POOL OF WISDOM: A Spiritual Autobiography by Mary-Clare Carder

From a fairly young age Mary-Clare Carder has had mystical encounters
with the spiritual world. In her late twenties she developed Sjogren
syndrome – a painful, incurable condition which blunted her career and
made her life very challenging. This challenging life led her to a deeper
spiritual path and an enriched interior life. Along the way she learned
about the wisdom of silence, a form of meditation known as centering
prayer, energy healing, and has after death communications (ADCs).
There are also many wisdom-filled quotes from a host of people who
have inspired her during her life. All these things have been a pool of
wisdom for her.

Mary-Clare intends the book to offer help and support not just to those
who face many challenges in life but to everyone. It is her greatest
hope that by reading this book people will be more present to the
wonders of their own inner life. She invites the reader to plunge in to
this pool of wisdom – it is her joy to share.

For more information, see the announcement at St George’s Cadboro Church.

Her book is available in paperback from the Book Depository, and as an e-book through Amazon.ca and Smashwords.com 

 

 

A Teacher Named ‘Covid’ with Susan McCutcheon

Susan and Duncan

My journey with the teacher named ‘covid’ began with odd symptoms that I did not connect and so for a couple of days worsened until the telltale cough put the lights on and my doctor sent me for a test. Soon I had night sweats, fever, nausea, diarrhoea, body aches, a ferocious headache upon waking in the morning and pain under my shoulders, and I couldn’t stay awake all day. My first reaction was denial quickly followed by waves of panic. My body has a history of over-reaction to virus and I was being very careful not catch covid. In my Centering Prayer sit that day I decide to explore the fear. Is it fear of dying, fear of illness, fear of dealing with this living alone? Going deeper I think of wisdom school teachings around kenotic release and that we practice this ‘letting go’ and I find myself doing the physical hand gesture. 

It seems important to enumerate trust and in the trusting of so much I can list in my life—including my family doctor and the wonderful Canadian health care system—I find positive energy. I ask for help and support from my angelic realm companions. I am wondering if the structure of CP and kenotic praxis can be a container holding me. My faith feels like a path of Light forward. I want to try to release, get beyond, the waves of fear. I think of the women’s retreat I went to many years ago when, working with egoic self, we enacted Inanna’s journey into the underworld. Seven circles of descent releasing all material things, people, relationships, clothing, status affiliations until one is standing essentially egoically naked; totally kenotically—I think—surrendered. The little children who strip themselves in the owner’s field in the Gospel of Thomas logion 21 come clearly to mind. I think of the things I am, in this moment, called upon to release one by one and then I do it. I—just—let—go. What happens then is an immense release of energy. I find myself floating. It feels like I’ve untethered and am flooded with the sensation of being held, upheld by something powerful. It is such a huge relief. I feel buoyant, like a leaf in a stream carried along but in a different level of reality; more in kairos than chronos time. And the fear is completely gone. 

As my symptoms worsen and I start to feel my breathing constrained, it is hard to walk upstairs or have short conversations without becoming breathless; I have had to leave the comfort of kairos time to deal with the practical. Legal documents need updating, a new Power of Attorny (POA) for healthcare put in place. I spend part of the first few days dividing my time between chronos practical territory doing paperwork, and taking every opportunity when there is no fever and the headache lessens also to write and to think. I cannot write when I have a fever or my head hurts. I am aware I have things I want to say. I am also aware I need to spend a lot of time in kairos mode just to keep the fear at bay…

A kind loving friend writes to me, “you must fight hard”, and I realize I don’t see this as a battle. Kenosis surrendering is not about ‘giving up’ but going deeper and trusting the process. I feel the golden threads of my soul are completely interwoven with, contained, and held in some great plan unknown to me—but solid and sure because I am anchored high on the vertical column. I know in every cell of my being that all shall be well. My reference point for wellness has become my alignment with the divine. I think of a healing touch retreat in which we explored the themes of curing versus healing. 

I feel suddenly back in Assisi alongside the frescos I love and into whose energetic and wisdom depths I have often slipped, and knowing that the sacred figures as they are pictured there, in some way, are with me now. I am surrounded by Light, by healing figures—some in Light bodies, some in material form. I am safe because of all of them and I am being held by this Light. I do not have to fight. I have to stay connected—alignment is my most important task. In this frame I have no idea of what is going to happen but I absolutely do not doubt all shall be well. I hear Mother Julian and remember the time spent at her shrine; her voice in the cell that day with Alison… ‘all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’ and think: ah-ha maybe this is what she meant by the term ‘well’. I think how wonderful to have a life filled with such bright wise teaching.

