The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity by Paula Pryce (Part 3 of 8)

Excerpts from The Monk’s Cell Chapter 3:

Grille

Silence and Seclusion: Contemplative Environments of Interiority and Receptivity

– photo courtesy of St. Benedict’s Monastery

Continuing with the series of excerpts from The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2018), the third chapter, Grille, describes the aesthetics of the silence and interiority that help foster a distinctive, intentional way of life, and how that silence paradoxically communicates hospitality, warmth, and community.

Varieties of Silence

3:30am – St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado:

Stepping into the frosty air, I gasped. The stars! At this altitude, in this cold, the stars really did have points, five crisp points just like a child’s drawing. Except for the faint starlight, the earth rested silent in deep moonless dark. Periodic flashes from my light helped me keep to the unplowed gravel road. The beams caught the hoary frost, glittering, almost magical, on the sagebrush, grasses, and fence posts.

Entering the austere Trappist chapel, then edging my way to a side bench up against the brick wall, I moved into another variety of silence. It was dark except for a few starry votives at the tabernacle and icons. The monks, in hooded, ivory-colored habits, sat motionless on wooden benches in the antechapel. Their quiet seemed to blossom through space. A “pungent silence,” our retreat leader, Cynthia Bourgeault, had called it on a previous visit. It had a kind of density, not accidental but filled with intention and potency.

With their initiation of the Vigil office, the monks approached the conclusion of that night’s Great Silence. A clock chimed from the cloister walk outside. The monks rose, then the cantor toned, “Lord, open our lips.” The community used their thumbs to make the sign of the cross over their mouths, then chanted in response, “That our mouth shall show forth thy praise.”

The plainsong seemed to greet the silence rather than diminish it. Their words were inward, muted, and perfectly synchronized; the unified sound emerged from them effortlessly. It was not beautiful in the way of a stunning, magnetic performance of an accomplished concert choir, but was arresting in its simplicity and ease and intercorporeality. Their sound inhabited the silence as from a single body.

After the office of Vigils and a lengthy period of meditation, I walked back to the guesthouse. The monks’ intentional silence and sound made the quietude of the valley seem even more apparent. I heard not the slightest rustle in the frozen grasses. These two hours later, the air was colder and the stars had shifted, some constellations having set, others risen. My eyes adjusted to find that the sky had just perceptibly lightened. I could make out the edges of snow banks along the gravel road and discerned the slightly darker mass of mountains against the retreating night. I stopped to listen to the extraordinary lack of sound.

Just then, a lonely call cast itself across the valley from a high ridge. An interlude. Moments later, yips, howls, and yaps came bounding from an opposite hillside. I laughed at their versicle and responsory, cantor and choir Rocky Mountain style. A shooting star burst across the night sky as if in silent appreciation of the coyotes’ early morning office.

The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity by Paula Pryce (Part 2 of 8)

Excerpts from The Monk’s Cell Chapter 2: Antechapel

photo courtesy of The Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Antechapel

Gathering and Grounding Contemplative Christians in a Pluralistic Society

Continuing with the series of excerpts from The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2018), the second chapter, Antechapel, describes how monastic and non-monastic teachers convey contemplative principles, like detachment and humility, and offer tools, such as rules of life, to help stabilize their students’ intentions to follow alternative life ways.

A teacher in the American contemplative Christian movement, Br. Curtis Almquist of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist used the motifs of detachment and humility to get across the contemplative Christian ethos. Through them, he showed how the intentional cultivation of ambiguity and paradox can prompt people to see past their usual boundaries. In a public lecture about his monastery’s stained-glass windows, Br. Curtis described how the glass artist and the archi­tect together created structural juxtapositions that fostered a feeling of liminality. Their work prompted those who entered the chapel to cross the limen (Latin for threshold) into another way of being. When one passes over the threshold, he said, one enters a “place of in-between” that brings together earthly and divine realms. This ambiguous place of “both/and” potentially acts as an “icon,” he said, a kind of window or conduit through which the human and the divine make contact.

Expanding on the notion that ambiguity and paradox have the transformative potential to take people beyond usual frames of knowledge and experience, Br. Curtis highlighted the chapel’s contrasting architectural qualities. The paradoxical union of weighty stone and weightless light, for example, simultaneously fostered stability and effervescence. He said,

“Nothing could be heavier than a floor of undressed slate and polished mar­ble, and the serene walls of granite. No matter how much you may feel your life is adrift, when you come into this space, you are grounded . . . but then the limestone Gothic arches, columns, pillars, and capitals lift your gaze to the light of the heavens with the beautiful rose window that crowns the antechapel, and the clerestory windows that line the choir.”

The designers intentionally created an admix­ture of darkness and light in the chapel, which further expands a feeling of in-betweenness, unknowing, and wonder. Shadowy recesses contrasted with the danger of too much light, said Br. Curtis, the glare and exposure that he called “the wound of knowledge” after the words of Welsh poet, R.S. Thomas. Sanctification and holiness come through “an intermingling of light and darkness, enough of both.” The mystery of ambiguous “holy shadow” is as primary to awaken­ing to the divine as the dazzle of overt knowledge.

The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity Paula Pryce (part 1 of 8)


This 8-part blog offers excerpts from my book, The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2018).

— photo courtesy of The Society of Saint John the Evangelist

To begin, let me introduce myself: my anthropological research has been shaped by childhood experiences among interreligious contemplatives, particularly my Anglo-Indian father. An early exposure to meditation prompted me to seek deeper knowledge about the extraordinary power of the human capacity for connectedness with the divine and one another. The Monk’s Cell is the result of four years of ethnographic research I did in the Wisdom community, American monasteries, and overseas pilgrimages, where I listened closely for the nuances of the experiential communion that rises through contemplative practices. My intention was to bring a complex depiction of this world to those who do not understand it, especially working to get past academics’ divisive framing of religion as non-rational. Many thanks again to Cynthia Bourgeault and all who have welcomed me into their midst during this research, and also to friends at The Contemplative Society for inviting me to make this contribution.

