Cynthia Bourgeault – Luminous Wisdom Cowichan Lake Education Centre 1-7 April 2019  Friday Afternoon (Nb: these are personal notes from Cynthia’s oral presentation and may not always be a completely accurate reflection of her teaching)


Also in contrast to many branches of the Wisdom tradition based on Perennial or Traditionalist metaphysics (with its inherently binary and anti-material slant), we are emphatically a Teilhardian, Trinitarian lineage, embracing asymmetry (threeness), evolution, and incarnation in all their material fullness and messiness.

This wisdom tradition is not of the same line of Sophia Perennis tradition (perennial wisdom)

“The future of wisdom” – there is something in Christianity that does not reflect the perennial wisdom.

Bruno Barnhart, Bede Griffiths, Henri Le Saux – against the grain of Richard Rohr who says the Living School is in the tradition of Sophia Perennis. Lynn Bauman (2009), CB broke with Lynn’s hard core Islamic Sophia Perennis philosophy and moved toward the heart of the Christian tradition

Sophia Perennis – what is the perennial wisdom? How is Christianity different?


  1. Perennial wisdom – hard form and soft form. Rohr = soft form. Aldous Huxley on perennial wisdom = “an ancient wisdom which is in everything” ie. the Universal Christ. At the heart there are 5 assumptions (Huxley) – 1st axial wisdom


there is a Godhead or God or ground which is an unmanifested principal

beneath all manifestation

  1. the Ground is transcendent and immanent
  2. possible for humans to love and know and become identified with the

ground, become one with this

  1. to activate this unitive (one with the ground) knowledge and this supreme

identity is the final end and purpose of human existence

  1. there is a Law or Dharma to obey and Way or Tao to be followed in order to

reach this final goal

These are at the heart of all great traditions.

CB different perspective from #4 – final purpose is to lay down your life (kenotic) – activation is the beginning, not the end.

Sophia Perennis is grounded in the neo-platonic, from Origen to Pseudo-Dionysius has the neo-platonic in it. Neo-platonic at variance in two ways:


  1. works on a substance ontology – difference between matter and spirit. Red-shift metaphysics. The further away you get, the more coarse it becomes = further separation from God. Our world is seen as inferior. Away from matter is seen as a movement of ascent – climbing out of the pit. Conflict with incarnation. Hard to see any value in the coarse. Hard time coping with descent. A static, bianariness to it.

Christianity – Tertullian and Irenaeus – an instinct for gnosticizing. Saw the pulling away from the earthly presence as seen in the incarnation. Typically we see Jesus as a mop-up operation, rather than the crown jewel which was planned since the beginning.

Christianity has never looked at why the material world is so important.

Cloud of Unknowing becomes more formulaic when quoting Pseudo-Dionysius rather than deeply felt

Incarnation is asymmetrical

Between Tielhard and Gurdjieff we find something of why this world is so important.

Coarse perspective often understood as the further you are away from the peak the less you can hear directly

Hard to lose self/creation.

CB hates word panentheism, a derivative term, reaction to pantheism (went out with Einstein). Now no doubt God permeates everything.

Cosmotheandric = worlds within worlds. God is all the connection points. God is this unity. Can’t say if God is responsible for the unity, as he is the unit.

Need to throw out the old theological maps. The new map is much more capable of holding this mystery. Teilhard began this conversation – illuminates the whole structure

The final is not self-realization, but love. There is no self-realization apart from love.

Realization can become a self-referential goal and privatized – in tension with Teilhard and the idea of developing a new body.

There are guidelines but every call is unique. You have to bushwhack with the material of your own life. May come to the place where the Dharma tells you one thing and love tells you another.

Rene Guenon – influence of Islamic metaphysics, influenced the development of Sophia Perennis. Understanding that there are orthodox traditions that carry on the wisdom. Sense that modernity has gone astray – cell phones, etc. are a distortion of the original connection (ie. of traditional metaphysics) This is the slant of Lynn Bauman

Looks for its reference points backwards and up. Try to find the truth in the old wineskins. Teilhard is the mortal enemy of this.

Merton has been courted by the traditionalists. Saw in his distrust of the current state as a way into this. Merton and Sufism: The Untold Story, documents this courtship and is an excellent book.

Modern secularization is the natural outcome. Bruno Barnhart completely re-orients you how to be in the planet. Roger Lipsey places Gurdjieff in the traditionalist perspective.

Theeness is the basis of how things move forward and breaks synergy. Works well with Teilhard’s view of evolution. The revelation of the divine heart is still in process. Downloads into the Now, move forward into the conditions of the world. Process and becoming oriented

Looking backward is nostalgia.

Celibacy and the monastic are the containers in which knowledge has been conveyed. New vocations are not coming. People are not interested in the old formats.

The old formats of retreats for the rich (the contemplative lifestyle model), excluding the poor, coloured etc.

What is required is a new wine skin that can hold what is being formed = Teilhard’s evolutionary model.

What is contemplation? What is monasticism? Are there new models? Is the past a guide or a siren call?

Lawrence Freeman (Christian Meditation) had lots of money to build fancy retreat centre in France – Is this the old model?

In this Wisdom tradition, there is a lot more openness to moving forward in a new way.

Different way of being present. The opening happens as you stay open, and a prior “yes” to letting go and how we have known it in the past.