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Blog entries beginning with #101 are not essays but minimally-edited notes and reviews from the files I've collected over the last few decades. I no longer have the time and energy needed to sort out and put together into decent essay-form the many varied ideas in these files, but I would like to share them with all who are interested.
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Post #143 is my 2003 notes on the dialogue between Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake in their book 1997 book Natural Grace: Dialogues on creation, darkness, and the soul in spirituality and science (Image Books, Doubleday).
A write-up of the book notes that Sheldrake "has changed the face of modern science with his revolutionary theory of morphic resonance," and "Fox's work in creation spirituality has had a significant impact on people's sense of spirit." The book is dedicated to Bede Griffith, OSB.
I found the first two chapters especially stimulating; this post contains notes and thoughts about those two chapters.
Chapter One: Living Nature and Creation Spirituality
1. The mechanistic worldview is a projection of human fascination with machines onto the universe. It is an extremely anthropocentric model, although that’s not at all obvious at first.
2. The intelligent design ideas of fundamentalists fit in with an external, machine-making God.
3. The mechanistic worldview is still (1996) science’s basic ideology. (Slow to change! Rupert says the new views should kick in around 2030. “Maybe too late.”) Physics has changed more than academic biology and medicine, which is still under the sway of the old mechanistic views. Boringly SLOW!!!
4. Morphic fields are invisible organizing principles. It means much like what the old idea of ‘soul’ meant to Aristotle. “Attractors” are principles which orient processes to their end/telos. The Gaia hypothesis recovers a sense of the living world. I see better now the connection between chaos-complexity theory and Sheldrake’s morphogeneic fields. I don’t know if the “attractors” and the “fields” are really two different things. Need to think about that more.
5. Determinism is untenable now, due to understanding of Complexity-Chaos theory. The natural world is more free and spontaneous now than it was understood to be for the last 3 centuries. Most of the matter of the cosmos (98%!) is known to be there but utterly unknown otherwise, and so called “dark matter.” We don’t know NOTHING! And to think we did, for 300 years, was preliminary adolescent stupidity!
6. Science is coming to be understood as participatory, not disembodied knowledge. We now see the universe as a creative evolutionary system. Creativity is an ongoing feature of the developing cosmos. The participatory nature of things has very long been important to me personally: that my being who/what I am called to be IS my unique and personal contribution to the evolution of the universe.
That creativity is part of it is something relatively new to me. That’s why the wisdom tradition is so exciting, at least one reason why. It puts creativity up there with the most basic realities of our existence, and as one who is essentially non-conventional, that’s critically important.
I'm thinking that these two things (personal contribution to the cosmos and creativity) really aren’t distinct; it’s just that from the dynamic perspective, the fact of creativity as the essence of being who/what I am stands out much, much more. Even as I wrote those words I see the need for much more effort at making them my own. “Being who/what I am called to be” still has a kind of static sense to it; creativity is dynamic. I need to work on this more.
For many years, decades even, I understood that being who/what I am called to be is my unique personal contribution to the evolution of the universe. But here, the emphasis is even stronger: not simply being who/what I’m called to be, but precisely making something, creating something NEW, too. (Does this mean “other than myself”?) I think the answer is both yes and no. No other than myself, in that that’s really all I can do. But yes, more than just myself in terms of what’s not-I and yet is greatly related to me. (Not easy to say well. Not easy to say at all!)
7. Instead of eternal fixed laws, Sheldrake sees the world as governed by habits, in the process he calls morphic resonance. Nature has an inherent memory. Once something happens, it happens more easily after that.
I certainly had a very strong sense/experience of this, many years ago now, when B.F., P.M. and I did a men’s group thing at P’s and I had a very strong sense of having “broken through” and thus made the opening available to others. It was so long ago now that I’m not clear about to what we broke through. I THINK it was in some way access to male ancestors, but I’m not really sure. I’ve no doubt I have a record somewhere, and maybe can find it if/when I look. My point just now is simply that I have some real internal experience of what Sheldrake is talking about.
8. The post-mechanistic animistic worldview sees living nature as “full of creativity.” Life and creativity are synonyms!
9. The Romantic poets preserved this understanding of nature as alive. DG! And what a pity that they are so neglected, indeed considered disreputable!
10. Mysticism is pleasurable playful ‘yes’ to life. (OK. Good enough. What a shame it’s been relegated to fringe people, lunatics, Nazis, etc.) It is also a prophetic ‘no’ to whatever suppresses, opposes equality, justice, peace. They go together as one thing. ‘Yes’ to life; ‘no’ to whatever inhibits it. This is an excellent sum of mysticism and of everything that’s important! HO.
11. Most contemporary worship is on the dead side: mechanistic and uncreative. “A mistake about creation is a mistake about God. We’re killing the planet, we’ve killed worship.” Certainly an important point! It’s critically important to see how worship fits into all this. Sigh. I did my best, while I had the chance. What else can I say?
