his Treasure, and the young Robber rose up
and said to the Hermit, 'Be it as you will. As for myself, I
will go to the City of the Seven Sins, that is but three days'
journey from this place, and for my purple they will give me
pleasure, and for my pearls they will sell me joy.' And he took
up the purple and the pearls and went swiftly away.
And the Hermit cried out and
followed him and besought him. For the space of three days he
followed the young Robber on the road and entreated him to return,
nor to enter into the City of the Seven Sins.
And ever and anon the young Robber
looked back at the Hermit and called to him, and said, 'Will
you give me this knowledge of God which is more precious than
purple and pearls? If you will give me that, I will not enter
And ever did the Hermit answer,
'All things that I have I will give thee, save that one thing
only. For that thing it is not lawful for me to give away.
And in the twilight of the third
day they came nigh to the great scarlet gates of the City of
the Seven Sins. And from the city there came the sound of much
And the young Robber laughed
in answer, and sought to knock at the gate. And as he did so
the Hermit ran forward and caught him by the skirts of his raiment,
and said to him: 'Stretch forth your hands, and set your arms
around my neck, and put your ear close to my lips, and I will
give you what remains to me of the knowledge of God.' And the
young Robber stopped.
And when the Hermit had given
away his knowledge of God, he fell upon the ground and wept,
and a great darkness hid him from the city and the young Robber,
so that he saw them no more.
And as he lay there weeping he
was ware of One who was standing beside him; and He who was standing
beside him had feet of brass and hair like fine wool. And He
raised the Hermit up, and said to him: 'Before this time thou
hadst the perfect knowledge of God. Now thou shalt have the perfect
love of God. Wherefore art thou weeping?' And He kissed him.
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Oscar Wilde Collection