UPDATES FROM CYNTHIA: Teilhardian Vision and Evolving Toward the Common Good

In late June Cynthia offered an important new post with a message to students, sharing her ideas and suggestions for “a worthy project for our Wisdom circle to take on.”  Cynthia also presented a riveting keynote address at the American Teilhard Association (ATA) annual meeting. Find links for both below.

 


NEW BLOG POST BY CYNTHIA BOURGEAULT:

EVOLUTIONARY THEORY AND THE COMMON GOOD: The Beginnings of a Wisdom Inquiry

In this new post Cynthia provides an orienting emphasis toward the evolving terrain of the ‘Common Good’ and the rebirth of moral leadership. She provides three explicit aims and suggestions for Wisdom students who are “up to the challenge of holding the post during this epochal consciousness shift.”

 

quote by Cynthia

 


VIDEO RECORDING:

In this virtual keynote address to the ATA annual meeting, Cynthia Bourgeault offers an illuminating and instructive overview of Teilhard’s emphasis on ‘personalization’ as an inherent and intensifying quality of consciousness in the evolutionary process toward a convergent unity.

… the more relationship, the more complexity, the stronger the flow of consciousness. For Teilhard, consciousness, relationship, and the personal are an unbreakable triad. Each implies the other and cannot be sustained apart from the other.

Cynthia shares how Teilhard’s potent understanding of the ‘Hyper-Personal’ aligns with the emerging Integral structure, as described by Jean Gebser in his book The Ever Present Origin.  The complementary perspectives of these two visionary 20th century thinkers leverage each other and point the way toward a renewed confidence in the maturity and profundity of the Western unitive vision.  Teilhard set forth a characteristically Western and enstatic approach to the highest states of realized consciousness — a vision independently confirmed and concluded by Gebser.

Weaving it all together, Cynthia helps us imagine a radically unified, relational field as the ultimate destination of the evolutionary journey.

“The Person represents a higher evolutionary stage on the journey. Teilhard intuited that from his evolutionary map, Gebser confirms it chapter and verse from his phenomenological map.”

Cynthia’s talk is followed by short presentations from authors of recent publications on Teilhard’s life and work.

Watch below or on YouTube:

This video is generously shared by the American Teilhard Association, recorded at their annual general meeting on June 12, 2021. The ATA explores and builds on the life and work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and aims to make his visionary thinking more widely available.  To learn more, or to become a member of the ATA, please visit their website at teilharddechardin.org

 


FEATURED AUDIO TEACHING FOR JULY:

TEILHARD: A VISIONARY FOR OUR TIME – Audio Teaching by Cynthia Bourgeault – MP3 SALE

In both Cynthia’s ‘Common Good’ message, and her ATA presentation, she draws squarely upon Teilhard de Chardin’s evolutionary vision. Teilhard’s prophetic writings and ideas offer us essential wisdom to understand our times, and points us toward a more unitive, Integral consciousness to meet the emergent and unfolding future. 

The Contemplative Society is featuring Cynthia’s audio teaching set on TEILHARD: A VISIONARY FOR OUR TIME to support your learning and understanding.  For the month of JULY we are offering 25% off the MP3 digital download for this featured audio. A full description and ordering details available here:

TEILHARD: A VISIONARY FOR OUR TIME – Audio Teaching by Cynthia Bourgeault

Teilhard Audio Cover

 

 

 

 

 

Christophany: A Quintessential Teaching

“I am so grateful for this labor of love by The Contemplative Society, which once again makes accessible Raimon Panikkar’s extraordinary teaching on the universal mysticism of Jesus Christ.” 

~ Cynthia Bourgeault

 

In addition to Cynthia’s encouraging words above, we also want to share Brian Mitchell’s wholehearted endorsement for our updated audio release of CHRISTOPHANY: Experiencing the Fullness of Christianity, a recorded teaching by Cynthia based on the 2004 book by Raimon Panikkar.

