(the background to Instructions, posted on Cynthia Bourgeault’s Facebook page, March 23)
I am keenly aware of the irony in all this. Here I sit on my prayer cushion in the remote seclusion of Eagle Island, more than twenty-four hours now elapsed since the island’s only other occupant headed ashore for an undisclosed period of time, taking the mailboat with him. It’s me, the eagle, the deer herd, the communion of saints. And nothing much in between.
But I did not come out here for social distancing, I came for listening. The way hermits have been doing it for millennia, at the intersection of the worlds, the intersection of the timeless with time. The way Rafe taught me to do it during our human years together, the way I for too long now have honored more in the breach than the observance.
I did not want to come out here. If I had my druthers, I would by now have been well on my way to North Carolina, to our eagerly-awaited Imaginal Wisdom School. But the planet forced my hand, and I got dragged out here by my gumboots. I realized almost immediately it was the place I really needed to be.
“It takes about four days for things to shift,” Rafe always told me. Even for him, the relatively gentle transition from the monastic cloister to his mountain hermitage two miles away was always a qualitative shift, a whole different atmosphere. Restlessness, thinking, structuring, doing… all those human functions to mask our human terror of the naked immediacy of the present have to slowly fade away before the listening sets in a different bandwidth, before you discover that the silence is immensely, vastly connected to presence, wisdom, compassionate guidance. Before it starts to speak.
During those four days I got a lot done: cut up a huge maple limb that had fallen, stacked wood, answered correspondence, caught up on old books, systematically checked in with my immediate circle of family and friends, and even did a bit of zooming before my always-delicate solar system finally buckled under the strain. Prayer was good, filled with rich, compassionate connectivity. Rafe was around, as he always is out here. And yes, I startled for a moment when the mailboat captain informed me Sunday morning he was heading ashore and gave me the option to go or stay. But I knew I was not going. The airspace between the realms was beginning to clear.
The next morning at prayer the downpour began.
I wrote up the instructions first—the “homework”—in case the last gasps of solar and internet connectivity decided to give up altogether, as they looked certain to do for about three hours after I was finally released from my prayer cushion. I wanted to make sure that folks in the Wisdom community at least had the bottom line and could begin to work as they chose with the materials, even if I am shortly forced into complete social incommunicado. But the instructions grow out of a wider picture, a picture that had been gradually coming to me over the weekend as I moved rocks and logs, as I walked the bare March earth marshalling in almost dizzying exhilaration for the imminent explosion of spring…
This is what I came out here to learn, to receive. And this is in turn what I pass on to you, the fuller version of the seeing, of which the earlier instructions are the practical applications. Make of them what you will. This is pretty much raw revelation, though I have tried to tone it down a bit.
The Oracle on Eagle Island
WHAT HAS BEFALLEN
- The covid-19 pandemic is a massive, planetary catastrophe whose roots are primarily ecological and evolutionary, not simply cultural (let alone political). This is one of those Teilhardian evolutionary tipping points where the planet itself, from within its inherent telluric intelligence, moves in a spontaneous paroxysm to correct an imbalance that taken the whole planetary ecosystem seriously off track.
- A single species—our human horde—has now become dangerously invasive, threatening the stability not only of the noosphere (the world of human culture and economics), but of the biosphere and also the geosphere: the foundational, invisible chemical and electromagnetic forces that maintain the conditions that maintain the possibility of life. We have pressed too far into the inner fastnesses of things, and the earth has spontaneously risen up to cleanse and rebalance itself. This is not merely a moral chastisement but a biological pruning, an ecological cleansing. That is the scale at which this pandemic is playing out. It is not being sent “from outside,” “to punish us,” as in Old Testament judgment. It has been generated spontaneously out of the conditions we have created on the earth, as a completely legitimate outcome of what Teilhard called “taonnement,” trial and error. This disease is not happening TO us, it is happening BECAUSE of us.
- Social distancing is not a preventative measure; it merely puts the brakes on the rate of spread. Even as a braking system its effectiveness has not been proven. We huddle in our homes, and the contagion continues to spread. The infection will run its course until it has completed its biospheric work. We can slow it down, but we cannot outrun it, either individually or collectively.
