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Substituted Love

In honor of Holy Week, I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my "Becoming Truly Human: Gurdjieff's Obligolnian Strivings" e-course, just now winding down. “And the fifth: the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred ‘Martfotai’, that is, up to the degree of self-individuality.” It’s one thing to be willing and able to help a fellow being: to send them strength, reassurance, even an energetic boost. But is it possible to actually change places with them so that we take the weight on our own shoulders and they are permanently set free? Definitely not, most spiritual traditions say. In the words of my Sufi teacher, a butcher’s son: “Every mutton hangs by its own leg.” Assistance, yes; baraka, blessing, clarity, counsel, and strength: in all these ways we can help. But spiritual liberation itself is non-transferable. You can’t become conscious unconsciously, by someone else doing it for you. It is the fruit of your own inner work. I raise this point, obviously, because we are now less than a week out from the beginning of Holy Week.

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Conversation and Flow: A Spiritual Practice

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about conversation and the necessity of paying attention to the flow of our words. Since, as Christopher Fry* has said, “Affairs are now soul size,” it seems that our conversations should be the same. It’s like a dance really, and if well done, can become an embodied spiritual practice emphasizing the three modes of attention, surrender and compassion. I took a social dancing class in sixth grade in order to prepare for school dances and to be ready for successful adulthood in the days when dancing with a partner was more than rocking back and forth or just jumping around in time to wild music. Our first attempts were very concentrated. Counting one, two, three to the music and making our feet move in a box-step pattern as we looked down at them generally kept us from stepping on our partner’s shoes. As the rhythm moved inside of us and we began to really feel the movement, our minds relaxed, our attention to our partners increased and enjoyment took the place of tension in our bodies. I remember vividly as an adult the time I waltzed at a parish dance with the father of

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Why “Wisdom & Money”?

"Wisdom & Money," continues the signature work of its predecessor Harvest Time: to engage with money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. For more than a decade participants in Harvest Time circles have met to share their money stories together, “get naked” with their finances, playfully welcome obscure parts of themselves to Levi’s Table, and support one another in risking money experiments. This work has always been grounded in spiritual practices drawn from a variety of traditions. But one set of practices has emerged as strongly attractive and life-giving in the way of transformation. These practices were drawn from the tradition of Wisdom Christianity. Why Wisdom? “Wisdom” identifies the mystical stream within all major religious traditions that recognizes a reality beyond the world of appearances and our human capacity and desire to be united with that reality. The teachings and practices of the wisdom path lead us – subtly, gently but reliably – out of the “sleep" of our habitual ways and into an awakened consciousness of our authentic being. Across religious traditions, especially in their monastic forms, the practices that enable this transformation are remarkably similar. Among them are forms of silence, sacred chant, meditative movement, and reflection upon inspired writings. Such practices may well have

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“Conscious Circle” Ingathering

I watched them disappear this morning into the snowstorm, making their way home through the Maine winter after an extraordinary weekend of prayer, tears-and-laughter, teaching, stories, and conversation. My tiny, plucky ‘conscious circle…how it tugged at my heart to see them go. I had called them all together, impromptu, about a month ago: a baker’s dozen of the most experienced and steady folks in the Wisdom network, to join me for a weekend here in Stonington (in February, utter madness!) to see if we could collectively begin to discern what the cosmos seems to be up to in the wake of that traumatic election upheaval and what Wisdom might expect of us in response. The conversation around this topic has of course been flowing nonstop on the social media since well before November 8, but so much of it has been at the horizontal level, driven by historical and political analysis—and of course, from the perspective of the now duly-chastened secular intelligentsia. Shock, trauma, disorientation, and/or denial have been the dominant modes in the circles I mostly travel in, a still-dumbfounded inability to fathom what happened and why. In times such as these, it is a traditional practice in the

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Ken Wilber’s “Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction”

An overview and critique by Cynthia Bourgeault. Now that Ken Wilber’s paper on “Trump and a Post-Truth World” is officially posted and making its rounds on the internet, I feel at liberty to share my initial “cliff notes” and comments a bit more widely. My comments below were generated originally (and somewhat hastily) for a group of senior Wisdom students who are already working their way through this tract. It is still to be regarded as primarily a “working draft” for limited circulation, not a formal response to Ken’s thesis. The first part is a quick overview of the main points of Ken’s argument as I understand it. The second part raises a few points for feedback/critique/further reflection.   THE ARGUMENT IN A NUTSHELL Ken Wilber’s wide-ranging and fundamentally hopeful monograph is an analysis of the recent presidential election from the perspective of levels of consciousness as developed primarily according to his own Integral Evolutionary Theory. The powerful contribution he brings here is to move us beyond the reactivity gripping both sides of the political spectrum and offer a much broader perspective. He proposes that Trump’s upset victory reflects an “evolutionary self-correction” necessitated by the fact that the leading edge

