“Hope is not something subjective due to an optimistic or sanguine temperament. . . It is a light-force which radiates objectively and which directs creative evolution toward the word’s future… In other words, hope is what moves and directs spiritual evolution in the world.”
Valentin Tomberg quoted in Mystical Hope.
I have been discovering some unexpected sources of “hope” these summer days where there has been time for deeper reading and research.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Thanks to a friend’s recommendation I found myself racing through a page turner of a memoir called “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. “This is the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.”
What struck me about this amazing story was the fact that because Cheryl chose to be on the trail high in the hills on her own she had eliminated the element of “choice” in her situation. When she was hungry, in pain or in danger, there was no easy-at-hand escape route. If she decided she couldn’t handle it along the way, she still had to hike a hundred miles to back-out. It seems to me that I often back-out of something uncomfortable. Don’t stick to what I say I will do – whether it be a diet or exercise or some other goal that I have set. Holding myself accountable always has a cushion of escape. “No escape route” seems to be a huge developmental gift – to finding unrecognized inner courage, strength and a way of opening up to deeper layers of our own depths. Cheryl also found connection and support from her constant companion of wild nature around her and the trail itself. Her sense of separateness shifted throughout the journey. Yet it was not a mystical type of experience but in fact often filled with boredom and banality as well as joy and comraderie with occasional fellow-travelers. This a story of hope, inspiration and encouragement. I wonder what it can teach us about the path toward the future of the planet. Do we think we have a choice about our future?
Another unexpected source of hope is the discovery of the advent of an Evolutionary Christianity movement. To my surprise this matches closely with the evolutionary integral spirituality which I have been following, although with a different vocabulary and reference points. It is especially interesting as many Christian organizations have been vocally against evolution and any science that points in that direction. From the looks of one of the websites around this movement, these ideas are also hopeful and appealing to many. The “Welcome to our Evolutionary Christianity Global Community, Please Introduce Yourself” page of the website hosted by Michael Dowd has 801 responses. Fascinating to find deacons, pastors, social workers, nuns and priests from around the world, excited about the New Story.
In my research I also came across a book called “The Advance of Love: Reading the Bible with an Evolutionary Heart” by Bruce Sanguin. This book is well written and also an intriguing and inspiring new look at Christian teachings. It is also underlining a new “World View” that seems to be emerging based on a deeper interpretation of Evolution.
Within this movement of renewal and new understanding is also a bursting forth of the Mystical Contemplative Way among Christian thinkers and practitioners. This includes a expanding of the use of meditation and the emergence of new leaders coming into the field of what is often called “Vertical Development” or a shift of consciousness to another level of understanding and value systems.
Cynthia Bourqueault – an Episcopal priest, is another one of the increasingly more visible leaders I have discovered. She is very well known as a retreat and conference leader and teacher in her own Christian world – which also bridges over to Benedictine monasteries. But seeing her pop up in another world of Integral Spirituality – through an interview with the well-known Terry Patten was a surprise. Since I had been investigating progressive Christianity I decided to listen to it. Terry seemed to be as inspired and moved by her as I was. She is clear and logical, deeply and broadly informed, down to earth and walks her talk. So of course I checked out her books and bought two. I just finished “Mystical Hope” which is both beautiful and deep, resonating surprisingly well with my current thinking. A little gem.
I have also looked into another of her books called “Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening”. This is actually a teaching about a form of meditation that seems at first glance to be nothing new. But Cynthia’s clarity about the intention and focus, background and understanding of this meditation is quite enlightening. I was curious to try it myself (using my own vocabulary) and was very surprised at its power and depth. I actually found myself looking forward to the next meditation, armed with a relatively simple way for opening to Essence and Being / God.
Along the same lines was a series of interviews documented in an article in the IONS Journal, again pointing to vertical development through contemplation: “The Contemplative Life as Freedom: The Liberative Model of Human Development” by Rick Levenson, PhD and Carolyn Aldwin, PhD. Here I also found material that supports the new trend in leadership development programs using vertical development to prepare leaders for tackling the complexity of current world problems. Especially interesting here is Barret C. Brown and his work.
The emergence of a broader view from world religions and ordinary people’s experiences as well as crossing lines between traditions and expanding consciousness in leadership development are all hopeful signs and possibly even beginning of evolutionary leaps!