This concern will not go away easily. And since it won’t, it probably shouldn’t. I really don’t know what to make of its persistence, except that I seem to be in some sense being asked to do something about it. I don’t know.
12. Fox quotes Aquinas: “Every creature shares in the dignity of causality.” And says, “this is precisely our divinity: our capacity to use our creativity for compassion, which is justice-making and celebration.”
13. Early Christian hymns were not about personal salvation but about cosmic sophia “ordering all things mightily.” St. Paul’s early letters’ (written pre-gospels, even) first name for Jesus was Sophia. And John’s Prologue comes from the Book of Wisdom. The info about the Prologue is clear enough. I don’t know enough about the NT hymns, alas. Here is shaping up a project: To collect all the really wonder OT wisdom texts I can. To collect the NT cosmic hymns.
14. “Cathedral” originally meant the seat or throne, from which the ruler of the universe reigns, in compassion and justice: the “seat of wisdom,” Cosmic Wisdom. Cosmic Christ, cosmic wisdom, Lady Wisdom, Sophia-- are all one thing! Synonyms! Mary is the goddess. The Green Man accompanies the goddess. Wisdom especially comes from underground creatures.
All this is imagery for our individual and communal creativity. And all this fits in with Rupert’s ideas about habits and evolving cosmic laws. A lot of good stuff here! What stands out in this whole section (in terms of its personal importance to me) is creativity. (So what’s new?) I’ve a lot to learn.
15. Materialism is a shadow side of the Great Mother. Makes good sense.
16. Christianity’s very great contribution to cosmic wisdom is that God is the most moved, most vulnerable of all; that the wounds in all things are the sufferings of the Ultimate. Certainly a major part of the wisdom perspective.
17. What Sheldrake calls “diabolic” (in the literal sense)-- the separation of things and the fact that everything eats and is eaten by other things-- Fox instead calls “eucharistic.” This seems to me to need lots of thought and reflection by these two, first, and by anybody else, too. Sheldrake seems to want too quickly, as Fox says, to divide good from evil; Fox on the other hand isn’t as clear as I’d like him to be about everything being incorporated, transformed... Bruno B. said all that, far better, I think. But it needs MUCH thinking through, reflecting on, etc.
Really the topic here is the problem of evil, looked at from VERY different from the traditional perspectives. Lots of room for thought and reflection. I don’t know enough to make any intelligent comments about this. Obviously it’s something I need to try to think about. I’m not so sure Fox’s use of “eucharist” is like Bruno’s.
Chapter Two: Grace and Praise
1. Augustine’s dualism between nature and grace is a 1600 year old wound in western religion. I like the idea of thinking of it as a wound; not at all an essential aspect of the tradition. Except that it’s more than Augustine’s thing; belongs to the whole Platonic-Neoplatonism tradition of Western-Christian thought. But that it’s a wound, not of the essence of that worldview, is a really important insight. Patriarchy is a wound of humanity.
2. Splitting nature from grace sets up ecological disaster; it makes nature into something which is simply there, an ‘it’ to be exploited. It also sets up a “grace crisis” which makes it scarce and obtainable only by cooperation with authority, who greatly exaggerate their self-importance.
A third crisis is of “praise.” Wonder and joy are lost. The natural world gets exploited; persons get oppressed and abused; wonder is lost. And EVERYTHING begins with wonder! When we lose wonder, we set up the earth and ourselves to be exploited! The exploitation is done by those in authority and/or power.
I’m seeing, however, that maybe “loss of wonder” isn’t the best way to get to the heart of this. Or maybe it could be said better by stressing why loss of wonder causes authoritarian abuse of power. I.e., it really does all go back to loss of grounded manhood.
Why do those with access to power take it, unless they feel they need it? And why do they feel they need it? They lack it, obviously. I really do see everything going back to the loss of hunting culture’s ‘magic.’ And the contemporary need to be, more than anything, recovery of shamanic trickster manhood.
It’s so unlikely to be understood conceptually; efforts such as Joseph Jastrab’s and Gene Monick’s SEEM to be lost. But thanks to Sheldrake’s mophogenetic fields ideas, I am aware that they are not. And that seems to be where I fit in at this point, to influence those fields for the better, to help open them to larger numbers of individuals.
With Islamic fundamentalist hatred so strong and its Western-Christian counterpart no less so, we are in very bad shape. A sad time for humanity. Or, a very hopeful time in that we are beginning to see the issues. Fox’s comments are valid, but within such a small sphere they don’t seem to have any widespread influence either. But this book was put together 10 years ago. A different world then than now. [And even more so now in 2012.]
3. Eckhart heals the Augustinian split. “Grace” is gift, blessing, goodness-- which IS nature, creation. Julian of Norwich says, “We have been loved from the beginning.” So how come we didn’t hear about it for six centuries??? Sigh. Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, and those German nuns.... All that was centuries ago!
