The Finger and the Moon | by Holly Hudley

I thought this week of the Zen Buddhism saying, “Don’t mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.” This has a lot to do with mistaking myths and rituals for Truth. On the heels of that, and not entirely unrelated, I thought about the assertion “Everything belongs.” That’s like shiny, full, weighty moon True. But how do we live into that? 

I don’t always know what to do with such sweeping statements. I’m guessing most of us believe in belonging or want to, but we don’t necessarily know how to go about the work of making it so. This is, I think where the finger comes in. 

It’s hard to stay focused on rituals and practices when the moon feels so huge and uttainable. Even NASA thought the moon unattainable at one time until it wasn’t. A timely metaphor for the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. The truth is, though, I am feeling a lot of despair about our social world right now.

I want to believe in the possibility of unity, and I “know” that unity is at the heart of the universe. What I mean by it in this way is all things work both autonomously and in unison to perpetuate motion and creation. It’s a beautiful concept. “Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling of a star.” This is so on every level of existence. So why do we humans have such a hard time grasping it? The flower and the star are objects. One could argue they are living objects capable of a certain kind of cognition, but they live - as far as we know - without self consciousness. We think humans are the first creatures to embody reflective self consciousness. We can make art about our experiences, write stories, pass them on to future generations...we can keep some part of ourselves alive in more than just DNA. What can it mean to be human, then, to actually live as if there is unity at the heart of the cosmos? 

A woman I have come to know and respect through ProjectCURATE, Dr. Jessica Davenport, pondered out loud as we were talking the other day, “Is unity the goal, though?” I must say I really don’t know. For unity to know itself, disunity also has to exist, so perhaps absolute unity is never possible. And what do I even mean by social unity? On the human level, I believe equity precedes unity. We cannot even touch social unity without a commitment to equity.

It’s so tempting to paint a harmonious picture in our minds and bypass all the pain and suffering writ large by systems of oppression in favor of love. It’s so tempting to hold fast to Rodney King’s plea, “Can’t we all just get along?” while ignoring he made that cry as he was beaten by Los Angeles Police in 1992. Mr. King, I would very much love to all get along. And yet, black men still get beaten by police, children still suffer in poverty, the finger still mistakes itself for the moon. 

In Zen Buddhism, the finger represents teachings, and there is a danger of losing our way in them. Bill spoke about myth and ritual last Sunday. These are also the fingers, and if we take them to be absolute truth we miss the brightness of the moon. Myth and ritual are the ways in which we are invited to participate in community and uncover the brightness of our true self. We are all capable of reaching the moon, which means we are also all capable of its dark side. As I write, I recall Edward Edinger’s analysis that being able to hold this tension of opposites within - light with dark, unity with disunity - is the mark of individuation and integration. When we can see that we are both, or all, then we can truly understand what it means to say, “Everything belongs.” This is not a kumbaya statement dripping with rainbow flowers; it’s tougher than that. I know I want to reflexively turn away from the darkness and lean only toward the light, but this is not wholeness. You can’t point at the moon without the finger. The light can’t know itself without the dark. 

So if I were to come up with a definition of what it might mean to live in unity, I would not necessarily say we are all holding hands around the proverbial campfire. I’m too much of a skeptic for that, though I love s’mores as much as anyone! I would say, however, that we get to show up autonomously, as our truest self, without a domination system managing our behavior. If we show up as this, just as we are, if we take others just as they are, without fear or judgement, then we are participating in unison, in the ritual of community. It may get sticky, and we may not all like each other. We may not even all be singing the same tune, but out of that I hope a beautiful cacophony will emerge. Any one of us who has a family knows how hard this is! Nevertheless, I hope our fingers point at the same moon. It is, after all, the only one we have. 

public.jpeg

A Star is Born

In a day or three, this becomes that:

public.jpeg
000A8897-C5D9-4448-8AB1-75546C9E52E8.jpg

In a week or 6 this becomes that:

IMG_1721.JPG
fullsizeoutput_2ab9.jpeg

In some months, maybe 9, this becomes that:

fullsizeoutput_2aba.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_2abc.jpeg

In a billion years, maybe 12, this becomes that: 

fullsizeoutput_2abd.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_2abe.jpeg

Everything

All the time 

is in a constant state of transformation. 

