As I expected, I am receiving plenty of raised cyber-eyebrows about the third instruction in Pandemic Homework to: radically decrease or discontinue altogether your use of internet technology to support social distancing.

Light Web
photo courtesy of Bill Brown

Please don’t jump to the conclusion that I am calling for an immediate cold turkey here—more like a gentle challenging of some assumptions we’ve all bought into a bit too automatically, and a phased step-down as we learn to shift to the real network of global intercommunion.

I continue to believe that the only authentic “worldwide web” exists in the Imaginal realm: i.e., in that subtler and quantumly more powerful bandwidth of energetic communion which links not only all beings of this planet, but also beings in all realms, including those on the other side of the life/death “divide.” It is from here that we receive our help—and it is here, too, that we give it! It is where our real human contribution to calming the inflamed heart of our planet can be must efficaciously offered.

This is in fact the subject of my forthcoming book, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm, which ironically would have had its maiden teaching voyage right now at Valle Crucis in North Carolina. It elucidates the part I believe we Wisdom students can most fruitfully contribute to the present planetary upheaval. But playing that part is counterintuitive and it is a learned skill.

Unsplash, photo courtesy of Marco Ceschi

My invitation as I invited you to consider slowly weaning yourself from the internet is to do so proportionately as you re-boot your innate skills for imaginal communion (skills, incidentally, that have been vigorously discouraged and numbed in our contemporary Western culture.) The problem with the internet zoom groups as an antidote to physical gathering is that they are a simulacrum, substituting fellowship and information exchange for authentic communion and gnosis. We are losing not only our skills for but our taste for the real deal, and the continued electromagnetizing of our planetary atmosphere by this sudden surge in “social distancing”-motivated electronic communication is aggravating the conditions in which the covid-19 virus spreads. Call me a nutcase here, but disregard at your own peril!

So if some of you are inclined to take me up on this wager and boost your component of “imaginal bandwidth” participation during this present crisis and beyond it, how do you go about doing that? Traditionally, of course, this teaching was transmitted only one-on-one; from initiated teacher to prepared student. That it is how it was transmitted to me by my own teacher Rafe. I categorically refuse to put it out there in the form of an online course! But I am willing to share some general orientation, and perhaps a few specific suggestions for those of you who want to take it to the next step.

Unsplash, photo courtesy of Joshua Hanson

First of all, a little general theory:

First and foremost, in this vast inter-realmic cosmos (meaning not just this physical earth, but all cosmoses and planes of consciousness in this great eclosion of divine purposiveness we call the created order), all hearts—all individual lives and beings—are merged and flow out of that great ocean of life. Our individual beings participate in this individually, but always as an emergent property of the whole. Our individual life is an instantiation of that one divine life. And because of this, we can always find one another. We are never out of contact. There are no walls; there are no barriers.

photo courtesy of Robbin Brent

But to see this and work with it, we must move beyond our automatic human orientation toward “the individual” as designating a specific corporeal unit with a fixed identity and position in space and time. As long as we insist on that orientation, we wind up in necromancy, not intercommunion. To be fully present in communion with a beloved, whether in another corner of this world or in another world altogether, we must ironically completely let go of that beloved as an object, and allow his or her heart to wash gently upon us like waves of the ocean washing gently on the shore. Any attempt to make precise will result immediately in engaging the personal imagination and will; the whole exchange immediately degenerates into illusion and sentimentality. A very delicate touch is required, and this is where the learning curve comes in.

We are really talking about stabilizing in ourselves a higher state of being, exactly in line with Maurice Nicoll’s celebrated dictum:

As your being increases, your receptivity to higher meaning increases. As your being decreases, the old meanings return. (Psychological Commentaries, 1245).

This higher level of being, which accesses the imaginal bandwidth not by raiding it but by matching it, has traditionally been known in Christian spirituality as “vigilance” or “recollection.” It is a higher bandwidth of spiritual attentiveness, in which imaginal intercommunion becomes possible.

To do this requires spiritual work on self. It is not a technique that can be taught, but a transformation that must be undergone. Gurdjieff called it “Being partkdolg duty:” our obligatory human contribution to the planetary wellbeing, whose twin pillars are conscious labor and intentional suffering. Only in the refiners’ fire of these two foundational practices (which are actually foundational attitudes) do we gradually attain to purity of heart—which, remember, is the precondition, according to Jesus, for “seeing God.”

Unsplash, photo courtesy of Mor Shani

Each of the four instructions I offered you in Pandemic Homework are building blocks for stabilizing these foundational underpinnings of imaginal seeing. I have circled back in the post From the Eagle’s Nest… (the background to instructions) to unpack a little bit more of the “how.” Please see also Foundational Points for the Five Pandemic Homework Exercises, the third post in this series. These should serve to get you started. 

By the way, Jacques Lusseyran gets this exactly:

From a point so close at hand you can imagine how easy it was to resort to my inner vision… I spent hours at it. In time it became my only occupation. 

By the way, when you are in prison, you must think of anything but the world outside. That is forbidden, materially because of the walls, but above all spiritually. What is outside wounds you. It is dreadful to think that other people are going on living while you are no longer alive. Already you begin to tell yourself that they are growing old away from you, and that you will never see them again as they were. The idea is foolish, especially when you have not spent two months in prison, but it is inescapable and destroys you. You must not let it in. 

In prison, more than ever before, it is within yourself that you must live. If there is a person you cannot do without, not possibly-for instance a girl somewhere outside the walls-do as I did then.  Look at her several times a day for a long time. But don’t try to picture her wherever she is at the moment, out there where there is free air everywhere and open doors. You won’t manage it and it will hurt you. Instead, look at her inside yourself. Cut her off from everything that is space. Focus on her all the light you hold within yourself. Don’t be afraid of using it up. Love, thought and life hold so much of this light you don’t even know what to do with it. In this way you will see your mother, your sweetheart or your children perfectly. And for a long time you will not even realize you are in prison. Believe me, that is what the inner life can do.

