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Christophany and the Holy Trinity

An earlier version of this article first appeared at Contemplative Journal Happy Feast of the Holy Trinity, Wisdom Community! Today is the day the Christian calendar dedicates to the Dance of Life, God as Lover, Beloved, and Love Overflowing—the divine dynamism unfolding creation as the disclosure of the Heart of God. As we contemplate this mystery, I’d like to share with you some thoughts inspired by a teacher our Wisdom lineage claims: the late Raimon Panikkar, easily one of the most significant Christian thinkers of the past century. Born in 1918 to a Spanish, Roman Catholic mother and an Indian, Hindu father, interreligious dialogue was in Panikkar's DNA. In 1946 he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, and in 1954 made his way to India to explore more deeply his Hindu roots. Years later, he would joke “I left Europe as a Christian; in India, I discovered I was a Hindu; and I returned as a Buddhist—without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” That gives you a sense of his expansive spirit. Panikkar coined for us the word “christophany.” Like “theophany”—a manifestation of God (theos)—christophany literally means “a manifestation of Christ.” Panikkar uplifted christophany as an alternative to

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Come Holy Spirit! The Pentecostal Fire

Dear Wisdom Community, I was asked by our own dear Laura Ruth if I’d share my Pentecost sermon from St. Gregory’s in Woodstock with our community here. Of course! I’m copying the text below; you can also listen to an audio recording here, if you’d prefer that. And here are the Scripture readings for the day. If you’d like to explore a bit more about the roots of Pentecost in Judaism, as well as my own reflection on this particular feast day’s relationship to our contemporary interspiritual movement, check out my article Pentecostal Fire, which first appeared over at Contemplative Journal. Come Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire, Matthew I speak to you in the Name of the Holy Spirit, the holy Breath of God who breathes in all things, giving life, shaping justice, and calling us all into the fullness of love. Amen. Happy Pentecost, Church! Happy birthday, Church. Happy Feast of the Holy Spirit. Today is the day when the disciples of Jesus—that’s us—when the disciples of Jesus, scared and waiting and in prayer, keeping vigil in the Upper Room, bereaved of their Jesus, today is the day when they are charged with the Holy Spirit, set

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Holding the Post: Leadership Skills for Wisdom Practice Circles

What Cynthia has initiated is nothing short of remarkable. By crisscrossing this continent (as well as planting seeds all over the world) in a couple of short decades Cynthia has built the foundation of an emergent Wisdom community. But where do we go from here and how might we assist in this process…? My sense is that at this juncture in time the propagation of Wisdom may best be spread by the further proliferation of Wisdom Practice Circles. These “at home” groups give participants the opportunity to share and deepen Wisdom practice. For some this affords the opportunity to put a toe in the waters of Wisdom in order to see if a Wisdom School might be the next step. For others who have had the experience of attending a Wisdom School, a Wisdom Practice Circle offers a chance to solidify, stabilize, and integrate the learnings that have taken place. But besides how Wisdom Practice Circles might serve our individual development, they also serve to promote community. They become the gathering lights around which Wisdom students can be drawn and nurtured. Thus, community by community, we are gradually establishing Wisdom outposts that dot the landscape. And these Practices Circles are

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“WHUR WE COME FROM…”

“Teachers of contemplative Christianity, who acknowledged the limitations of human knowledge and the inconstant nature of human sentiment, instead encouraged a commitment to practice. A scripturally grounded commitment to practice and service – rather than a reliance on unsteady belief and feeling – is the fulcrum of contemplative Christianity.”  ~ Paula Pryce, The Monk's Cell From time to time in the unfolding life of a lineage, it becomes important to stop and ponder together “whur we come from” (as my teacher Rafe used to call it): i.e., the fundamental understandings that called us into being as a particular expression of the wider tradition of Christian contemplative Wisdom. As the Contemplative Society, our flagsghip Wisdom vessel, now celebrates its twentieth anniversary and a new generation of seekers and board members assume their turn at the helm, it seems like an appropriate occasion for just such a moment of reflection. Wisdom, like water, is itself clear and formless, but it necessarily assumes the shape and coloration of the container in which it is captured. Between formless essence and manifesting particularity there is a reciprocal dynamism; you can’t have one without the other. Our own particular branch of the great underground river of Wisdom came