- There is a very strong electrical involvement in the generation and transmission of this virus. It would be naïve to say that 5G technology has CAUSED it, and I distance myself from that type of rhetoric, which only further polarizes scientists and mystics at just the point where they need to unite. Still, it is growingly evident that this new virus is not being spread solely by traditional person-to-person contact, as was first assumed. There is a significant body of scientific data (vigorously downplayed and in fact actively demonized in the media) supporting the hypothesis that the worldwide circle of cellphone towers and GPS satellites circling overhead is inescapably implicit in this mix, not only in spreading social attitudes, but in the actual transmission of the virus itself. That is why our approach of “social distancing” is not only primitive (like trying to put out the Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire with water buckets), but may actually be aggravating the situation. The planetary atmosphere has become electrically inflamed, and we must calm the inflammation here before the rate of disease begins to come under control. The worldwide web may not be the cause of the pandemic, but it is the environment in which the disease is most aggressively spreading.
- Our planet itself will be fine. The earth is proving herself extremely resilient, fully capable of rebalancing herself in a remarkably short order. Already the streams are running clearer, the air is purer. It’s the human species that will take the principal hit: not only in physical attrition but in social, economic, and cultural chaos. We must be prepared for this. The readjustment will be long-term, and it will cut to the bones.
WHAT WE CAN DO
- There is no escape on the front end: not by social isolation, not by “flattening the curve,” not by using our cleverness yet again to invent some stunning new vaccine that takes us all off the hook (until the next round of even more vaccine-resistant viruses appears.) The way out is through, and what we human beings potentially have to bring to the situation, to put out the fires and calm the inflammation, are the gifts that actually lie close at hand in the human spirit: courage, self-sacrifice, equanimity, forbearance, joy, gentleness, humility, compassion; conscious labor, intentional suffering, substituted love, recollection, purity of heart. Jesus names these qualities in the beatitudes. Paul talks about them as “the fruits of the spirit.”
- The Wisdom traditions I work within teach that these are not only qualities, not even energies, but subtle physical substances; nutrients desperately needed not just for our own planet, but for the entire inter-realmic ecosystem. It is our human task to generate them through the alchemical transformation of our own “animal” (i.e., survivalist) nature.
- When we begin to receive our individual marching orders, I suspect many of us in the Wisdom community are going to find ourselves on the front line in being asked to re-establish actual physical links in the human chain, for it is here that these alchemical qualities will be most intensely replenished. That is why I have asked you all during this time to work deeply with the “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s” promise: in preparation. As always, the poor are taking the most direct hit in the “social distancing” strategy, which inherently favors the economically privileged. If the social fabric is not to be entirely unraveled, some of us will be called to stand directly in that breach, no matter the personal risk.
- The only REAL worldwide web takes place within the imaginal bandwidth. To access it requires training, and it requires purity of heart. What we are settling for in our current zoom communications is a simulacrum. It glitters, but it is not gold. Employ it as you need to as a temporary patch-through, but don’t get enthralled. The real alchemy is still one-on-one. I will speak to you more about that shortly.
- And it requires, finally, pulling the plug on horizontal connection (or at least trimming it down substantially) and turning into—not away from—our own loneliness, our own fear, our own disconnection. And out here on Eagle Island, my solar power dropping rapidly as the first of three stormy days settle in, I suspect the question is about to be called on me. Like it or not, I will finally be a hermit.
With love to all, c
Cynthia has added further explanations on NorthEast Wisdom: Foundational Points for the five pandemic homework exercises
If the wisdom path calls to you, I am delighted to share with you an opportunity to participate in an online course created in partnership with the Center for Action and Contemplation. Introductory Wisdom School, a 14-week online module that emerged from an in-person event I led for 200 students, integrates Christian wisdom teachings and contemplative practices for an embodied experience. Registration ends soon—Feb. 28, 2020— and the course runs from March 4 – June 9, 2020.
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cross-posted from Cynthia’s Blog