Acknowledging that I don’t know what this part of the journey will be like, my job is to stay present, trusting I will be guided and supported. 

After the realities of dealing with legal and POA decisions and self-care are done, I spend my time in this other spacious reality. Kenotic release has over the days (now 7) become easier than breathing.

I feel physically in the grip of unpleasant symptoms and I cannot take a deep breath which at times unnerves me, but at other levels—when I slip out of linear—I am light and filled with gratitude. What a paradox, I think, that as my illness worsens, my sense of well-being and gratitude increases. I am swamped, suffused in gratitude, sweetness and a sense of peace. Loving messages and Healing Touch energies being sent by my HT group at Christchurch Cathedral fill my body and my days. The headache on awakening is usually gone by mid-morning thanks to their morning work and I sleep fairly well at night thanks to their evening treatments of distance healing. Somehow in spite of symptoms, I know that I am well and whole. On Thursday the tightness in my chest gets worse and within hours I am straining for breath even when resting. My family doctor tells me to go to emergency and that he will call ahead.

It is a new threshold. I think, “When I walk into Vancouver General Hospital, I will be alone.” It feels immense and panic returns. WHAT DO I NEED. I walk around my house—some practical things in the bag, Ginger my monkey, and holy oil and eucalyptus. Then I remember Inanna going deeper into the underworld—stripping the material world away. I think what does anyone need at the portal? Wisdom teaching anchors me and I think:  all I need is love. But I feel torn between the worlds of matter and spirit. I want to visit the memories of the material realm in my home. The memories of my late husband, my sacred home altar where I light the evening candles, my knitting projects in progress, the box of baby things knitted for my new baby god-grandson about to be born in the UK, not quite ready to mail. I struggle with material and non-material needs. It is true, if I am going to step through the portal and touch the face of God, all I need is love and support of my angelic team—and that I know I have—but I also feel the need to acknowledge the blessing of these material things or at least the relationships and experiences and meaning they hold for me in my day to day life. Stubbornly I think:  I want my laptop. I feel determined as long as my brain is alive and not pounding with pain I am writing. I think I will write until the last moment. I wonder: is this my ego—my identity asserting herself or is there still something I need to say to others to leave for others. Indulgence versus obligation?

I am aware I have been procrastinating about writing to Vancouver School of Theology to express my gratitude for my spacious study experience and the support I have received there to make sense of Assisi. They don’t have any idea how important being there has been for me. Later, I write in bed in the emergency room. I am comforted by the description of my life with the frescos, my intention in 2012 to stay with the experience until I understood what to do with it. Cynthia Bourgeault has been helping me to understand the powerful experiences I have been having with my sisters at Santa Chiara. In writing to VST, I realize I have also been writing to myself, reminding myself of my journey, of the power of it. In the intensity of the present moment, I am beginning to see the immense achievement of my work from the first time I walked into Santa Chiara for vespers and saw the frescos. Process and clarity are happening at warp speed and yet at another level of my being, paradoxically, in kairos, I feel very slowed down.

As I walk into emergency I feel alone—only my sister who has been alerted as my medical POA and my family doctor know I am here. Francis’ journey with the lepers in Assisi comes into my mind: the reality of being an untouchable—ill and needing care but a danger to others. I ring my bell as I arrive—wearing a mask, keeping my distance and saying to others, “I have covid—please keep your distance.” This is a totally different way to be ill. For a kinaesthetic person whose primary interactions with her world are touch, it feels very isolating. 

Thankfully, after investigations, imaging, and blood work, I did not need to be admitted longer term to hospital. In spite of the rigidity of my chest wall and acute breathlessness, my lungs were and remained in good shape. Two weeks later most of the symptoms—except fatigue—had disappeared. Like many life challenges, this illness has been a wonderful spiritual exercise; an opportunity to live what we say we believe about the value of kenosis, our CP praxis and my visceral sense of connection with God my divine mother. I am deeply grateful for many things and particularly for the wisdom and healing groups and communities that populate my life. My experience of illness and healing were different, were immeasurably transformed by the interior resources I have learned as a practitioner and as a recipient of the network of love and spiritual care of community.                

Grazie a Dio!

Zooming Through Ramadan Toward Imperfection with Miranda Harvey

The day before Islam’s holiest month Ramadan was set to begin, I received an email from The Contemplative Society. I was logistically and mentally preparing for my fourth decidedly non-traditional foray into this time of fasting and spiritual recommitment. While I am not Muslim myself, I occasionally take advantage of the opportunity to participate in a global joint effort to purify ourselves and reorient to what is truly important: community and charity through what I would call contemplation.