It’s so much easier to look out there

for God and Everything than within.

But it is happening here too.

The telescope does not discover new stars.

It shows us what already exists. 

What does the telescope trained on 

the multiverse of your heart, your mind, 

Reveal?

For Greta | By Brooke Summers-Perry

We can’t ignore the truth and simply hide.
It is way past time to shift the tide
With precious years stretched out ahead
Stop projecting, do OUR part instead.

We’ve done our worst and lived the lies.
We’ve turned away, we’ve broken ties.
As if YOLO, looking out for “our own”
Seeing each as ‘other’ must be outgrown.

We made of ourselves “Generation Worst.”
Received from The Greatest, put ourselves first.
We are passing a trashed planet down the line,
To the ones who could save it, but have little time.

Burdened to clean up an insurmountable mess
With too little time and traces of hope for success.
As they try to establish who they are and where to steer.
They wrestle with why it matters with the end so near.

Stop blaming the next for no ambition or drive.
Commit final years to giving kids will to survive.
We must look at our choices.
Stand up for the masses.
Change the systems before another year passes.

The best way to motivate is to lead
With innovation, with sacrifice NOT greed.
Way off course for leaving a legacy of light,
Recalculate now or gift an endless night.

For Greta, our children, and all of us
A message inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller. May we shift from “Oblivion to Utopia” in time.

Course correction, digital collage,BSP

Course correction, digital collage,BSP

The Quest for Equity | by Holly Hudley

Unless it is a label you are proud of, one you cultivate with attention and care, no one wants to be called a racist. It makes us wince and squirm. It feels untrue and foreign. I know I push against it with every fiber of my being. But if whiteness goes unexamined in America, if you can’t acknowledge how American law and politics has supported whiteness, racists we will remain. There are two (probably more but I’ll start with two) kinds of racists. There’s a  committed, participatory racist who believes in racial superiority and might belong to groups that uphold it. Then there’s an incidental, passive racist - one who thinks that because she doesn’t participate in overt groups that practice superiority, one who thinks that because she has an African or Latin American friend that she’s not racist. I used to be this kind of racist. I didn’t think my friend Felicia in the 7th grade was any less than I. But I also didn’t understand then how the privileges we’d been granted gave us different access. I was taught that I was lucky. Did that make her unlucky? The kind of racist I became was an unexamined, inherited form. Now I’d like to think of myself as a recovering racist - one whose eyes have been opened to how the system benefited me despite not being any more deserving than anyone else. Now I’d like to think I’m working actively on behalf of antiracism despite still benefiting from system wide privileges. 

Let’s look at it this way: there is no doubt in my mind that most of us can look at Nazi Germany and call it wrong. We don’t have to know one single Holocaust survivor to make such a claim. Most of us can say the same thing about Apartheid in South Africa. Many Americans celebrated Nelson Mandela’s freedom and the dismantling of a cruel system. Our own president at the time went straight to South Africa to clasp hands with Mandela. Can we, then, have the courage to look at our own systems of oppression - what is happening at the Texas/Mexico border, how the institution of slavery set up a racial hierarchy that we still maintain, how putting Native Americans on reservations was a form of ghettoizing - and call them wrong? We don’t need a Latino, black, or Lakota friend to discern wrongness here. That’s how friendship is different than solidarity. We should be able to agree on principles of equity even if we know no one outside of our race or culture. The next step is whether or not we can flex our imaginations to include everyone exactly as they are. Full stop. 

My dad worked hard, usually 6 days a week. I used to think we had what we did just because he worked so hard. This is, of course, in part true. He is smart and extremely capable. But I began to look around and notice that other men around my neighborhood - mostly Hispanic and black men - were working equally hard but not gaining the wealth. Why? I asked this question a lot. One of the answers is that my dad had access to resources as a white man that black and brown men did not. I cannot ignore this as a foundational fact of our nation and even of my existence. So the next question I must ask is how have I benefited from and continued to contribute to upholding systems that prioritize people who look like my dad and me? This is harder, more complex, because it challenges me to look at how I prioritize my own security in ways I could not see before. Am I really ready to dismantle systems that uphold notions of my racial superiority? I think I am...but I’m still learning how to do this. I need to ask different whys and also hows. I have to be willing to work alongside notions of equity regardless of whether friendship is an outcome. I do believe things gradually change largely as a result of proximity and genuine relationship. But the fundamental belief in equity does not have to birth from relationship first. 

