Category Archives: The Wizard of Oz

Our Journey Towards Radiance: Part Two

We continue our reflections on the Powers of the Universe as described by Brian Swimme with elucidating teachings from Jean Houston and quotes from the mystics.

Cataclysm: For the next level of growth, of deepening, something has to wake us up, shake us up. It may take a tornado to blow us all the way to Oz…. because “there is no way to that place” where the greatest gifts await us. “But thither (we) shall come, soon or never” as the old fairy tales say.

 

We must orchestrate the breakdown for the breakthrough to occur.

The mystics endured cataclysm in different ways: Julian of Norwich was sustained in her near-death experience by the presence of love; Angela of Foligno, who lived in Spoleto, Italy just after the time of Francis of Assisi, learned in the darkness where she lost everything that love would never leave her.

Afterwards did I see him darkly, and this darkness was the greatest blessing that could be imagined and no thought could conceive aught that would equal this. Then was there given unto the soul an assured faith, a firm and certain hope, wherein I felt so sure of God that all fear left me. For by that blessing which came with the darkness I did collect my thoughts and was made so sure of God that I can never again doubt but that I do of a certainty possess him.

Trust in the darkness and loss finally brings us through to the light.

Etty Hillesum, the 20th c. Jewish mystic who died in Auschwitz, wrote:

I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us, that we must help you to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.

Jean Houston says that the call is to “radical reinvention” in order to speciate, to become a deepening spirit of the earth for her new emergence.

Like the seed, the mystic must go down into the darkness of the earth, let go of the success of walking in the midday sun of her own achievements, her own goals and triumphs.

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The mystic sinks down to earth, down to the ground of our being, so that there results a letting go, a giving up of all control. The mind stops grinding out thoughts and becomes simple. The most primitive feelings emerge. The practice and the behaviour are meant to bring one into the deepest introversion and to release all attachments to and projections on external objects or persons. With that the inner world becomes enriched and enlivened. There comes a reunion of what is human with the divine. (Here All Dwell Free by Gertrude Mueller Nelson p. 142)

We ask, but it must be for nothing – nothing that belongs to the world of power or ego. We seek passionately, we knock madly. We weep. We pray. We call out. When everything is given up and opened out, we empty ourselves. And God fills in. ( Nelson p.141)

Synergy: mutually enhancing relationships allow us to recreate after cataclysm

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Life at the Benedictine Monastery of Helfta was an illustration of this: four mystics lived there in the 12th century, sustaining one another in faith and love and their mystical experiences. The writings of the mystics can offer synergistic energy, the guidance and wisdom we need; now we are more deeply aware of the earth and its living beings, of the universe itself as offering shared energies to us; the bio-mimicry that teaches us how creatures on our planet survive cataclysm; the characters in the Wizard of Oz, representing heart and brain and courage are a splendid example of synergy.

Transmutation: slow but deep change over time releases us from old powers that hold us in check: the personal unconscious (Freud); the collective unconscious (Jung); the whole biological nature (Bateson). The universe is at work within us: we are part of the cosmological unconscious (Swimme); the universe reflecting upon itself through us. (Teilhard de Chardin)

On the mystic journey, our own efforts to be still, to listen, to pray, to seek inner guidance seem small and yet slowly bring a change in our sensibilities, opening us to the Powers of the Universe that are within, awaiting our engagement.

Terese of Lisieux said our efforts are like a child trying laboriously to lift her feet to climb high steps until at last love scoops her up in her arms, carries her to the top…

We know of the slow evolution of species; the ancient tale of the earth gradually being created by bits of soil being placed on the back of a turtle… we recognize transmutation taking place in us when we no longer fit into old patterns, relationships, structures. Then we must seek out others to help us to keep going.

(Next: The Power of Tranformation)

Our Journey Towards Radiance

What dreams and desires do you hold for your own unfolding?

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All the Powers of the Universe are seamlessly one, trying to bring forth Radiance.

The Mystics of the Christian tradition as well as those of other faith paths show us the radiance of a life fully realized, though their paths may seem harsh, even unattainable, to our twenty-first century eyes.

The journey to fullness of life can be found in other images, other metaphors now available to us. We can follow the footprints that lead to wholeness through ancient stories, myth, poetry, and the writings of the great mystics. These are in surprising harmony with the scientific discoveries made in our time about the unfolding of life on the planet, the unfolding of the universe itself. Like the Mystics, the Universe moves through a process of unfolding into radiance. It is our process as well, our story, and our most urgent call in this time.

Seamlessness: All the powers of the universe are seamlessly one, trying to bring forth radiance. These powers can be understood mystically as within ourselves waiting to assist us to bring forth a world that works for everyone. (Jean Houston)

The universe is bound together in communion, each thing with all the rest. The gravitational bond unites all the galaxies; the electromagnetic interaction binds all the molecules; the genetic information connects all the generations of the ancestral tree of life. (Brian Swimme)

Centration:We are the gathered-in-ness of 13.8 billion years: the universe conscious of itself; it is also important that we are self-aware of WHO we really are and of all that we are; the mystics knew themselves in the presence of the Holy.

