The Seeing Heart and the Tools of Wisdom: Chapters VII, VIII & Epilogue of The Wisdom Way of Knowing

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Welcome to Chapters VII, VIII and the Epilogue, in our continuing series of posts focusing on Cynthia Bourgeault's foundational work, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart; where Wisdom postholders have shared, chapter by chapter, their experiences with this little book. You will find the links to previous posts in this series at the end of this post, along with a place to share your comments. Heather Ruce opens with her comments about Chapter VII, while Susan Latimer closes this post with her summary of Chapter VIII and the Epilogue. Chapter VII: Seeing with the Eye of the Heart, with Heather Ruce

Each morning we wake to find ourselves on a river upon which we have never been, we proceed in uncharted waters, and we do not know where we are headed. As Wisdom students we’ve learned that it is not so much about needing to know where we are going but rather knowing where to see from and how to find our way in unknown waters.

At this time, we are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic fragility, and the many murders of people of color including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, culminating in uprisings about the ongoing and deep rooted racism and social injustice in the soils of our country. As we all continue to learn how to truly address the deeper levels of these realities in our predominant culture, our structures and in each and every one of us, we can be regrounding ourselves in Seeing with the Eye of the Heart, and returning to The Tools of Wisdom which support this aim.

Cynthia reminds us that our world is part of a vast inter-realmic, ever-changing, unfurling, dynamic “dance of becoming.” And no matter what external circumstances are taking place we can begin to pay attention to the more subtle ways these realms want to be in relationship with us and that the divine may want to manifest through us. She says:

There is always a kind of cosmic ‘downloading’ going on, as the divine qualities seek new streambeds to flow through, the imaginal realm presses against our physical one in an alchemy of transformation, aching, it seems, to come into finitude. And from our end, we live in the cosmos not as exiles yearning for the absolute but as alchemists and artists teasing the shape of the divine emerging out of the eternal and into the now. (p. 82)

Our common post right now is to become “alchemists and artists” able to perceive the “divine archetype” aching to come into form. Our portal into the “dance of becoming” is through “the power ofcreative perception”more closely understood as “a creative midwifery that has to do with intuiting the new patterns as they arise in the imaginal and helping birth them into form” (p. 83). In order to do this we must learn to see with the eye of the heart.

This is something that Cynthia has taught in some form or another in every book of hers and in every Wisdom School I have participated in. As her students, we’ve been training for times like we are in now. And yet it seems there is a quickening, an urgency to develop our capacity to see from the heart even more aptly. Humanity is on another precipice and in desperate need of midwives who can help birth something new into form. It is not inevitable that we will make the passage through this eye of the needle, but it will be less likely if we do not take up our role in the dance.

Cynthia says, “spiritually understood, the heart is an organ of astonishing perceptivity and versatility that when fully awakened and tuned allows us to play our part in the dynamism of creation.” This chapter brings us back to the familiar but never overstated truth that the heart is not the seat of our “personal emotional life.” An imperative distinction in a time when individual emotions run high and our global nervous system is activated. She returns to Kabir Helminski’s description of heart capacities as “psychic and extra sensory awareness; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative, and creative faculties; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. . . with an intuitive ability to pick up the signals from the imaginal realm” (p.85). Are we not being asked to cultivate these capacities even more fervently? With a precision and unshakable steadiness like never before?

Cynthia is clear: only as our heart comes into resonance with, and our entire being surrenders to, the qualities of divine intelligence, beginning with “love, mercy, and compassion,” can heart-knowing take place. “Creative perception is ultimately, then, an act of love” (p. 86). It is our imperative task to learn to see and know in these ways in order that we might live out our path of conscious love.

I spent several summers in my later teens as a white water raft guide. The river was itself in a perpetual state of change and although we could learn a stretch of the river with the rapids to be taken head on, the holes to be avoided, and the eddies to be found, we had to learn how to read water. I wouldn’t have recognized it at the time but this reading required presence in all three centers, in order to see what route was needed this time. If not present enough to see and respond to the deeper patterns of the water in each moment, each pass down the river, carnage would be the consequence.