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Center for Action and Contemplation

Jesus: Wisdom Teacher: Weekly Summary

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Jesus: Wisdom Teacher

Summary: Sunday, January 13-Friday, January 18, 2019

This week guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault introduced us to Jesus, the wisdom teacher.

Jesus was not a priest or a prophet in the usual sense of those terms. Rather, he was a wisdom teacher. He stayed close to the ground of wisdom: the transformation of human consciousness. (Sunday)

How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we learn to respond to the world with that same wholeness and healing love? That’s what Christian orthodoxy really is all about. It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice. (Monday)

The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. These are indeed Jesus’ two core teachings, underlying everything he says and does. (Tuesday)

“Love your neighbor as yourself”—as a continuation of your very own being. It’s a complete seeing that your neighbor is you. (Wednesday)

We come into existence with a binary egoic operating system already installed. We can make the choice to upgrade to a non-dual operating system. (Thursday)

Everything Jesus did, he did by self-emptying. He emptied himself and descended into human form. And he emptied himself still further, “even unto death on the cross.” (Friday)


Practice: The Divine Alchemy

Cynthia Bourgeault ties the dynamic outpouring of Trinity to Jesus’ path of self-emptying.

The Trinitarian mystery has immediate implications for us as we try to live Jesus’ path. All too often our attempts at self-emptying feel isolated and pointless. They seem like dead ends, with no real connection to the world at large or even to our own best intentions. Even Jesus’ crucifixion seems in some sense to be a waste. Why should a good and wise man who could have been a teacher of many die meaninglessly on a cross? Often our own small acts of heroism and sacrifice seem pointless as well—except that the Trinity assures us no act of kenosis is ever isolated, no matter how meaningless it looks, no matter how disconnected, no matter how unproductive in terms of reward and gain. Through the Trinity all kenosis is a tiny hologram of perichoresis [which is the “circle dance” in which love and being are exchanged between the three persons of the Trinity]. It belongs to that great relational field of “the divine exchange” and connects us instantly with the whole of God, allowing divine love to become manifest in some new and profound dimension. As Raimon Panikkar beautifully expresses it, “I am one with the source insofar as I act as a source by making everything I have received flow again—just like Jesus.” [1]

Jesus’ teaching assures us as we move toward center along this very reckless and in some ways abundant and extravagant path—not “storing it all up” as in the classic ascetic traditions of attaining being, but “throwing it all away”—that divine love is infinite and immediate and will always come to us if we don’t cling. This is a powerful statement, so simple and yet so radical.

This is a kind of sacred alchemy. As we practice in daily life—in our acts of compassion, kindness, and self-emptying, both at the level of our doing and even more at the level of our being—something is catalyzed. Subtle qualities of divine love essential to the well-being of this planet are released through our actions and flow out into the world as miracle, healing, and hope.

The template for the divine alchemy is imprinted in our soul: the Trinitarian impulse which is both the icon of divine reality within us and the means by which that reality brings itself to fullness. As we learn not to harden and brace even in the face of what appears to be ultimate darkness, but to let all things flow in that great river of kenosis and perichoresis, we come to know—and finally become—the river itself, which circulates through all things as the hidden dynamism of love. This, I believe, is the path that Jesus taught and walked, the path he calls us to.

[1] Raimon Panikkar, Christophany (Orbis Books: 2004), 116.

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—a new Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 72-74.

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008)

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart (Jossey-Bass: 2003)

Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, and Richard Rohr, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy (CAC: 2014), CD, MP3 download.

Jim Marion, Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality (Hampton Roads Publishing Company: 2000; 2nd ed., 2011)

Image credit: Christ Among Teachers (detail), Vasily Polenov, 1896, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Within the wider Near East (including Judaism itself), there was a third, albeit unofficial, category of spiritual occupation: a moshel moshelim, or teacher of wisdom, one who taught the ancient traditions of the transformation of the human being. —Cynthia Bourgeault
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