Several times recently I have come across comments about Teilhard being the most break-through thinker since Thomas Aquinas, and that he is one of the big four of Western religious history (Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and Teilhard). It amazes me to think that I plugged in to Teilhard's thought as early as was possible. It wasn't even two years after his death in April, 1955, and was even before his first writings appeared in English (Divine Milieu and Phenomenon of Man).
4. “If we said no other prayer than thank you, that would suffice.” (-Eckhart) I think Br David Steindl-Rast was the first person I ever heard say this. I’ve never heard it in a church.
5. If we feel graced, we sing and chant. Our civilization is anal-retentive, and nothing in it is more anal-retentive than formal worship. No body, no breath, no spirit. Indeed. (I did my best, as I’ve said many times.) That we don’t sing makes clear how bad off we are. It’s a symptom-- of lack of wonder.
6. To feel graced is to have high self-esteem. Lacking that, our wounds make us give up the struggle. “Walk your walk of lament on the path of praise.” (-Rilke) Wounds are intrinsic to real life. Unavoidable. They can either cripple you and not. How to prevent them from crippling you? “Walk your walk of lament on a path of praise.” Personally, I have a problem with the word “praise” because it conveys too much of charismatic movement’s lack of consciousness. Simply as a term, I much prefer wonder and awe.
Is “Wow!” praise? Definitely. Interesting how wonder produces self-esteem. But of course, in terms of sacred manhood. They go together. It’s the LACK of self-esteem that results in environmental exploitation and abuse of authority. Either we feel graced, blessed, gifted with life, action, being-- or we don’t. If we don’t, we feel sucked in, smothered, fear-full and in rage.
7. The point here is a bit different, however. Our need for the self-esteem of sacred manhood isn’t really the issue Fox is dealing with. He’s saying, wounds are part of life. We have to walk the wounded path still with wonder. OK. Having self-esteem doesn’t prevent wounding. BUT.. what about the wound of lack of self-esteem?
I think that’s where Gene Monick and Joseph Jastrab and Allan Chinen come in. Without sacred manhood we are crippled, and thus lacking power, we seize it and abuse it if and when we can. That’s our situation today. Not just the captains of industry, as I put it a while back, and not just the big four establishments, as Thomas Berry puts it in his The Great Work, but especially now in politicians, specially those who highjacked the American government and the oval office. Alas.
We have fallen on very dark times. People have been interpreting the second part of Lord of the Rings as expressing the need to wage war against Iraq. I think if Tolkien was here to interpret things he would say the war is against the Christian fundamentalists who have highjacked American government.
8. Merton says every non-two legged creature is a saint. I.e., full of grace. I remember the passage well, in his very early Seeds of Contemplation which I read in high school. My freshmen year, I think. The book cost $ 0.25. I still have it.
Reminds me of the little banner “Everything is holy” from my very earliest liturgical work. A woman said she wanted to spit on it.
I wonder if this one idea, more than anything, accounts for Merton’s widespread popularity. It’s such a basic, fundamental idea.
9. “What good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and I’m not?” (- Eckhart) Right. How can we encourage kids to say that? Obviously, only by OURSELVES saying it. This is the only real answer to clerical sexual abuse, that self-esteem that would not ever permit a person, even a young teenager, to think of himself as unworthy and to think of the priest as “God.”
I have to be honest and say I don’t really understand (in terms of my own experience) that placing of authority in another which would allow for the person to be abused. I know women do it all the time, in terms of authoritarian and abusive men. And apparently RC kids do it to a tremendous extent. And, apparently, kids raised by Protestant fundamentalist parents, too. It isn’t clear to me where this comes from, how it comes about. Obviously it begins from a very early age, in terms of how the child as a person was treated.
10. All other species are full of grace; we are the species who is to honor it. Right. What else can we say? DO it! But then how can anyone honor other species if they do not honor themselves? Once again, yet again, it all comes down to the one same thing, sacred manhood!
Our job, our cosmic task, is to honor all. I think that may not be an adequate expression of the Great Work we are called to. It’s MORE than just honoring. That’s important; essential. But NOT the main thing. The main thing is promotion of culture. I.e., creativity.
I’m seeing the need to spell out more clearly than Fox is doing here the essential task of anthropos at the heart of cosmos: the creative experience and tasting of everything, the uniting of opposites, and the in-gathering of all, especially the least and lost.
11. Being too busy, too much of a hurry, doesn’t allow time for grace. A primary problem of American culture, and therefore of Western society (and nowadays therefore of global culture)! The other is SO incredibily boring.
I went to see Lord of the Rings, Part Two on Monday. From the moment I walked into the theater lobby I was assaulted by smells, flashing lights, rap “music,” and loud commercials urging me to do something or other. I went into the men’s room to escape it and the sounds were even louder in there. Sigh.
No one says, “This isn’t healthy.” Why don’t we see it? We are, as Thomas Berry says, in a trance. Bewitched, although he doesn’t use the word. Our consciousness is held captive. By...? I think the answer is fear. We fear the world, fear the feminine, we fear real life.
