Center for Action & Contemplation

The Great Turning

November 4, 2019

I have set before you life and death . . . therefore choose life. 

—Deuteronomy 30:19

R. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

Eco-philosopher, Earth elder, friend, and spiritual activist Joanna Macy, now ninety years old, has been promoting a global transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society for most of her life. She calls it the Great Turning, a revolution of great urgency: “While the agricultural revolution took centuries, and the industrial revolution took generations, this ecological revolution has to happen within a matter of years.” [1] She is hopeful as she sees individuals and groups participating in “1) Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings; 2) Analysis and transformation of the foundations of our common life; [and] 3) A fundamental shift in worldview and values.” [2]

Macy understands that the third type of action—essentially, a new way of seeing— “require[s] a shift in our perception of reality—and that shift is happening now, both as cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening.” [3] While the shift may not be obvious in my own generation, we need look no further than the ongoing powerful and prophetic presence of young leaders, like indigenous teenagers Tokata Iron Eyes (a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who plays a key role in the “Rezpect Our Water” campaign) and Autumn Peltier (also a water protector and a citizen of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation); they have been joined recently by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and helped inspire Climate Strikes around the world. In the face of criticism, Greta calls her Asperger’s syndrome a “superpower” that gives her a clear perspective on the climate crisis. May we be motivated by these committed young advocates and lend our voices and strength to heal our wounded world.

Macy explains:

The insights and experiences that enable us to make this shift may arise from grief for our world that contradicts illusions of the separate and isolated self. Or they may arise from breakthroughs in science, such as quantum physics and systems theory. Or we may find ourselves inspired by the wisdom traditions of native peoples and mystical voices in the major religions; we hearken to their teachings as to some half-forgotten song that our world is a sacred whole in which we have a sacred mission. [4]

St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), a Germanic nun, mystic, and healer, was doing this 800 years ago. In her book Scivias she wrote, “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” [5] Somehow, she already understood what science is now affirming: “The macrocosm is mirrored in the microcosm.” Science is finding that the world is an integrated whole rather than separated parts. Nothing in the cosmos operates independently. We are all holons, which are simultaneously whole in themselves, and at the same time part of a larger whole. This understanding is moving us from a narrow, mechanistic, Newtonian view of the universe to a holistic/ecological view. [6] Nothing is static, and if you try to construct an unchangeable or independent universe for yourself, you will be moving against the now obvious divine plan and direction.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

 

[1] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects (New Society Publishers: 2014), 4.

[2] Ibid., 6. Emphasis mine.

[3] Ibid., 14.

[4] Ibid., 14.

[5] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, 1.2.29. Translation from Avis Clendenen, “Hildegard: ‘Trumpet of God’ and ‘Living Light’” in Chicago Theological Seminary Register, vol. 89, no. 2 (Spring 1999), 25.

[6] Ilia Delio explores the concepts of holons and moving toward a holistic view in CONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), MP4 video download.

Mark Nepo:

‘…to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing. -Rilke

Ilia Delio:

‘Creation is not a demonstration of God’s boundless power but of God’s boundless love, a love so great that creation is drenched in it.’

‘Out of a long history of cosmic cataclysms and mass extinctions, we human emerge. We are born out of stardust, cousins of daffodils and bonobos; we are the conscious voice of a fragile earth.’

Next stop, Supreme Court.

August 22, 2019

The bias of white males is typically power and control. From this perspective nonviolence and love of enemies makes no sense whatsoever.

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

A letter from Lawrence Lessig.

I’m writing to tell you about a critically important decision in a case of ours by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that could advance substantially our campaign to reform the Electoral College. At a minimum, it will get us a hearing in the United States Supreme Court, so that the fundamental question that our case raises can finally be resolved.

That question is this: Can presidential Electors within the Electoral College be forced to vote one way or another? 

For most of my legal career (I won’t pretend to have thought much about the question before becoming a lawyer), I thought the answer to this question was easy: Of course they can! But in 2016, when Electors (and others) started raising the question, I began to look at the issue closely. To my surprise, I came to the view that the answer is actually no: That states cannot, constitutionally, control how their electors vote.

This conclusion is a bit terrifying: Can it really be that the choice for president could ultimately hang on the decision of a handful of electors? But terrifying or not, it seemed clearly to be what our Constitution prescribes. And after a record number of electors chose to vote their conscience in 2016, and not how they were pledged, we at EqualCitizens.US determined to get the question resolved finally before it creates a constitutional crisis.