The Monk’s Cell’s chapters are modeled on an architectural metaphor for “deepening into the divine,” similar to Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle. The first chapter, Portico, describes how longing for the divine draws people to contemplative Christianity.

Excerpts from The Monk’s Cell Chapter 1:

Portico

Finding a Way to the Door of American Contemplative Christianity

My inner heart was yearning desperately for something I could not name, a space for falling in love . . . I simply knew that the God of my heart was calling me deeper and deeper into silence and solitude. My Beloved was yearning for me . . . and so I sat and listened. As St. Benedict names it, I listened “with the ear of my heart.” . . . I knew I had to go.


— Brigid’s e-journal

Eros and the Call for Intimacy with the Divine

. . . The wall between self and God can become extraordinarily permeable for contemplative Christian practitioners as they work toward an experiential, non-objectified understanding of the divine arising from the “mutuality of desire” between themselves and God . . .

We see their yearning in St. Anthony, the fourth-century Egyptian desert hermit who lived in extreme asceticism, staving off all desire except a passion for God, in the monk St. John Climacus’s seventh-century depiction of divine love as “an abyss of illumination, a fountain of fire, bubbling up to inflame the thirsty soul,” in St. Hildegard von Bingen’s twelfth-century experience of “a fiery light of the greatest brilliancy coming from the opened heavens . . . [which] kindled in my heart and my breast a flame” and in her contemporary, St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s eager search for the “spiritual kiss of Christ’s mouth,” in St. Catherine of Siena’s fourteenth-century visions of her mystical marriage to Jesus, and in the Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin’s twentieth-century confession that in his pursuit of the physical sciences and evolutionary theory, including the discovery of Peking Man, he sought Christ and “saw, as though in an ecstasy, that through all nature I was immersed in God.” So, too, the thirst for intimacy with God arose in Brigid’s e-journal, written in the American Midwest in the twenty-first century especially for this research. Together these writings reveal how eros for the divine has had an enduring place in the history of Christianity. Such desire continues to work through the impulses and actions of contemplative Christians today.

For those who are interested in purchasing a copy of The Monk’s Cell, you can receive a 30% discount by ordering online at global.oup.com/academic with promotion code AAFLYG6.

Kamloops Contemplative Group Evolution

Our Kamloops contemplative group has evolved through several incarnations over the years. Initially we were simply four people in our local parish who were getting together weekly to share our stories and to “pray”. That was some twenty-five years ago. Four years into our existence I found myself at a week-long workshop-retreat on Centering Prayer given by Cynthia Bourgeault and was profoundly affected by both the practice and the teachings upon which it was built. After what was, for me, fifty years in the spiritual wilderness I felt that I was being given an utterly new way of approaching and even entering the Mystery that we called “God”.

When our group commenced meeting again that fall, the other folks had the courage to leap into the void with me and we began meditating at our weekly gatherings. As anyone who has done the practice knows it was not an easy undertaking. Simple, yes. Easy, no. We had differing responses to the practice: I took to it (*seemingly) like a fish to water; someone else had monkey-mind; one found that her thoughts were utterly relentless; and another found it distressing in the extreme – all but impossible given his personality. Nonetheless, we each of us persisted.

Flash forward five years we decided to open the doors to the wider Christian community (through personal invitations as well as church bulletins) in the hopes that this contemplative meditation/prayer practice might find some fertile soil outside of our small group. To that end we asked Cynthia to come and meet with us and give us her advice. Out of that time together, we decided to begin meeting twice a month as a larger group. That group came to be made up of people active in many Christian spiritual traditions (Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, Baptist and Quaker). Over time it has also included Unitarian Universalist and others.

We’ve continued meeting twice a month for an hour and a half for the following fifteen years. (Monday evenings seem to be when most people are free, and we hold them on the second and fourth Mondays of each month from September through May regardless of whether they fall on a holiday or not – moving the Mondays to accommodate for holidays proved too confusing for folks.) We held our gatherings for a long time in a small Roman Catholic church after which we moved to the local Anglican cathedral – where we now meet.

The structure of the two Mondays has varied over the years – although our bedrock every time is twenty-five minutes of Centering Prayer and as much chanting as we can manage. We began by doing multi-yearbook studies on Cynthia’s first Centering Prayer book, on Kabir Helminski’s “Living Presence (aided by Lynn Bauman’s workbook) and on The Gospel of Thomas (using Lynn Bauman’s translation and commentary). There have been shorter explorations of other books as well – in particular “The Cloud of Unknowing”.

What we discovered over time is that there seemed to be a desire to go deeper than a head “understanding” of what the texts were saying. To that end we would break off into groups of four or five and apply the teachings to what we were experiencing in our own lives. While there was a good deal of discussion there were two difficulties: one was that while some people were more extroverted and willing to share, others were more introverted and reluctant to do so; the other was the issue of having to have one person in the group act as a leader – which put undue pressure on that person.

After much trial and error, we’ve come to something that works for us. What we’ve been doing for the past half-dozen years is the following: Our fourth Mondays are almost exclusively meditation and chanting – two twenty-five-minute sits are broken up with a walking meditation plus chanting at the beginning, the end and between the two sits. We discovered that people wanted more and more silence. And simple chanting,chanting, chanting.

Our second Mondays have one twenty-five-minute sit along with chanting at the beginning and the end. The rest of the time is spent doing Lectio Divina. Typically, it’s the Gospel reading for that Sunday –although all that’s required is that the reading is from scripture. The format is whatever the individual leading the evening chooses – but, again, silence is key. One format is: reading once through when we simply be with the reading followed by silence of a couple of minutes; the next reading (from either the same translation or a different one) is followed by more silence but this time we engage with our senses and feelings; after the final reading we speak the word or phrase that struck us and ask “What’s moving inside me? Inside my heart?” People can then choose to speak to whatever emerges from that place.

We can ask questions of ourselves, identify what we’re feeling or speak directly to God or to Jesus. There are no rules here beyond those of voluntary participation, confidentiality and no crosstalk. Perhaps something that someone else says might speak to what you’ve needed to hear. Perhaps you’re lost or frustrated. No rules. We simply open to the movement of God in our hearts – as best as we are able at this moment.

