Vespers bells ring clear
All the way from France — psalm tones
And this from the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) website:
Transformed People Transforming People
As we see it, more and more people are being drawn to contemplative wisdom because it not only supports personally healing but is also vital to human and planetary flourishing. Considering the unprecedented crises we face, the task of developing a way of being in the world together that bridges difference and embodies the reality that all life is sacred and connected is an urgent one.
More and more people are seeking out this new way of being. A momentous shift is underway, a historic breakthrough for contemplative consciousness, born from the pains of our collective evolutionary process. Fr. Richard refers to this shift as the “Great Turning,” a phrase we borrow from beloved CAC friend and former teacher JoAnna Macy. And Father Richard’s message, drawing from Jesus and mystics from all traditions, is a vital part of contributing to it.
However, at this stage in his life, Richard’s deep desire is to create space for the rest of us to step in and carry his work forward. He has done his part to point the way, and it is increasingly up to the rest of us to now write the next chapter. Throughout history, spiritual movements have often begun with individual visionaries and then only truly flourished in successive generations. That’s true of Christianity, whose radical message of universal belonging and belovedness eventually upended the Roman empire, as well as renewal movements like the Franciscans, Quakers, and Anabaptists.
“If history is a horizontal line of time, then there are a few times where the vertical line of God that is infinitely sustaining all things breaks in, and there is an eruption that reminds us of the mystery that is always arising in the depth dimension. We are on the verge of such a momentary eruption, a movement of the spirit.”
The Great Turning is much bigger than any one organization or even any single spiritual tradition. But by introducing seekers to contemplative wisdom, we believe that the CAC will continue being a catalyzing force for this change of consciousness within Christianity and each of our communities. As Richard has said, “There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness.” Our work seeks to bring Christianity’s greatest gifts alongside other spiritual traditions and movements in service to systemic change and a more life-sustaining future that serves all – ALL! — of us.
This work invites each of us to play a part — a whole body, a whole community, a whole movement of people grounded in a shared vision, values, and experiential knowing of God’s presence in our life showing up in the world together. Our hope is not in avoiding the realities of death and discomfort, but instead in choosing to live meaningfully as witnesses to the mystery of Love with whatever we are given.
Today, Father Richard and his contemporaries are passing the metaphorical baton to the next generation — “people who have done the necessary work to ground compassionate action in contemplative, non-dual consciousness” — to step up and continue with the work of the contemplative recovery well underway. So, let’s do it. Let’s show up to our meditation cushions and communities of practice and seek to become transformed agents of love in the world together. When you need support or guidance, we at CAC will be here with you and for you, as partners in the work of building a more just and connected world
This was our Friday evening conversation.
Societal Collapse - Theories - Toynbee’s Theory of Decay
Toynbee’s Theory of Decay
The British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, in his 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History(1961), theorized that all civilizations pass through several distinct stages: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and disintegration. (Carroll Quigley would expand on this theory in his The Evolution of Civilizations.)
Toynbee argues that the breakdown of civilizations is not caused by loss of control over the environment, over the human environment, or attacks from outside. Rather, ironically, societies that develop great expertise in problem solving become incapable of solving new problems by overdeveloping their structures for solving old ones.
The fixation on the old methods of the "Creative Minority" leads it to eventually cease to be creative and degenerates into merely a "Dominant minority" (that forces the majority to obey without meriting obedience), failing to recognize new ways of thinking. He argues that creative minorities deteriorate due to a worship of their "former self," by which they become prideful, and fail to adequately address the next challenge they face.
He argues that the ultimate sign a civilization has broken down is when the dominant minority forms a "Universal State," which stifles political creativity. He states:
First the Dominant Minority attempts to hold by force - against all right and reason - a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit; and then the Proletariat repays injustice with resentment, fear with hate, and violence with violence when it executes its acts of secession. Yet the whole movement ends in positive acts of creation - and this on the part of all the actors in the tragedy of disintegration. The Dominant Minority creates a universal state, the Internal Proletariat a universal church, and the External Proletariat a bevy of barbarian war-bands.
He argues that, as civilizations decay, they form an "Internal Proletariat" and an "External Proletariat." The Internal proletariat is held in subjugation by the dominant minority inside the civilization, and grows bitter; the external proletariat exists outside the civilization in poverty and chaos, and grows envious. He argues that as civilizations decay, there is a "schism in the body social," whereby:
- abandon and self-control together replace creativity, and
- truancy and martyrdom together replace discipleship by the creative minority.
