Mary Coelho, chapters 4 – 7

4 The Present Is the Only Thing That Has No End

Kairos and chronos

The present is the only place we really “are,” and the “truth” of the past fans out from our current point of view. And the possibilities of the future narrow down and “collapse” into the ‘done deal’ of present, which we may re-imagine, moments later.

Continue reading

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Mary Coelho’s AUEP, Ch. 3

You take hydrogen gas,
and you leave it alone,
and it turns into rosebushes, giraffes and humans.
–Brian Swimme

This is a challenging chapter for me.
I’ll start with the Hologram, where I have some sense of understanding.
Most of us know that it is possible to create a holographic image, a hologram, by illuminating the original object with laser light and recording the reflected information on a holographic plate.
Then, when laser lights are shined on the plate they reflect/recreate a three-dimensional image of the original object in space.
Wonderfully, if the plate is broken and laser light is shined on a portion of it, the entire 3-D image will still be recreated, although in less detail. That’s because each portion of the plate receives reflected light from the entire original image. Mary puts considerable effort into explaining how this is possible, which I found somewhat helpful, after adding a good deal of work on my part.
Here, I’ll just say, “it happens. I’ve seen several laser images in my life.”

OK, brace yourself.
David Bohm was an extraordinary guy who worked with Einstein and many of the quantum mechanics crowd, and was friends with the Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and some communists (oops, no Nobel Prize for you, David). He had a clear enough grasp of reality to make significant contributions to the development of the A-bomb, despite being refused a security clearance. As he struggled with the realities of the cosmos Mary touched on in chapter 2, and some more we will touch on later, both the math and the science led him to postulate a Holomovement as the best explanation of what was going on. This concept stretches ordinary human comprehension, but many people I can understand find it helpful. Personally, I like where it takes me, even if I’m not sure how I got there. So I’ll do my best to represent the holomovement.

Not long after the Big Bang (The Great Flaring Forth), everything was hydrogen. Before the hydrogen, the universe was sort of a plasma, unimaginably hot. Later on, the universe was mostly hydrogen, plus some other things, like helium.
So, was “all-hydrogen” just a stage the universe went through, and if so, how did it get into that stage and then out of it? Bohm’s solution was to postulate an all-ness that contains the whole space-time kaboodle, the plasma, the uniform hydrogen, and what came after. The holomovement. And we’re talking space-time, here, not just something that got bigger and turned from one thing to another.

Mary has a nice picture. (All-Hydrogen would have been just a hair to the right of “a,” on this diagram.)
Big Bang to Nowp049_f4.jpg

So that’s what we’re in, according to Bohm, and a bunch of other people who understand him, like David Peat. The expanding universe is a holomovement, which like the hologram, contains, in each part of it (including you), some aspects of all earlier times, and some aspects of all space, everywhere.
You might wonder why Mary felt it necessary to introduce this in chapter 3, rather than near the end of the book. As we go forward, and Mary adds more and more pieces to her mosaic –like union with God– we will find ourselves repeatedly asking “how could this be?”
In time, “the holomovement” may come to look like a refuge, a place we might go where it could all make sense.

(Digression/overview: Mary is trying to introduce us to a “way of seeing,” rather than trying to lay out “reality” as a set of facts, a body of information.
A reader might complain, “it doesn’t all add up,” but Mary, with her wide-ranging chapters, isn’t trying to paint a picture. She’s trying to trying to cajole us, maybe even trick us, into getting a certain perspective, a point of view. It’s about where you are looking from, as much as what you are looking at.)

Alright, back to our all-hydrogen universe.
So, let’s tentatively accept that our universe is a wholeness, a space-time unity,
with each fragment participating in the whole thing, like the fragment of the hologram.
How then do we think about the all-hydrogen part of universe, before, during the time when the universe was hot plasma?
“Where” was the all-hydrogen universe at that plasma space-time?
As Bohm and his friends groped with these questions, he came up with the concept of an “implicate order.” In this language, the hydrogen was implicate in the plasma. It wasn’t yet manifest –explicate– but the plasma had “going-to-be-hydrogen” built into it, like an oak tree is implicate in an acorn.

Mary is offering us an overview of a huge amount of human thought and experience, and I couldn’t do justice to it here, even if I did fully understand it.
Since I must select, let me pick out Plotinus. He did most of his teaching in Rome, in the third century CE. He was very concerned with clear thinking and reason, as Plato had been, but Plotinus also investigated reality mystically, through meditation/communion.
If we are to trust his friends and students, he went to some pretty amazing places. His report-back on full-spectrum reality is one I love, and one that has had a profound effect on Western Civilization, over the centuries.

He reasoned-out-had-mystical-union-with what he called Nous, or at least the emanations of Nous. I bring it up here because “holomovement” sounds like Bohm was talking about the same thing Plotinus was.

