338. Matthew Wright Interview Transcript

Matthew Wright #338

March 14, 2016

{BATGAP theme music plays}

>>Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. Its website is www.batgap.com , B-A-T-G-A-P, and there have been well over 300 interviews to date, so if you want to check out the archives, go there and look under the ‘Past Interviews’ menu.

This enterprise is made possible by the generous support of appreciative viewers and listeners, and there is a ‘Donate’ button on the site, so thank you for that.

My guest today is the Reverend Matthew Wright. Matthew is an Episcopal priest, writer, and retreat leader, working to renew the Christian Wisdom Tradition within a wider interspiritual framework. He writes a monthly column, Belonging, for Contemplative Journal, and serves as Priest in Charge at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Woodstock, New York.

Matthew lives with his wife, Yanick, alongside the brothers of Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. You can learn more about his work through the Center for Spiritual Resources, which I will be linking to, and linking to several things from his page at www.batgap.com.

And I know Matthew, kind of, from the Science & Nonduality Conference, where he has gone for the last couple of years. And I had to miss some of his things that he did there because I was doing other things in other rooms, but I always listened to him later on, when the Science & Nonduality people put the talks up online, and I’ve always found his talks to be very inspiring and interesting. So it’s really a joy to have him on today, I think we’re going to have a great conversation, so thanks, Matthew.

>>Matthew: Thanks Rick, it’s great to be here.

>>Rick: Yeah, so I want to talk about all kinds of things with you. Just to get people some main points, as I read through your stuff, here are some things that jumped out at me, questions that we might talk about:

  1. Is Jesus alive and interceding in human affairs?
  2. If God is omnipresent then we’re looking at Him. There’s a thing from the Gospel of Thomas he quoted, saying, “Come to know that which is before your eyes and what is hidden from you will be revealed.”
  3. We will talk about interspirituality,
  4. We will talk about the notion that “you are not the body,” or maybe you are,
  5. We want to talk about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose name I probably just mispronounced, but whose thinking is very inspiring both to Matthew and me, although I more-or-less just discovered him.
  6. We want to talk about … well, I don’t have to tell you all these things because we’re going to be talking about them …
  7. We will talk about the Divine Mother and the feminine in the world
  8. We will talk about devotion
  9. Something that Matthew terms “the second axial age”
  10. Belief versus experience
  11. Intermixture of spiritual traditions in peoples’ lives, such as people who might call themselves a “Buddhist Christian.”

So there’s some topics that jumped out at me as being interesting to talk about, and maybe we’ll take it elsewhere in the discussion, and also, online viewers are of course welcome to send in questions as we go along. There is a question form on the ‘Upcoming Interviews’ page on www.batgap.com .

But for starts, let’s get to know a little bit more about you, Matthew, where you came from, how you got interested in spirituality, what kind of major milestones you’ve gone through on your path.

>>Matthew: I’ve been serving as a priest now, I guess, for about 3 years, and I think my spiritual journey started sort of unconsciously unfolding late in high school. I grew up in a much more kind of fundamentalist, charismatic, Pentecostal type of Christianity.

And I had a high school teacher who was actually a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda – of all beings, of all people – and she was the first person to ever ask me if I thought God was within me. And I had grown up with a very sort of dualistic conception of God, that you know, Deity was in another dimension sort of watching down on us. So that question, as I sat with it, sort of inverted my whole theological framework, worldview.

And I remember sitting on the porch at my parents’ house one day and having this overwhelming sense, experience of God in the apple tree in our front yard. And so that sort of opened up a realm of nature-mysticism, I guess, encountering God in the natural world.

And I remember asking my dad at the time, asking, “Do you think God is in everything?! In the rocks and the trees and the grass?” and expecting him to sort of scoff, you know, coming from this fundamentalist church, but he paused for a minute and he said, “Well, yeah!” And I thought, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this?!”

So that sort of opened a journey into the more contemplative dimension of faith. It’s around that time that I was turned on to the Upanishads, and the Tao Te Ching, and Eastern texts and traditions, and …

>>Rick: If you ask the most fundamentalist of Christians, “If God omnipresent?” wouldn’t they say, “Yes?” I mean, doesn’t it say that in the Bible someplace?

>>Matthew: Well, I don’t think the word ‘omnipresent’ shows up in Scripture, but a sense of the all-pervading reality presence of God is certainly fundamental to Christian tradition. But I don’t know that people … I think that sometimes they think of omnipresence almost in the sense of, “God can see everywhere,” rather than a sense that God is actually one-with all things.

>>Rick: Aha. Sort of like He is up in the sky in some spaceship with some cosmic telescope checking us … like Santa Claus; he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice but he’s not necessarily everywhere.

>>Matthew: Right.

>>Rick: Okay. So as you began to transition to reading the Upanishads and stuff like that, was there any kind of theological rapids that you had to go through in your little boat of life? I mean, was it rough, was it awkward … was it beginning to clash with what you had been engrained with?

>>Matthew: Sure, I think it was really exciting and also frightening, when you’ve grown up in sort of a fundamentalist worldview and you start questioning it, you think you maybe are risking your eternal salvation, you know? And so there is something fearful in that.

But I think there was a shift for me one day when I realized how much love my parents felt for me, and that if we imagine Divinity as the most loving Parent, which is the sort of language I grew up with – I don’t think of God so much in parental terms anymore – but if God is supposed to be the ultimate loving source, and my parents could never damn me to hell for eternity, then how could the Source of all life do the same thing?

Once I sort of got my mind around that I thought, “Okay!” I think it’s okay to ask these questions and to go down these roads.

>>Rick: So this is still high school, right?

>>Matthew: Right, that would have been late in high school. Then wandered into an Episcopal church one evening …

>>Rick: Before you get to that let me just ask you, did you go through any crazy teenage stuff? I mean, you know, you live near Woodstock, New York, and that is notorious for certain things. Did you go through any of that stuff or did you have a pretty pure, smooth ride?

>>Matthew: Nothing too crazy. I grew up in actually down South, in the mountains of North Carolina. Maybe in my college years, but nothing too wild or out of the ordinary.

>>Rick: Okay, just curious.

>>Matthew: So moving forward?

>>Rick: Yeah, yeah, please.

>>Matthew: Yeah, so moving on, before I went to college I wandered into an Episcopal church and it sort of opened for me the whole “Catholic” side of Christianity tradition, where all of the saints and mystics and contemplatives had been hanging out, that I didn’t have access to in Protestant Christianity, where you sort of jump from Jesus and the Apostles to Martin Luther; you sort of bypass 1,000 years of Christian history.

And discovering all those voices – Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross – that whole rich contemplative lineage, mystical lineage, suddenly there was a reference point for everything I was encountering in those Eastern Texts, in the Upanishads.

And I thought, “Ah! All this is here in Christianity, sort of buried, maybe swept under the rug, but it was all there, as well.”

>>Rick: Yeah. I was just reading a Dana Sawyer book last night about Huston Smith. And he was talking about Aldous Huxley and how Huxley kind of thought that religions were basically an obstacle to enlightenment, because of all the sort of narrow mindedness and degeneration that seems to take place after the founder dies and centuries pass. Whereas Huston Smith disagreed with him, although they were good friends and everything, he was saying that, “No, all the different religions can be paths to God, if you know where to look.”

>>Matthew: Yeah, I think at their very best, the religions are wonderful ways into the mystery of God, into a journey of awakening, because at their best they hold all the things we need for a balanced path of awakening. They hold devotional practices, they hold contemplative practices, they have ritual and language that give meaning and shape experience, community, mentors, elders who have walked a little further down the path and can help guide you along the way. And any traditional spiritual system, at its best has, has all those components held together in an integral way.

Now like you said, oftentimes we receive these traditions in really degenerative or fragmented ways; we don’t receive a tradition in its fullness, which was part of the problem for me, coming from that more Protestant Christianity where I didn’t have access to a lot of the pieces of the puzzle that were there but weren’t being made readily available.

