Poets and Mystics Experiencing Rupture and Shamanhood

Yesterday we meditated on the important work that rupture sometimes plays in bringing forth the shaman in self and society.  David Palladin, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, the followers of Jesus after the trauma of his death, were all invoked.  And by inference, all of us are implicated in this way. 

Daguerrotype of Emily Dickinson, c. early 1847. It is presently located in Amherst College Archives & Special Collections. Wikimedia Commons.

Suffering often opens up a portal to a new self, a deeper self.  “God’s exit is her entrance,” says Meister Eckhart.  And again, “if you want the kernel, you much break the shell.” 

Sometimes we have to be broken—personally or collectively—to move on from death and illusion and ignorance to something greater that we might call transformation or resurrection.  I think it is significant that Eckhart invented a new word in German for that experience and that the word he created was durchbruck or breakthrough.  (Notice how it relates to the “broken shell” above.)  What he tells us about such breakthroughs is this: “In breakthrough I learn that God and I are one.”

Fifty years after Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write a book in English, she freaked out the Patriarchal and Fall/redemption establishment for subsequent centuries because it was so creation-centered, invented a word for the same experience Eckhart talks about.  She called it oneing.

Castello di Monte San Giovanni Campano, where Thomas Aquinas was imprisoned by his family. Wikimedia Commons.

I am tempted to ask: Have all the mystics undergone a kind of rupture that resulted in their deep awakening? 

Thomas Aquinas underwent some deep ruptures in his life including being put into a monastery at the age of five by his parents; and choosing to leave that same monastery and the security it provided at the age of fifteen; then joining the Dominicans at 18 years of age, but being kidnapped by his brothers urged on by his mother, and brought back to the family castle in order to prevent his Dominican vocation from continuing.  Then, with the help of his sister, escaping from said dungeon and hightailing it to Paris to take up once again his Dominican vocation.  Plenty of ruptures in that story surely.

“Fiery Life-Force” First vision of Hildegard of Bingen. Miniature from the Book of Divine Works. WikiArt

Hildegard of Bingen tells us that her awakening or Pentecost experience occurred when on a sick bed (like Julian) and being told to start drawing her visions and writing her thoughts.  She wrote her first book, Scivias, (“Know the ways”—the ways of wisdom and the ways of folly) which among other things contained her opera and many visions put to images and mandalas.  The book took her ten years to complete.  (About nine other books followed in her lifetime.) 

Previous to that awakening was her exit from the bi-gender monastery where she had lived for over 30 years and her starting out on her own to found her own monastery apart from the men’s monastery (in the Celtic tradition, monasteries were often gender-integrated).  So that too was surely a rupture that led to many gifts of grace.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. xxxi-xlix;

See also Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 12-30;

Also see Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond 34-44, 59-70.

Banner Image: Seed germination: the sprouting plant breaks through the seed and leaves it behind. Photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wikimedia Commons.

What ruptures in your life have provoked a breakthrough or awakening or resurrection experience?  Do you think we pay enough attention to these events and explore their deeper meanings either as individuals or as a culture?

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen

An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition.  At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them.
“If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.”  – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

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MOTHERS’ DAY SPECIAL GIFT! Download the excerpt “The Black Madonna and the Green Man” from The Hidden Spirituality of Men HERE.

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7 thoughts on “Poets and Mystics Experiencing Rupture and Shamanhood”

  1. Avatar

    This is a message for our culture truly. A “rupture” at so many levels is and has occurred. Be that individually, spiritually, nationally, sexually , racially and of course ultimately planetary.
    I love the phrase “suffering often opens up a new portal to a deeper self” , but also that this is individually and communally.
    I,m also struck with the idea that suffering is part of the process of “oneing” . (J OF N) and also how Eckhart too says “what happens to one person whether sorrow or joy happens to me”.
    Perhaps this is why suffering and compassion are so linked at all levels? We are able to know others are with us in our suffering, our dark nights of the soul.
    This means when racism, sexism, nationalism, greed, gender inequality,abuse and so many other destructive forces occur we share (or should be with those ) in that suffering. It grounds us all , it “ones” us with the bigger story.
    And of course calls us to speak out against injustice in whatever form that takes.
    Perhaps the “oneing” journey includes both rupture and joy as on their own our response would lead us to either zealot like protest or pseudo mysticism? Or worse numbness and denial.
    The merging and acceptance, trust (faith) of these two experiences leads us to a far healthy , authentic spirituality…?
    Powerful meditation today Matthew , thank you. ??

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Steve, thank you for your comments. You are right. A “rupture” has occurred, and at so many different levels. You say that you are stuck by the idea that suffering is a part of the process of “oneing” as spoken of by Julian of Norwich, and this is why suffering and compassion are linked, and why rupture and joy are also linked. And I agree that the merging and acceptance of these two experiences leads us to a healthy, authentic spirituality. Thank you again for your comment Steve!

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Suffering and compassion
    a rose forming the crown
    pierced by truth
    awakening Oneness
    resurrecting Divine Love
    crying out for justice
    awaiting our response

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