~Jacques Lusseyran
And There Was Light (pp 259-60)

Joseph Azize
Joseph Azize website Under the Sun

I am very grateful to Joseph Azize for his willingness to make five of the Gurdjieff exercises available to us within the cyber confines of our Wisdom School Community. These exercises are powerful tools of healing, cleansing, and clarity, and even when practiced individually or in small groups, they have a power to significantly shift our present planetary atmosphere. They are something you can actually do: to steady yourself and ready yourself for the deeper energetic work that actually connects us and empowers us as a human species to do the alchemical work we were placed on this planet to do.

The five exercises I have recommended are all examples of what Gurdjieff calls “transformed contemplation.” For now—and in direct cognizance of the needs of our present global crisis—let me offer a slightly different definition than even Azize gives. “Transformed Contemplation” is contemplation that actually transforms something, both in ourselves and in the world. It is a kind of sacred alchemy, which is to be understood within the context of Gurdjieff’s great vision of “reciprocal feeding,” the exchange of physical/energetic substances between the realms which maintains the whole cosmic ecosystem in a state of dynamic equilibrium. We receive something for ourselves, we offer something back. Each of these exercises highlights a slightly different aspect of this and works on a slightly different skill set.

Before you dive in, you will need two foundational pieces:

  1. CynthiaA basic familiarity with the notion of three-centered awareness. If you haven’t actually been to Wisdom School—or simply want to refresh yourself—the gist of the teaching is there in Chapter Three of my book The Wisdom Way of Knowing as well as in Marcella and Jeanine’s recent post “‘Wisdom Way’ Study, Chapter 3…” right here on this site.
  1. A familiarity with the basic body-rotation sensing exercise, which is foundational in the Gurdjieff Work and figures prominently in four of these five exercises. We have worked on this exercise a bit in the Introductory Wisdom School and extensively in the intermediate school (The Divine Exchange), but those of you who know me only as a teacher of Centering Prayer may not yet have been exposed to this particular practice. So here’s the quick and dirty version:

First of all, SENSING. For the sake of this exercise, it means using your directed attention to awaken a sense of aliveness (often experienced as an actual subtle tingling) in a specific body part, while at the same time allowing that part to be the full container for your attention.

As a pilot run, bring your attention to your right hand. Try not to beam your attention down from outside, like a searchlight; rather, invite it gently to fill in from within. It will.

Notice how, under the beckoning power of your attention, your arm suddenly seems to “come online.” You are directly connected to it; you feel its vibrancy as a vitalization of your own being. (Isn’t it amazing how you can use this mysterious power always at your disposal, your attention, to fill up your hand with sensation; to increase the direct experience of your own aliveness?)

The rotation, then, typically goes; right arm, right leg; left leg; left arm. As your attention moves sequentially to each part, it also stays put there. If you see yourself wandering, daydreaming, judging…return to the direct sensation of the body part you are attending to.

Okay, with those two background pieces in place, you’re good to go. Over the next few posts, I’ll try to add a few very brief commentaries about the specific exercises themselves.

For more on attention, you will find William Segal’s marvelous excerpt through this link, “The Force of Attention,” on the Contemplative Society website.

You may also find it at the The Gurdjieff International Review and in their Fall 2013 issue, which is devoted to Attention.

You may visit the Wisdom School Community (Cynthia Bourgeault Wisdom Students) facebook page to receive more directions about working with the five exercises recommended by Cynthia Bourgeault in her post Pandemic Homework. They say: “This is a private facebook page dedicated to the community of Wisdom School students of Cynthia Bourgeault…that we may continue our work together and share in the journey. Since the page is private, you will need to personally message us to inform us of which Wisdom School you have attended or are scheduled to attend in order to be accepted. Due to the unusual circumstances of these times, if you have not attended a Wisdom School but are familiar with Cynthia’s teachings through having worked with at least a few of her books, particularly The Wisdom Way of Knowing, please make note of this in your request to join.

If it is in your heart to work with the five exercises please join the group so that you may have access to the exercises, commentaries, and enter into the group work together.

We look forward to doing this work together.

Cynthia offers further background to Pandemic Homework in the following post From the Eagle’s Nest…(the background to the instructions). More to come, in Raised Cyber-Eyebrows: Internet Technology and the Pandemic Homework, posting soon.

These exercises may be found in Joseph Azize’s book: Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises. It was published by the Oxford University Press in early 2020 and contains the five Pandemic Homework exercises and much, much more. It is available in print and on Kindle.

Northeast Wisdom thanks you, Joseph Azize, for your generous support of the Wisdom community working with these exercises at this particular turning point in time.

This post follows quickly on the heels of Pandemic Homework”, Cynthia’s previous post and her own “recommendation for inner work during this time of profound planetary readjustment.” It is the “fuller explanation” promised in that post, which contains four points of inner and outer work to engage in in these times. This work has been given in the light of this pandemic being more than temporary—rather, “a permanent and collective reset of our collective human conscience (that) will resolve itself only as a few more of us become willing and able to step up to the plate to live a different reality.”

I am keenly aware of the irony in all this. Here I sit on my prayer cushion in the remote seclusion of Eagle Island, more than twenty-four hours now elapsed since the island’s only other occupant headed ashore for an undisclosed period of time, taking the mailboat with him. It’s me, the eagle, the deer herd, the communion of saints. And nothing much in between.

But I did not come out here for social distancing, I came for listening. The way hermits have been doing it for millennia, at the intersection of the worlds, the intersection of the timeless with time. The way Rafe taught me to do it during our human years together, the way I for too long now have honored more in the breach than the observance.

I did not want to come out here. If I had my druthers, I would by now have been well on my way to North Carolina, to our eagerly-awaited Imaginal Wisdom School. But the planet forced my hand, and I got dragged out here by my gumboots. I realized almost immediately it was the place I really needed to be.

“It takes about four days for things to shift,” Rafe always told me. Even for him, the relatively gentle transition from the monastic cloister to his mountain hermitage two miles away was always a qualitative shift, a whole different atmosphere. Restlessness, thinking, structuring, doing…all those human functions to mask our human terror of the naked immediacy of the present have to slowly fade away before the listening sets in a different bandwidth, before you discover that the silence is immensely, vastly connected to presence, wisdom, compassionate guidance. Before it starts to speak.

