A Note On Our Wisdom Lineage

In February of 2018, Cynthia offered this short lineage document to members of her Wisdom School network, capturing most the essential elements in her unique synthesis of Christian mystical and Fourth Way insights.

Wisdom, like water, is itself clear and formless, but it necessarily assumes the shape and coloration of the container in which it is captured.

Our own particular branch of the great underground river of Wisdom came to the surface about twenty years ago, flowing within two major riverbanks: a) the Christian mystical tradition of theosis—divinization—particularly as lived into being in the Benedictine monastic tradition, and b) the practical training in mindfulness and non-identification as set forth in the Gurdjieff Work.

The fusion of these two elements was the original accomplishment of my spiritual teacher Br. Raphael Robin, who formed me in this path and sent me off to teach it just before his death in 1995. It is a distinct lineage within the wider phylum of sophia perennis—perennial Wisdom— and as with all particular containers, it has its own integrity and its own heart.

Here is my own quick shortlist of the seven main elements–or defining characteristics–for our particular branch of this Wisdom verticil:

Cynthia with Thomas Keating

1. We are founded on a daily practice of sitting meditation, predominantly but not exclusively Centering Prayer, anchored within the overall daily rhythm of “ora et labora,” as set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict.

2. We are rooted in the Christian mystical and visionary tradition, understanding contemplation in its original sense as “luminous seeing,” not merely a meditation practice or a lifestyle. In service to this luminous seeing, we affirm the primacy of the language of silence and its life-giving connection with the subtle realms, without which spiritual inquiry tends to become overly cognitive and contentious.

3. We incorporate a major emphasis (much more so than in more conventional contemplative circles) on mindfulness and conscious awakening, informed here particularly by the inner teachings of G.I Gurdjieff and by their parallels and antecedents in the great sacred traditions, particularly in Sufism.

4. We are an esoteric or “Gnostic” school to the extent that these terms are understood to designate that stream of Christian transmission through which the radically consciousness-transforming teachings of Jesus have been most powerfully transmitted. But we steer clear of esotericism simply as mental or metaphysical speculation, and we affirm the primacy of the scripture and tradition as the cornerstones of Christian life.

Grave of Teilhard de Chardin

5. Also in contrast to many branches of the Wisdom tradition based on Perennial or Traditionalist metaphysics (with its inherently binary and anti-modernist slant), we are emphatically a Teilhardian, Trinitarian lineage, embracing asymmetry (threeness), evolution, and incarnation in all their uncertainty and messiness.

6. We are moving steadily in the direction of revisioning contemplation no longer in terms of monastic, otherworldly models prioritizing silence and repose, but rather, as a way of honing consciousness and compassion so as to be able to fully engage the world and become active participants in its transition to the higher collectivity, the next evolutionary unfolding.

7. Our most important teachers and teachings are Jesus, St. Benedict, The canonical and Wisdom gospels; The Cloud of Unknowing, the greater Christian mystical and visionary tradition (including Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Ladislaus Boros, Bernadette Roberts), the Desert and Hesychastic traditions; Bede Griffiths and the Christian Advaitic traditions (including Raimon Panikkar, Beatrice Bruteau, and Bruno Barnhart); Rumi, Sufism, G.I. Gurdjieff. The poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke. And of course my own teacher, Br. Raphael Robin.

My own teacher, Rafe