So I was intrigued when I opened the email and saw that our friends at Contemplative Outreach had moved a conference they were planning in South Africa online for the world to join. Titled Oneness: The Secret Embrace, Thomas Keating’s final gift to the world, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to weave some of my personal spiritual orientation, contemplative Christianity, into my experience of this Islamic holiday. At $35 USD suggested donation for three mornings, the price was certainly right for a student like me!

For the next week, I struggled to pull myself out of bed pre-dawn to eat the hearty breakfast that would sustain me the roughly 14.25 hours until my nightly post-sunset meal. In between, I would spend about four hours on school, eight hours on work, and a couple more hours distracting myself by cooking, cleaning, walking, waiting, and yes, some contemplating. By the time the morning of the conference arrived, I had already calculated an average day’s hours of sunlight over the whole year in my region, math that bought me a couple more hours of energy and significantly improved my concentration for my priority endeavour, my master’s program. I’d also worked out a monetary cost for any hours I didn’t fast that I was “supposed” to, a plan I figured was in line with the charitable prescriptions and instructions I have seen that allow Muslims to make up for time not fasting during Ramadan as soon as they are able.

Feeling a bit guilty all the same, I settled onto my cushion in front of Cynthia for the first time in a couple years. Since I started my program, I have not been able to attend any retreats. These days, I mostly draw from the resources I collected from my three-year immersion working for The Contemplative Society. During that time, I had the privilege of unusually intimate moments with Cynthia, hooking her up with microphones when we were recording her. The warm nostalgia of seeing her getting settled into her own technological discomfort zone on the other side of the screen helped me let go of my preoccupations with perfection and open up to something new.

While I am not particularly familiar with Fr. Thomas Keating or his teachings as yet, the message I heard over and over seemed simple. As Cynthia shared his poems and some stories of his life, it became clear that Fr. Keating’s profundity as a teacher did not arise from a perfect life. By embracing the messiness, inconvenience, discomfort, pain, and, perhaps most weighty to consider during a pandemic, suffering, we create an opportunity to open ourselves to experiencing the overwhelming and undergirding perfection of “creation” as it unfolds. That does not mean we seek out the darkness in order to make ourselves perfect, but that we learn to lean in when it arises and see what might serve to let a little light in.

The way I interpret this, our little stories (of identity, identification, etc.) don’t get lost in a wash of sameness—as in, we all suffer, so ignore them. Rather, the honour we give to them transforms each experience into the unique thread that contributes to the tapestry of oneness. Our bits and pieces matter because, while particular, their similarities link us to the experiences of others and help show us what we might have to offer. A simple message, maybe, but not the easiest to live out.

After two weeks, I gave up on daily fasting and decided to do so only on Fridays. Term papers were coming due, and I needed all the energy I could muster in my off-work hours to keep up. One could say it was a pretty imperfect Ramadan. But rather than feeling guilty as I connected my experiences of suffering to the communities I would be charitable toward, I felt a sense of peace. Thanks in part to the conference with Cynthia and the lessons she drew from the example of Fr. Keating’s life, I saw that the month didn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful; I still saw where I could serve. And I saw that being ok with my imperfect Ramadan helped me connect with the community of people closest to me who were struggling with their imperfect pandemics: sourdough projects gone awry, social exhaustion despite isolation, and to-do lists still not getting done despite more time. Sharing the similarities between our unique experiences made to transform the bits of suffering into sustaining connection.

Ramadan Mubarak. Wishing you your own imperfect, blessed Ramadan.

Post-script: an online contemplative conference might sound pretty imperfect, especially to those who can afford in-person retreats. But given its accessibility, it is also an immense opportunity for unifying an incredibly diverse community of contemplatives. Deep bows to the organisers. I hope it happens again.

Going Forward with Cynthia Bourgeault

Posted on Facebook April 14, 2020


Going Forward….

For the past four weeks, as many of you know, I have been hanging out here on the edge of the known universe on Eagle Island, taking the time to renew my flagging hermit skills. What little technology I have access to on my two-panel, four-battery solar system huffs and puffs to keep up. On days like yesterday when I sat in the teeth of a gale for twelve stormy hours, the whole system went down by sunset.

Surrounded by mostly time and tide, I have been slowly coming to my own decisions about what is my rightful participation in the virtual community that is being generated and sustained during this great pandemic re-set. I am aware that we are all called to participate in different ways; it’s not a “one-size fits all” solution to the conundrum, and all sincere contributions work toward the common good.

