If you are searching, You must not stop until you find. When you find, however, You will become troubled. Your confusion will give way to wonder. In wonder you will reign over all things. Your sovereignty will be your rest.
Gospel of Thomas
The bible paraphrases this message as “seek and ye shall find”.
“Christianity isn’t a failure; it just hasn’t been tried yet.”
G. K. Chesterton
Cynthia says the biggest problem with our encountering the Wisdom Jesus is what she calls our twenty-twenty hindsight. The real problem is that when we do that, we get lulled into “ordinary knowledge” and nothing really spiritual can happen there.
Only there–in “the cave of the heart,” as the mystics are fond of calling it–does a person come into contact with his or her direct knowingness.
For Cynthia the key point is recognition energy.
Father Bruno Barnhart writes,
“As we accompany Jesus through the gospels we are present at one dramatic meeting after another. "One person after another experiences a mysterious power in Jesus that from this moment changes the course of his or her life. If we are fully present at the moment when we read such a narrative, we ourselves experience the liberating power of this awakening. Examples come quickly to mind: The two disciples in John's first chapter: "Rabbi, where do you dwell?" "Come and see." Then quickly in that same Johannine narrative, Peter and Nathaniel experience the awakening of meeting Jesus. In the synoptic gospels we may recall the reaction to Jesus of the blind man alongside the road to Jericho, of the father of the paralytic boy, of the centurion whose servant was sick, of the thief on the cross alongside Jesus, of the centurion present at Jesus' death. Time after time we feel the break-through of life, the wave-front of wonder.”
the central thesis being that everything we know about christianity has been revolutionized post wwii by 4 important developments. dead sea scrolls, nag hammadi codex, syriac studies and the centering prayer movement.
Nag Hammadi Codex
placed for safekeeping by a fourth century Christian community. A time capsule of their precious “bible” after the Bishop of Alexandria in 367 ordered them burned. It’s a huge trove of documents, probably the most important of which is the Gospel of Thomas. Gives a radially new take on Jesus and the metaphysics behind his teachings.
Beneath the surface of (began in 1960's) of certain later manuscripts (chiefly liturgical ceremonies) in use among certain Syrian speaking Christians, they found a living record of oral traditions that had existed from the earliest Christian era. It was a radically different take on who Jesus was and what his mission was all about.
Dead Sea Scrolls. The discovery of those scrolls allow us to see Jesus more clearly within his own context. It also gives a distinctly different accent to his teachings as we realize how much of what he had to say was already deeply present in the apocalyptic yearning and ferment of Judaism of his times.
She places jesus squarely among the great wisdom traditions of the world. the main themes will be the central thesis of the book, kenosis, and centering prayer. the central thesis being that everything we know about christianity has been revolutionized post wwii by 4 important developments. dead sea scrolls, nag hammadi codex, syriatic studies and the centering prayer movement. centering prayer goes deep and is meditation. kenosis, christ's message, is revolutionary, a real ego killer. understand that, and become a great bodhisattva. cynthia says that jesus says that you need an upgrade to your operating system from an egioic one to a loving/surrender/kingdom of heaven one. svaha
The apostle Paul:
Though his state was that of God, yet he did not deem equality with God something he should cling to.
Rather, he emptied himself, and assuming the state of a slave, he was born in human likeness.
He, being known as one of us, humbled himself, obedient unto death, even death on the cross.
For this , God raised him on high and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name.....
Jesus had one operational mode, Everything he did, he did by self-emptying.
“Of the same motion of descent; going lower, taking the lower place, not the higher.
It’s spiritually counterintuitive.
Everybody else is trying to go up.
Ascent mysticism was very much in the air in Jesus’ time as well.
She says that one of the most powerful tellings of the truth is in the story of “The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry. Love itself is the gift of the Magi.
Another profoundly powerful kenotic parable is the 1987 film, “Babbette’s Feast”.
She spends a large windfall on a feast for her neighbors. An outrageous gift.
An extravagant sacrifice is in one sense wasted. In her no-holds barred generosity Babette offers these broken, dispirited souls a taste of reassurance that their long years of faithfulness have not been in vain.
She mirrors to them what God is like. And she does it precisely by throwing away her entire escape route in a single act of extravagant abundance, extravagant beyond the bounds of earth (and therefore invoking the presence of heaven). That’s the kenotic path.
The purpose of the kenotic path seems to be self disclosure and new manifestation. The act of self-giving brings new realms into being. It shows what God is like in new and different ways. Some of the most intuitive theologians of our time say this is how the world was created in the first place–because in the words of Karl Rahner, “God is the prodigal who squanders himself.” The act of self giving is simultaneously an act of self communication; it allows something that was coiled and latent to manifest outwardly. “Letting go” (as in nonclinging or self emptying)....letting be....
The Jesus Trajectory
Love is recklessness not reason. Reason seeks a profit. Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.
Yet in the midst of suffering, Love proceeds like a millstone, hard-surfaced and straightforward.
Having died to self interest, she risks everything and asks for nothing. Love gambles away every gift God bestows.
Centering Prayer Meditation
Serene light shining in the ground of my being, draw me to yourself. Draw me past the snares of the senses, out of the mazes of the mind, Free me from symbols, from words that I may discover the signified: the word unspoken in the darkness that veils the ground of my being.
Meditation is the tool you use to “upgrade your operating system” to move from that “either/or” thinking of the binary mind into the more spacious heart awareness that sustains the wisdom way of knowing.
Cynthia teaches Centering Prayer as taught by Father Thomas Keating, the great patriarch of the Christian contemplative reawakening.
A practice based entirely on the prompt letting go of thoughts as they arise. It is kenosis in meditation form, a way of patterning into our being that continuously gesture of “let go, let go, let go”.
Because of this underlying theological congruence, Centering prayer has a particular resonance with the emotional heart of Christianity and will take you very quickly into that heart.
“The spirit prays within you” and the spirit knows what is in your heart.
Three main points to keep in mind.
1. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR BASIC INTENTION
Centering Prayer relies only on your intention, your “naked intent direct to God,” as it’s called in that medieval classic “The Cloud of Unknowing”. To the extent that your intent is clear and strong, your practice will be also. If your intention gets muddled and confused, so will your practice.
Generally speaking, you are in the right ballpark if your aim is to be deeply available to God–that is, available at the depths of your being, deeper than words, memories, emotions, sensations; deeper even than your felt sense of “I am here.” You are simply asked to attend, to give yourself completely into that deeper, mysterious presence.