During those four days I got a lot done: cut up a huge maple limb that had fallen, stacked wood, answered correspondence, caught up on old books, systematically checked in with my immediate circle of family and friends, and even did a bit of zooming before my always-delicate solar system finally buckled under the strain. Prayer was good, filled with rich, compassionate connectivity. Rafe was around, as he always is out here. And yes, I startled for a moment when the mailboat captain informed me Sunday morning he was heading ashore and gave me the option to go or stay. But I knew I was not going. The airspace between the realms was beginning to clear.

The next morning at prayer the downpour began.

I wrote up the instructions first—the “homework”–in case the last gasps of solar and internet connectivity decided to give up altogether, as they looked certain to do for about three hours after I was finally released from my prayer cushion. I wanted to make sure that folks in the Wisdom community at least had the bottom line and could begin to work as they chose with the materials, even if I am shortly forced into complete social incommunicado. But the instructions grow out of a wider picture, a picture that had been gradually coming to me over the weekend as I moved rocks and logs, as I walked the bare March earth marshalling in almost dizzying exhilaration for the imminent explosion of spring…

This is what I came out here to learn, to receive. And this is in turn what I pass on to you, the fuller version of the seeing, of which the earlier instructions are the practical applications. Make of them what you will. This is pretty much raw revelation, though I have tried to tone it down a bit.

 

The Oracle on Eagle Island

WHAT HAS BEFALLEN

  1. The covid-19 pandemic is a massive, planetary catastrophe whose roots are primarily ecological and evolutionary, not simply cultural (let alone political). This is one of those Teilhardian evolutionary tipping points where the planet itself, from within its inherent telluric intelligence, moves in a spontaneous paroxysm to correct an imbalance that taken the whole planetary ecosystem seriously off track.
  2. A single species ­–our human horde—has now become dangerously invasive, threatening the stability not only of the noosphere (the world of human culture and economics), but of the biosphere and also the geosphere: the foundational, invisible chemical and electromagnetic forces that maintain the conditions that maintain the possibility of life. We have pressed too far into the inner fastnesses of things, and the earth has spontaneously risen up to cleanse and rebalance itself. This is not a merely a moral chastisement but a biological pruning, an ecological cleansing. That is the scale at which this pandemic is playing out. It is not being sent “from outside,” “to punish us,” as in Old Testament judgment. It has been generated spontaneously out of the conditions we have created on the earth, as a completely legitimate outcome of what Teilhard called “taonnement,” trial and error. This disease is not happening TO us, it is happening BECAUSE of us.
  3. Social distancing is not a preventative measure; it merely puts the brakes on the rate of spread. Even as a braking system its effectiveness has not been proven. We huddle in our homes, and the contagion continues to spread. The infection will run its course until it has completed its biospheric work. We can slow it down, but we cannot outrun it, either individually or collectively.
  4. There is a very strong electrical involvement in the generation and transmission of this virus. It would be naïve to say that 5G technology has CAUSED it, and I distance myself from that type of rhetoric, which only further polarizes scientists and mystics at just the point where they need to unite. Still, it is growingly evident that this new virus is not being spread solely by traditional person-to-person contact, as was first assumed. There is a significant body of scientific data (vigorously downplayed and in fact actively demonized in the media) supporting the hypothesis that the worldwide circle of cellphone towers and GPS satellites circling overhead is inescapably implicit in this mix, not only in spreading social attitudes, but in the actual transmission of the virus itself. That is why our approach of “social distancing” is not only primitive (like trying to put out the Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire with water buckets), but may actually be aggravating the situation. The planetary atmosphere has become electrically inflamed, and we must calm the inflammation here before the rate of disease begins to come under control. The worldwide web may not be the cause of the pandemic, but it is the environment in which the disease is most aggressively spreading.
  5. Our planet itself will be fine. The earth is proving herself extremely resilient, fully capable of rebalancing herself in a remarkably short order. Already the streams are running clearer, the air is purer. It’s the human species that will take the principal hit: not only in physical attrition but in social, economic, and cultural chaos. We must be prepared for this. The readjustment will be long-term, and it will cut to the bones.

planet

 

WHAT WE CAN DO

  1. There is no escape on the front end: not by social isolation, not by “flattening the curve,” not by using our cleverness yet again to invent some stunning new vaccine that takes us all off the hook (until the next round of even more vaccine-resistant viruses appears.) The way out is through, and what we human beings potentially have to bring to the situation, to put out the fires and calm the inflammation, are the gifts that actually lie close at hand in the human spirit: courage, self-sacrifice, equanimity, forbearance, joy, gentleness, humility, compassion; conscious labor, intentional suffering, substituted love, recollection, purity of heart. Jesus names these qualities in the beatitudes. Paul talks about them as “the fruits of the spirit.”
  2. The Wisdom traditions I work within teach that these are not only qualities, not even energies, but subtle physical substances; nutrients desperately needed not just for our own planet, but for the entire inter-realmic ecosystem it is our human task to generate them through the alchemical transformation of our own “animal” (i.e., survivalist) nature.
  3. When we begin to receive our individual marching orders, I suspect many of us in the Wisdom community are going to find ourselves on the front line in being asked to re-establish actual physical links in the human chain, for it is here that these alchemical qualities will be most intensely replenished. That is why I have asked you all during this time to work deeply with the “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s” promise: in preparation. As always, the poor are taking the most direct hit in the “social distancing” strategy, which inherently favors the economically privileged. If the social fabric is not to be entirely unraveled, some of us will be called to stand directly in that breach, no matter the personal risk.
  4. The only REAL worldwide web takes place within the imaginal bandwidth. To access it requires training, and it requires purity of heart. What we are settling for in our current zoom communications is a simulacrum. It glitters, but it is not gold. Employ it as you need to as a temporary patch-through, but don’t get enthralled. The real alchemy is still one-on-one. I will speak to you more about that shortly.
  5. …And it requires, finally, pulling the plug on horizontal connection (or at least trimming it down substantially) and turning into—not away from—our own loneliness, our own fear, our own disconnection. And out here on Eagle Island, my solar power dropping rapidly as the first of three stormy days settle in, I suspect the question is about to be called on me. Like it or not, I will finally be a hermit.

