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. Yet we are deeply connected through bonds stronger than these or any other outwardly visible manifestation of belonging can confer.
A thread is composed of many strands—each with its own particularity. In the gathering of the strands into the thread, each is strengthened and enlivened—profoundly connected, yet not assimilated. As a board we regard this distinction between connection and assimilation as not a trivial one.
I think of it as something a bit like the difference between the type of milk of my childhood, which came in bottles with the cream floating on top and the homogenized version which came along later. From the one bottle we could have cream, skim milk, or by shaking it all together whole milk—preserving the richness of particularity amidst wholeness in the one container.
Earlier this year we posted on this website Cynthia’s “Whur We Come From…” a synthesis of the defining characteristics of this branch of the Wisdom tree. In it she makes the observation that, “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.”
In Northeast Wisdom’s InGatherings in Stonington we come together—each to be fed in the reciprocal dynamism of our own particularity enmeshed in the formless boundaries of our diverse Community.
Consider for a moment: How many of us can easily articulate when we return from a Wisdom event like the InGathering what we mean when we say that we are part of an emerging Wisdom community flavored by a common initial formation centered in the writings and teachings of Cynthia Bourgeault; how many of us simply dissolve into incoherence when asked to describe what it’s all about? This, even while proclaiming its centrality in our lives?
I sometimes wonder if it isn’t this very incoherence, this inability to put words around this “knowing” that validates its reality. Perhaps what draws us to such events is the exhilarating experience of inhabiting even briefly the common space we create when we are together, where this collective incoherent knowing permeates the air we breathe.
This is a long way of saying that, one of the ways we see to gather this thread is by attending to the shape and coloration of the container through which the formless essence of what we call Wisdom can manifest into form. Going further into our lineage—becoming a resource for helping all of us access material, and places, and insights to support our own work and practices. Seeking ways to extend across the miles that capacity to breathe deeply from the rich reservoir of our collective knowing that we experience so viscerally when we come together physically in the same place.
We continue to develop the Northeast Wisdom website as a lively and interactive hub of exchange, connection, and communication. As Cynthia noted in her posting of the eight defining characteristics of our niche in the wider Wisdom tradition, these points were intended to start a conversation, not end it.
We plan an ongoing project to publish or collaborate in the publishing of works of significance to our Wisdom lineage and our evolving future. Our first publication earlier this year was a collection of Cynthia’s recent writings and presentations in Love is the Answer: What is the Question? Through Matthew Wright’s initiative, we have collaborated with Paul Cohen of Monkfish Book Publishing Company in the re-publication of Bruno Barnhart’s The Future of Wisdom: Toward a Rebirth of Sapiential Christianity.
Our board chair Bill Redfield is experimenting with new forms of interactive Wisdom work via non-local venues; board member Marcella Kraybill-Greggo is launching into Wisdom School Law of Three teaching; Matthew Wright is preparing to lead a pilgrimage to India, furthering inter-spiritual connections; Laura Ruth is coordinating our publishing and community building activities; Guthrie Sayen has been working to bring into being a collaborative teaching project, “Reclaiming the Mystical Heart of Christianity: How Centering Prayer Can Deepen Your Experience of God,” designed to bring the contemplative streams of our branch of the Wisdom tree into closer harmony with the centering prayer focus of Thomas Keating’s Contemplative Outreach organization.
And, of course, board member Cynthia Bourgeault, continues to do what Cynthia does best—connecting with, synthesizing, and drawing from the conscious circle of humanity—writing, teaching, nurturing, and loving Wisdom seekers the world over as we find our own voices and posts in this evolving circle.
These are some of the current threads we are gathering in support of Wisdom’s progression in our world. Bill Redfield has described that progression as one which moves from hearing Wisdom, to integrating Wisdom in our lives through practice, and then to sharing Wisdom’s reality with others.
Like Wisdom itself, Northeast Wisdom continues to evolve.
I conclude these thoughts with a thank you to all who have who have already made contributions to Northeast Wisdom’s 2018 Annual Fund appeal and a request to those of you who have not, to consider doing so.