Because remember: We know Electoral College contests are going to be closer in the future than they have been in the past; and as they get closer and closer, even a small number of electors could change the results of an election. Whether you think that’s a good system or not, we believe it is critical to resolve the question before it would decide an election. That means getting the Supreme Court to hear the case outside of a particular presidential contest, when they can answer the question without worrying about which candidate would benefit from their decision.

It now looks like that’s exactly what will happen. As I’ve written to you before, we’ve had two cases moving through the courts addressing this question — one in the Washington state courts, and one in federal court in Colorado. In Washington, three electors were fined $1,000 each for voting contrary to their pledge; in Colorado, one elector was removed, and two threatened for their decision to vote contrary to their pledge. We took the Washington case to the Washington Supreme Court and lost. Yesterday, we learned that we won in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This conflict now pretty much guarantees that the question will be before the Supreme Court next year.

When I describe this case to people, their first response is usually something like this: Why would you ever try to get the Court to say that electors are free? The answer is that if indeed they are free, we should know that before the next election. If the Court decides as the 10th Circuit did, then that means that we as a nation need to decide whether we want to keep this system, or replace it — either through the National Popular Vote Compact, or through an Amendment to the Constitution. Or if the Court decides as the Washington Supreme Court has done, then at least we don’t need to worry about this instability within our presidential election system.

My bet is on the 10th Circuit. You can read its incredibly thoughtful opinion below. And when the Supreme Court affirms that result (in the Washington case — for technical reasons, that’s the case we’ll bring to the Supreme Court), then the race will be on to decide whether we keep the system the framers gave us, or decide as a nation — finally — to adopt something new.

Congratulations to my colleague, Jason Harrow, who argued the case before the 10th Circuit. And thank you to all the plaintiffs in both cases — Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, Robert Nemanich (Colorado) and Bret Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, Dove John (Washington) — who both did what they believed was the right thing to do in 2016, and have continued to fight in the almost four years since.

Stay tuned for the next episode. Meanwhile, we’re turning to the petition to ask the Supreme Court to take up this case for review.

Lessig

 

A Vindication For The Hamilton Electors

Jason Harrow, Equal Citizens Executive Director and Chief Counsel

What are the powers of individual presidential electors in the Electoral College? Believe it or not, through over two centuries of history across 58 presidential elections, most lawyers are still not sure, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not definitively weighed in. But, because of an amazing group of electors we’ve been representing and a remarkable decision released yesterday afternoon by the federal appeals court in Denver, that is very likely to change before the election of 2020. And whatever way the Supreme Court goes, it’ll be a good thing for our country that, at last, the Supreme Court will be forced to grapple with the constitutional role of presidential electors.

Back up a few steps. We all know that the president is not directly elected based on popular votes but is instead elected by the votes of members of the Electoral College. The members of this most unusual College are appointed by each state following the popular election, and electors are real people who cast individual votes that may — or may not — be for the presidential candidates that they are expected to vote for.

In the 2016 version of the Electoral College, there were more of these independent electors than there has ever been in the modern era: there were seven official anomalous electoral votes for president and six for vice president, and several more electors tried to cast such votes but were prevented by state officials. Each elector had his or her own reason for casting a vote for someone not named Trump or Clinton, but many presidential electors were no doubt responding either to evidence of electoral interference that may have ensured Donald Trump’s election or to the historically large mismatch between the popular vote and the predicted outcome of the electoral college.

The issue of whether those independent votes must be counted, or whether states may intervene and tell electors who to vote for, has been percolating in the courts since then. Yesterday, a federal appeals court, for the first time in history, definitively ruled that presidential electors have the constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choice. That’s huge.

The case arose from the actions of three brave electors in Colorado — Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, and Robert Nemanich — who were threatened with removal if they failed to vote for Hillary Clinton, the winner of the popular vote in Colorado. Mike Baca was undeterred even by threats of serious punishment (including potential criminal perjury charges) and voted for John Kasich, in the faint hope that a few dozen Republican electors would join him and send the election to the House of Representatives, where a Republican other than Trump could be elected. His vote was never counted, though. Instead, after his vote was revealed, he was removed as an elector and replaced with another elector who voted for Clinton.