>>Rick: Yeah, my former teacher used to say, “Knowledge crumbles on the hard rocks of ignorance,” and what he meant by that is someone like Jesus or somebody can come out with an absolutely fabulous, pure teaching, but as Jesus Himself said, or He always used to say, “Those who have ears to hear it,” and “pearls before swine,” and stuff like that. So He is saying that as He is saying one thing, people are hearing another.

And as time passes it becomes like one of those party games, where a message is passed from one to the next and it ends up becoming completely different than what was originally spoken. Would you concur with that perspective?

>>Matthew: I think that’s often the case, yeah, yeah, absolutely. As you move away from a lineage founder, from the awakened experience of a lineage founder, it is certainly possible to move into increasingly shallow forms of the tradition that become sort of mechanistic observers; you’re just following empty rituals, reading empty words, because the living impulse behind it maybe isn’t there anymore.

>>Rick: Yeah, aside from that, why do you think that there’s always sort of been this – at least from my perspective, from my understanding – this kind of conflict between the administrator-types of a religion and the mystics of a religion, and usually the administrator-type seems to win out?

>>Matthew: Why is there conflict? Well you know, as institutions form they also form institutional sized egos. And institutions want to perpetuate, keep themselves alive, and often it is at the cost of living spiritual impulse that brought the lineage into being in the first place.

So it seems to be a degeneration that happens in lots of traditions, and you have to have a reformation or a revolution, another voice that comes, reclaims the buried treasure, sort of breathes new fire into the lineage or kindles the warm coals beneath the rubble. But it seems to be a pretty typical process across traditions.

>>Rick: Yeah, but you seem to feel that we needn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, that we can actually resuscitate these traditions and as you say, clear away the ashes and find the glowing coals, and maybe get the fire burning again.

>>Matthew: Yeah, honestly, I think that in many ways that are best for the future, that we really, genuinely need the traditions because of the treasures and practices that they hold. They hold the tools that best mature and ground and develop the human soul. And like I said, at their best, they hold them within an integral system and framework.

Now the religions, as we sort of enter into a global era, it seems that all the religions need to shuck off their superiority complexes, their competition, one-upmanship, all that has to go. So it seems like we sort of need each other. Human beings need the treasures that religions hold, and the practices and frameworks that they have, and then the religions also need human beings who can help the religions themselves mature and step into a new era.

>>Rick: Yeah … um … what was I going to say? I sort of get the feeling that … I forgot what I was going to say, I’m sorry. J

>>Matthew: No worries.

>>Rick: … thought passed through my head. In fact, it was funny, because an email just came in from Dana Sawyer and I was just talking about Dana Sawyer and I thought … well, that’s kind of synchronicity.

Anyways, do you feel that … just last week I interviewed someone who had a profound series of mystical experiences – Mary Reed is her name, and quite unwittingly and unexpectedly. She didn’t have a mystical background, wasn’t looking for them, but all this stuff started happening to her, one of which that she found herself experiencing Jesus on the Cross, actually kind of entering His consciousness and experiencing what He was experiencing at that time. And she also had a similar experience with Buddha at his enlightenment.

Do you think that Jesus … well, there’s two parts to this question: What do you make of such experiences? And, with all the millions of people who are praying to Jesus or to Buddha or to various founders of various religions, do you feel that these entities, these beings, are actually alive and well in some dimension and are interceding in human affairs, you know, blessing people, pouring blessings upon people, or do you feel that they have just merged into the Absolute and that something else is happening when people pour out their devotion to, you know, men who have died thousands of years ago?

>>Matthew: I think it’s a little bit of both-and kind of a situation. I do think that these living Masters are available to us, are accessible to us. Does that mean it is in a personal, sort of individuated way?

The way I like to think about it is that the name of God, so to speak, that each of us speaks into being through our own life, that these great souls – of Jesus, of Buddha – that their impact in the planet creates something of a shockwave, and that the qualities of being that they bring into the life of the planet, the qualities that are associated with the heart of Jesus: gentleness, mercy, belovedness, humility, love, that those qualities that are the essence of Him, the essence of His personhood, that they are still accessible and available, that we can turn, [or rather] tune-in through our hearts, we can tune-in to the heart of Jesus. That everything He was, in essence, is still available in the ground of our own hearts.

And, I think these figures have become in some ways become archetypes within human consciousness, you know – the Buddha, Jesus. So I do think there’s a living presence that is accessible, through the heart, and I also think each of them continues through what in Christian language we would call, their “mystical body.”

We speak about the “mystical body” of Christ and in that sense, Christ isn’t just one person, Jesus, but is an ongoing, unfolding body or collective that continues to embody the qualities that Jesus brought into being and carry them in a living way into the world. So yes, I do think they’re accessible and in many ways.

>Rick: That’s nice. Yeah, I like that idea that each of them kind of infuses certain qualities into collective consciousness that maybe hadn’t been there or hadn’t been there very much, and there’s this huge sort of surge of certain qualities, and it has a ripple effect over thousands of years. It’s kind of a nice thought.

>>Matthew: And to put it in really personal terms, I think about when my dad died a few years ago, very unexpectedly. And I came to find that he was still very much accessible to me, not through memory, not through remembering time we spent together or events that happened, but through actually calling into presence the qualities that were his most essential personhood, and that in my own heart I could tune-in to that, and that in a way, that was still alive and available in the universe, or as I like to say, “In the heart of God.”

And so if that’s possible for someone we’ve known in our own personal histories, I think “the big ones,” certainly their impact still reverberates through the planet.

>>Rick: Yeah, and actually, if we take the Bible literally in terms of Jesus rising three days after the crucifixion, and then appearing to the Disciples in a subtle body or celestial body, or whatever it was, then if He was around for a month or so after the crucifixion, well then why not now still?

>>Matthew: Right … and there’s actually a sense of continuing subtilization of the presence of Jesus in the Gospel accounts, that first, they know Him corporeally, they know Him in the flesh, and then after His crucifixion, there’s the resurrection experience, where He appears in some much subtler form that sometimes is recognizable, sometimes isn’t.

And then the way St. Paul says it in what is traditionally called “His ascension,” St. Paul says “He was raised far above all things in order that He might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10) So it is a sense that He is now utterly ubiquitous, that His presence now sort of just pervades the universe, that He is filling all things, so available at any point, you know, no longer localized but universally present.

>>Rick: Wow. What comes to mind is Star Wars when Yoda died and he said … I forget the exact dialogue but it was like, “Okay, now I’m going to become much more powerful … if you think I was powerful before.”

>>Matthew: Right, right, right. And then at the end of Star Wars, you get them appearing in …

>>Rick: Yeah, subtle form …

>>Matthew: Anakin and Obi-Wan. Maybe it’s like that. Maybe when needed they can manifest in personal presence, but maybe they’re available in a much more universal capacity.

>>Rick: Yeah, well I mean, with all the stories of near-death experiences and reincarnation memory and all that stuff that are popular TV shows these days, it would seem there is a fairly common collective acceptance of the notion that we don’t die when the body dies. And if someone was a great being with tremendous influence while he was alive, one would expect that he or she would continue to be a great being with again, tremendous influence after the body dies.

>>Matthew: And I do think that beings take on roles of cosmic servanthood. And awakening beings … that’s really the path: to become a cosmic servant, serving deepening disclosure of God through the planet, serving the awakening of the human family. And so I think those who are no longer with us in physical form, they certainly continue as cosmic servants who are continuing to guide and help evolve the lack of the planet.

>>Rick: I love that. So let’s get back to you a little bit. So you were in high school when we last left off, and you were starting to read the Upanishads and things like that, getting inspired. You eventually ended up going to India, right?

>>Matthew: That’s right.

>>Rick: How soon after high school did you do that? How long were you there? What did you experience there?

>>Matthew: I went to India a couple of times. I’ve been really drawn to India, one because of the encounter with Indian spirituality through this high school teacher I mentioned, through texts, and through Bede Griffiths.

Some of you listening know Father Bede Griffiths. He was a Roman Catholic priest who spent the last half of his life in India, where he said he went “to discover the other half of his soul.” And his life really became an integration of the masculine and the feminine, the active and the contemplative, in a really profound way of Hinduism and Christianity.