Let go of all attachments to outcome, all notions of some ideal state that you identify as meditation. Simply stay put with that quiet, gathered waiting within.
2. “DO THE DEAL”: IF YOU CATCH YOURSELF THINKING, YOU LET THE THOUGHT GO.
If you catch yourself thinking, you let the thought go.
Father Keating described the wandering mind as “Ten thousand opportunities to return to God.”
The effectiveness of this method is not measured by your ability to maintain your mind in a steady state of clarity, openness or stillness. It is measured by your willingness, when you find itself “caught out” by a thought, to return again and again and again–ten thousand times if necessary–to that state of open receptivity.
Use of a sacred word. You choose the word, anything, “spirit”, “Jesus”, “Come, Lord”, “open”, “return”, “deep”. Symbolizes your willingness to “do the deal”.
3. USE YOUR SACRED WORD TO HELP RELEASE THE THOUGHT PROMPTLY (WITHOUT MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL REACTION) AND RETURN TO A STATE OF OPEN AVAILABILITY
Centering prayer is not about having great experiences; it’s about doing the practice no matter what the subjective experience may be. Sometimes those prayer practices that feel the hardest are the ones where the most inner ground (no ground) is actually being gained (so to speak).
Father Keating recommends 20 minute sessions. Twice a day. Cynthia is happy if you start out with one.
“One of my busy friends who claimed never to have time for Centering Prayer was finally able to make a commitment to the practice when he suddenly realized, “Hmm, in all my busy life, I’ve never missed a meal.”
My teacher said, “Realization is largely a matter of scheduling.”
The Gospel of Thomas Jean-Yves Leloup (translator)
From forward: 1 “In other words, there may be, and I believe there are , two kinds or levels of knowing operating in this book. On one level, the visible level of words and concepts, there are the insights and explanations that will help every serious reader think in a new way about the meaning of the teaching of Jesus , a way that does not in any way deny the greatness of Christian doctrine that has brought comfort to countless millions of men and women throughout the ages. But for Leloup, this kind of knowing about the Christian religion, precious as it is, is secondary to a deeper kind given through the grace that is the fruit of the inner work of meditation.”
2 There exists a relative consciousness formed and acquired through readings, encounters, and the thoughts of others. But there is also a consciousness that arises directly from knowing of ourselves, of the ‘Living One’ within us. It is toward this consciousness, this gnosis, that Yeshua invites us in the Gospel of Thomas–not in order to become ‘good Christians,’ but to become christs–in other words, gnostics, or awakened human beings.”
What interests Thomas is the transmission of Yeshua’s teaching. Every saying received from the Master is treated as a seed, with the potential of growing a new kind of fully conscious human being. In this way, Thomas and other authors of the lineage of that “infinitely skeptical and infinitely believing” disciple see Yeshua as a gnostic, like themselves.
What is Gnosticism?
Gnosis is a twofold lucidity regarding the human condition, at once a unitary witnessing and a dual awareness of both absurdity and grace. Relative reality shows us that we are dust and return to dust. “All that is composed shall be decomposed,” as Yeshua says in the Gospel of Mary Magdeline. But there is another reality, one that shows: “We are light, and return to light.” Within us is a sun that never sets, a peace and wakefulness toward which our infinite desire yearns unceasingly. Relative reality shows us that we are either male or female; but full reality shows us that we are both. Gnostics claim that an integration of our masculine and feminine polarities is possible, reaching toward a realized human beingness that does not love from lack, but rather from fullness. Then our love becomes not merely a thirst, but instead an overflowing fountain. We must cross unceasingly from limited to unlimited consciousness. “Be passersby!” the Gospel of Thomas commands.
Gnossis is not some state of mental expansion or ego inflation. On the contrary, it means a putting an end to the ego. It is a transparency with regard to “the One who Is” in total innocence and simplicity. This is why the qualities of the gnostic are said to be unconditioned, to resemble those of “an infant seven days old.”
Does not the Dag Hammadi discovery, with this sublime jewel of a gospel, reveal to us new facets of the unchanging Eternal Jewel?
Logion 2 If you are searching, You must not stop until you find. When you find, however, You will become troubled. Your confusion will give way to wonder. In wonder you will reign over all things. Your sovereignty will be your rest.
The bible paraphrases this message as “seek and ye shall find”.
This living nonduality is the peace and repose that is endlessly sought during all stages of the initiatory path. But the spiritual path requires us to live the quest fully and not harbor fear and aversion toward trouble and upset, so that we find our home in this wonder and repose.
Logion 3 If those who guide you say: Look, the Kingdom is in the sky, then the birds are closer than you. If they say: Look, it is in the sea, then the fish already know it. The kingdom is inside you, and it is outside you. When you know yourself, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the child of the Living Father; but if you do not know yourself, you will live in vain and you will be vanity.
This logion tells us that the kingdom is the presence of the spirit of God within us. It is not to be sought exclusively in the outer, and it is not to be sought exclusively in the inner. It invites us to move out of the dualism that forms the climate of our ordinary consciousness.
Logion 24 His disciples asked: “Teach us about the place where you dwell, for we must seek it.” He told them: Those who have ears, let them hear! There is light within people of light, and they shine it upon the whole world. If they do not shine it, what darkness!
In the Gospel of Matthew, Yeshua says: “The eye is the lamp of the body–if the eye is simple, the whole body is luminous, but if the eye is bad (presents an unclear image), the whole body is darkness.” The necessary condition for perceiving light is therefore purity, or simplicity of regard.
What else could be meant by a luminous regard, if not that which awakens in each of us, piercing through our shadows, the light that we bear within us? Fortunate are those who have encountered such a regard! Not only does it show them that they are dust and will return to dust, but it also shows them that they are Light and will return to Light.
Logion 35 Yeshua said: One cannot capture the house of the strong except by tying their hands. Then everything can be overturned. (Cf. Matt 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22.) The Gospel of Thomas teaches that true strength resides in those who have become who they are. The strongest are those who have found their place in which they fulfill God's design for them. For Gnostics, weakness always means not knowing who we are, ignorance of our essential being. The true strength of human beings lies in their union with God, who is both their citadel and their liberator, the source of their only real security and freedom. Nothing can conquer them in their depths. But they can be prevented from expressing and giving themselves. The hands of love can be tied and everything overthrown. The mission of love is to give. If this is prevented, its force can wane. Yet there is no standing still on this path—whoever does not continue to advance, retreats. The fire of love grows only hotter when confronted with obstacles. The only other choice it has is to die down and become ashes. So the hands of love can be tied, but the radiance of its heart can never be extinguished. Those who have their hands cut off still transmit directly from the heart. Other hands will be raised to accomplish their work.