At the end of each gathering we have prayers of intercession/thanksgiving followed by chanting the Aramaic Our Father.

There have been times during the group’s evolution when “thlipsis” was the order of the day. It hasn’t always been easy. We’re human beings attempting to move beyond the small, narrative selves of personality and into our True-Selves-in-Christ. It’s a leap – and struggle and conflict do arise. The issues that people have raised have, almost exclusively, to do with the format of our gatherings. We’ve actually used Survey Monkey to make certain that we were moving in the direction which the group wanted to head. It’s an ongoing discernment.

We also gather one Sunday a month to hold what we call a “Eucharistic Communion”. It follows the typical Mass structure (chanted Kyrie; chanted Psalm refrain; Gospel read twice; Lectio; reflection by the presider and others as they see fit; Communion; and a chanted Aramaic Our Father– the fewer words the better). The presider is typically a lay person. The Communion itself includes chanting the Hebrew blessing over the bread and before drinking wine – which, presumably, Jesus intoned at the Last Supper.

Finally, we hold a year-end celebration – beginning with a Eucharistic Communion followed by a potluck supper and much joy and reverie.

Whatever it is that happens in our little contemplative community one thing is for certain: It is authentically responding to the moving of Spirit. Of that I am certain.

*My experience of Centering Prayer must wait for another day.

P.S. We also have a library of eighty-plus titles purchased over the years on the Christian contemplative Wisdom tradition. Teachers include Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr, Matthew Wright, Michael Fish and others.

Reflections of a Wanderer: Unpacking the “Way of Union” Retreat

You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck

~ Rumi

Wandering, hunting, seeking, yearning…sometimes I think that what is around my neck is a heavy burden…yet I am invited to treasure the beautiful necklace that is there, and has always been there.

My 65th year has been a year of wandering, pilgrimaging, seeking to make sense of my life of yearning, seeking. I started the year by walking the Camino de Santiago and shared in the pain and exaltation of thousands of other pilgrims, with thousands of different reasons for pilgrimaging. I began to get a very slight but visceral sense of embodiment…could this be what it is to embody Christ? How could I sustain this? I came home to a deeper commitment to my Catholic roots and my contemplative practice in the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) tradition.

But it is so hard to be Catholic in these times and, while I feel an enduring whisper to stay, there is also anger and deep frustration, despite positive changes in recent years. So the questions always are there: Is this what Christ intended? Is this what God created us to be? Why is change taking so long? In seeking answers, I am drawn to Christian mysticism and Sufism, particularly the teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and Rumi.

So I was very interested when I learned that the “Way of Union” retreat was to be offered on Vancouver Island by The Contemplative Society. Nonetheless, I hesitated about going because of time and cost. But everything seemed to conspire to draw me there, including the generous offering of a scholarship, so I signed up. As the weekend began, I felt immediately embraced into a community of spiritual explorers, men and women of diverse ages seeking understanding of how to bring Christ’s love into our day to day lives and thus be “agents of social change”.

Shortly after the retreat was over, and with barely time to gather my breath, I left for three months to volunteer at the new WCCM community at Bonnevaux, France. And with three times per day meditation and physical labour, I unpacked what the learning of the Way of Union retreat, and this whole year of wandering, means to how I should live each day, indeed each minute. And I saw that they are integrally connected.

The day I left Canada, Fr. Thomas Keating died. The WCCM honored his life in prayer and in virtual participation in the celebration of his life. Bonnevaux sits on the French Camino and we explored ways that we can support pilgrims on their way to Santiago. I began reviewing my notes from our time with the “Way of Union” teacher, Matthew Wright.

The notes from the retreat highlight that community is “grist for the mill of transformation.” What transformation am I invited to in community with The Contemplative Society and the WCCM? I am reminded that, in contemplative practice, wisdom is recognized as perennial. How do I reconcile that with ubiquitous suggestions within Christianity that Christ alone is our Saviour? What does it mean to embody the “bridal chamber” or place of union in a world dominated by separateness and power-over? I often feel deep fatigue with the need to turn away from dominant messages. Our days of exploration with Matthew encouraged us to hold our emerging awareness in spaciousness, as non-identified witnesses. It reminded us that, in the perennial traditions, there are several levels of self-hood or different mansions. And the level I am at in this moment is where I need to be. Right here. Right now.

According to the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said: Let him who seeks not cease from seeking until he finds; and when he finds, he will be disturbed, he will marvel, and he shall reign over the All.

One month after the retreat, I am beginning to embrace what it might feel like to be disturbed in this search and look forward to continued exploration. 

But most importantly, I am much more appreciative of the diverse contemplative traditions within Christianity and outside of it, the support The Contemplative Society provides through scholarships and other accessible resources, and the role it plays in fostering interfaith dialogue and mysticism around the world. The people supporting The Contemplative Society truly are diamonds on my necklace.  

With deep and heartfelt gratitude!


To support people like Kathleen, give a gift to The Contemplative Society this Giving Tuesday*! In addition to providing scholarships, the support of our donors helps to bring world-renowned teachers like Cynthia Bourgeault and Matthew Wright to our community, fund the recording and production of audio teachings from these contemplative masters, and provide other free or inexpensive resources on our website. Give a gift on Giving Tuesday*, and receive a special bonus:

  • brand new donors and members who renew will receive access to either an exclusive video from Matthew Wright OR an exclusive video from Cynthia Bourgeault!

  • previous donors/members who top up their previous 2018 gift, renew their membership with an increased gift, or become a monthly donor will receive access to both exclusive videos from Matthew Wright and Cynthia Bourgeault!

Reward yourself and human consciousness – give today!

*Only donations received by TCS (or postmarked) on November 27, 2018 from 12:00 am to 11:59 pm PST are eligible for video access. Access to videos expires December 20, 2018.