And so he became a sort of icon of the potential integration of these traditions for me and inspired me through my college years. And so I wanted to go to India and spend time in the community that he had left behind.

I ended up going my final year of college to India with a Tibetan Studies Program, and so we were mostly up in Northern India and Darussalam, and also in Nepal and Tibet, studying Tibetan spirituality, culture, politics.

So I went back a few years later, after college, and spent most of my time in the South of India and spent time with Father Bede’s community there. And Ramana Maharishi … spent time alongside his Ashram community.

>>Rick: I recall from something I read when you were in Ramana’s Ashram you had a rather powerful unity experience.

>>Matthew: Yeah, when I was spending time there I was working with Ramana’s self-inquiry process and asking the question, “Who am I?” And as I worked with that question over and over and over, suddenly there was just a total freezing, shutdown of the rational, dualistic mind … mental apparatus.

And I looked out and there was a person, a stranger standing across from me. And you know, there aren’t good words for it but I experienced an experience of no-self or of shared-self. There was absolutely no separation between myself, this other person, or our surroundings, I was just seeing myself … we were just two poles of a single reality.

Very hard to put into language but, as if all the boundaries weren’t there, you know? It was just oneness – one-self, no-self, all at the same time. And it lasted for really just a few seconds, but in that experience was timeless, and then suddenly I was back in my, you know, lines and boundaries and limited self again, but a very powerful experience.

And I had been struggling with Ramana while I was there because, often in his tradition, he will say, “You are not the body!” you know, calling you to awaken to ultimate self-essential self, that you are not the form.

And I was really struggling with that because there was a sense of manifestation matters, individuated body-selves. If the sole goal of life was to awaken out of these limited forms and into “Self” with a capital ‘S,’ then why these forms to begin with?

So there was a sense of, “I may not only be the body, I may not be limited to the body, but I am also the body and that matters. Manifestation in form matters.” And that’s when I actually first encountered Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit that you mentioned Rick. And … shall I tell this story?

>>Rick: Yeah, sure.

Matthew: I’d been struggling with this seeming sort of disembodied nature of the nondual spirituality I was getting from Ramana, and I got up early one morning and walked up Arunachala, the sacred mountain there, and listened to a monk chanting his prayers in a cave on the mountain. And I had this intuition, this impulse to not walk back down the mountain the way I had come up, instead, I walked down the other side and I wound up smack in the middle of the market.

And there was an elephant in the temple courtyard, there were vendors selling spices, children running and playing, it was just colors and sounds and smells, and this profound sense that, “Ah! This was where God was at, in the midst of the marketplace, in manifestation, in form and embodiment.”

And I wound my way from the marketplace back to the Ashram and I went to the library to look for a book – something on Hinduism or Buddhism, and instead, what jumped off the shelf was a spine that said, The Mass on the World, or, The Hymn of the Universe, by Teilhard de Chardin, which included this piece, The Mass on the World.

And I read that and he was singing the song of an incarnate God, God who was incarnate in the cosmos as matter. And it was the perfect counterbalance to “you are not the body” that I was getting from Ramana.

>>Rick: Yeah. Well, this hearkens back to something we were talking about a few minutes ago when I asked you whether fundamentalists would agree that God is omnipresent. If He is omnipresent then we are looking at Him, as I said in the intro when I read the main points we are going to talk about. And there is that quote from the Gospel of Thomas: “Come to know what is before your eyes and what is hidden from you will be revealed.”

Seems to me that God is not merely transcendent, because if He is only transcendent then He is not omnipresent. What about all this, you know? [He] must be totally infusing and permeating and orchestrating, as pure Intelligence, all this as well. So you know, I could say more here but I’ll let you take it from here.

>>Matthew: That’s certainly my sense within the Christian tradition. The language of incarnation is so central and Teilhard really beautifully expands that to see cosmic incarnation, that the whole cosmos is the incarnation of God. And the whole cosmos is actually a deepening, unfolding, deepening disclosure of the heart of God, that God is longing to come into form through the world.

So, if you imagine God as the ground of all possibility, unmanifest ground of all possibility, those possibilities want to manifest, the heart of God wants to unfold and disclose Itself. So the world is that unfolding, and Teilhard linked that, of course, to an evolutionary worldview that saw that disclosure deepening through the evolutionary process.

And so, in the Christian tradition, we can see Jesus as giving voice to this cosmic incarnation, having this experience “I and the Father are one.” And then He initiates an unfolding, awakening body, that body of Christ under submisticly as that unfolding, awakening collective, even perhaps the unfolding, awakening human family.

>>Rick: Here is something I extracted from something you wrote: “Teilhard” –is that the way it’s pronounced?

>>Matthew: “Tay-yard”

>>Rick: Tay-yard … “Tay-yard struck right at the heart of a tension felt by spiritual seekers throughout history and one that I was certainly feeling” – meaning you, when you wrote this – “a pull between a spirituality that is all about swimming back upstream to a rarified nondual awakening, with little relation to the world and the body, and a spirituality that is about fully embracing life, in form, duality, and diversity. These seemingly contradictory upward and downward currents could be reconciled and united in a forward movement, that of an evolving universe.”

>>Matthew: Right, I think that is what we’re picking up on today, and this also ties into that whole vision of a “second axial age,” a sort of shift in the spiritual current. In past spiritual generations, there has been a real focus on awakening almost out of the world and out of the body, and a sense that the spiritual path necessarily leads you away from the body, away from the world. That God is up and the world is down, and so there is a tension and you have got to choose what you want. Do you want the world or do you want God?

And it’s really set up as an either-or, and you see that … I think you see that in some monastic traditions, a real sense of either-or, and you also certainly see it in the maps of the chakra system, where the goal is really sort of up and out, you want to raise the energy and head out.

Whereas with the evolving vision it is not either-or, it is actually the two coming together and moving in a forward motion. So it is more about converging, collapsing and converging those two poles. And when you think the goal is to get out of the world, it makes sense that you would want to swim upstream, but when you can link evolution to that and see that the world itself is actually the deepening disclosure of God, that God is wanting to unfold Godself evermore, then the goal isn’t “getting out of the world,” the goal is to actually further unfold the world.

>>Rick: Let’s play with this for a few minutes. I mean, one thing is that a lot of these monastic traditions evolved in a time when a toothache could kill you, you know? It was a rather brutish existence and you know, living in a medieval village as a serf wasn’t really a picnic, and anything you could do to get out of such an existence might be very alluring.

But today things are actually …. the world has its rough spots for sure, but the quality of life and longevity itself is much greater than it was back in the day. So there’s that, any comments on that before I go on?

>>Matthew: Just that it makes sense, it makes sense that when life is rough, when living in the world is very difficult that you would … you know, our old spiritual traditions are really filled with language of exile, that we live in exile in the world. Christian tradition sometimes speaks of it as “a valley of tears,” that we’re “going through this veil of tears,” and those images of exile have sort of dominated spiritual consciousness.

And as conditions of living improve, as you said, maybe that sense doesn’t have to dominate so much anymore.

>>Rick: Yeah. Next point I want to make is, in defense of the monastic or in defense of withdrawing from the world, I think that periodically, and I think you would probably agree with this, it could be a good thing. There could be a cycle to one’s life – on a daily basis, on an annual basis, or whatever – where one has periods of withdrawal, kind of like … what are the words the Bhagavad Gita uses? The phrase “like a tortoise withdrawing its limbs into its shell,” you know, withdrawing the sense from their objects, and that sort of describes meditation in a way. But then in that same book talks about, “Having done that, coming out again,” and you know, “surcharged with greater energy, intelligence, and clarity of mind,” and so on.

And another analogy might be: if you want to shoot an arrow to hit a target you don’t just throw it or let it go, you have to pull it back first and then you can let it go, then it will hit the target. So speak a bit about how it doesn’t have to be the full dedication of all of one’s life and time, but how periods of withdrawal, either daily in meditation or annually in retreats or whatever, balanced with life in the world, can be a nice integration.