Logion 36 Yeshua said: Do not worry from morning to evening, or from evening to morning, about having clothes to wear. (CF. MATT 6:25-33; LUKE 12:22-31; Ex 27:21; LEV 24:3; NUM 9:21.) This is a major recurrent theme in the gospels: Stop worrying! Stop worrying about food, about clothes, and about "what we will say when they take us before the judges." First seek the Kingdom, the Reign of Spirit within you. Only then will come true clarity, with all things given and resolved beyond belief. Generally, worry and care are based on fear. They are signs of a lack of inner peace and confidence. Being anxiously concerned, even about noble causes, is also a symptom of pride. We take ourselves too seriously, we believe we can ultimately control what will happen to us. But the truth is that only the One is acting: "In Him we have our Life, our Movement, and our Being." It is interesting to recall an anecdote from Pope John XXIII concerning an evening when he was deeply distressed about the state of the Church for a number of good reasons. Christ appeared to him and said: "John, is it you or I who directs this Church? Is it you or I who pilots this boat? ... Then simply do your best and stop worrying." Letting go of worry does not mean becoming indifferent or irresponsible. We continue to do the best we possibly can—but now we know that the fruit of our actions does not depend on us. As the Bhagavad Gita says: "You have a right to act, but no right to the results of your action." Ignatius of Loyola put it this way: "In all things, perform your act as if everything depends on it alone; and in all things, act as if the outcome of everything you do depends on God alone." To relinquish worry is also to live in the Present. "Do not worry from morning to evening, or from evening to morning." In Matthew 6:34, Yeshua says: "Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day." And from Luke 6:27: "Who among you can add one cubit to his span of life by being anxious?
Love naturally lives in the Present. Those who think "I will love," mean that they do not love. Living in the Present, moment after moment, unveils the secret of the Presence. This demands a great power of attention and a high quality of soul, but it is the greatest source of happiness. Our energy ceases to be dispersed to yesterday and tomorrow. We begin to live intensely with "what is in front of [us]" (logion 5). We are then no longer separate from the spontaneity of Life, which passes through one form to another, from one set of clothes to another, without losing our identity. Not worrying about our clothes thus also means not worrying about what form life will take for us. Our asceticism consists in being faithful and true in the present moment.
Reading List for the Christian Student of Meditation
“The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind--A New Perspective on Christ and His Message” by Cynthia Bourgeault. I paraphrase Cynthia–everything we know about Christianity has been revolutionized by 4 post war events; the dead sea scrolls; nag hammadi codex discovery; syriatic studies (recently discovered writings from the early Syrian church) and the reawakening of the Christian contemplative tradition through 2 main strains of Centering prayer. This book is a revelation about Jesus and his message. It places him squarely within the worlds great wisdom traditions. A Christianity of radical and totally transformative power emerges. She provides plenty of recommendations for more reading. She has written a bunch of other books.
Cynthia talks about an important mentor, Father Bruno Barnhart of Big Sur.
Second Simplicity: The Inner Shape of Christianity by Bruno Barnhart Seeks to explain the dimensions of wisdom and explores ways that a Christian faith often bound by rule, structure, and order can open itself up to the unitive vision of its roots and in the process find an integrated spirituality.
Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating (Author) "The leader within the Catholic world in the task of recovering our Christian contemplative heritage."—Ewert H. Cousins, general editor, World Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest (Ewert H. Cousins) "My mother is a self-proclaimed 'soul shopper' from way back. We started going to St Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass when I was 7 years old. Several years later, Keating became a St. Benedict's monk. He developed centering prayer, which is a lot like meditation and what this book is about. He says that meditation (or centering prayer) is a way of reducing the obstacles to the development of grace. I can sit for only five to ten minutes. It's very hard for me. Still, when I get in trouble, it shifts my perspective. As they say, we don't pray to change our circumstances; we pray to change ourselves."-Felicity Huffman's Bookshelf in "Oprah's Books"
“The Gospel of Thomas: The Gnostic Wisdom of Jesus” by Jean-Yves Leloup; A new translation and analysis of the gospel that records the actual words of Jesus. Explores the gnostic significance of Jesus's teachings recorded in this gospel. Explains the true nature of the new man whose coming Jesus envisioned
“Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Suzuki Roshi perhaps the best book ever written in English on the practice of meditation
“No Self, No Problem: Awakening to Our True Nature” by Anam Thubten He has boiled down the Dzogchen teachings and made them quite accessible to everyone. “The definition of buddha nature is that we are already enlightened. We are perfect as we are. When we realize this, we are perfect. When we do not realize this, we are also perfect."
“The Shambhala Principle: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure” by Sakong Mipham He talks a lot about his father, Chogyam Trungpa’s teaching on Basic Goodness and Enlightened Society. Humanity’s hidden treasure of love and caring, for ourselves, other people, and the planet.
“Ruling Your World: Ancient Strategies for Modern Life” by Sakong Mipham Bestselling book on how to be gentle but tough, tender yet brave, confident without being aggressive, a benevolent, powerful ruler of your world.
“Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior” by Chogyam Trungpa, many people’s pick for the most influential author of our time. His brilliant synthesis of the secular wisdom of the East into a modern way of peacefulness, nonaggression, and fearlessness.
“Turning the Mind into an Ally” Sakong Mipham “Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, and our mind wanders off. We try to keep stress at bay, but anxiety keeps us awake at night. We can create an alliance that allows us to actually use our mind, rather than be used by it. This is a practice anyone can do.”
“The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” by Jean-Yves Leloup (Author) Restores to the forefront of the Christian tradition the importance of the divine feminine The first complete English-language translation of the original Coptic Gospel of Mary, with line-by-line commentary; Reveals the eminence of the divine feminine in Christian thought
“The Gospel of Judas” by Rodolphe Kasser; For 1,600 years its message lay hidden. When the bound papyrus pages of this lost gospel finally reached scholars who could unlock its meaning, they were astounded. Here was a gospel that had not been seen since the early days of Christianity, and which few experts had even thought existed–a gospel told from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, history’s ultimate traitor. And far from being a villain, the Judas that emerges in its pages is a hero.