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Inauguration Day Moment of Silence and Program for Wisdom Gathering

An invitation to join in spirit together on January 20, 2017. You are invited to participate as friends of Wisdom gather for a moment of silence at noon on January 20 as Donald J. Trump is sworn into office as President of the United States. This practice has been envisioned as "a pause to create a 'dwelling place for Wisdom' on behalf of our nation, and a prayer from our hearts for our world." "As we learn to open ourselves deeply to this mysterious Source, help will always come, for the Source 'leans and harkens towards us' with a tenderness of love that is both the medium and the message." ~ Cynthia Bourgeault In addition to this moment of silence, and in response to Cynthia’s timely call for the “deep practice” of “collecting our hearts so as to be more directly and acutely in alignment” with Wisdom, Marcella Kraybill-Greggo has created a template for a two to two and a half hour Community Gathering on January 20, 2017. You are invited to work with this outline (printed below with links to resources) individually and collectively in gatherings on Inauguration Day. Cynthia’s impulse with this call was to follow Wisdom’s way and

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Two Timely Online Opportunities

As this sea-change of a new year gets underway, this comes to call your attention to two timely opportunities for further Wisdom study and reflection along the lines of inquiry I’ve opened up in my two “post-election” blogs this past fall. Coming right up on January 15, our beloved Wisdom brother Bob Sabath will be leading an 11-week introductory exploration of the Gurdjieff material anchored in Nicoll’s Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky—arguably the most immediately practical access point to this great canon of transformational material. As Bob rightly points out, this is a “soft launch” into the great, wide world of Gurdjieff, geared toward illuminating practical inner skills, and cross-referenced by parallel passages in Christian lectio divina. It’s a beautifully thought-out exploration and will get many of us working and thinking together in this new terrain. I encourage you to join in. Click here for the link to the full details and sign up procedures for this online study work group. A little further down the pike, beginning February 27— for Ash Wednesday—I’ll be launching a Lenten e-retreat based on Gurdjieff’s “Obligolnian Strivings,” the heart of the Beelzebub’s Tales material I’ve been referring to in those

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Christmas Eve Meditation on the Incarnation: A Reflection for Our Times

In the tender compassion of our God * the dawn from on high shall break upon us, To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.   We are living in darkness and in the shadow of death. You don’t need a degree in environmental studies, political science, or international relations to know that the world is in a terrible mess. And despite our own efforts to put our own “best foot forward,” our own personal lives aren’t exactly perfect either. These days, insecurity and a profound sense of dread are palpable; they are everywhere around us as well as within us. We may pretend that life goes on as usual, but the smarter part of us knows better. Indeed, the encroaching darkness and the shadow of death threaten to trample our hope and strangle the breath right out of us. But out of the deep gloom comes a promise, and it is born out of the compassion of our God. It promises that the dawn will break and that we will be delivered to an unimaginable peace and freedom. While the source of this

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Day of Babette’s Feast

Dear Wisdom friends, Wow! What an amazing heart outpouring from all of you! I feel the energy, the strength, and most important, the clarity. I believe that in the space of merely a week we have already become a “morphogenetic field” out there in the cosmos. And the space which the “conscious circle of humanity” needed to have occupied is now activated and beginning to make its presence felt. I see that many of you are already gearing up for the deep dive into Beelzebub’s Tales, so I did want to briefly share with you these few clarifications and tips. Teaching and reading groups are already starting to self-organize, both formally and informally, on the ground and in cyber space. I hope that by shortly into the New Year we will be able to put together a resource directory helping our keen band of wisdom seekers find their way to the most appropriate venue. But meanwhile… First, you should all know that I will myself be offering a Lenten e-course with Spirituality and Practice on “The Obligolnian Strivings,” the heart of Gurdjieff’s brilliant vision of human purpose and accountability, and the ethical climax of the first book of Beelzebub’s Tales.

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Words Formed East of Eagle Island

I would like to set out a cautionary expansion of Cynthia’s words. I was spared being in the United States for the election. Despite best efforts I wasn’t able to reschedule teaching a graduate seminar on peace agreements at the Bethlehem (Occupied Territory) Bible College. A little over half of my students lived amidst the walls, barbed wire and guns of no real peace; the rest were from around the world. It was my first time in Israel, my first time in Palestine. Many observers including a number in the Clinton campaign itself date the swing against Hillary to her comment about the “basket of deplorables”. I would venture a guess that there was at least one loud “I” in most of us that said, “Yes!”, followed by the thought that maybe she shouldn’t have said it. The latest vote counters say that where Hillary ran far behind the Obama pace and lost the election were in the smaller cities, villages and towns of the upper Midwest. Most of us know people there or maybe we are descended from them. They are not the stuff of brown-shirts or pre-modern darkness. They are a neglected demographic who feel left behind by

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