As for myself, however, I feel that the contribution specifically being asked of me is to be extremely judicious in my involvement in live internet community (zoom, skype, facetime, video-conferencing, etc.). Partly because it is so clearly a privilege reserved for the already privileged. Partly because it continues to support both economically and energetically the continued electromagnetic inflammation of the planetary atmosphere and the economy of unabashed economic and moral capitalism that drives it. And partly because the great spiritual traditions all know of a better, deeper, and more powerful means of intercommunication already seeded into the human heart, if we can only remember how to use it.

Repeat: this not a blanket statement, not an assertion of any presumed moral high ground. It’s just the place that seems to be accorded to me to uphold in this global transition.

My decision going forward is to limit my zoom participation to two areas only: continuing periodic board and task-force meetings with groups I am already committed to, and a few larger, “conference style” teaching events, particularly when they replace already contracted on-the-ground obligations.

I will also continue to support my online courses with the CAC currently running or in the works. And I intend to keep a limited but engaged presence on the internet through postings within the Wisdom School Community and through periodic blogs.

I will not regularly be participating in zoom retreats, zoom liturgies, or zoom classes or conversations of an ongoing nature whose primary purpose is to maintain teaching or fellowship. This is very good work, but it is not mine to do.

In general, I am limiting screen time in ALL formats (both online and offline; i.e., writing) to six hours a day. I am relying on the Benedictine rule, with its practical balance of “Ora et Labora,” to rebalance my three-centered awareness and help reverse the atrophy of those inner senses required for clear perception in difficult times.

I am in possession of no crystal ball here, but I suspect as we are able to begin moving about again, that my role is going to shift toward helping to re-open small, on-the-ground events. The human horde has been badly traumatized by its newfound terror of physical proximity, and this trauma will need to be released before truly embodied compassion can begin to take root in us again. Love still lies on the other side of fear, and the bridge will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. I am trying to prepare myself, both inwardly and outwardly for what this may require.

I want to emphasize that I am in full solidarity with the beautiful efforts many of you are making to sustain community over distance, and I will certainly be holding you all in my hearts as these conversations unfold. My decision is to be understood as simply my own way of putting teeth into this solidarity. And of trying to hold myself accountable.

blessings and love, Cynthia

Good Friday Stations of the Cross

This meditation on the Stations of the Cross during the Pandemic has been provided by Rev. Dawne Taylor of Kamloops, British Columbia. We thank her for allowing us to share this beautiful teaching. 

She suggests this Good Friday service at Kamloops United Church.

GOOD FRIDAY STATIONS OF THE CROSS

In the Roman Catholic traditions, churches mark Good Friday by walking the 14 Stations of the Cross with a prayer at each station. The stations take the Christian from the 1st station (Jesus before Pilate) to the 14th station (Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb) of his walk to the cross and then state-death by crucifixion/execution. Some of the stations are based on scripture; others come from tradition.  

I recall a sentiment I felt some years back when reflecting on Good Friday – and it was simply “how the hell could this happen?”  In this time of the covid-19 pandemic, I suspect some are also asking now: “how the hell could this happen?” 

There is a particularly good YouTube video on the stations of the cross by Irish poet and activist, Padraig O’Tuama, produced especially for Good Friday 2020. I heartedly recommend you watch it. O’Tuama makes it very clear that Jesus is the power of love, and love in the face of power. 

In keeping with the Good Friday tradition of the Stations of the Cross, and following either the Zoom service with Mount Paul or the KUC Youtube service with Rev. Michael Caveney, I invite you to metaphorically walk these 14 stations designed particularly for this covid-19 time. Stop at each station and say a brief prayer for those named: 

Station 1:  Health care, emergency responders, cleaners and other front line workers

Station 2:  Other essential workers:   grocery store clerks, pharmacy clerks, truck drivers, day care operators

Station 3:  Those who have contracted covid-19, are hospitalized or in self-isolation;  those grieving the death of a beloved one because of the virus

Station 4:  Those laid off and suffering financial stress

Station 5:  Small business owners who may go under during this time

Station 6:  The particularly vulnerable – elders, those in seniors’ homes, the immune compromised

Station 7:  Street people, the homeless, those in shelters and cramped spaces

Station 8:  Those particularly isolated because they live alone; the lonely, depressed and mentally ill

Station 9: Those whose surgery and medical procedures have been postponed, possibly worsening their medical condition.

Station 10:  Parents homeschooling children, and especially those with special needs children

Station 11: Abused women and children whose situation is exacerbated during this time of the pandemic

Station 12: Refugees around the world, already suffering and running for their lives, now confined to cramped and unsanitary quarters

Station 13:  Isolated Indigenous and Inuit communities lacking medical care, good nutrition, adequate housing and safe drinking water

Station 14: Politicians and provincial health officers having to make difficult decisions, inform their constituents, and at the same time buoy spirits. 