“The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling” by William Johnston "God can be loved but he cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. So less thinking and more loving." This is William Johnston's summary of the message of The Cloud of Unknowing. Nobody knows who wrote the book, or exactly where he lived, or whether he was a member of a religious order, or even, really, whether he was part of any church at all. The text first appeared in Middle English in the 14th century, and it has inspired generations of mystical searchers (from St. John of the Cross to Teilhard de Chardin). The mysterious conditions of its composition, however, focus the reader's attention squarely on the book's message--an almost Zen rendering of Christianity, which has a great deal to teach our querulous, doctrine-obsessed churches: "And so I urge you," the author writes, "go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labor, but love, full of rest."
“Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross; The great Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross became a Carmelite monk in 1563 and helped St. Teresa of Avila to reform the Carmelite order — enduring persecution and imprisonment for his efforts. Both in his writing and in his life, he demonstrated eloquently his love for God. His written thoughts on man's relationship with God were literacy endeavors that placed him on an intellectual and philosophical level with such great writers as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. In this work — a spiritual masterpiece and classic of Christian literature and mysticism — he addresses several subjects, among them pride, avarice, envy, and other human imperfections. His discussion of the "dark night of the spirit," which considers afflictions and pain suffered by the soul, is followed by an extended explanation of divine love and the soul's exultant union with God.
“The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity” by Cynthia Bourgeault
Dialogue One . . . tell us about matter. Will it survive or not? The Savior answered: All of nature with its forms and creatures exist together and are interwoven with each other. They will be resolved back, however, to their own proper origin, for the compositions of matter return to the original roots of their nature. Those who have ears, let them hear this. Then Peter said to him: Since you have explained everything to us, tell us one more thing. What is the sin of this world? The Savior replied: Sin as such does not exist. You only bring it into manifestation when you act in ways that are adulterous in nature. It is for this very reason that the Good has come among you pursuing its own essence within nature in order to reunite everything to its origin. Then he continued: This is also the reason for sickness and death, because you embrace what deceives you. Consider these matters, then, with your spiritual intellect. Attachment to matter gives birth to passion without an Image of itself because it is drawn from that which is contrary to its higher nature. The result is that confusion and disturbance resonates throughout one's whole being. It is for this reason that I told you to find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature.
Those with ears, let them hear this.
Having said these things, the Blessed One addressed themz;
Peace be with you. May my peace reside within you. Guard carefully that no one misleads you saying, “Look, he is here,” or “He’s over there,” for the Son of Humanity already exists within you. Follow him, for those who seek him there will find him. Go forth, now. And proclaim the Good News the kingdom. Beyond what I have already given you, do not lay down any further rules nor issue laws as the Lawgiver, lest you too be dominated by them.
Having said this, he departed. As we enter this dialogue, we are literally joining a conversation in midstream. From textual clues in this dialogue and the one following, it appears that the conversation takes place in temporal history sometime between Jesus's resurrection and ascension—the Gospel of Mary Magdalene's version of the "upper room" appearances in John and Luke. In this energy charged encounter Jesus gathers his students around him once again to reflect on the meaning of his passage through death and to leave them final instructions and encouragement before his departure from physical form. The teaching style is clearly sohbet: "spiritual conversation" between a master and his students. This is a classic Near Eastern teaching style that even today is a mainstay in many schools of Sufism. In contrast to the "Socratic" method more familiar to those of us in the West, sohbet is not merely intellectual discourse, but rather it is a deep meeting of hearts and minds that also includes a direct energy transmission, for those familiar with the art form, the context of this first dialogue is unmistakable and speaks once again to this gospel's probable Semitic origins. As manuscript page 7 opens, a student is clearly asking Jesus a question about the permanence of matter, and Jesus responds with a brief but remarkable metaphysical statement—something that occurs nowhere in the canonical gospels and offers a fascinating glimpse into the theoria (theoretical knowledge) on which his practical wisdom rests. The student's question is probably not theoretical; it follows directly from the resurrection appearance itself with all its inherent paradoxes and consternation. Is Jesus really here? Is this material body in which he stands before them a solid reality or merely a veil that will soon dissolve? Jesus responds by affirming very strongly that the origin of nature (i.e., the material world) does not lie within this earthly plane. What we take for solid reality is a mixtus orbis, a "mixed" (or "mixed up") realm in which everything is "interwoven" (a statement that contemporary physicists and metaphysicians would heartily applaud). At the end of their physical term, the forms of matter return to the original "roots of their nature." But by this, we will learn shortly, he does not mean they dissolve into their component atoms, quarks, and/or humors. Instead, they return to an original template—or "image"—whose place of arising is in another realm. Peter immediately jumps in with the next question. What is sin? This is, of course, the classic Jewish philosophical preoccupation; you will find it vividly imprinted on nearly every page of Old Testament prophetic and wisdom teaching and as the driveshaft of the Pauline metaphysics upon which orthodox Christian theology rests. Whose fault is it that suffering and evil came into the world? Who is to blame? How is it atoned for? Jesus rejects that question out of hand: "Sin as such does not exist." His answer would initially seem to place him solidly within what we would nowadays identify as an "Eastern" rather than a "Western" mindset: not sin, but ignorance of one's true nature, is to blame for the sufferings of this world. But we must listen carefully to where he is headed in his comment. He does not go on to state that sin is therefore an illusion, the typical Eastern thought progression. To the contrary, he affirms that sin does indeed come into existence—that is, it becomes objectively real—when one acts in ways that are "adulterous in nature." And within his particular frame of reference, acting in ways that are "adulterous in nature" will prove to have a very specific meaning. It signifies a failure to stay in alignment with origin: with that mysterious "root" (or template) of one's nature he has already alluded to, which, while arising beyond this realm, seeks its full expression here. He quickly assures his students that this world is valuable and precious; indeed, this is the very reason the Good has come among them in the first place—"pursuing its own essence within nature [i.e., within this transitory realm] in order to reunite everything to its origin." There is important integrative work to be done here. But it all depends upon keeping a right alignment along what wisdom tradition typically refers to as the "vertical axis": the invisible spiritual continuum that joins the realms together. Nearly sixteen centuries later the German mystic Jacob Boehme would express this cosmological insight with poetic precision and beauty: For you must realize that earth unfolds its properties and powers in union with Heaven aloft above us, and there is one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all. When the realms are in spontaneous resonance—"one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all—the music of the spheres bursts forth. When they are not, disease anil disharmony inevitably ensue. As he quickly points out (again, with a contemporary feeling to the teaching), "Confusion and disturbance resonate throughout one's whole being," and sickness and death are the inevitable result. Image and Analogue Like most of the world's great spiritual teachers, Jesus affirms that attachment to matter is the root of all suffering. But by building on his previous insight, he is able to offer a concrete explanation for this phenomenon: Attachment to matter gives birth to passion without an Image of itself because it is drawn from that which is contrary to its higher nature.