Hurry is simply a way of trying to avoid the fear. Berry uses the term “enchanted” and that’s not good enough. It sounds, in fact, like a good thing. I wish he were willing to use “bewitched.” It makes the point much more clearly. And it really does not, I think, add more damage to the image of Wicca [maybe].
12. Aquinas: One human can do more evil than all other species together. Quite a statement. I don’t know what to do with it except shudder. The power in the hands of individuals just now if beyond our emotional capacity to handle. But the opposite must also be true. One human person is capable of more good than all the other species together. “So great is our dignity.” Maybe we’re just not ready to say this, yet. On the other hand, maybe it’s already time, even past time, to say it. But... maybe not.
13. We can choose our personal ego agenda over that of the cosmos. Awareness is everything. Indeed. “Buddhism 101.” But in our case, just now, awareness is under a spell. What is it that has bewitched us?
The diminishment of the non-human by humans is the central issue of the twenty-first century; and, says Berry, it comes down to a struggle between corporations and ecologists. The corporations have all the power. They possess the earth’s natural resources and they control the national governments; the earth is already severely damaged.
Healing, Berry says, can only happen by an effort and action as intense and vigorous as that which caused the damage in the first place. Nature is perceived as having no rights, while, since the late 1800’s, corporations have had the same legal rights as individual persons.
The situation is like a cultural addiction, Berry says, and points out that the pathology is especially evident in everyday language where words like "progress" and "profit" are validated and promoted as positive terms, while in reality "progress" here is synonymous with the earth’s degradation and "profit" means a deficit for the earth. "Development" is other example; it in fact almost always means destruction of the natural environment.
As Berry points out, the important question is, Why this damage? If we do not enhance ourselves by diminishing others, why this mentally disturbed attitude, this mental illness, which makes ours the most pathological of all cultures? The answer, he says, lies in that inner rage against the limitations of the real world which is found at the heart of Western culture. This inner rage seeks to dominate and control the natural world which it perceives as threat. We remain unaware of it, for the most part, precisely because we are caught in the power of its addictive trance. We are bewitched, under a spell, in an addictive trance.
We don’t see the world as it is; we don’t see ourselves and our place in it, as blessed, graced. We need to see our cosmic task: as anthropos at the heart of cosmos we are to taste everything, to bring together opposites, and to in-gather all, especially the least and lost.
How can we do this if we are afraid? Why are we afraid? What can we do to NOT be afraid? How can we break the spell? Get out of our trance? Berry repeatedly says, “attend our psychic images.” And I want to add to his list (of Great Mother and Hero) shaman and trickster: the one not afraid of nature, the one not afraid of conventionality.
The best understanding I have of this inner rage which seeks, as Berry says, to dominate and control the natural world, comes from an unlikely source. It’s one I stumbled on accidentally: a psychoanalytic study of fascism based on the literature of pre-Nazi fascist groups known as the Freikorpsmen. The book is Male Fantasies, Volume II, by Klaus Theweleit (University of Minnesota Press, 1987). It is especially helpful because the fascist Freikorps provides us with an example of Western culture’s inner rage at its most blatant extreme.
Fascism, according to Klaus Theweleit, is a repudiation of everyday life and the natural world; it is against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure. It has its origin in the fascist male ego’s fear and hatred of the feminine. Similarly, the inner rage and destructive violence against women and nature found at the heart of Western culture has its origin in the patriarchal ego’s terror at the threat of its destruction. The threat comes from a fear of fusion with the mother, says Theweleit, and is based on lack of pre-oedipal separation from her. "Such men were never fully born," he says; they never differentiated enough from their maternal source to relate, as a separate ego, to an other, and they can only feel the integrity of the ego-self and sustain a sense of bodily boundaries, by inflicting violence on others......
I ask, What can we do to NOT be afraid? How can we break the spell? Get out of our trance? Berry repeatedly says, “attend our psychic images.” And I add, Especially those of shaman and trickster. And HERE is where ritual really comes in. Not so much in honoring animals, and all that, but in becoming aware of our calling to be one who is not afraid of nature and one who is not afraid of conventionality. And... to OWN those empowering images so that they do in fact empower us. THAT makes good sense to me.
.....Similarly, disdain for the world and the contemporary exploitation and destruction of the natural environment by Western civilization is a desire to destroy the mother. It is the result of the patriarchal ego’s alienation from nature. It comes from the sense of not being cared for by Mother Earth, of not being wanted by the universe. At bottom, is the feeling that reality itself is not to be trusted. [A review of this book can be found in post #123. The Psychological Origins of Patriarchy.]
I acknowledge that these words still cause me to shudder: The desire to destroy the mother, the patriarchal ego’s alienation from nature, comes from the sense of not being cared for by Mother Earth, of not being wanted by the universe, the feeling that at bottom reality itself is not to be trusted.
