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Encountering the Heart of Silence: A Conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault in Two Parts

When people gather in silence, a deeper kind of collective, synergistic, numinous knowing unfolds. And that’s the only knowing that’s worth a damn, particularly when you’re working with the infinite.     ~ Cynthia Bourgeault On February 25, 2019 Cynthia was interviewed for a podcast on the Encountering Silence website, hosted by Carl McColman with Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson. These recording are available in two parts, as Episodes 58 and 59: Encountering the Heart of Silence: A Conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault (Parts One and Two). You will find all the links to these podcasts at the end of this post. All thanks to Cynthia and to the folks at Encountering Silence for this delightful interview! Encountering Silence describes the interview in this way: “Cynthia shares how her love for silence originated with her early education in Quaker schools, where she recognized silence as a “liturgical expression and mode of divine communion.” There she discovered silence not merely as the absence of noise, but as a sacred container of presence. For her, after a long meandering journey from Christian Science to Episcopal ordination, she became (in her words) a “Trappist junkie” as she began to study centering prayer with Fr. Thomas

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Bruno Barnhart’s Movement II: The Eastern Turn

Each month, a Northeast Wisdom voice is offering a reflection on a chapter from Bruno Barnhart’s The Future of Wisdom.  This month, it’s my turn with Chapter 3, “Movement II: The Eastern Turn.”  I admittedly found Chapters 1 and 2 a bit of a slog (somewhat overly academic and technical in language), but not without enough incandescent gems scattered along the way to keep me turning the pages.  For me, Chapter 3, however, hit the ground running! Here, Bruno brings the experience of nondual consciousness front and center, and (fascinatingly) ties it to baptismal identity (of all things!).  When I first read this book over a decade ago, this linking didn’t make much sense to me—it felt strange and forced, and left me scratching my head.  Reading it now, the same idea lit up for me beautifully.  "Little by little..." they say.  I’ll summarize and comment on some of Bruno’s main points from this chapter as we go. Bruno begins by looking at the 20th century encounter of Christianity with what he calls “the Asian spiritual traditions”—Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.  He points out that this encounter has significantly altered the way Christians think of “meditation”—less as “a process of reflection

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A Virtual Holy Week Retreat

Participation in Mystery Schools and Wisdom Schools both as a student and as a teacher has attuned me to the impact that holy days of all the traditions have on the energy field of our planet—and, therefore, on each of us. Intentional participation in the remembrance of these times not only draws us into their power and mystery, but also gives us an opportunity to deepen their effects. The marking of the Christian Holy Week—that period between Palm Sunday and Easter—can open us more deeply to power of sacrifice, liberation, and abiding love. The marking of the Christian Holy Week—that period between Palm Sunday and Easter—can open us more deeply to the power of its deepest meaning. The deep streams of betrayal, abandonment, death, love, fidelity, and sacrifice all flow together into a great river of confluence in our marking of Holy Week. Riding the currents of this great river, we are brought to a deeper understanding of what was being manifested and transacted in the Passion Mystery and of what is being asked of us in our lives. I am excited about this upcoming Holy Week Virtual Retreat and am particularly enthused about this program drawing together people who

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On the Imaginal

"I was delighted to receive this wonderfully creative exploration of imaginal reality by my student Josh Tysinger. Aside from simply his completely singular and wondrous mind itself, Josh’s claim to fame around our Wisdom network is that he was the one who stepped forward to journey closely with Beatrice Bruteau during her last few years of her life and the one who expedited getting her archive safely delivered to Emory University. Josh is her direct lineage bearer, and you will hear a bit of her voice and sparkle speaking through this mind-bending (to say the least) imaginal rhapsody." ~ Cynthia Over the past months, our teacher Cynthia Bourgeault has articulated her pioneering and breath-taking research into perspectives on the imaginal realm. Invigorated by her beautiful meditations on this most sacred of spaces, I broach this subject with only the most humble of intentions of initiating dialogue onto how it plays out in daily life. These are my personal beliefs inspired by her musings on the imaginal – ones I hope are in step with Cynthia’s own views on the matter. ~ Joshua To begin, I perceive the imaginal as connected with an intermediary flow-through area existing between the unconscious and

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Bruno Barnhart’s Movement I: The Sapiential Awakening

Bruno Barnhart brought me right into life in the world when he opened the second chapter of The Future of Wisdom with the words, "Wisdom begins in wonder. Something profound awakens when a child opens a book and finds its pages full of light, the words radiant even though their meanings remain indistinct." He ends this first paragraph of the second chapter, entitled, "Movement I: The Sapiential Awakening," saying: "spiritual wisdom… is always a beginning… a simple, luminous fullness" and that, in the "cold clarity of the modern West, it is often the poets who catalyze the awakening of a sapiential consciousness." Bruno leads us on a spiral journey through the Christian sapiential tradition, beginning with three quick, broad strokes. The first—the Awakening! above—speaks to the reader directly and personally, and comes out of his own spiritual awakening as a young person. It sets the tone, alerting the reader that this is about a living Wisdom, not a concept, or shell of an idea. The second stroke takes us from poets and children, enchantment, eager spirits and new discoveries to the event of Christ as "the coming of the divine Wisdom to humanity as a human person." This, is real.