With love to all,

Cynthia

light wave

Dear Wisdom friends:

Here is my own recommendation for inner work during this time of profound planetary readjustment. I will send you a fuller explanation as soon as I can, but the internet system has gone very wonky out here on Eagle Island, and you may need to be patient for my further elucidations of this admittedly countercultural course of action.

For those of you who have seen an advance manuscript of my book, this would be a course of action founded on the laws of World 24 (Imaginal) and above, not the laws of World 48 (our earth plane) and below that are presently running the show—futilely, in my estimation. This is not a temporary crisis to “flatten the curve.” This is a permanent and collective reset of our collective human conscience and will resolve itself only as a few more of us become willing and able to step up to the plate to live a different reality.

More on that to follow. For now, my “to do” list:

 1.  Get Joseph Azize’s new book, Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises (Oxford University Press, 2020)

Work diligently with some of the Gurdjieff exercises here assembled for the first time, particularly:                    

“Make Strong”   (pp. 178-82)
“Four Ideals”   (pp. 231-240)
“Lord have Mercy”   (pp. 241-251)
 “Clear Impressions”   (pp. 261-269)

2.  Continue your own daily practice of Centering Prayer, and within its gentle and surrendered atmosphere.

Do all you can to work as deeply into your being as you possibly can the truth of the Pauline affirmation                       

“Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.”

Work it in until there is no discrepancy between how it falls on your mind, your emotions, and your amygdala.

Work it in until you realize with all of yourself that it confers the only spiritual immunity, the only source of right action.

3.  Radically decrease or discontinue altogether your use of internet technology—zoom groups, zoom church—to support social distancing. It is actually aggravating the problem by further intensifying the electromagnetic inflammation of the planetary atmosphere which is actually driving the contagion.

4.  Physically connect (I mean in real space time) with at least one person whose life is already being physically impacted by this crisis (food shortage, income stream dried up) and try to help as best you can.

 

Lord have mercy on us all. Cynthia

photo courtesy pxfuel

This is the last in an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that Cynthia prepared from what she calls “one of the best things I have ever written.” It began on Sunday January 12, 2020, with posts every Sunday and Wednesday during the season of Epiphany. See links for previous postings, and more about the book how I saw God in everyone and everything, at the end of this post. Please share your reflections about the entire series in Comments!

Throughout the essay “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy,” Cynthia deftly weaves her personal inner experience and dynamic relationship with God and life—from the time of her childhood to the present—with that of our common human history of consciousness. In Part VII, she shares how initially it was her personal trajectory with Centering Prayer that led her to a clearer seeing and experience of what it is to perceive with the eye of the heart.

Tracing the profound nature of Jesus’ own words, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” into the consciousness of our times; Cynthia opens and concludes Part VII with contemporary words of Wisdom. “See or perish,” says Teilhard; while Kabir Helminski speaks to the heart as an organ with subtle faculties that—when working together—are “in spontaneous connection with the cosmic mind. This total mind we call heart.” This, says Cynthia, is a “revelation…or perhaps a revolution!” More about that, here in the conclusion…


Part VIII: The Eye of the Heart

Sienna Morris
drawing by Sienna Morris, courtesy wikimedia commons

During the ten years or more it took for this other way of understanding to be gradually assimilated in me, I slowly awoke to the real “aha!” of the situation. The thing is, pantheism, panentheism, monotheism—all those other grand “isms’ of the Western philosophical mind—are purely functions of the operating system, the rational mind running its perception-through-differentiation program. They are based on there needing to be an inside and an outside, a subject and object, carefully delimited descriptors, and identity through differentiation. And in all those respects, the concept of a great transcendent God “out there” is totally and quintessentially a function of separation consciousness at work, of the rational level of consciousness which was the great first axial breakthrough.

courtesy Yeshi Kangrang, Unsplash

But that is two levels of consciousness below where we are now, and where we need to be moving much more swiftly if there is to be a future for this fragile and interconnected universe. At the pluralistic level (where most of liberal/ progressive consciousness is presently clustered), we are just beginning to put the separated bits and pieces back together under the banner of “co-exist.” At the next level, the integral, we have begun to think holographically, from the whole to the part (rather than from the part to the whole which is still paradigmatic for pluralistic consciousness.) But only at the birth of the genuine nondual does the upgrade happen; the mind sinks into the heart, and we literally perceive FROM NO SEPARATION, by matching the pattern. There is no inside and no outside, because they are no longer necessary for perception. “When you can make two become one, the inside like the outside, the higher like the lower…” says the gospel of Thomas (logion 22). When you can look at the laborers in the vineyard (Mt 20) and not immediately rank them on the grid of “more” and “less.” When you begin to see in a dynamic, intercirculating, interabiding, cosmotheandric way that preserves both particularity and unity by setting the whole scene in motion, then, like Barbara Brown Taylor, you will hear yourself saying:

At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that makes it all go. (The Luminous Web, p. 74)

In former days, this kind of seeing was often confused with a mystical experience or hyped as evidence of “enlightenment” or personal self-realization. And maybe this was indeed the case in former days, and I can pat myself on the back if I want for having glimpsed something once reserved to the saints and mystics. But then there’s my grandson Jack, whose query began this essay (see Part I: The Light Within). At four, Jack was already clearly thinking in terms of the total volume of wholeness. It’s no longer an over-the-top spiritual achievement. It’s simply the way the planet is evolving.

photo courtesy Karina Vorozheeva, Unsplash; edited

I know that the direction and rate of acceleration nowadays leave a lot of us boomers who are still invested in the orderly transmission of institutional Christianity quaking in our boots. But you see, the light at the end of the tunnel in all this is that Jesus was THERE already, two thousand years ago. And as we open our mystical eye-of-the-heart and see, what we see is a Christianity which has essentially been waiting in the wings for two millennia for the time to arrive when it can finally become consistent its own highest cosmotheandric calling:

“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…I in them and you in me, that they may be completely one.” (John17: 21-23)


This is last post in the series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy…” here on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to go to “Part I: The Light Within,” “Part II: Panenthesim,” ” Part III: Panikkar,” “Part IV: Jesus Was Not a Monotheist(!?)” and “Part V: A Brief History of Consciousness,” “Part VI: A Brief History of Consciousness, continued.” and Part VII: Seeing.