Brian serves to coordinate the various steps and people involved to bring forth the audio content produced by The Contemplative Society.  As a longtime member of TCS and dedicated practitioner, he describes himself as “… following the Christian Wisdom path (knowingly or unknowingly) all my life. Encountering teachers such as Cynthia Bourgeault, Bruno Barnhart and Raimon Panikkar have lit that path brightly enough that I am no longer afraid of walking it.

Here Brian expresses his deeply held belief in the significance of this Christophany offering, which he consistently names as “Cynthia’s quintessential teaching.”

Christophany cover


I’ve been listening to Cynthia Bourgeault – at various retreats, Wisdom Schools and on each and every one of her audio recordings (multiple times) – for a quarter of a century now. There are so very many peak experiences I’ve had in listening to her wisdom, so to focus on one doesn’t seem quite proper. And yet it must be said that her work in investigating Raimon Panikkar’s Christophany: The Fullness of Man* (a very dense text which she clarifies magnificently) takes us more deeply into the full, radical meaning of Christianity than anything else she has done – or, in my opinion, than anything done elsewhere by anyone (although I admit to a certain prejudice in this matter).

Raimon Panikkar

Raimon Panikkar 2007, Wikipedia

I believe that Panikkar’s Christophany text and Cynthia’s analysis of it, has the potential, as she has said, “to change the face of Christianity”. That is not an idle boast.

For me personally Cynthia and Panikkar, working hand-in-glove together, have broken down doors on which I, at least, have been knocking all my adult life, but which have stubbornly resisted many of my attempts to open. I cannot thank her and Panikkar adequately for helping to bring my understanding (heart and head) more fully into alignment with that which was here all along: the manere, the manere, the manere**.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in our Christian Wisdom tradition to give the time and energy to entering into this mystery – and, if at all possible, to do so with a group of like-hearted souls. Having one another as support will help tremendously. 

*Cynthia explains Panikkar’s insistence on the use of the word “man” as opposed to “humanity” in her recording.

**the manere is simply the inter-abiding which Jesus speaks of constantly: “You in me and me in you and me in the Father and the Father in us” etc. etc. etc.

 

This new offering of CHRISTOPHANY: Experiencing the Fullness of Christianity, is available for order here.

 


TCS Acknowledgements:

transcriptIn addition to the attentive care and many hours provided by Brian to guide the steps necessary to make this updated version of the recorded teaching available, TCS would also like to acknowledge Peggy Zimmerman for her countless hours of editing and titling and tending with such dedication and wisdom to every detail, and to our reviewers who provided their time and feedback throughout the extensive 10 year process. In addition we are deeply appreciative of the momentous effort by Susan Filyer who painstakingly transcribed the original recording so we can now offer a full text copy to supplement the audio products. Deep bow of gratitude to you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cynthia’s Guidance on Upcoming Course Offerings

If you’re considering the multiple online course opportunities with Cynthia that are coming up, she provides this message to the Wisdom community and offers some additional input for consideration.


It occurred to me that people may want a little guidance as to how to pick and choose among the sudden embarrassment of riches of Cynthia Bourgeault  online course options currently opening up for registration. Here’s a bit more information to help you make your selection(s). 

Spiritual Gifts of the Imaginal Realm

I would love to have as many hands as possible on deck for the Spirituality & Practice e-course, Spiritual Gifts from the Imaginal Realm, which will launch February 18 and run through the six weeks of Lent. This is my pilot online course unpacking the material in my recent book Eye of the Heart. I’m trying to lay out the basic building blocks in a way that is broadly inclusive (even if you haven’t read Eye of the Heart) and practical, based in actual practices that people can do to help our entire planet through the perilous eye of the needle we’re collectively facing. If we could get a thousand people on this course—anchored by seasoned Wisdom students —we could change the world. No kidding. It’s a pretty easy pace: two-emails a week, with an accompanying spiritual practice, text for reflection, and 24/7 access to the Practice Circle, plus two zoom conferences, dates to be announced. Full details and registration here.