He argues that in this environment, people resort to archaism (idealization of the past), futurism (idealization of the future), detachment (removal of oneself from the realities of a decaying world), and transcendence (meeting the challenges of the decaying civilization with new insight, as a Prophet). He argues that those who Transcend during a period of social decay give birth to a new Church with new and stronger spiritual insights, around which a subsequent civilization may begin to form after the old has died.
Toynbee's use of the word 'church' refers to the collective spiritual bond of a common worship, or the same unity found in some kind of social order.
The great irony expressed by these and others like them is that civilizations that seem ideally designed to creatively solve problems find themselves doing so self-destructively.
Which is Reality Itself
That which is Holy
See through Oneself
Be what we Desire
Grounding here and now
As it is —
What we’ve called
Give us today
And may we be
Forgiven as we
Forgive illusory other —
Us through the Way
Coming to Be
Whole and True
Creative (One), yes
A saint is a curious anachronism. Today, everything is explained either by psychological aberrancy or cynical playacting.
But, a true and traditional saint?
One of the first signs of a saint will be the fact
That other people do not know what to make of him.¹*
(--p.103, Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)
Perhaps the classification of saint should be recategorized as a fleeting blur of perceptual uncertainty -- as was the earlier brown and white wraith caught in disappearing streak out foyer window in passing through mottled sunlight
Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought, which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Frances of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox’s discontent with the shams of his age and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon . . . All such mental overtensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter . . . due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover.²
(--p.29, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience)
Saints demand sinners. Those are two categories we no longer cultivate.
Today there are those who've not yet been caught out, and those who have but whose accusers are liars and untrustworthy.
No one is good. No one is guilty. There is only the narrative, and those who control the narrative.
Or, perhaps another way to ponder the matter -- the narrating itself.
Wallace Stevens pointed to it:
THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
(—Poem by Wallace Stevens)
Too often, when one is not completely what one is, but described by another, one is enveloped in what is said, in as much as anyone is liable to be the tale being told.
THE GOOD MAN HAS NO SHAPE
Through centuries he lived in poverty.
God only was his only elegance.
Then generation by generation he grew
Stronger and freer, a little better off.
He lived each life because, if it was bad,
He said a good life would be possible.
At last the good life came, good sleep, bright fruit,
And Lazarus betrayed him to the rest,
Who killed him, sticking feathers in his flesh
To mock him. They placed with him in his grave
Sour wine to warm him, an empty book to read;
And over it they set a jagged sign,
Epitaphium to his death, which read,
The Good Man Has No Shape, as if they knew.
(Poem by Wallace Stevens)
In prison last Friday and at Tuesday evening conversation we spent time with this Jane Hirshfield poem:
There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.
Each time I think “this,” it answers “that.”
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar’s strictness.
If I then say “that,” it too is taken away.
Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.
When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able so completely to disappear.
I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.
(Poem by Jane Hirshfield)
Surely you see why so!
Twenty six years ago this morning we opened the doors of meetingbrook bookshop and bakery at Camden Harbor.
We had the shop for thirteen years until the building was sold and the new owner wanted it for himself. We closed the end of May 2009.
Many visitors, plenty of local irregulars, a continuing bunch of attendees at evening conversations, Saturday poetry group, fireplace crackling serenades and and patio watchful silence at boats, Camden Hills, and next-door restaurant deck diners.
It was a good run. We went into debt. There was an angel who helped erase it. We were lucky.
"We've been really lucky," the woman packing for today's Healing Respite Sail says in the Wohnkuche.
Gifts have been given. By more than one. We've learned gratefulness.
Thanks Peter. Thanks Paul.
Friendship and fidelity to us all!
There are times when the wording of something catches attention.
From the treatise "Against the Heresies" by St Irenaeus
Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God
The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualisation of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.
Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they will become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for his coming. As Moses said in the Book of Deuteronomy: On that day we shall see, for God will speak to man, and man will live.
God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel: No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.
From the beginning the Son is the one who teaches us about the Father; he is with the Father from the beginning. He was to reveal to the human race visions of prophecy, the diversity of spiritual gifts, his own ways of ministry, the glorification of the Father, all in due order and harmony, at the appointed time and for our instruction: where there is order, there is also harmony; where there is harmony, there is also correct timing; where there is correct timing, there is also advantage.
The Word became the steward of the Father’s grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal towards which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.
(—from Office of Readings, Tuesday, 28june2022, feast of st Irenaeus)
Sitting in wohnkuche, listening to book The Existentialist's Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age, by Gordon Marino, I hear.
If you have ever received the body blow of a “Dear John” letter, you will not need anyone to prove to you that sentences can have a physical signature, .... https://b-ok.cc/book/5651738/ce2c9b
The news about Roe superseded by Dobbs had this effect on many. Many religious types rejoiced. Many, whose values are not defined by selective interpretation of scriptural canonicity, were devastated.