Racism in this country is like a quiet agreement many of us didn’t know we made. It is in the founding DNA of America. It is both deeply personal and not your fault at all. The personal aspect is whether we choose to face it, work to pick it apart, and demand the ideals of freedom sprayed throughout our constitution. I cannot think of anything more American than to do just this. 

———

Helpful resources:

The New York Times 1619 Project

ProjectCURATE podcast, “The Relay”

Ta-Nehisi Coates Atlantic article, “The Case for Reparations”

Colson Whitehead, Author

Eula Biss NYT article, “White Debt”

From the NYT article “White Debt” by Eula Biss. Click  here  to read.

From the NYT article “White Debt” by Eula Biss. Click here to read.

Light | by holly Hudley

I am guessing a few of you might remember a couple years back when Bill had us sing along with him, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” I thought of that today, as Bill talked about the light of stars being ever-present, though unseen unless in the presence of the dark. I thought about our grandest star, the sun, and how nothing, no thing would exist on this planet unless for the power of the sun. At any moment, the sun emits about 3.86 x 1026 watts of energy. So add 24 zeros to the end of that number, and you'll get an idea of how unimaginably large an amount of energy that is! Most of that goes off into space, but about 1.74 x 1017 watts strikes the earth. Let me say it another way. One billionth of the sun’s energy reaches earth. One billionth. That’s how powerful it is. It keeps everything on earth alive with one billionth of its power.

Light sustains us.

And this! This fact is even more amazing. Has anyone read Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss? (Bill recommends the Archbishop of Canterbury and I...well, I recommend children’s books.) Anyway, if you’ve read it do you remember the spec? The teeny tiny spec teeming with a whole village of micro life forms? Something smaller than that spec, smaller still than the period at the end of this sentence, burst all of life into being. Something smaller than (.) ultimately created dinosaurs, galaxies, and symphonies!! When it burst, the first thing it did was become photon waves. These photon waves differentiated, reassembled, and became all the DNA ever needed to create an entire universe...an infinite cosmos. It is our structural core.

What is the origin of this light?

I think the light is itself the origin. 

Tikkun Olam, my favorite mystical Jewish teaching, maintains that when the original light broke into millions if not trillions of tiny pieces, that each shard contained a soul. In order to return to the source, to the whole if you will, we must perform acts of love. Ergo, love and light are synonymous at best and cousins at least. I have a friend who, as he smokes and talks, asks, “Who is the authority on light? Tell me. Who?” I don’t know what he’s trying to get me to say or if he already knows the answer but try this: the light is its own authority. The light is in us. Draw your own conclusions about whether the word is authority or co-participation. 

Let your light shine bright. It sustains you, it keeps you, it is you. The first light of the first moment pours through you. And you. And you and you and you and you. Sing it now: “This little light of mine...I’m gonna let it shine...Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

public.jpeg

Reflections | by Holly Hudley

After preparing for a few dialogues with Bill then with Dr. Cleve Tinsley, after preparing a couple solo talks in Bill’s absence, I totally understand what Bill means when he says creating Ordinary Life is both energizing and a spiritual practice. As I go, I imagine myself in dialogue with you all, picture your faces, who I might see, and I want you to know that ALL of you were present with me.  Thank you for the trust and encouragement. 

As I contemplate, I am a bit mesmerized by the arc of the last couple weeks in which we circuited the interiority of the soul, the specificity of growing in acts of fierce love, and engaging in the wider community with an eye for justice and equity. Now that I look, it seems like these three principles of universe formation guided me the whole way whether I knew it or not: Differentiation, Specification, and Communion. 