Introductory Wisdom School

If you haven’t yet taken an Introductory Wisdom School, here is your window of opportunity: the Online Introductory Wisdom School offered by the Center for Action and Contemplation, now open for registration with a March 1 launch date.  This twelve-week course is a carefully crafted remake of the original course brilliantly filmed by Robbin Brent at our on-the-ground Wisdom School in North Carolina in 2015. It’s both comprehensive and interactive and will cover all the material you would have covered in an on-the-ground school with a powerful flavor and ambience of the original still remaining. It’s the usual prerequisite for all further Wisdom Study, giving you both the basic concepts and the basic practices you need to get started on the right foot. It will also be offered again in the second half of 2021, so that may be a factor in your course selection. Find out more and sign up here.

The Divine Exchange

I’d like to call your special attention to The Divine Exchange, opening for registration on the CAC site on March 3, with a launch date on June 16. This course is actually “Intro Wisdom, part II.” It’s a deep dive into the notion of exchange—i.e., giving and receiving—both as it shows itself as the linchpin of Jesus’s teaching and as it emerges as the cornerstone of Christian Wisdom metaphysics in the notion of “exchange between the realms.” It’s the tie-rod connecting The Wisdom Jesus with Eye of the Heart, and laying out a powerful pathway of healing and practical action in our world today. If you’ve taken an Introductory Wisdom School, this is your next step. Details here (registration not yet open).

If you haven’t yet taken an intro Wisdom School course …well, you can still do both courses consecutively if you’re up for a Wisdom marathon this summer…or you can take your chances and leap into Part II, then pick up part I in the fall. I think this is actually manageable since the CAC course is so well shepherded and interactive, and I’d put it out there for your serious consideration.

EXCHANGE really does hold the key to how so many pieces of our broken world fit back together again, and the more of us that can be thinking in these terms, the more we can begin to articulate—and start walking—a visionary path of action, grounded in the Christ heart. 

I hope to meet you on one course or the other…maybe all three! Blessings, Cynthia 

 


Additional note from TCS

MEETING THE MOMENT WITH LOVE with WARD BAUMAN

Just to make the offerings even richer with abundant choices, don’t forget about our upcoming 5-day retreat: MEETING THE MOMENT WITH LOVE with WARD BAUMANWe’d love to have you join us for this online event, February 15 to 19 (approximately 2.5 hours each day). Full details and registration can be found here.

 

 

Mystical Hope – Vital Sustenance for our Times

Mystical Hope cover

In 2001 Cynthia Bourgeault published a grace-filled guide for facing difficult times, offering insights and pointers in the small and powerful book entitled MYSTICAL HOPE: Trusting in the Mercy of God.  Many in Cynthia’s community and beyond are turning (or re-turning) to this book to navigate current concerns and challenges, and finding it a source of deep spiritual sustenance. 

Over the coming months, Northeast Wisdom will be providing reflections and chapter summaries of this book. We invite you to share in the experience and these writings, starting this month with:

 

 
Mystical Hope, Chapter One: Awakening in the Body on the Journey to the Wellsprings by Laura Ruth

“Come, are you ready to set out?”

The first chapter of Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God ends with the above words, Cynthia extending her hand to all who want to travel on a path to the wellsprings that lie far beyond the familiar hope for an outcome, resolution of challenge or difficulty, or wish for change. Listening for words we usually connect to hope, I can taste how these belong together. They are of a particular arena—hope as related to something concrete in the world, outside of ourselves, a circumstance, future event or situation. Hoping for or about something, hoping for something to be different than what it is. The journey Cynthia is inviting us to is of another color, a distinct flavor and fragrance.  Continue reading here >>>

 

 

 

Find a complete listing of Cynthia Bourgeault’s books here.

