Archive for November 25th, 2009

It begins.

We are only one day away from the annual violent potlatch known in the States as “Black Friday.” It is a day when the zombies of consumerism rise from their resting places and crowd the malls. They come with one aim in mind: Get the deals. Beat the system. Make a killing on over-priced and generally quickly forgotten or “re-gifted” merchandise. While doing so, in full holiday spirit, they cut each other off on the highways, fight for the few remaining parking spaces in the parking lots and garages and walk around with a scowl the “Grinch” would surely recognize.

Of course, the zombies of late November and into December know intellectually that the prices are already probably inflated enough that the so-called discounts are nothing of the sort. This elaborate game is worthy of another Matrix Sequel. We need Neo to come along and deliver some shock and awe intended for our awakening.

Then, there’s the other hospitable retail practice: advertising incredible sales, and having only four of the items in stock. Once you’re in the store, you will want to leave with something, otherwise all the aggravation, and the bodies over which many have stepped along the way in, would all have been for nothing.

Sometimes I fantasize that what’s really happening is that Voldemort is behind it all. We are, after all, Muggles, and much of what goes on in the realms of magic go unnoticed by us. So, Harry is doing combat even as I type this to save the day yet again for the forces of Light and good. Surely, someone has to do it.

With the economy in such distress, the government is hopeful of spending. It is the lubricant of the economy. By the same token, resizing the economy back to taking human bites is a painful but useful spiritual exercise. The principal sign of our times happens the day after Christmas. Drive down the streets of any suburb and you will find side-walk after side-walk littered with piles of non-biodegradable plastic garbage bags full of packing materials and boxes. Within a year, the contents of those boxes may  well be on eBay or on the lawns at hastily engineered garage sales, or broken, traded,  given as a gift to someone none the wiser, or tossed into the trash because the new and improved model is out.

The greatest addiction of our times is not alcohol, drugs, or sex, it’s consumption. Just think, the Holiday commemorates a poor child who had nowhere to lay his head save in a cave. Later, as a teacher of righteousness, he delivered his Sermon on the Mount, saying nothing about opulent gifting. He did, however, take a few loaves and fishes and caused the crowd to share it so that the little there was, was more than enough.

On this Black Friday, I will keep to my sanctuary, enjoying time with family and friends, off the roads as much as possible, and at a great distance from the birds of appetite, the sound and fury of avarice, and the hypnogogic black dance of this repulsive melodrama.

May your holidays be a time of peace, love, simple demonstrations of great love, holding, and cuddling. May we, too, find the opportunity to give the one thing that we treasure the most and tend to part with very reluctantly – our patient and undivided time.

Pax Et Bonum!

© Brother Anton and 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.

Read Full Post »

Intelligence, according to Psychologists, is what the IQ test measures: not terribly illuminating. Well, it has been this way for the longest time, at least.

But now, we see greater delineation that recognizes  “flavors” of intelligence that represent the full spectrum of the human story. In effect, contemporary thought places greater emphasis on intelligence as demonstrated in actionable terms.

Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking research produced the idea of “emotional intelligence,” or EQ. His most recent book examines the construct of “Social intelligence.” An important  family of intelligences, however,  not yet fully explored, constellates around what I have referred to as ” Sacred Intelligence,” or “HQ” for “Heiros Quotient,” derived from the Greek word for sacred, ιερος. An assessment system remarkably helpful in sorting out this idea in very practical and enriching ways is the Enneagram. While there are a variety of Enneagram instruments around, based on what is a quite ancient idea with roots in the Middle East and South America, I am especially interested in the light it sheds on the spiritual journey.

According to the Enneagram, there are nine personality types which, more precisely, constitute nine distinct intelligences. The goal of our lifetimes is to cultivate not just some, but all nine. While we do so with disproportionate degrees of challenge given who we are, the implicit positive message of the Enneagram is that our quest is about leveraging the strengths in our “HQ”, while bolstering our acumen in the weaker areas. Doing so serves the ultimate goal of realizing spiritual ambidexterity. This is a state of mindfulness where  the spiritual virtues, celebrated in  the writings of the saints, seers, mystics, and theologians of the worlds faith and contemplative traditions, can fully flourish.

Using the Enneagram as a template by which to explore the nine dimensions of HQ, my meditations yield the following set of types, associations to types, and allusions to the archetypal roots that are manifest in each.

The nine faces of sacred intelligence are:

  1. Morality: Themis, Divine Order & Counsel, the Balance/Libra, and the quest for clear standards for living with integrity – Ask: What is the  right thing to do?
  2. Compassion: Divine Mother, Mary, Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva, the Sacred Heart, caritas and the quest for authenticity in being attentive to the other – Ask: What is the state of  my brothers and sisters?
  3. Charity: the Good Samaritan, Tolkien’s Galadrial and Arwen of the Faerie, C.S. Lewis’s Tinidril, Queen of Perelandra, and the capacity for hospitality, and generosity of spirit – Ask: How can I extend my hospitality?
  4. Prophesy: the Magi, Elijah and the wanderer archetype, John the Baptist, and the capacity to interpret signs in service of  justice – Ask: What are the signs around me, and where do they lead?
  5. Contemplation: the Temple, Hermitage, Monk, Dreamer, and the capacity to enter deeply into silence – Ask: What do I need to look at more deeply and what does the voice in the silence teach?
  6. Devotion: the Hindu Parvati, the Immaculata, Ruth & her devotion to Naomi, Virgo, Penelope, Bacchus & Philemon, Theresa of Avila, and the capacity to be opened, vulnerable, and to give oneself- Ask: How do I draw nearer the Beloved, my G-d, the Holy Spirit, the Light of Christ?
  7. Spiritual Teaching: the Fisher King, Doctors of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen,  Dhanvantari, Socrates, Chiron, CG Jung, and the capacity to guide spiritual learning and self-discovery – Ask: What is your koan?
  8. Spiritual Leadership: Daibutsu, Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Pope John, St. Francis, St. Benedict, Amun, and the capacity  to mobilize  spiritual vision – Ask: What is it that needs doing and how can I make a difference?
  9. Healing: Asclepius, Paracelsus, the Christic, Hippocrates, Padre Pio, the Physician, Bodhisattva Metteya, and the capacity to bring harmony where there is discord – Ask: By what deed or action is harmony restored?