! Listen to those words: not being cared for, not being wanted, feeling that reality is not to be trusted. They are surely the most crippled words in human speech. Crippled. And crippling.
As I said previously, how different this attitude of alienation, fear and hatred is from the ancient view that ours is essentially a world of wonder and awe, given to us for our delight. How different, indeed, from patriarchal culture’s rage and destructive violence against nature is the ancient perspective that we are part of the universe and to align ourselves with it is what life is all about!
How may this alienation be overcome? According to Berry, the path to reorientation is to be found in a return to the depths of our own psychological roots. We can overcome our alienation from nature, he says, by "our attention to fundamental archetypal images found in the human psyche." He mentions specifically those of the Great Mother, the Eternal Round of Death and Rebirth, the Cosmic Tree of Life and the Hero-Journey. These empowering archetypes, he notes, need to be valued and promoted especially by the guiding professions, education and religion, because as symbolic images they provide us with the basic story of how the world works and how humans fit into it.
OK with all that. But as I've said, we also need to attend several other archetypes as well: the Shaman and the Trickster. Any implementation of the New Story seems to me to be especially dependent on a recovery of these two archetypes. The Hero is part of the patriarchal stage of development, and we need to go beyond the hero. If, as Berry has said, the root of our problems lies especially in the inner hatred and rage against nature and the feminine on the part of the patriarchal ego, then it seems especially important that we recognize that there is an alternative to this patriarchal model of manhood, one which is not based on fear of the natural world.
Deep within the male psyche is a much earlier masculine archetype, that of the shamanic trickster. It prevailed through most of human history and is an image of manhood in communion with, rather than alienated from, the earth. It still remains to be discovered by our culture. The fact that we are only just beginning to recognize the existence of an alternative to patriarchal masculinity demonstrates the strength of our continued enmeshment in the patriarchal trance state. The shamanic trickster is an image of manhood in communion with, rather than alienated from, the earth.
If our culture thinks of the shaman at all, it thinks of him as a primitive witch doctor; perhaps, even, as one practicing satanic rites. The reality is different. As Berry says, during the Paleolithic age, which constitutes approximately ninety-eight percent of human history, we humans found the meaning of life in responding to the ocean of physical and psychical energies in which we live. Our ancestors experienced the energies and forces of the earth as spirit-powers and personal presences. Being sensitive and responsive to those earth energies is precisely what shamanism is all about.
In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C. G. Jung says that whether or not they appear to be personal, when these archetypal powers present themselves to us, we should consciously relate to them. "Talk to them," says Jung. That such an experience of the powers of the earth and the human psyche remains so little understood in our culture is yet another indication of the patriarchal ego’s alienation from the currents of life on earth.
It seems to me that if we are ever to move beyond the patriarchal male ego’s alienation from the world, it is absolutely essential that we recover the empowering image of the shamanic male, one who is not afraid to be in communion with the powers of the earth and the Mystery of the universe. Sacred manhood and sacred earth go together; we can’t have one without the other.
We also need to recover the related image of the Trickster. We know this archetype from the cartoon character of Wily Coyote and perhaps Brer Rabbit, but it is much more significant than simply that of an individual who plays tricks and causes unnecessary troubles. The Trickster image is also part of sacred manhood. Just as the Shaman is one who is unafraid in the face of the powers of the earth and the unconscious, so the Trickster is one who is unafraid in the face of the conventional views of society. Our empowerment by the Trickster archetype is what allows us to go beyond the conventions of the patriarchal perspective. Patriarchal authority demands of us that we do what we’re told, that we do not question authority, that we don’t rock the boat. The Trickster has the courage to laugh at the pomposity and rigidity of the patriarchal mind and to move on to deal with the life-giving issues that need to be dealt with.
I've said all this as well as I could, when I wrote the essay on Berry's The Great Work, Our Way into the Future. Do I have to re-say it again? For my own sake? I think I do. I have to re-say it in this new context of the Fox-Sheldrake dialogues. A good sum of my main points: “Just as the Shaman is one who is unafraid in the face of the powers of the earth and the unconscious, so the Trickster is one who is unafraid in the face of the conventional views of society.” The key in both cases is “unafraid.” Lack of fear.
And where does lack of fear come from? From awe, wonder, self-esteem. From specifically the self-esteem of recognizing our a-dva-ity. And precisely that that a-dva-ity is mediated via matter. Matter is the sacrament of our a-dva-ity.
I get here some beginnings of insights into the vastness of these ideas. Rage at the limitations of matter, projected on to the feminine.... Fear of mother, never having been fully born... all that on one side; on the other, a-dva-ity, the sacramentality of world and nature and body.... BIG STUFF, indeed. More than I can handle.
I see that this ideas really are key to everything else. Not a new insight, but a new sense of the depth of the insight. As I said elsewhere here in these reflections, may I eventually be able to integrate some of these things I have long been aware of with the newer things I’m coming to learn about. HO.