 

May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.

How I Found God.“Dear Wisdom Friends,

As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere… Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.”

~ Cynthia Bourgeault, January 2020

 We look forward to the conversation continuing in Comments!

This is Part VII of an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that began on Sunday January 12, 2020, with posts every Sunday and Wednesday during the season of Epiphany. Look for the last post Wednesday, February 5th; and see links for previous postings and more at the end of this post. Please share your reflections in Comments!

Ethiopian icon
Ethiopian icon

In Part VI, Cynthia continues with the history of consciousness, confessing her “profound honor” of both the Old and New Testaments, while sharing Barbara Brown Taylor’s answer to the question, “Where is God in this picture?” In light of a God who “is the web… (is) revealed in that singular, vast net of relationships that animates everything that is,” Cynthia goes further to say, “Scripture does indeed contain all things necessary to salvation, but only if we keep writing it. And to keep writing it means—as all the prophets from Abraham on have consistently proclaimed—to be willing to leave all known reference points behind in order to ride that arrowhead of evolution relentlessly toward the next unfolding.”


VII Seeing

Voir or périr,” wrote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his searing prologue to The Human Phenomenon: “See or perish.”

In the end, it’s all about seeing. But maybe not so much about what we see, as how we see. And that has been my most surprising discovery in recent years: to discover that this great, elusive nondual reality may have more to do with an upgrade in the operating system than any change in spiritual state.

Old Man in Prayer
Rembrandt, Old Man in Prayer

Like most everything else that’s come into my life in these past thirty years, it all started with Centering Prayer.

I took up the practice in the late 1980s, but it took a long time—maybe five years—before I actually got what it was all about. Like most beginning meditators, I thought the goal was to make your mind still so that God could find a way in. I used my sacred word like a street sweeper to clear away all thoughts so that God could fill my emptiness with divine presence. Only gradually did I learn that the essence of the prayer lies in the simple letting go: the release of thoughts not in order to be filled with something else, but for its own sake, as a perfectly valid and whole spiritual gesture in its own right. I came to see it as the meditational equivalent of kenosis, or self-emptying, experienced not as a spiritual attitude but as an embodied practice.

Ethiopian Icon
from Ethiopian icon

Once that corner was turned, a whole new horizon opened up. I began to notice that as I worked with this gesture, my attention was shifting lower in my body, moving out of my head and not onto but into my heart. By this I mean it was not a matter of thinking about my heart, but more an abiding in my heart, like a gradual, enfolding aliveness. I noticed that every time I went “out” of myself to think about something, this aliveness faded and I was back into cerebral mode again, back into inside and outside, subject and object.

It was thus that I gradually came to think of contemplative prayer not simply as a “resting in God,” but as the gradual installation of a whole new system of perception…and upgrade in the operating system, as it were. I came to understand in a whole new way that classic Orthodox desideratum of “putting the mind in the heart.”     

The standard operating system on which rational consciousness and everything built on it rests is based on a “perception through differentiation” program. I am me by virtue of not being you. A cat is not a dog; God is not me. The playing field of perception is primordially organized into subject and object, inside and outside, like and unlike.

Octave
Three pitches in an Impression; sound figure by Margaret Watts-Hughes, w/ note: “Octave and 5th interval Bb”; courtesy of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

But this other, “mind in the heart” system runs a whole different program: perception through holographic unity, or an instantaneous perception of the larger pattern through sympathetic entrainment. The simplest analogy I can think of comes from music. When people are asked to sing a simple canon (like “Row, row, row your boat”), inexperienced singers will nearly always cover their ears so that the other musical parts don’t throw them off. But experienced singers realize that the whole song is a single harmonic unity and “lean into” the other parts in order to keep the rhythm and sing in tune. They are taking their bearings from the whole, which is what heart perception does.

I began to learn that there has indeed been a whole tradition of this other kind of perception in the West, inaugurated most likely by Jesus’ simple one-liner “Blessed are the pure [i.e., undivided] in heart for they shall see God,” and reaching its most sublime articulation in Orthodox Hesychasm and Islamic Sufism. Here the heart is perceived not as the seat of the emotions but as an organ of spiritual perception, and practice concentrates on removing the impurities (chiefly vainglory and attachment) and strengthening the physical grounding so that this other, far more powerful and vivifying operating system can come fully online.

Sienna Morris
drawing by Sienna Morris, courtesy wikimedia commons

The modern Sufi master Kabir Helmisnski writes about this heart-centered perception in a passage so emblazoned on my own consciousness that it manages to show up in most every book I’ve written. “We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using,” Helminski begins. “Beyond the limited analytical intellect lies a vast realm of mind that includes psychic and extrasensory abilities; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative, and creative faculties; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name because they are operating best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection with the cosmic mind. This total mind we call heart.” (Living Presence, p. 157)  

“This total mind we call heart….” Now there is a revelation—or perhaps a revolution!


Look for Cynthia’s last post in this series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part VIII: The Eye of the Heart” Wednesday February 5, 2020 here on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to go to “Part I: The Light Within,” “Part II: Panenthesim,” ” Part III: Panikkar,” “Part IV: Jesus Was Not a Monotheist(!?)” and “Part V: A Brief History of Consciousness” and “Part VI: A Brief History of Consciousness, continued.”

 

“May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.

How I Found God.“Dear Wisdom Friends,

As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere… Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.”