Our particular unique souls, though a facet of the cosmos expressing itself through us, represent differentiation. Each one of us is a unique, ensouled thing, possessive of haeccity or “thisness.” I love how Cleve said, “I’ve known I was a doctor since I was born; {RICE} is just now paying attention.” This is true for every single one of us. Our thisness is innate, but we often spend a good chunk of our lifetime opening our hearts and minds to who we are meant to be in the world. Some of us never fully land, but it is my belief our souls continue to evolve beyond this particular body, so have hope! {It’s another post entirely, but yes, I do believe in some form of reincarnation - even if it simply means the energy of us gets reabsorbed by the universe. Remember, matter can neither be created nor destroyed; it merely changes shape. And matter is not separate from spirit. In this way two become one.}

Specification is represented by the evolution of consciousness. How shall we love? This is the specific question I asked when it comes to growing into our unique self and expressing it in the world. Love is not mushy, benign, or mere romanticism. It can be those things, but it is also So. Much. More. Love is fierce, love is struggle, love is the willingness to see every other person - no matter how much they make you shudder - as an aspect of self. Love is the hardest, easiest thing. And yet, like gravity, it just is. It is the thing that tethers us to every other thing. When we open ourselves up to love as fact, I think we can allow ourselves to live with a little more imagination about what might pour through and between us if we live as if it were as much a law of the universe as gravity, motion, or expansion. Even Einstein believed love to be the most powerful force there is. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

And now communion. Community. Kinship. Justice. To embody the unity at the heart of the universe, we must be willing to accept the importance of all things - ALL THINGS - as an integral part of the universe system. There is no hierarchy. Tree is no more important than cloud; dark no more important than light; America no more important than Mexico; and I am no more important than you. If everything and everyone belongs, then no one has anything to lose. To realize such truths, we do not need to be friends or even neighbors, but we do need to be in solidarity with each others’ right to be just as we are without one having more power than another. Starting there grows the possibility for genuine relationship to occur. To quote Cleve quoting Cornell West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” But here’s the rub: how we show up in public has everything to do with how we show up in private. We can start by doing a clear eyed examination of how we participate in or benefit from domination systems. Where is your money invested? How do you view folks less wealthy than you? The questions go on an on. Do you see, now, how the principles of the universe are interwoven? For true communion to be possible, we need to bring our truest, deepest, differentiated selves to the table, grow in consciousness, and make space for everyone else to do the same. In this way three become one. It is an ever expanding cycle. 

The possibility for consciousness was present at the very beginning of our understanding of time some 14 billion years ago. Self conscious awareness and the ability to frame it with words, pictures, and symbols exploded when our ancestors arrived on the scene only 300,000 years ago. We are nascent in this whole process, mere babies. As far as I know time has not come to a full stop, which means consciousness has not either. 

In a fractal, each part has the same statistical character as the whole. Each part is also necessary to the whole.

In a fractal, each part has the same statistical character as the whole. Each part is also necessary to the whole.

A Wild Ride | by Holly Hudley

I want to expand on this notion of whether or not the spiritual journey is a safe one. Full disclosure here: I am a counter phobic 6 on the enneagram, and safety is something I crave and push against in the same moment! I will stay loyal to the cause, but I will question it the whole way down. So my lens on this topic may be wildly different from yours!

When I think about staying safe in the context of our spiritual lives, I imagine us in pretty church dresses, mumbling words we have always mumbled without much investigation, holding onto “the way it has always been done.” If we accept the narrative handed down to us by our culture, our families, our various churches, we will continue to uphold a patriarchal, white dominated, salvific faith where we remain separate from what is sacred, always reaching and grasping for what is “out there” versus what is right here. If we remain safe, there is no transformation, no integration, no creativity. If we remain safe we either stay huddled up in the dark cave with no way out or standing on the departure platform of this wild, often exciting and mysterious, sometimes scary ride. Remember Luke Skywalker’s adventure? Can you imagine how the galaxy would have turned out if he had just said, “Nah. I think I’ll just stay put on my home planet Tatooine, thanks. Just gonna stay here and harvest moisture with my droids...” There would have been no adventure, no Jedi, no hero’s journey. It would’ve been a single, B-, back shelf story rather than an entire franchise of intergalactic awesomeness.

I think we need to be willing to feel a little unsafe in order to fulfill our spiritual “destiny.” Whatever God is, she is wild and beautiful and diverse. Chaordic is a word I like (chaos + order), but not necessarily safe in the way I have defined it. If we only ever stick to the known, we will not grow.