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Getting Started on Bruno Barnhart’s “The Future of Wisdom”

For the next five months Northeast Wisdom will be posting responses to Bruno Barnhart's new edition of The Future of Wisdom in conjunction with the 'Year of Bruno Barnhart' and the Northeast Wisdom study groups that will begin this month. These groups will meet monthly, the first group on the Second Friday evening and the second on the fourth Wednesday morning, from February through June. There are a number of local study groups that are happening simultaneously, community organized, and we welcome any sharing that comes out of these groups on Breaking Ground. We hope to bring a different voice each month to these blog posts, addressing the five chapters in conjunction with the study groups. The first contribution below is Bill Redfield's response to the Introductory first chapter. Enjoy! While maintaining that a Sapiential or Wisdom Christianity has been an integral part of the Christian tradition from the beginning and generative through the first twelve centuries, Barnhart cites our present age as the time of its restoration and renewal. In this introductory chapter Barnhart illuminates the essential inner movements of a Sapiential Christianity (an Eastern turn, a Western turn, and a global turn) as well as the contextual and

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Two Offerings: Northeast Wisdom and the New Year

[caption id="attachment_4366" align="alignleft" width="292"] Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand[/caption] As the year 2018 came to a close, the board of Northeast Wisdom met several times to discern into the coming year. We noticed a number of things. The creative initiative and growth in the individual and local group lives of the greater Wisdom community is clear. In 2018 we had seen the first publication of Cynthia's current and immediate talks and writings. The further embodiment of the practices community-wide is telling, as is the growing participation of younger generations. We noted a stronger Northeast Wisdom website, welcoming community participation, and new forms of gathering platforms and materials, coming to the fore as groups study and practice together in their communities and in cyberspace. More Wisdom Schools and retreats are being offered around the country by emerging postholders; and explorations where related Wisdom traditions meet are taking place. A conversation is beginning that is discussing the lineage more directly, without unbending fixation, in small groups and larger retreats. These are but a few of the impulses that were bearing new fruit in 2018 and promise to deepen and grow into 2019. Our work is to support these creative endeavors, and help

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The Calling of Northeast Wisdom: To Be the Gathering Thread

[caption id="attachment_4339" align="alignleft" width="266"] "The Calling," original artwork by James Fissel, courtesy of Judy Skeels.[/caption] A year ago in this space I posted a blog on behalf of the Board of Northeast Wisdom—a piece entitled “What’s Next for Northeast Wisdom: A Short History to An Emerging Vision.” Again, I write on behalf of the Board, but this time my focus is on some of the “Emergents” that are arising from that vision. Note that I say “are arising, “rather than “have arisen.” For we are Teilhardian at heart and embrace an evolving notion of who we are and who we are becoming as a community. The sense that Northeast Wisdom is to serve as the Gathering Thread for our particular branch of the broader Wisdom lineage grows ever stronger as the image which best encapsulates the work we are called to do. Which, of course, leads to the obvious next questions—the how, the what, and the where this thread gathers. This branch of the Wisdom tree we serve is a diverse community. Our connection is not one of geography, of organizational membership, of educational achievement, of employment, or of affiliation with a particular religious tradition—though our roots are decidedly Christian.

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Launching the Year of Bruno Barnhart

Dear Wisdom community, In January 2015 we launched “The Year of Teilhard de Chardin” and tasked our network with becoming more and more acquainted with Teilhard’s expansive body of writing.  Since then, Teilhard’s stunning evolutionary mysticism and cosmovision have become a central thread in our Wisdom understanding. During that same Year of Teilhard, one of the planet’s Christian contemplative giants quietly passed into the unseen—the Camaldolese monk and priest Fr. Bruno Barnhart.  In many ways, Fr. Bruno’s work picked up where Teilhard’s left off—integrating Teilhard’s world-affirming, evolutionary, “Western” vision with the nondual depths of the “Eastern” traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism) into a powerhouse of Christian mystical synthesis. Bruno believed that contemporary Christianity was severely diminished, having lost touch almost entirely with our own depth dimension—“this depth of life and consciousness that has so largely disappeared from our Western civilization, and from our Western Christianity,” he wrote, “is wisdom.”  And so he gave himself to the midwifing of a new sapiential, or Wisdom, understanding of the Christian path. Significantly, Bruno did not believe we could go backwards.  Having fully internalized Teilhard’s forward-looking roadmap, he did not see the unfolding of Western civilization, secularity, and modernity as dead-ends or wrong-turns but (shockingly

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Solstice

This past weekend I spent time in a place of enormous beauty. The room was created for a group to enter into prayer and healing together for several days. I realize its beauty is more than appearance–the beauty is true–it reflects truth. Human beings came together, in the goodness of their hearts, and prepared a space. It was created with a depth of vision born out of and in relationship to the imaginal. Through that effortless patience, beauty and truth were revealed as one. Something unseen became known within me, the moment I walked into it. Interconnections were illuminated, pulsing and alive in the blood; between worlds, yes. And in the cells between us–the room, myself, and the other people gathered there. Several days before, I had the first dream I remembered in many months: I walk in to the room, openmouthed. There is a sparkling silence in the air, things have yet to begin, but the space is prepared, waiting. There are places for the musicians, where the music will come through. Children are there, others are coming. The beauty comes into me and fills my being unencumbered. The channel through my mouth completely open to what is there.

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