It’s extraordinary, but of course not surprising, how utterly relevant and pertinent these two chapters are—written before the emergence of the first iPhone, incidentally—right now as we find ourselves in the midst of this pandemic. It is also no coincidence that these chapters are preceded by the chapter on the three centers of knowing. It seems to me that the more poised we are in those three centers, the more we will be able to understand, embody and live out the important truths laid out in Chapters Four and Five.
In Chapter Four Cynthia describes the limits of our “one-brained” operating system, suggesting that our contemporary world “now has the capacity to end itself either in a violent Armageddon or in the slower but no less lethal route of systematically poisoning our planetary environment” (p.43).
Nearly two decades on, here we are.
We will get nowhere trying to address huge cosmological questions with one-brained consciousness. So this begs the questions: are we as a collective still spiritual adolescents? How can we grow up?
I love the analogy of the divine hologram. In a world “starving for coherence and purpose,” that each one of us—and how vital this is right now—has a part to play. That everything depends on us finding out what our contribution is, what our particular manifestation of divine love is, and playing it well. How well do we—can we—connect with the intermediary realms that are all part of the divine hologram? How are we engaging our energies of attention, will, prayer and love? Are our hearts awakened sufficiently to be able to perceive the subtle energies of the psychic realm—that which actually governs our universe? To what extent are we accessing or living in that realm—that kingdom of heaven within us—abiding there, drawing from there, being nourished, sustained, informed from that place? The streams of living water.
Reading these chapters I am so struck by the responsibility upon each one of us. In a sense it is a requirement—that we each need to discover, deepen into, and live out of our own particular “innermost aliveness.” That our every effort, action and thought contribute to the energetic and psychic realms—the divine hologram. How are we enacting and manifesting the “qualities of God?” To me these questions are profoundly empowering and vital, and it is at the intersection with the timeless and time that we are asked to abide. At the still point in a turning world. We each have a crucial and unique role to fulfill and contribution to make.
Cynthia suggests that we humans stand midway between the purely material and purely energetic, with a range of versatility in both. That our real purpose in the cosmos is the extent to which we are able to move back and forth between these two planes. This is where the true secret of our existence is revealed.
This then leads us to ponder what kind of sacred alchemy might take place inside our hearts. It is our job to offer our hearts, bodies and minds to “birth” and “body” the “names of God,” so that the invisible becomes visible. As Cynthia puts it: “Whenever we are able to move beyond the laws of the purely physical while still in form, we set aflame the names of God, releasing the energy and beauty of the divine aliveness to the outer world” (p. 56). We human beings are the consummate artisans of energy. Whether we like it or not, we contribute generatively or destructively to the delicate homeostasis by which the visible and invisible worlds are held in harmony.
And so, in our current situation, with many of us home-bound, perhaps feeling isolated, this chapter is a stark reminder and an enormous challenge to each of us. Faced with “physical distancing” and an unknown, unpredictable future, what are we generating? What are we contributing psycho-energetically? Fear? Panic? Anxiety? Greed? If we could realize that the psychic toxins that we generate in the imaginal realm actually have a direct effect on the sensible world, we would think twice.
As Cynthia put it:
We need to feel the hologram again. To sense the dance of colors that is the real divine aliveness shining through the snakeskin of our outer world. We need to experience our own personal aliveness as part of the greater cosmic aliveness. Above all, however, we need to allow our outer lives to break up, if necessary, in order to release the divine aliveness within and to understand once again the meaning and beauty in this gesture. (p. 59)
How pertinent. Nearly two decades after Cynthia wrote these words. That here we are, facing an enormous leap in the evolution of consciousness. What an opportunity for course-correction.
In this world-wide calamity, what are the seeds of new birth—in our individual lives, as a species, and as a planet? How can we each dig deep into the core of our beings, in to Being itself, to have our hearts broken wide open, to suffer consciously, to fundamentally and foundationally surrender, and live in an abiding state of surrender? Only out of this radical inner stance of committed willingness and availability will our planet be transformed.
This resource is offered by Heather Vesey. Heather is a postholder for the Northeast Wisdom Zoom Study Group (Winter~Spring 2020) that is focusing on Cynthia Bourgeault’s 2003 classic The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart. That study group is full, but we would love to hear from you if you are interested in participating in a future group.
Heather Vesey comes from a long line of missionaries in China. She grew up in the Himalayas in Northern India, where her father was a doctor specializing in community health care. These were profoundly formative years for Heather, where her Christian faith was nurtured—mainly through family worship with her parents and their colleagues. During these years she also developed and absorbed a deep appreciation of other religious traditions and cultures.
Heather returned to England at the age of eleven—worked in Bolivia looking after street kids and completed a Health Studies degree in London—and then moved with her husband Nicholas to the home of Julian of Norwich, where he was vicar in a parish. Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, and Richard Rohr came to speak at her church, and a deepening interest in the contemplative life began to grow. Heather and Nicholas spent some months in Richard Rohr’s community in Albuquerque before Heather enrolled in the Living School at the Center for Contemplation and Action, and then served as a mentor to Living School students.
Heather, Nicholas, and their two children, Samuel, 16, and Jessica, 14, moved to America in 2014 to help serve in the Aspen Chapel in Colorado where Heather is Director of Contemplative Work and currently leads services and meditation classes.
Heather is involved with both the CAC and the Wisdom Community; and in 2019, together with Cynthia Bourgeault and Ed Bastian, she organized the “Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Thomas Keating,” at the Aspen Chapel, sponsored by both Wisdom Waypoints and The Spiritual Paths Foundation. Recordings of the sessions are available at the link above; you may read more about the event in an article Cynthia wrote for the Northeast Wisdom homepage blog here: Thomas Keating: An Interspiritual Celebration ~ and Online Public Video Archive.
Read more about Heather in her wisdom profile. See also her contribution of written and photo vignettes, in the 2017 Stonington posts on Community Forum: Mornings with Teilhard; Celebrating Rhythm & Community; The Voyage with Saint Brendan Begins and Singing Praises on the Journey.
Photo credits in this essay from the top: Earth Nurturer, painting by Havi Mandell; fountain well water, courtesy pxfuel; Seven Sisters image from Spitzer, courtesy of NASA, public domain; Eleven year old Heather in India, above the source of the Ganges.
Wisdom Way of Knowing Book Circle
A monthly series of resources from the friends and leaders of the Wisdom Waypoints Book Circle Series on: Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault.
3 thoughts on “A Call to Depth and Action ~ Individually and Collectively: Chapters IV and V of The Wisdom Way of Knowing”
Thank you for pushing theology’s growing edge. My understanding is that we birth and body God, and the invisible becomes visible through us. Divine aliveness incarnates through and by us. We have a lot to live up to.
Heather, you have been chosen to lead us and help us on our divine journey to our Divine.
I am reading this as I start my own 4 day retreat to better understand how I can increase my practices as I decrease my self.
Thank you for your words.
Love is what it is all about,
Thank you, Heather. This is extraordinary, both in its clarity and in its passion. In you the candle has been set aflame, for sure!
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