The Cosmic We Featuring Barbara Holmes and Donny Bryant
The Cosmic We podcast goes beyond race and racism to consider relatedness as the organizing principle of the universe, exploring our shared cosmic origins though a cultural lens that fuses science, mysticism, spirituality, and the creative arts.
Together with prominent cosmologists, shamans, biblical scholars, poets and activists, CAC core teacher Barbara Holmes and co-host Donny Bryant unveil the “we” of us beyond color, continent, country, and kinship to conjure unseen futures in exploration of the mystery of Divine connection.
Listen to The Cosmic We online or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
You can expect regular updates on our progress in Returning to the Center, as well as institutional history, community stories, staff essays, videos, and even opportunities to contribute. You will find the latest posts on our website as well as social media and in the News from New Mexico, the CAC’s monthly newsletter. cac.org
“In a very real way, the shift from a pagan earth-based spirituality to the patriarchal Christian notion of man’s right to dominate nature was a causal factor contributing to what would one day become our environmental crisis.”
F O R E A R T H D A Y
Award winning film at the 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival. NatGeo photographer Brian Skerry discovers a profound whale culture filming the series over three years in 24 aqueous locations across the planet. Astonishingly beautiful and tender. Streaming on Disney+. #EarthDay2021
Executive Producer James Cameron: “It’s so important for people to understand and illuminate how these creatures think, how they feel, what their emotion is like, what their society is like, because we won’t protect what we don’t love.” [Deadline]
‘The Eurocentric view of property ownership requires to see land as disconnected from us, separating from the source of life. The Indigenous view, kcyie, recognizes our obligation to care for the land as we would care for our human relatives.’
-Fr. Richard Rohr
Climate Journalist Eric Holthaus:
“A Green New Deal is inevitable – if we keep on fighting for it.
This is a terrifying moment because it is so important, and the people who realize that – people on the front lines of climate violence around the world – are being told to wait.
The anger in these words I’m writing now is because I know that what needs to happen isn’t hard at all once we get enough people demanding it.
The best thing of all is there’s a shared vision of a world where every living thing matters. Building upon hundreds of years of wisdom, struggle, and science, we know that a flourishing human civilization is no longer possible without it being rooted in ecology and reverence for the interconnection and interdependence of us all on each other.
And, as it turns out, that vision of a better world is really really popular.
We have everything we need to make this happen. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to wait any longer for a livable planet.”
The YHWH Prayer
You shall not take the name of God in vain.
Many Christians think the second commandment is a prohibition against swearing. But I believe the real meaning of speaking the name of God “in vain” is to speak God’s name casually or trivially, with a false presumption of understanding the Mystery—as if we knew what we were talking about!
Many Jewish people concluded that the name of God should not be spoken at all. The Sacred Tetragrammaton, YHWH, was not even to be pronounced with the lips! In fact, vocalizing the four consonants does not involve closing the mouth.
A rabbi taught me that God’s name was not pronounceable but only breathable: YH on the captured in-breath, and WH on the offered out-breath!
We come from a very ancient, human-based, natural, biological, universally experienced understanding of God. God’s eternal mystery cannot be captured or controlled, but only received and shared as freely as the breath itself—the thing we have done since the moment we were born and will one day cease to do in this body. God is as available and accessible as our breath itself. Jesus breathes the Spirit into us as the very air of life (see John 20:22)!
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Our job is simply to both receive and give this life-breath. We cannot only inhale, and we cannot only exhale. We must breathe in and out, accept and let go.
Take several minutes to pause and breathe mindfully, surrendering to the mystery of wordless air, the sustainer of life. Part your lips; relax your jaw and tongue. Hear the air flow in and out of your body:
Let your breathing in and out, for the rest of your life, be your prayer to—and from—such a living and utterly shared God. You will not need to prove it to anybody else, nor can you. Just keep breathing with full consciousness and without resistance, and you will know what you need to know.
Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy)(detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Fr. Richard Rohr:
My friend and fellow CAC teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes has the ability to bear witness to the expansiveness of the cosmos, the major systemic shifts taking place in society, and the small and sacred moments of daily life—all at the same time. Her writing is a poetic and prophetic call for us to wake up and pay attention to everything that is happening around us.
It is time to awaken to self, society, and the cosmos, for none of us has the luxury of sleepwalking through impending cultural and scientific revolutions. In the last sermon that he preached before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to “remain awake through a great revolution.”  . . .
Up above our heads, there are worlds unknown and a canopy of grace, light, air, and water that supports our survival. Without realizing it, we expend massive amounts of energy to block out the vastness of our universe. This is to be expected, for, in its totality, this information can be more than human systems can take. However, by riveting our attention on the mundane, we filter out the wonder that is available with each breath.
Although we have a fascination with space and the possibility of life in other realms, we steadfastly refuse to respond when the universe invites us to broaden our lines of sight. We are beckoned by blazing sunsets and the pictures returned by powerful telescopic lenses, yet, on any given day, we court a busyness that beguiles us into focusing on the limited perspectives in our immediate space.
Today, scientific information about the universe is increasing exponentially while ethnic and racial balances within the United States are shifting radically. In the scientific realm, the epistemological foundations for hierarchy, dominance, and rationality are crumbling, while proponents of gender, class, [racial,] and sexual equity have found their public voices. . . .
We are not hamsters on a wheel, waiting to fall into the cedar shavings at the bottom of the cage. We are seekers of light and life, bearers of shadows and burdens. We are struggling to journey together toward moral fulfillment. We are learning to embrace the unfathomable darkness where God dwells with enthusiasm that equals our love of light. Physics and cosmology have metaphors and languages to help us awaken to these and other possibilities. . . . We are not just citizens of one nation or another, but of the human and cosmic community.