14. Grace results in joy and joy results in praise. “Beauty yearns to be conspicuous,” says Aquinas. Here, “praise” means more than wonder. It means gratitude and thanks-giving. The blessings that is the world and our lives in it provokes first wonder and joy and gratitude and then at a more conscious level, thanks. “Delight” may be a good overall summary.
15. The opposite of praise is curse or cynicism. Lots of that around! Much of it promoted by the media for their own purposes. Q: Why so much negativity in our social world? Why so many curses? A: Anger, rage, fear....
The great need is for recovery of positive stance re our existence in the world. Blessing, grace, beauty-- such terms may simply not be enough. Not wrong but not adequate.
What WOULD be adequate to allow us to move out of the realm of patriarchy? I.e., out of the realm of fear and rage, etc? I think the answer, once again, is sacred manhood, grounded manhood. I hope I will, eventually, be able to integrate what I know of all that with all I’ve been learning from Panikkar and Bruno and even Barbara Moore about wisdom.
16. The standard of morality is a good person. What IS a good person? One who is looking for goodness. I.e., morality is based on wonder and praise. Bede Griffith made time for people. He would ask what their hopes and aspiration are, listen and encourage them. (Wonderful stuff!)
Here is an alternative to the life-long dis-ease I’ve felt with ‘ethics.’ What’s “good” is what promotes good. And that, very simply, is listening to and encouraging people’s hopes and aspirations. A whole different worldview than what we were given from the last thousand years.
This is a good idea. Can I integrate IT with the shamanic trickster ideas above? I think so, easily. Someone trying faithfully to follow the trickster path is in fact “a good person.” I think now of that wonderful quote I once wrote out for B.F. from Allan Chinen’s description of what grounded manhood looks like, what those trickster energies look like when they are manifest in our lives:
Such men are generative, relate as brothers, wander as pioneers, healers, and explorers; they offer a masculine shamanic healing alternative to both patriarch and goddess; they are links, communicators, story-tellers, messengers, negotiators; they use jokes, teasing and tall tales, and unite opposites; they are tough, confident, flexible, creative, intelligent and psychologically healthy; they accept woundedness as an opportunity for transformation and insight and they use their powers for the good of the whole community, “on behalf of all and for all.”
17. Building up what’s good in people presumes awareness of the bad; the shadow is in the background. Otherwise, it’s all bland neutrality, taking things for granted. Lack of curiosity and wonder. That’s what I found the worst thing of all about my last years of high school teaching-- and the worst thing about American culture. But “I may not mourn the mystery’s loss nor hate those who damage it.”
The neutrality and blandness of conventional views is really depressing, because what’s missing is precisely any sense of awe and wonder, any sense of blessing, of grace, of beauty.
And it’s easy for me to feel depressed about all that. And so I am very grateful to Coyote’s injunction about not mourning the mystery’s loss nor hating those who damage it. That’s another issue from what can be done to promote awe and wonder, etc. And Br. David is right on target with his “Christian version of Buddhist mindfulness.”
18. Q: How do we get out of bitching, self-pity, cutting each other up, opting OUT of wonder? A: Science, the new story, Gaia’s story. It is [was a dozen years ago] unlikely to happen in a science classroom. What a pity.
Mindfulness (gratitude) is about as basic as it can get. Information-- “science knowledge”-- is key, too. That has to build on childhood and childlike awe and wonder. What can be done to help the culture as a whole.... to get out of its negativity?
One thing might be, for thinking people, to help them see the negative is precisely an unconscious affirmation of beauty, blessing, etc. This is something I can do more reflection on.
To get the culture out of its negativity, Fox says “science story.” David says “gratefulness.” Berry says "attend images." I add: empowerment to “sacred manhood” via ritual.
19. 19th c British naturalists were country-vicars. Today we praise scientists not for wonder but for being so smart to figure out nature; we also praise military heroes. Their statues are in British cathedrals. What can be said about all that??? It is appalling. Nothing else I know to say. Everything in the culture promotes dissatisfaction. And so the military people are honored as those who do something about it: i.e., reek violence on others.
We praise high intelligence, rationality, at the expense of everything else. We praise the military mentality because we are in rage and fear. How do we move out of all that? Thomas Berry says attend our archetypal images; he’s right, but he seems to leave out the most needed ones: the shaman and trickster. A whole different worldview: those who are not afraid of nature or of the conventional mind.
Ultimately, it seems to come down to either we are afraid or are not afraid. How affect the conventional consciousness (or, really, the lack in the conventional perspective of consciousness)? Yet again, I fall back on Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields.
May we not be afraid not to use violence against the people of Iraq or any place else! Is that simplistic?? No. It is only the beginnings of the Quaker and pacifist traditions we came to know (and tried to practice) in the 60s.