We filed suit to defend these electors in 2017. Yesterday, the federal appeals court in Denver agreed with our argument the Constitution protects his right to vote for president. It did so in a remarkable opinion that dug deeply into the constitutional text and historical practice — so deeply, in fact, that the opinion is 114 pages long. But there was a lot for the court to get to, and it’ll be a gripping read for those who appreciate careful judging and wise constitutional analysis.

We at Equal Citizens also represent a separate group of electors from Washington state, and in May, the Washington Supreme Court went the other way and said electors could be penalized for casting these faithless votes. Now that there is a direct split between these two appellate courts, it is very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will accept one of the cases for review in the coming months and, at long last, definitively resolve the issue of the freedom of presidential electors.

Finally: A win is, of course, a win. But some may be wondering why we are still pursuing this case, long after the election of 2016 has been decided. If we really believe in democracy — and, at Equal Citizens, we really do — should we really be pushing for 538 presidential electors to have the constitutional discretion to take the presidential election into their own hands?

Of course chaos and unpredictability is not the end result what we want; instead, we want to make presidential elections better, not more random or uncertain. And this litigation is consistent with that mission, for several reasons.

First, the current situation of uncertainty among increasing numbers of faithless votes is simply untenable. There have been only 58 prior elections, but we’ve nonetheless had our fair share of oddball results. We have had elections decided by a single elector (1876); we’ve seen the Supreme Court halt a recount in a swing state (2000); we’ve had a tied election thrown to the House for decision (1800); and we’ve even had an entire state shift its vice-presidential votes to throw that race into the Senate (1836).

This just shows that crazy things happen more often than we might predict, and the current situation — where about 30 states have laws purporting to bind electoral college votes, but no one knows if they’re legal — could lead to the most destructive crisis of them all: a situation where there is disagreement over the validity of one or more key electoral votes. What if the election hangs in the balance and an elector votes one way but a state official says it’s invalid? That crisis just cannot happen; it could tear the country apart. We need to know in advance of the next election whether it’s legal to bind electoral votes.

Second, whether we like it or not, we don’t think the ultimate question is even close — which means that if it were litigated in the middle of a presidential election, it could change the outcome. If America doesn’t like this result — and even some of us don’t like this result — we should have a chance to avoid it before the next election. Those who wish to change the system — as we do, and as our clients do — should therefore want this question resolved now. If the Supreme Court agrees with us, it would give real momentum to real alternatives, whether a constitutional amendment or the National Popular Vote compact. . And even if we lose in the Supreme Court, that would make clear that states in the National Popular Vote Compact could legally bind their electors and ensure there are no dissents there. Either way, this case will provide an important improvement over the status quo.

Bottom-line: next stop, Supreme Court. Exciting times.

https://medium.com/equal-citizens/a-vindication-for-the-hamilton-electors-f114134da74d

 

Beholding.

August 13, 2019

‘The divine encounter is something of a pure or direct encounter because there are no appropriate words or concepts through which to interpret it. Maggie Ross refers to the encounter with the divine as “beholding.” [1] 

Beholding is the antithesis of ordinary experience in that the self, which usually processes the data of our experience through an understanding inherited from our history, culture, and language community, is suspended, and we change our focus in order to be open to an engagement that defies whatever understanding we bring to it. . . .

What makes the contemplative experience universal and perennial is that contemplatives suspend the understanding through which their minds actively process and assess the data of their experience. . . . The prejudice of the modern mind is that knowledge must be something we can possess, but the knowledge that comes from our encounters with the divine possesses us and infuses an ineffable knowing within us. . . .

The prayer of the contemplative is, essentially, an attention to the omnipresence of God. God is omnipresent not as a theological doctrine, but as the great silence that is present in every moment—but from which we are usually distracted by an overactive mind that refuses to wait in a humble unknowing for a pure wisdom from above [James 3:17]. [2]’

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation


[1] Maggie Ross, “Behold Not the Cloud of Experience,” The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Exeter Symposium VIII, ed. E. A. Jones (Boydell and Brewer: 2013), 29-50.

[2] James P. Danaher, “What’s So Perennial About the Perennial Philosophy?” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 50-51, 53. No longer in print; a Kindle version is available from Amazon.

