The Contemplative Society has the distinction of being Cynthia’s first home as resident teacher of the Wisdom tradition. After offering a teaching in British Columbia in 1995, Cynthia returned to live there in January 1998, leaving the mountain monastery where her beloved Rafe had died two years earlier. In the “extension of the training” with Rafe that Cynthia writes about in Love is Stronger than Death, she says of that time, “I began to realize that the sphere of our “touching” came most intensely when I was in service to others: teaching, leading meditation retreats, building a new organization, The Contemplative Society, with a dedicated and growing group of people. More and more my teaching moved away from what I’d learned “by the books,” and into what I was learning through the ongoing journey with Rafe. And it was during these times, when I knew more than I knew and shared it with a heart afire, that our continuing partnership was most radiant, both inwardly and outwardly visible.” (p 229, Afterword)
The Contemplative Society recorded many of those teachings—heart afire—from Cynthia’s years in residence, and beyond. With most of 25 years itself in service to Cynthia’s teaching, close to thirty CD and MP3 audio recordings of her teaching alone are available for purchase on their website. These teachings range from 1995 to 2019, are from 2 ~ 15 hours in length, and include recordings from New Zealand to Assisi to Ireland and the Southwestern, Southeastern and Northeastern United States as well as British Columbia. Many of these recordings have been revised and released in the past couple of years for higher quality. Matthew Wright, who also holds the post at Contemplative Society retreats, has three sets of teaching available on the site. Stay tuned for his review of Bruno Barnhart’s newly available CD (or MP3) set, “Towards the Fullness of Christ,” coming soon on Northeast Wisdom; and note the upcoming Contemplative Society events in British Columbia:
The Contemplative Society recently released Cynthia’s 14 hours of teaching from April 2019 entitled “Luminous Wisdom: Our Lineage,” available for purchase now on their website. More about that below! …Where Sharon, their administrator, provides a further introduction to The Contemplative Society.
The Contemplative Society is an inclusive non-profit association that encourages a deepening of contemplative prayer based in the Christian Wisdom tradition while also welcoming and being supportive of other meditation traditions.
We offer a consistent and balanced path for spiritual growth and transformation rooted in prayer, silence, mindful work, and in the 1500-year-old wisdom of our Benedictine contemplative heritage.
The Society supports the work of Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault in her role of Principal Teacher and Advisor for The Contemplative Society and her vocation as a hermit and writer. We do so by sponsoring retreats, wisdom schools, and workshops led by Cynthia and other distinguished teachers of the Christian contemplative path, and through the sales of instructional and inspiration materials, in both print and audio format, supportive of the contemplative life.
The Contemplative Society actively nurtures local teachers of the contemplative way and maintains an office to communicate with members and to provide a regular and balanced schedule of retreat, teaching, and workshop opportunities.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Contemplative Society was formed in 1997 on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia with four original members united in their desire to support an emerging contemplative renewal in the area. The group sought a teacher to lead retreats and workshops, and to encourage the spiritual life by living a contemplative life of deep prayer and spiritual practice.
In January 1998, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest, hermit, author, musician and teacher, arrived on Salt Spring Island at the invitation of the Society to take the role of resident teacher. Cynthia’s presence generated tremendous energy and excitement for the work and vision of the Society. From its tiny beginnings, the Society has grown to include members from around the world.
As Cynthia has traveled increasingly both on the continent and internationally, other members of the Society have begun to assume some of the responsibility for teaching and leading retreats. Retreats sponsored by The Contemplative Society are usually held on Vancouver Island, or in the lower mainland in British Columbia.
Although Cynthia is no longer resident teacher, the board continues to support Cynthia in her role as principal Teacher and Advisor to the Society. As principal teacher, through her written works, retreats, and workshops, Cynthia encourages “reawakening the inner heart of Christianity itself through a direct encounter with the Wisdom Christ, our living interior master, sustained through a combined program of contemplative retreats, inner work, chanting, and sacred movement.”
The Contemplative Society continues to organize up to two retreats a year with teachers such as Mirabai Starr, Matthew Wright, Ward Bauman, and Cynthia Bourgeault. We support peer-led meditation retreats and contemplative prayer workshops with local contemplative groups, as well as with Multifaith Services at the University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, where we also co-sponsor Quiet Days in Lent and Advent. Gifted Audio Ministry volunteers continue to record, prepare, and sell MP3 and CD resources to the contemplative community around the world, with more than 30 teachings from Mirabai Starr, Matthew Wright, Fr. Bruno Barnhart, and Cynthia Bourgeault recorded over the past 3 decades.
Our most recent audio resources include a newly edited Toward the Fullness of Christ with Fr. Bruno Barnhart teaching on Vancouver Island in 1997, and Cynthia Bourgeault’s Luminous Wisdom: Our Lineage from her Vancouver Island retreat in 2019, in which Cynthia dives deeply into the 8 elements of the Christian wisdom lineage that has emerged under her tutelage (see the foundational article at https://www.contemplative.org/our- wisdom-lineage/). This recording serves not only as a basis for ongoing conversation, but also as an archival record of The Contemplative Society Wisdom School to date.
“…I simply cannot emphasize enough how important The Contemplative Society has become in supporting my work…It’s allowing contemplatives from all over the world to connect in a ‘network of hearts’…What a pivotal role the Society is playing, both in supporting me personally in my teaching and in helping bring this teaching to the world…”
~ Cynthia Bourgeault
Sharon Taylor says: I work for the board of the Contemplative Society, doing the office and administrative work, including reporting to various government agencies, dealing with finances, and trouble- shooting everything from technology to the bane of my existence, PayPal. As a musician, I am drawn to Taizé, to chant of all traditions, to the power of music to draw me out of my body. I am an interspiritual, life-long Anglican and have worked with leaders from many different traditions, including my anam cara, an American Buddhist nun.