The Enneagram is applied in many circles with always interesting results. I use it in my leadership coaching practice in different ways. Practitioners have also used it historically as an adjunct tool in the spiritual formation process in some monastic communities. It is a deep well of possibilities for stimulating meditations that help awaken the faculties that may not have yet been fully aroused. I enthusiastically commend it to you.

“Now, after lurking on the fringes of mysticism and pop psychology for more than 20 years, the Enneagram is turning mainstream and respectable. Last year the Stanford University School of Business course called “Personality, Self-Awareness and Leadership” focused on the Enneagram for the first time; the class proved so popular that it will be expanded from 40 to 50 students next winter. The CIA now uses the Enneagram to help agents understand the behavior of  world leaders. The U.S. Postal Service recently turned to the Enneagram to help employees resolve conflicts. Clergy from the Vatican signed up for an Enneagram seminar last year. And last month the First international Enneagram Conference, with 1,400 participants who came to Palo Alto, Calif., from as far away as Japan, was cosponsored by Stanford Medical School’s department of psychiatry.”
Newsweek (Jean Seligmann, Sept.12, 1998)

“As a guide to human character, behavior and motivation, it has no equal. More practical than typologies derived from conventional psychology, the Enneagram provides a clear and easily recognizable map of nine distinct personality patterns. For most people, it simply rings true.”
Yoga Journal

“There is another high profile system today [in addition to the MBTI]. The origin of the nine-sided diagram on which it is based is mysterious…. The first to apply the Enneagram to the human personality was the Bolivian Oscar Ischazo, founder of Arica training, a pioneering method of human development that first flourished in the 1960s…. The nine types are just the beginning with the Enneagram; the heart of the system is the way the various types relate to each other, connected as they are on the nine-sided diagram.”
Utne Reader (Jon Spayde, May-June, 2004)

© Brother Anton and 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.

Read Full Post »

This week, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, rebuked Mr. Patrick Kennedy.  Specifically, he essentially excommunicated Kennedy from the Church for his convictions about abortion rights, or a woman’s right to choose.

It strikes me that the Bishop was well within the prerogatives of his office to speak on the matter for a Church that has been consistently vocal in condemning abortion.

When we join a religious community, we sign on to its established codes of conduct and beliefs. If we oppose those beliefs and rules and choose to ignore them, we justifiably face expulsion from the group. Alternatively, upon realizing that membership brings us face to face with ideological and/or moral conflicts that we can no longer abide, we have the freedom to withdraw: something I have done now four times over several decades from different communities.

Mr. Kennedy is emblematic of the many so-called cafeteria Catholics who decide what they intend to honor in the teachings of the church and what they will ignore. It is living in bad faith to profess fidelity to a church, on the one hand, and then cavalierly disregard one of the major tenets of the magisterium on the other.

By the same token, the Roman Catholic Church also lives in bad faith. In this instance, the Bishop has publically chastised Mr. Kennedy because of his celebrity and the place he holds in crafting legislation. This is an example of the Church mirroring the self-same cafeteria-like Catholic agenda. Apparently, the Church has not felt a great deal of distress in offering the Eucharist in the past to many Italian politicians who hold similarly anti-Catholic views. The last Pope himself acted with averted gaze in the case of others about whom a public rebuke would have embarrassed, created turmoil, or simply been politically inconvenient.

So, the good Bishop takes selective umbrage to Patrick Kennedy’s positions, and argues openly that he does so because of Kennedy’s visibility: a gross exercise in unabashed unfairness and moralistic inconsistency.

Either the Church should expel ALL who defend a woman’s right to choose, or be mute on the subject. While I disagree with it, the theology on the matter, as presented by the Church, is at least intellectually coherent and consistent. To selectively apply that theology in practice based on other extra-theological criteria, such as celebrity, renders the theology itself suspect and disingenuous. The Church speaks out of both sides of its moralistic mouth on this issue in this situation.

At the end of the day, religious communities have the right to publish a moral theology. We have the right to join them on that basis or not. To join and dissent is just adolescent rebelliousness. For the Church to selectively apply moral outrage is political gamesmanship, grand-standing, and moral relativism in its own right, not righteousness. It is capricious autocracy.

Either the church of Rome should apply the law equally, or conserve its leadership energies and focus on what really matters as demonstrated through its consistent,  programmatic assertion and action.

Along our spiritual path, the journey invariably engages our convictions and we take a stand within the body politic. Doing so  sharpens the saw of our own reflections on the relationship of social issues and spiritual convictions, and affords us the chance to look at ourselves, our own assumptions, and our own consistencies and inconsistencies.

© Brother Anton and 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.

Read Full Post »