Awareness is the moment when we rise with eyes crusted from self-induced dreams of control, domination, victimization, and self-hatred to catch a glimpse of the divine in the face of “the other.” Then God’s self-identification, “I am that I am / I will be who I will be” (Exodus 3:14) becomes a liberating example of awareness, mutuality, and self-revelation.
Barbara teaches us that “everything belongs”—from moments of personal awakening, to mind-bending discoveries with the potential to change everything. Growing in awareness of a “Christ-soaked universe” helps us to awaken to wonder and see the divine in all things.
 Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. (March 31, 1968). See A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (HarperCollins: 1986), 270.
Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020), 42, 43, 57.
The Unspoken Privilege of Being White
For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment [because of social systems built to prioritize people with white skin]. This systemic “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true? Now, we are being shown how limited our vision is.
Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us.
[And we are quick to dismiss what is apparent to our neighbors who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color [BIPOC] from their lived experience.]
Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The advancement of the white person was too often at the cost of other people not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.
I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees and, frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid!
Power [and privilege] never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there, we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity” (revolutionary ideals that endure as mottos for France and Haiti).
If God operates as me, God operates as “thee” too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
100 ways you can take action against racism right now
If you’re looking to get involved outside of organizing in person, we’ve rounded up a list of ways you can take action from home, including ideas specific to demanding justice for Floyd and addressing racism in general.
[Also showing on Netflix.]
Previously unseen footage is shaped into a fresh and timely retelling of the 1992 Rodney King trial — and the verdict that sparked civil unrest–the acquittal of four police officers for beating a black motorist saw several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles. Gives back story to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 in South-Central Los Angeles. Directed by T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay.
We can’t permit the murder of people because of the color of their skin. Institutional racism is real, it’s often invisible, and it’s pernicious.
And White Supremacy is a loaded term precisely because the systems and their terrible effects are very real, widespread and run deep.
The benefit of the doubt is powerful indeed, and that benefit has helped me and people like me for generations. I’m ashamed of how we got here, and want to more powerfully contribute and model how we can get better, together.
It doesn’t matter how many blog posts about justice I write, or how clear I try to be about the power of diversity in our organizations. Not if I’m leaving doubt about the scale and enormity of the suffering that people feel, not just themselves, but for their parents before them and for the kids that will follow them.
It’s easier to look away and to decide that this is a problem for someone else. It’s actually a problem for all of us. And problems have solutions and problems are uncomfortable.
I have come to the surprised conclusion, after being raised on an idea of body/mind/spirit as distinct, that the distinctions were borne of the limits of our understanding. We all know, in ways terrible and wonderful, that what touches your body deeply also touches your spirit. -Krista Tippett
James Parker’s prayer for these trying times.
In this our hour of doorknobs and droplets,
when masks have canceled our personalities;
in this our hour of prickling perimeters, sinister surfaces,
defeated bodies, and victorious abstractions,
when some of us are stepping into rooms humid with contagion,
and some of us are standing in the pasta aisle;
in this our hour of vacant parks and boarded-up hoops,
when we miss the sky-high roar of the city
and hear instead the tarp that flaps on the unfinished roof,
the squirrel giving his hingelike cry, and the siren constantly passing,
to You we send up our prayer, as follows:
Let not heebie-jeebies become our religion,
our new ideology, with its own jargon.
Fortify us, Lord. Show us how.
What would your saints be doing now?
Saint Francis, he was a fan of the human.
He’d be rolling naked on Boston Common.
He’d be sharing a bottle. No mask, no gloves,
shielded only by burning love.
But I don’t think we’re in the mood
for feats of antic beatitude.
In New York City, and in Madrid,
the saints maintain the rumbling grid.
Bless the mailman, and equally bless
the bus driver, vector of steadfastness.
Protect the bravest, the best we’ve got.
Protect the rest of us, why not.
And if the virus that took John Prine
comes, as it may, for me and mine,
although we’ve mostly stayed indoors,
well—then, as ever, we’re all Yours.
Until further notice,
Even though I’ve said this at other times, it’s so important that I repeat it here: it is that souls shouldn’t be thinking about consolations at this beginning stage. It would be a very poor way to start building so precious and great an edifice. –Teresa of Ávila
Under no circumstances, said Teresa, are we to give up our time of prayer and meditation, no matter how tedious it becomes; this would be like saying that since we are no longer receiving anything, we will not spend our time this way. Can you imagine acting like this with our friends and lovers? What if, in a moment of not receiving anything from them, we ceased spending time with them?
The small amount of time we do spend in prayer and meditation, Teresa believed, should be given wholly to the Beloved—we should consider it not ours but the Beloved’s.
Our hearts open either because they have been softened, or perhaps because suffering makes us feel like we have nothing more to lose. It often takes us to the edge of our inner resources where we “fall into the hands of the living God”(Hebrews 10:31).
[Fr. Richard Rohr/Center for Action & Contemplation]
In the beginning was the Blueprint, and the Blueprint was with God, and the Blueprint was God. . . . And all things came to be through this inner plan. The inner reality of God became manifest in the outer world as the Cosmic or Eternal Christ. No one thing came to be except through this Blueprint and plan.
This Blueprint was the true light that enlightens all human beings who have come into the world. So, the true light, Consciousness, or Love itself precedes and connects and feeds all of our smaller lights and attractions.
This Light/Life/Love shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. “The visible galaxies we see strewn across space are nothing more than strings of luminous flotsam drifting on an invisible sea of dark matter,” writes astrophysicist Adam Frank.
Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio explains: “Scientists speculate that dark energy comprises about 73 percent of the total mass-energy of the universe and accelerates expansion of the universe.” Somehow the universe is an interplay between light and darkness.
This lays a wonderful foundation for a new consciousness and a new cosmology—and a very different notion of religion itself.