So we have a theme here: “everything is connected” might be called the weak mystical-rational insight; “everything is in everything else and is all the same thing” might be called the strong mystical-rational insight.
And, come to think of it, the cultures of many pre-literate people say this.
People who are famous for their intuition and insight say this about their work in the fields of music and the literary and visual arts. There’s a kind of fusion or flow-state, where one is hooked up, or hooked into, a larger, implicate reality.

And then there’s consciousness.
You and I, having this conversation, are trading in consciousness, right?
When Plotinus and Bohm try to represent their understanding and experience, they are sharing or exchanging consciousness.
So, when Plotinus visited the Nous, what about the things he didn’t notice, wasn’t conscious of? Were they there, and consciousness just missed them? Or is consciousness more than a flashlight beam illuminating an existing reality?
Does consciousness kindle reality, like Love is kindled by the gaze of a soon-to-be lover?
Whatever the answer to those questions, Bohm says the holomovement includes consciousness.

Bohm believes that both matter and consciousness are rooted in the implicate order, they are not ultimately to be seen as distinct, fundamentally separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of one whole and unbroken movement. … mutually enfolding aspects of one overall order.”
AUEP, p.58

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Mary Coelho, Preface – Ch.2, Prep for 7/25

Since last I posted here, I have truly assimilated the fact that many of my friends are challenged and even daunted by Mary Conrow Coelho’s book, Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe.

So, before I dive into preparation for this Sunday’s presentation, with its scholarly focus on findings from several obscure realms, I thought it would be good to provide an over-all context of what Mary thinks she’s up to.

I went to the end of the book where Mary has a very nice summing up and inspirational “Go Forth!”
One of the simplest ways for me to really incorporate some important ideas from a book is to recopy them, or short of that, reformat them. I did that. I really liked it. I know that formatting is not everybody’s “thing,” but I’ve included my work here, as Where she’s going Handout, which you may download.

My notes for my 7/25 presentation


In her preface, Mary talks about how her personal journey to writing this book has been a profoundly healing one, and how The New Universe Story can potentially be a healing one for all of us in industrial civilization.

Chapter 1

Mary gives us an overview of the ground ahead.

We must risk fresh vision… Human beings collectively have taken a determinative role in shaping the future direction of the Earth, a role formerly played by the much slower evolutionary processes. Embracing new images and new insights is a personal and community process that takes its own time, but there is great urgency to the work of revisioning demanded by the new universe story…


It was early in the last century when astronomers figured out that the universe was expanding. Astronomers and astrophysicists are still following where this discovery leads, but there is wide consensus that not only is the universe expanding but that it had a starting point, popularly known as the Big Bang. Mary gives the generally-agreed upon story, but leans into the elements that make it “The New Universe Story” rather than just the chronology you find in astronomy textbooks. The “New Story” elements are about relationships we have with elements in the cosmos.


Expanding universe, 1929

“Instead of thinking of the universe as a background in which we exist, we realize we are an organized form, one among many, of the continually emerging totality.”

Atoms are an early example of the creation of complex forms.

Nucleosynthesis in Stars

p18 The special resonance around carbon formation

p20 “…as living beings we are participants in a powerful energetic totality.”

The Earth


We realize that there must be a continuum between life and the ‘non-living,’ when we remember that all things , whether living or not, are descendants of the nebular material that formed our sun and the planets. –p. 23

Relationship with the Sun


There has thus developed a remarkable sensitivity and interrelationship between one differentiated part of the universe and another part of the universe: a new intensity of communion. This communion is a fundamental characteristic of the universe. –p. 26

an oxygenated atmosphere p27, a crisis for life

Cells with more energy

Developments in the Oxygenated Seas

p29 for the first time, a billion years ago, one cell ate another cell


Complex Multicellular Life

p31 evidence of cerebralization, more than one instance, unrelated. Burgess Shale

there is a directionality in evolution.

The Paleozoic Era

p32 Cuvierian packages. Geologic ages are determined by noticing changes in these packages.

P34 first of 5 global extinctions ends the Paleozoic


mammals emerge, but dinosaurs dominate. Giantism

p35 mammals and bodily intimacy of parent & offspring

flowering plants take over the plant kingdom

Cenozoic Era

p36 dinosaurs had to be cleared out just before the beginning of the Cenozoic Era before mammals could become dominant.

Thomas Berry:

The human is that being in whom the universe activates, reflects upon, and celebrates itself in conscious self-awareness.

Our Body as History’s Museum

Triune Brain, Paul MacLean

Dowd & Barlow’s understanding of our stack of brains

Each person is a part of the Earth that got up and walked.
–p. 42

Brian Swimme videos on Youtube, a series of 10

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Overview of 4 Summer Sessions

Looking into the future, the outline of my summer presentations about Mary Conrow Coelho’s Awakening Universe Emerging Personhood: The Power of Comtemplation in an Evolving Universe appears with more clarity.

This develops from my post of May 27.

