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Are you feeling at home? Or are you just fleeing?

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Time this week has seemed to be a different dimension altogether. It always passes more quickly than I expect it to; or I cram more into the schedule than can possibly get done so it just seems to go faster than plan. In any case here it is Thursday, Rosemary and I are already working on the next issue of her Ezine (#51!), and I haven’t commented yet on the Mystic Message she posted on Monday!

One of my delays this week has been the arrival of my new iPad. I picked it up yesterday and have been busy with it rather than keeping up with my regular schedule. I may review my experience with it in one of these future posts, but I’m still testing the limits of its capabilities. It will be going with me on our next trip next week. I was hoping to do all the Ezine publishing with it but already hit one snag in trying to edit the Aweber template we are currently using. More on this later!

Rosemary’s post of the Mystic Message on Monday was on a subject we have been grappling with for at least the past 10 years. “Where IS home?” Feeling at home is one thing but actually claiming to be home is quite a different subject. And maybe this is an element that is missing from our modern approach to culture and society that says more about us than we might like to examine. And maybe it says something about our spirituality that we definitely need to examine!

I grew up in Wisconsin and lived the first 22 years of life within a 50 mile radius of a small family farm. For those 22 years there was no question about where home was or how I felt there. I had roots, deep roots reaching into fertile, unglaciated dirt of the southwestern corner of that state. But I was a “Kennedy kid.” I heard his call, not to Viet Nam, but to the Peace Corps; and I spent the next three years of my life 10,000 miles from that little corner of Wisconsin. And there never quite felt like home again. From Wisconsin I spent much of my adult life in Maryland until moving West, East, then West again to Colorado. And I do feel at home here but it’s not clear I am home!

What does it mean to be home? Much of what I’m trying to convey in many of these blog posts is about an internal space that has little or nothing to do with physical place. The old expression “home is where the heart is” bears remembering. The heart is inside. And if we visit there we may just find home and feel at home there – wherever “there” is. And if we are in touch with our hearts then we will be more likely to “feel” at home just where we are.

It seems to me we are a discontented people. Why else do we seem to be fleeing from ourselves? We have been migrating westward since before this country was a country. And I am “guilty as charged.” Perhaps if we began “feeling at home” within our hearts we wouldn’t have to flee any longer.

And then maybe we wouldn’t need to drill deep, dangerous oil wells in the Gulf!

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Review of “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” Part 4

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

After my struggle with Chapter 5, “Spiritual Warriors”, of Matthew Fox’s book on Men and Spirituality, subtitled Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, I have been cruising right along with the remainder  of the book. Today I’ll review chapters 7 and 8. If you missed Part 3 you can read it here.

Chapter 7 covers the “body metaphor” and is titled:  “Our Cosmic and Animal Bodies.” Up to this point Mr. Fox has covered six “metaphors” or what he also refers to as archetypes; the first five I would definitely classify as archetypes: Sky Father, The Green Man, Icarus and Daedalus, Hunter-Gatherers, and Spiritual Warriors. Beginning with the sixth chapter and certainly extending into the seventh I believe he leaves the archetypal approach and begins addressing actual men and their sexuality and physicality. Chapter six covered in Part 3 of this series is about our sexuality; it is handled very nicely by Fox but it’s not clear why this is a metaphor. And here in Chapter 7 we deal with our physical bodies; how is this a metaphor? How am I to react to my body as metaphor rather than physical presence here on Planet Earth? It would be different if he spent most of the chapter on the “Cosmic Body” but most of it is devoted to the physical.

He does a nice job describing his version of the chakra system, how it affects us and how we can work with it. Yet, while he treats this subject within a section called “Rediscovering Our Sacred Bodies” much of the discussion is on the physicality of the chakras. Carolyn Myss does a much better job of describing the sacred nature of the chakras in: Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. I recommend her book to anyone interested in an expanded vision of the chakra system.

In a too brief final section of this chapter Fox discusses “More Than One Body.” He refers to four, the physical body, the cosmic body, the earth body and the divine body. The actual distinctions between the physical and earth bodies and the cosmic and divine bodies is never really made clear, and he uses the terms interchangeably. Here I thought he might have used the four bodies I’ve often read about and considered: the physical body, the emotional or etheric body, the mental body and the spiritual body.  These are actual layers to our bodies and extend outward from the physical layer beyond and into our auras and ultimately into the cosmos, of which we are a part. There is certainly some parallel between these four and Fox’s four but I think the ones I refer to are more clear.

Chapter 8 covers the Blue Man and is titled The Blue Man. Here Mr. Fox is referring on the one hand to Swami Muktananda’s vision of the Blue Pearl who becomes a “blue man” a vision of the divine within or the Cosmic/Spirit Body. He compares Muktananda’s vision with that of Hildegard von Bingen who encountered a “man of sapphire blue.” It is clear that these two very different people in very different times encountered the very same being, the Blue Being within themselves.