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“Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing”

FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA DIOCESAN CONVENTION Bill Redfield, looking very professional and galvanized in his being, had to leave the board meeting immediately following the closing, ready to board a plane for South Carolina. We knew he was headed into new territory and had shared a prayer for his work with him before he left. Bill was bringing his ever-deepening understanding of the Wisdom tradition, within years of experience developing "Wisdom of the Body" (in part with Deborah Welsh and Lois Barton for their Wisdom Schools), to The Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. There he was prepared to risk becoming vulnerable in the best sense of the word. Bill was about to meet 250 people who were suffering a 'devastating' rent in the fabric of the Diocese with what he was calling "Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing." What follows is a teaching; an instructive illustration of Wisdom in action. Over the next few posts, Bill shares the progression he led this particular group through, along with his commentary. Born out of a "challenge (that) seemed to call out for an increase in Being," these five steps began with Wisdom

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“Gate, Gate, Paragate…”

“Gate, Gate, Paragate…” “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond…” We used to chant this ancient Hindu Chant in our small contemplative circle in Snowmass, Colorado, back in the early 1990s, during the “Advaita” phase of our work. I hadn’t thought of it for years, but it suddenly popped back into my mind this morning as the following exchange with a student suddenly flowed out of me, from where I do not know. I think I may actually have just encapsulated in about 800 words everything I really wanted to say in my next book, currently (and a little too Sisyphusfully) on the drawing boards. Anyway, for what it’s worth…. Happy formlessness, Cynthia   The question… Dear Cynthia, I have very much appreciated your teachings and approach to the spiritual life. I'm writing because I've been increasingly bothered for the last several months with the doubt that there is an actual spiritual, supernatural realm beyond our human experience. I truly believe we human beings have deep spiritual experience, even a mystical sense of union with God. But how can we know that this experience is connected to anything real beyond the perceptions of our brains? I just have this nagging

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The Creative Spirit of Northeast Wisdom

In the beautiful expression of our creatively looking forward into our future, my dear friend Mary Ellen Jernigan has eloquently expressed that the present trajectory of Northeast Wisdom was originally set by the heart-vision of Helen Daly. (See her December post: “What’s Next for Northeast Wisdom? A Short History to an Emerging Vision.”) On the occasion of the conclusion of Patricia Speak’s term of Board President and her departure from the Board of Directors, I would like to share a few appreciative reflections of her contribution to our organization. In the process, I would also like to express additional gratitude for the work of some of our other early leaders and contributors. As Mary Ellen acknowledged, it was the dogged persistence of John Daly, Helen’s husband, who gave Northeast Wisdom the form of an incorporated legal entity. Knowing Helen’s desires, John acted as our founding father. He invited a small band to serve as Board members, and together we slowly tread our way through the legal and organizational challenges before us. John also served as a dedicated Board member for those first couple or three years. [caption id="attachment_3492" align="aligncenter" width="300"] John and Helen Daly at Inglewood Farm in Louisiana, photo

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The Eucharistic Universe

"We intend to celebrate the Eucharist continually in our lives as well as in the liturgy, to offer ourselves in all that we do or suffer to God..." — from The Rivendell Rule Two years ago I found myself in British Colombia in November, there to lead a retreat for The Contemplative Society. On the way to the retreat center, my host asked, "Would you like to see the salmon spawning?" As it turned out, we would be passing by a river where the salmon run was active, and the spawning season was almost over. I had seen images of these fish making their annual swim upstream from the ocean, journeying back to the place of their birth to lay their eggs. And, to be honest, I wasn't all that interested in seeing them in person—but I figured, "Why not?"—it was on the way. I had no idea how powerful the encounter would be. As we approached the river, the few remaining salmon still making the journey—throwing themselves against the current as they worked their way upstream—looked utterly exhausted, like it was taking every tired fiber of their being to continue onward. A few were finally settling into a spot

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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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