July 11

My July 5 post covers this, an overview of the series of four presentations.

July 25

I will touch on two approaches for understanding the world we live in, documented by Mary Coelho:

1. The Universe Story cosmology,

  • the description astronomers currently give of how things have developed since the Big Bang (The Great Flaring Forth) 13 billion years ago.
  • What evolutionary biologists believe has happened on Earth: the contributions of oxygen, sex. A tendency toward “mind,” the “triune brain,”
  • How we are bits of the universe but not pieces: holograms, the holomovement,  implicate order, consciousness,
  • The nature of time, with emphasis on Present.

2. Mystical Awareness of reality (mostly the traditions of the West)

  • Contemplation and its relation to wholeness, fullness
  • Christian mystics
  • The stages and rewards of approaching a sense of oneness
  • The Unitive Life
    • Teresa of Avila

Could these two approaches to understanding the world be connected?

August 8

Sections III & IV of AUEP

Religion & Quantum Physics

  • Sub-atomic particles are not “things;” they are waves, or clouds of possibility, until we observe them.
  • The Void/ Abyss/ Plenum/ God
    • A generative nothingness
    • Self-organizing systems
  • The Unfolding Whole
    • Our Place
  • “THAT,” out of which (self-)organizing arises.
  • The Soul
    • Jung
  • The place of “Difference” within the Fundamental Unity
  • An Incarnational World-view

The Divided Soul

  • Primordial Consciousness
    • It’s Loss & Recovery
      • Christian Thought
  • Ego & the Hero’s Journey
  • What Humans Need
    • For formation of The Self
  • Splits
  • Earth, Maternal Matrix

August 22

Section V of AUEP

  • Striving without Willfulness
  • Development of Human Consciousness over the centuries
  • Spiritual Awakening as an Expression of the Universe
  • The Journey Toward Awakening
  • The Unitive Life
  • Ecozoic Consciousness

Summary and Next Steps for moving into a new society, a new relationship to each other and the Earth.

  • From 2010 to 2020 CE: how am I led; what could WE do?
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Mary Coelho & Transition Town: Prep for 7/11/2010 at TCFM

(I am fleshing out the first part of the outline you can find in my previous post.)

This is the ground I currently imagine I will cover.
What actually happens…we’ll see.

My outline

We are at a pivot point.

  1. The central impulse of Industrial Civilization has pretty much run its course, and it is being overwhelmed by its inherent contradictions/limitations.
  2. The seeds of what comes next are already sprouting amidst the early ruins.

Transition Town

  1. A brief history; show & tell about the Handbook
  2. What’s happening
    1. among Quakers
    2. in the Twin Cities

Mary Conrow Coelho’s book, Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe

  1. My big-picture statement of Mary’s meaning:
    1. Call it “God,” “angels,” “spirit(s)” or something else, most human societies agree that our material, down-to-earth living is subject to influences from beyond what we can understand.
    2. It’s hard to give weight to that, within the thought-forms of Industrial Civilization, because our dominating power has come from focusing our attention on the material world. Theoretically and practically we are a culture of materialists.
    3. We have come to this point through what we call “science,” but science is an historical process, born in an argument with the Church.
    4. While we are currently at a point of materialistic focus in that process, science and a scientific world-view are not essentially materialist. There is room for Spirit (call it whatever!) within the scientific tradition.
    5. In fact, the physics and math that brought us quantum physics,
      starting in the early 1900s,
      has come to see the universe as
      much more than its material manifestations.
      It may be misleading to say the Big Bang of cosmic origin came
      but it didn’t come from nowhere.
    6. And the “where” that it came from is now seen to be
      just as active in creating today’s universe as it was at “the beginning.”
      Our current universe is “implicated” in in an underlying order, something much larger and non-material, like a wave is implicate to the sea.
      So says science, or at least the leading theoretical edges of science.
    7. Christian mystics, and others who have focused on the non-material, seem to have been exploring a world similar to the one now being investigated by scientists using huge super-colliders.
      And the best physicists know this, and write about it, though they may not “understand” it.
    8. This has –can have– profoundly significant meaning for each person who understands it:
      1. We are intimately,
        a part of the explosions of supernovas
        and the big bang (“The Great Flaring Forth“).
      2. The world we see around us is OURS to see –it would not exist in the way that it does without us.
      3. This is not just a theoretical truth; it can and should be experienced — a truth known personally and lived out of,
        as we move into the future.
        Mystics of all stripes know this. Many within TCFM have direct experience with “healings” and other paranormal phenomena.
        Yet we have trouble talking about it, partly because these phenomena are so actively disparaged by materialist science and partly because:
        the specialized language-universes within which these experiences are recognized
        do not have a common language with the popular culture
        or with other groups who recognize similar things.