>>Matthew: Yeah, I think it is utterly central, as you were saying. The thing that was popping into my mind as you were talking was the way Shankara sums up the teachings of Advaita, that “The world is illusion, Brahman alone is real, Brahman is the world.” And so you have to go through the negation first (the world is illusion) – you negate the world so that you can touch the eternal, touch the depths, and then you come back around full circle and you affirm the world as the manifestation of the eternal. And it seems like some spiritual traditions perhaps stop at the second junction and don’t make it around to the third finally.

But I certainly am not against monasticism. I live alongside a community of Benedictine monks and fully believe in the monastic vocation. And I think for those who are non-monastics, the gift that monastic communities hold into being … they hold into being places of retreat that have a rhythm of balanced living, of contemplation, that is so needed.

And I think in many ways monastic communities, they hold models alive that the world as a whole desperately needs. They have preserved the rhythm of prayer, the rhythm of contemplation, they have preserved “community.” We so much in the world today have lost authentic community. They have created a balanced way of life that manifests the conditions that aid awakening and that help deepen and stabilize awakening.

Now often monastic communities are celibate communities and I think that is necessary for the manifestation of that form of life, you know, that’s one way of being that is supported by celibate life, but we have often in the past sort of ranked them hierarchically that celibacy is somehow closer to God, because it is on that model of “up and out,” and I don’t think that’s the case. I would see celibacy as a gift that some people are called to or given, but it’s not higher or lower in that sense.

>>Rick: Yeah. Couple of comments, one is that you quoted Shankara, and in that tradition, there are traditionally considered to be stages of life. And the first stage, the student stage, one is celibate and one is sort of in a monastic setting up until maybe the age of 25 or so, just sort of laying a foundation for the rest of one’s life.

And then the vast majority would move on to householder life after that, maybe a smaller percentage would remain monks the rest of their lives, so it was considered to be a legit and important foundation-building phase of life.

And also another point that came to mind as you were speaking was, in various traditions – Christian, Buddhist, Hindu – that I can think of, it’s considered that people who choose to live that life or establish these monasteries are kind of establishing coherence-generating centers for the rest of the world. And that in a quiet sort of way, maybe in a cave in the Himalayas, they are actually helping to maintain a much greater degree of peace and coherence in the world, by their very existence, by the influence they radiate from that silence.

>>Matthew: I think it’s absolutely true. You know, we have thousands of people who come through Holy Cross Monastery and Retreat each year, and when I first came here, you know, people talk about the experience. You know, you step on the property and you feel the calm and the quiet and the coherence, it impacts you. And then you carry a little of bit of that back into the world with you, so I do think they are sort of powerful generative centers in that sense.

And it’s best in the Christian tradition, the language of the “Body of Christ,” that there are different gifts, different callings, whether they be a call to an active life or a contemplative life, but they all ultimately mutually support and enrich each other.

And so for those who aren’t called to be monastics, it’s a huge gift to them that some are, because they hold that, as you called it, “center of coherence” into being so that you can come and be refreshed there.

>>Rick: Yeah.

>>Matthew: So there’s a reciprocal feeding that happens because the monks, of course, are supported by those who come on retreat and make their lives possible.

>>Rick: Yeah. Back when I was your age and for many years, I taught mediation and I taught a lot of weekend retreats. And sometimes we would have them in hotels and other times we would have them in like Catholic retreat centers, and I’ll tell you, the depth of experience that would take place in the Catholic retreat center. You know, the minute you sat down the first evening for your first meditation or whatever, was generally radically better than you are going to get in some hotel, where you had to kind of walk through the cocktail lounge to get to the meeting hall or something.

>>Matthew: And I think we feel it whenever we walk into a church, a temple, a monastery, it is easier to drop in more deeply, more quickly.

>>Rick: Yeah, and it’s interesting to actually – and we don’t have to dwell on this too long, but it’s interesting to consider why that is, that there must be something structured in the atmosphere, on a subtle level that we can’t necessarily see, but something that pervades and is retained, even when the people are not there.

[For example], you walk into a temple in India where people have been worshipping for thousands of years and there’s something palpable in the atmosphere that has been established there, in that spot.

>>Matthew: Yeah, I think it’s probably a both and, that yes, there is a sort of resident field of prayer that’s built up, so you step into that vibration. And then I think also, simply, places of worship, they usually pay attention to aesthetics, to beauty, to balance. You walk into a space and it’s designed, visually, to pull you into center.

>>Rick: Yeah. While we’re still talking about Teilhard de Chardin and all, and this “up and out” versus infusing life into the marketplace, into the active world, I just want to again play devil’s advocate for just one point, which is that, some people, I’ve seen, take that perspective and use it as justification for what almost seems like hedonism, you know what I mean?

>>Matthew: Oh yeah. It’s sort of an excuse to baptize the impulses of the ego and say, “Well everything is holy so …”

>>Rick: Yeah, so party on, you know?

>>Matthew: Yeah, yeah.

>>Rick: So I think it just has to be understood properly and taken in the right context and all, and not misinterpreted, otherwise it’s not going to do anybody any good.

>>Matthew: Right, right. And that’s again why the traditional systems are so helpful because they often have checks and balances in place. You know, you have a guide, you have a mentor, you have practices you are given so that you are learning to deepen and embody and carry that into the world.

But certainly, I think it’s important to uplift the traditional stages that it is: first “the world is illusion, only God is real,” and then finally you can come around to “God is the world.” But if you start with “God is the world,” it can just give the ego an excuse to do whatever it wants, you know, “… everything is holy, I’ll do whatever I want … everything is good,” and you can actually be damaging and harming and hurting people along the way.

So some degree of purification is necessary, and that’s what you were talking about, that you’ve got to pull the bow back first, so some kind of practice that is doing that work has to be a part of the picture.

>>Rick: Yeah, and this is not a trivial point. I don’t know about you but I run into this fairly often, where people are using this notion that “ultimately we’re all enlightened,” and you know, “the world is an illusion,” or this and that, to justify all kinds of egregious behavior, misbehavior, that is harming themselves and others. And you know, it might take them a while to realize that but it’s an important point.

>>Matthew: Right, and this is one of the reasons I think it is actually helpful in the Christian tradition, that there’s not been much language of “enlightenment” actually. It is easy to think of enlightenment as a goal, something that the ego wants to latch onto and make a possession. And the Christian path is pretty much, universally, as you sort of trace the various lineages, talks more about what a lot of teachers today are starting to call “heartfulness.”

You know, we often talk about “mindfulness,” and the flavor of the Christian contemplative path is much more heart-centered, heartfulness … not to oppose mind to heart, you know, we can talk about heart-mind.

But when you read writings of let’s say the early Desert Fathers and Mothers up through Russian Orthodox lineages that practice Prayer of the Heart, it’s always this language of “drawing the heart into the mind,”  “anchoring awareness in the heart,” cultivating qualities like humility, genteelness, surrender, and there’s actually not much talk of a goal of enlightenment, it is just the talk of the work of cultivating the heart.

And it seems to me that there’s some real wisdom in that, some skillful means in that because as you cultivate the heart and the qualities of the heart, you ready … you create a ground that can then hold awakening in a stable way, so that you don’t just have an awakening experience but it’s not grounded in your being, so that then you just fall back into your egoic impulse of self and it thinks that its awake because you had some unitive experience, you know, “You had a touch of oneness and therefore I’m enlightened.”

So instead, focusing on cultivating humility, simplicity, love, gentleness, you just slowly walk your way into awakening, without perhaps ever even noticing it.

>>Rick: So do you think that Christianity focused on the heart, or focuses on the heart the way you just described instead of enlightenment, because it wasn’t understood that there is such a thing as enlightenment, or … which sometimes you get that sense because you don’t find a whole lot of references to it, and in that sense, the Eastern traditions have a sort of advantage or are more mature in some way? Or, do you think it’s because of the things you just said, where one can kind of try to leapfrog to this state of finality without having actually laid the foundation for it and cultured the heart, and cultured the qualities that, in my opinion, enlightenment should actually include, and you actually dumb it down if you don’t include those developments and those qualities of the heart and so on?

>>Matthew: You know, who knows what really happened, what led traditions to develop one way or the other. And certainly, maybe it would have been helpful over the centuries to have had language of “enlightenment” within the Christian Church, it didn’t develop in that way.