~ Cynthia Bourgeault, January 2020

 We look forward to the conversation continuing in Comments!

St. John
St John the Evangelist, 17th century Iran, courtesy Getty Museum

This is Part VI of an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that began on Sunday January 12, 2020, with posts every Sunday and Wednesday during the season of Epiphany. Please share your reflections in Comments!

In Part V Cynthia outlines the history of consciousness in a trajectory as relevant to world culture as to individuals. With an example from her own life of her ever-evolving relationship with the true nature and power of scripture she says:

“…then I looked upon it as the unchanging revelation of the one true God. Now I look at it as an extraordinary, sacred archive of the evolution of human consciousness.”

Opening further while relating her public profession of the Holy Bible as “container of all things necessary to salvation,” she claims the same of a stone, “in this holy, God-infused universe of ours when we truly open our hearts to it.”

Cynthia then uses scripture to deftly track consciousness from magical to mythic through rational to integral. “This is where Jesus takes up the story,” she says. “As far as the West is concerned, he is indisputably the first to model a fully attained nondual consciousness.”  


VI. A Brief History of Consciousness, continued….

BibleIsrael came into existence on the arrowhead of conscious evolution, a process that is holy and irreversible, and its greatest thinkers (Jesus being one of them) have always been ahead of the curve, breaking through the conceptual logjams du jour, carrying consciousness to the next level. In this respect I profoundly honor the Old Testament and could not even begin to make sense of my own Christian journey without it. And I honor the New Testament as well, and the great traditions of patristic, Neoplatonic, and scholastic thought that have framed our Western worldview for more than two millennia.

But it’s no longer the era we live in. The era in which God could be thought of as “pure spirit,” transcendent to matter, which “He” created but does not personally indwell, was turned upside down in 1905 (along with 2500 years of metaphysical Prospero’s castles built upon it), by the Einsteinian discovery that energy, not substance, is the true cosmic constant. And that “Heaven above” where “our Father art,” where indeed art that? Surely not “above” this visible realm, suspended beyond those perfectly crystalline planetary orbits that medieval astronomy used to portray. In a universe fourteen billion years old and vast beyond our most staggering reckonings, it is unimaginable to think that anything is “outside” the created realm. “Where is God in this picture?” writes Barbara Brown Taylor in her 2000 spiritual classic The Luminous Web, detailing the “radical shift” in her consciousness brought about by her exposure to quantum physics. Her answer:

God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts was more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationships that animates everything that is. (p. 74)

And in this dynamic, teeming, interabiding universe—pulsing, throbbing, kenotically, exchanging—the finger-in-the-dike of panentheism (and even the old school monotheism it is intended to protect) is simply, as my hermit teacher Rafe would shake his head and say, “last year’s language.” Scripture does indeed contain all things necessary to salvation, but only if we keep writing it. And to keep writing it means—as all the prophets from Abraham on have consistently proclaimed—to be willing to leave all known reference points behind in order to ride that arrowhead of evolution relentlessly toward the next unfolding. That’s the common thread running through the entire scriptural narrative, and the reason it contains all things necessary to salvation.


Look for Cynthia’s next post in this series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part VII: Seeing” Sunday February 2, 2020 here on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to visit “Part I: The Light Within,” “Part II: Panenthesim,” ” Part III: Panikkar,” “Part IV: Jesus Was Not a Monotheist(!?)” and “Part V: A Brief History of Consciousness.”

 

“May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.

How I Found God.“Dear Wisdom Friends,

As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere… Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.”

~ Cynthia Bourgeault, January 2020

We look forward to the conversation continuing in Comments!

This is Part V of an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that began on Sunday January 12, 2020, with posts every Sunday and Wednesday during the season of Epiphany. Please share your reflections in the Comments section below.

In Parts III and IV, Cynthia introduces us to her own opening through Raimon Panikkar, noting in Part IV his observation that the biggest threat that Jesus represented to the powers that be, was his “filiation” to God —”this unauthorized prophet was standing too close.” Panikkar’s theological vision of a moving, intercirculating, mutually infusing world of worlds, includes us all: we are each and all part of a cosmotheandric universe where, as Cynthia discovers, “God is not a first cause, not an explanation, but rather meaning itself, throbbing through the entire dynamism, suffusing the attuned heart like the air we breathe, like the atoms still reverberating in our bodies from the big bang.”


V. A Brief History of Consciousness

“I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation.”

It is the occasion of my ordination to the Episcopal priesthood, August 1979, and I am standing before my bishop, making my required public profession. My friends are rolling their eyes, wondering if I’ve just perjured myself. But no, I have never had difficulty with this particular provision, then or now. I do indeed believe that the Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation. So does a rock. So does this ten-foot-wide patch of ocean I am now sailing through after the fog has shut down my usual visual horizons. So does almost anything in this holy, God-infused universe of ours when we truly open our hearts to it.

But scripture is indeed its own unique brand of wonderfulness, and over the nearly seven decades it’s been part of my life, I have come to appreciate its sacredness in a whole different way. Back then I looked upon it as the unchanging revelation of the one true God. Now I look at it as an extraordinary, sacred archive of the evolution of human consciousness.

The idea of levels of consciousness, first advanced in the late1940s by Jean Gebser and Ernst Neumann and carried forward into our own times primarily through the work of Ken Wilber, suggests (in a nutshell) that each of us in the course of our lives pass through a series of levels of consciousness. Beginning in the undifferentiated “uroboric” state of infancy, we pass through the magical consciousness of early childhood, where the world is alive with “ghoulies and ghosties, long-leggity beasties, and things that go bump in the night;” to mythic membership (identification with the group or tribe); rational; pluralistic (“Co-exist!”)—and finally, if we’re lucky, to those “nondual” states of integral and cosmic consciousness, where we begin to see all things from the perspective of oneness. In the same way that an individual progresses through these levels in the course of life, moving as far as he or she is able to along the gradient, so our entire human family has passed through these same stages, “writ large” in the history of civilization.

