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The Cosmic Egg

The Cosmic Egg

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Week Four Summary and Practice

Sunday, January 24—Friday, January 29, 2021

Sunday
Meaning is communicated through story. The function of all mythologies, religion, and even family lore is to help us situate ourselves inside of a safe and meaningful universe.

Monday
“My Story” describes my private life, those issues that make me special, inferior or superior, right or wrong, depending on how “I” see it. Some people live their whole lives here without ever connecting with the larger domes of meaning.

Tuesday
“Our Story” is the necessary training ground for belonging, attaching, trusting, and loving. Unfortunately, some people get stuck here and spend their lives defending the boundaries, identity, and glory of “their” group.

Wednesday
Without the great stories that free us, we remain trapped in small cultural and private worlds. True transcendence frees us from the tyranny of I Am and the idolatry of We Are.

Thursday
We are made in the image of a parent/creator who invites us into a cosmic belonging. —Barbara Holmes

Friday
Our songs, stories, and mythologies all speak of our interrelatedness. —Sherri Mitchell

 

Contemplating Images

In our 2021 banner images, we are delighted to offer the work of photographers inspired by the theme of the Daily Meditations. We hope that the images will open you to wonder and delight and help you cultivate sacred seeing, an ability to see God incarnate in creation beneath the surface appearance of things. This week we invite you to explore a traditional way of contemplating images from author and spiritual director Teresa A. Blythe.

When our intention is to seek God’s presence, one effective mode of prayer is gazing at an object as a window to the unseen God—be it a traditional religious icon or an object we’ve chosen because of its meaning for us. . . . Simply looking, without assigning any particular interpretation or meaning to the object of your gaze, can take you deep into contemplative awareness of God. . . .

I suggest beginning this exercise by using a traditional icon (or copy of one). That’s because they are lovingly created expressly for the purpose of prayer, and praying with one binds you to the great cloud of witnesses that have prayed with these images throughout history. . . . A photograph or painting that you treasure would also suffice. The important part is seeking God’s presence. The image in front of you is merely a window to God. . . .

  • Find a comfortable place to sit and gaze at your chosen icon. Decide how long you will spend in this contemplative practice. (20 minutes is suggested.)
  • Express your intention to encounter God. Ask God for guidance. . . .
  • We are invited to allow our mind to descend deep into the center of our heart, where we will encounter the presence of God. Spend a few moments pondering this and try allowing it to happen.
  • Gaze at the icon. Let your gaze be long and loving. Think of the icon as a mystical window in which you are on one side and God is on the other. Allow God to communicate with you by way of this image, but do not become anxious about how or when God may communicate. Simply continue to gaze and allow your heart to become still and open. Do this until you reach your time limit.
  • End the contemplation with a prayer of gratitude.
  • Spend a few minutes reflecting on the experience. Did you understand or feel that your mind descended into your heart? What was it like to use your eyes so intently in prayer? Did you feel the presence of the Holy during this prayer? If so, can you describe what you felt or experienced? . . . Would you be inclined to pray in this way again? Why or why not?

Experience a version of this practice through video.

Reference:
Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 40, 41–42.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
To learn more about Thomas Merton’s photography see: Pearson, Paul M, ed., Beholding Paradise: The Photographs of Thomas Merton (Paulist Press: 2020).
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The Cosmic Egg

The Story of Being
Friday, January 29, 2021

What if Christ is another name for everything—in its fullness?

Once we know that the entire physical world around us, all of creation, is both the hiding place and the revelation place for God, this world becomes home, safe, enchanted, offering grace to any who look deeply. I call that kind of deep and calm seeing “contemplation.”

A cosmic notion of the Christ competes with and excludes no one, but includes everyone and everything (Acts 10:15, 34) and allows Jesus Christ to finally be a God figure worthy of the entire universe.

In the Franciscan tradition, John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) developed the doctrine of the univocity of being. He believed we could speak “with one voice” (univocity) of the being of waters, plants, animals, humans, angels, and God. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and thus reality is one too (Ephesians 4:3–5). We are all part of The Story of Being.