I’m reading The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, also called Ain’t I A Woman? She talked about how she had to get out from under who she thought she had to be - which was a “good slave” so she wouldn’t get beaten or turned out by her masters - to become who she really was - a freedom fighter. She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner. A sojourner is one who stays temporarily - but she added Truth to her name. She journeyed toward truth, her own story embedded in the larger Truth. She took a risk in the era of slavery and white terror to free herself, her child, and others. By no stretch of the imagination was her path “safe,” but along the way she was blanketed by a nagging suspicion of Love at the heart of the Universe.

Our journey may not look like Luke’s or Sojourner’s. For some of us, it may look exactly like harvesting moisture on a desert planet with two suns. The real point is are you willing to take some amount of risk to see what wants to be expressed through you? The journey may not be entirely “safe,” and you may be shaken up or turned upside down at times, but I believe we will be held by a universe that bends toward communion and expresses itself in sacred mystery... through all of us. The Buddha said the path to nirvana is transforming suffering. In The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck starts out by saying, “Life is hard.” Jesus referred to the way to the kingdom as being “harder than a camel passing through the eye of a needle.” None of these promise a safe, predictable path, but a bit of a wild ride. I’ll save you a spot in line!

94CDC1E3-95BE-4EB7-8508-E3BE1E008BEF.JPG

Being Human | by Holly Hudley

I don’t know about y’all, but Michael Morwood is right up my alley. As I stand on the threshold between small god and Big God, or maybe even God and no God, as I lean into a new story - one that suits my personality more wholly than anything else ever has - I am eager with anticipation and a bit of trepidation.

I’ve said this before: the universe is a singularity. It is one thing made of many things. Essentially atomic beings that take many forms. This is the most basic description of what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called differentiated unity. I cannot buy into a god that threw us into this reality only to urge us to try and escape it to get back to some otherworldly notion of heaven. Our spiritual lives are not one giant Escape Room game - following the correct clues so that our special group can unlock the secrets and obtain freedom. Why would we be here only to figure out how to leave on the express train to heaven as quickly as possible? Access to both freedom and heaven are right here.

I am most definitely not a nihilist - there is a point to life. It’s not all for naught. We are not living a meaningless life in a meaningless cosmos. Otherwise why would humans seek meaning? Consciousness is a direct outcome of the cosmos, and it’s only like 300,000 years old. Consciousness is still a wee baby in the grand scheme of things, and how we experience it is not the end of the road! I love this earthbound gig in a human body. The amount of pleasure and awe and grief and joy I feel is immeasurable. My dear friend and I were marveling tonight at how we humans can experience the full pendulum of emotions in a day...heck, more like an hour! No, I don’t have THE answer, but I think the point is collective, not individual. Actually, it’s kind of both/and. Our individual contribution to the collective has the ability to help or hinder evolutionary progress. As long as it is only about us, about personal gain, then we are a hindrance. When we consider, however, that how we do life is an illustration of the cosmos pouring through us, we cannot help but connect ourselves to some greater unfolding. I am not necessarily talking about what traditional language calls “Gods plan” for our personal particular lives. That is small thinking. As long as it stays about me, I am living a short sighted life. What I am talking about is deepening our intentional connection to the unfolding mystery while truly having no idea where it will land. “When that spirit lives and breathes in you, you are delivered from a dead life” (The Message, Romans 8:11).

Poet David Whyte said, “Humans are the only species that reject being themselves.” We have yet to figure it out...and...maybe to be human is to be in awe. We have this capacity, perhaps even compulsion, to observe and record and create about life’s unfolding. No other species can do this that we know of! Our job is to elucidate the sacredness of ordinary life.

I like Morwood’s idea of examining the window through which we experience sacred mystery. Each of us has our own lens, our own experience to make sense of. This is the import of the individual. But if as individuals we can honestly investigate our our personal experience, we may also have access to how that resonates with the larger whole. You were once a cloud of stardust. You are now human. That’s awesome. I love what Neil deGrasse Tyson says about this: “I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small, because they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.” So what will you do with your humanity, your beautiful, messy life, that places you among and within the mystery?