No doubt there are others significantly affected by the virus that you may wish to add to this prayer list.

Below is a Good Friday blessing from Jan Richardson in her book Circles of Grace. I hope it speaks to you in this holy season.   It’s called “Song of the Winding Sheet”.

We never could have wished it to come to this, yet we call these moments holy as we

             hold you.

 Holy the tending, holy the winding, holy the leaving as in the living.

 Holy the silence, holy the stillness, holy the turning and returning to earth.

 Blessed is the One who came in the name,  blessed is the One who laid himself down,

            blessed is the One emptied for us,   blessed is the One wearing the shroud.

Holy the waiting, holy the grieving, holy the shadows and gathering night.

Holy the darkness, holy the hours, holy the hope turning toward light. 

 

Blessings on this Holy and Poignant Day.   Rev. Dawne Taylor

 

 

Foundational Points for the Five Pandemic Homework Exercises

I am very grateful to Joseph Azize for his willingness to make five of the Gurdjieff exercises available to us within the cyber confines of our Wisdom School Community. These exercises are powerful tools of healing, cleansing, and clarity, and even when practiced individually or in small groups, they have a power to significantly shift our present planetary atmosphere. They are something you can actually DO: to steady yourself and ready yourself for the deeper energetic work that actually connects us and empowers us as a human species to do the alchemical work we were placed on this planet to do.

The five exercises I have recommended are all examples of what Gurdjieff  calls “transformed contemplation.”  For now—and in direct cognizance of the needs of our present global crisis—let me offer a slightly different definition than even Azize gives. “Transformed Contemplation” is contemplation that actually transforms something, both in ourselves and in the world. It is a kind of sacred alchemy, which is to be understood within the context of Gurdjieff’s great vision of “reciprocal feeding,” the exchange of physical/energetic substances between the realms which maintains the whole cosmic ecosystem in a state of dynamic equilibrium. We receive something for ourselves; we offer something back.  Each of these exercises highlights a slightly different aspect of this  and works on a slightly different skill set.

Before you dive in, you will need two foundational pieces:

  1. A basic familiarity with the notion of three-centered awareness. If you’re reading this post on the Wisdom School community page, you will already have made its acquaintance in the Introductory Wisdom School, but if you haven’t actually been to Wisdom School—or simply want to refresh yourself—the gist of the teaching is there in Chapter 3 of my The Wisdom Way of Knowing.
  2. A familiarity with the basic body-rotation sensing exercise, which is foundational in the Gurdjieff Work and figures prominently in four of these five exercises. We have worked on this exercise a bit in the Introductory Wisdom School and extensively in the intermediate school (The Divine Exchange), but those of you who know me only as a teacher of Centering Prayer may not yet have been exposed to this particular practice. So here’s the quick and dirty version;

First of all, SENSING. For the sake of this exercise, it means using your directed attention to awaken a sense of aliveness (often experienced as an actual subtle tingling) in a specific body part, while at the same time allowing that part to be the full container for your attention.

As a pilot run, bring your attention to your right hand. Try not to beam your attention down from outside, like a searchlight; rather, invite it gently to fill in from within. It will.

Notice how, under the beckoning power of your attention, your arm suddenly seems to “come online.” You are directly connected to it; you feel its vibrancy as a vitalization of your own being. (Isn’t it amazing how you can use this mysterious power always at your disposal, your attention, to fill up your hand with sensation; to increase the direct experience of your own aliveness?)

The rotation, then, typically goes; right arm, right leg; left leg; left arm. As your attention moves sequentially to each part, it also stays put there. If you see yourself wandering, daydreaming, judging…return to the direct sensation of the body part you are attending to.

For more on attention, I’m sure Bob Sabath will readily direct you to the marvelous excerpt  “The Force of Attention” by William Segal.

Okay, with those two background pieces in place, you’re good to go. Over the next few posts, I’ll try to add a few very brief commentaries about the specific exercises themselves.

This 

More on the instruction to decrease internet use

(Posted by Cynthia Bourgeault on Facebook, March 24, 2020.)
 
As I expected, I am receiving plenty of raised cyber-eyebrows about my instruction 3 in yesterday’s posting, to “radically decrease or discontinue altogether your use of internet technology to support social distancing.” Please don’t jump to the conclusion that I am calling for an immediate cold turkey here: more like a gentle challenging of some assumptions we’ve all bought into a bit too automatically, and a phased step-down as we learn to shift to the REAL network of global intercommunion.
 