THE NEW UNIVERSE STORY is an opportunity to change that.
Using the language and findings of quantum science we can find a “way of seeing” which allows monks and astronomers to live in the same world, the same linguistic and conceptual universe.
And to feel supported and affirmed by our place in the larger scheme of things, including the choices we make for good,
And to yearn, to pray, for beneficial outcomes.
The Dalai Lama is already there, I think, and is hosting seminars that include western scientists.

“Nice Story, Richard; tell it to my great grandchildren”

No! This is going to be important WAY quicker that that!

Yes, this is big-picture, metaphysical, philosophical thinking,
but life as we know it is about to slide off its foundations into something very different,
and people all around us will soon be asking, REALLY asking,

“How can I understand my world?
What does this all mean?”

Of course they won’t be getting together in little seminars to discuss this.
And many of the answers they come up with, won’t look much like The New Universe Story.

But WE, all of you, my dear spiritual companions, are going to be right in the middle of it.
And, at the same time we are becoming urban farmers, we are going to be talking to people who are asking
“what does it all mean?”

Without a vision, the people will perish

I deeply believe we are on the cusp of a new time.

The Transition Town movement offers us a good process for embracing a world where oil is dramatically less available
and “local” will be a much more important part of what sustains us.
That’s great, and I want to be part of strengthening that process in my neighborhood and sharing that work with Quakers I know.

But even among my Friends–
spiritual, generous, people who are ready to put the welfare of another before their own–
I see a vagueness of personal meaning.
I see uncertainty in response to “what does it all mean.”
Friends, as we are tested by the transition, we will need to be able to answer that question, provisionally, at least for ourselves, and especially for our community’s children.
The pit of meaninglessness will be as dangerous as the mountain of debt or a dearth of green vegetables and protein.

Many will look for answers from established sources, and some established sources may successfully rise to the occasion. However, to the extent that “Answers” assume the primacy of the material world, I predict that they will be seen as dead within a generation.
It simply will not be enough.

“The New Universe Story” offers a vision of the universe, our cosmos,
which is consistent with much of modern medicine and the other technical fields upon which we rely,
but also goes deeper,
beyond “curing” into “healing.”

Mary Conrow Coelho’s Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe is the best rendering of The New Story” I have found, at least for liberal Quaker sensibilities.

And as I move into the work of the Transition, this is the story I want to be sharing, while the new harvests are coming in.

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Proposal for a Summer Seminar

An inspiration from this morning’s meditation. I offer it as a heads-up” especially to my elders, but also  to others who have expressed interest in Mary Conrow Coelho’s Awakening Universe Emerging Personhood: The Power of Comtemplation in an Evolving Universe

Quakers & the re-emergence of the Divine Awareness at the close of the industrial age:
A study group that looks at the central role of Inspiration in the new society that is emerging as we move away from a civilization powered by carbon fuels

I currently envision this as a workshop/seminar I will offer in July and August, second and fourth Sundays, 9:45 to 10:45, at the Twin Cities Friends Meeting.
It would be open to anyone on a drop-in basis, although presentations will be geared as much as possible to people who have come to the previous sessions.

July 11

Overview of seminar
Overview of peak-oil/climate change/Transition Town movement, and the need for spiritual underpinnings.
Intro to Mary Coelho’s Awakening Universe Emerging Personhood (AUEP)

Link to outline

July 25

The first two major sections of AUEP, through page 128.

Link to outline

August 8

Sections III & IV of AUEP

Link to outline

August 22

Section V of AUEP
Summary and Next Steps for moving into a new society, a new relationship to each other and the Earth.

Link to outline

Second, third & fourth thoughts

  • I need to remind myself these will be only one-hour sessions
  • This will be mostly presentation more than discussion, face-to-face. Hopefully discussion can happen online.
  • I believe this will alternate Sundays with hours devoted to Experiment with Light, at the Meetinghouse
  • I can’t possibly do justice to the material in this time-frame, but I need to get started with a synthesis of Transition Town and AUEP.
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Are We –Is Industrial Civilization– Lost, Heading Into a Wasteland?

What is Gaia doing?

As we look to the unfolding of
the tremendous transitions
our world is entering into,
I offer hope.

All along, with Gaia, something has been going on.

Many things have been going on; surely you have remarked on some of them. Perhaps on:

  • When life on this planet in the  age of dinosaurs was practically extinguished by a century-long ash cloud from a huge meteor crash,
    life bounced back.
  • The age of eight-foot beaver and Guinea pigs and the huge canine teeth of the saber-toothed cats was followed by a wave of relative miniaturization.

And something is going on among the higher primates:

  • All over the world humans settled into villages.
  • All over the world, the first villages had no roads.
  • All over the world, as village culture developed, we settled on having
    a main path, a main street through the community.
    Not everywhere, but way more often than not.
  • And then came private property. There was a lot of resistance, but that way of doing things fit well enough with who we are, at the time, that most human societies adopted it.

Having some things culturally recognized as “mine, to do with as I wish,” did wonders for human initiative, from agriculture to patenting inventions.

