Dear wisdom friends,
By now the word is out that I am officially stepping back from active duty as a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation. As a newly minted “faculty emeritus,” I will no longer actively teach in the Living School or be a regular presence at CAC symposia and conferences. My course material will continue to factor prominently in the Living School curriculum for the foreseeable future, and the expectation is that I will keep a hand in with occasional special teachings and presentations.
I want to make very clear to all that this decision to step back is motivated neither by ill health nor ill will. Entirely au contraire, it rests squarely on both of these rather remarkable graces: of a still robust health, and dear, trusted friends at the CAC who have given both support and wise encouragement to what the Quakers would call a “leading”—a strong inner prompt to accept a new invitation. In this time of global upheaval I have found myself increasingly called to work at the more esoteric edges of my Christian faith, more directly in the eye-of-the-needle of the transition from ego-selfhood to whatever lies beyond it, relying on traditional teaching methods long validated in inner work but often misunderstood—and risking unintentional harm—in large, broader-platform groups where direct interaction with the teacher is increasingly limited and now mostly delivered in online formats. The broader container simply does not, in my experience, provide adequately for the deepening of trust and the mutual gauging of strength that must be in place before a teacher can safely push the student through that eye of the needle—at least in such a way as can be recognized by both parties as spiritually respectful and trustworthy. That is why traditional esoteric work has always gone on in smaller, below-the-radar circles. Knowledge can be communicated widely, but Being can only be transmitted within a bond of mutual love, validated by mutual consent.
The “leading” has been steadily growing in me over the past couple of years to give my time more fully to that more intimate, experimental, and mostly on-the-ground work, with the aim of impacting transformation of consciousness (both individually and in the larger culture) at an immediate vibrational level, rather than through intellectual paradigms and social action initiatives. Not that the two are an “either/or” proposition, but I feel increasingly called to the former more than the latter: to work directly within the imaginal bandwidth with prepared students, following the path laid down for me by my four great lightholders: Boehme, Gurdjieff, Thomas Keating, Rafe—and now, joining them in their imaginal oversight, my “pure flame” spiritual sister Cennet Jane Garland. And as I find myself living more and more these days in that imaginal thin place, I sense them all very clearly pawing the ground from their side, urging me to get on with it.
More than anything else, it’s a sense that my post is being shifted out from under me, and the choice before me is either to accept or reject the new assignment. So many of those trained in the old school of spiritual midwifing are now on the other side, and it seems that a new group of us must step forward to hold as best we can their vacated posts as imaginal gatekeepers. Ready or not, here we go!
“Hermeneutics is always a wager,” Rafe taught me: “a wager that if your premises are right, you’ll live it into existence.” For thirty years or more I have staked my teaching on certain premises—the reality of the imaginal world, the ongoing partnership with Rafe, energetic transmission between the worlds, the Law of Three, the encompassing presence of Christ, the causal validity of the beatitudes vis à vis right action in this world, the survival of selfhood (but not ego selfhood!) beyond death, the utter imperative of obedience to conscience, the growing recognition that Being hides out in the gap between theory and practice.
I feel called to ratchet up the level of integrity, to challenge the clichés and perspectival roadmaps which have framed even the best of my own spiritual understanding to date, and to claim the space necessary to play out my hand with a measure of risk and vulnerability simply not available to me when I am carrying the weight of a spiritual institution on my back.
My yearning, as with Thomas Merton as he embarked on the final season of his life, is “to be jerked out of the habitual half-tied vision of things…without trying to discredit anyone or anything—without refutation, without establishing some other argument.” Something like that.
Many of you know that Merton wrote these words less than two weeks before his death. Worry not; I assure you that I feel no intimations of my own imminent demise! But I do feel very keenly that I am entering a season of ultimacy, a time when one either does or does not clear the decks of the provisional (that which merely provides extension in the temporal realm) in order to play out one’s final hand with integrity and panâche. I feel incredibly blessed to arrive at this point still sound in mind and body. As I watch dear friends being taken apart brick by brick by physical or mental diminishment, I realize the immense gift I have been given and the imperative not to waste it.