I don’t want to get into of course, as “this one gets it better than that one,” but I do think there’s a mutual sort of gifting back and forth across traditions that is happening today, where they can better hone their understandings of spiritual experiences through that dialogue and through sharing language back and forth.

>>Rick: Also let me just throw in here real quick that if people like St. Teresa, and St. John of the Cross, and St. Joseph of Cupertino and people like that weren’t enlightened, then I don’t know who was, you know?

>>Matthew: Right, right, right. And I think there’s just great wisdom in the way the tradition has framed that. In the Benedictine lineage, in most Christian lineages, it’s framed around the language of humility. You are really cultivating humility and that cultivation readies the heart to hold awakening.

And I think today the language we might use is the language we get from Ken Wilber about “states versus stages,” and that at any point in your spiritual development you might experience a high spiritual “state,” you know, you might have a unitive experience, an awakening experience, but it’s just a glimpse, it’s not actually grounded in your being. And a “stage” is when you are actually living stably from that awakening.

And it’s nice to have the language of awakening, that you know that there’s a goal that you are walking towards, but it seems to me almost more important to have the path rather than the goal, because the path prepares the ground for the goal to arrive in.

>>Rick: Yeah, very important I think, and I can think of any number of teachers – parroting them a little bit – who got up and said, “Boy, am I enlightened. I’m about as enlightened as it’s ever going to get. Follow me, I’m the cat’s meow,” and so glaringly lacking in humility, and usually resulting in some kind of crash and burn situation, eventually.

>>Matthew: And they may have had some very profound and authentic state experience of awakening that then the ego latched onto, and the ego identified itself as “the enlightened one.”

>>Rick: Well that’s actually a little point that might be worth exploring for a few minutes … that syndrome, that tendency of the ego latching on to a state or experience and you know, becoming aggrandized through that, and what sort of safeguards you have seen in Christianity or in your own experience, or that you would recommend to prevent that from happening.

>>Matthew: Well you know, I think having spiritual elders and mentors in your life is … you can’t underestimate the importance of that, having someone. But also not turning them into gurus, realizing they still have personalities, but having someone who can kind of help guide you and help see when you’re stepping off the path a little bit.

And again, I think the traditional religious frameworks are helpful in this regard because they give a balanced system, so when you look at the way something like Buddhism has come to the West, we often think of Buddhism purely as meditation practice. And we often interpret that through psychological, psychotherapeutic categories in the West, but of course in the traditional Buddhist society, Buddhism a lot more than just meditation practice. It is also devotional practice, it is sutra chanting, [if] you go to a traditional Zen center you’re going to see bows and prostrations happening, all of those elements are in place – the contemplative piece, the devotional piece, the embodied piece, the mentor piece, the community piece.

And when you have all that in place, there are a lot of safeguards there. If you start going off this way you’re going to get bumped back, if you go that way, something over here is going to bump you back. When we try to go it alone we often don’t have that system and those checks and balances in place to knock us back on track.

One of the things that I think is so important and that I use to write-off is devotional practice, particularly for those of us who are drawn to a more nondual, kind of unitive understanding of awakening, of reality, a devotional practice can seem dualistic and dumbed-down. You know, if you have a God you’re devoted to, it’s external and it’s ultimately a distraction, you know, you’ve got to get rid of that!

But I think actually those devotional practices are one of the most skillful means into a more unitive awakening because they help cultivate the qualities necessary for that awakening. So you have a focal point – be it Jesus, be it Ramakrishna, be it “God is the Lover, the Beloved” – that you cultivate your heart in relation to. You’re cultivating love, cultivating devotion, and that cultivation can give way into that experience where lover and Beloved merge into oneness.

And so devotional practices are actually a really quick way, I think, to rewire our consciousness towards the unitive if the devotional practice is held against a more unitive backdrop, a unitive understanding so that we don’t just brush them aside, brush devotional practices aside. The contemplative and devotional together I think form a balance.

>>Rick: You might like a quote from Shankara, he said, “The intellect imagines duality for the sake of devotion.” And he himself was very devotional and wrote beautiful devotional hymns. Ramana was very devotional, Nisargadatta was, Anandamayi Ma, just any of these sort of profoundly unity-consciousness sages that we care to mention, if we look at their lives, they were very devotional … post unity, not just pre-unity. But it is something that they continued to engage in, both spontaneously and intentionally, as some form of practice … singing pujas and doing worship of various sorts for the sake of devotion, to quote Shankara again.

So I guess the question is: what is it about devotion that one would want to keep doing that? And I can come up with several answers but I’ll swing it back to you.

>>Matthew: Hmm, you know I almost said, because it’s fun!

>>Rick: Yeah! That would be one of my things … because it feels good!

>>Matthew: Yeah, just because it feels good. You know, I remember early on discovering nondual teachings and really losing a sense of “personal God.” It no longer made any sense to me, I didn’t know how to work with that, how to use it, it did seem simplistic or dumb. And it was really encountering voices like Ramakrishna, who had profound nondual unitive experiences but then also was deeply devoted to the Mother, to the goddess Kali. Rumi, again, profound oneness experience but also delighting in the language of the lover and the Beloved, and I realized, you can have both! You can have both of these.

And the place I think I’ve come to increasingly now with it is that you can have devotion that isn’t dualistic, that entering into the ground of your own heart there is an infinite, objectless tenderness and intimacy that is hard to call anything other than “Thou,” but it’s not separate from you. It is the ground of your own heart, you are it, you can also be “in love” with it, it’s a field of infinite relationality that can hold the dance of oneness and twoness and you know, all of it.

>>Rick: Well I think oneness and twoness can coexist simultaneously without any conflict, you know?

>>Matthew: There’s a line in the Gospel of Thomas and I’m not going to quote it exactly right, but Jesus says, “In the beginning, you were one, now that you have become two, what will you do?” What will you do? And I hear in there an invitation to delight in the twoness of things, held against the oneness of things. And devotion seems to be a really great way to awaken the qualities of the heart, like love and compassion and mercy.

>>Rick: Yeah, which would be my second point besides that it feels good, and I’ll quote you here, you said, “The ‘other’ is used as a focus for cultivating qualities in our own heart. As we reverence the sweetness of Mary for instance, if Mary is our object of devotion, slowly, slowly we take on that sweetness. So the objects of devotion we choose matter, they are what we will become.”

>>Matthew: I forgot writing that. I like that, that sounds good. Who wrote that?! That was great. Yes, yeah. You know, the qualities we want to cultivate in our own hearts, we should look for them in our devotional focus points. And if we see a lack in ourselves, if we see that we need to cultivate more gentleness or more sweetness, to have a devotional focal point that itself embodies those qualities, and as you offer the devotion or reverence to that you begin cultivating those qualities in yourself.

If on the other side perhaps you are too gentle and sweet and you need some fierceness, maybe you want Kali as a focal point. But that our objects of devotion do matter because what we give our devotion to we will become.

>>Rick: Yeah, that to which you give your attention grows stronger in your life.

>>Matthew: Right.

>>Rick: And one point I would throw in here is that, I think that there is a never-ending possibility for further refinement and subtlety, and maybe ‘divinization’ would be a good word here. So even if we were profoundly established in a unitive state, there is no end of possible refinement of the senses, the heart, just all the various facets of our … this instrument with which we have been gifted. And devotion is perhaps one of the most efficacious ways of bringing about that continuing refinement.

>>Matthew: And again the question of, why is the world even here? So that those qualities can come into manifestation so that those names of God can be spoken into being. You know, what is love as a potential that exists in the unmanifest ground of being? What is beauty, what is joy?

It seems to me that there are certain qualities of love, of beauty, of joy, that really only take on meaning in manifestation, and that those potentialities, they long to be expressed. And that like you said, the expression and the refinement of those expressions is potentially infinite, which is why I imagine cosmos upon cosmos will continue unfolding forever because the ground of being itself is infinite and therefore the possible expressions are infinite.