Kathleen’s perspectives are shaped by a diverse background living and working in Canada’s North and in inner-city communities in Vancouver, BC. Having raised three sons as a single mother, she has an enduring commitment to social justice and community development. Now retired, Kathleen seeks to link her passion for contemplative experiences with a commitment to inclusive communities and her family involvement as a grandmother. She now lives in Gibsons, BC and co-facilitates a weekly Christian meditation group there.

From Covenants to Consciousness in the Book of Job – Part 3

This post continues our series of bringing you more Wisdom from your fellow students of the contemplative path. We hope you will find these posts enriching, enlightening, and inspiring for your own journey. If you would like to submit a post for future consideration, please email admin@contemplative.org.

Read on for the third part of a series from our deeply knowledgeable audio ministry editor, Peggy Zimmerman. Additional posts are listed below:


By the end of our last post, the Job story has led us to three happenings:

  • Yahweh has had a prick of self-awareness, reflective consciousness.
  • His dark side has been uncovered and now planted in human and Yahweh’s knowing or, in Job’s words, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad” (Job 1:10).
  • Yahweh is faced with a choice of relating with his creation in a new way or letting creation collapse back into an ineffable unity.

So far, we have approached and understood these ideas from the premise that creation is all about the Endless Unity yearning to know itself, to become human — the divine plan. This post will continue our explorations from a slightly revised take on this plan. But first some terms need defining.

A “plan” implies thought or consciousness, which raises the discussion about the state of consciousness in the Absolute. To remain true to the antinomy of the Endless Unity, it is a state of neither identifiable consciousness nor unconsciousness, but rather non-consciousness. Consciousness, as ultimately some form of communication between “somethings” (as per Ilia Delio’s insightful definition), cannot be in the no-thingness of the Absolute. Likewise, unconsciousness has nothing to be “un” about. While both may be regarded as latent or potentials, they have no meaning within the antinomy of Unity.

With this understanding, the divine plan may be more precisely called the divine trajectory. We can have some confidence in substituting this word as we boldly state our premise that the fundamental a priori essence of the ineffable Absolute is Unity. It will eternally move to reestablish its Oneness. Thus, the ontological journey may be reframed from God yearning to know itself to an inevitable irrepressible trajectory of God’s diverse features moving toward the essential state of unity. However, with the totality of antinomy split outwardly, that essence must actually be a re-unity in a different state; i.e., a space-time reality evolving toward Oikonomia — the “reunion of created and uncreated realms” (Bourgeault, HT, p. 182). The unmoving Alpha is ever-moving toward Teilhard’s Omega Point.

While this reframing may seem like semantics or reasoning in a circle, the focus on a trajectory and reunification provides a different position for viewing the incarnation and the Trinity. Otherwise, we are led too quickly to simply seeing God as love and as longing to know itself.

Given the three Job happenings listed above, Yahweh’s long-distance relationship with creation can no longer be justified— self-aware humans now know too much, as does Yahweh. His antinomy has split apart and omnipotence is ruling the roost destructively. His creation could no longer be what we might call a virtual reality operating from an obedience-based software program. The covenant relationship has been too prone to failures to assure his dispersed and opposing qualities will be united again. In short, Yahweh could longer relate as a long-distance creator of cosmic reality; he had to be that reality throughout its invisible and visible realms. More precisely, Yahweh had to be forever becoming, unfolding and enfolding the cosmos through stages of rising consciousness and finally to transformed consciousness; i.e., Teilhard’s superconsciousness accumulating in the noosphere and culminating in Oikonomia. Emanation had to transition into immanation.

Yahweh’s features (or “names”) emanate out in their own separate ways, primarily vibrating to their independent subtle energetic frequencies as psychic forces. To gather these psychic forces together, Yahweh’s essence of Oneness had to reside in a conscious being who could contain and live from a unified, non-dualistic knowing. Enter Jesus. How does the infinite become finite and restore its perfect wholeness forever? The way and the means are revealed in the life and acts of Jesus the Christ, but not as directly as first appears and has traditionally been understood. Moreover, as wisdom students we know that the Jesus events did not take the divine trajectory to its destined target point — Oikonomia.

So what was the role of Jesus? First, he embodied his “father’s” essence not in a state of unity but as a flow of unifying energy. At the same time in history, he embodied the consequences of psychic forces run rampant. In his Job encounter, Yahweh ran smack into (or, in wisdom speak, witnessed) the consequences of the conditions and endless choices imposed by separated opposites entrenched in a reality of “hard edges” — a dualistic reality (Bourgeault, WJ, pp. 97-98). The full implications of Yahweh’s exposure to the dark side of creation have to be experienced by him in some experiential (i.e., incarnated) way, not just virtually.

A second role of Jesus was to be a sacrifice (an act of making sacred). For Jung, this sacrifice served to expiate Yahweh’s immoral treatment of Job — divine mercy must finally correct a divine wrong (Jung, p. 43). We can from our reframed position go a step deeper and see the sacrifice as an atonement for the Endless Unity’s initial violation of its essence, the rupturing of its perfect wholeness and rest. On the micro level this amounts to expiating the original state of separation (sin) that humans are born into.

With his embodiment role and redemptive death, Jesus as the first anointed self-aware being was prepared for his third role — his reconciling act in the “harrowing of hell,” as Cynthia insightfully suggests (WJ, pp. 119-124). Expressed through our reframing, Christ carried the unifying vibration into the manifesting world’s center (heart) where the psychic forces enter physical reality as spiritual realities. Thus, Christ is not only the model of divine re-unification, he is the initiator of it — the Holy Reconciler. He has established a way for re-unification in the new dimension of creation.

Let’s pause here to make some associations explicit. With consciousness being any form of communication, Christ through self-aware intentional consciousness has set up a specific line of communication by embodying the flow of unifying essence. Through his unflinching steady position (as demonstrated by Job), Christ holds all dualities together and stirs the deeply buried spirit of Oneness embedded in every psychic force. Thus, with this conjunction, the exchange between opposites is grounded in a mutual give and take to restore wholeness. This is in the Christian wisdom tradition called love, relieved of any emotional fixation. It involves kenotic giving and humble taking in the unfolding of unity in diversity.