Something’s going on.

Property has its natural limits though.
Humans owning other humans seemed logical for a time, but it turned out primates have a natural sense of justice, and this sense of fairness was so disturbed by owning humans, that we gave it up.
There was lots of resistance, but like main streets
and the practice of property ownership,
the idea of an essential human freedom
to be property
came to be adopted almost everywhere.

Something is going on.

Now we are at a tipping point regarding the use of fossil fuels and climate change.

What will happen?


Something evolutionary. Something bigger than we can understand, at first.
There will be a lot of resistance.

Maybe it will be another step back from property.

Property allows us to own coal beds as big as counties, and coal plants to power cities,
but we now realize we can’t own the air where the smoke goes.

Like the inhabitants of those first villages without roads, world-wide, we have identified a problem.
How can we organize ourselves so that this works better?

Is there a technical fix like hydrogen fuel cells or cold fusion?

Or will we respond to the degradation of air,
and land
with a more fundamental shift?

I don’t know.

But I do know: something is going on.

of which humans are an exquisite part.

Something we can only dimly understand.

we can look for it.
We can try to work with it, rather than against it.

Being pregnant and giving birth are uncomfortable, but they are only parts of a larger process.

We might be entering a new axial age.

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Working with the Invisible World

(It’s almost exactly a year since my last post.
It’s good to be back.
Being Clerk of TCFM is done, and it went well, despite significant challenges.
I couldn’t have done it without Anne S.
Now, on to the current state of my adventures as a Gaia Troubadour.)

I’m giving a presentation at the Adult Education hour on 11/8/09.

I want to do some of my preparation work here.
On the day itself I’ll try to let the Invisible World guide me to what I actually say.

The occasion for the presentation is reporting on the Amy and Arnold Mindell workshop,

WorldWork for People and Planet

The workshop is part of the general areas of Process Oriented Psychology and of
Worldwork. (I particularly recommend the Worldwork in Photos section of this website, to get a feel of what goes on.)

Betsy and our friend Celia were there with me, and we all had quite different reactions to the four-day event. I was thrilled and empowered.
My experiences there combined with two experiences I’ve had within the world of Quakers. The first is the meditation technique, Experiment with Light; the second, reading the book Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe, by Quaker author Mary Conrow Coelho.

I was raised in the Religion of Materialist Science.

I found it lacking. It said:

If you can’t see it, touch it, measure it, it’s not real. There are fantasy worlds, like fiction, religion and daydreams, which may be quite pleasurable, but to make life-choices based on them is to fall prey to superstition. Stick to the facts.

This upbringing created deep prejudices in me, which have been difficult to overcome. I have struggled since childhood with the limitations of the Religion of Science. My wonderful, deeply-moral, parents stammered when I asked,

What does it mean when Jiminy Cricket says,

Let your conscience be your guide


Mainstream Christianity offered much I found helpful, but ultimately I could not “go there.”
And yet the Christians, Buddhists, Sufis and Taoists are clearly onto something, an invisible world, preceding, underlying and giving rise to the world we experience.

And in my own life, I have been guided by my intuition in ways I did not trust but turned out to be clearly superior to the other guidance I was receiving.


I am plagued by a sense of wrongness in my life. A sense that, while I am a moral person, I could be doing better. Not in a super-ego sense with a big should,  but in the sense that there is a … truth(?!)… striving to flow through me, trying to find in me a unique avenue for its ever-exfoliating expression, and I am partly blocking the flow.

Under these circumstances I was much relieved to discover, experientially, George Fox’s method of minding the Light, as discovered and explained by Rex Ambler.
Here is a way of engaging with the invisible world, and being guided by it.
And then, at the Mindell workshop, Amy and Arnold were talking about “going into your process mind,” and it was the same thing, at its root, as Experiment with Light!

Given how phobic I am about this stuff, it was immensely reassuring to find a group using non-religious language to teach me to tap into the same kinds of experiences as I was having with the Experiment with Light.

Can I bear the wonder?!
As a boy trained to be a “brain,” to rely on the intellect, can I bear to accept these life-giving inputs from an invisible world I do not understand?
That’s where Mary Coelho’s book, Awakening Universe… is profoundly helpful to me. My intellect is stunned and reassured by the breadth of her investigation, and her conclusions.
We are not some trivial accident, orbiting a medium-sized star. The universe is dynamic/alive and we are living expressions of that dynamism. Our minds need not be cut off from that resonant wholeness, but can be sustained by contact with it. And this “New Story” is entirely consistent with a science transformed by its understanding of quantum physics.

I am not lost. I may have tough work to do, on a life-assignment that stays hard through to my physical end, but what I do counts. There are better and less-good choices that I can make, and there is an invisible world I can turn to for guidance as I co-create my life
within the circumstances of Gaia,
and her galaxy,
and the larger all.