>>Rick: That’s nice. I am one, may have become many. You know, if you’re lying in a bathtub and you’ve been lying there for a while, lying quietly and still you don’t feel the warmth anymore. But if you slosh around a little bit you feel, “Ah, this feels good, it feels warm.” So it’s like God is kind of sloshing around here, in the universe, by creating this manifest world and entering into it and playing within it and so on. Just a thought.

>>Matthew: Right, and awakening ever more deeply as it. And as our species continues, God willing, to evolve, we have the potential to refine and deepen that expression of these qualities, of love and beauty and delight and joy and compassion. So that’s the trajectory in an evolutionary model, you know, it is not to get out of the world so that you can get to the beauty of God, it’s to get more deeply into the world so that you can carry that forward.

>>Rick: Yeah. Okay, so we’ve touched upon a few things here. We’ve talked a little bit about Teilhard de Chardin, we’ve talked about “second axial age” a little bit, we talked about devotion. Before we move on to anything else – and we kind of plowed through those things – are there any bits and pieces in those areas that we haven’t discussed that you’d like to hash out?

>>Matthew: We didn’t really say too much about what the idea of a second axial age is. Do you think that’s something people would be interested in?

>>Rick: Yeah, let’s get into that, I found your talk on that to be very inspiring at the SAND Conference, let’s get into that.

>>Matthew: The idea of an ‘axial age’ came from a German philosopher, Karl Jaspers. He posited that sort of roughly between 800 and 200 B.C.E. there was this window of time when the headwaters of all the existing religious traditions began forming, pretty much independently around the world. You had Confucius teaching in China, you had Lao Tzu teaching the Way of the Tao, you had the seers of the Upanishads, the Greek philosophers, the Hebrew prophets, all this sort of going on at the same time.

And the idea is that with that there was a shift that happened in spiritual understanding, that before this sort of axial age, human spirituality had been really deeply grounded in the earth, in cycles and seasons of nature, and that our identity was really rooted in a sense of tribe, of collective, and that that tribal, collective identity took precedence over my individual identity.

And with the axial shift all that sort of broke open and we started looking for a transcendent God. That is when spirituality started developing as a path of ascent, that’s when we started getting the “up and out of the world.”

And we also started losing our ties to the earth and the way of the individual started opening up. And you[could now] break ties with the earth family, you could go off into the forest, you could leave your tribal gods like Abraham and Sarah did, or like the Buddha left his wife and child in the palace to go search for enlightenment.

And the idea is that model has been driving human spirituality, largely, the last couple thousand years or so. And that now as we are entering into this global era with an evolutionary understanding, it is all shifting again. And we’re picking up, essentially, everything that we lost in the first axial shift.

That connection to the earth, that sense of collective identity, all that is coming up but not at the tribal level; now it’s coming back at the global level, and in the process we’re not losing everything we’ve gained [from] the focus on the individual and the transcendent. Now we can actually tie the two together, we can sort of wed the imminent and the transcendent, spirit and body, heaven and earth, and again, in that evolutionary model, that it is all driving somewhere.

So that’s the sort of basic framework of what the second axial age is. And I think the really cool thing there is that we’ve often lumped all the religions in as “first axial religions,” but when you start looking at them, you see threads of second axial understanding growing in all of them.

In Buddhism with the Mahayana vow – I’m sorry, the Bodhisattva vow in Mahayana Buddhism – the model shifts from “my personal enlightenment and attaining nirvana” to foreswearing your final liberation so that you can work for collective awakening. So the model shifts, it’s not “up and out; it’s belonging to the phenomenal world and working for the awakening of all of us together.

And I think you could see the emergence of Jesus, see Him as an Initiator of second axial consciousness. You could see the same thing happening in Islam.

>>Rick: Yeah. One thing I think about when I think about the Bodhisattva vow is that from the perspective of “I am me, I am this individuality and it sucks, it is suffering, and I just want to merge into the ocean of consciousness and be gone,” it’s sort of a very individual perspective, whereas the Bodhisattva perspective is more like, “My individuality, such as it is, is a tool of the Divine. And I am happy to not destroy the tool, not dissolve the tool, but have it continue as long as the Divine wishes to use it as an instrument for good in the world, for the upliftment of the world,” and so on. To me, it seems like a less selfish, more surrendered kind of perspective.

>>Matthew: Right, it makes sense to me that it’s no longer about “my awakening,” [but] it’s surrendering yourself into, again, cosmic servanthood: take this, use this, for the awakening of all.

And there may still be a bit of the first axial map embedded in that because the goal is still the awakening and liberation of all beings. It’s almost “I’m going to hang around so I can help everyone get up and out,” is sometimes perhaps the undercurrent there. But to see it instead so we can awaken collectively to further evolve the world together,

>>Rick: Yeah, you could sort of think as a Bodhisattva not as “I’m going to help everybody get up and out,” but “I’m going to help make this a heaven on earth, which will continue to be an earth, but a heavenly one.”

>>Matthew: Right, and that’s again the marrying of the two, bringing them together.

>>Rick: Yeah, so if the second axial age is just dawning, kind of, where do you think it might be in 500 or 1,000 years from now if it really fully blossomed?

>>Matthew: Well I guess the exciting thing is that we don’t know. We are always stepping forward into mystery, but if, ideally, more human beings are awakening together, spiritual consciousness is taking a greater hold, more people are living and seeing from a place of unitive experience … Teilhard, he sort of saw it as … let me think how he did this.

He said [that] we’re moving out of … that evolution up to this point has followed a process of divergence. And so as humanity fanned out around the planet we evolved divergent cultures, divergent languages, but because of the limited spherical surface area of the planet, eventually, the process of convergence would happen, that we’re essentially at the beginning of that global convergence right now.

So one would hope that it would be a movement towards greater peace, greater harmony, working together as a global collective … and we know that we have enough planetary resources to end world hunger if we chose to organize as a global collective, rather than to continue thinking in tribal-national terms.

>>Rick: Yeah, like “let’s build walls.” I actually ended up extracting that bit from your writing, he said, “Divergence would reach an endpoint and a second phase of evolution would begin: convergence. Convergence of diverse peoples, cultures, and religions would result in the emergence of a global consciousness and what Teilhard called ‘creative unions,’ new arrangements of higher-order complexity that would bring in entirely new and unprecedented evolutionary tiers into being.”

So that would, to my mind, that would sort of mean like, you know, look at old Start Trek episodes when the world wasn’t fragmented into all separate countries; it was one harmonious whole. And then what we could even, to get a little more science-fictiony, we could sort of take it out into even larger wholes because obviously we probably live in a universe teeming with life, and we don’t really deserve to belong to any larger collective as long as we haven’t even achieved any sort of unity here on our little planet.

>>Matthew: Right, so for Teilhard, a creative union opened a new evolutionary playing field. So every time a creative union happened, a new possibility, a new tier was opened in evolution. So it starts with atoms joining together into molecules, and an atom gives up something of its autonomy to create a higher level, higher order of complexity in a molecule.

Now, atoms in a molecule don’t merge into sameness, it’s not that now they’re all the same, you still have two H’s and an O in water, but the autonomy is given up for that higher-order to emerge.

And this is what turned Teilhard off to some forms of what he would have called “Eastern mysticism,” that saw the mystical journey as sort of returning to an uncarved block, returning to a primordial oneness, an undifferentiated primordial oneness, he instead wanted us to move forward to a fully differentiated oneness. Can we achieve oneness that is diverse and yet unified, as opposed to erasing diversity and differentiation into the primordial soup?

So he imagined that the juncture we’re at now is we’re being offered the opportunity to open a new evolutionary playing field, through creative union at the next level and it is through a union of human intelligences.

We’ve grown accustomed to looking for evolution in what he called the “biosphere,” in the sphere of organic life, but the next leap he says is actually what he calls the “noosphere” – from the Greek “nous” for consciousness, it is evolution in consciousness, that’s the next step.

And so we won’t reach unity through a merging of physical bodies; it will be a merging in consciousness and those qualities like love, and will, that we have to come together at that level and form a new higher-order being, is the language that we will become a single being, a single organism in a way.

And he imagined that as the mystical body of Christ, as the human family working together as a single mystical body, in which diversity and differentiation is maintained. Again, it’s not that we’re going to lose all of our diversity and differentiation and melt into a soup; we’re going to find unity within and through that.