For the first time in this dialogue Jesus officially introduces the word image. The reference is brief here, but you will find ample elaboration in the Gospel of Thomas (particularly logia 83 and 84), which shares a virtually identical understanding. Within the particular metaphysical stream that Jesus seems to be working in, image corresponds to that primordial template mentioned earlier—"the origin" of each created form. Very cautiously, you might label it an archetype. At first glance you may be tempted to transpose this teaching into Platonic categories and assume that Jesus is talking about the "ideal form" of a thing. But be cautious in doing so, for there is a distinctly different dynamism at work here. For Jesus, the "image" is not merely a static blueprint, a preexistent prototype that its earthly analogue mechanically reflects. Between image and analogue there is a dynamic reciprocity as they simultaneously articulate the same reality in two different realms. Image and analogue are in a continuously creative tension receiving and fulfilling each other, and it is in the energy exchange that their indivisible wholeness is made manifest. Images do not arise in this realm, however (their origin is several cosmoses more subtle), and trouble begins when this fundamental cosmic law is forgotten. The problem with "attachment to matter," as Jesus explains, is that the passion it begets corresponds to nothing in the higher realm and is therefore a cul dc sac, out of spiritual alignment and ultimately illusory. To be deceived by these mirages and spend one's time chasing after them is—in the blunt words of the Gospel of Thomas—"to make friends with a corpse."Seeing with the Heart The remedy Jesus sets forth for this cosmic malaise is to "find contentment at the level of the heart ... in the presence of the Image of your true nature." The key to deciphering this all-important instruction lies in recognizing that the word "heart" is being used here in a highly specific way. In the wisdom traditions of the Near East, the heart is not the seat of one's personal emotional life, but an organ of spiritual perception. I have spoken about this extensively in my other books so I will be brief here, but the essential point is that the heart is primarily an instrument of sight—or insight, as the case may be ("Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"). Its purpose is to navigate along the vertical axis and stay in alignment with "the Image of one's true nature." Itself a vibrant resonant field, it functions like a homing beacon between the realms; and when it is strong and clear, it creates a synchronous resonance between them. "Those with ears, let them hear this," Jesus continues—his characteristic "heads-up." But as we remember our primary topic of interest in this book, Mary Magdalene, his warning is particularly well-timed: because how well you are able to grasp his teaching is exactly how well you will be able to grasp the basis of their relationship. To say that their hearts are intertwined is not at all to speak sentimentally. Rather, it is to affirm that Mary Magdalene has fully understood this principle of spiritual alignment through the heart and has been able to personally corroborate it within herself. This will directly explain her ability to stay present when he appears to her in visions and her ability to go about her earthly business with the serene confidence of one whose life is always flowing within that greater life. The Unitive Ground How would I characterize this teaching of Jesus? It definitely belongs to the wider stream of sophia perennis in its acknowledgment of many and more subtle realms of being whose energies impact our own—a concept traditionally known as "the great chain of being." But it parts company from classic gnosticism (and even classic sophia perennis) by refusing to claim that this world is illusion, or fall, or error; or that its density places it at the tail end of the chain. We are not in Plato's cave. Rather, this world is good, worthy, and fully inhabited by the divine energies—"the Good comes among you"—so long as it stays united with its root. The blending of incarnational and Platonic elements is a distinctive mix, which I believe is Jesus's original contribution to the metaphysics of the West. It presents itself as a profoundly incarnational, warm-hearted, and hopeful path, where the realms support and interpenetrate each other and divine fullness is accessed simply by keeping the heart in natural alignment with its invisible prototype. Unfortunately, his teaching went right over the heads of nearly all his followers, both then and now. The subtlety of Jesus's metaphysics remains largely unknown to Christians—and sadly so, for it is the missing ingredient that makes his path comprehensible and doable. It is no secret that Jesus's teachings resonate with an extraordinary trust in the divine abundance and generosity, and Christians are asked to emulate that trust. But to try to do so without seeing what it is founded on is a bit like asking an elephant to fly, and Christians find themselves frequently caught in the gap between the incredibly high spiritual ideals of this path and their own ability to carry them out. In reality, the secret is simple. When the heart is aligned with its eternal image, abundance cascades forth from that place of origin, infinitely more powerful than the scarcity and constriction of this world. It is not a matter of believing in flying elephants so much as of purifying the heart. "Lay Down No Further Rules ..." In the final lines of his discourse Jesus reinforces this teaching yet again. His parting instruction to his disciples opens with the plea that they remain present within themselves rather than chasing after mirages in the outer world, for "the Son of Humanity already exists within you ... and those who seek him there will find him." ' To remain in continuous union—the kind that Mary Magdalene will shortly demonstrate—is a matter of releasing the outer clamor and tuning in again and again through the homing beacon of the heart. Then, as if knowing already that this is somehow beyond them, he adds a final practical caution: "Do not lay down any rules beyond what I have given vou, lest you be dominated by them." From a textual criticism point of view, as Karen King rightly observes, this instruction situates the Gospel of Mary Magdalene at an early stage in the history of Christianity, when the contours of externally imposed hierarchy are just beginning to become visible in the dawning light of a brave new Christian world. From an artistic standpoint, it moves us directly into the second dialogue while at the same time setting the stage for the gospel's surprising and decisive conclusion. Dialogue Two His students grieved and mourned greatly saying: How are we to go into the rest of the world proclaiming the Good News about the Son of Humanity's Realm? If they did not spare him, how will they ever leave us alone? Mary arose, then, embracing them all and began to address them as her brot- hers and sisters saying: Do not weep and grieve nor let your hearts remain in doubt, for his grace will be with all of you, sustaining and protecting you. Rather, let us give praise to his greatness which has prepared us so that we might become fully human. As Mary said these things their hearts opened toward the Good and they began to discuss the meaning of the Savior's words. In this second and crucial dialogue, the predictable happens. The