All posts by amclaughlin2014

Member of Community of Grey Sisters of Pembroke; Masters Degree in Religious Communication, Loyola University, Chicago; Author: Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind (2013) Planted in the Sky (2006) both published by Borealis Press, Ottawa Canada www.borealipress.com Retreat facilitator: The Wooing of the Soul (2013) The Sophia Salons, beginning in February 2016, offer journeys to one's own inner wisdom for small groups of women. For information: amclaughlin@sympatico.ca

Mary Waited

Mary. Waited.

I write these two words, and come to the end of what I know about this time in Mary’s life, as she awaits the birth of her promised son. It is not possible for me to imagine myself into her time of waiting, nor to summon up any experience in my own life that might help me to understand what was in Mary’s heart as she waited.

Frustrated, I put on high boots and a warm jacket. I go outdoors on this snow-blessed day to walk along the Nature Trail that winds between stands of evergreens to the ruined railway bridge above the Bonnechere River.

What I notice first is utter stillness. Not only the trees, their limbs, branches, twigs and needles, but even the left-over tall weeds of autumn are motionless.

Waiting, I think. They are waiting. But for what? for whom? and why?

As my boots sink deep into wet snow, creating a fresh pattern beside the marks left by animals, I continue to wonder about the trees. There is a quality of presence in these woods that speaks of quietly-held strength, invisible energy.

A memory returns from late last winter, when there was still no visible sign of spring. I was standing beside a delicate silver maple that hovers just at the river’s edge. I had placed my palm on the strong slim trunk that erupted above me into a rack of apparently dead branches. I wondered how the tree felt knowing she appeared to be so lifeless. As though she were responding to my question, I suddenly knew that the tree’s sense of herself came not from this barren outer form but from her inner life, her sap already rising, preparing for the new life of spring. She knew herself by her energy, by the movement of life within, only barely contained, ready to push beyond this apparent death out into fullness of life.

That evening, I came across a poem from the 12th century Sufi Mystic Hafiz, a promise to the tree, to me:

Light
Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown in an ancient fertile plain
You hold the title to.
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy…
A life–giving radiance will come,
The Friend’s gratuity will come…..

(Daniel Ladinsky trans. in The Subject Tonight Is Love)

Now, today, as I begin the walk home, the early darkness already rising around me, I feel I have begun to understand something about waiting: the trees’ waiting, Mary’s waiting and my own. Expectant waiting is an active experience. It is rich with joyous anticipation, strengthened with deep trust in the promises given, and busily engaged in the work of nurturing the “divine seed” that Hafiz speaks about.

For “Love will surely bust (us) wide open into an unfettered blooming new galaxy” bringing “a life–giving radiance”, bringing “the Friend’s gratuity”.

This time of waiting in Mary’s life invites us to wait with her, companioned by her barely-contained anticipation.

But there is more.

For, if we can begin to know that Mary has become for us in our time, when our need is so great, an expression, a manifestation, a presence of the One in whom ancient peoples lived and moved and had their being, our waiting is turned inside out! Then we glimpse that the winter trees, the snow-covered earth, the entire aching planet, and we ourselves are held within a womb, nurtured from the life, the body, of the Great Mother. And that what we are each awaiting is our own birth into the fullness of life to which we are called.

The mystic-poet Jessica Powers expresses this beautifully:

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.

I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
with hope’s expectance of nativity.

I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.

But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.
(Jessica Powers 1948)

We. Wait.

 

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Mary: Re-Enchanting Advent

The First Sunday of Advent dawns in mist, a cold damp day. No snow softens the grim greyness of earth, river, sky. Geese, ducks have flown. Birdsong no longer blesses the air.
Inside my cottage, no Advent Wreath of green boughs, planted with purple candles, stands ready to light the darkness that will descend with early evening.

Living in a Universe whose beginning is still visible in deep space, knowing that what Teilhard de Chardin calls the Christic Presence, the Love at the heart of the Universe, has been here from the first moment in time, makes Advent seem to me superfluous. Why imagine a world awaiting the birth of Love? I stay away from ritual celebrations that open the four weeks of Advent.