I fall into the absolute middle.
So much philosophical debate and consequent legal thinking is based on highly subjective interpretations of research and diagnosis that does not have the precision, evidence, or verifiable data to say, with significant certainty, that life attains. (in utero), the status of human life, with what is called 'a soul', and with the capability of surviving outside of the host's protective environment.
A distinct an autonomous human being is a rare and questionable actuality. There is an interweaving corresponding mutual dependence that involves and includes all live on planet earth, particularly the human species in its physical, social, cultural, and nescient contexts.
To be nescient is to not be in possession of all the information, knowledge, and wisdom surrounding and integrating life systems, intellectual vistas, and spiritual unknowns that weave the fabric of existence pervading the known and the unknown world and worlds.
My absolute middle is the pinpoint instant/place where two things can be and are true at the same time.
For example: woman should have choice concerning their bodies, a preferred yes; society should be able to say that stoppage of life and life-coming-to-be is a preferred no.
I'm for the considered choice of life. Deliberation of well-being to prevail.
I'm against the intentional taking of life. State sponsored executions included.
We live within the koan of Roethke's final three lines of his poem "The Manifestation":
What does what it should do needs nothing more.
The body moves, though slowly, toward desire.
We come to something without knowing why.
"Knowing why" is more often than not a rare arrival and a fool's errand.
We, mostly, don't know.
Every tradition, religious and scientific, when honest, admit to not knowing.
In Tolstoy's words, therefore: "What then are we to do?"
I don't know. Not yet.
And yet, and yet, and yet... the willingness to think, to ask, to meditate, and to be at home for a while in aporia*...
a·po·ri.a·| əˈpôrēə |
noun. an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory: the celebrated aporia whereby a Cretan declares all Cretans to be liars.
• Rhetoric the expression of doubt.
mid 16th century: via late Latin from Greek, from aporos ‘impassable’, from a- ‘without’ + poros ‘passage’.
For an ongoing tutorial, there's always Tolstoy to help us frame our considerations:
“The doctrine of Christ, which teaches love, humility, and self-denial, had always attracted me. But I found a contrary law, both in the history of the past and in the present organization of our lives – a law repugnant to my heart, my conscience, and my reason, but one that flattered my animal instincts. I knew that if I accepted the doctrine of Christ, I should be forsaken, miserable, persecuted, and sorrowing, as Christ tells us His followers will be. I knew that if I accepted that law of man, I should have the approbation of my fellow-men; I should be at peace and in safety; all possible sophisms would be at hand to quiet my conscience and I should ‘laugh and be merry,’ as Christ says. I felt this, and therefore I avoided a closer examination of the law of Christ, and tried to comprehend it in a way that should not prevent my still leading my animal life. But, finding that impossible, I desisted from all attempts at comprehension.”
― Leo Tolstoy, What I Believe
“And yet our existence is so organized that every personal enjoyment is purchased at the price of human suffering contrary to human nature.”
― Leo Tolstoy, My Religion - What I Believe
“What is the law of nature? Is it to know that my security and that of my family, all my amusements and pleasures, are purchased at the expense of misery, deprivation, and suffering to thousands of human beings—by the terror of the gallows; by the misfortune of thousands stifling within prison walls; by the fear inspired by millions of soldiers and guardians of civilization, torn from their homes and besotted by discipline, to protect our pleasures with loaded revolvers against the possible interference of the famishing? Is it to purchase every fragment of bread that I put in my mouth and the mouths of my children by the numberless privations that are necessary to procure my abundance? Or is it to be certain that my piece of bread only belongs to me when I know that every one else has a share, and that no one starves while I eat?”
― Leo Tolstoy, My Religion - What I Believe
“Our existence is now so entirely in contradiction with the doctrine of Jesus, that only with the greatest difficulty can we understand its meaning. We have been so deaf to the rules of life that he has given us, to his explanations,—not only when he commands us not to kill, but when he warns us against anger, when he commands us not to resist evil, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies; we are so accustomed to speak of a body of men especially organized for murder, as a Christian army, we are so accustomed to prayers addressed to the Christ for the assurance of victory, we who have made the sword, that symbol of murder, an almost sacred object (so that a man deprived of this symbol, of his sword, is a dishonored man); we are so accustomed, I say, to this, that the words of Jesus seem to us compatible with war. We say, "If he had forbidden it, he would have said so plainly." We forget that Jesus did not foresee that men having faith in his doctrine of humility, love, and fraternity, could ever, with calmness and premeditation, organize themselves for the murder of their brethren.”