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Sitting in the Fire, Part 2

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A big sigh.
Thursday, AM.
I have just posted “Part 1” of this work, which required my editing mind, looking for spelling errors, trying to view the paragraphs with eyes not exclusively my own. Now it’s time to sink back into receptivity, and into twilight containing shapes I may dimly comprehend, or not.

To review, I am going over a reading of the I Ching hexagram 17, “Following.” As I draft this, I have completed reading, for the nth time, the main text, and assimilating its meaning for me, as much as I am able, at this point. The work so far has carried me out of a state of misery and hopelessness by helping me to recognize that my current difficulties are part of a larger, spirit-filled, process. I am encouraged to carry on with the work.

Now I approach the “changing lines.”

In last year’s explanation of ‘The I Ching‘ on the page to the right, the subject of changing lines did not come up because the coins I threw all came up 7s and 8s. As I explained then, heads counts as 3, tails as 2. Throwing three coins can yield an even or an odd number, when you total the values that fall facing up. An even value yields a yin line, “_ _”, and an odd value produces a line counted as yang, “___”. Now we get to the additional variable of changing lines. The possible values for three coins tossed and counted in this way will total to 6, 7, 8 or 9. To get a 7 or an 8 one throws two coins with one side up and one coin with the other side up, and this is the most common pattern. To get a 6, you must throw all tails, and for a 9, all heads. These are recorded as yin or yang, just like the lines obtained by 8 and 7, but they are noted as changing lines and get special attention, beyond the guidance provided by the main text.

When I got hexagram 17, last Monday evening, my third throw came up all tails, and the fifth throw came up all heads. (The first toss of the coins produces the bottom line, the last toss produces the top line.) Now that I am done opening myself to the part of the text that applies to everyone who gets this hexagram, I turn my focus to the text that applies to each of my changing lines.

3 yin: Involved with the adult, one loses the child.
Following with an aim, one gains. It is beneficial to
abide in rectitude.

When one’s nature is weak but one will is firm, and one can follow the yang of the other and not follow the yin in the self, this is being involved with the adult and losing the child; following with an aim will attain it. However, many weak people are not earnest in their faith in the Tao, and they easily lose focus. It is essential to abide in right and not move, growing ever stronger; only thus can one get the yang of the other and return it to the self. This is following in which one is weak yet abides in what is right.

This certainly speaks to my condition, in that when I threw the coins I was very upset about the weakness of my nature. And in fact I also expressed my tenacity of will, saying “I’ll hang in there, if that is what it takes.” How did throwing pennies bring me to this paragraph? I wonder at this, but I no longer doubt the significance I find here; it has happened too often.
(Hypothetically, if I had thrown three tails on the second throw, I would have gotten: “Involved with the child, one loses the adult. EXPLANATION: Being weak and without knowledge, following yin that arises later, one loses the original yang; this is being ‘involved with a child, losing the adult.’ This is following that is weak and loses reality.”
Whew! I’m happy to take the hand I was dealt.)

Now, trying to apply the advice in the text to the specific circumstances in my life: “…one can follow the yang of the other and not follow the yin in the self…following with an aim will attain it.” There is implicit Chinese/Taoist philosophy in this that I am not acquainted with. From context I deduce that other can contain good or true yang, and self may contain yin that makes self weak, rather than yin that makes self flexible. Thinking this way, it appears that at least part of the intrusive strength of my needy-greedy is yang that my true self needs to be changed by. Hmm. There are surely paradoxes here; let me be open to them.
“It is essential to abide in the right and not move, growing ever stronger…” Part of my original anguish in the “Sinned?” post expressed “Let me out of here!” The I Ching clearly counsels, “no, stay, this is a partially-passive, following, process; it ‘…is following in which one is weak yet abides in what is right.'” In Process Work they talk about “sitting in the [refiner’s] fire,” letting the dross be burned away, letting the heat of the situation change your chemistry.

Then, on the fifth throw, I got three heads, leading to

5 yang: Truthfulness in good is auspicious.
Happiness is herein: concealing the bad, extolling the good, following strength, following flexibility, mastering both and using balance, every act is right, every affair is proper; following the heart’s desire, one does not step over the line. This is following trusting in goodness.


I will accept some credit for being truthful here. And I am doing it with an eye to the good of my whole community, not just my own well-being. On the other hand, I’m not sure what to make of “…concealing the bad…” I realize that what I am doing on this website is unusual, that I’m sharing things that feel very private with whomever cares to look. And I am not concealing the bad. Well, actually I do spare you the worst of it. I try to admit what seems to me general to the human condition while not going too far into specifics which I believe would be offensive.
Is the balance I try to strike here within the range of proper, or is there something more for me to learn?

Changing lines change the hexagram
Throwing all heads or all tails not only highlights certain lines of the original hexagram, it leads to a new, changed, hexagram.
When you have assimilated your hexagram with its changing lines, then you change the lines and check out a second one.