Chapter 8 is an excellent extension to chapter 7 and nicely responds to my complaint that he didn’t spend enough time on the “more than one body.” It is the Blue Man to whom he appeals and the Blue Man in each of us who is called to action today. In his conclusion Fox writes:

“The Blue Man represents the expanded consciousness and the creative compassion [I really like this phrase ‘creative compassion’ – so much more appropriate than the ‘conservative compassion’ we had to deal with during the first 8 years of this millennium!] we are all capable of. He is an artist at life, recognizing beauty and justice and creating it. We are being tested in a special way today. Because of news both good and terrifying, a global consciousness arises, asking us to expand our minds and hearts. We are interconnected and interdependent in ways we have never experienced before, even as the collective impact of our human society threatens the Earth’s health. We must use our powers of creativity, which increase when consciousness increases, to engage and solve the many problems facing us at this important time in history. We must take our expanded consciousness into all our relationships. The purpose of the Blue Man is to empower our hands so that real compassion takes place, the real work of the Divine in our lives. The Blue Man helps us to overcome our fear of death and to let go of our fear-inspired frenzy. Creativity can convert anger and moral outrage into appropriate expressions of protest, so that we build and not simply tear down. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Michelangelo, and many other men have demonstrated the Blue Man in action.”

I have quoted this entire paragraph for a couple of reasons: one, it expresses a good summary of Fox’s call to men to embrace the spiritual, the creative, the compassionate responses in us that are so important today; this Blue Man energy vital to our survival! And, two, he makes this call without resorting to the “spiritual warrior” archetype, which he brought out in Chapter 5, and which I and others have called into question. Here he now avoids that term and all its connotations by invoking creative compassion in its stead! Yes, we CAN divert our anger, fear, outrage into positive, creative, appropriate action for good with Blue Man energy at our core!

Chapter 8 is a delight and makes it worth reading the book to this point. And Chapter 9, “Earth Father: the Fatherly Heart” is excellent. I’ll review Mr. Fox’s final two metaphors on Thursday.

Meanwhile see if you can get in touch with the Blue Man in you!

Review of “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” Part 1

May 3, 2010 1 comment

I am in the middle of reading Matthew Fox’s book which is subtitled: “Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine.” I plan to review the book in six parts; since there are 12 chapters I’ll review two per post, for the 10 metaphors (archetypes really) and the two concluding chapters which explore the sacred union of masculine and feminine, and other sacred unions.

This is an interesting time for me to be reading Fox’s book on the heels of reading and reviewing Joseph Gelfer’s book on masculine spiritualities over the past couple of weeks. You may recall that Dr. Gelfer isn’t particularly fond of archetypes, especially when they reinforce patriarchy. As I’m reading Fox I am very much aware of this sensitivity and constantly on the lookout for such traps.

The first two archetypes of the book are “Father Sky” and “The Green Man.” These could be very dangerous patriarchy traps. Dr. Gelfer even refers to the Green Man as a version of the “Wild Man” of the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement who can, in fact, be dangerous!  But Fox, to a large extent, tip-toes around the trap and doesn’t seem to be calling all men to rise up and take back their “rightful place” in the home and family as so much of the Christian Men’s Movement seems to do.

The “Father Sky” chapter traces the history of our wonder at that awesome arch overhead, brilliantly blue to storm-threatening back in the day, deepest black and often littered with stars at night. He reports on pre-modern, modern and post-modern views and rejoices that Father Sky is “alive again” in our era. I like this flow from awe and worship to the despair of John Calvin and Bertrand Russell and back now to a post-modern respect through recent scientific explorations and discoveries. He uses The View from the Center of the Universe by Joel Primach and Nancy Abrams as a reference to highlight the importance of humans. For me this was overly anthropocentric drawing specific attention to the importance of humans not only in our own solar system but through the entire cosmos. But they do express some interesting thoughts on what they call the “Goldilocks Principle” believing there are many things about humans that are “just right.”

I especially liked the section on “The Dance of Father Sky and Mother Earth.” This brings in a nice balance to the equation of life and the inter-dependencies we rely on for both breath and sustenance. Fox concludes with a reminder from Thomas Berry: “We will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things come into being. Indeed the universe is the primary sacred reality. We become sacred by our participation in this more sublime dimension of the world about us.” This is a nice counter balance to the wonder at the human expressed by Primach and Abrams.

I very much appreciated Fox’s chapter two, second archetype, on “The Green Man.” I have done some of my own study on the Green Man and enjoyed the reminders Fox offers. One of my fondest images, in fact I have it on my business cards, is of a Green Man face in a stained glass window in St. Peter Ad Vincula Church in Pennal, Wales. According to my good friend, Geraint ap Iorwerth, Rector of the Church, this is the only Green Man in a stained glass church window in all of Great Britain. Fox reports the Green Man archetype is on the rise again. With all the interest in paganism, ecology, the greening of the world, I believe the Green Man would be an excellent symbol for our return to Nature. He says: ‘Embracing the Green Man creates a new male empowerment, a new warriorhood on behalf of Mother Earth and her creatures. Is this not what is happening today as we talk of “green buildings” and “green politics,” of “green business” and Greenpeace, of “green belts around cities” and “green economics”?’ While I like this call to the greening of our world again, I am highly aware of this reference to the warrior archetype. Are we dancing perilously close to the patriarchy trap?