Author, lawyer, and activist Sherri Mitchell shares a similar and even more ancient perspective held by Native peoples. They do not use the word Christ, but within The Story, the universal patterns hold. She writes:

We all originate from the same divine source. . . . Sadly, there will also be times when we will lose sight of this basic fact. During those times, we will become lost in the unfolding stories of our own individualized realities. [1]

Albert Einstein once talked about the illusion that is created by [the] belief in separation. He described it as a prison that restricts our awareness of connection to the whole:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. [2]

This is an idea that still seems fantastic to many people around the world. But it is a belief that has been held by Indigenous peoples since the beginning of time. Our songs, stories, and mythologies all speak of our interrelatedness. From birth, we are taught to be aware of the expanded kinship networks that surround us, which include other human beings along with the beings of the land, water, and air, and the plants, trees, and all remaining unseen beings that exist within our universe. . . .

Our challenge is to remember all of who we are. [3]

We must rediscover, reclaim, and recapitulate The Story in as many ways and as often as we can. Remaining trapped in the smaller domes of meaning separates us from the trinitarian flow of divine love and connection that is our birthright.

References:
[1] Sherri Mitchell, Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change (North Atlantic Books: 2018), 9.

[2] Albert Einstein, condolence letter to Norman Salit, March 4, 1950. Reprinted in The New York Times, March 29, 1972.

[3] Mitchell, 9–10.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 5, 6–7; and

Franciscan Mysticism: I Am That Which I Am Seeking, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2012), CD, MP3 download.

Story from Our Community:
These words “If you don’t transform your pain, you transmit it” are a matter of life or death. You either get bitter or better. Meeting Jesus again at 40 took the blinders off my eyes and unveiled the tapestry of my story—redemptive suffering, salvation, a loving Father, unconditional love, eternal perspective, a purpose and new beginning. The truth will set you free. —Linda D.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
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The Cosmic Egg

Our Cosmic Mother
Thursday, January 28, 2021

The image of the “Cosmic Egg of Meaning” is in some sense maternal, with each dome nestled and held by something larger and more powerful than itself. This is an ancient idea that may be helpful to our postmodern psyches, allowing us to embrace the mutuality of all life. CAC teacher Barbara Holmes puts it this way:

Current science positions the universe as the birthing place of all entities and thus a cosmic mother. New perspectives on the birthing aspects of the universe may also help to depict the life space as one that is intended to nurture. The intricate balances of chemicals and stardust, which must occur for life to appear, mimic the process of human birth. Science provides the images of the universe as initiating/siring and as an expanding womb, ready to sustain life. The birthing is mathematical, complex, and necessary. We are made in the image of a parent/creator who invites us into a cosmic belonging. . . .

We need the embrace of a Cosmic Mother. [1]

My poetic friend and interspiritual teacher Mirabai Starr writes about our relationship and responsibility to the maternal energy of the universe in this way:  

She is your Mother the Earth, and you belong to her. She nurtured you in her dark belly, birthed you in joy, and sustains you at great cost to herself. You have slept in her forests, beneath the safety of her canopy. You have cupped her snowmelt in your hands. You have investigated the life hidden beneath the surface of her deserts, skied her alpine slopes, and biked her slickrock canyons. You have reveled in her generosity and been grateful.

She has never asked much of you in return. Up until now, your gratitude has been enough. Your delight has been her reward. Up until now, she has not needed you as you have needed her. But that is shifting. . . .

“Tell me what is troubling you, Mama,” you whisper, exactly as she always spoke to you when you were small and frightened and bleeding from some injury (real or imagined).

“Pretty much everything, honey,” she answers. . . . “I’ll get through this,” she says. “You’re not getting rid of your old Ma so easily.” She reaches down to smooth the crease between your brows. “It’s you kids I’m worried about.” [2]

Because we have been steeped in patriarchy, we may resist the idea of a “maternal” universe, yet the pattern it reveals—that all life is birthed, held, and nurtured within this cosmos—is undoubtedly true. A cosmic egg, tended, hatched, and nurtured over time is a much better image of all growth than any transactional notion of being saved.

References:
[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020), 207, 208.

[2] Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019), 135–136.