Swan
Swan Series no 23, artist Hilma af Klint, photo courtesy of Laura Ruth from Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future

Seen in this way, the people of Israel are indeed, quintessentially, “the pen that God writes with” (as our Israeli tour guide categorically proclaimed during my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land). The journey we call the Old Testament really gets underway around the shift from magical consciousness to mythic membership consciousness. That’s what I was really witnessing in all those Bible stories of my childhood, those holy wars on “idol worship.” What I now know from a wider reading of human anthropology is that all those struggles with the Canaanites and Baal worshippers were really playing out the displacement of an earlier, magical consciousness in the transition to the next level, mythic membership. Israel swept like a holy dust storm into these ancient matriarchal lands, replacing the gods of rocks and rivers with a new concept, of a God “out there,” related to creation through covenant, not indwelling. It was a clear and significant evolutionary leap. The twelve tribes of Israel came into being as the active agency of this transition, determinedly obliterating their neighbors and even earlier, “pagan” vestiges in their own tradition to clear the way for this heretofore unconceivable new beachhead of divine/human consciousness.

Even Song
Even Song by artist Agnes Lawrence Pelton, 1930, courtesy of wikiart

Then, beginning in the Davidic psalms and continuing in earnest through the post-exilic prophets, we see the rise of rational consciousness as across the entire planet the winds of that great “first axial” age begin to blow and Israel awakens to the idea of a personal relationship and individual accountability with this great transcendent Yahweh. Finally, in those mysterious apocalyptic images of the “suffering servant” and that elusive “son of man,” we see the first intimations of a whole new level of consciousness, integral verging toward nondual: the capacity to think from the whole, not from the part, and thus for the first time in the history of civilization to begin to envision the possibility of a collective humanity.

This is where Jesus takes up the story. As far as the West is concerned, he is indisputably the first to model a fully attained nondual consciousness: flowing, compassionate, holographic, unbound by the conventions of those lower orders of consciousness which require that things be separated from each other in order to make sense of them. He is literally envisioning a new world, based on a new mode of consciousness: unity attained.

And of course, the planet was not ready for him then—and is still barely ready.


Look for Cynthia’s next post in this series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part VI: A Brief History of Consciousness, Continued” Wednesday January 29, 2020 here on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to go to “Part I: The Light Within,” “Part II: Panenthesim,” ” Part III: Panikkar,” and “Part IV: Jesus Was Not a Monotheist(!?)

From My Introduction to This Series:

“May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.

How I Found God.“Dear Wisdom Friends,
As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere… Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

“how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.” 

           ~Cynthia Bourgeault, January 2020

We look forward to the conversation continuing in Comments!

This is Part IV of an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that began on Sunday January 12, 2020, with two posts weekly, Sundays and Wednesdays, during the season of Epiphany. You are invited to share your responses in the Comments section below; and check out the end of this post for Cynthia’s introductory message to this series!

In “Part III: Panikkar,” Cynthia recalls first reading Panikkar’s Christophany—her heart being “blown wide open by this theologically exacting yet breathtakingly nondual rendition of the Christian mystical vision.” Panikkar offered new origin to the Trinity; and gave us a new word:

Jesus’ experience of God was cosmotheandric, the infinite and the finite continuously interabiding one another, dynamically changing places through a process of continuing self-giving, or kenosis.”

The stunning vision of the Trinity that emerges from Jesus’ experience—the “Abba, Father” pole on the one hand, and the “I and the Father are One” pole on the other—comes into motion with the third of Jesus’ master sayings, “It is good that I leave.” This new vision reveals a beautiful movement of active infusion, an intercirculation of realms, which Panikkar sees as World—God—Human in abundant, dynamic relationship.

Panikkar affirms theologically what science calls a single unified field, and what we are learning, as people of the 21st century, “that energy, not substance, is the coin of the realm.” Cynthia penetrates further…   


IV.   Jesus was not a monotheist (!?)

As I began to pay more attention to the subtext in Christophany, what I began to see appearing before my eyes was something even more radical. Was I really understanding correctly that Panikkar seemed to be implying that Jesus was not a monotheist?                                                            

I got to ask Panikkar this question directly in a private interview a few months before his death. His answer turned my world upside down—not so much what he said, but how he said it.                                                                                 

Hand of God
Hand of God by Lorenzo Quinn, photo Loco Steve, Halcyon Gallery, London

Well, it sure seemed to me that this is where Panikkar’s argument was heading. Block by understated block, he was quietly building the case that what made Jesus so threatening to the Jewish authorities was not his politics, his mysticism, or even his charisma, but that aforementioned “intense experience of divine filiation.” This unauthorized prophet was standing too close, violating that unbridgeable divide between Creator and creature which Father Abraham and Father Moses had fixed in place as firmly as the firmament itself. Who would ever call the great, transcendent Yahweh “Abba,” “Papa!!!!” Or accept the moniker “Son of God:” a blasphemy so galling that they played it back to him on his crown of thorns.

Silense
Silense by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis

It was so blasphemous, in fact, that even St. Paul found himself wanting to wriggle out of it, inventing the grand theological dodge that Jesus is the only natural son of God; the rest of us are “adopted” sons. But with his own brilliant theological and interspiritual acuity, Panikkar overturned that proposition as logically flawed, culturally bound, and not at all what Jesus was saying in the first place. Jesus is the son of God because we are all sons (and daughters) of God, because that is how a cosmotheandric universe works, because God is not a first cause, not an explanation, but rather meaning itself, throbbing through the entire dynamism, suffusing the attuned heart like the air we breathe, like the atoms still reverberating in our bodies from the big bang.

“Is that really what you meant? Am I understanding you rightly?” I peered across the vast walnut desk at the tiny, 93-year-old man, sitting like a wizened tulku in the study at his home in Tavertet, Spain. It was March 8, 2010, less than six months before his death, and he was already actively transitioning toward the next realm; two months earlier he had cancelled all engagements. How our own interview remained on his calendar, I to this day do not understand; I chalk it up to the deft touch of a mutual friend in Barcelona who had arranged our meeting and served as our impromptu interpreter when our conversation occasionally lapsed into Panikkar’s native Catalonian. We sat there for about an hour, our conversation mostly carried in the mode of contemplative prayer, punctuated by a few brief exchanges which barely rippled the radiance of the depths.

