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  • Henry Schoenfield

Conscious circle

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been lucky to be in a class with two giants of teachers — Russ Hudson and James Flaherty — looking at the Enneagram and vocation. In exploring this topic, Russ particularly took us into the cosmology of G.I. Gurdjieff — the Armenian mystic who is responsible for bringing the core teaching of the Enneagram to the West. (Long before the Enneagram became a typology for personality.)

When Russ first was teaching us about Gurdgieff’s cosmology, he made the point that much of what he was teaching wasn’t really available to learn from any one text, but that Cynthia Bourgeault had a book coming out in September that explored the worlds, as Gurdgieff called them a bit further.

Her book, Eye of the Heart, came out eleven days ago. This past Thursday, a few of us from the class gathered on Zoom to begin a conversation about the book.

Our time together was rich beyond description. And there was one image that we came back to a few times — the notion of the conscious circle of humanity.

Cynthia writes: “There’s an old piece of Hasidic folklore that claims that our world at any point in time is held in its planetary orbit by thirty-six conscious human beings. They don’t know each other, and they don’t even know if they are among the thirty-six. But the quality of their work, rising like incense into earth’s atmosphere, creates around our fragile planet a sturdy bandwith of protection, blessing, and guidance.”

[Cynthia Bourgeault, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm (Boulder, CO: Shambala, 2020), 139.]

Given the times in which we live, this paragraph gives me deep and profound hope. We are living in tenuous times. And I don’t think that things are going to get better any time soon. There will be no return to normal. The image that Cynthia has used in other places is of being in freefall — when the old way of being has passed away and we are not yet in a new way.

This time of freefall calls for deep compassion. And conscious work. And the intentional taking on of suffering. Not to become a “martyr”, but to transform the enmity that is so prevalent in our world into love.

As I was reflecting on all of this earlier this morning, a saying from the Gospel of Thomas came to mind. In logion 2:

“Yeshua says, If you are searching you must not stop until you find. And whenyou find, however you will become troubled. Your confusion will give way to wonder. In wonder you will reign over all things. Your soverignty will be your rest.” (Translation by Lynn Bauman)

There’s much to take in, my friends. Much to hold and transform. May we not stop. May we form communities of support where we can encourage one another in these dark times. May we purify our own hearts and minds so that when we wake up to find that we are in freefall, we may accept the sensation of freefall without numbing ourselves or turning away from the work. We may never get to the new age. We may never see the transformation that is at work in us and through us. And still, may we persevere knowing that this is the work that the Divine Creator has given us to do. Amen. May it be so.

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