Thus, the way is established by Christ, which is integrated into the means for walking the way. In a fourth and fifth roles, Christ resurrects and leaves humanity a Paraclete, a mediator — the Holy Spirit. His resurrection is the penultimate reconciliation as death (suffering, pain, evil) becomes intrinsic to the transformation of mortality into immortality. Thus, Christ’s resurrection is not so much conquering or denying death (i.e., anti-life) as it is transforming physical life into transfigured being.

Could it be that the energy involved in the cosmic reconciling and the third force alchemizing of the life-death collision into the new arising of a transfigured risen Christ was densified by, or even created, the Holy Spirit? Perhaps this idea about the Holy Spirit brings together the paradoxical first and second laws of thermodynamics by injecting in them the spiritual law of a cosmic trajectory toward re-unification. The heat loss (entropy) from the reconciling “work” is gathered in the Holy Spirit.

At any rate, by whatever process, the Paraclete (mediator) can be viewed as a reconciling force flowing and accessible in this world’s reality. By opening our centers of being (our hearts) to this spiritual energy, we have the means of becoming complete humans working toward a new humanity, as envisioned by Teilhard. The creator’s means of communicating with its creatures is no longer restricted to visions, dreams, myths, and symbols as with all his previous spokespersons. We now have a direct and personal party line, carrying the unifying spirit between us and the Endless Unity. We can experience this direct line in such practices as Centering Prayer, during which heart/mind connections and neurological re-patterning are occurring, as being verified by a growing body of research.

The bottom line is the infinite and finite have a new relationship built on reflective consciousness entering into creator/creature exchanges (communications) with the mutually beneficial intention of re-unification. Moreover, as Christ taught, our transformed consciousnesses of non-duality are forming a body, a new (transfigured) humanity, referred to as the body of Christ or the Oikonomia manifested.

With the reframing developed so far in these posts, we can approach with renewed wonder the wisdom formula depicting the flow of the Absolute into matter where each factor is a densification of the previous factor:

Endless One > psychic forces > spirit > energy > matter

In this formula we can see Boehme’s idea of the big bang and Teilhard’s observation that “particles can now be treated as transient reservoirs of concentrated power” (Teilhard, p. 13). Also, although “for science energy currently represents the most primitive form of universal stuff” (p. 14), Teilhard posits that “all cosmic energy is fundamentally psychic [spiritual]” (p. 30 and p. 230). Thus, “some rudimentary psyche exists in every corpuscle (in the infinitely small, that is infinitely diffuse, state)” (p. 217).

With these thoughts we can extend the above formula as a starting point for reconsidering the Trinity in the final post. As a confirmed scientist, Teilhard eschews metaphysical inquiry, but he repeatedly flirts with it and challenges us to take up the task of broadening the boundaries of science.


Peggy Zimmerman has been as a technical editor, environmental and urban planner, university instructor, mental health counsellor, and human resources manager. Since retiring sixteen years ago, she has participated in environmental activist work. In that time she also rediscovered her Christian roots and set out on deepening her spiritual life, largely through a personal study of the Christian wisdom tradition. She arranged for the introduction of Centering Prayer to the Comox Valley, facilitates a weekly sit at her church, initiated and continues to facilitate a monthly Taizé service.


References:

  • Alden, Robert L. Job. Vol. II in The New American Commentary series. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1993.
  • Anonymous. Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. Robert Powell, trans. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putman, 1985, 2002.
  • Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. NY: Random House, 1993.
  • Barr, James. “The Book of Job and Its Modern Interpreters”. Lecture delivered in the John Rylands Library, 10 February 1971. Available at www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk.
  • Boehme, Jacob. Genius of the Transcendent: Mystical Writings of Jakob Boehme. Michael L. Birkel and Jeff  Bach, trans. and eds. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2010.
  • Boehme, Jacob. The Way to Christ. Peter Erb, trans. Toronto and NY: Paulist Press, 1978.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia. (HT) The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2013.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia. (MMag) The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2010.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia. Teilhard for Our Times. Spirituality & Practice, 2016. Available at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10182/teilhard-for-our-times.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia.  (WJ) The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind — A New Perspective on Christ and His Message. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2008.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia.  (WWK) The Wisdom Way of Knowing. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.
  • Bruteau, Beatrice. God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World. NY: Crossroad, 1997.
  • Clement, Olivier. The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1993.
  • Delio, Ilia. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2013.
  • Gospel of Thomas. Lynn Bauman, trans. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 2004.
  • Hart, David J.H. Christianity: A New Look At Ancient Wisdom. Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing, 1992.
  • Jung, C. J. Answer to Job. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.
  • Miles, Jack. God: A Biography. NY: Vintage Books, 1995, 1996.
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd ed. Michael D. Coogan, ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Human Phenomenon. Sarah Appleton-Weber, trans. Chicago, IL: Sussex Academic Press, 1999, 2003, 2015.
  • Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism. New York, NY: Image Books Doubleday, 1990.

From Covenants to Consciousness in the Book of Job – Part 2

This post continues our series of bringing you more Wisdom from your fellow students of the contemplative path. We hope you will find these posts enriching, enlightening, and inspiring for your own journey. If you would like to submit a post for future consideration, please email admin@contemplative.org.

Read on for the second part of a series from our deeply knowledgeable audio ministry editor, Peggy Zimmerman. Additional posts will be listed below:


By the end of Part 1 of this exploration, we were prepared to consider the story of Job from a metaphysical perspective — and in particular Jung’s analysis of the story as a grand metaphor of Yahweh coming to consciousness. Both Boehme and Teilhard provide some direction for this still largely ignored avenue for exploring the Book of Job.

A helpful starting point is Boehme’s brilliant early recognition of the inner tension of the Divine. For him this tension is an impressure or “‘unequal pressure’ in the equilibrium of the divine will” resulting in movement (Bourgeault, HT, p. 97). Boehme calls this first principle of movement the wrathful principle. A less affective term may be unbridled power, as Job encountered it. Jung understands Yahweh’s antinomy as “the indispensable condition for his tremendous dynamism” (Jung, p. 7) and sees God’s “inner instability” (p. 66) as the cause of creation:

But the pleromatic split is in turn a symptom of a much deeper split in the divine will: …God wants to become man, the amoral wants to become exclusively good, the unconscious wants to become consciously responsible (p. 62).