>>Rick: Nice. Since we’re in a hot political season right now, we don’t have to get into the specifics, but it’s interesting to evaluate the various political stances and candidates in light of what you just said, you know, are they into divisiveness and isolationism and not caring about what our neighbors are experiencing or deprived of, or are they into sort of into helping everyone achieve some kind of quality of life and happiness, and so on?

>>Matthew: And when you look at the candidates that are into divisiveness and into, sort of, nationalism, the impulses that are motivating that are often fear, they are working with and manipulating fear. And we know that contemplative practice actually has the possibility to evolve consciousness, evolve our minds.

You know, when neuroscience looks at what contemplative practice does … very often we sort of operate on autopilot, so some experience comes into our reality, into our field of perception, and very often we move into the least of all, lowest part of our brain, our sort of lizard, reptilian brain governs our fight or flight responses, it’s all fear-based response.

Contemplative practice actually creates enough inner spaciousness so that when a stimuli comes into your field of experience, rather than immediately routing that through and interpreting it through your lizard brain, it can actually be routed through the higher, more evolved parts of your brain; through your prefrontal lobes, through your neocortex. And it opens you to capacity for creative intelligence that isn’t accessible to you when you are operating out of fear.

And so anytime I see a political candidate using fear, I think they are essentially trying to devolve us or limit our evolutionary capacity.

>>Rick: Yeah. There’s actually physiological research on that sort of thing with meditators, showing that experienced meditators are much less reactive, as measured by things like galvanic skin response, to stressful stimuli.

And that also was … you know, the whole PTSD thing is such an issue these days, where peoples’ nervous systems have been so stressed by traumatic situations, that they remain in that state of fight or flight and the whole biochemistry is always upset, and they are so easily triggered by this or that. And that can all be kind of reversed and healed through contemplative practice, as you would put it, or various meditative practices.

>>Matthew: Right, and perhaps it is helpful to not think of contemplative only as sitting cross-legged on a cushion, but there are lots of practices and experiences that can cultivate contemplative awareness and spaciousness, whether it is a daily 20-minute sit or taking a walk in nature.

I remember hearing Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, once saying when he was asked if he could recommend one practice from his tradition and only one, what would he recommend. And he said, “Spend long periods of time in nature,” you know, that being in nature has a way of slowing and stilling … so, anyway. So “contemplative” can look like different kinds of things.

>>Rick: Yeah, and interesting also that certain political factions would tend to want to commercialize nature and destroy it in various ways for short-term gain, which again makes it seem like they are trying to devolve us.

>>Matthew: Mm-hm. So right, so the question, I think, when we’re voting or doing anything else is: Where is fear? Where is the movement back towards tribalism? And, where is love and a movement towards a more universal appreciation of the human family?

>>Rick: Yeah, because that’s where it is heading I think, by hook or by crook. I mean, if it doesn’t end up there then we may exterminate ourselves as a species …

>>Matthew: Right, which would be just fine!

>>Rick: Yeah, the world will do fine and the universe will do fine … and we will do fine because we will probably get incarnated somewhere else but, we have got a pretty good situation here, it would be nice to kind of you know, keep it going …

>>Matthew: It’s taken millions of years for the human species to reach the point … billions of years, if we start with the explosion of this universe into being, for us to reach this point in our evolution, to have the capacity to disclose the Divine qualities that we have, the ability to manifest beauty and love that we are capable of manifesting. So it would be a huge shame to cut this experiment short and not refine further, to not deepen it more.

But, should we cut the experiment short, the heart of God will go on disclosing Itself, evolution will pick up with the next species, and another world somewhere else is unfolding another reality. So yes, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously that we are the end-all-be-all of the universe, but we should also take ourselves seriously, that we don’t want to waste what it has taken the universe billions of years to arrive at through us.

>>Rick: Yeah, good point, I agree. God has a lot invested in this, in this little corner of things.

Now here is an abrupt segue for you. It’s funny you know, and this doesn’t happen too often anymore, but in the past when I was accosted by fundamentalists, I would start talking astronomy to them. I would start talking about how big the universe is and how the evidence that there is life elsewhere is pretty clear, and how if Jesus is the only way, what about all these other places? Is He on tour? Does He spend 33 years on each of these other inhabited places? But there are probably billions of them, and if there are billions of them and the world is only 6,000 years old, how does He do it? It’s like, how does Santa Claus get everywhere on Christmas Eve?

So do you ever still run into that mindset, and how do you deal with it?

{Matthew is interrupted by a knock on the door}

>>Matthew: NO, no, it’s a neighbor dropping something off … thanks ….

>>Rick: Oh, hi neighbor.

>>Matthew: So the sort of sense of Christian exclusivity, that’s what you’re getting at?

>>Rick: Yeah, which is not exclusive to Christians, I mean, there seems to be a certain mindset in every religion, of that nature. No so much Hinduism because they’re sort of like, “Oh, okay, everybody is a Hindu, ultimately.”

>>Matthew: No, but, but, even in Hinduism you get fundamentalism …

>>Rick: Yeah, yeah, you do.

>>Matthew: You get it everywhere, it’s just part of human nature it seems. And of course, there are ways to interpret those Verses within the Christian tradition, the Verses you can use …

>>Rick: Like, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) How would you interpret that one?

>>Matthew: You can use it in the most limited, exclusive way, or you can hear it as the most universal statement, you know, that anyone who is coming to God, in whatever way, they are coming through Me because I am in all ways.

If you hear that as the way the Gospel of John opens, “In the beginning was the word,” the logos, it’s this universal, cosmic reality that is one with God, through which God creates the worlds and interfaces with the worlds, and if Jesus is speaking with that cosmic voice, you know, you can’t hear it exclusively.

>>Rick: Which He often did, I mean, wasn’t that thing … “Before Abraham was, I am?” or something …

>>Matthew: Yeah.

>>Rick: Yeah, that kind of thing.

>>Matthew: And these are all lines from the Gospel of John, which New Testament scholars would tell us is the latest of the four Canonical Gospels to be written, so the words here are probably not the words of the historical Jesus. Jesus probably didn’t go around speaking in these lofty, sort of declarative statements, “I am this,” and “I am that;” that language isn’t present in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. So it is probably better to see John as this sort of poetic rumination on the meaning of Jesus for the Christian community, that early Christians said, “In Him, we have found the way, the truth, and the life. In Him, we have found the true vine and bread from heaven.”

But, those statements, again, even if we believe they were literally spoken by Jesus, I think the call is to hear them in the most universal, inclusive way possible, which I think is the call for all our religious traditions now. What is the most universal, inclusive, and beautiful vision of our traditions that we can each step up and offer to the world?

Because again, I think the traditions are needed, their treasures are needed, and so how can we offer them in the most all-encompassing way, because that’s the only way forward.

>>Rick: Yeah, nice. Well, this actually sort of segues into another thing I have in my notes here, which is the whole notion of “belief versus experience.” You hear religious people saying, “Well I believe this and I believe that,” and someone might say to you or say to me, “What do you believe?”

And my answer would be, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what I believe, it matters what I experience, and if I experience it then I believe it.” Which is not to say I don’t believe in certain things I haven’t yet experienced … I’ve been talking about alien civilizations in this conversation – I believe they’re out there, I haven’t experienced them.

But ultimately, when it comes to spiritual matters, in my opinion, it’s really about experiencing it, you know? You can stand on the sidewalk and believe that the food in a restaurant is really delicious, but you’re going to starve to death if you don’t go in there and eat it.

>>Matthew: Right, and this understanding, what you’re talking about as “experience,” is much closer to the early Christian conception of “belief.” So in the Nicaean Creed that Christians recite week after week in congregational worship, Creed, from ‘credo,’ comes from the same word as ‘cardia,’ which is ‘heart,’ and it was understood to mean, “I give my heart to.”

Belief was something that involved your whole self. Post-Western, European, rational enlightenment belief has become something that is cognitive and intellectual, it is all about intellectual ascent. I think belief in the early centuries of the Christian Church was about practice, it was about giving yourself, it was about experiencing, and it is only in the last few hundred years that we have actually divorced into this very cognitive, mental based kind of thing.