So know that I’m still out there, still doing the work as best I can, still teaching in appropriate venues, still writing, and still sailing my little boat toward open sea, steering as best I can by the compass of my heart.
To my friends, colleagues, students, both at the CAC and in my Wisdom and contemplative circles, the deepest of thanks—and stay tuned. The show ain’t over yet.
15 thoughts on “Following the Path Laid Down for Me – A Letter from Cynthia”
Cynthia…you were my first (Wisdom) teacher about 10 years ago, and I’d follow you anywhere. My life has changed because of you and your teachings, and I follow you closely any way I can. Many blessings on your continued voyage and tweaked heading. Can’t wait to see where you’ll be taking us
Cynthia, this sounds like a solid and right thing to do at this time. I hope that you will reach down and “pick up” some of your students who have followed you for many years but are not nearly as close to living in World 24. With only glimpses of that promised land I am steadily working to get there and beyond through Conscious Love and much practice.
Congratulations for all you have done for the Living School and your many Wisdom Schools!
I am honored to be one who has enjoyed both.
Love is what it is all about,
Let your inner compass guide you, my cherished teacher. May the love and light of the universe hold you in comfort and offer guidance as you sail on to new destinations and unseen horizons.
Love and Courage Shall Guide Thee,
Ciao dear Cynthia,
grazie mille for your deep sharing of these new impulses and how you will inhabit that space teaching and mentoring as you move forward. I so appreciate the trust in your sharing.
As an author, teacher and mentor I owe you more than you will ever realize.
Wisdom schools, especially W. Jesus and G. of Thomas gave me a paradigm which felt authentic within Christianity. Assisi with you and Richard Rohr 2012 and the journey with La Santa Maddalena changed my life; and the grace of that work continues to be my North Star. When I had covid my first instinct was to go to the vertical even before the doctor. It was my relationship with the liminal realm, those teachers who informed my process – perhaps the most powerful gift of all.
May you always have good winds!
with love, Susan
I have never met you, but I feel like I know you. I first encountered you in your article, Prospero, Jonah, and “The Greek, in Parabola. Then I watched you on u-tube and looked up your website. I just missed your class you had during lent so I bought your book, Eye of the Heart. Then I bought The Wisdom Way of Knowing. I walked away from Christianity a few decades ago, married a Native American, and mostly followed his spiritual path. But he passed to the other side and I felt like I was adrift on the sea in my little boat without a compass. So when I saw your book, Mary Magdalene, I signed up for your class because she was always a special person in the Jesus story to me. I am taking the class at the present time. I felt encouraged to take another look at Christianity.
I am 74 years old and apprenticing myself for my great disappearance being in the last quarter of the circle of my life. I love all the work you have done and are doing. Your writings are a compass for me to help me see my way. I wish you the best on your journey and thank you for being you.
I cannot describe the sense of awakening, hope, longing, recognition, and invitation I feel reading this letter. I bought “The Imaginal Realm” last Fall and it has set me upon a transformational path (including intense breakdown/spiritual emergency/emergence) which has led me to Gebser (through Jeremy Johnson), The Gospel of Thomas, and many of the other mystical breadcrumbs you have left (they have left). I am experiencing some of what Gebser describes – mostly time collapsing and all the strange ways this has manifested, as well as the symbolic and imaginal taking over my viewpoint. Before reading “Seeing Through the World” I honestly thought I was verging on psychosis. I await more news of your new calling and how it may reach me. I trust it will as I have found you this last year. I am Spiritual Director and Archetypal Consultant. I mentor students of Caroline Myss’ Sacred Contracts program and work closely with Stacey Couch who runs this program for her. I have been weaving this wisdom into my work and know that I am called to follow you and the others who are seeking us as we are seeking them. Please know you have a grateful and truly inspired companion/student/assistant/presence in Effort, PA. I have renamed my town Effortless although so far the post office doesn’t recognize this shift. Perhaps it’s just mine right now. Many blessings and great reverence and gratitude Cynthia.