Gaia Earth

June 7, 2019

Diversity, Essence, and Communion

Sr. Joan Brown is a longtime friend and Franciscan, serving as Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit that works for climate justice. She writes about three foundational principles needed for harmony and wholeness:

‘All of us who live, breathe, and walk upon this amazing, holy Mother Earth are called to understand the cosmic principles inherent in the interdependent energy dynamic that throbs through every element of life. Nothing exists without these three interdependent energies that emerged from the first flaring forth over 13.8 billion years ago: differentiation or diversity; subjectivity, interiority, or essence; and communion or community and interconnectedness. These energies offer vital lessons for the critical times in which we live, where diversity causes conflict, living is often at a superficial level, and individualism runs rampant. [1]

First, every one of us—every human being, every drop of water, every molecule, every bird, each grain of sand, and each mountain—is distinct or different. Each is a distinct manifestation of Divine Love energy. The universe thrives upon, and cannot exist without, diversity. The very differences that we shun, avoid, or even destroy are necessary for life to continue in a multitude of magnificent forms. . . .

The second cosmic principle, interiority or essence, is more easily understood by people of all religious traditions. Every created thing is holy. Every blade of grass, grasshopper, child, and element is holy. Ecological degradation, racism, discrimination, hate, and disinterest in working for justice and love each speak to the lack of honoring the interiority of that which stands before me. . . . In order to help people adjust and cope with climate change, which is the most critical concern of our day, I believe we must get in touch with the sacred essence of everything that exists.

The third cosmic principle, communion or community, is intimately linked to differentiation/diversity and interiority/essence. A quote attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh states it well: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” [2] The gravitational pull of love draws everyone and everything into relationship and communion. . . .

Perhaps, as Beatrice Bruteau wrote, “If we cannot love our neighbor as ourself, it is because we do not perceive our neighbor as ourself.” [3] If we are unable to see that we are in communion with another, we will not realize that what we do to ourselves, we do to the other and to the earth. Likewise, we do not realize that, ultimately, our lack of understanding turns back toward us in violence, whether that is fear of other races and diversity, or destruction of Earth because we see the natural world as an object rather than a subject with interiority. . . .

We are called to be larger than who we can imagine being in this moment. The cosmic principles are a new way of understanding, seeing, and acting in a world that seems to be torn apart by a misunderstanding of the beauty of diversity, the holiness of essence, and the evolutionary pull of communion.’

[Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation]

[1] Passionist priest and eco-theologian Thomas Berry (1914–2009) and evolutionary cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote about these principles in their book, The Universe Story (HarperCollins: 1994, ©1992). Their work builds upon the cosmological investigations of paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), which were also explored by the writer and mystic Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014).
[2] Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching shared by Wendy Johnson, “A Floating Sangha Takes Root: Early Days in Plum Village with Thich Nhat Hanh,” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, vol. 24, no. 3 (Spring 2015). See https://tricycle.org/magazine/floating-sangha-takes-root/.
[3] Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis: 2005), 6.
Joan Brown, “Embracing Diversity through the Cosmic Principles,” “Unity and Diversity,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2018), 18-22.
Image credit: Pure Diversity (detail), Mirta Toledo, 1993. Art Collection of TCU University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Flourish

May 28, 2019

“We must listen to what is supporting us. We must listen to what is encouraging us. We must listen to what is urging us. We must listen to what is alive in us.”

I personally was so trained not to trust those voices that I often did not hear the voice of God speaking to me, or what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.”

Yes, a narcissistic person can misuse such advice, but someone genuinely living in love will flourish inside such a dialogue.

We must learn how to recognize the positive flow and to distinguish it from the negative resistance within ourselves.

We must learn how to recognize the positive flow and to distinguish it from the negative resistance within ourselves. It takes years of practice.

Center for Action and Contemplation

‘Spiritual questions are more important now than ever.’ -Harari

April 9, 2019

Fr. Richard Rohr: ‘My colleague and Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault writes about this in her book The Meaning of Mary Magdalene:’

Today, within the mainstream of Christian sacramental practice we have indeed forgotten much of what our wisdom forebears once knew. Most Christians are still familiar with anointing only in its most stark and literal form, as the sacrament of “extreme unction,” administered shortly before physical death. While the ceremonial use of anointing for healing is on the increase (and this is a positive trend), even within these healing circles most people are unaware of the tightly interwoven threads that connect this action, through Mary Magdalene, to redemptive love and rebirth into fullness of being. They would be astonished to discover that anointing has not only something but everything to do with bridal mysticism and that it is not physical death but “dying before you die” that is its primary field of reference. To reclaim anointing in its original context would make it the sacramental centerpiece of a whole new vision of Christianity based on spiritual transformation and the alchemy of love. 

