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Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  883 ratings  ·  72 reviews
• Explores the lifestyle of indigenous peoples of the world who exist in complete harmony with the natural world and with each other.

• Reveals a model of a society built on trust, patience, and joy rather than anxiety, hurry, and acquisition.

• Shows how we can reconnect with the ancient intuitive awareness of the world's original people.

Deep in the mountainous jungle of
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Inner Traditions
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
First hand take of an individual's experiences in a hunter gatherer tribe. Nothing crazy here. There were some nice heart warming chapters and a few very weird ones. For a better exposition on the experience of being in touch with nature, I recommend the book “becoming animal”.

I recommend this for people who are interested in non- western perceptions of reality and nature/anthropology fans
Aaron Urbanski
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: deprogramming, dreams, fun
I loved this book! One of my all time favorites. I keep having to buy it because everyone I lend it to refuses to return it.
James Owen Ether
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to James Owen by: the world (found it)
Robert Wolff writes about his experiences with native Malay and Sng'oi people while working in Malaysia. He's from another generation; one that didn't grow up reading Carlos Casteneda or having seen videos on Australian Aboriginal cultures. It's important to keep that in mind as he describes his transition from a very Western way of thinking and understanding the world to one rooted in the earth and in our inherant oneness with it.

I wasn't coming from the same place. I've been reading about
Richard Reese
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Original Wisdom is an unforgettable book. Like all humans, author Robert Wolff was born a wild animal, ready to enjoy a pleasant life, romping around in a tropical wilderness. He grew up in Sumatra, the son of Dutch parents. His father was a doctor. The young lad suffered the misfortune of being educated by the dominant culture. It trained him for an unnatural life of schedules, destinations, and anxiety. His wildness was paved over, and his consciousness became disconnected from All-That-Is.

Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wolff's experience with the aboriginal peoples of Malaysia and Sumatra, his acceptance by them, and his transcendency into 'shaman-hood' through a great forgetting of humanity's place in the world reveals the ultimate pleasures of the wholly simple life... and is living proof of David Abram's postulate from 'The Spell of the Sensuous' that 'we are only human in contact and conviviality with that which is not human.'
Nathan Andren
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This unassuming, subtle, joyfully sly book contains a powerful kernel of Truth. It guides the reader back to what it means to be human, and explores what it feels like to be fully human, fully present, fully aware. I've already recommended this short, easy, heart-opening book to many family & friends. I continue to encourage everyone to connect with the Gift Robert Wolff is sharing. Many thanks to my father for bringing this book and insight into my life! May we all reconnect with Heart ...more
Leanna Pohevitz
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Some parts of this book were very moving and beautiful but for the most part, I felt like the author was doing what he chastised others for doing. He was assuming he could confine the people he was meeting into his own narrow understanding of the possible. He forced them to meet his expectations. That being said I did find some commentary enlightening - namely, did we figure out which mushrooms were deadly by trial and's a thought that will stick with me beyond this book.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what I was in for when I started this book, but it was a wonderful little surprise. The author's deep connection to the Malay people was the key to making this book and his experience possible.

I don't think I've read anything that comes close to this book in conveying so clearly how another culture perceives the world and how they fit in it.
ash lee
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
i feel like i have been filtered through the finest sieve. i still know nothing but my ignorance.
Johnny Cordova
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual, history
The story of a man who befriended a group of indigenous hunter-gatherers in the jungles of Malaysia and in the process learned what it means to be human. There is so much beauty between theses pages. A rare gem of a book.
Erin Moore
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some books stay etched in your mind, revealing their wisdom even long after you have shut them, making you question your own beliefs. This is one of those.

This book led me down a path of explorations of shamans, indigenous tribes, and old and ancient magic: the magic of intuition and connection. It has colored my writing in subtle ways, and the image of the Malays waiting on the path for the narrator – either because they knew that he specifically was coming, or knowing that someone would come-
Olivier Goetgeluck
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
In order to find out what the typical diet is for any group of people, we must also know something about how these people live, what is available to them, what is important in their culture.

By judging others less than ourselves, we cannot learn from them.

Different reality:
My reality is made in my head; I create roles for myself, I create a structure that requires certain activities and prohibits others. I live in time. I have an agenda.
Their existence had no reality until they lived it.

