Crazy Wisdom: An Introduction

This is the first of the three-part series on Crazy Wisdom.

Much Madness is divinest Sense — To a discerning Eye —

Much Sense — the starkest Madness — ‘Tis the Majority In this, as All, prevail —

Assent — and you are sane —

Demur — you’re straightway dangerous — And handled with a Chain —


The above poem truly reflects poet Emily Dickinson’s understanding of the notion of Crazy Wisdom as Divine Madness. Dickinson tells us that Divine Madness is only revealed to the discerning eye. If you accept it into your life, society may reject you and, as she writes, handle you with chains. On the other hand, if you realize Crazy Wisdom, but give into social pressure by rejecting what you’ve realized, you’ll be considered sane and acceptable. This will lead to a life suffocating under the weight of mediocrity and social acceptability.

Society offers little or no place for those who refuse to conform, who choose to look at life from an entirely different perspective, and who reject all accepted paradigms of thought, choosing to think radically.

Emily Dickinson was a perfect example of someone who manifested and cultivated Crazy Wisdom in her life. She wrote hundreds of poems before her death. Each one reads with the depth and simplicity of a Zen Koan, each reflecting the sublime power and truth of intuitive wisdom.

Crazy Wisdom in Zen tradition

In the Zen tradition, the notion of Crazy Wisdom has been a well-established and accepted reality for centuries, illustrated by what is referred to as The Law of Reverse Effort. This concept refers to the natural, intuitive inner wisdom that we all possess. It is a form of enlightened wisdom that goes deeper and beyond what we consider to be normal reason, or rational thought.

The Law of Reverse Effort is expressed perfectly in the ancient Buddhist adage:

“When you realize how perfect everything is – You will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky!”

Western science used to scoff at such a notion, until they began to enter the world of quantum physics, a world that turned all notions of rational thought on its head. In the quantum world, objects literally materialize and disappear before our eyes. Rational science has theories but is still hard pressed to explain what is happening in the quantum world. At the same time they fully realize that quantum physics is possibly the key to understanding the underpinnings of our universe.

On this matter Albert Einstein tells us:

“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and

evolve to higher levels – The mind can proceed only so far on what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a leap –

call it intuition or what you will – and come out upon a higher

plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap.”

There are obviously things happening in this universe that go beyond human comprehension. There is rational thinking or logic – and there is intuition or Crazy Wisdom.

Edited by: Ece Inan

About the author: Donald Francis is a meditation teacher and freelance writer. Incorporates art, music, poetry and literature into his teaching and makes meditation interesting and relevant to everyone. He lives in London, England.

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Sangha Without Borders is currently physically located in London, UK