20. John Seed and Joanna Marcy created a the Council of All Beings, a ritual of grief for lost species. It's also relatively easy to create eucharist around praise for all creatures. Brings up question of making liturgical language “real.” Fox sees it in terms of plays and play; also education (i.e., AS education). Also sees blessing of animals as backward: we should get blessings FROM the animals, not vv. Good example: an elephant as living presence of Genesh.
These thoughts don’t even scratch the surface of what’s involved. They hardly do more than hint at directions to look in. Again, lots to think about. I wonder, though, if these thoughts are ones I should give myself to. We certainly could use some grief rituals. I’ve felt the need strongly at times. Eucharist focused on praise of creatures, on the other hand, while seemingly good, in fact may not be.
Certainly ritual is needed, but ritual such as is being proposed here doesn’t seem to be as correct as it needs to be. Ritual ultimately is for the sake of empowerment to be/live/act as we are called to be/live/act. It is fundamentally an owning of what is being given, and needs preliminarily a proclamation of what is in fact being given.
To “praise creatures” isn’t what ritual’s all about. Fox’s idea of getting blessings from creatures is far more correct.
For many years I thought I had something to contribute along these lines, and in fact I do. But there is not yet a receptive pool for what I have to offer. Ritual will come later. After my time.
21. Nice words about communion with plant world, gardens, etc., are found on p 71. And that a church role ought to be providing such ‘sanctuaries.’ Also some good words about relationships with pets. Religion in your home and backyard. Dogs, cats and plants as contemporary focus of the sacred.
I think this is precisely “where it’s at” and “where I’m at” in all this. It may, in fact, be where all of us are “at.” In our needs, at least. Thinking that the church should provide such sanctuaries is far beyond anything the church can come up with. It still hasn’t been able to incorporate anti-war sentiment and/or pro-justice sentiments yet.
A whole new church is needed. Will it be forthcoming? Indeed, CAN it be forthcoming? Perhaps. Not anytime soon, however. Someone like Bruno is helping tremendously. But then some of what Bruno sees now was seen by the early Sophiologist Monk Feodor-- 150 years ago.
22. Page 73 mentions shaman-animal relationships; also the Islamic killing of lambs at the feast commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Both in terms of sacrifice. And that we have lost the meaning of sacrifice as self-giving. The divine presence in the universe of space and time is the divinity being sacrifice; “we’ve cut ourselves off from that.” Indeed, but we are beginning to recover it! DG.
23. I need to add here, with regard to alternatives to patriarchy, a few quotes from a sum of my reflections on the Barbara Moore text.
One is that every kind of work, in terms of its good results, is “a concrete realization in a particular historical context of an aspect of the Divine Wisdom.”
The other is that Divine Wisdom utterly wants, needs and delights in us-- our company, friendship, intimacy-- for its own happiness. It is always there, on our doorstep, waiting for us.
What a difference from patriarchal bewitchment! And the obvious question is how can we get out from under this addiction, this spell, bewitchment?
The essence of it all (moving beyond patriarchy) is, as Fox says, that we have lost the meaning of sacrifice as self-giving. I.e., That the divine presence in the universe of space and time is the divinity being sacrifice. “We’ve cut ourselves off from that.”
24. And here, again, is where ritual comes in. We need ritual not only to own those empowering images of shamanic trickster manhood but also, and I think even more so, we need daily rites which express our willingness to (and thus which empower us to) our participation in the evolution of the universe.
25. I don’t yet know how to word this well. Our greatest need is the recovery of wisdom, of a kenotic understanding of creation. As I said at the beginning of these notes: If we feel blessed, graced, we have some sense of our participatory role in the cosmic scheme of things, and of our three-fold task, as anthropos at the heart of cosmos: the creative experience/ tasting of everything, the uniting of opposites, and the in-gathering of all, especially the least and lost.
26. The recovery of this wisdom is what will lead to a new-old ‘ecclesiology.’ And this ecclesiology is what will allow the church to take its place as the conscious growing edge of humanity’s cultural development. It will come to see itself as the realization of Sophia, as the transfigured cosmos, as the sacramental realization of the eucharistic nature of the material universe, et al. It will see itself as the Bride of the Lamb, “the Lamb sacrificed before the foundations of the world.”
27. This may be as good as I’m going to be able to do with all this just now. I can state the problem pretty well: We feel either blessed or not-wanted. Blessed, we work for good. Not-wanted, we destroy whatever we can.
28. The culture is at a critical point, in that we recognize the problems we have caused, but do not know how to get out of them. The spell we are under causes us not even to recognize that we are in fact under a spell.
Yet some of us see that we are. What can we do about it? How are we to break the spell? Each time I think about such things I seem to return again and again to Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields. Each of us who does in fact see things differently has to intensely work at placing him/her self in the alternative field, with the understanding that the field will indeed grow and proliferate as we do so. Is there anything else? I don’t know.
29. What it comes down to is aligning ourselves with wisdom, and specifically, at least for males, of doing so via owning of the shamanic trickster alternative to patriarchal manhood.