subtlety of Jcsus's teaching is lost on his disciples, who return quickly to their conviction that Jesus is gone and that they are in extreme danger. They have completely missed the point of what he has just said. As Mary Magdalene steps forward to encourage them, she demonstrates that she has fully understood what Jesus is saying and can apply it to her own life. "Do not let your hearts remain in doubt," she says, cutting immediately to the spiritual chase. For a heart in doubt—in two-ness anil sell-sabotage—becomes useless as that organ of alignment. To reconnect to the grace he has promised them is as simple a matter as opening to his presence right then and there in their inmost depths—"for those who seek him there will find him." And as she pointedly reminds them, "He has prepared us for this." Becoming Fully Human In fact, her actual words are, "He has prepared us so that we might become fully human." "To become fully human" is a modern translation of the words "to become an anthropos,” a completed human being. Both here and in the Gospel of Thomas this notion is at the very heart of Jesus's vision of transformation. In modern psychological parlance building on a Jungian foundation, the concept of anthropos is generally interpreted in terms of an integration of the opposites within oneself—specifically, a bringing together of the male and female principles within the individual human psyche. While partially true, this understanding is far too limited to contain the cosmic sweep of Jesus's meaning. In logion 22 in the Gospel of Thomas, he lays out what he in fact has in mind for this integration of opposites: When you are able to make two become one, the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside. the higher like the lower, so that a man is no longer male, and a woman, female, but male and female become a single whole; when you are able to fashion an eye to replace an eye, and form a hand in place of a hand, or a foot for a foot, --making one image supercede another —then you will enter in. Obviously, there is far more at stake here than simply integrating masculine and feminine principles within one's finite humanity. The integration takes place on a cosmic scale and is accomplished through learning how to anchor one's being in that underlying unitive ground: that place of oneness before the opposites arise. Some traditions would call this the "causal level." ' However one defines it, its origin is on the vertical axis, in a realm and mode of perception far more subtle than our own. It has less to do with what one sees than with how one sees; it amounts to a fundamental shift in perception. When this level is attained, either by sudden spiritual insight or by a long, tough slog through the mine fields of ego, a person becomes "a single one" (in Aramaic, ihidaya: one of the earliest titles applied to Jesus): an enlightened or "fully human" being. The union of opposites Jesus is speaking of really pertains to the union of the finite and infinite within oneself, or the bringing together of the vertical axis with the horizontal so that there is "one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all." When this happens, the world does not pass away, but one is able to live in it as master, recreating its external forms ("making one image supercede another") out of the infinite generativity of the One. It is important to keep this wider definition of the anthropos firmly in mind because it is the key to everything in this gospel. Mary Magdalene moves among the other disciples as one who has "become fully human." She does not merely parrot the Master's teaching back to them, flaunting her specialness. Rather, she serves the situation, blowing through the spiritual energy of her own alignment is a baraka—a grace that is able to actually shift the other disciples' emotional state. She is able to "turn their hearts to the good." This short dialogue is the thematic epicenter of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene: the apostolic moment par excellence. "Apostle is as apostle does," one might say, and it is clear that in both her Words and her deeds—her ability to comprehend, to calm, to convey blessing—Mary Magdalene has just proven herself an apostle: not just "first among the apostles," but in fact, the only one of them to authentically merit the title. As wc move into the challenging (and decimated) dialogue 3, it is important to keep firmly centered on this point. If Mary Magdalene does, in fact, enjoy a privileged access to the Master, she has certainly earned it: not because she is his special favorite (as Peter will shortly imply), but because she has been able so deeply to absorb and integrate his spiritual methodology. She has learned the secret of unbroken union with him across the realms, and she teaches from the same fount of living water that flowed in him—in fact, still flows in him, only now in a different energetic form. And thus, doing as real apostles do, she is able to lift her brethren out of their psychological paralysis and focus them once again on "the meaning ofthe Savior's words." Dialogue 2 ends on a note of strength and unanimity; for the moment, all is once again well. Unfortunately, that moment will prove all too brief.
“The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart”
by Cynthia Bourgeault
In this short book I want to speak about Wisdom and specifically about the recovery of a genuine wisdom dimension to our individual lives and to our common life. Most of the readers of this book, 1 assume, will be citizens of the "privileged" First World nations, probably of the United States or Canada, as 1 am myself. But what does this privilege really translate into in terms of satisfaction and quality of life? Beneath the surface of our well-being, a malaise-perhaps even a crisis of meaning—has long been brewing. For all our affluence, stress and anxiety seem to be higher than ever, family life is in disarray, and the rushing to keep up leaves us empty and exhausted. The Old Testament prophet Haggai sounds like he could be speaking directly to us in these words, which are more than two thousand years old: "So now . .. think; take stock; what do you really want? Yon eat but still hunger; you drink but Still thirst; you clothe yourselves but can't get warm, and your wages run out through the holes in your pockets." One of the greatest losses in our Christian West has been the loss of memory (in fact, almost a collective amnesia) about our own Wisdom heritage. Many people, hearing about Wisdom in the way I've just written, imagine that I am describing an alien tradition-unaware that the first title given to Jesus by his immediate band of followers was a moshel meshalim, "master of Wisdom." In the Near Eastern culture into which he was bom, the category was well known, and his methods were immediately recognizable as part of it. He taught mashal, parables and Wisdom sayings. He came to help people awaken. But awakening is not that easy, and as a moshel meshalim, Jesus had mixed success. As the four Gospels all record, some people glimpsed what he was saying while others missed it altogether. Some people got it part of the time and missed it the rest. Some people woke up and others remained asleep. Which leads us back to the point I was making earlier. Unlike the information overload that our culture presently confuses with knowledge, the first and most important thing to realize about Wisdom is that it is state-dependent. That's why it's so easy to miss.
