Plato gave us the famous simile of the cave.He tells of how a group of people are chained in a cave, where they only see shadows of the objects in the real world thrown by the light of a fire. One man escapes and climbs from the cave to the real world lit by the light of the sun,which represents the highest form, the form of the Good. He is the one who has gained wisdom. Eventually he is able to look at the sun the source of all wisdom. But when he returns to the cave to enlighten his fellows they belittle him, for they are trapped in un-wisdom. In Plato's view wisdom consists of knowing a higher world than this one, the world of the forms. For example,there is the form of woman, in which all woman participate, and it is better to know the form of woman than it is to know any individual woman,and there is a whole range of forms in this higher world. For Plato knowledge of the world, practical or in our day scientific knowledge is mere belief, pistis. Wisdom comes with the knowledge of the forms. There is dianoia, mathematical wisdom, which is knowledge of the forms not dependent upon the form of the good. Then there is episteme or noesis, the knowledge of the forms dependent upon the form of the Good, such as justice and moral concepts.
For Plato the pursuit of wisdom was an elite task, and only a few men and even fewer women were capable of achieving it. Only those who had gained wisdom were fit to rule in Plato's ideal world. It was he who produced the ideal of the philosopher-king. No one now accepts Plato's view of the forms, but he was a philosopher very influential in the intellectual history of Europe, and in the first millennium until Aquinas Catholic philosophy was deeply influence by Plato's ideas.
But the Eastern religions have their own wisdom traditions, and there is in their religious life a search for enlightenment. Hinduism is very complicated, too much for me to go through in an article, but Hindu holy men have long thought that humans suffer from maya [illusion] so the job of religion is to cut through the web of maya to achieve a true knowledge of the world, which in Hindu thought manifests God. This is done by a long and devoted course of meditation and self-denial.
Buddhism inherits the Hindu tradition in some ways, but broke from it. Buddhists replace illusion with delusion. Whereas illusion is a false view of reality, delusion is false understandings of the self and values, which lead to dukkha [suffering.] But the remedy in the two faiths is similar, a course of meditation under a wise guru who can led initiates into the higher way of wisdom. This is combined with ascetism, which in Buddhism follows the middle way between the extremes of ascetic practice and a non-ascetic life style, for Buddha was wise enough to have discovered that extreme asceticism leads nowhere.
Well said that wisdom cannot be taught. People often confuse knowledge for wisdom, but wisdom is an ability to perceive things beyond just applying factual knowledge. It has to do with understanding which is higher than just knowing.
You say many wise things, Dustytoes. The quest for wisdom is a lifelong adventure.
You are right about pressures, for an intellectual elite, be they in academia or politics, presumes to tell us what to think and uses sanctions such as scorn and social pressure to enforce, if not conformity, at least timid silence.
The world has made us believe that we cannot think for ourselves. We are told what to do - healthcare comes to mind - and must follow "their" way of thinking. Unfortunately I think there are people who don't want to exert much effort and are happy to simply follow the crowd. Our recent presidential election comes to mind here (and every election, really). So many people vote according to how their family votes, or their friends, and few really know anything about what the candidate stands for. Sadly, some people are happy to be dumb. They settle into their way of life and never care to improve themselves. Wisdom is something we should always chase. We can never have enough.