Watch for Chapter 2 summary coming to North East Wisdom website soon…

Foundational Points for the Five Pandemic Homework Exercises

 

Letter from Cynthia Bourgeault:

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…

Learn more in Cynthia’s new publication, where she expands on her instructions at length:

MYSTICAL COURAGE: Commentaries on Selected Contemplative Exercises by G.I. Gurdjieff, as Compiled by Joseph Azize, by Cynthia Bourgeault

Mystical Courage front cover

 

 

Instructions from Cynthia Bourgeault

Letter 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…

Learn more in Cynthia’s new publication, where she expands on her instructions at length:

MYSTICAL COURAGE: Commentaries on Selected Contemplative Exercises by G.I. Gurdjieff, as Compiled by Joseph Azize, by Cynthia Bourgeault

Mystical Courage front cover

 

 

Our Wisdom Lineage

“WHUR WE COME FROM… “

~ Br. Raphael Robin


Teachers of contemplative Christianity, who acknowledged the limitations of human knowledge and the inconstant nature of human sentiment, instead encouraged a commitment to practice. A scripturally grounded commitment to practice and service – rather than a reliance on unsteady belief and feeling – is the fulcrum of contemplative Christianity.” 

~ Paula Pryce, The Monk’s Cell


From time to time in the unfolding life of a lineage, it becomes important to stop and ponder together “whur we come from” (as my teacher Rafe used to call it); i.e., the fundamental understandings that called us into being as a particular expression of the wider tradition of Christian contemplative Wisdom. As The Contemplative Society, our flagsghip Wisdom vessel, now celebrates its twentieth anniversary and a new generation of seekers and board members assume their turn at the helm, it seems like an appropriate occasion for just such a moment of reflection.

Wisdom, like water, is itself clear and formless, but it necessarily assumes the shape and coloration of the container in which it is captured. Between formless essence and manifesting particularity there is a reciprocal dynamism; you can’t have one without the other.

Our own particular branch of the great underground river of Wisdom came to the surface about twenty years ago, flowing within two major riverbanks: a) the Christian mystical tradition of theosis – divinization – particularly as lived into being in the Benedictine monastic tradition; and b) the practical training in mindfulness and non-identification as set forth in the Gurdjieff Work. The fusion of these two elements was the original accomplishment of my spiritual teacher Br. Raphael Robin, who formed me in this path and, just before his death in 1995, sent me off to Canada to teach it. It is a distinct lineage within the wider phylum of sophia perennis – perennial Wisdom – and, as with all particular containers, it has its own integrity and its own heart.

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

  1. We are founded on a daily practice of sitting meditation, predominantly but not exclusively Centering Prayer, anchored within the overall daily rhythm of “ora et labora”, as set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict.
  2. We are rooted in the Christian mystical and visionary tradition, understanding contemplation in its original sense as “luminous seeing”, not merely a meditation practice or a lifestyle. In service to this luminous seeing, we affirm the primacy of the language of silence and its life-giving connection with the subtle realms, without which spiritual inquiry tends to become overly cognitive and contentious.
  3. We incorporate a major emphasis (much more so than in more conventional contemplative circles) on mindfulness and conscious awakening, informed here particularly by the inner teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff and by their parallels and antecedents in the great sacred traditions, particularly in Sufism.
  4. We are an esoteric or “gnostic” school to the extent that these terms have come to be understood as designating that stream of Christian transmission through which the radically consciousness-transforming teachings of Jesus have been most powerfully transmitted and engaged. But we eschew esotericism as simply mental or metaphysical speculation, and we affirm the primacy of the scripture and tradition as the cornerstones of Christian life.
  5. Also in contrast to many branches of the Wisdom tradition based on Perennial or Traditionalist metaphysics (with its inherently binary and anti-material slant), we are emphatically a Teilhardian, Trinitarian lineage, embracing asymmetry (threeness), evolution, and incarnation in all their material fullness and messiness.
  6. We are moving steadily in the direction of revisioning contemplation no longer in terms of monastic, otherworldly models prioritizing silence and repose but, rather, as a way of honing consciousness and compassion so as to be able to fully engage the world and become active participants in its transition to the higher collectivity, the next evolutionary unfolding.
  7. We are an integral school, not a pluralistic one, (to draw on Ken Wilber’s levels of consciousness); our primary mission field is teal, not green. Our work concentrates not at the level of healing the false-self, woundedness and recovery, substance abuse, equal rights, restorative justice, or political correctness (although we acknowledge the importance of all of these initiatives), but rather at the level of guiding the transition from identity based primarily in the narrative or egoic self to identity stabilized at the level of witnessing presence, or “permeably boundaried” selfhood.
  8. Our most important teachers and teachings are Jesus, St. Benedict, the canonical and Wisdom gospels, The Cloud of Unknowing, the greater Christian mystical and visionary tradition (including Eckhart, Boehme, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Ladislaus Boros, Bernadette Roberts), the Desert and Hesychastic traditions, Bede Griffiths and the Christian Advaitic traditions (including Raimon Panikkar, Henri LeSaux/Abishiktananda and Bruno Barnhart), Rumi, Sufism, G.I. Gurdjieff, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. And, of course, my own teacher, Br. Raphael Robin.