Center for Action and Contemplation

March 28-31

‘The quantum, the subatomic, the elemental, and the very minerals of the earth.

The very waters that fall upon the earth, run through our rivers, our bodies, and fill our oceans.

The plants, the trees, all living and growing networks that root into this earth.

The animals in our skies, in our oceans, on the land, all creatures great and small.

Human beings: every race, nationality, status, equality, or gender–ALL human bodies.

The angels and the spirits, those that move in the unseen realms and in other dimensions.

The great planetary bodies, the galaxies, and the whole cosmic mystery.’

God loves things by becoming them. -Richard Rohr

No despair of our can alter the reality of things, nor stain the joy of the cosmic dance, which is always there.

-Thomas Merton, 1915-1968

Your religion is not the church you belong to, but the cosmos you live inside of.

-G.K. Cheserton

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

-Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ

“Have I not told you that I am in the spirit as the spirit is in me? It is man who sees only poverty, for he sees with the eyes of the master of the world. But where man sees poverty, the spirit sees only abundance. What the spirit sees, I see, and what I see the spirit sees, and what the spirit sees, is.” -The Gospel of Thomas

For Richard Rohr, there are six simple claims that order the fullness of his finest book “The Universal Christ: How A Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe.”

  1. Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It’s a word used by the ancients to talk about the anointed one, and the Reality and flow of love in the universe found from the very beginning of time.
  2. We might then “accept being accepted”– that we are fully loved and embraced as we are, not because of who we are or what we do.
  3. See Christ in every thing. And not just fun, ecstatic parts of life — but in the depths of grief and pain as well.
  4. Start with original goodness. Why do Christians so often talk about “original sin?” It’s not even in the Bible. And in fact, the Bible starts with a story about how every thing and every one is good, good, good, and very good.
  5. Love is the meaning — it’s the underlying energy that powers the universe and available to each and every one of us as a divine flow.
  6. And, a sacred wholeness, which includes even the negative aspects of life’s way — typified in the Christian story as the cross.

“Jesus of the People”, artist Janet McKenzie

https://www.janetmckenzie.com

The Christ Mystery is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life,” but this is not about a religion or group one can join (which is how we have heard it), but rather a mystery of Incarnation that can be experienced by all, and in a million different ways.

-Richard Rohr, Oneing

“I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have every had.” -D.H. Lawrence

“…feminine, cooperative and supportive.”

July 17, 2018

The shift to a more sustainable political policy will involve:

. . . a shift of emphasis away from means towards ends; away from economic growth towards human development; away from quantitative towards qualitative values and goals; away from the impersonal and organisational towards the personal and interpersonal; and away from the earning and spending of money towards the meeting of real human needs and aspirations. A culture that has been masculine, aggressive and domineering in its outlook will give place to one which is more feminine, cooperative and supportive. A culture that has exalted the uniformly European will give place to one which values the multi-cultural richness and diversity of human experience. An anthropocentric worldview that has licensed the human species to exploit the rest of nature as if from above and outside it, will give place to an ecological worldview. We shall recognize that survival and self-realisation alike require us to act as what we really are—integral parts of an ecosystem much larger, more complex, and more powerful than ourselves. 

James Robertson, Beyond the Dependency Culture: People, Power and Responsibility, as cited by Richard Rohr and The Center for Action and Contemplation.

We cannot expect to draw a pattern of this right seeing from he objective world of confusion or our inner thoughts of doubt and fear. We are to look and think independently of the confusion in the moment.  I am seeing through confusion to peace, through doubt to certainty, through fear to faith. As I do this everything I look upon shall become transformed and reborn. -Ernest Holmes

Terrible things are hard enough to experience the first time. Beyond their second and third and fourth experience as trauma, ,their impact can easily makes u become terrible if we do not keep our want to love alive. Perhaps the most difficult challenge of being wounded is not turning our deepest loving nature over to the lie and way of the wound. The human heart–no matter how often it is cut–can reassert its impulse to love. -Mark Nepo

Also from Mark:

I see that we’re such fragile, resilient creatures, here for just a long unplanned moment, tumbling and waking in this beautiful, harsh tender existence.

Dialogue is a matter of understanding, of peeling away the mind to stand under (our thoughts) in Oneness.

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