At mid-day, I open my computer, tune into the live streaming of a panel led by Jean Houston on “Living in Cosmic Consciousness”.
“We are the microcosm of the macrocosm of consciousness,” Jean says. “We are called to implant the new codings for an emerging spirituality. We are encoded with the Universe Herself…”

Something new, yet old and very familiar is rising in me. A sense of call, an eagerness, an excitement, a knowing that something wonderful is about to happen, and that I /we /all of us are called to bring it to birth…

The day moves on. I sit by the fire, writing in my journal, as the windows of my cottage slowly fill with darkness. Is that when it happens? A remembering, a knowing that is as old as my first memory of Christmas, and yet suddenly new. The story of a young pregnant woman making an uncomfortable journey to a strange town. She does not know where, how, when she will give birth.

This is Advent.

And you and I are being called to be Mary in our time, to give birth to “an emerging spirituality”. Not knowing the where or how or when of it. But eager as she must have been, to see the new life.

What was the moment in time when we agreed to this? Do we resonate with the way poet John O’donohue imagines Mary’s moment in time?

Cast from afar before the stones were born
And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,
The words have waited for the hunger in her
To become the silence where they could form.

The day’s last light frames her by the window,
A young woman with distance in her gaze,
She could never imagine the surprise
That is hovering over her life now.

The sentence awakens like a raven,
Fluttering and dark, opening her heart
To nest the voice that first whispered the earth
From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;
Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

Where does our story touch Mary’s? Where are the meeting points? What are the words waiting for the hunger in us “to become the silence where they could form”? When our hearts open, will they also become a nest for a new birthing of the Holy?

From Jean Houston, I have learned that the urgent needs of our time require a “yes” to the conception, followed by the birthing, of newness.

Reflecting upon the call of Mary, the call that is like our own, Jean writes:

Just think of the promise, the potential, the divinity in you, which you have probably disowned over and over again because it wasn’t logical, because it didn’t jibe, because it was terribly inconvenient (it always is), because it didn’t fit conventional reality, because… because… because….
What could be more embarrassing than finding yourself pregnant with the Holy Spirit? It’s a very eccentric, inconvenient thing to have happen.
(Jean Houston in Godseed p. 38)

Eccentric. Inconvenient. Perhaps. But nonetheless it is our call. Mary’s story gives us the courage to say “yes” without knowing where that “yes” may lead. It is enough to know with certainty that our own life will become, like Mary’s, “wild inside”.

 

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Mary: Companion for a Dark Journey

Egypt. November 2008. With my co-travellers on this spiritual journey, led by Jean Houston, I am on the Island of Philae in the Nile River. As we stand crowded together in the tiny sanctuary dedicated to Isis, Jean is reading aloud from the writings of Apuleius, a second century Roman, not a Christian.

Sanctuary of Isis

Sanctuary of Isis on Philae Island, Egypt

In the story, a hapless magician named Lucius has cried out to Isis for help. She responds. The way the Sacred One identifies herself to Lucius startles me: “ I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity…. I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names… “Behold, I am come to you in your calamity. I am come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow packing. Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise. Hearken therefore with care unto what I bid. Eternal religion has dedicated to me the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

After the reading, we are invited to call out all the names by which we have known the Sacred Feminine. I hear voice after voice calling out wonderful names. Many of these names are familiar to me, titles I’d learned as a child, and they refer to Mary. I listen: Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory. Gate of Heaven. My own voice calls out: Star of the Sea. I hear Jean’s voice, strong, certain: Mary in all her forms.

Mary, in all her forms….

For these darkest days of the year, we are companioned by Mary of Nazareth, the woman  wrapped in silence, the one who waits in the shadow for the great birthing, who  “ponders in her heart” the wonders that follow upon the coming of her child.  Mary has left us no written word. The little we know of her from the Gospels is sketchy at best, her appearances brief, her words cryptic. Yet her influence on Christian spirituality is staggering in its power. Who is this woman, and how has she risen from a quiet life in the outposts of the Roman Empire to become, as the Church proclaims her, “Queen of Heaven and Earth”?

If you grew up Catholic in the years before the Second Vatican Council, chances are Mary was at the very heart of your faith. You prayed the “Hail Mary” many times daily; you sang hymns to Mary as you walked in May processions carrying flowers to decorate her statue; in every trouble and doubt, in every dark moment of your own life, you turned to her as to a mother whose love for you was unconditional. You probably knew by heart the “Memorare”, a prayer to Mary that says, in part, “Remember…Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided…”

Mary

At the call of Pope John 23rd, 2600 Roman Catholic Bishops gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960’s. Believing they were restoring a balance, they invited Mary to step from her throne, and guided her gently to a place among the faithful, the followers of her son, Jesus. The “excesses” of Marian devotion were curbed… and then what happened?