Please know that this list is intended to start a conversation, not end it. In the upcoming months I hope to unpack each of these points more fully in a format yet to be determined (blog posts? video? on-the-ground teaching retreat?). I invite others in our Wisdom network to do likewise, both in your larger organizations (The Contemplative Society, Northeast Wisdom, Wisdom Southwest, Wisdom Way of Knowing, etc.) and in your smaller practice circles. Collectively, let’s see what we can discover about our lineage, as we midwifed it through a first generation and now transmit through a second.

Blessings, Cynthia

Matthew Wright on the West Coast: A Report

This is a re-post of an article written for Northeast Wisdom by Sher Sacks on December 21, 2015. Shortly after Matthew spent time with us at Shawnigan Lake, BC, he hosted a similar retreat in Sechelt, BC.


“I think some of you will be happy to hear how Matthew is playing in my old British Columbia stomping ground.” ~ Cynthia

On November 23 and 24, 2015, Matthew Wright, an Episcopal priest from St. Gregory’s church in Woodstock, NY (yes that Woodstock) presented a group of about two dozen with a remarkable range of material about the Wisdom teachings of Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus). We have long been taught what we are to believe about Yeshua but far less about how the teachings of Yeshua can transform our lives. And Matthew offered this option.

The workshop was not about knowing more, but about knowing more deeply. We are often told to “get out of our heads and into our hearts” which is problematic given the nature of the English language which equates heart with emotion. As Matthew pointed out, the heart is not the emotional centre, it is rather the organ of spiritual perception. It would be more accurate to say “get into your HeartMind”. This understanding makes Yeshua’s phrase “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (become conscious of God), make more sense.

2015-11-24 - MatthewWrightWmeditationMatthew spent some time discussing what is now being referred to as the second axial age. The first axial age occurred around 800 to 200 BCE, when there was an enormous increase of spiritual understanding. It was the period in which the Buddha taught, Lao-Tzu (the founder of Taoism) was teaching in China , the Rishis (writers of the Vedas) were active in India, and Monotheism arose in Israel (Abraham and Sarah left their tribe to “follow God” and the Abrahamic covenant was born). Out of this incredible upwelling of spiritual awareness came a sense of transcendence and an individual quest for spiritual understanding or enlightenment. The ultimate goal became escape, or liberation from the world of matter, which was considered lesser or even evil. The problem became one of how to escape from samsara (cycle of rebirth in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism) or to repair the rift created by “the Fall” (Christianity). The end result was the sense that something was wrong with this world. Our spiritual consciousness became dominated by images of separation and exile.

However, slowly, over the centuries, according to many thinkers, including Matthew, there has risen the deep indwelling knowledge that “we belong”. We have begun to pick up the very real connection with the earth and each other that existed in pre-axial times. This sense combined with the first axial age sense of transcendence, gives us the opportunity to move into a synthesis of the transcendent and the immanent to create a new world order. During the workshop Matthew pointed out that multiple strands of knowledge point us in this direction. Quantum physicists have discovered the deep interconnection of all things at the most subtle levels of matter; environmentalists are pointing out that we are part of a global ecosystem; evolutionary biologists, reveal that life is unfolding as a vast, single process.