Theologian Margaret Brennan, IHM, teaches that

Mystics are people who come in touch with the sacred source of who they really are and are able to realize and experience that in their lives. When we have come in touch with the deep centre of ourselves/our lives we realize that we are more than what we seem to be, that there’s something deeper in ourselves than meets the eye.

John O’Donohue, Irish mystic poet writes: For millions of years, before you arrived here, the dream of your individuality was carefully prepared. You were sent to a shape of destiny in which you would be able to express the special gift you bring to the world. Sometimes this gift may involve suffering and pain that can neither be accounted for nor explained. There is a unique destiny for each person. Each one of us has something to do here that can be done by no one else. If someone else could fulfill your destiny, then they would be in your place, and you would not be here.

Allurement: As the mystics did, we draw unto ourselves, are lured towards, the love that holds the universe together; we allure all we require to grow in that love, within the calling, the shape of destiny that is uniquely ours; we ourselves can be principles of allurement.

Jean Houston advises us to have leaky margins, to be able to fall in love with everything. If fears and worries are blocking allurement, bring in an inner guide to care for them, to set you free… be aware of the negative quality of allurement: notice what you draw to yourself.

It is in the depths of your life that you will discover the invisible necessity that has brought you here. When you begin to decipher this, your gift and giftedness come alive. (O’Donohue)

Emergence: the universe flares forth out of darkness Our lives begin to blossom with gifts that grow through our co-creative love relationship with the Holy; we begin to see what is possible as we open to joy. We can learn how to work with the universe in what it is trying to emerge within us. Set up a schedule. Show up at the page, or in the listening or prayer place regularly to signal our intent to be open. We can create internal structures that are ready to receive what wants to emerge in us. Then we drop in an idea that puts us in touch with essence, creates in us a cosmic womb so the universal power can work in us, so that, like Hildegard of Bingen we become a flowering for the possible, attracting the people and resources that we need.

Your heart quickens and the urgency of living rekindles your creativity. (O’Donohue)

Homeostasis: Here what has been developed is sustained, maintained… The goddess Sarasvati in India plays only one note on her long-stringed instrument; body temperature stays at 98.6F…. We may reach a level of sameness in our prayers and practices, our work and relationships, the structures of our lives, our liturgies…. but if kept too long, safety leads to stagnation. We reach a plateau as the urgency subsides, the joy fades into the commonplace; what seemed wonderful becomes the everyday, the expected. Our lives slip in to the “nothing-happening” of an Austen novel, and we may not even notice how dull it is. The universe gets bored with us. That was Dorothy’s life when we first meet her in the Wizard of Oz. Grey skies, grey land, grey telephone poles.The only thing really alive was Toto; then he was taken away.

(Next week: What follows: Cataclysm)

Powers of the Universe: Homeostasis

One of the major shifts in consciousness required for our time is that we belong to the evolutionary co-creative process, and it is in discovering our mutual interdependence within the cosmos, and particularly with planet Earth, that we will begin to reclaim our spiritual identity.
Diarmuid O’ Murchu Reclaiming Spirituality New York Crossroads 1998 p. 41

Homeostasis is the power by which the universe maintains what it values. It is a delicate dance of holding onto what is most important through all the swirls and shifts of change.

In his DVD series “Powers of the Universe”, Brian Swimme offers some stunning examples of the earth’s power of homeostasis: the dynamics that maintain the form and function of a mammal’s body; the human bloodstreams where the ph balance is the same as in the bloodstreams of most animals and fish; the temperature of the human body. The earth herself remains in a state where life can flourish, even as the sun gets hotter; the earth has maintained its temperature over the four billion years, just as a mammal’s body does. The earth cycles through times of cooling when the ice caps swell to reflect more of the sun’s heat away; then it grows warmer so that the ice caps shrink. This cycle repeats every 100,000 years.

The Milky Way Galaxy cycles through its explosions of supernovas. In one million year cycle where there are 8000 supernovas (a smaller number) the cloud becomes denser than usual, so the capacity to create stars is greater. In the next million year cycle, 12000 supernovas explode. Homeostasis.

Then we humans enter the realm of life with our quality of conscious self-awareness.

When we understand what is valued, essential for life on this planet, our perspective shifts away from focus on the part to the whole. The enormous ego-centricity of our lives in a nation like Canada or the United States shifts to embrace the need to maintain human life in other parts of the planet, then to look at what animal life/ tree life/ river life/ocean life /earth life require for continuance.

Though we understand ourselves to be the gathered-in-ness of 13.8 billion years of life in the universe (the power of centration), though we honour the search for love and fullness of life that draws us forward (the power of allurement) and though we rejoice in the restless creativity that is our personal invitation from the universe to be involved in emergence, the power of homeostasis calls us to a care and vigilance, a keen awareness of the fragility of our existence, and a sensitivity to vulnerable areas.

Asking the question why homeostasis is falling apart in major life systems, (the desertification of huge amounts of land, the poisoning of rivers and lakes, the loss of the rain forests, the very lungs of our planet…) Brian Swimme says it is because we humans are trying to use the power of homeostasis to maintain a subgroup of the whole rather than the whole body. We think our fundamental responsibility is to a sub-unit rather than to the whole body. The great search now for fossil fuel in tar sands or through fracking, poisoning the water to release gas, is a desperate effort to maintain a standard of life enjoyed by a favoured few.