Since my original hexagram looked like this (with dots after each of the changing lines):

_ _
___ .

_ _ .
_ _

Changing the yin line to a yang line, and the yang line to yin, yields:

_ _
_ _

_ _

Hexagram number 55, “Richness.”


55. Richness.
Richness is developmental. Freedom from worry
when the king is great
is suited to midday.

Richness is fullness and greatness; illumination and action balance each other, illumination is great and action is great — therefore it is called richness.
This hexagram represents operating the fire and preventing danger;… “Fire” is a symbol of illumination; operating the fire means employing illumination. Illumination is the quality of awareness and perceptivity. If one can be aware, then one has the mind of Tao, and the spirit is knowing. If one can be perceptive, then there is no human mentality, and the mind is clear. With the spirit knowing and the mind clear, inwardly cultivating and subtly refining, clear about action and acting with clarity, one’s illumination will grow day by day, and one’s action will become greater day by day. When illumination and action are applied in concert, practice of the Tao is very easy. This is why richness is developmental.

This “changed” hexagram is not a description of now. As I learned the I Ching, the hexagram you get after you change any changing lines is what lies in your future if you continue on the course indicated by the original hexagram. (Where did I learn this stuff? Certainly not at the “U” or some certified academy. This is “lore,” and I’m sure it has wide variations.)
“The Reading” for hexagram 55 continues in much the same vein. I expect to study it more than I have so far, but probably not as intensively as I did “Following.” The main text of hexagram 55 is also followed by text for changing lines, but none of these apply to me, as a “changed” hexagram has no changing lines.

OK, so now it’s back to the situation I was groaning about in my post, “Sinned?”
Nothing has objectively changed. I am still avoiding information which will likely change my life, and hopefully free me from my neurosis. What has changed is that I have sought and experienced as sense of connection with a world larger than my personal one. And that brush with the transcendent has given me heart.

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Sitting in the Fire, Part 1

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Sharing with a friend, the despair of my previous post, she asked me if I had consulted the I Ching.

I confessed that had not occurred to me. Silly me. When it gets this bad, the I Ching is a valuable place to turn.

So now I have.


As I first write this, I am working on what has happened in draft form, with an eye to sharing it, but also prepared that it will never see the light of day. What I know, at this stage, is that I need to do the work I am about to do. I also know that my life is profoundly connected to the life of my Quaker community and that I may share some of my work with them, as an offering.

(If you, dear reader, don’t know the I Ching, I have explained something about it, and about its place in my life here. This links you to one of the “pages” that are listed the right side of the home page, a page that is named “The I Ching.” It’s a long piece, a story of its own, and you probably want to continue reading here before following that link. Still, I am writing with the assumption that readers here know at least as much about the I Ching as I have shared previously.)

The Question
As I explain on “The I Ching” page, the work begins with formulating a question for the I Ching. My post “Sinned?” of eight days ago is a cry of anguish rather than a question, so my first step was to formulate a question for the I Ching that did justice to my emotional state. Two days ago, late in the day, tired and discouraged, I wrote in my journal:
“The ‘Sinned?’ entry on the Gaia Voices website still applies today. I am paralyzed with fear, afraid to know something within me that…
Dear I Ching, I have just spent a day of numbness… I feel miserable.
What can I say to you?
To myself?
I feel like I am running away–actively avoiding. I am not dead. Most of the time I do not feel miserable, but when I turn my hand to my ‘work,’ clerking, my neurosis is there, preventing. I can fight it, painfully and unsuccessfully, or drink, or run away in other ways.
I believe that much is at work below awareness, ‘within’ me and ‘without.’ I believe that at some level I am keeping the faith, by at least staying aware of my situation at some points during the day.
And perhaps there is nothing to do but wait. Perhaps I am suffering and working as efficiently as I can.
Dear I Ching, I do not feel it is ‘wrong’ that I come back to this miserable place day after day, if I must. I am even willing to go through the drama of falling down as clerk, if that is the best alternative. Still, I feel there is a chi-jam here that could be loosened, if I had the wit and the will. Can you offer any guidance?”

My six throws of the coins yielded three solid lines and three broken lines, in this pattern:

_ _
___ .
_ _ .
_ _

I had thrown hexagram number 17, “Following.” (The dots to the right of lines 3 and 5 represent “changing lines.” More on that later.)

17. Following.
Following is greatly developmental: it is beneficial
if correct; then there is no fault.

Following means going along. As for the qualities of the hexagram, above is lake, joyous,

_ _

and below is thunder, active,

_ _
_ _

it means self and others in accord, others rejoicing when one acts, acting to the delight of others–therefore it is called following.
The hexagram represents seeking feeling through essence

true yang will not come unless there is a way to summon and absorb it. The way to summon and absorb it is the path of following.