2015-11-24 - MatthewWrightWorshop - groupMatthew also pointed out that this “second axial current” didn’t just start recently. It is present in the Bodhisattva vow of Mahayana Buddhism (the vow to remain in the phenomenal world until all beings are awakened) and in Incarnational theology (elimination of the boundaries between the sacred and the profane – “God so loved the world” and “the Word became flesh”). Yeshua rejected the asceticism of John the Baptizer and pointed us to a path that fully embraces the world. He partied, feasted, and associated with those identified as outcasts and sinners. He broke the purity laws. Yeshua prayed “Thy Kingdom come on Earth”. His teaching indicated that we belong deeply to this world; we are interwoven into its fabric. As a teacher within the Wisdom tradition of the east, Yeshua taught us about compassionate, loving intelligence where attention (alertness, spaciousness) and surrender (a humble letting go) meet in the heartmind. It is not so much about what Yeshua taught but about where he taught from. What he taught was not a moralistic, but a transformative path.

Matthew spent some time describing the reasons why this basic teaching of Yeshua morphed into the moralistic, judgmental teaching within which most of us were raised. He followed the growth of Christianity out of its eastern foundations toward Greece and Rome, with martyrdom leading to “we/they” thinking, and finally to the moment that Christianity became an imperial identity marker within the Roman Empire with its counsels of Bishops. What one believed became all important and led to the inquisition, witch trials, and the crusades. Yeshua’s path of inner transformation was almost lost.

Now we have the opportunity to move beyond a belief and belonging system to the recognition of Yeshua as the archetype of the full union of human and divine – Christ consciousness. Yeshua is not the exclusive union BUT the fullness of the human and divine union (Christ). In reference to this concept we discussed some of the Christian and Sufi mystics and their practices, kataphatic prayer (prayer with content), and apophatic prayer (emptying the mind of words and ideas and simply resting in the presence of God). We discussed how we can learn from each other using homeomorphic equivalency, looking for deep correspondences that go beyond the words and concepts of our distinct religions or cultures to find the same or similar experiences.

We also considered the phrase “the Kingdom of God” not as a place (Heaven) or existing at a particular time (after death), but as a state of consciousness, here and NOW. We turned our minds to Christophany (all reality as a manifestation of Christ) and reflected upon Raimon Panikkar’s concept that reality is Cosmotheandric (a totally integrated and seamless fabric that is the undivided consciousness of the totality). We examined Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of Christogenesis, within which Christianity is not a path of ascent but a path flowing out from God. Matter is not a distraction from God but an outworking of God in form. Incarnation awakens to itself in Christ (Form). The world is not static but constantly changing. God is committed to that change, since as the creator God embedded it in the world and now sustains it. Christ consciousness is its goal. As Paul stated in Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.

Finally we considered the concept of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the Heart of the universe, the evolutionary driveshaft of all creation; the second coming as the coming of conscious union with the divine. Referring back to the omegaconcept of axial ages we noted the rise in non-dual consciousness. We noted that evolution has been acting unconsciously up till the present but now we have the opportunity to act consciously in it. Evolution has become aware of itself. We must choose to deepen the disclosure of the Heart of God. Christ is the endpoint (the Omega). However this convergence is not inevitable. If the second axial age is to manifest we must choose and act!


Originally posted on NortheastWisdom.org

The Year of Teilhard continues – A report by Cynthia Bourgeault

Dear Wisdom friends,

Almost exactly this time one year ago, I launched my “Teilhard Challenge,” inviting as many of you as felt so moved to join me in diving into the magnificent, challenging writings of Teilhard de Chardin. I know that many of you have taken the plunge, and the Teilhard buzz out on the planet is palpable and steadily growing. Thank you!

This comes to give you a short “year-end report” on my own work here, and a heads-up about what’s on the docket for 2016.

I did manage to chew my way through most of the Teilhard canon this past year: beginning with a fairly quick read, followed by a more detailed immersion once my inner dowsing rod struck water. That turned out to be with The Human Phenomenon, which is clearly Teilhard’s master work and is now available in a magisterial new translation by Sarah Appleton-Weber. I was also lucky enough to get hold of French versions of four or five of his major works. If you can read French even a bit, I’d highly recommend you follow this strategy as well. Even if you book-end the French translation with the English one, Teilhard is simply…well…French! And his thought is somehow much more lucid and compelling in his mother tongue.

