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Healing the Elephant in the Womb (Part 7)

As we come down the home stretch in this extended Wisdom inquiry into the abortion issue, I’ve tried to draw together here some of the most important implications and “business arising” out this exploration. Most of my following “top five” have already been touched on in previous blogs, but a few are new (though obviously following from points already raised.) Here we go: Reframing The whole conversation around the abortion issue needs to begin with a comprehensive reframing of the metaphysical assumptions on which it rests: away from a substance-theology-driven fixation on nailing down the precise moment when “life” begins (implicitly understood as meaning an individual human soul) and toward a wider appreciation of the entire life journey as a single, interwoven dynamism of “soul-making” in which each stage of the journey is equally vulnerable and precious. When does a daffodil become a daffodil? Is daffodil the bulb? The shoot? The bud? The flower? It is all of the above, yet none insofar as a stage is taken in isolation. In the traditional Wisdom maps—confirmed as well as in the more dynamic relational models emerging from the leading edges of biophysics and evolutionary theology—the term “pro-life” can no longer be

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Fullness of Life: A brief poetic interlude before the final run-up on a conclusion (Part 6)

  The clear, simple truth: Nothing can fall out of God. Where would it go? God is not “somebody” (not me)—“somewhere else” (not here.) God is the ALL, the now, the whole; the undivided, dynamic totality of form and formlessness. As Barbara Brown Taylor pictures it so vibrantly in The Luminous Web: Where is God is this picture? 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 were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. (p. 74)   We are pouring from fullness to fullness here. From the perspective of the cove, the tide rises and falls in great contrasting cycles. A wharf riding gently at sea level on the high tide may be perched fifteen feet above a mudflat when the tide has emptied out. The sea ebbs and flows; the cove appears as “full” or “empty.” But from the perspective of the ocean, the volume of water is always the same; like a great watery amoeba it simply extends

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Teilhard, the Personal, and The Developmental Soul (Part 5)

But what about Psalm 139? The biggest challenge in wrapping one’s head around this Wisdom notion of a developmental soul — at least for traditionally reared religious folks — is that it seems to fly in the face of that well-loved Biblical assurance that God is personally and intimately invested in the creation of each and every human being. “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” the psalm text assures. In the face of this apparently explicit assurance that each human soul originates in God and reflects God’s personal handiwork, the alternative version — that developing a soul is the principal business of this life and that not all human lives will get there — seems bleak and impersonal. What could possibly be the advantage of looking at things this way? The advantage is that it might — just might — knock us out of a cul de sac of sloppy and sentimental thinking based on an antiquated metaphysics that is no longer supported by science. You may have already noticed how some of this sloppiness has slipped into some of comments generated in this blog series. There is a strong tendency

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The Developmental Soul (Part 4)

ESSENCE According to Gurdjieff, the mysterious “x-factor” that enters in the moment of conception is not yet soul but essence. Think of it as the hand of cards you’re dealt at the start of a card game. It comprises a set of unique characteristics, including race, gender (and most likely gender orientation), basic body type and other genetic factors, influences emerging from more distant ancestry and bloodline—and yes, that unquantifiable legacy “from the stars” —all combined primarily according to what Teilhard would call “tatonnement” (“trial and error”): evolution’s predilection for trying out any and all possibilities. Cumulatively, all of the above will combine to will confer on you what is commonly known as your “nature.” Notice how there is no need to stipulate an “artist” God here, specifically designing a unique human being; what’s being pictured here is simply a lawful playing out of a freedom already inherent within Creation itself. Essence is not customized, not micro-managed—at least according to most schools of inner work I’m familiar with. That may take some getting used to, and for those of you finding yourself already in resistance mode, I encourage you simply to let this new perspective settle in a bit. Rest

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When Does “Life” Begin? (Part 3)

In this third installment of what now looks to be shaping up as five-part series, I hope to bring a Wisdom perspective to that profound liminal sphere encompassing conception, birth, and the formation of the soul. For it’s in the metaphysical confusion surrounding these mysteries, I believe, that the roots of our present abortion conundrum really have their origin. Note that I say “a Wisdom perspective” rather that “the Wisdom perspective,” for the Wisdom tradition is by no means monochrome. My comments here reflect the strands of the lineage that have most directly informed my own understanding, specifically, the Gurdjieff Work and the Christian mystical/esoteric lineage running through the Gospel of Thomas, the Philokalia, Jacob Boehme, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. They also reflect some of the thinking at the forefront of contemporary embryology, particularly as represented in the work of Dutch embryologist Jaap van der Wal. THE BEGINNINGS OF LIFE The Wisdom tradition would affirm vigorously that life does not merely begin at conception; it is already well underway by the time of conception—“life” here understood not as a purely biological phenomenon, but as flow, dynamism, and intelligent purposiveness. In contrast to earlier, more mechanical models, which tended to

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Non-identification and Enlightened Action