(In the book, the text  that followed was so dense that I made myself a little chart:
feeling, the other


the essence, the self)

In this hexagram, thunder and lake join: Thunder, associated with the east, represents the essence, the self; lake, associated with the west, represents feeling, the other.  In the beginning of life, essence and feeling are one. The primordial true yang is originally in oneself, but when it mixes with acquired conditioning it is lost outside, is no longer one’s own but belongs to other. If you want to get back to the origin and return to the fundamental, you have to steal it back from the other.

Hmm… Looking at this from an outward point of view I hear it saying I must steal my essence back from the other, the crowd, with it’s expectations of who I am, or ought to be, which I have accepted as my own. If I am to act in harmony with the Tao, with Gaia, the larger wholeness, I must violate the status quo. And from an inward point of view I hear the I Ching saying, “you say you are feeling miserable, but those feelings are not of your essence. You are right to stay here day after day in this miserable place, disappointing yourself with your self-demeaning avoidances. You are following the Tao, imperfectly, but more perfectly than you have in the past.”

Following as a path is going along with what is desired, gradually introducing guidance. Going along with desire means the self follows the other and gets the other’s favor, inducing the other to come  follow the self. Other and self following each other, essence seeks feeling, feeling returns to essence, and that which had been lost is restored to oneself. This is great development by way of the path of following.

In my life, as I have spoken about it often here, I would equate what the I Ching calls ‘desire’ with what I have been calling ‘my needy-greedy.’ (I have issues around lust, around mis-use of alcohol and of eating beyond satiation.) Especially since approaching ‘mychrist’ about a year ago, I have been more tolerant of my desires. I have been more willing to follow them, to allow them, to try to make friends with them, rather than just getting into big fights with them, or indulging in them unconsciously. My fears at what I’m approaching encourage me to run away into unconscious expressions of my needy-greedy. I have yielded to them, but as moderately as possible, and I have tried to stay aware of, to watch, my flights.

However … a small slip produces a tremendous miss. Therefore, for the great development of the path of following, correctness is most beneficial. Correct means right — following rightly, the self sensing rightly, the other responding rightly; when self and other are both right, even artificial feeling transforms into true feeling, and even artificial essence changes into true essence.

I think in the Christian tradition we would call this transforming of the artificial to the true an “act of grace,” not something we can will or accomplish out of our own powers. But we can try, striving and hoping that, while our efforts seem patently inadequate, a satisfactory outcome may still be obtained.

Essence loves receptivity and rectitude in feeling, feeling loves compassion and benevolence in essence; strength and flexibility one energy, essence and feeling joined, we return to pristine purity. Wholly integrated with natural principle, the golden elixir crystallizes, tranquil and unperturbed yet sensitive and effective, sensitive and effective yet tranquil and undisturbed. Those who are faulty at the outset wind up impeccable in the end. Try to understand when following is right or wrong, good or bad.

It’s important to go slow, with the words of the I Ching. I first saw this particular text two days ago, and have returned to it several times. And only now am I appreciating the depth these words can offer me. If following needs to be done rightly, if our creaturely self and our eternal self–our feeling and our essence–are to follow each other into a wholeness, what does our essence need from our creaturely aspect?
Receptivity – an openness to what we did not know.
Receptivity on the part of feeling would mean, an openness on the part of our feeling –acculturated– parts to the apparently alien presence of our Tao-self.
Rectitude – a lack of reactivity on feeling‘s part, even when things appear alarming, a slowness to respond, and a preference for small, careful responses, rather than large ones.
And what must essence offer to feeling, for feeling to be willing to let essence come closer?
Compassionessence (an expression of the transcendent Tao) needs to feel and project a sense of ‘feeling-with’ feeling. My needy-greedy is not separate, ‘bad;’ even if my creaturely aspect does things the self (essence) would not, self feels compassion in the presence of feeling; the heart of essence goes out to feeling in love.
Benevolence – a befriending, a caring for, an offering of one’s resources to. If feeling is to accept being followed by essence without freaking, and in turn is willing to follow essence, essence must not only feel compassion, essence must actively care for feeling, must express benevolence.
And when essence and feeling are joined, the wholeness, the Tao-self, exhibits “strength and flexibility [in] one energy.”

(Suddenly, I’m trying to see the above section through your eyes. It may not seem as sublime to you as it does to me. If not, what I can say is that you are having an opportunity to watch me converse with the I Ching. I was feeling pretty desperate. I tossed coins and consulted a book of timeless wisdom, and it responded to my situation in ways that steadied me in my struggle and  lifted my eyes to a higher goal than my former miserable preoccupation. While the above section may not speak to you in the way that it does to me, at least I want to stand as witness: there is an invisible world; we can find guidance in it; there are opportunities beyond our mundane comprehension, near at hand.)

The above work was done between 9 AM and 2 PM on October 29. Reading it the next morning, I feel comfortable having it go out, as written. There is more to do, and I imagine I’ll turn to that now, but no need to wait to send this out. It’s already longer than enough.

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