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God’s Heartbeat

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Cosmology

God’s Heartbeat
Friday, November 3, 2017

CAC’s core faculty member, Cynthia Bourgeault, shares insights from other mystics—current and past—to reveal mercy at the heart of the universe. She shares the theological implications of quantum physics from contemporary Episcopal preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor:

Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. . . . At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. [1]

Cynthia reflects:

Barbara’s point may seem like a nuance, but it is a crucially important one. Our visible, created universe is not simply an object created by a wholly other God in order to manifest God’s love, but the created universe is that love itself—the very heart of God, fully expressive in the dimension of time and form.

When we speak in these terms, of course, we begin to use the classic language of the mystics, the language of visionary utterance. For Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) the name in German for mercy was Barmherzigkeit—“warmheartedness.” Boehme saw mercy as “the holy element”: the root energy out of which all else in the visible universe is made. The Mercy is “holy substantiality”—the innermost essence of being itself. It is that “river of God,” running like the sap through the tree of life. [2]

Lest we be inclined to discount this insight as merely the rambling of a God-intoxicated mystic, it is astonishing to discover virtually an identical insight revealed by the eminently sane psychotherapist Gerald May (1940-2005). May affirms that from a clinical standpoint, once the various differentiations and feeling-tones have been stripped away from our subjective emotional life, what remains is a raw, root energy that is, finally, none other than divine love. “It is as if agape [divine love] were the base metal, irreducible and unadulterated,” he writes. “The universe runs on an energy that is, at its core, unconditionally loving.” [3]

May’s vision of agape—divine love—is very close to Boehme’s (and my own) notion of the Mercy. Far from pity or condescension, it is the very heartbeat of God resonant in creation; the warmth that pulses through all things as the divine Mystery flows out into created form.

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

References:
[1] Barbara Brown Taylor, The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion (Cowley Publications: 2000), 74.
[2] See Jacob Boehme, The Way to Christ (Paulist Press: 1978).
[3] Gerald May, Will and Spirit (Harper and Row: 1982), 172. May was the cofounder of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Direction in Bethesda, Maryland, shalem.org.

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001), 28-31.

Image credit: The Starry Night (detail), Vincent van Gogh, Saint Rémy, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York.
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