Story from Our Community:
These words “If you don’t transform your pain, you transmit it” are a matter of life or death. You either get bitter or better. Meeting Jesus again at 40 took the blinders off my eyes and unveiled the tapestry of my story—redemptive suffering, salvation, a loving Father, unconditional love, eternal perspective, a purpose and new beginning. The truth will set you free. —Linda D.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
Read Full Entry

The Cosmic Egg

“The Story”
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The largest and final dome is the realm of universal meaning. This sacred canopy is The Story that is always true, the patterns that every culture and religion discover in some manner. This level assures and insures the other two. It holds them together in sacred meaning. This is true transcendence, authentic Spirit, which informs all soul and body work. I also call it “The Perennial Tradition” that keeps recurring in every age.

The Cosmic Egg image showing The Story on most external, Our Story in the middle, and My Story on the inner most area.

The Story is not limited to any one religion or denomination, and all healthy religions and even philosophies will be telling it on some level. For example, forgiveness is one of the patterns that is always true. It always heals, whether you are Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, or Jewish, gay or straight, Black or white. There is no specifically Catholic or Indigenous way to feed the hungry or steward the earth. Love is love, even if the motivation and symbols might be different.

The complete cosmic egg is uniquely the work of God and healthy religion. Biblical tradition, at its best, honors and combines all three levels of story: personal journey as raw material, communal identity as school and training ground, and true transcendence as the integration and gathering place for all the parts together. We call it holiness, which is the ultimate form of wholeness.

Without the great stories that free us, we remain trapped in small cultural and private worlds. Without the great patterns that are always true, we get lost in choosing between tiny patterns. True transcendence frees us from the tyranny of I Am and the idolatry of We Are. Anything smaller is “spiritual bypassing” and won’t get us very far on the path of either liberation or wisdom. We cannot bypass the two smaller domes and find any authenticity or love by a supposed leap to the third level. We all have met people who present much God talk or spiritual talk, but we find ourselves almost afraid of them, because they so lack substance or grounding.

If all three domes are taken seriously, as the Bible does very well, we have a full life—fully human and fully divine. The genius of the biblical revelation is that it gives us permission and even direction to take conscious ownership of our own story at every level, every part of our life and experience. God will use all of this material, even the negative parts, to bring us to life and love.

Now that’s really good news! Suddenly we can take our own lives seriously, the good and the bad parts, because God has done it first! We are neither trapped inside of our little culture and group identity, nor our private pain and hurts. We are people of the Big Picture and live inside of a lovely cosmic egg of full meaning, where nothing is eliminated and all is used to bring us to life. Jesus taught us to call that the kingdom of God.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020), 112–113; and

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 23–24.

Story from Our Community:
Decades ago, my late father left my mother, and I had a very rocky relationship with his new wife. A few years before their passing, I helped her sign up for the Daily Meditations—she never missed a single one. Learning that this one simple act of sharing gave her so much peace and happiness healed my heart. I am grateful for Richard Rohr and CAC. This thing with my stepmother taught me that just one small act of kindness, in lieu of holding onto resentments, has the power to heal greatly. — Andrew R.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
Read Full Entry

The Cosmic Egg

“Our Story”
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The larger realm of meaning beyond My Story is Our Story. To continue the model of the three domes, this is the dome of our group, community, church, nationality, gender, and ethnicity. We seem to need this for our own identity and security as social beings. It is both good and necessary, but if we try to make it the whole enchilada, we end up with the culture and identity wars we have today. Most of us have to work through multiple memberships: family, neighborhood, religious affiliation, gender, country. These communities are schools for relationship, connection, and almost all virtue as we know it.

The Cosmic Egg image showing The Story on most external, Our Story in the middle, and My Story on the inner most area.

Everyone has access to this level of meaning, consciously or unconsciously, negatively or positively. We are essentially social beings and we live inside of some shared meanings, which become our reference points and our runway. Our Story is the necessary training ground for belonging, attaching, trusting, and loving. If we are raised in a healthy family system, we generally feel positive about our group possibilities, including our religious and cultural rituals and traditions. Unfortunately, some people get stuck here and spend their lives defending the boundaries and glory of “their” group. They make plans for war, and perfect the scapegoating of others. Such group egocentricity is more dangerous than personal egocentricity. It looks like greatness when it is often no more than very well-disguised narcissism. I don’t have much self-knowledge, so I throw all of my cache into being Italian! I live on the surface of my own soul, but I sure play good football. I have no deep identity, so I live through my husband or wife or children or friends.

