In Friday’s pause I read a rather long excerpt (see below) from Mrs. Staveley, one of Gurdjieff’s students, from her book “Themes I” about the Children of Israel wandering in the Wilderness feeding on Manna from heaven. This is a familiar story to many people whether coming from a Christian background or not. The Israelites were in a liminal space and time—freed from the narrow constrictions and slavery from the home from whence they came and yet not arriving, seeing, or knowing where they were going or what their future home would be—for forty years. It was a difficult, unstable, chaotic time, a crisis, and they often complained and even thought about returning to the violent and limiting life conditions they came out of. And still all the while it is said that Manna from ‘heaven’ was provided daily to feed and sustain them during these challenging years.
Mrs. Staveley suggests that we are like the Children of Israel. One of the ways I see that to be true is that we (I realize this is not a homogenous we) too find ourselves in a liminal space and time. The limitations of our current home in the dominant no longer efficient, what Gebser calls, ‘mental’ structure of consciousness— characterized by the enlarged and rigid ego, political sectoring/splintering realities, patriarchy, colonizing and homogenizing tendencies, liberal progressive contempt and hatred toward the un’woke’—are becoming more clear and there has been increasing chaos, instability, extreme oscillations and a multitude of current crisis. And yet the new ‘integral’ structure of consciousness that many evolutionary consciousness scholars have posited is trying to emerge, has not fully formed, manifested or realized. When I look around, there is a general sense that humans are activated, overwhelmed, discouraged, and tired and in need of Manna from ‘heaven’ to feed and sustain them.
What does this look like for us? Mrs. Staveley likens the Manna, which fell fresh daily from ‘heaven’ with more than enough to feed all of the Children of Israel, to ‘our daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer. She says, “‘Daily bread’ really means transcendental bread, or in the idiom of [the Fourth Way] system, material provided from a higher source for our work on ourselves.” Work on ourselves to become more receptive to the laws of the kindgom of heaven, more under the influence of spiritual substances, and more able to be and act as conscious servants to the Whole. But rather than this food being some rare material we must acquire and store, we can see that ‘all’ of life, including my life and yours, comes from ‘heaven,’ from the Source. We, like the Children of Israel wandering through the Wilderness, can ask ourselves “How can I understand and recognize this Manna, my food?” “How can I open myself to it afresh every day and recognize that there is more than enough for everyone?”
She suggests that Manna, our daily bread, comes to us in the material of our lives, the impressions we take in of our lives as they are. If we ask for, open to, and allow it, whatever appears in our lives can become Manna for us, “[p]leasant, unpleasant, glad, sad, hard, easy—all can be received as food for [our] work of development.” James Finley says something with similar resonance, that God, Love, Infinite Mystery comes to us disguised as our lives. So we can continue to remind ourselves of Mrs. Staveley’s words, “My life itself is my daily bread” and ask ourselves, “ Can I see this? Can I receive my life—whatever it is—as a gift from above? Which of the events that come my way today can I receive as Manna, as my daily bread?”
Sometimes receiving our lives is easier to see and accept than other times. It is also good to keep in heart that how I live this for me feeds into the ‘we’ and how ‘we’ live this for us feeds into each individual. As well as to keep in mind that these periods of disturbance and destruction have taken place many times before and that we are assisted as we give ourselves over to being of assistance.
Here the Readings from this week's pauses:
‘You who sleep in my breast are not met with words, but in the emergence of life within life and wisdom within wisdom. With you there is no longer any dialogue, any contest, any opposition. You are found in communion! Thou in me and I in Thee, Thou in them and they in me: dispossession within dispossession, dispassion within dispassion, emptiness within emptiness, freedom within freedom. I am alone. Thou are alone. The Father and I are One. — Thomas Merton, Dialogues with Silence “...most organized religions dispense doctrine when they should be encouraging personal transformation. ... I love to define mystery as not that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable. So you never get to the point where I know it all. And wouldn’t we assume that would be the nature of God? That God will always by definition be mystery. More knowability, more knowability, deeper experience, deeper surrender. So that’s the meaning of faith, and why faith has such power, not just to transform people but to keep them on an ongoing path of transformation and growth.” — Richard Rohr
If we utter aloud the word mercy,
standing each, of us, by an open window
anywhere we are in the world,
then the word mercy will carry on the soundwaves
onwards and unceasing,
through the air of the wounded world.
And maybe when it takes flight
into deed and kindness, justice, and effort,
it will effect a healing, a hope and a blessing.
— Mary Wickham, RSM Being the Bird: Poems & Prayers
'Manna' When the Children of Israel wandered for forty years in the Wilderness, we are told they were fed on Manna which fell from heaven. Many people have learnedly they tried to explain this in some literal way with, of course, no success. But in the sense of our teaching and the Christian teaching, this can be very meaningful. Manna can be thought of in the same way we think of the “daily bread” mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer. “Daily bread” really means transcendental bread or, in the idiom of our system, material provided from a higher source for our work on ourselves. Here is a good pitfall for the understanding. If I think of this Manna which falls from “heaven,” that is from higher levels, as a special material which I have somehow or other “to get a hold of,” I’m going to waste a lot of time on naïve speculation as to what it could possibly be, and how I’m going to get my hands on it. Let us look at how Manna is described. It fell fresh every day. It cannot be preserved or stored away. And there was more than enough for everyone. The words “our daily bread” have the same implication. It is fresh every day, stale every night, and most important of all, it always comes from a higher source. So I ask myself, how can I recognize this Manna? If I am one of the Children of Israel wandering (as I surely am) through the Wilderness, then how can I understand Manna, my food? If I look at the Ray of Creation, I see that all life comes from above, from “heaven.” My life too has come from the same source so that this source is my home to which I wish to return. . . I, as one of the Children of Israel, wish to make my way to the promised land, up out of Egypt and the Wilderness. . . .the Children of Israel in their journey through the Wilderness are said to have lived on Manna. Manna and our daily bread must represent the finer food of impressions that come from higher sources, from “heaven,” from the teachings for the regeneration of [human]. But in my life, here, now, what is Manna? Is it not the material of my life, the impressions I take of my life? In the ordinary way my impressions are conventional, dull, sterile. But if I begin to understand the ideas of the work and receive the impressions through that understanding, everything is changed. Almost anything can become Manna for me, and if I make the prayer for my daily bread seriously and sincerely, I know it will be answered. Then whatever appears in my life can be food for work. My life itself is my daily bread. Can I see this? Can I receive my life—whatever it is—as a gift from above? So the question for today is: Which of the events that come my way today can I receive as Manna, as my daily bread? Pleasant, unpleasant, glad, sad, hard, easy—all can be received as food for my work of development. How to receive? — A.L. Staveley, Themes I "The Risen Lord is indeed risen. Present, intimate, creative, 'closer than your own heartbeat,' accessed through your vulnerability, your capacity for intimacy. The imaginal realm is real, and through it you will never be separated from any one or anything you have ever loved, for love is the ground in which you live and move and have your being. This is the message that Mary Magdalene has perennially to bring. This is the message we most need to hear." ― Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene Gathering up soul in moss and verdant twig. In flower and birch I find this diaphanous heart is already opened. In, and through, and with this greater love, I come with open palms to the ceremony of relation. — Jeremy Johnson