Marcel Patrick
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
What I loved about this book is the journey of awakening Robert wolff embarks on. His time spent with the Indigenous Sngoi of Malaysia is a delightful and modest account of a realisation that we live in a world where our deepest knowing is buried beneath the clutter of our over 'educated' minds.
The message is simple, that through spending more time in nature and allowing ourselves to listen inwardly a return to a deeper relationship with the earth and our spirituality is inevitable. Honestly
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great story of some tribes that have not changed their style of living, while our culture catapults in every direction. Amazing insight into our untapped intuition I believe we all posses. Innate knowledge that transcends time and space explained in terms we all an understand. "Do we dream the life we live, or live the life we dream?"
Ceri Davies
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Robert Wolff provides us with a glimpse into a different way of looking at the world, one which perhaps we once shared but now hardly recognise. I found his recollections and style of writing both deeply affecting.
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book literally fell into my I had to read it. It was great. I highly recommend reading this book. It will absolutley deepen your personal relationship with yourself and with the earth.
Jess Munro
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was a nice book, really easy to read, the Malaysian natives have some great wisdom to share.
We lost contact with nature in this western civilization, we need to learn from the roots, from the animals from the trees
From with in us.

Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful...if you are alive, please read this book.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A gift from Alistair. More proof of universal energy and the power that we all share. It came to me at the same time as "One Mind." No coincidences here!!
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: environment
Finally got round to reading this rather short book that had sat on my 'to read' shelf for years. I am afraid there was not much wisdom to be gained from it, if you already have a good idea of the lifestyles of hunter gatherer societies. Instead of imparting concrete tribal knowledge and going into the technicalities of how to survive and live off the land, which I had subconsciously expected to read about, this book is more of a diary of the time the author had spent immersed in the communities ...more
Vaughn Zeller
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very much enjoy Wolff’s book as I had much the same emotional responses to it as when reading another favorite, David Abrams’ The Spell of the Sensuous. Both presented a taste of other ways of knowing which we in the industrialized West often never experience. As do many others, I fear we are quickly moving to a point where old ways of knowing will be forever lost. Each day indigenous peoples, like other animals, are being driven to extinction by encroaching ‘civilization’ and the ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book provided an intimate perspective. Mr. Wolff lived in Malaysia as a psychologist. His experiences with The People of Malaysia were well described. The chapter on choice was enlightening. I had not thought of choosing as a Western way of life, but it makes total sense. I would be intetested in trying to drift... What would it feel like to set aside an agenda, a calendar, a clock? We need to look past our Western ways of thinking and realize the value of different values and different ...more
Debbie Tremel
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Oh, the beauty of these stories. Wolff has captured the experience, and spiritual realities, of living as one with the Earth that still exists in the few remaining indigenous cultures. He opens the door to understanding there are many ways to view the world, and just how biased we are from the culture in which we are raised. Intimate, well told tales of what life can be. Highly recommended.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I thought this book would teach about all sorts of wisdom of people who still live in old ways, such as knowledge about plants, spirituality, relationships etc. Instead the book taught me that I know all this already, the knowledge is inside of me.
The book was really interesting to read and I was very into it from the beginning. The stories are told in a way that makes you want to continue reading and find out more.
Jalaja Bonheim
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Fascinating accounts of the author's encounters with ancient peoples. He himself is humble, respectful and filled with reverence in the face of their mysterious knowledge and wisdom. The stories brought up sadness over the arrogance and ignorance with which we have destroyed indigenous peoples and traditions everywhere.
Colin Murphy
Dec 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really bad. Add crayon illustrations and you'd be hard-pushed to believe this isn't a children's book of their first trip to the zoo. Whatever Wolff actually learned in his famished walks into the jungle isn't found here.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Highlights: "The Real World, the Shadow World," about the Sng'oi people's practice of telling each other about their dreams every morning when they wake up; and "Learning to Be Human Again," about how the author learned how to sense water in the jungle.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philoshophy, emerging
Interesting overall, but very intriguing info on the sng'oi (Australian Aborigines) relationship with dreaming. Worthy of figuring out more about it.
Nicklas Karlsson
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cosy account of a beautiful people. It's one of those books where you gotta take his word for it. But if you do, a certain nostalgia emerges for something you never experienced.
David Roy
After reading Wolff's book, I got in touch with him, both via Skype as well as e-mail. (This was in 2014-15; he has since died, reportedly toward the end of 2015). I found him to be an intriguing mix of attitudes. For one thing, he was going blind from both wet and dry macular degeneration; and he was in his early 90s. He was not always easy to understand.

In particular, he was extremely negatively reactive to the idea of putting any focus on him vs. the subject of his work. At one point, I had
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“When I understood this much about the People, I realized how truly different their reality was. My reality is made in my head; I create roles for myself, I create a structure that requires certain activities and prohibits others. I live in time; I have an agenda. Their existence had no reality until they lived it.” 2 likes
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