(The author spoke earlier of a spiritual retreat combining meditation, teachings, chanting, singing, and work) It could not have happened with our minds alone, any more than it could have happened through meditation alone or work alone. It required the whole of our beings, brought into balance by a time-tested formula drawn to very close tolerances. This is the first and indispensable principle of Wisdom. No cheating, no shortcuts are possible because, in the words of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, "How you get there is where you'll arrive." Perhaps the best formal articulation of this basic principle is by the modem master of Christian Wisdom, Maurice Nicoll: "As one's level of being increases, receptivity to higher meaning increases. As one's being decreases, the old meanings return." While there are many ways of explicating this principle, perhaps the most graphic is through a Gospel story much favored by Wisdom teachers: the disciple Peter attempting to walk on the water. As the narrative unfolds in Matthew 14:22-33, the disciples are making a somewhat stormy late-night boat passage across the Sea of Galilee when they suddenly see Jesus walking toward them on the water. "Do not be afraid," he tells them; "for it is I"—or as the biblical Greek literally reads, "for I am." Peter, always the impetuous one, plunges out of the boat and starts walking across the water toward his master. In the language of the tradition, he is under the sway of "gravitation from above," his heart so pointedly fixed on Jesus that he rises briefly to Jesus' level of being, a level of being at which the laws of the physical universe are transcended. He nearly makes it, too—but suddenly he feels the storm against his face, realizes that what he's doing is impossible, and becomes frightened. And of course, at that moment he sinks. THE NAMES OF GOD The qualities of aliveness that we recognize in our own lives and in life itself as it swirls around us are not random or ephemeral. They are reflections of a much more primordial stream of qualities that in the Western tradition are known as the "names of God." In discovering what these are, we begin to discover as well the link between the various realms of being I've just described and the key to the riddle of human purpose. From the various strands of the Wisdom tradition both Western and Eastern there emerges a striking agreement that the answer to this riddle lies wrapped in one of the great cos-mological mysteries: the paradox of unity and duality. The manifest world (which includes, remember, not just the physical world but also the energetic and psychic realms) exists so that the divine Oneness can become fully conscious of itself in diversity and form—so that it can discover itself as a hologram: not just in the "endless unity" but also in its tiniest and most transient particularities, like snowflakes and quarks and the quality of aliveness shimmering within a snakeskin or a lovers' embrace. A favorite Wisdom way of picturing this relationship between unity and diversity is through the image of light. Invisible, or "white," light contains the full spectrum of colors, but only when light strikes an object does the ensuing reflection reveal the rainbow within. The colors of the rainbow would correspond, roughly, to the names of God. They are a color palette, so to speak, with and through which (in Boehme's picturesque words) the endless unity "brings itself into some-thingness." Each name represents a quality of the divine Oneness, a particular way in which the divine Oneness becomes visible when it breaks out into form. Love would certainly be one of these qualities; others that come easily to mind are compassion, strength, steadfastness, mercy, truth, and justice-individual energetic manifestations of the invisible Oneness. From these "primary colors" other combinations arise, and each of the various energetic realms has its unique role to play in "refracting" and mirroring the various facers of the Oneness. Even the very density and finiteness of this physical realm we live in reveals facets of the divine Being that can be revealed in no other way. Does that statement sound curious to you? Here again we come to a fundamental fork in the road between traditional theology and Wisdom. Contrary to our usual theological notion, which sees God as "having" certain qualities-such as love, truth, and justice-Wisdom correctly perceives that there are certain states, or qualities of being, that cannot be known (or even truly said to exist) in potential but only in actual manifestation. God "has" these qualities by virtue of enacting them. "I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known," says God. according to an ancient Islamic teaching, "and so 1 created the world." Foremost among these qualities, surprising as it may at first seem, is love. CHAPTER VIFreedom and Surrender: The Anthropology of Wisdom Being free to be one's personality is not freedom. —A. H. Almaas, Essence For nearly a decade in my life during the 1990s, I lived and worked in Aspen. Colorado, that fabled ski town high in the Rocky Mountains, home to the fabulously wealthy and endlessly energetic. One night, as one of the perks of my job as assisting clergy at the local Episcopal church, I was invited to a lecture at the renowned Aspen Institute, part of a summer series called New Takes on Capitalism. On this particular night, a professor from Princeton University had been lecturing the group on how the media manipulate consumer desire, leading to a conformist, "peas in a pod" society. His message clearly was not playing well to this mostly female crowd of movers and shakers, dressed—as in all things Aspen-like—to the hilt. No sooner had the question-and-answer period begun than a woman was already on her feet to challenge him. "What you say is not true," she retorted. "We're all individuals!" You couldn't deny she looked the part. Dressed in her skintight jeans, cowboy boots, tuxedo shirt, and rhine-stone-studded vest, she was a fashion statement in herself. Her fighting spirit was clearly infectious. "Bravo!" the audience clapped and stomped, and several other women rallied to their feet. That's when the cheering faded and the nervous tittering began. As the audience looked around and took stock of itself, each one of these new cheerleaders was clad in a virtually identical get-up: tight jeans, boots, dress shirt, and jewelry-studded vest. It could have been the official uniform of this "team" of individuals! Somehow that's the image that always crops up for me whenever I begin to ponder the relationship between Wisdom and so much as what passes for growth and self-actualization in our modern world. Individual... freedom . . . happiness ... surrender (that tough word I used just at the end of the last chapter): these words are deeply charged with meaning and emotion in our Western cultural heritage. They are also words with deep meaning in our spiritual heritage—in fact, they form the basic vocabulary of spiritual teaching. What's perplexing, however, is that when we compare this list of terms in the context of each realm, we find that the same words turn out to have diametrically opposite meanings! Thomas Merton, in all ways the great spiritual pioneer, was one of the first to comment on this irony. If he'd been there in the Aspen audience that night, you could almost have seen him shaking his head and muttering his favorite refrain, about the difference between a "phony individualism" and a "genuine collectivity."1 We will return to his insight later in this chapter; in some ways it's the heart of this chapter. But as we continue our quest for that "depth dimension" so painfully absent in even the brightest and best of what modern culture serves up to us as meaning, I trust it will become clear that the kind of genuine collectivity that Merton and the rest of us yearn for, to bring context and nobility to our lives, can be grounded in nothing less than a genuine spiritual anthropology. It cannot be attained simply through personal self-realization or even a rekindled sense of global citizenship; it requires a comprehensive understanding of the cosmic task entrusted to us as human beings within the dance of divine self-manifestation. But before we can even begin to ponder this lofty vision, the first task is to get us all on the same page with the words we're using.