I continue to believe that the only authentic “worldwide web” exists in the Imaginal realm: i.e., in that subtler and quantumly more powerful bandwidth of energetic communion which links not only all beings of this planet, but also beings in all realms, including those on the other side of the life/death “divide.” It is from here that we receive our help—and it is here, too, that we give it! it is where our real human contribution to calming the inflamed heart of our planet can be must efficaciously offered.
 
This is in fact the subject of my forthcomng book, which ironically would have had its maiden teaching voyage next week at Valle Crucis. It elucidates the part I believe we Wisdom students can most fruitfully contribute to the present planetary upheaval. But playing that part is counterintuitive and it is a learned skill.
 
My invitation as I invited you to consider slowly weaning yourself from the internet is to do so proportionately as you re-boot your innate skills for imaginal communion (skills, incidentally, that have been vigorously discouraged and numbed in our contemporary Western culture. ) The problem with the internet zoom groups as an antidote to physical gathering is that they are a simulacrum, substituting fellowship and information exchange for authentic communion and gnosis. We are losing not only our skills for but our taste for the real deal, and the continued electromagnetizing of our planetary atmosphere by this sudden surge in “social distancing”-motivated electronic communication is aggravating the conditions in which the covid-19 virus spreads. Call me a nutcase here, but disregard at your own peril!
 
So if some of you are inclined to take me up on this wager and boost your component of “imaginal bandwidth” participation during this pres crisis and beyond it, how do you go about doing that? Traditionally, of course, this teaching was transmitted only one-on-one; from initiated teacher to prepared student. That it is how it was transmitted to me by my own teacher Rafe. I categorically refuse to put it out there in the form of an online course! But I am willing to share some general orientation, and perhaps a few specific suggestions for those of you who want to take it to the next step.
 
First of all, a little general theory:
First and foremost, in this vast inter-realmic cosmos (meaning not just this physical earth, but all cosmoses and planes of consciousness in this great eclosion of divine purposiveness we call the created order), all hearts—all individual lives and beings—are merged and flow out of that great ocean of life. Our individual beings participate in this individually, but always AS AN EMERGENT PROPERTY OF THE WHOLE. Our individual life is an instantiation of that one divine life. And because of this, we can always find one another. We are never out of contact. There are no walls,; there are no barriers.
 
But to see this and work with it, we must move beyond our automatic human orientation toward “the individual” as designating a specific corporeal unit with a fixed identity and position in space and time. As long as we insist on that orientation, we wind up in necromancy, not intercommunion. To be fully present in communion with a beloved, whether in another corner of this world or in another world altogether, we must ironically completely let go of that beloved as an object, and allow his or her heart to wash gently upon us like waves of the ocean washing gently on the shore. Any attempt to make precise will result immediately in engaging the personal imagination and will; the whole exchange immediately degenerates into illusion and sentimentality. A very delicate touch is required, and this is where the learning curve comes in.
 
We are really talking about stabilizing in ourselves a higher state of being, exactly in line with Mauric Nicoll’s celebrated dictum, “As your being increases, your receptivity to higher meaning increases. As your being decreases, the old meanings return.” (Psychological Commentaries, 1245). This higher level of being, which accesses the imaginal bandwidth not by raiding it but by MATCHING it, has traditionally been known in Christian spirituality as ‘vigilance’ or “recollection.” It is a higher bandwidth of spiritual attentiveness, in which imaginal intercommunion becomes possible.
 
To do this requires spiritual work on self. It is not a technique that can be taught, but a transformation that must be undergone. Gurdjieff called it “Being partkdolg duty:” our obligatory human contribution to the planetary wellbeing, whose twin pillars are conscious labor and intentional suffering. Only in the refiners’ fire of these two foundational practices (which are actually foundational attitudes) do we gradually attain to purity of heart—which, remember, is the precondition, according to Jesus, for “seeing God.”
 
Each of the four instructions I offered you yesterday are building blocks for stabilizing these foundational underpinnings of imaginal seeing. I will circle back in a forthcoming post to unpack a little bit more of the “how,” But this should serve to get you started.
 
By the way, Jacques Lusseyran gets this exactly. Check out AND THERE WAS LIGHT, pages 259-60.

From the Eagle’s Nest by Cynthia Bourgeault, March 24, 2020

(the background to Instructions, posted on Cynthia Bourgeault’s Facebook page, March 23)

I am keenly aware of the irony in all this. Here I sit on my prayer cushion in the remote seclusion of Eagle Island, more than twenty-four hours now elapsed since the island’s only other occupant headed ashore for an undisclosed period of time, taking the mailboat with him.  It’s me, the eagle, the deer herd, the communion of saints. And nothing much in between.