2B210DC3-067D-4EE7-B76E-B00B86A5EB3D.JPG

Froglessness | by Holly Hudley

My oldest son nurtures a deep love of frogs.He knows the life cycle forward and back. Spring and early summer are like lullabies for him - frogs sounding like banjos at twilight, chasing mating calls down the block. A few weeks ago he scooped up two tadpoles in a small jar from the drainage ditches still riddled with ribbons of frog eggs in front of the house. He put them in a small demitasse cup, one we normally use for ice cream, asked Alexa what he should feed them, and gathered algae outside.

Over the last two weeks we’ve watched one of the tadpoles transform. First it grew tiny thread like back legs, then from its gills grew front legs. So delicate they were, maybe a millimeter thick. Each morning before school we’ve checked on them — I too became invested, prodding the water throughout the day if it stayed still too long, filling up the cup with fresh water when the cat drank from it.  One morning we noticed its head above water, the next its tail had dropped off.  It sat on the small river stone we placed in the cup, perfectly still, as if contemplating its first hop.  I wondered, what is it like for this once fully aquatic creature to find itself breathing air? To find itself sitting on a stone with legs and no tail? Side note: I would completely freak out if it were me  

I do not really know if tadpoles are conscious of their transformation, if they understand the fullness of their miracle. One thing I know is that the little tiny frog, smaller than my pinky nail, did not try again to become a tadpole. For nearly 2 days it sat in one spot. Perhaps it was bewildered, overwhelmed at discovering itself a frog.

With any change, tadpole to frog, bud to flower, helium to star, there’s a kind of quantum leap that happens.  Our  own movement from asleep to awake, though gradual, requires this leap, however small. You know those moments when you find yourself no longer in suffering? You’re going, “How did that happen? On Tuesday I thought death would be easier and today I belly laughed!” This is a kind of quantum leap. We transform all the time. The natural world is a perfect mirror for what is possible within.

In the morning we had a tadpole who swam. By afternoon it was a frog who jumped. We are capable of the very same!

Noticing these quantum leaps in and around us requires attention and a willingness to fold into small miracles with a sense of awe and gratitude. The best part about having kids and re-experiencing the world through their eyes is awe is never far from the surface. We experienced the wide space between froglessness and frog. To attain stillness and watchfulness, we too had to exist in a state of froglessness, to just be. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote it this way:

The first fruition of the practice

is the attainment of froglessness.

When a frog is put

on the center of a plate,

she will jump out of the plate

after just a few seconds.

If you put the frog back again

on the center of the plate,

she will again jump out.

You have so many plans.

There is something you want to become.

Therefore you always want to make a leap,

a leap forward.

It is difficult

to keep the frog still

on the center of the plate.

You and I

both have Buddha Nature in us.

This is encouraging,

but you and I

both have Frog Nature in us.

That is why the first attainment

of the practice—

froglessness is its name.

In my mind this willingness to hold both froglessness and anticipation is its own kind of miracle. One that necessitates our ability to hold the tension of opposites - stillness with a quantum leap. We are leaping all the time. And as we do, our nondual nature, our ability to hold many states of being at once, grows and matures.

B0B9D411-42E4-496B-A505-100C91F72192.JPG

Reimagining the Gods | by Holly Hudley

Spring is in full form in Houston. For many birds and insects it is a way-station on a long migratory path. Especially magical are the Monarch butterflies whose fifth generation descendants from the year before pass through the same spaces as their ancestors, lay new eggs, and the striped caterpillars munch on the same milkweed as those who came before. Their jewel-like chrysalis, lime green threaded with gold, is a house of transformation. In the process of metamorphosis, the caterpillar digests itself, turns to oozy liquid enzymes, and contains highly organized cells known as imaginal discs that eventually form the body parts of the butterfly. This birth, death, rebirth process produces an entirely new creature. It is miraculous. And yet it is entirely necessary to the continuation of the caterpillar, the butterfly, and the milkweed. While scientists don’t know exactly what it remembers from the liminal space of the cocoon, it is a given that the caterpillar must evolve to survive. If we consider the Christ archetype, it is a direct mirror to this process, one that is not only necessary, but inevitable. “What happens in the life of Christ happens always and everywhere” (Edward Edinger). We find the butterfly beautiful, a diaphanous angel, but often resist our own process of transformation. What, then, can the human and her human made systems glean from the butterfly?