Swimme calls it an intellectual illusion that humanity is separate from the earth community. There is no human community without the whole. The earth community is a form of guidance for us, crying out to us that it is not inert material, not just stuff! It takes a major shift for us humans to see that we come out of the earth community, we derive from it. The matrix itself is primary.

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“Not just stuff”the chambered nautilus knows when to move to a larger room 

 

Such an understanding would alter the way we organize life on the planet, calling us to create laws and establish policing to protect bio-regions as well as humans, to protect the right to existence of all life on the planet. If we know that each being has a right to be we understand the need to restrict human activity so that the whole can flourish.

On a communal and on a personal level, the power of homeostasis will help us to maintain the achievements of our lives, to raise up energy and increase commitment to our work, to our relationships. We can tell the story of what we’re about, tell the story of our love relationships and maintain a zest for life! Millions of years, Swimme says, are involved in a single moment of zest.

Whenever and wherever we tell the story of our emergence out of the life of the planet, honouring all the forms of life that share our right to be here, we are the power of homeostasis, enabling life to blossom.

But homeostasis, as with the other powers of the universe, has its down side. Maintaining and sustaining what we value in life, what keeps us sane, is important, but, as Jean Houston warns, holding onto anything for too long leads to stagnation, and “the universe gets bored with you”. The opening scenes of the film, “the Wizard of Oz” show homeostasis as the absence of vitality. Nothing is happening in a place blown dry, grey-brown, empty. No one has time for the young Dorothy who is in a state of immense longing. The only being who still has any zest for life is the little dog Toto.

 

When homeostasis goes on for too long, when life no longer holds zest, the next power of the universe must come into play: Cataclysm ….

To my readers: I welcome your comments and questions: what further Sophia themes would you like to read about here?  Contact me: amclaughlin@sympatico.ca 

The Greek Journey Six: Our Story

It is afternoon on the day when we wakened early to watch the eclipse of the Blood Moon on Mount Pelion in Greece. The magic still lingers. The eclipse had looked like great branches of light, inviting us, as Jean had said, into the next level of our human becoming, activating our essential humanness as it moves to its next possibility.

Now we are about to explore our lives, to see them as heroic journeys, to discover that next level of our human becoming, that next possibility that awaits.

Massive branches hover protectively above us as we gather beneath the ancient plane tree in the courtyard of St. Paraskevi Church. The tree is older than the story we are about to hear, older than the storyteller, older than the listeners.

P1000660Jean is going to take us through the story of “The Wizard of Oz”, to illustrate the stages of the heroic journey, using the framework created by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The first stage is the call. In the film version of the story we see Dorothy in a dying wasteland, living on a farm in a dust bowl with an aunt and uncle as grey as their home, so focused on counting their chickens that they cannot hear Dorothy’s cries for help. The only life in the scene is Toto and when he is threatened by Miss Gulch, Dorothy becomes desperate, longing for a new place, a place of safety and happiness, “somewhere over the rainbow”.

But Miss Gulch arrives and takes Toto away. When the little dog escapes, Dorothy determines they must run away. They don’t get far. Professor Marvel receives them with kindness and understanding, then urges Dorothy to return as her Aunt Em is sick with worry over her…That might have been the end of Dorothy’s search for a new life… the end of longing, the refusal of a call that feels impossible….But then comes the twister, the twist of fate that knocks her on the head, picks up the house and carries it with Dorothy and Toto inside it, to Oz.

So this is where our journey begins: the call to leave a way of life that we have outgrown, followed by a refusal… because we can’t find our way or we don’t feel ready or we must put it off until we have placated Aunt Em….
Then fate steps in and, ready or not, we are on our way!

What emotional or psychological twisters have you brought on yourself in order to get away from Kansas?….Taking on a twister is what human beings often do to get from here to there. And sometimes twisters just arrive on their own steam.” (Jean Houston in The Power of Myth and Living Mythically pp.183-4)

What call allures us now? What are our reasons for refusing?

Meeting the Guide, Crossing the Threshold

In the heroic journey, following the hearing and refusal of the call, Joseph Campbell found that the hero(ine) was given a guide, a supernatural helper to assist in crossing the threshold, which was guarded by a fierce presence. Arriving in Oz, Dorothy meets Glinda, the wise friend who can guide her steps in this wondrous strange land.

Glinda is the archetype of the benign protector, a figure who appears in all myths. It is a figure that lives in everyone. In fact, look inside now and ask for your Protector to come forward. You may feel or sense their presence in many ways….You can even begin by imagining a radiant bubble of light coming toward you, and then opening up to reveal…who?” (Jean Houston in The Power of Myth and Living Mythically p.187)

Glinda will be Dorothy’s protector from the ferocious witch who is determined to punish the girl who killed her sister by dropping a house upon her. In addition to Glinda, Dorothy will gather three more allies: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion who will assist her in what has become her quest: to find her way home, even as Dorothy offers to assist each of them in his quest.

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