The inner tension between the pulling in of Unity and the pushing out to differentiate for self-knowing brings to mind Teilhard’s diffusion-convergence interplay observed in creation. These repelling and attracting forces lead into his complexification-consciousness concept. As long as the unconscious-conscious antinomy remains undisturbed Unity can be eternally at rest. But Satan’s bet, which is actually challenging Yahweh to be self-aware, occasions Unity to face its manifesting expression. For the latent capacity for becoming (the lived expressing of Unity) to flower into being, the impulse toward consciousness must be realized — in both senses of the word “realized”. Moreover, the overall direction of the interactions of these opposing forces is imbued with the essence of Unity; that is, a trajectory back to unity as a reuniting in a new dimension. This would be Jung’s “regenerated God”, Boehme’s body of Christ, Teilhard’s Omega point, and fulfillment of Oikonomia, the divine plan.

Could the big bang be the splitting of the unconscious-conscious antinomy of the Unity (perhaps like the splitting of the atom in the material realm)? I realize we are wading into the deep waters of the debate over whether the Source (Unity, God, One) is unconscious or pure consciousness or both. While Jung, Boehme, and Teilhard all have their positions on this topic, it is another area for a separate discussion. Regardless, in the Book of Job an intimation of self-awareness occurs. This is even suggested by Yahwah himself, according to Jung, in his judgment of Job’s friends: “they have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has” (42:7). The friends have argued on the basis of conventional wisdom, which may apply to pragmatic everyday moral situations but simply doesn’t cut it with the big questions of life — paradigmatic and personal ontological questions.

Two implications of this apparent motion toward awareness as a result of unconscious behaviors are:

  1. A new divine-human relationship is being forged.
  2. Evil is an essential part of the process.

Job in his righteous stand has put a new wrinkle in the human relationship with God by boldly going where no human has gone before (Star Trek allusion is intentional). The Old Testament covenants rooted in laws, obedience, and judgment do not hold ground in Job’s case. As Jung points out, “Yahweh displays no compunction, remorse, or compassion, but only ruthless brutality…he flagrantly violates at least three of the commandments he himself gave out on Mount Sinai” (Jung, p. 14). The whole scheme of retribution/rewards and salvation through an outside source is collapsing under Job’s experience. The divine-human relationship is shifting from covenants to consciousness. Integrating the micro and macro, the know-yourself theme in The Gospel of Thomas can be at the same time the Unity knowing itself, or Jung’s regenerating God. Just how wisdom and kenosis factor in, again, must wait until another post.

Regarding the existence of evil, the two basic positions are: 1) evil is the absence of good, privatio boni (the privation of good); that is, the absence of God, or 2) evil is an aspect of God and is the necessary initial movement of creation or the evolution of consciousness. Jung, Boehme, and Teilhard all support this latter position from their own perspectives. Not surprisingly, the outward expression of Unity’s inner struggle manifests with omnipotence taking precedence over omniscience. As demonstrated repeatedly in micro reality, blind fury (shock and awe come to mind) is the immediate reaction for resolving tensions — war rather than negotiations, might to enforce right.

Boehme characterizes the wrathful principle as “hardness, harshness, and sharpness” (Bourgeault, HT, p. 97). Teilhard associates evil with disorder, failure, and decomposition (i.e., death as part of life); the toil and suffering necessary for growth; and the anguish “of a consciousness awakening to reflection in a dark universe” (Teilhard, pp. 224-225). Materially, this is the initial diffusion of random, disorganized bits and pieces; that is, energies that eventually condense into matter along the re-unifying trajectory. Teilhard also directly connects the unconscious with evil: “We have glimpsed that unconsciousness is a kind of ontological inferiority or evil.” Teilhard makes this statement as a scientist governed by the idea “that the world will only find its completion insofar as it expresses itself in a systematic and reflective perception.” In a near reversal of the Job story, Teilhard sees the need “to know for the sake of power,” but as a religious he goes on to emphasize that this power for the advancement of humanity must be “put to the service of the spirit” and “for the purpose of being more (Teilhard, p. 176).

Credit: hoodmystic.com

While unconsciousness, evil, the dark, the shadow and sin have been used interchangeably by Jung and others, the unconscious should not be equated with evil. Evil (and sin as evil in action) is a content of the unconscious and can manifest in ugly ways. But goodness can also spring from the unconscious, as in spontaneous heroic acts. Evil is understood as separation or differentiation from good. It is ultimately non-life giving; it is Scott Peck’s people of the lie. Nevertheless, given the initial fight/flight instinct in the face of tension and threats, Yahweh is certain to not flee and is saved by Job’s judicious backing off. While Job retreats, Yahweh regresses.

The answer for Job is to not enter a clearly unwinnable power struggle. If his victim won’t engage, the perpetrator must either continue the stalemate to its bitter end (the death of Job) or own up to his monstrous behavior of allowing his bet with Satan to go to such untenable lengths. But Yahweh’s owning up is just a prick, however momentous. His omniscience is still too overwhelmed by his omnipotence. It is noteworthy that Satan disappears after the prologue, never heard from again as a separate character (Barr, p. 41). For Jung, God “is hiding [Satan] from his own consciousness in his own bosom!” (Jung, p. 19). Thus, Jung can say, “Job is no more than the outward occasion for an inward process of dialectic in God” (p. 16).

By the end of the story, Yahweh finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. Either he must continue in “the torture of non-existence,” that “hellish loneliness” (Jung, p. 11), or pursue “a personal relationship between himself and man,” whom he needs “urgently and personally” (p. 8). In other words:

Existence is only real when it is conscious to somebody. That is why the Creator needs conscious man even though, from sheer unconsciousness, he would like to prevent him from becoming conscious (p. 11).