People try to find identity in a group, an institutional affiliation, a nation, a public cause—or today, like never before, public fame or infamy. Somehow, to be on the news or in social media is to be immortalized. People feel protected inside of the group identity or public fame. We all connect with one group or another—a Catholic, a Harley-Davidson owner, a Chicago Cubs fan—and then we sport proud signs about it. Such group symbols, flags, and patriotism remind us that we are not alone; and such shared meaning gives consolation and security to the small self—and something to talk about! The handy language of “us” versus “them” lifts some real burden from our private striving, and there is true comfort in being among our own. In fact, Our Story feels so sacred that most religion works at this level as a belonging system more than a search for intimacy with God. The second dome becomes an avoidance of the third and most all-inclusive (The Story). I see this in many seminarians, young priests, and bishops, after having given them retreats for many years. They put all their eggs in the Roman Catholic basket, but they have little curiosity about their own shadow or inner life. Their goal is not really love of God, but the love of “my priesthood” as it is often strangely called.

Jesus was not into groupthink or loyalty tests. I’m convinced God could care less about them, but God also seems to know that we need symbols, songs, sacred times and places for communal support and encouragement. However, we will need these boundary markers less and less as we move toward the real Center. Thus, we often see a certain freedom in wise elders and people who have suffered and come through renewed. In the second half of life, we don’t need to be a hero anymore and we may not even need to belong. We just need to be real. Saint Augustine put it most daringly, “Love [God] and do what you will!” [1]

References:
[1] Augustine, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John to the Parthians, tractate 7.8.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020), 106–111.

Story from Our Community:
Decades ago, my late father left my mother, and I had a very rocky relationship with his new wife. A few years before their passing, I helped her sign up for the Daily Meditations—she never missed a single one. Learning that this one simple act of sharing gave her so much peace and happiness healed my heart. I am grateful for Richard Rohr and CAC. This thing with my stepmother taught me that just one small act of kindness, in lieu of holding onto resentments, has the power to heal greatly. — Andrew R.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
Read Full Entry

The Cosmic Egg

“My Story”
Monday, January 25, 2021

The modern and postmodern world is the first period of history where a large number of people have been allowed to take their private lives and identities seriously. This marks a wonderful movement into individuation, but there is also a diminishment and fragility if that is all we have. It is a paradox! This first dome contains my private life, those issues that make me special, inferior or superior, right or wrong, depending on how “I” see it. “I” and my feelings and opinions are the reference point for everything now. This is the small self we must let go of through contemplative prayer; and yet most people, including Christians, take this very tiny and even false self as normative and sufficient.

The Cosmic Egg image showing The Story on most external, Our Story in the middle, and My Story on the inner most area.

The dome of My Story is often all the postmodern person has left: my power, my prestige, and my possessions. It’s the little stage where I do my dance and where the questions are usually “Who is watching me? How do I feel? What do I believe? What makes me unique?” It’s a passing arena, to be certain. It will be over in a few years and is frankly not very interesting if it is all we have to talk about. My Story is not big enough or true enough to create large or meaningful patterns by itself. It is all just personal anecdotes, and some people live their whole lives there with no need for broader connections.

Perhaps we can see how fragile, unprotected, and constantly striving this self will almost certainly be. Self-focused people are very easily offended, fearful, and therefore often posturing and pretentious. My opinion is that if we stay in this smallest dome of meaning, we often move toward a neurotic self-image. Psychologist Jean Houston puts it this way: “When mythic material remains latent, unused and unexplored, it can lead to pathological behavior.” [1] This small and fragile self needs to be a part of something more significant—and so it creates dramas, tragedies, and victimhood to put itself on a larger stage.

The small self is intrinsically unhappy because it has no ontological foundation. It is not real. It does not exist. It will always be insecure, afraid, and scrambling for significance. In Jesus’ language, “the branch cut off from the vine is useless” (John 15:5).

