Dark Times can bring forth creativity and wisdom. Meister Eckhart reminds us of a hard—but truthful—reality when he says: “If you want the kernel you must break the shell.” In times of chaos like our own, there is a lot of breaking of shells going on. Some respond to this breaking up of things, this deconstruction, with despair; others want to flee—and addiction is one kind of flight; still others surrender to nihilism.
But great souled people like the mystics caution that we should stick around and learn what the dark night of the soul and the dark night of our species has to teach us. It may prove to be something very valuable. Something deep. Something wise.
Indeed, Thomas Berry reminds us that dark times in the past have often proven to be the most creative and consequential times. For example, in the third century in China the dissolution of the Han dynasty occurred and things fell apart; but what arose was a fresh thing–Buddhist monks and Confucian scholars and artists gave expression to new visions and new thoughts at the deepest levels of human consciousness. The new forms allowed the Chinese to survive as a people and as a culture for centuries.
Wisdom traditions were reborn that carried people far beyond the daily reports of journalists recording daily affairs. They offered principles guiding human life within the very structure and function of the universe itself.
Berry sees something parallel having happened in the middle ages in Europe when, with the breakdown of the feudal era, the twelfth century renaissance gave birth to so much that was new including universities, communes, the return of the Divine Feminine and the Green Man, the Franciscan and Dominican and Beguine movements. The amazing genius of Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas also rose up.
Mechtild of Magdeburg, thirteenth century Beguine and mystic, tells us to “lie down in the fire.” The fire has lots to teach us even amidst the pain.
Maybe part of dark times and part of “lying down in the fire” is to seek enlightenment—the kind David Korten talks of when he calls us to a “Second Enlightenment”–one that includes science but also “the beauty, wonder, possibility and meaning in life that science” so often cannot offer. Korten comments on a tension inherited from the modern era and the first Enlightenment: “The resulting tension plays into the hands of climate deniers and political demagogues ready to exploit it for their own ends. There is urgent need for the second Enlightenment now emerging.”
An urgent need indeed! Learning matters in a time of lies and ignorance and denial. And new visions.
The new certificate program in Creation Spirituality and Leadership that we are launching this spring with Global Ministries University, might prove a valuable path to a new enlightenment.
For more info please click here
See Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, Jen Listug, Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action, pp. xviii, 125.
Banner Image: Rev. Dr. Gail Ransom, graduate of University of Creation Spirituality, Co-Leader of Mystics in Motion, leading CS body prayer. Photo originally posted on the website of Creation Spirituality Communities (CSC).
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree with David Korten that a new, “second enlightenment,” is due?
One that blends reason and intuition, critical thinking and wonder?
Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action
By Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jen Listug
In the midst of global fire, earthquake and flood – as species are going extinct every day and national and global economies totter – the planet doesn’t need another church or religion. What it needs is a new Order, grounded in the Wisdom traditions of both East and West, including science and indigenous. An Order of the Sacred Earth united in one sacred vow: “I promise to be the best lover and defender of the Earth that I can be.”
Co-authored by Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jennifer Berit Listug, with a forward by David Korten, this collection of essays by 21 spiritual visionaries including Brian Swimme, Mirabai Starr, Theodore Richards, and Kristal Parks marks the founding of the diverse and inclusive Order of the Sacred Earth, a community now evolving around the world.
“The Order of the Sacred Earth not only calls us home to our true nature as Earth, but also offers us invaluable guidance and company on the way.” ~~ Joanna Macy, environmental activist and author of Active Hope.