But I did not come out here for social distancing, I came for listening. The way hermits have been doing it for millennia, at the intersection of the worlds, the intersection of the timeless with time. The way Rafe taught me to do it during our human years together, the way I for too long now have honored more in the breach than the observance.

I did not want to come out here. If I had my druthers, I would by now have been well on my way to North Carolina, to our eagerly-awaited Imaginal Wisdom School.  But the planet forced my hand, and I got dragged out here by my gumboots. I realized almost immediately it was the place I really needed to be.

“It takes about four days for things to shift,” Rafe always told me. Even for him, the relatively gentle transition from the monastic cloister to his mountain hermitage two miles away was always a qualitative shift, a whole different atmosphere. Restlessness, thinking, structuring, doing… all those human functions to mask our human terror of the naked immediacy of the present have to slowly fade away before the listening sets in a different bandwidth, before you discover that the silence is immensely, vastly connected to presence, wisdom, compassionate guidance. Before it starts to speak.

During those four days I got a lot done: cut up a huge maple limb that had fallen, stacked wood, answered correspondence, caught up on old books, systematically checked in with my immediate circle of family and friends, and even did a bit of zooming before my always-delicate solar system finally buckled under the strain. Prayer was good, filled with rich, compassionate connectivity. Rafe was around, as he always is out here. And yes, I startled for a moment when the mailboat captain informed me Sunday morning he was heading ashore and gave me the option to go or stay. But I knew I was not going. The airspace between the realms was beginning to clear.

The next morning at prayer the downpour began.

I wrote up the instructions first—the “homework”—in case the last gasps of solar and internet connectivity decided to give up altogether, as they looked certain to do for about three hours after I was finally released from my prayer cushion. I wanted to make sure that folks in the Wisdom community at least had the bottom line and could begin to work as they chose with the materials, even if I am shortly forced into complete social incommunicado.  But the instructions grow out of a wider picture, a picture that had been gradually coming to me over the weekend as I moved rocks and logs, as I walked the bare March earth marshalling in almost dizzying exhilaration for the imminent explosion of spring…

This is what I came out here to learn, to receive. And this is in turn what I pass on to you, the fuller version of the seeing, of which the earlier instructions are the practical applications. Make of them what you will. This is pretty much raw revelation, though I have tried to tone it down a bit.

The Oracle on Eagle Island

WHAT HAS BEFALLEN

  1. The covid-19 pandemic is a massive, planetary catastrophe whose roots are primarily ecological and evolutionary, not simply cultural (let alone political). This is one of those Teilhardian evolutionary tipping points where the planet itself, from within its inherent telluric intelligence, moves in a spontaneous paroxysm to correct an imbalance that taken the whole planetary ecosystem seriously off track.
  2. A single species—our human horde—has now become dangerously invasive, threatening the stability not only of the noosphere (the world of human culture and economics), but of the biosphere and also the geosphere: the foundational, invisible chemical and electromagnetic forces that maintain the conditions that maintain the possibility of life. We have pressed too far into the inner fastnesses of things, and the earth has spontaneously risen up to cleanse and rebalance itself. This is not merely a moral chastisement but a biological pruning, an ecological cleansing. That is the scale at which this pandemic is playing out. It is not being sent “from outside,” “to punish us,” as in Old Testament judgment. It has been generated spontaneously out of the conditions we have created on the earth, as a completely legitimate outcome of what Teilhard called “taonnement,” trial and error.  This disease is not happening TO us, it is happening BECAUSE of us.
  3. Social distancing is not a preventative measure; it merely puts the brakes on the rate of spread. Even as a braking system its effectiveness has not been proven. We huddle in our homes, and the contagion continues to spread. The infection will run its course until it has completed its biospheric work. We can slow it down, but we cannot outrun it, either individually or collectively.
  4. There is a very strong electrical involvement in the generation and transmission of this virus. It would be naïve to say that 5G technology has CAUSED it, and I distance myself from that type of rhetoric, which only further polarizes scientists and mystics at just the point where they need to unite. Still, it is growingly evident that this new virus is not being spread solely by traditional person-to-person contact, as was first assumed. There is a significant body of scientific data (vigorously downplayed and in fact actively demonized in the media) supporting the hypothesis that the worldwide circle of cellphone towers and GPS satellites circling overhead is inescapably implicit in this mix, not only in spreading social attitudes, but in the actual transmission of the virus itself. That is why our approach of “social distancing” is not only primitive (like trying to put out the Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire with water buckets), but may actually be aggravating the situation. The planetary atmosphere has become electrically inflamed, and we must calm the inflammation here before the rate of disease begins to come under control. The worldwide web may not be the cause of the pandemic, but it is the environment in which the disease is most aggressively spreading.
  5. Our planet itself will be fine. The earth is proving herself extremely resilient, fully capable of rebalancing herself in a remarkably short order. Already the streams are running clearer, the air is purer. It’s the human species that will take the principal hit: not only in physical attrition but in social, economic, and cultural chaos. We must be prepared for this. The readjustment will be long-term, and it will cut to the bones.