Dear Wisdom Friends, I received the following in my inbox this past week from Jerry Toporovsky. Jerry is a senior teacher of the Gurdjieff Work and was the leader of our pilgrimage to Uzbekistan in 2015. I found it so appropriate to those of us struggling to understand the relationship between non-identification and enlightened action that I thought I'd pass it on. Thanks for considering! Love and blessing, Cynthia   There is much fear and anxiety about; the time we live in can be defined as such. There is little that most folks trust; people do not fear a specific thing but EVERYTHING and will do anything to escape it. Uncertainty and doubt lead to following snake oil salesmen - destroying the competing vitriol is rarely a solution. For us in the work the key is humility. We can be with anxiety and not attempt to escape; we can endure uncertainty and see that being so throws us off our smug island of certainty to a world of potential. We can even appreciate the pain and fear and allow them to wake us up. Let us not lose ourselves in our emotions and remain non-identified. Be an activist if you

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‘Communal Time of Prayer’ on behalf of Our World

Yesterday morning a desire 'arose' from among our Wisdom community to have a 'communal time of prayer' on behalf of our world. Our local (Bethlehem) Wisdom member said: “I was drawn back to the powerful experience many of us had when you, Marcella, were up in Maine (in Feb) and we all 'sat together’; different places but at the same time. Would it be possible for as many of the wisdom community as possible to pick a day and time to have a giant sit weekly? I feel that the light that would generate could only help”. This resonated deeply within me, as what catapulted through me over the weekend was "FOR THIS...we were asked to go to Stonington for that prayer weekend in February" (see "Conscious Circle" Ingathering). THIS WAS WHAT WE WERE PRAYING 'on behalf of', what we were preparing for. The ‘sensation’ of this recognition was so strong Sunday night, it literally felt like I was being pulled out of bed, onto my knees on behalf of our world. Then yesterday afternoon I met with one of my Law of Three midwife groups (see "To Midwife Third Force": Creating Law of Three Midwife Groups) to be reminded

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Abortion, Pro-Life, and the Secular State: A Modest Proposal (Part 2)

In my previous blog (concurrently posted on both the Contemplative Society and Northeast Wisdom websites), I invited members of our Wisdom community to begin to engage a conversation on the emotion-charged issue of abortion rights as a means to promote respectful dialogue to think beyond this singular issue. It is with no little “fear and trembling” that I launch a foray into this quintessentially Catholic moral ground. But to the extent that abortion has become the tail wagging the dog, chaining much of the Catholic political conscience to the decidedly un-Christian agendas of the religious right—and to the extent that this “elephant in the room” continues to go unmentioned in the otherwise compelling moral analysis recently emerging from Vatican—I feel some obligation as an American citizen and a wisdom teacher to at least try to get the ball rolling. Forgive me: this is long for a blog. But take it in small doses, and take your time.   SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS If my memory serves me correctly, in one of his earliest encyclicals the Pope already laid out some firm groundwork here when he warned against a myopic, single-point focus that inevitably twists moral issues out of context. That’s surely

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“A Surprising Ecumenism…” (Part 1)

Both my spirits and my hopes have been raised by the recent appearance of an important and already game-changing new article in the most recent edition of La Civilta Cattolica. This is a prestigious Jesuit publication, whose contents are personally vetted by the Vatican Secretary of State and which can thus be seen as a bellwether if not a de facto mouthpiece for papal policy. Entitled Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism, the article is the first attempt I have seen to drive a significant intellectual wedge into the murky moral alliance between conservative Catholicism and Protestant evangelical fundamentalism that helped to catapult Donald Trump into office and is still a cornerstone of his support. [caption id="attachment_2733" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Courtesy of whatchristianswanttoknow.com[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2734" align="alignleft" width="300"] (CNS / Paul Haring)[/caption] In this learned yet accessible study, co-authors Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa (a Roman Catholic and a Presbyterian pastor, both of them respected editors and close friends of the Pope) trace the rise of Protestant Fundamentalism in the early 20th century, exploring its major doctrinal assertions and detailing its increasing infiltration into American politics. They conclude with a pointblank rejection of these doctrinal claims as

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To Touch What is Being “Forged in the Alchemy of Love”: Breaking Ground in the Wisdom Community

Dear Friends of Northeast Wisdom, I am pleased to invite you to visit "Breaking Ground", a new page on this website that hopes to become an active forum for the exchange of ideas, insights, creative expressions and experiences related to the integration of Wisdom into daily life, our inner experience and our lives in the world, our relationships and communities. Welcome!I have just revisited Cynthia's November 2016 Blog post 'Lines of My Own Composed above Tintern Abbey'. I recommend it; so much so that we have re-posted it in Breaking Ground. Her experience, of the long ago life and work of the monks, and of the stones themselves at Tintern Abbey, intimately met my own life, revealing its capacity to reach beyond Cynthia's singular moment to touch the hearts of many, moving and stirring Life within the collective. This is the essence what Breaking Ground wants to foster; a platform where the manifestation of Wisdom in everyday life can be shared, and a symposium for the dynamic exchange of that which bears the seeds of transformation, in our own lives, in the lives of those who ‘listen with the ear of the heart’, in the world. Many of our experiences,

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