Just before this unorthodox announcement, Jung makes a comparable intriguing statement: “Yahweh regrets having created human beings, although in his omniscience he must have known all along what would happen to them” (p. 10) and not only what would happen to humans, but what might happen to his divine plan. For all his omniscience, the One could not know if humanity as a whole would finally choose to align with that inner spark of divinity or remain stubbornly disobedient. Is it any wonder that the initial divine-human relationship was an obedience-based covenant, admittedly on the gross level of rules and laws as it is for children? For the mature spiritual person, obedience, as derived from its root of ob (L. toward) and oedire (L. to hear), is to fully take in and follow the Unity’s message. Despite the trajectory toward conscious unity, there is no guarantee that humanity won’t fall off the curve as the manifesting One carries on without us in other worlds.

As the stuff of the universe enfolds on itself (Teilhard’s involution), evolution is irrepressibly progressing. Built into the involution-evolution interplay is the very essence of “God”; i.e., unity, informing and embedded in the trajectory toward re-unification. Will we join the dance and participate in unconscious Unity becoming conscious Unity? After all, it’s just one giant step to move out of the dosado with an obedience covenant and to swing into transformed consciousness. Future posts will offer a way to bolster our stepping forth by reconsidering the Trinity and keeping in mind Jung’s answer to Job.

Read on – Part 3.


Boehme-for-Beginners-Cynthia-Bourgeault-473x454To honour the date of death of Jacob Boehme or if you are interested in learning more, please see our Boehme for Beginners audio teaching by Cynthia Bourgeault.


Peggy Zimmerman has been as a technical editor, environmental and urban planner, university instructor, mental health counsellor, and human resources manager. Since retiring sixteen years ago, she has participated in environmental activist work. In that time she also rediscovered her Christian roots and set out on deepening her spiritual life, largely through a personal study of the Christian wisdom tradition. She arranged for the introduction of Centering Prayer to the Comox Valley, facilitates a weekly sit at her church, initiated and continues to facilitate a monthly Taizé service


References:

  • Alden, Robert L. Job. Vol. II in The New American Commentary series. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1993.
  • Anonymous. Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. Robert Powell, trans. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putman, 1985, 2002.
  • Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. NY: Random House, 1993.
  • Barr, James. “The Book of Job and Its Modern Interpreters”. Lecture delivered in the John Rylands Library, 10 February 1971. Available at www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk.
  • Boehme, Jacob. Genius of the Transcendent: Mystical Writings of Jakob Boehme. Michael L. Birkel and Jeff  Bach, trans. and eds. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2010.
  • Boehme, Jacob. The Way to Christ. Peter Erb, trans. Toronto and NY: Paulist Press, 1978.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia. (HT) The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2013.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia. (MMag) The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2010.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia. Teilhard for Our Times. Spirituality & Practice, 2016. Available at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10182/teilhard-for-our-times.
  • Bourgeault, Cynthia.  (WWK) The Wisdom Way of Knowing. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.
  • Bruteau, Beatrice. God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World. NY: Crossroad, 1997.
  • Clement, Olivier. The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1993.
  • Delio, Ilia. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2013.
  • Gospel of Thomas. Lynn Bauman, trans. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 2004.
  • Hart, David J.H. Christianity: A New Look At Ancient Wisdom. Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing, 1992.
  • Jung, C. J. Answer to Job. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.
  • Miles, Jack. God: A Biography. NY: Vintage Books, 1995, 1996.
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd ed. Michael D. Coogan, ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Human Phenomenon. Sarah Appleton-Weber, trans. Chicago, IL: Sussex Academic Press, 1999, 2003, 2015.
  • Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism. New York, NY: Image Books Doubleday, 1990.

 and a monthly One World service (incorporating chants and readings from the world’s spiritual traditions), leads book studies on Cynthia Boiurgeault’s texts and the Gospel of Thomas, and edits Contemplative Society retreat recordings. At her church she serves on the Congregational Education Committee and the Pastoral Care Committee.

Photography as an Act of Faith

While we have featured many guest posts in the past, we are setting the intention to bring you more Wisdom from your fellow students of the contemplative path. We hope you will find these posts enriching, enlightening, and inspiring for your own journey. If you would like to submit a post for future consideration, please email admin@contemplative.org.

Read on for an enlightening testimonial to art as a spiritual practice by Cynthia Bourgeault’s student, Diane Walker.


Back in the days when I was living in Vermont and heating my house with wood, we used to say wood warms you four ways: once when you cut it down, once when you drag it home, once when you chop it into kindling, and once when you burn it. For me, contemplative photography works the same way: you get several opportunities to be warmed by that spark of the sacred. 

That divine spark expresses itself as a kind of recognition, and it happens for me at four different points in the process: when the subject calls to me; when I’m deciding how to photograph it; when I develop the resulting image, either in the darkroom or on my computer; and, finally, when I decide to engage with the image and see what it has to teach me. And in each case, the key to the process lies in paying attention: being present, being mindful, and not trying too hard to control the results.

If you’re a professional photographer, you may well have been taught that an amateur photographer takes a picture and a professional makes a picture. But if you are a contemplative photographer, it’s more about making yourself available for what needs to be revealed; a matter of showing up, keeping your camera handy, and being consciously present, listening for what calls to you.

So what does that mean – to be a contemplative? What does it mean for photography to be an act of faith? According to Ed Bastian,

“Contemplation is not an aimless meandering of thought, but a disciplined activity by which one explores and investigates an idea, an insight, a sacred persona, or a truth, in a thoroughgoing way, pursuing its consequences for all aspects of our lives.” 

Once I looked at it that way, I could begin to see parallels between his definition of contemplation and the way the spirit was moving through my photography.

Photo by Diane Walker

So what do I mean by that? To be a contemplative photographer is essentially an act of faith, and it has these same four contemplative components.  The discipline lies in being aware and open; it’s a commitment to listen for that divine spark – even to seek it out – and to keep my camera with me so that I can respond. The activity is the response to the spark, the conscious act of composing the photo in a way that allows the subject to speak most effectively through the camera. The idea, truth, or insight then appears – somehow – in the finished photo. And the consequences become clear when I engage with that photograph and try to understand and write about what it could possibly have to teach me.

