Courtney Milne, Mystical Photographer, continued

In yesterday’s DM, I held Courtney Milne up as another artist, like Suzi Gablik, who eagerly found the spiritual in his work. 

Callanish standing stones, Scotland. Image from The Sacred Earth by Courtney Milne. Published with permission from the tribute site “The Canadian Nature Photographer.”

In the Foreword to Milne’s classic work, The Sacred Earth, the Dalai Lama reminds us that Mother Earth not only provides us with breath, water, food, clothing and shelter: 

but she even serves as a source of inspiration. Throughout history people all over the world have identified particular places as sacred….Closely connected with this is the practice of pilgrimage.*

When Milne sent me a copy of the book, he wrote me a Thank You for “helping me to find purpose and meaning in my life (along with a little help from Spirit).”   He also gifted me with the following note on the cover page:

A poem composed at your Creation Spirituality Workshop, Saskatoon, February 8th, 1992 by Courtney Milne.

          I have a feeling
                   That through the hole in reason’s ceiling,
          In Heaven you can perch,
                  Without ever going to church!

Courtney Milne, struggling with cancer late in life, photographing his swimming pool. Published with permission from the tribute site “The Canadian Nature Photographer.”

As he aged and could not travel so readily, another insight inspired Courtney.  That was to look more deeply at the “sacred site” that was his backyard with a pool in it.  Looking deeply at his own backyard and the pool in it that was so varied as seasons passed, he developed a new project.  He took over 400,000 photos of the pool in different seasons of the year. 

He called his project “The pool of possibilities” and scaled it down to 7500 slides of his backyard pool.  And he also felt it was his “most profound work.”  You can see the Pool of Possibilities project HERE.  

When I ran into him at a conference a year before he died, Courtney told me that the pond in his backyard was as sacred or mystical as any of the great sites he traveled long and far around the world to behold.  

“Receptiveness” from the Pool of Possibilities Project. Published with permission from the tribute site “The Canadian Nature Photographer.”

He is right!  His photographs prove him right.  Sacredness is everywhere, even in our back yards, and it varies every day and with every season, as Courtney skillfully, wonderfully, shows us.  So long as one observes deeply, as he did, and his camera led him to do.

Milne tells us that his vision is “to reveal life’s unfolding mystery—not to try to solve it.”  And that often that mystery was right in one’s own backyard.

*Courtney Milne, The Sacred Earth (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1991), p. x.  

Also Sherrill Miller (author) and Courtney Milne (illustrator), The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Sacred Earth Collection (Voyageur Press, 1991).

Also see

Also see Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.

Also see Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Teeming”from the Pool of Possibilities Project. Published with permission from the tribute site “The Canadian Nature Photographer,” a subsidiary of Science & Art Multimedia, owned & operated by Dr. Robert Berdan.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you find life’s unfolding mystery right in your own backyard?  Or front porch?  Or in your own soul?

Recommended Reading

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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11 thoughts on “Courtney Milne, Mystical Photographer, continued”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Your Queries for Contemplation inspire our thinking, and nudge us to look at things differently. And I must admit that you have guided me over the years, as much with your questions as with your answers. Over the years I have looked forward to the coming of every new book you write that is published (and I’ve even read a couple before they were officially published)–and I have read them all! So, in a sense I do “find life’s unfolding mystery right in my own backyard, or front porch.” I say this metaphorically, in view of the fact that I have a mysterious adventure before me each time I read one of your books in my own home.
    “Or in your own soul?”
    Not “or” but “and”–I find life’s unfolding mystery in my own backyard and front porch, AND I also find it happening in my soul–and I try to always be prepared to receive mystical experiences…

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Thank you so much for todays DM, and the simplicity of its message. I think in general, we all often take for granted what’s there, to discover, explore, and engage with… right in our own backyards. Often we seek mystery, as if it’s somewhere else… out there. The real mystical journey however, is really about relating with both what’s inside and outside… being present to both… seeing, listening, sensing, intuiting… all that unfolds, evolves and emerges from this. The what is… is constantly changing… offering something new to behold. What arises from this is a deep appreciation, a recognition that every moment is sacred… and all, both the inner and outer world… is holy ground.

  3. Avatar
    Damian Maureira

    Yes Matthew, thank you for reminding us of the perennial wisdom of all of our genuine mystical traditions — the Immanence~Transcendence/ panentheism of God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Creativity~Beauty~Joy~Mystery within and among us in All of God’s ongoing co-Creation in our multiverse Cosmos… The mystics and saints who have experienced, lived, and shared their Sacred intimacy with our Beloved Creator and God’s Creation is an inspiration for all of us on our own faithful, transformative, sacred, and spiritual journeys of our eternal souls with one another to this deepening Loving Intimacy of Oneness….

  4. Avatar
    Carolyn Winters

    Today’s message is what I needed this day! At 83 my mobility is decreasing and the thought of looking more deeply for the sacred right where I am nourishes and encourages me. Matthew odds have encouraged and guided me ever since I read Original Blessing about 1980 and todays is heaven sent.

  5. Avatar

    Matthew, like others, I find your essay today incredibly inspiring in two ways. First, I am inspired by what Courtney did when he found himself unable to travel. He found the sacred in his own backyard. As he stated, his limitations led to his greatest sacred adventure. Lately, my eyesight has gotten worse quickly, and I have been reflecting on, as a writer, how might I deal with losing my eyesight if that were to come to pass. My own creativity is greatly enhanced by physically seeing my words on the page and editing them quickly as my thoughts change. I can’t imagine writing with the use of a voice-activated computer. So I ask, how could he, a photographer, exercise his creative spirit if he couldn’t go places and see things? He showed us how, how to work within one’s limitations and continue to experience mysticism. Surely, following his example, I could find a way to exercise mine. Second, you often teach that we can find awe anywhere, that we can and should experience it at least three times a day. As I love photography too, what if I were to photograph one image in my own backyard each day. (And commit to post it on Facebook to keep myself honest.) Would this not encourage me to see differently, to see the mystic all around me? My own little iPhone photographs will not rise to the ecstatic beauty of Courtney Milne’s (Yes, I have been looking at the photos of his pool), but it will cause me to discover awe each day in one single, small space of God’s creation.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Michele, Thank you for your comment today. You comment today in part: “I have been reflecting on, as a writer, how might I deal with losing my eyesight if that were to come to pass.” I too am a writer and a painter and worry about my eyes as well. But just think of this–the English Poet, John Milton, who wrote PARADISE LOST lost his eyesight… and Beethoven lost his hearing, but they both went on to produce with out modern day electronics. And when you asked the question of how would Milne be able travel and go places to photograph, you note that “He showed us how, how to work within one’s limitations and continue to experience mysticism.” And a big AMEN to that !!!

  6. Avatar

    I read your daily meditations every day, each reinforcing my deepening journey into mystical consciousness. Thank you for your abundant fount of mystical wisdom, tenacity, and clarity.

  7. Avatar

    I love the poem: …”through the hole in reason’s ceiling…” is a lovely image. The sacred is everywhere and we are always on holy ground. I too am old and severely disabled and have had to depend on motorized wheelchair but can always find something new, something awe-inspiring, something to be grateful for, especially in nature. Looking at the same thing in a different way or from a different perspective is a surprise, if we really pay attention. Richard Rohr describes the practice of beholding in his book, “Just This”–when he sends people into the woods on a retreat, he tells them to draw an imaginary line in the sand and to truly expect things on the other side to be special, invitational, or to be a kind of manifestation–it always works, because then you are meeting things subject to subject, not as objects. I have practiced this, and it does work, when I put my heart and spirit into it, wherever I am.

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