“That’s really what you’re saying?” I finally summoned up my nerve to ask —“that Jesus was not a monotheist?”

He weighed my words silently. The silence lasted a long, long time. Then slowly, still silently, he nodded. A mysterious smile flickered across his face, not unlike the Mona Lisa.


Look for Cynthia’s next post in this series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part V A Brief History of Consciousness,” Sunday January 26, 2020 here on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to go to “Part I: The Light Within,” “Part II: Panenthesim,” and Part III: Panikkar.

Here’s Cynthia’s original message introducing this series, posted January 12:

“Dear Wisdom Friends,

How I Found God.As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere.                  

I look forward to you sharing your reflections in the Comments section.

Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.”

Cynthia adds, “how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.” 

This is Part III of an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that began on Sunday January 12, 2020. Cynthia introduced the series with this message:              

“Dear Wisdom Friends,

As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 How I Found God.anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere.                  

I will be sharing my entire essay in eight successive posts, which will be headed your way in bite-sized doses over the upcoming season of Epiphany. I look forward to you sharing your reflections in the Comments section. Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.”  


In “Part II: Panentheism,” Cynthia remembers how frequently she met resistance teaching Centering Prayer with its understanding of levels of consciousness:

“Clearly the whole notion of a divine indwelling, for all its certifiable theological orthodoxy, continues to make many traditionally reared Christians squirm.”

Inevitably, the word “panentheist” would come up, a term which Cynthia says, “like a ‘jet airplane’… tries to define itself in terms of a prior term (in this case, pantheism), to which it offers an ostensible improvement… while still implicitly keeping the paradigm in place.”

As our world hovers on the threshold of a second axial age, I believe that it’s time to recognize pantheism as a concept whose era has long since come and gone… This old wineskin’s simply gotta go before we can break out the new wine of an authentically nondual Christianity.”

She concludes, “I hope to share with you a bit of the story of how I have come to see things in this way—in particular, the three “aha” insights that changed everything for me.” And here we are…


III. Panikkar

Panikkar
Raimon Panikkar, photo courtesy of Milena Carrara

I had been slowly drifting toward a more unitive worldview for decades, but it was Raimon Panikkar who finally put me across the line.

Panikkar had been on my distant radar screen for some time, but my immersion began in earnest in the spring of 2008—thanks, I should say, to a nudge from my longtime friend and spiritual mentor Thomas Keating. Eighty-five years old at the time, Thomas had himself recently taken the plunge into Panikkar’s 2004 magnum opus Christophany and was electrified by its brilliant, dynamically nondual vision. “Can you imagine how this would change the face of Christianity if it were better known?” he mused, then added, staring straight at me with that signature twinkle of the eye, “But of course, it’s too difficult for lay people….”

True Trinity
the true Trinity in true unity, Hildegard of Bingen

Well, them’s fighting words! It’s long been a point of pride with me (and TK knew it!) that anything worth teaching can be taught to anyone if you can only find the right angle of approach. So rising to the wager, I too plunged into Christophany, only to find my heart, just like Thomas’, blown wide open by this theologically exacting yet breathtakingly nondual rendition of the Christian mystical vision. As I waded into the section called “The Mysticism of Jesus Christ,” I was floored by what Panikkar seemed to be arguing: that the Trinity, often dismissed as a theological add-on hammered out at the later theological councils, was actually an original—because it originated in the mind of Christ! It encapsulates in a single elegant mandala the entire personal experience of Jesus himself in his relationship to divinity.

Far from either a static immanence or static transcendence, Jesus’ experience of God was cosmotheandric, the infinite and the finite continuously interabiding one another, dynamically changing places through a process of continuing self-giving, or kenosis. At the “Abba, father” pole, claims Panikkar, Jesus is most fully identified with his finite selfhood, reaching out to God with what Panikkar describes as “a very intense experience of a divine filiation.” (p. 93) At the opposite pole, “I and the Father are one,” there is simply a unity of being, no place where God stops and “I” begin, just a unity. Between these two poles, the third of Jesus’ three great mahavakyani, or master sayings—“It is good that I leave”— places the other two in a perpetual kenotic dynamism which Panikkar beautifully summarizes as “I am one with the source insofar as I too act as a source by making all I have received flow again.” (p. 116).

Vortex
Vortex, Space, Form, Giacomo Balla, 1914

Dynamism, the missing link: like a bicycle, the whole thing only works when it’s in motion.

Cosmotheandric” is Panikkar’s neologism of choice to describe this dynamic intercirculation. Denotatively, it covers much the same turf as panentheism, but connotatively, they are light years apart. Panentheism ties us back into that old static paradigm (this “thing” called the created order is not God, but God can still visit it without getting stuck in it); cosmotheandric (forged from the words cosmos, world; theos, God; and andros, human) speaks implicitly of an intercirculation of realms, of whole different dimensions or planes of being actively infusing each other. It is cosmic, quantum, Einsteinian, portraying the paradox of form and formless more like virtual particles dancing in and about existence in a single unified field than in the old substance theology categories now largely outmoded as we have discovered that energy, not substance, is the coin of the realm.

Flame
Mount of Flame courtesy artist Agnes Lawrence Pelton

                

Panikkar’s words knocked my socks off, for it felt so in tune with the heartbeat of the 21st century, the dynamic, evolving, interabiding world we are coming to find affirmed far more in science these days than in theology, still so stuck in defending an ancient and long since superfluous abyss between form and the formless.

Nor did it come as much of a surprise to me when the lay people in my Wisdom School ate it right up.


Look for Cynthia’s next post in this series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part IV. Jesus was not a monotheist (!?),” Wednesday, January 22, 2020 here, on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to go to “Part I: The Light Within,” and “Part II: Panenthesim.”

Cynthia says, “how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.”