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Year-End Reflection

As this year draws to a close, I am deeply aware of a pervasive sense of gratitude in my heart. I am thankful to have been exposed to Cynthia and the Wisdom teachings. I cannot tell you how profoundly she and these understandings have changed my life (and me!). But I am no less grateful for the opportunity to serve this emergent Wisdom community in its work in the world. And I am thankful for your support as well—and especially all the generous year-end contributions that will amplify our Wisdom work. Let us, then, in solidarity continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in our support of this work. Together, even in these challenging times, may we manifest the transforming Light that our world so desperately needs. Blessings to all for an exciting New Year! Bill Redfield President, Northeast Wisdom Board of Directors      

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What’s Next for Northeast Wisdom? A Short History to An Emerging Vision

What’s Next? This is the question the Northeast Wisdom Board came together in early November to consider. But before delving into those deliberations, a little background might be helpful. For those of you who have been involved from the beginning, this will be just a quick review of the highlights; for those of you newer to Northeast Wisdom, I hope it will give you some missing context to enrich your involvement and participation. [caption id="attachment_3343" align="aligncenter" width="300"] photo by Nancy Baldwin[/caption] The genesis of Northeast Wisdom as an organization occurred in 2012 and came about because of the untimely death of Helen Daly, one of Cynthia Bourgeault’s ardent, long-time advanced Wisdom School students. During the last months and weeks of her life, Helen, herself a gifted teacher of Wisdom Christianity, took steps to enable and sustain its teachings by setting aside seed money in a trust with funding designated “to further and sustain the teachings of Cynthia Bourgeault, and the Wisdom Schools with which she is associated, known as Wisdom Work.” In the typical, high energy, get it done fashion which had always characterized Helen’s activities, she gave direction that the work be commenced quickly, suggesting that the funds were

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“Joyfully, Playfully, Collectively”:
Notes about the origins of the first-ever Cynthia Bourgeault Annual

[caption id="attachment_3298" align="alignleft" width="166"] A work in progress; photo by Brie Stoner February 2017[/caption] In Cynthia's Note to the Northeast Wisdom fundraising letter, she exclaims, "We're Here to Make Wisdom Happen!" And Wisdom, as it is born in its unique configuration through each and every one of us into life, into life lived, is certainly front and center in the collective heart of Cynthia Bourgeault and the 2017 Board of Directors. As champion of that call, Cynthia has had a year of speaking and writing about Wisdom's interface with life in these times that has been reaching back within the tradition with an ever-widening lens; and simultaneously turning into the present moment, making new and immediate connections, and sharing her visionary seeing, in process, as it awakens. It is to serve exactly that- that which has been taking shape over the course of the year- that the idea for an annual collection arose. To document the arising in Cynthia, as she "stood and turned" to meet the day over the course of the year with courage, honesty, creativity, her brilliant wit, and an ever-evolving living lineage revealing and expressing itself through her. This little book is a collaborative effort, born

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“What Enneagram Type is Cynthia?”

For almost thirty years the standing joke has been "What enneagram type is Cynthia?" Leading teachers in all the various schools have typed me variously (frequently categorically) as a Four, Five, or Six. While I can see certain points of congruence (after all, my Mom was a Four, my Dad a Six, and most of my partners Fives, so I know these types well), none of them really resonated – and more important, none of them really captured my interest. They failed to paint for me any authentic description of where I was pinned, or the road to authentic freedom – more authentic, at least, than what I already knew in my own heart of hearts. And thus, I simply lost interest in the entire psychometric. When people ask me my type nowadays, I usually just smile and say, "I'm a ten."On my very first encounter with this system nearly thirty years ago – through Helen Palmer's book, The Enneagram – I initially self-identified as a Seven. The story starts out right: perceived lack of parental nurturance, Puer Aeternus (eternal youth), planning (gottcha!) But the narrative runs off the rails when it comes to the core passion (gluttony) and the

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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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