The curriculum of the Living School is comprised of 6 units, with each unit exploring particular themes of the Franciscan Alternative Orthodoxy and Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition.
(Note: As The Living School Curriculum evolves, some units of the curriculum may shift in content and order of appearance.)
Click on any of the units listed below to see a description.
In this foundational unit, students will come to understand the ongoing dialogical relationship between the sacred Scriptures of all religions, the universal wisdom traditions, philosophy, psychology, art, and poetry. All of these contribute to the wisdom way of knowing. In this unit, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures will create the foundation and the template for discerning key wisdom themes. Students will explore The Perennial Tradition without simply being syncretistic and while examining the criteria for being intellectually and philosophically consistent. Together, students will also hone their process and practice more than proving conclusions; orthopraxy is our frame for orthodoxy. Students will attend one of four possible intensives. See the Living School Calendar for the intensive dates from which to choose.
Students will examine and learn the mindset of contemplative masters throughout the ages. This “non-dual mind” will be the matrix for all else that we learn and do in the Living School. Students will explore the contemporary recovery of the older Tradition (The Cloud of Unknowing, The Interior Castle, The Mind’s Journey to God, etc.), supplemented by the Core Faculty’s inner clarifications.
This unit will lead students through a deeper experience of incarnation through the great canticles of the tradition, mystical understandings of incarnation, and contemplative practices of visio and audio divina. In the first part of this unit, the Core Faculty will lead students through a diverse collection of incarnational teachings and practices revolving around the Advent and Christmas seasons. In the New Year, the Core Faculty will explore the uniqueness of the incarnational world, a contemplative approach to healing trauma and all forms of suffering, and the dynamic unity between Jesus of Nazareth and the Cosmic Christ.
In this unit, the Core Faculty explore the theme of Cosmic Incarnation. Richard Rohr will lead a study of the Christian doctrine of a Trinitarian God. Students will examine how this pattern is mirrored in the physical universe, is now being confirmed through science, and has always been revealed through the natural world and creation. James Finley will follow with a study of Trans-Cosmic Incarnation through the lens of Christian mystics who understand God as incarnate in life and reality. Students will see the vast expanse of this worldview as a Mystery intimately realized and learn their place and role in this inner landscape. Cynthia Bourgeault will complete this unit by walking students through her section, The Flowing Common Ground of Energy. Students will explore the cosmic spiritual worldview of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Raimon Panikkar’s pioneering work on how to make Christ experience accessible and in living dialogue with other spiritual traditions, and the metaphysical basis of Christian theology and cosmology. The contextual lens of this study has the potency to personalize and universalize the message: cosmology affects ethics, morals, spirituality, and human capacity for full participation in complex (and messy) unification.
Barbara Holmes will further the implication of the Cosmic Incarnation by exploring themes of her book Race and the Cosmos. Holmes adds insight into how cosmology has the potential to shift the conversation on race (and ultimately any system of domination). As a rhetorician, she employs the power of words to reframe our societal constructs from a cosmic and quantum perspective with practical implications on personal and communal levels. By addressing the current poverty of a believable cosmology—and therefore its hostile impact on humanity—students will be empowered to participate in a new way of seeing and being in relationships (human/divine, human/universe, human/human, and human/systems) by embracing a sound cosmology.
In this section, James Finley will introduce the Buddha’s teaching of The Middle Way and the transformative journey that led to Buddha’s great awakening, in which he became the Buddha: the one who is awake. In addition, students will explore the middle way in the gospels and the Christian mystical tradition.
Guided by the Core Faculty, students will explore the thinking and lifestyle of Christian mystics through readings, teachings, and practice. Cynthia Bourgeault will begin with the wisdom teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and their applications for today’s world. Then Richard Rohr will turn to the incarnational mysticism of the Franciscan tradition, with emphasis upon St. Francis’ personal enlightenment and universal love. The unit will conclude with James Finley’s guidance on Julian of Norwich and Blessed John Ruusbroec, two models of love in action and awakening to intimate oneness.
In the final unit, the Core Faculty explore the theme of Prophecy and Justice, beginning with Cynthia Bourgeault’s section on Non-Dual Witness. Students will be led to the wellspring from which contemplation and compassionate action flow out into the world as a seamless whole. The section includes teaching, study, and reflection on Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion, the wisdom of the Quaker mystical tradition, and the prophetic integration of Carmelite prioress Constance FitzGerald. Next, students will glean from Richard Rohr’s teaching on the prophetic voices that come from the Edge of the Inside. The teachings and readings stem from the study of prophets ancient and modern who speak truth to power. Students will also be invited to discern and reflect on their own prophetic voice. In his section In Dialogue with Prophecy and Justice, James Finley will lead students in reflecting upon the mystical dimensions of prophecy and social justice and also how to carry this experience of the Living School forward. During this unit students will also be asked to develop and engage in an act of solidarity that works toward the healing of suffering in their particular context. Students will join the ages-old flow of prophetic truth and compassionate action as today’s carriers of the message.