"ACORNOLOGY" The modern Western worldview, which is the cultural lens through which most of us look at ourselves and the world, was founded in the surge of intellectual energy flowing out of the Enlightenment. For the American Founders, the Cartesian "1 think, therefore 1 am" was the self-evident truth from which all unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness followed. The starting point is that "I," the individual, actually exist: with emotions, volition, a personal history, and a solid core of identity that both needs and deserves opportunity for self-expression. This bias toward the individual, already deeply engraved in the American character from the earliest days of nationhood (and from there imprinted on the rest of the world), has been mightily reinforced in more recent history by Freudian psychology, with its foundational use of the term ego to designate the conscious, functional seat of our personal selfhood. We experience ourselves first and foremost as egoic beings, as individual selves. We move out into the world, making our life choices, accomplishing our goals, fulfilling our destiny. It all seems obvious. The Wisdom tradition, however, has a very different take on the subject. Rather than presenting this difference in the abstract, I thought it might be more fun to introduce it through a humorous parable that has become a classic of contemporary Wisdom teaching. The original metaphor was devised by Maurice Nicoll in the 1950s; Jacob Needleman popularized it in his wonderful book Lost Christianity and gave it the name acornology. Here's my version: Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land, there was a kingdom of acorns, nestled at the foot of a grand old oak tree. Since the citizens of this kingdom were modern, fully Westernized acorns, they went about their business with purposeful energy; and since they were midlife, baby-boomer acorns, they engaged in a lot of self-help courses. There were seminars called "Getting All You Can out of Your Shell." There were woundedness and recovery groups for acorns who had been bruised in their original fall from the tree. There were spas for oiling and polishing those shells and various acornopathic therapies to enhance longevity and well-being. One day in the midst of this kingdom there suddenly appeared a knotty little stranger, apparently dropped "out of the blue" by a passing bird. He was capless and dirty, making an immediate negative impression on his fellow acorns. And crouched beneath the oak tree, he stammered out a wild tale. Pointing upward at the tree, he said, "We ... are ... that!" Delusional thinking, obviously, the other acoms concluded, but one of them continued to engage him in conversation: "So tell us, how would we become that tree?" "Well," said he, pointing downward, "it has something to do with going into the ground ... and cracking open the shell." "Insane," they responded. Totally morbid: Why, then we wouldn't be acorns anymore." Humor aside, the point is obvious—at least when it comes to acorns. An acorn is only a seed; its nature and destiny is to become an oak tree. Everyone knows this. What's much more difficult is to apply this same parable to ourselves. But that's exactly what Wisdom does—and in fact, all the great spiritual traditions of the world do, so far as 1 know, without exception. This "I" whom I take to be myself, this individual who moves about on the planet making choices and doing her thing, is not who I am at all. It's only the acorn. Coiled within this acorn is a vastly more majestic destiny and a true self who lives it. But this oak tree of myself can come into being only if it lets go of its acorn. All traditional sacred psychologies are based on the premise that there are two "I’s” who inhabit me: a lesser self, the acorn; and a greater self, whom I do not know yet and cannot ever fully know but whose destiny I can live out. The names for these two selves vary from tradition to tradition, but the important point to keep in mind is that what our contemporary culture proudly calls ego, the functional seat of our personal identity, is in every authentic Wisdom tradition dispatched immediately and unambiguously to the lower category. Whether "healthy" or "wounded," it is still the acorn. Life does not truly begin until the acorn falls into the ground. Wisdom anthropology begins with the insight that who we think we are is a cruel (or hilarious) trompe I'oeil, like those look-alike Aspen women proclaiming themselves individuals. We suffer from a serious case of mistaken identity. This lesser self is not who I am at all; at very most, it is the snakeskin. My real "I" lives far more subtly within it, captured here and now in the quality of my aliveness. SURRENDER Chanting, meditation, and practical work are all activities, but surrender is an underlying attitude. That means it is there in everything, at the root of everything. Without it, all the other spiritual practices remain merely pious busywork. With it, even things that don't seem spiritual are in fact spiritualized. Surrender is the way—probably the only way—to accomplish that last and most important task suggested by Helminski: "joining the mind to its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love." In Chapter Six I suggested the simplest no-frills version of a surrender practice: never to do anything in a state of interior brace. Any brace position throws you immediately into your small self with its incessant wanting, needing, and insistence, and this immediately clouds the heart. Maintaining an open, inner gentleness, even in the face of perceived threat and reversal, immediately connects you with the whole multispectrum knowingness of your heart. Surrender is always "being actively receptive to an intelligence that is greater than that of ourselves," Hehninski writes, and in that configuration we move fully into alignment with the divine dynamism. You might even say that surrender is the awakening of the heart, for the one does not happen apart from the other. As in most aspects of spiritual practice, it's best to start with small things first. One contemporary spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, recommends that the best place to begin to practice surrender is while waiting in a grocery line! There, if you're alert, you can already experience the basic configuration that comprises all surrender: a part of you that feels urgent, constrained, put upon; and another part of you that somehow knows how to sink into the now and find spaciousness and even delight exactly where you are—the no in you and the yes in you, if you want to look at it that way. Those two parts are the basic components of surrender; once you've learned how to work with them in these smaller, non-life-threatening situations, you'll discover that they're still there even when the going gets a lot rougher and that they still work in exactly the same way. Going with the softness, the yes, always connects you immediately with your heart, and then the divine intelligence can begin to operate. The divine compassion can begin to operate as well, for once your being has become inwardly gentled and peaceable, those qualities of aliveness will flow out to others as a spontaneous healing and delight. When I am present and surrendered while waiting in a shopping line, for example, I am able not only to wake up out of my own smog but also to share that fresh breeze of awakening with those around me. Perhaps I'll notice the person in front of me, relax and enjoy the show as she empties her bottomless shopping cart, and she may relax too. We might even have a conversation!
]Notes on “Second Simplicity” by Bruno Barnhart
Bruno Barnhart is a Carmaldolese monk in Big Sur, California whose work has focused on the Christian wisdom tradition and it’s rebirth in our time.
Introduction Behold but One in all things; it is the second that leads you astray.* Before thought there is a ground, a principle, a primal reality. That this reality may be realized by the human person is the principle of spiritual enlightenment and of the wisdom traditions. This unitive primal reality is our starting point. Beneath the ordinary human ego and its operations there lies another Self, which participates immediately in the primal ground. This has been called, in the various traditions, atman, Buddha-mind, Christ-self, unity consciousness, inner man. The ascetic and monastic ways of life, with their simplicity, solitude, and silence, respond to the magnetism of the ground and of this inner Self. The primal ground, however, is not only the focus of the spiritual seeker, but the basis of every act of human consciousness. Scientific and philosophical thought, artistic creation, human relationship, and even political activity are driven by the inner unitive principle. The modern West, in its complex, explosive centrifugal movement, has moved further away from the primal ground, the principle, than any other society. Today we encounter its witnesses in the traditions of the East: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism. We shall encounter, in the various traditions, many symbols for the One: silence, mountain and sea, wilderness and desert, emptiness, ignorance, the "beginning," and darkness as well as light.
*A few preliminary descriptions of wisdom, as I am using the word are: experiential knowledge, unitive consciousness, unitive life. The term is primordial and is used in various senses, and is therefore difficult to define. Nevertheless, its meaning in the context of this book should gradually become clear. The four perspectives that I shall develop are dimensions of wisdom; their articulation, however, is not precisely wisdom but a sapiential (wisdom) theology. Both Old and New Testaments speak of a divine Wisdom. This appears as personified, first simply as the "Sophia" of the Old Testament wisdom literature, and then as embodied in Jesus Christ in the New Testament writings. 1 shall capitalize the word wisdom when it is intended to denote this personified divine Wisdom.