I’m back from Birmingham and the weekend with Cynthia Bourgeault. She’s a wonderful speaker and provides an interesting insight into the nexus where Christian contemplation/centering prayer meets the great wisdom traditions of the world. I never thought I would be attending a workshop at an Episcopal Church in a room filled with mainstream Christian types where the speaker held forth on shifting one’s energy to precipitate a change of consciousness — yes, I know, it sounds eerily reminiscent of (the best elements of) neopaganism — and yet, it was thoroughly grounded in the Christian mystical tradition and the best insights of other traditions, particularly Sufism. Bourgeault remarked early on that it is the contemplatives (i.e., the wisdomkeepers) of all traditions who carry the best hope for humanity rising above sectarianism and fundamentalism and the violence that such levels of consciousness engender. In other words, it is the contemplatives and the wisdomkeepers who will not only break down the walls of hostility and fear and misunderstanding which separate Christianity from Islam or Islam from Judaism, but they are also the ones whose visionary consciousness will erase the boundaries that keep Chrsitianity and neopaganism so at odds.
I asked Bourgeault what her thoughts were regarding Ken Wilber. She noted that she knew him well and truly admired his work, but she also felt that at times his Buddhist categories prevented him from truly ‘getting’ mystical Christianity. I agree with her wholeheartedly, although I do think Wilber gets kudos for trying to integrate mystical Christianity into his overall theory, even if sometimes his perspectives seem a little overbroad and stereotypical.
It was a wonderful weekend. Lots of meditation; Fran and I enjoyed having a vacation from the challenges of living with Rhiannon (hooray for our friend Roxanne, who stayed with Rhiannon so we could get away). Next year Contemplative Outreach Birmingham is bringing one of the founders of Centering Prayer, Fr. William Meninger OCSO, to Birmingham for their February conference. I hope to be there.