Over the past fifty years we have seen a burgeoning of interest in the “Sacred Feminine”; a recovery of ancient stories of the Goddess; archaeological finds that create renewed interest in the time when the Sacred One was honoured as a woman; an explosion of writing among theologians, historians, cultural storytellers, seeking to understand the power and presence of “Mary” in the Christian story. I will cite a few here: The Virgin by Geoffrey Ashe; Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak; Untie the Strong Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Truly Our Sister by Elizabeth Johnson.

Though I am no theologian, I have a consuming interest in the many aspects of this mystery. What I glimpse is this: the human heart longs for a divine mothering presence. Ancient cultures honoured a feminine divine who over millennia was called by many names: Isis in Egypt; Inanna in Sumeria; Ishtar in Babylon; Athena, Hera and Demeter in Greece, Anu or Danu among the ancient Celts; Durga, Kali and Lakshmi in India; for the Kabbalists, Shekinah; for the gnostics, Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

Christianity had no “Mother God” to put in the place of the Goddesses whose worship it was determined to eradicate. Geoffrey Ashe’s theory is that Mary’s gradual ascension in Christianity was not an initiative of Church Leadership, but rather a response to the hunger of the early Christians for a sacred feminine presence. How it came about is less interesting to me than the reality that Mary became for us an opening to a loving feminine sacred presence. Or, put another way, a loving sacred feminine presence responded to the cries of her people when they called her “Mary”, just as that presence had responded over the millennia to other names cried out in love or sorrow or desperate need.

Over these darkening days as we descend to the longest night of the year at the Winter Solstice, Mary will be our companion. We reflect on her pregnancy, her waiting, her uncertainty, the doubts of those who love her, the trust that sustains her while she opens “Deeper into the ripple in her womb That encircles dark to become flesh and bone,” as John O’Donohue has written.

This is profound mystery. For Mary. For each one of us who carries the Holy within, seeking a place of birth. We walk the dark road, with Mary, in trust.We walk companioned by one who knows our struggles to maintain our trust in the face of inner doubts and outer calamity. We walk with one who loves us and encourages us until we are ready to welcome “the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Five

When we come awake to the mystery and beauty of the story of our evolving universe, it is necessary for us to pause, to breathe deeply. Then, in trust and in joy, we set about the task of reweaving the fabric of our lives to reflect this newness.

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As we approach the Feast of Christmas, how can we re-imagine its spiritual importance in the light of our new cosmic awareness?

The great spiritual teacher of our time, Jean Houston, offers guidance:

Christmas is about yearning for something to come into the world. It’s the story of the birth of love, of hope, of a Holy Child in huge danger of being destroyed, bringing a new order of possibility into the world, needing to be protected and nurtured so it may grow into a free and luminous, numinous being. What is new in our time is the birthing of a whole new order of thought through the discoveries of the new cosmology creating a new mind with interconnectedness with so many sources of ancient wisdom.

Jean invites us to touch into our own yearning. What is the new life we long for in ourselves? What is ready to be seeded in the darkness of these pre-Christmas Days so that we come to the feast pregnant with new life?

The Winter Solstice  was the inspiration for marking the Birth of Christ during the days when the sun’s light begins to strengthen. Solstice evokes YEARNING for the light, for new birth within ourselves, within all whom we love. We desire this newness for life on the planet, for the planet herself. We desire that we and all that we love be made new with “the love that moves the sun and the other stars” l’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stele as Dante writes.

The song “Born of a Star” written by Carolyn McDade to reflect on the Solstice, assists us to know the gift that is at the heart of Christmas:

Return, return to the darkness return,
this longest night of wonder
Return, return to the dream, return,
This holy night to ponder
Deep in the night, listen, listen
Turn to the light, waken, waken
Deep in the night, turn to the light
Waken to sun’s ancient summons
We who are born of star, who then are We?
We who are loved by star, who then love We?
Deep in the night, listen, listen
Turn to the light, waken, waken
Deep in the night, turn to the light
Waken to sun’s ancient summons
We who are born of star, who then are We?

In Jesus in the Power of Poetry (2009) Diarmuid O’Murchu suggests a new metaphor in our understanding of the feast of Christmas. He finds it in the writings of the thirteenth century Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart:

“What does God do all day long? God lies on a maternity bed, giving birth all day long.”

O’Murchu reflects: “The infancy narratives, therefore, need to be approached afresh….as an archetypal statement of the God of prodigious birthing.”