When approached from this perspective, the photo can begin to serve as a metaphor for some aspect of the spiritual life. And the whole process is about faith and trust: confirming my heartfelt belief that somehow, in engaging with the photo and exploring the metaphors it suggests, I can learn something about that truth or insight and the consequences it has or will have on my life and the lives of those around me.

Sometimes the moment is accidental; the feeling, the impulse to see and respond, comes first, and you just have to hope you have your camera with you (and that’s one kind of discipline). But you also need to be conscious about showing up; to make the effort to go out with your camera, in faith that there might be something there that needs to voice itself through your work.

It may not initially be obvious, when you’re taking the picture, where the process is leading you. Sometimes the true meaning of the work only emerges when you bring the image to life – whether in a darkroom or on a computer. It may be that the key element will emerge in that process, in whatever manipulations you feel led to perform as you bring the image onto the page.

Photo by Diane Walker

And sometimes, it’s not until you meditate on the final image itself, that whatever truth it has to offer may be revealed – and, having come to that understanding, over time I developed what is now my daily practice. Each morning, after I awaken, I read a chapter or so of something spiritual with my cup of coffee. After 20 minutes of Centering Prayer, I sit down at my computer, wander through my photos and look at them to see what might be calling to me today.

I then spend time engaging with that photo, asking what it might have to teach me. Sometimes the words come quickly, and sometimes it takes a lot of pondering, but eventually I post that response on my blog along with the photo and send it out into the world. And there’s that contemplative process again: the discipline of sitting down and meditating, the activity of finding a photo, the time spent examining it to search for the idea or the truth, and then the writing itself, exploring and sharing the consequences of that truth.

So that’s it; that’s how contemplative photography as an act of faith has become, for me at least, a journey to the Sacred. The four ways in which the spirit moves through the process – finding a subject, taking the picture, evaluating the image, and then writing about it – nicely parallel the four steps of contemplation. There’s a discipline to it, then an active exploration, usually some truth or insight to be gained, and, in the end, some consequences to be learned and shared along the way.

And in conclusion:  if I were to share any last words about contemplative photography, I think they would be this: all creativity – not just photography – is really an act of faith. So I invite you to explore your own creativity – whatever form that may take. Take on a practice, a discipline. Have fun with it! Release your need for control, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Stay open to possibility and trust in the process – because here’s what I believe: there’s wisdom everywhere, all around you. You just have to pay attention.


Diane Walker is a contemplative photographer, painter, and writer with an extensive background in journalism, religion, and marketing. She is the former Communications Director for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Washington and has served on the faculty of the Diocesan School of Theology. She has lived on four different islands in Washington state, and has served as the volunteer exhibitions director at ECVA, a national artists registry with online exhibition space. A regular practitioner of mindfulness meditation/Centering Prayer, Diane pairs her writing and spiritual practice with her art, producing a daily blog of photos, paintings, and meditations at contemplativephotography.com. She is the author of Illuminating the Mystery: Photographic Meditations on the Gospel of Thomas.

Diane’s work can also be found on the cover of our audio teaching with Mirabai Starr, One Heart: Weaving a Tapestry of Interspiritual Community.

A birthday present to the future

You might not recognise her name, but without her, The Contemplative Society wouldn’t exist. You might not have access to audio teachings, Wisdom Schools, or a community of contemplatives to reach out to for support. When hearing the name “Cynthia Bourgeault,” you might respond, “Cynthia who?” Or worse, you wouldn’t hear the name at all.

But rather than entertaining those dark thoughts, we get to celebrate! And the person who deserves our praise and gratitude was Margaret Haines, the first president of The Contemplative Society. Cynthia lauds her as her “mentor and midwife…Virtually everything I have learned, accomplished, and brought into being, I owe to her.” The contemplative community is also indebted to her as it was her belief that the contemplative path ought to be available to anyone seeking it, her work that laid the foundation for The Contemplative Society to become a hub for contemplative practice and learning opportunities. Along with our connection to Cynthia, she’s one of the main reasons we now serve a spiritually diverse global family today.

Retreats are central to this story, the containers in which the contemplative community is forged, and the places where new perspectives on the tradition emerge – Cynthia often gets her ideas from the alchemy that occurs on retreat, like her idea to walk the Enneagram. Additionally,  our students replenish their capacity for practice, contributing to the transmission of contemplative Wisdom and the evolution of human consciousness. The in-person hands-on experience is invaluable to the community. But retreats are expensive, and the expense limits the pool to which contemplative Wisdom can be transmitted. That’s why The Contemplative Society offers as many scholarships as possible for retreats.

But don’t take it from me – take it from one of our scholarship recipients. In 2014, Meagan, a young mother of small children, was able to attend Cynthia’s retreat on The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three thanks to financial support. Without that support, she wouldn’t have walked the Enneagram where “the energy built until I could feel it ripple across my palms and scalp. It made me think of the law of world creation and the Law of Three and I wondered at what we had loosed into the world by our collective action.” That same year, Meagan helped found a new-monastic community that is still thriving today.

It’s because of experiences like these, and the feedback we got in our recent membership survey, that we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary by establishing the Margaret Haines Scholarship Fund. It honours what Margaret did for us, and strengthens our community’s ability to transmit contemplative Wisdom long into the future.

So while celebrating our 20th anniversary is a time for reflection and saying “thank you” to those who carried us here through leadership, donations, and volunteering, it’s also a time to look ahead. I hope you will join me in making a special contribution to the Margaret Haines Scholarship Fund as your birthday present to The Contemplative Society and to contemplatives of the future. Our past is a bright one – let’s keep that light going for another 20 years.

~ Henri Lock, vice-president of The Contemplative Society and
United Church chaplain, University of Victoria


We are celebrating our 20th anniversary and to honour our past and invest in our future, we’ve established the Margaret Haines Scholarship Fund. Our goal is to raise $5000 to increase the accessibility of contemplative practice and learning opportunities for those who face financial barriers. Invest in a contemplative future today by visiting contemplative.org/haines!