Will you still be teaching in Maine? I have just moved here (back home to my home state) after 25 years out in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve felt a calling to work with you for a long time. I’m excited to learn what’s next and if there are opportunities for a Mainer like me.
I cannot describe in adequate words the deep flow of love pouring from my heart as I read this. And will reread. And will ponder these things deeply in my heart. Bless. May it be so.
This Way resonates clearly in my reading, Cynthia. Every blessing of courage and freedom to play your hand with panache and wisdom. The first oriole of the season comes to the window just now. Amen.
I am as ‘they’ say long in the tooth, but very agile still, and feel very blessed to have locked in on your work after a long trek through many teachings, teachers, each gave me something to carry but not all I needed. I have been long active in Centering Prayer, read much of Keating, Rohr, Merton and others, through them the true light of Christ shines. “On the other hand’ there is a parallel track in my life; I seem to detect something of like kind in yours, namely a more or less conventional track, and the other, under many names – esotericism, ancient wisdom ,etc. I have happily discovered that you have brought these two streams together on a train track that works, look forward to sharing, and learning in this Work…
Dear Cynthia, It takes great courage, even when the pressure to obey that calling is strong, to untether yourself from the Mother Ship and go into free fall. You have always led by example both personally and in the legacy of your work and now out on the edge of the more esoteric edges of your Christian faith and Imaginal gatekeeping, I can feel you sailing free, wind blowing your sails to full stretch and the horizon beckoning beyond the known.
How very blessed I have been to have participated in some of your later teachings as the hand-holds were coming off….and this is an inspiration as my own moorings have been cutting loose and I have to live into my own questions.
I know that I shall be joining you in the Imaginal realm as those questions deepen into knowing.
Thank you for your life commitment , to your very generous sharing of all you have discovered and your prayers and action for our Planet in such difficult times.
With blessings and deep respect
Cynthia – Wow! It’s so amazing to read these comments and to know how many of us are out here, doing our damnest to connect with the imaginal realm, one another, and our second bodies. Last week, I was ‘on retreat’ with you – listening to the Stonington audios that crossed my path through the email about your new book. After 25 years of working with my own teacher, now retired, THIS was the food I’d been looking for. I’d read Eye of the Heart (twice – took that for it all to sink in!), and then taken the e-course on the imaginal realm, so I was all primed to hear you teach about it. I can only say that the experience with those teachings just blew my mind. More, it acquainted me with my own second body, theretofore just a concept, but now something I can reliably find, identify and work through. I felt deeply the responsibility to step forward into paschal courage. That was a concept I had been considering myself, without being able to find the words to describe it. It’s been my experience with so many of your teachings – it’s like you’re a more accomplished and articulate version of . . . . me! Anyway four friends from our past work together are also listening now, and I feel like we are kind of a ‘satellite’ group. So having said all that, I want to echo what others are saying: it makes complete sense that you can most effectively continue your work, at this time, with small groups of people , face to face, who you know are well prepared to take it in. Imaginally, I can feel the rightness of this, even though it means I will likely never get to work with you in the flesh. PLEASE continue to make the audios of your meetings available. Their relevancy for so many of us – often prepared by other teachers, I suspect – is vital to the continuation of this most necessary work.
With deep respect, Marga
Blessings from all of us at Contemplative Outreach and congratulations on this courageous step! We know Fr. Thomas is certainly cheering you on and I look forward to how you will continue to bless our community through your life of daily prayer and ‘mentoring in place’. What a gift you are to our world!
Dear Cynthia, I let out an inner cry of Oh no when I just read you would be sailing in another direction, with a real sadness in my heart. I was only yesterday thinking I wonder if it would be ever possible that Cynthia could be my Spiritual Director. I hope that I can still be connected with your future teachings, for your explanations are putting the pieces of a complicated puzzle together for me. I do live a long way from you on the South Coast of England but with a guiding hand from above, who knows my little boat may get steered, to a small gathering that you may hold somewhere. Huge blessings on you.
Cynthia, I am moved to the core, the very entrails, by your decision and direction of travel. In the most timely of ways it resonates deeply within. I’ll be staying tuned for sure and, please God, it won’t be long before we meet again on board!