Wisdom work began when I encountered a depth dimension inside and within the Christian tradition through the writings of Richard Rohr and Thomas Merton. Authentic relationships with a community of men cracked me open to a yearning I had covered up in my youth. I was a young pastor, falling in love with the possibility that there may be something other than becoming a famous pastor—the possibility of having a soul.
I had heard of Cynthia and her books, but she was theologically too “out there” for me. The mercy of succumbing to alcoholism, dealing with pain and encountering my incapacity to love collapsed my self-image enough to discover that existential crisis was an invitation to discover my own faith—embodied, invincible and not belonging to me at all. The heart was the doorway for me through the practice of Centering Prayer—as articulated by Cynthia. Immediately, I recognized her as my teacher.
Struggling with The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three introduced me to Gurdjieff and I found my way onto a movements floor once a week among a well-established Fourth Way group. The FourthWay provided the missing pieces in my contemplative Christianity: a concrete dynamism, direct engagement with and appropriation of a moving center, a large and particular cosmology and a community of sincere seekers. Things were coming online for me. It was 2015.
When I moved back to the States from Spain in June of 2019, my marriage fell apart and then completely reconfigured. I was in new work with old friends and commuting long distance. Exhausted, I found myself at Claymont for Wisdom School with Cynthia that December. Through that tiny potent package of a human being, something radiant entered the field and I said yes. I haven’t looked back. Returning home, I left my job and began formally offering Spiritual Direction and doing Chaplaincy work part-time for Hospice. I’ve been working to integrate Wisdom as my full-time work since then.
During Covid, accompanying the dying has taken on new meaning for me in connecting with the whole. It has been an arena to work through my own fear of mortality and courageously enter into others’ lives. Working with breath and sensation has kept me grounded and present to offer care. The collective constriction of these times has been an invitation to hold a steadier post through my own practice.
I look for places where there is yearning and receptivity. I’m currently collaborating with fellow Wisdom students Thomas Teilhard and Sissy Stephens seeding Wisdom communities in Texas and throughout the Gulf Coast. Wisdom Circle gatherings include Gurdjieff contemplative exercise, Gospel of Thomas lectio, and sharing of how wisdom work is being engaged day-to-day. I partner with a local Episcopal church, having launched a weekly in-person Wisdom prayer group after completing The Wisdom Way of Knowing. Long term, my wife (whose background is in horticulture and education) and I desire to do on-the-ground Wisdom work centered around the physical work of herbal farming.
In October 2020, I started writing a book. It’s working title is, 1 Minute and 53 Seconds: A Wisdom Field: Towards a Citizenship of Conscience. It’s an exploration of Wisdom, the ripeness, and in my view, the necessity, of its gifts for our times. It opens Wisdom road maps and explores the questions of conscience and personhood through recasting the “qualities” and practices of commitment, courage and contemplation as qualitative sciences and essential pathways for grounded responsible human and planetary engagement. It is a next generation articulation of the Wisdom lineage through Cynthia. I hope it serves to widen, deepen, expand, and move the work of Wisdom forward for our lives and their unfolding evolutionary purpose. My goal is to finish it in 2021, Inshallah.
Honestly, Christianity never made sense to me in a way where I could say I’m all in, “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s,” until I had the Wisdom context. Activated at Wisdom School in 2020, I really got in my bones that everything I do matters, for everyone, and everything, everywhere, in all realms, in and beyond all time. It changed the way I parent little humans and direct my energies in daily life. Christianity has revealed itself as a legitimate, cosmic, practical path, shaken up, pressed down and flowing back in and through Wisdom, as invitation to live prayer. To become love. A path where I make sacred— or make cursed— the ground upon which I walk with each step I take. It becomes an invitation to become Christ and meet Jonathan over and over as if for the first time in and through the created order. Subject to subject. From this place, I can authentically cry out, “Yes Lord, make me a Christian! Lord, make us One. “
I equate Wisdom with music. It becomes about discovering the music of your life’s dance and then playing your instrument with and on behalf of the whole, all the time. Eventually, perhaps instantly, you might become one with the instrument that is you, or you as the instrument “disappears” into the ensemble. I don’t know. But I know that the work of the heart is intensified and held within an imaginal web of relationships that includes others in this Wisdom network—and far beyond it. Staying committed to connecting and learning from and with others on this path is a key. The exchange that is occurring energetically in smaller circles has a potency that far outweighs the sum of its parts.
More About Jonathan Steele
Jonathan lives in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas with his wife, dogs and three children. His Wisdom work comes out of a blend of the Christian Contemplative tradition and 4th Way spirituality with a focus on companioning others from the unified and collective field accessed through the heart. He is a life-long seeker who offers private Spiritual Direction in person or by zoom, one-to-one or in groups. His work and practice also include co-teaching as a homeschool dad and companioning the sick, dying, and their families through hospice chaplaincy. You can find out more about Jonathan through his personal website: jonathanlsteele.co, including his invitation to morning meditation on Mondays and Wednesdays. You may contact him at email@example.com.