“(W)e are called to become co-birthers with our birthing God of the ongoing evolutionary re-creation of God’s world in justice, love, compassion and liberation. Incarnation becomes an empowering and liberating dynamic, and Christians, instead of fleeing the world, are now challenged to embrace it in its full embodied existence.” (pp 45-6)

Advent invites us into the wonder of pregnancy. We prepare ourselves for the new gifts which our birthing God wants to offer in and through us. We enter the heart’s season of longing, awakening desires we thought long tamed, desires that lead us to the birthing of the deepest dreams of our hearts.

Jan Richardson offers this prayer to the birthing God:

In the enclosure of your heart,
O God,
enfold me
and give me
the courage of Bear:
to enter the cave
in the season of slumber,
to lie down defenseless
in your gathering dark,
to know your sustaining
as my soul is made ready,
to give myself over
to dreaming of birth.

And to whom are we called to give birth? To the God who dwells within.
The fourteenth century Sufi poet Hafiz encourages us with these words:
No one can keep us from carrying God
Wherever we go.
No one can rob His Name
From our hearts as we try to relinquish our fears
And at last stand — Victorious.
We do not have to leave Him in the mosque
Or church alone at night;

We do not have to be jealous of tales of saints
Or glorious masts, those intoxicated souls
Who can make outrageous love with the Friend.
We do not have to be envious of our spirits’ ability
Which can sometimes touch God in a dream.

Our yearning eyes, our warm-needing bodies,
Can all be drenched in contentment
And Light.

No one anywhere can keep us
From carrying the Beloved wherever we go.
No one can rob His precious Name
From the rhythm of my heart —
Steps and breath.

 

Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Four

Current conversations between mystic and physicist, theologian and cosmologist, are revealing undreamt-of possibilities for the story of our faith. (Daniel O’Leary)

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We have been exploring the Powers of the Universe as described and reflected upon by Evolutionary Cosmologist Brian Swimme, In 1992 Swimme, with Thomas Berry, wrote The Universe Story.

Have you wondered how these astounding discoveries about the origins of the universe impact two thousand years of Christian belief?

Writing in The Tablet (UK pub.) in August 2014, Daniel O’Leary offers these insights:

Many Christians are astonished at the revelations of twentieth-century science, much of what is now known as the “New Universe Story”. These revelations encourage us to reflect more thoroughly on St Thomas Aquinas’ reminder that God is revealed in both the book of nature and of the Scriptures.

For too long the two stories have collided with each other. But both the love story revealed in the orthodox theology of Creation, and the emerging stories about our evolving world, reveal a fundamental interconnectedness and integration.

“Geologian” Fr Thomas Berry wrote that “we bear the universe in our being as the universe bears us in its being”. In humanity the evolving universe becomes conscious of, and celebrates, itself. These glimpses of mystery both challenge and excite us.

Christians are now called to a new level of consciousness about God’s loving energy in the first “flaring forth” nearly 14 billion years ago, and in the subsequent process of evolution. Every particle of Creation is imbued with divine love-energy and is an incarnate expression of God’s own creativity. A fundamental concept is that we all flow from one source, one relatively simple particle; some will see it as the process of evolution, others the work of the Holy Spirit.

Theologian Elizabeth Johnson’s new book, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of love, seeks an understanding of faith that embraces the remarkable findings of science. She wrote: “Far from being in competition with the laws of nature acting around us, the hand of the God of love empowers the cosmos as it evolves. The world develops in an economy of divine superabundance, gifted with its own freedom, and in and through which the Creator Spirit’s gracious purpose is accomplished.”

 

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It may well be that our future lies not so much in an invisible Heaven outside time but in this world clearly understood, lived and transformed. “Earth is a physical place of extravagant dynamism that bodies forth the gracious presence of God,” wrote Johnson. “In its own way it is a sacrament and a revelation … The creating God as sustaining power and goal of the evolving world acts by empowering the process from within.”

In The Emergent Christ, scientist and Franciscan Sr Ilia Delio also called for a transformation in our consciousness as the Church merges into the framework of a new cosmology. She quoted paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ: “Creation and incarnation are two moments of the one act of God’s self-giving love … There is a deep compatibility between Christianity and evolution.” St Thomas Aquinas warned us that “if we get Creation wrong we get God wrong”.