AspenChapel-2015-12-17-18The teaching season got off to a bang a couple of weeks ago with my pilot Wisdom school in Aspen, where I offered a two-day seminar called “The Divine Milieu” on December 17 and 18, attended by nearly 100 people (the presentations were also live-streamed; see “Cynthia Bourgeault Day 1 – Dec 17, 2015” and “Cynthia Bourgeault Day 2 – Dec 18, 2015”). Despite the title, the teaching was really focused on The Human Phenomenon and attempted to lay out the “Teilhardian synthesis” via his four successive (and increasingly challenging) propositions about cosmogenesis:

  1. Evolution (understood as cosmogenesis) is the non-negotiable baseline for all intellectual, scientific, and spiritual discourse.
  2. Evolution has a preferred axis, or line of direction, carried by the principle of “complexification/consciousness.”
  3. Evolution is convergent, culminating in an “Omega Point.”
  4. This Omega Point is identical with the mystical/cosmic Christ.

This structure will form the backbone for the series of Teilhard Wisdom Schools that will shortly start to run in 2016: in New Zealand; Santa Barbara; North Carolina; Washington State; Stonington, ME (stay tuned!); and British Columbia, respectively.

MatthewWright2015_nobordersThere will also be a more intimate and reflectively-oriented retreat which I’ll co-lead with Matthew Wright at his home community, Holy Cross Abbey in West Park, NY, on April 7-10. April 10 will mark the anniversary of Teilhard’s actual death (on Easter Sunday, 1955), and since Holy Cross Abbey is directly across the Hudson from Teilhard’s burial ground in Hyde Park, we will hope to include a short pilgrimage to his grave site in our work together that weekend.

Longer range, I’m not sure what’s in store: probably a book, but its focus is still “under development” as I sense my way into the deeper feeling ground of my attraction to this singular and deeply needed Christian mystical teacher and teaching. I continue to feel that there is work here that needs to be done (my usual job description of making connections!) for this vision, despite or even because of its significant blind spots and interspiritual “groaners” – is still by far the best thing going – certainly in the Christian tradition – for a roadmap that will allow us to comprehend the “depth and breadth and length and height” of the mystical tradition we stand in, and embrace the future with compassion, courage, and spiritual intelligence. It’s the roadmap we sorely need to get the caravan moving forward again.

I am not an unmitigated devotee. There are, indeed, significant liabilities to his work, particularly in terms of the ongoing dialogue with Evolutionary Spirituality (à la Ken Wilber and the Integral Community) and the InterSpiritual community. The biggest weakness, as far as I can see, is Teilhard’s inability to recognize levels of consciousness, and to realize that the “self-reflexive” consciousness that he saw as the new evolutionary turning point is itself but a stage (and a relatively immature one at that) in the deepening evolution of consciousness itself. Much of his most outdated and polarizing thinking is trapped firmly within the boundaries of the egoic operating system and its peculiarly dualistic way of structuring the world, and he simply doesn’t see the squirrel cage he is running inside. But that can all be recalibrated once the source of the blind spot is identified, and I firmly believe that the Teilhard canon will survive the transposition into nondual categories of thought and actually thrive there.

And that’s basically my task for the next few years, as I see it…I want to look more closely at Teilhard’s understanding of consciousness, and to see how my own core intuition that nonduality is a mode of perception, not a philosophy of monism, might heal some of the misunderstanding in Teilhard’s summary dismissal of the Eastern spiritual traditions as a source of wisdom and guidance for our own time…

I also have to say that the most illuminating and poignant part of the reading list for this year was the time spent plowing through the Letters between Teilhard and Lucile Swan, his soulmate and dakini during the long years of exile in China. A heart-wrenching story, which somehow conveys the “within” of Teilhard’s voyage in a way even more powerful than the “without” of his polished philosophical studies.

teilhard and lucile swan

Anyway, that’s the progress report for now. Do stay tuned – and keep on reading!

New Year’s blessings,

Cynthia