We need to know about wisdom, we need to know about shamanic trickster manhood, and we need to know about ritual as the means by which we both own our shamanic trickster manhood and enter fully with the entirety of our lives into the cosmic evolutionary process whereby we taste everything, unite opposites, and in-gather All.
30. It comes down to the transfiguration of the cosmos or trying to destroy one another. Either we are not wanted (by the universe) and have come here into existence in some accidental way, or we are delighted in by the ultimate which gives itself to us as ourselves and calls us to participate in the transfiguration of the cosmos.
31. We live in very difficult times. Alas. I do not know what else I can say now about these reflections which have been stimulated by the second chapter of the Fox-Sheldrake dialogues.
A Grand Sum of these thoughts. My best results so far.
1. Either we feel graced, blessed, gifted with life, action, being-- or we don’t.
2. If we don’t, we feel sucked in, smothered, fear-full and in rage, THAT’s patriarchy.
3. If we DO feel blessed and grace, if we have a sense of our participatory role in the cosmic scheme of things, THAT’s wisdom.
4. Wisdom sees the essential task of anthropos at the heart of cosmos as three-fold: the creative experience and tasting of everything, the uniting of opposites, and the in-gathering of all, especially the least and lost.
5. Wisdom comes from self-esteem, from the feeling of being graced and blessed, which is based on the experience of awe/wonder.
6. Patriarchy-- fear and rage toward matter, body, feminine-- comes from a fear of fusion with the mother, and is based on lack of pre-oedipal separation from her. "Such men were never fully born," they never differentiated enough from their maternal source to relate, as a separate ego, to an other, and they can only feel the integrity of the ego-self and sustain a sense of bodily boundaries by inflicting violence on others.
7. Thus, disdain for the world and the contemporary exploitation and destruction of the natural environment by western civilization is a desire to destroy the mother; the patriarchal ego’s alienation from nature comes ultimately from the sense of not being cared for by Mother Earth, of not being wanted by the universe. It is the feeling that reality itself is not to be trusted.
8. The wisdom tradition provides us with a viable alternative. It sees every kind of work, in terms of its good results, is “a concrete realization in a particular historical context of an aspect of the Divine Wisdom.” And in the starkest contrast with patriarchal fear and rage and the sense of not being wanted, see that the Divine Wisdom utterly wants, needs and delights in us-- our company, friendship, intimacy-- for its own happiness. It is always there, on our doorstep, waiting for us. What a difference! Indeed.
9. But wisdom is an alternative to patriarchy, and the only way we can access wisdom is to access an alternative expression of the sacred masculine. We need to “attend our psychic images,” as Thomas Berry says.
10. The shamanic trickster is an image of manhood in communion with, rather than alienated from, the earth. Sacred manhood and sacred earth go together; we can’t have one without the other. The shamanic person is not afraid of nature, and the trickster is not afraid of conventionality. Here in these alternative images is wisdom. Let us attend!
11. We need the “science story” and “gratefulness” surely, but it seems to me above all we need “ritual.” And have given much of my life to promoting its understanding and praxis.
12. But none of these ‘answers’ seems to be the right one. Sigh. The problem stares us in the face from the front page of the morning newspapers and every time we turn to the current news on TV or the web. The ‘way out’ is not, alas, even a little bit clear just now.
13. The essence of it all is, as Fox says, that we have lost the meaning of sacrifice as self-giving. I.e., That the divine presence in the universe of space and time is the divinity being sacrifice. And, “We’ve cut ourselves off from that.”
14. And HERE, again, is where ritual comes in. We need ritual not only to OWN those empowering images of shamanic trickster manhood but also, and I think even more so, we need daily rites which express our willingness to (and thus which empower us to) our participation in the evolution of the universe.
15. Our greatest need is the recovery of wisdom, of a kenotic understanding of creation. As I said at the beginning of these notes: If we feel blessed, graced, we have some sense of our participatory role in the cosmic scheme of things, and of our three-fold task, as anthropos at the heart of cosmos: the creative experience/ tasting of everything, the uniting of opposites, and the in-gathering of all, especially the least and lost.
16. The recovery of this wisdom is what will lead to a new-old ‘ecclesiology.’ And this ecclesiology is what will allow the church to take its place as the conscious growing edge of humanity’s cultural development. It will come to see itself as the realization of Sophia, as the transfigured cosmos, as the sacramental realization of the eucharistic nature of the material universe. It will see itself as the Bride of the Lamb, “the Lamb sacrificed before the foundations of the world.”
17. It comes down to the transfiguration of the cosmos or trying to destroy one another.
Either we are not wanted (by the universe) and have come here into existence in some accidental way, or we are delighted in by the Ultimate Mystery which gives itself to us as ourselves and calls us to participate in the transfiguration of the cosmos.
The alternatives are patriarchal fear and sapiential delight.