The evolutionary process towards deeper expressions of beauty and goodness is guided by the careful, absolute love of God. To reject evolution, according to Teilhard de Chardin, is to reject God, because evolution is love incarnate. He called for Christians to “divinise” the earth by our consciousness of being at the heart of evolution, and by blessing and ¬facilitating its unfolding in our commitment to peace, compassion, justice and creativity. “We who are baptised into cosmic evolution have a responsibility to evolve and to help this Creation evolve towards unity,” wrote Delio.

So much of the mystery is about inter¬relatedness. Theologian Rudolf Bultmann wrote that the light that shone in Jesus first shone in Creation. Jesus is a unique evolutionary step in the development of humankind, embracing the world from the very beginning. “In this respect, the whole of Creation beginning with the Big Bang is ¬incarnation,” wrote Delio. When we talk about incarnation, we are talking about Creation – God’s dynamic Word uttered into time and space in the first nanosecond of existence.

Evolution…is not background to the human story; it is the human story, the unfinished process of continuing incarnation. It is profoundly changing our understanding of the world, the Church, ourselves and God. And the Risen Christ is the unifying heart of it all.

“Resurrection is a qualitative leap in the history of evolution towards a new world which already permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself …” wrote Pope John Paul II. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote of a love that encircles the world like an irresistible force field “secretly woven into the fabric of history”.

For believers, these insights may first threaten, then challenge, and finally transform their relationship with the God of all Creation.

In “Canticle to the Cosmos”, cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote that every child should be told this: “You come out of the energy that gave birth to the universe. Its story is your story; its beginning is your beginning.” Children’s hearts will recognise these wondrous words, and will soon learn to protect and to nourish the loving, evolving heart of their divine Mother Earth. And then to adore.

(excerpts from “Divine Evolution” The Tablet 21 August 2014 by Daniel O’Leary)

 

 

Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Three

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Transmutation, as we have seen, is slow, gradual change occurring over time.

Transformation is sudden. The Irish poet WB Yeats expresses it well:

… changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.

When we experience transformation in our lives, we need to look for guidance from the mystics, writers and poets who have experienced it. We welcome beauty into our lives. We have within us a visionary process which is a source for the re-coding of the planet. All the codings for the life of the unborn future are available in us. We are the recoding, the reset button.

The twentieth century mystic Caryll Houselander writes of her experience of transformation. After a long illness, suffering as well from scrupulosity, she had an experience of God that removed her obsessive fears and gave her a profound peace:

It was in the evening, I think. The room was dark, and the flames of firelight dancing on the wall seemed almost to cause me pain when I opened my eyes….I no longer attempted to translate my torment as particular sins; I had realized in a dim, intuitive way that it was not something I had done that required forgiveness, but everything I was that required to be miraculously transformed.

Interrelatedness: Rather than removing us from concern for others, the experience of transformation fires us with a vision of caring, with a sense of the whole, an invitation from the cosmos to see all of life as interconnected. This is how the mystics see life, how today’s physicists see life. It is what the astronauts experienced when they saw earth from space:

From space I saw Earth –indescribably beautiful
with the scars of national boundaries gone.
Muhammad Ahmad Faris Syria

During a space flight, the psyche of each astronaut is reshaped.
Having seen the sun, the stars and our planet, you become more full of life, softer.
You begin to look at all living things with greater trepidation
and you begin to be more kind and patient with the people around you.
At any rate, that is what happened to me. 
Boris Volynov, USSR

We need an overarching vision that is so simple and alluring that we can see what the world can be…. What does a world look like that really works for everyone? This is an incredible grace and opportunity for us, born on this beautiful planet at this time in history.

 

Radiance: The sun gives off messages as gravitons that pull us to the sun; the sun interacts with the moon and new gravitons feed us; the earth responds with a flood of gravitons…. We are frozen light…

Brian Swimme says that every being you meet holds fourteen billion years of radiance. Radiance is the primary language of the universe. We develop a container that can respond to the beauty of the other. We enter into resonance with the radiance of the universe, and that is the primary form of prayer. You become the radiance that is flooding the world.