WHAT WE CAN DO

  1. There is no escape on the front end: not by social isolation, not by “flattening the curve,” not by using our cleverness yet again to invent some stunning new vaccine that takes us all off the hook (until the next round of even more vaccine-resistant viruses appears.) The way out is through, and what we human beings potentially have to bring to the situation, to put out the fires and calm the inflammation, are the gifts that actually lie close at hand in the human spirit: courage, self-sacrifice, equanimity, forbearance, joy, gentleness, humility, compassion; conscious labor, intentional suffering, substituted love, recollection, purity of heart. Jesus names these qualities in the beatitudes. Paul talks about them as “the fruits of the spirit.”
  2. The Wisdom traditions I work within teach that these are not only qualities, not even energies, but subtle physical substances; nutrients desperately needed not just for our own planet, but for the entire inter-realmic ecosystem. It is our human task to generate them through the alchemical transformation of our own “animal” (i.e., survivalist) nature.
  3. When we begin to receive our individual marching orders, I suspect many of us in the Wisdom community are going to find ourselves on the front line in being asked to re-establish actual physical links in the human chain, for it is here that these alchemical qualities will be most intensely replenished. That is why I have asked you all during this time to work deeply with the “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s” promise: in preparation. As always, the poor are taking the most direct hit in the “social distancing” strategy, which inherently favors the economically privileged. If the social fabric is not to be entirely unraveled, some of us will be called to stand directly in that breach, no matter the personal risk.
  4. The only REAL worldwide web takes place within the imaginal bandwidth. To access it requires training, and it requires purity of heart. What we are settling for in our current zoom communications is a simulacrum. It glitters, but it is not gold. Employ it as you need to as a temporary patch-through, but don’t get enthralled. The real alchemy is still one-on-one. I will speak to you more about that shortly.
  5. And it requires, finally, pulling the plug on horizontal connection (or at least trimming it down substantially) and turning into—not away from—our own loneliness, our own fear, our own disconnection.  And out here on Eagle Island, my solar power dropping rapidly as the first of three stormy days settle in, I suspect the question is about to be called on me. Like it or not, I will finally be a hermit.

With love to all, c

Cynthia has added further explanations on NorthEast Wisdom: Foundational Points for the five pandemic homework exercises 

Instructions from Cynthia Bourgeault

Dear Wisdom friends:

Here is my own recommendation for inner work during this time of profound planetary readjustment. I will send you a fuller explanation as soon as I can, but the internet system has just gone very wonky out here on Eagle Island, and you may need to be patient for my further elucidations of this admittedly countercultural prescription. For those of you who have seen an advance manuscript of my book, this would be a course of action founded on the laws of World 24 (Imaginal) and above, not the laws of World 48 (our earth plane at its rational apogee) and below that are presently running the show—futilely, in my estimation.

What we’re facing here is not a temporary crisis to “flatten the curve.” This is a permanent and collective reset of our collective human conscience and will resolve itself only as a few more of us become willing and able to step up to the plate to live a different reality.

More on that to follow. For now, my “to do” list:

1. Get Joseph Azize’s new book, GURDJIEFF: MYSTICISM, CONTEMPLATION, AND EXERCISES (Oxford University Press, 2020, ) and work diligently with some of the Gudjieff exercises here assembled for the first time,  particularly the “Make Strong” (pp. 178-82), “Atmosphere Exercise” (192-3), “Four Ideals,”(231-240), “Lord have Mercy” (241-251), and “Clear Impressions” (261-269.)
2. Continue your own daily practice of Centering Prayer, and within its gentle and surrendered atmosphere, try to work into your being as deeply as you possibly can the truth of the Pauline affirmation  “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.”  Work it in until there is no discrepancy between how it falls on your mind, your emotions, and your amygdala. Work it in until you realize with all of yourself that it confers the only spiritual immunity, the only source of right action.
3. Radically decrease or discontinue altogether your use of internet technology—zoom groups, zoom church—to support social distancing. It is actually aggravating the problem by further intensifying the electromagnetic inflammation of the planetary atmosphere which is actually driving the contagion. 
4. Physically connect (I mean in real space time) with at least one person whose life is already being physically impacted by this crisis (food shortage, income stream dried up, and try to help as best you can.

Lord have mercy on us all. Cynthia

 

Joseph Azize, Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises

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