Berry, Shamanism, Fr. Bede & the Primordial Ground of Being

We are meditating with Thomas Berry on how “the shaman functions in a less personal relationship with the divine.  He is more cosmological, more primordial, personally more inventive in the source of his insight and his power.”

“Портрет о. Беды Гриффитса ” (Father Bede Griffiths, OSB CAM) Image by Maria Zakharova. Wikimedia Commons.

We have discussed how the shaman functions in a less personal relationship with the divine than does the prophet, how he or she is “more cosmological, more primordial.”  Father Bede Griffiths, the Benedictine monk and holy man who lived in a Christian ashram in India for over fifty years, affirms this same point. 

To say that God is a person is not necessarily to deny that he is impersonal. . . . The Christian concept of God often becomes so personal that it needs to be corrected by the impersonalism of Buddhism. . . . To insist too much on the moral character of God can narrow our conception and lose something of that spontaneous freedom, that ecstasy of joy, which is found in Krishna.  There is a divine paradox insofar as God is both personal and impersonal.

God holds out moral challenges but also “spontaneous freedom” and joyful ecstasy. Is this your experience also?

In meditative ritual, Tibetan monks construct a Sacred Sand Mandala centering on the image or symbol of Green Tara, surrounded by a symbolic view of the universe in balance. Image by Festival of Faiths on Flickr.

We spoke last DM also about accessing the Ground of Being.  Father Bede sees this happening through meditation.

How can I get to know myself? Not by thinking, for thinking only reflects my conscious being, but by meditating. Meditation goes beyond the conscious mind into the unconscious. In meditation I can become aware of the ground of my being in matter, in life, in human consciousness.

A cosmic connection occurs.   I can experience my solidarity with the universe, with the remotest star in outer space and with the minutest particle in the atom. I can experience my solidarity with every living thing, with the earth, with these flowers and coconut trees, with the birds and squirrels, with every human being. I can get beyond all these outer forms of things in time and space and discover the Ground from which they all spring. I can know the Father, the Origin, the Source, beyond being and non-being, the One “without a second.” I can know the birth of all things from this Ground, their coming into being in the Word.

“Cosmic Consciousness: The more you know about consciousness, the more you know about Buddha or God.” Image by Hartwig HKD on Flickr.

Notice how Father Bede, like Thomas Berry, is affirming our growth of soul from the “small self” to a “cosmic self.”  Father Bede is speaking of encountering the Cosmic Christ or Buddha Nature or Image of God.

He invites us to move from the act of thinking that keeps us in the conscious mode to meditating which takes us “beyond the conscious mind” to a deeper place. He also tells us what we find in meditation: the ground of our being, our solidarity with all living beings and the full breadth of the universe, from the stars to the particles within atoms.  In wordless meditation we move past duality, “beyond being and non-being,” to the Origin, the Source, “the birth of all things.”

Is this not a return to the primordial that Berry tells us the shaman undertakes? 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 258, 261.

Banner Image: “Cosmic Contemplation: Sitting in the quiet of the night, stargazing. Calm and serene, contemplating your existence.” Photo by Paean Ng on Flickr.

Does your spiritual journey include both ethical choices and ecstatic celebration?  And a return to the primordial?  Do you experience both personal and impersonal aspects of Divinity?

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4 thoughts on “Berry, Shamanism, Fr. Bede & the Primordial Ground of Being”

  1. Avatar

    Hi Matt: I love what you have been doing here, “affirming our growth of soul from the “small self” to a “cosmic self.” This gives us permission to feel and experience our unity with the cosmic consciousness to inspire loving sacred action from the ground of our own being. Thank you for unfolding this interfaith path in ways we can personally explore and trust in reshaping our humanness and humanity itself. It feels so right.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joh, thank you so much for your comment. And indeed we are growing from our “small self” to our “cosmic self.” I especially appreciate the ideas you express in terms of feeling and experiencing our unity with cosmic consciousness. And for more on the interfaith path, or “deep ecumenism,” as Matthew calls it (and he actually coined the term) is expressed most clearly in his book, ONE RIVER, MANY WELLS. Thank you again.

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