However, when we are able to move beyond the small or “false self”—at the right time and in the right way—it will feel precisely as if we have lost nothing. In fact, it will feel like freedom and liberation. When we are connected to Our Story and The Story and not just My Story, we no longer need to protect or defend the mere part. We are now connected to something expansive and inexhaustible; and we can become a useful and contributing citizen in both this world and the reign of God.

References:
[1] Jean Houston, A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story (HarperCollins: 1996), 98.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020), 112–113; and

Immortal Diamond: The Search for the True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2008), 28.

Story from Our Community:
One morning I prayed and received the words “be a gift to the Church and to the world.” I realized that, like St. Therese of Lisieux, I can do little things with great love. I made “being a gift” my life mission. Most of the things I do take minutes and occur during the daily rhythm of life. I have come to view myself as a conduit of God’s love. Every morning, I look forward to giving gifts to those around me. If even a small portion of the adults in the US can be transformed the way I have been and start being a gift to those around us, we will change the world through love and God’s grace. John P.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
Read Full Entry

The Cosmic Egg

The Three Domes
Sunday, January 24, 2021

Just as the body needs food, so the soul needs meaning, and the spirit needs ultimate meaning. Often that meaning is communicated through story. The function of all mythologies, religion, and even family lore is to help us situate ourselves inside of a safe and meaningful universe. This week’s meditations focus on a “Cosmic Egg of Meaning” inside of which people can find their rest and happiness. The image I’ve used in numerous books, and first learned from Joseph Chilton Pearce (1926‒2016), to describe this “Cosmic Egg” is that of three overlapping domes.

The Cosmic Egg image showing The Story on most external, Our Story in the middle, and My Story on the inner most area.

The smallest dome of meaning is my private world of interests. We can call it “My Story,” where we proudly proclaim, “This is me!” No people in history, up until the last forty years or so (particularly in the United States), have had the language or the freedom for this level of personal meaning. My Story is full of subjective, interpersonal, psychological, and self-help language. It’s the vernacular of talk shows, blogs, and social media. I’m not criticizing it; in fact, it has its origins in Christian history with Augustine’s sophisticated Confessions (4th century). This language does answer a lot of questions, so it’s understandable that we revel in it. It is very good, as far as it goes. The trouble is that it is so rich it can become a substitute for true transcendence. My Story is not yet totally The Story.

There is a second and larger dome of meaning that encloses the first. I call this “Our Story,” where we declare, “This is us!” This is where most people in all of human history have lived their lives: identifying completely with their ethnicity, their gender, their group, their religion, and their occupations. The biblical tradition honors both of these domes of meaning and takes each of them seriously. Though it doesn’t name them as such, My Story and Our Story are both part of the narrative. The life of the individual and the life of the nation of Israel are both arenas for God’s action, but religious traditions affirm that they are connected to something Infinite, too.

The third dome of meaning that encloses the two smaller ones is “The Story.” By this, we are referring to the patterns that are always true—beyond anecdote and my cultural history. The biblical tradition takes all three levels seriously: My Story, Our Story, and The Story. Biblical revelation says that the only way we can move to The Story and understand it with any depth is to walk through and take responsibility for both our personal story and our group story. Anything less we now call “spiritual bypassing.” This is quite common among many fundamentalist groups—jumping to spiritual answers or theology without any honest self-knowledge or knowledge of history. We’ve got to listen to our own experience, to our own failures, to our own sin, to our own gifts and calls. Plus, we have to recognize that we’re a part of history, a part of a culture, a religious group, a nationality, a gender, for good and for bad. When all three domes of meaning are deemed worthy of love and attention, we probably have a rather mature spiritual person.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 22, 24.

Story from Our Community:
One morning I prayed and received the words “be a gift to the Church and to the world.” I realized that, like St. Therese of Lisieux, I can do little things with great love. I made “being a gift” my life mission. Most of the things I do take minutes and occur during the daily rhythm of life. I have come to view myself as a conduit of God’s love. Every morning, I look forward to giving gifts to those around me. If even a small portion of the adults in the US can be transformed the way I have been and start being a gift to those around us, we will change the world through love and God’s grace. —John P.

Image credit: Branches and Leaves (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Image inspiration: A tree with its leaves can only tell the cyclical story of life alongside a tree that is dying. Life and death in creation weave harmonies to share the rich this-ness of The Story.
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