Archive for September 24th, 2009

The “partner-ship” is the most important vessel for traversing life’s ocean with boldness, confidence, and meaning.

Carl Jung referred to the soul as Anima (male) and Animus (female). Syzygy is a term denoting the complementary conjunction of male and female, conscious and unconscious, that creates Fullness (or the Pleroma).

As a man blessed over several decades with a wonderful partner, a life-long soul-mate and best friend, the truth of syzygy is tangible and compelling. When the joining of male and female form a truly insoluble union, in which neither part loses its identity, a greater, more complex, and sacred radiance enters the world.

In ancient Christianity, at a time of great interpretive diversity, there was a sect that practiced a sacrament that has been lost to history. They called it the consolamentum, or the “sacrament of the bridal chamber” of which matrimony is an anemic descendent. 

Performed only occasionally, the charism represented advanced spiritual development. While the details of the practice are lost, one can intuit its character and sanctity, especially through a permanent relationship; a lifetime’s commitment expressed in tangible ways every day.

What is the practice?

The essential thread that runs from my awakening in the morning through my sleep at night, and then into my dreaming, is my wife’s voice and presence. Whether our emotions are running high, the issues difficult, or the conversation comforting, my encounter with her life breathes mindfulness and meaning into mine. My pleasures every day are heightened by the knowledge and expectation of sharing them with her later, and my worries, fears, concerns and conflicts quieted by that same knowledge.

The practice of the consolamentum, as I envision it, is exquisitely simple, yet more profoundly real in amplifying the  Spirit than any other. The practice involves highly concentrated dialogue, prolonged silences wrapped in affection, and listening with both the mind and body.

This morning, I am moved to generate the kinds of questions that might fuel these special moments of consolation and inspiration as we practice the sacrament of the bridal chamber as initiates.

I begin with 5 questions that arise in my meditation here this morning that she and I can explore later:

1. Where do we see the sacred, hear a call, and feel the presence of the Beloved in our individual lives? Where do we see the same in our life together?

2. How does our union color in palpable ways our time when together and apart?

3. At what other times, places, and circumstances do we feel something akin to this Presence?

4. Since sacraments are alchemical processes, how are we advancing the transformation of the silver of our ordinary time together into gold?

5. What blocks the power of our union and what action do we need to take to nurture it and further unleash it?

In approaching all sacraments we need to first be prepared.

The steps involve: (1) spiritual clearing (washing away the residue of the day’s activities, distractions, and concerns); (2) purification ( a time of quiet meditation); (3) a dedication (a brief statement of our heart’s desire such as clarity, healing, intimacy, understanding, insight, and/or resolution); and (4) the Dialogue (a deep listening to each other’s thoughts and feelings related to focal questions like those given above).

In “Marriage Encounter-like fashion,” a weekend process offered by many faith communities in the West, we would each speak for an uninterrupted period of time (say, 10 minutes) followed by 10 minutes of summary by whichever one of us was doing the listening.

No judgments. No commentary. No reaction. Just pure summary rooted in appreciative listening.

After that, the other speaks on the same question for 10 minutes again followed by summary. Once complete, the time together should move to another period of quiet meditation and then a final brief intention by each of us without discussion. 

Such a practice preserves the integrity of the union, strengthens it, celebrates the mystery of the synchronicities that brought us together in the first place, and affirms the central truth of Being: We are not separate.

My wish for all of you today as you read this post is that your special relationship is quickened in ways that unleash the latent grace and the full fructification of your sacred union.


© The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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I talk to myself every so often (and I do mean outloud).

I’ve caught other perfectly rational people doing the same thing, if unwittingly, in their offices, at a train stop, at the supermarket, etc. ( of course, usually sub-voce).

There is an understandable social stereotype about it as crazy behavior, but it can be so much more than an eccentricity. The beauty of our times is that as long as you have an ear piece in place, everyone attributes the talking to a cell phone exchange rather than psychosis.

When we reflect, after all, we are talking to ourselves ( at least internally) and the monologue often bears fruit. So, why not formalize it as a practice for spiritual centering.

Witkins introduced the notion of sub personalities, or the dramatis personae of the mind. By assuming the character of different “masks” of the self, we can explore our relationship to bona fide aspects of our self concept and so transcend fixation on one idea.

Having a dialogue between sub-personalities avoids obsessionally rigid attachment to one construction of the self. Instead, we are free, as are actors, to explore the full range of our imaginative personological repertoire.

The best actors are, in fact, very astute observers of other people. They cultivate a keen sense of empathy and a capacity to relate to them from the inside-out. Research shows that actors are often more insightful and empathic than psychologists.

My sense of self is a convenient fiction that I’ve built over time by virtue of successes, failures, role models, recognition, choices, experience, pleasure and pain. Recognition of our inner plurality brings us closer to the Divine Spirit within. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: ” the Kingdom of God is within you. ”

The value of having occasional dialogues with oneself has the potential virtue of also helping create a more adaptive disposition that may well lead to heightened resiliency. So, with these thoughts in mind, I embark for a brief time on a journey of interior dialogue.

As stage setting, I imagine a conversation between three sub-personalities that articulate aspects of myself, on the subject of spiritual living in the 21st century. I will name them: Alpha, a theologian; Beta, a scientist; and Gamma, a poet.

Alpha: “If our theology is to be alive and full and relevant to this age, we must refresh our metaphors and embrace the insights of the sciences. For too long, the humanities and the sciences have been viewed as diametrically opposed. They are not. We need to find shared space within which these two mindsets and lines of inquiry can collaborate.”

Gamma: “Yes, but while avoiding “physics envy” in doing so. I find that the desire for the social sciences and humanities to embrace the new physics attempts to use the language of science or superficially invoke science as a way to give merely the appearance of being more empirically rigorous. We need to approach mystery with enough humility to accept that doing so means tolerating diverse viewpoints and methods including metaphor, myth, story-telling, imagination.”

Beta: “I agree with you both. When we challenge the assumptions of mathematics and upon uncovering a contradiction, we give rise to a new mathematics ( like non- Euclidean geometries). Science opens us up to even grander mystery and our tools bring tests to our hypotheses but, at the end of the day, we stand face to face with mystery, and the more we uncover the more we don’t know. More than anything else, science teaches us to bring rigor to our thinking but also a passion for proving ourselves wrong in the interest of going ever deeper.”

Gamma: “I am struck by the power of poetic metaphor in science that supports what you are seeing. One sees an almost childlike affection for fanciful and deeply evocative language in naming phenomena that suggests the power of metaphor in often revealing truths later verified by evidence: for example, black holes, white holes, strange attractors, big bang, strings, the multiverse, the G-d particle, etc.”

Alpha: “What’s needed in this century then, if we draw together what we are saying here today, is a theophysics, that blends the imaginative and indeed poetic starting points as we build of our hypotheses and pursue research informed by the richest multi-disciplinary look at our encounter with mystery. To my way of thinking, the best measure that we are doing things right lies in the awe we feel in the face of whatever we uncover.”

Beta: “I think we will continue to find that deep truth emerges at the intersections among models, paradigms, and professions. Playing in the intersections demands humility, open-mindedness, and a passion for studying all aspects of what it is to “Be” from as many perspectives as possible.”

Gamma: “And doing that is made possible by dialogues like this.”

Alpha: “I agree.”

Beta: “Without question. So let’s bring more voices into our next exchange.”

I wish you many rich interior dialogues.

In the Garden

© The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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