#1. “That we are not all going to die, but we shall all be changed” (Edinger).

Every spring we watch the caterpillars spin themselves into their cocoons. On occasion we’ll get a cold snap and they never emerge, the chrysalis eventually blackens. Or they do emerge but their new wings don't completely unfurl. Of course, those that emerge, transformed and whole, are an apt metaphor for the “ultimate goal of individuation—the transformation of ego into archetype” (Edinger). A Jungian look at the Christ archetype does not reveal Jesus as an intermediary between God and human, but an example of the revelation of the  divine in the human. This is possible for every single one of us. We do not take this for granted as the caterpillar dissolves its essence into enzymes and imaginal discs, so why do we lack this kind of imagination for ourselves?

Necessary to deep change is for our ego to disintegrate into ooze, maintain some form of “imaginal cells” that might help us perform daily tasks, and revitalize to make room for the Self. What Jung and Edinger call the Self Rudolf Steiner names the I. If we can truly understand the incarnation of Christ, “we learn to exert our full self awareness or I-consciousness” (Steiner). If we can accept the challenge of personal transformation, we can more consciously participate in societal change. In mythospeculation, the challenge Brian Swimme, and before him Thomas Berry, issues is how do we engage with the impending Ecozoic Era in full awareness? The time for changing systems and making way for a death-rebirth cycle is now. “We are living in what the Greeks called the kairos—the right moment—for a ‘metamorphosis of the gods,’ of the fundamental principles and symbols. The peculiarity of our time. . . is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing.” Edinger asserts that even the Church, or perhaps especially the church, is poised to undergo its own incarnation cycle, learning to live between tradition and progress, ushering in the individual as emissary of the sacred.

#2. The darkness of the chrysalis contains the tension of opposites; its earth bound caterpillar self and its sky bound butterfly self.

Think of how Jesus accepted betrayal with a kiss, from which he incorporates into his psyche loyalty to a future vision and betrayal of and by his “tribe,” his Jewish heritage. Similarly, to fully individuate as the butterfly, the caterpillar must let go of all her caterpillar ways, but somewhere in her is the memory of her original form. So integral is her original form that she can still lay eggs to birth new caterpillars who will perpetuate the birth-death-rebirth cycle. It goes on and on and on. To borrow the metaphor on a personal level, in order to fully individuate, one must hold within the dichotomy of the dysfunctions and gifts of her family of origin as well as the image of who she imagines herself to be outside the cocoon. This is exactly where we find ourselves in this moment of human development. We live in an infinite cosmos; we are finite. We are differentiated unique beings; we are one whole.  If we emerge from the cocoon in tact, we simultaneously understand that matter and spirit are not separate. “The goal of the incarnation cycle, like the goal of individuation, is the coniunctio. The time has come for the psychic opposites—heaven and earth, male and female, spirit and nature, good and evil—which have long been torn asunder in the Western psyche, to be reconciled” (Edinger).

#3. The change from a caterpillar to a butterfly to the human eye is a kind of quantum leap.

The other morning when my boys and I were leaving for school, we noticed a fat, striped caterpillar just beginning to curl itself into a cocoon. Within an hour it was sealed in its hard shell. Ten days later, the cocoon was darker and thin, starting to break open. By that afternoon I watched as the butterfly prepared for its first flight, wings damp and curled. There is a great leap between the caterpillar and the butterfly. There is a great leap for the human between death and rebirth. “Evolution may proceed slowly, as when a plant moves form one green leaf to the next. A leap occurs in the plant, however when the last leaf has emerged and flower buds begin to form, and comparable repeated leaps occur in the evolution of the human race” (Steiner). What Steiner and Jung had their differences both foretold was the necessity of the human realizing her own embodiment of the True Self for spiritual evolution to take place. In sum, if we accept the invitation to consciously participate in the birth-death-rebirth cycle, we cannot live as a divided self. We integrate ego into Self, caterpillar into butterfly, spirit into matter. None of these things are separate. It is our calling at this juncture, not only to reimagine the gods, but to reimagine ourselves as part of the great cosmic unfolding.

IMG_2830.JPG