Radiance, the tenth Power of the Universe, is celebrated in the Book of Wisdom where Solomon says of the Wisdom/Sophia Presence: I loved her more than health or beauty, preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps. (Jerusalem Bible 7: 10)
She is indeed more splendid than the sun, she outshines all the constellations; compared with light she takes first place, for light must yield to night, but over Wisdom, evil can never triumph.(7: 29,30)

Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit priest and paleontologist who died in 1955, wrote:

Throughout my whole life during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within…The purple flash of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal universe…This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth- the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, the divine radiating from the depth of matter a-flame. (The Divine Milieu)

Hildegard of Bingen, the astonishing 12th c. abbess and genius, tells us this:

From my infancy until now, in the 70th year of my age, my soul has always beheld this Light, and in it my soul soars to the summit of the firmament and into a different air….The brightness which I see is not limited by space and is more brilliant than the radiance around the sun…. I cannot measure its height, length, breadth. Its name, which has been given me, is “Shade of the Living Light”….Within that brightness I sometimes see another light, for which the name “Lux Vivens” (Living Light) has been given me. When and how I see this, I cannot tell; but sometimes when I see it, all sadness and pain is lifted from me, and I seem a simple girl again, and an old woman no more!

And so, empowered by the Universe itself, we shine on!

 

Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Two

We continue our reflections on the Powers of the Universe as described by Brian Swimme with elucidating teachings from Jean Houston and quotes from the mystics.

Cataclysm: For the next level of growth, of deepening, something has to wake us up, shake us up. It may take a tornado to blow us all the way to Oz…. because “there is no way to that place” where the greatest gifts await us. “But thither (we) shall come, soon or never” as the old fairy tales say.

 

We must orchestrate the breakdown for the breakthrough to occur.

The mystics endured cataclysm in different ways: Julian of Norwich was sustained in her near-death experience by the presence of love; Angela of Foligno, who lived in Spoleto, Italy just after the time of Francis of Assisi, learned in the darkness where she lost everything that love would never leave her.

Afterwards did I see him darkly, and this darkness was the greatest blessing that could be imagined and no thought could conceive aught that would equal this. Then was there given unto the soul an assured faith, a firm and certain hope, wherein I felt so sure of God that all fear left me. For by that blessing which came with the darkness I did collect my thoughts and was made so sure of God that I can never again doubt but that I do of a certainty possess him.

Trust in the darkness and loss finally brings us through to the light.

Etty Hillesum, the 20th c. Jewish mystic who died in Auschwitz, wrote:

I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us, that we must help you to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.

Jean Houston says that the call is to “radical reinvention” in order to speciate, to become a deepening spirit of the earth for her new emergence.

Like the seed, the mystic must go down into the darkness of the earth, let go of the success of walking in the midday sun of her own achievements, her own goals and triumphs.

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The mystic sinks down to earth, down to the ground of our being, so that there results a letting go, a giving up of all control. The mind stops grinding out thoughts and becomes simple. The most primitive feelings emerge. The practice and the behaviour are meant to bring one into the deepest introversion and to release all attachments to and projections on external objects or persons. With that the inner world becomes enriched and enlivened. There comes a reunion of what is human with the divine. (Here All Dwell Free by Gertrude Mueller Nelson p. 142)

We ask, but it must be for nothing – nothing that belongs to the world of power or ego. We seek passionately, we knock madly. We weep. We pray. We call out. When everything is given up and opened out, we empty ourselves. And God fills in. ( Nelson p.141)

Synergy: mutually enhancing relationships allow us to recreate after cataclysm

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Life at the Benedictine Monastery of Helfta was an illustration of this: four mystics lived there in the 12th century, sustaining one another in faith and love and their mystical experiences. The writings of the mystics can offer synergistic energy, the guidance and wisdom we need; now we are more deeply aware of the earth and its living beings, of the universe itself as offering shared energies to us; the bio-mimicry that teaches us how creatures on our planet survive cataclysm; the characters in the Wizard of Oz, representing heart and brain and courage are a splendid example of synergy.

Transmutation: slow but deep change over time releases us from old powers that hold us in check: the personal unconscious (Freud); the collective unconscious (Jung); the whole biological nature (Bateson). The universe is at work within us: we are part of the cosmological unconscious (Swimme); the universe reflecting upon itself through us. (Teilhard de Chardin)

On the mystic journey, our own efforts to be still, to listen, to pray, to seek inner guidance seem small and yet slowly bring a change in our sensibilities, opening us to the Powers of the Universe that are within, awaiting our engagement.

Terese of Lisieux said our efforts are like a child trying laboriously to lift her feet to climb high steps until at last love scoops her up in her arms, carries her to the top…

We know of the slow evolution of species; the ancient tale of the earth gradually being created by bits of soil being placed on the back of a turtle… we recognize transmutation taking place in us when we no longer fit into old patterns, relationships, structures. Then we must seek out others to help us to keep going.

(Next: The Power of Tranformation)