>>Rick: And it’s interesting, you mentioned fear earlier, and it almost seems that there’s a fear associated with this cognitive, mental sort of thing where you know, “If you don’t believe this, you’re going to be in big trouble. You better believe this.”

>>Matthew: Right, “We’ve got to protect the truth, we’ve got to guard the truth and we’ve got to protect it.”

>>Rick: Right, “Don’t read books, don’t listen to these other people; it’s the devil trying to get you!”

>>Matthew: Right, right. I remember the old saying that, “Belief clings while faith lets go,” and I think there is perhaps some truth in that. Belief, at least when we understood belief in this type – in the cognitive, protective kind of sense – that belief has to clutch and grab onto something, while as faith is really this open stance, opening to the universe, surrendering to what is.

>>Rick: Yeah, and if you think about what Jesus was, who He was, or Buddha, or any of these great teachers, it’s not that they were just guys who had these tremendous beliefs and they were really gung-ho about these beliefs; they were guys who were living a very profound level of experience, you know?

>>Matthew: Right, and calling people into their experience, calling people to participate in that reality that they were embodying themselves.

>>Rick: Yeah, and …

>>Matthew: And that seems pretty evident when you read the Gospels or the teachings of the Buddha.

>>Rick: Yeah, and I mean if Jesus said, “Well, if you believe this then such and such will happen,” then I don’t think he was saying that it’s adequate just to believe it, but rather that belief is maybe the first step. You know, if I believe that … I don’t know … that there’s a road that will take me to California, then great, but that doesn’t mean I’m in California; it means I can confidently get on this road and start driving and I’ll end up in California. So it’s like He was offering a promise or a vision of what might be if you … “Okay, believe what I’m saying folks, but now embark on the journey to experience it.”

>>Matthew: Right. We have to place our trust in something [in order] to move forward. So if we’re going to take on a practice without yet knowing what the fruits of that practice are, you know, we need to trust that the practice is efficacious so that we will actually give ourselves to it, and that trust usually comes from having seen the fruits of the practice in the one who gives you the practice.

So if Jesus says, “Do this,” and you see the fruits of mercy, gentleness, love, compassion embodied in His being, then you think, “Okay, I will do that because looks like it works!”

>>Rick: Worked for Him!

>>Matthew: Right.

>>Rick: And He said, “You shall know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16)

>>Matthew: Right, whereas we have turned Christianity often into not, “Place your trust in this and then set your foot on the path and walk and embody it,” but into, “Believe this! Here is the Nicaean Creed checklist, believe this, and then that’s it, you’re done!”

>>Rick: Yeah, and you know, not to pontificate too much, but I’ve often thought that the reason fundamentalists get so defensive is that they don’t actually believe the things that they are supposed to believe, because they don’t have an experiential foundation to their belief, so they’re kind of on real shaky ground. And a lot of things can seem very threatening to beliefs that are just hanging in the air without a foundation.

>>Matthew: And you know, this is the situation that I think so much of Christianity has found itself in post-modernity. And one of the reasons I think that fundamentalists are compelling to a lot of people, why they still do draw in numbers, is because often, real progressive, liberal forms of Christianity tend to water our narrative down because we want to be inclusive, we’re a little embarrassed about our past and our exclusivity and colonialism, so we kind of …

>>Rick: The Inquisition.

>>Matthew: Right, the Inquisition. So we tend to water the whole thing down and actually what is left isn’t all that compelling or forceful, whereas the fundamentalists, they have a really compelling narrative. And if you are able to step into its confines, it explains everything, it gives you black and white answers, but it’s at the cost of forfeiting everything we’ve learned over the past century or so; you have to give up all that information.

And that is why someone like Teilhard de Chardin is so helpful – he steps into a traditional religious system, he doesn’t water down the dogma or the doctrine. Instead, he looks at it anew, within an evolutionary context, and he sort of links it up to that so that it carries forward.

And I think that’s … instead of throwing out the religions, we need people with second axial consciousness to step into the religions and take their treasures and resources and carry them forward in a second axial way, rather than take them backwards into the fundamentalist roadmap or just throw them away altogether.

>>Rick: Yeah. Henry David Thoreau said something like, “It’s okay to have castles in the air, that’s where they belong. Just put foundations under them.” So you don’t have to water it down, I mean, all the most marvelous aspects of the traditions can be taken seriously and literally and it’s very profound and inspiring.

But there really needs to be a foundation, and I would say the foundation is to actually experience what these guys were talking about when they … you know, all the things they said. To have it be a living reality rather than, as you said, an intellectual, conceptual reality.

>>Matthew: And Christianity somewhere along the way installed the glass ceiling in relation to what is allowed for the individual Christian to experience. So you have Jesus in the Gospel of John praying something like – and again, are these the words of the historical Jesus or later Christian reflection? Either way, you have Him saying things like, “I and the Father (I and God) are one,” and then He goes right on to pray, “May they all be one, as You and I are one.”

And so there’s a call for the whole body of Christ, the whole community of believers, to step experientially into that oneness. “May they all be one just as I am one with God.” But very quickly Christians sort of drew the line and said, “We will let Jesus say that, but no one else can say it!” And so we sort of isolate that experience, put it on a pedestal, let Him experience it, and then we stop stepping into the experience ourselves.

>>Rick: Yeah, “We’re all poor miserable sinners, and that’s what we’re all ever going to be.”

>>Matthew: Right, right, and so we negate all these prayers. You know, it’s St. Paul who says, “Put on the mind of Christ,” and Jesus who says, “May they all be one, as I and God are one,” there’s a clear call to step experientially into the consciousness of Jesus’s own lived experience.

>>Rick: So the fundamentalists just kind of cherry-pick and ignore the things you’re just quoting?

>>Matthew: Well everybody cherry-picks, fundamentalist or otherwise.

>>Rick: I guess we’re cherry-picking here too.

>>Matthew: Right, right, and you take your framework and then you read things through the limitation of the narrative that you impose on it. So if you start with the fundamentalist framework and narrative, you’re going to try to read everything in that light, if you start with the contemplative, progressive, evolutionary framework and narrative, [then] you’re going to read it in that light.

>>Rick: Yeah, okay. Alrighty. Now another thing you talked quite a bit about in your … and feel free you know, anything that comes to mind, just jump in, because we don’t have to stay on a rigid path here. But another thing you talked about quite a bit is “the Divine Feminine, the Mother, she who is, this is her time that she is coming forward in the spiritual landscape and that we must work to honor and cultivate her presence.”

Let me read a little bit more here. “What is wisdom?” – I think this was from The Wisdom of Solomon – “she is the mobility of movement, she is the transparent nothing that pervades all things, she is the breath of God, a clear emanation of Divine glory. Although she is one she does all things. Without leaving herself she renews all things.”

A bit more here … “Early 18th Century Roman Catholic Saint, Louis de Montfort believed that for the fullness of Christ to come into our world, Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, power, and grace. Indeed, whether we call her Mary, Tara” – this is your writing now – “whether we call her Mary, Tara, Kwan Yin, Kali, or Sophia, the time of the Mother is upon us.” Let’s talk about that a little bit.

>>Matthew: You know part of it I think has to do with the second axial map we were working with, that in pre-axial spirituality there was a strong sense of the feminine, and of the earth, and of the mother, and then in post-axial spirituality there was much more emphasis on the transcendent, on “God as Father,” and the emergence of the patriarchal cultures that have really dominated the world for the last few thousand years.

And now as we sort of turn the spiral again, we’re waking back up the feminine. But I almost think that it’s not helpful … there’s sort of two lines of development here: we have to uplift the feminine which has been suppressed, but we also I think, at the same time, have to move beyond the binary altogether because it’s period of integration.

And so it’s not now an “age of the feminine trumps the age of the masculine,” instead we need an integration that moves beyond binary identities.

>>Rick: It was kind of like you were saying earlier, each new teaching and teacher is building upon … it’s like, who was it … Newton said he stood upon the shoulders of giants, so we’re building upon the previous things, not wiping them away and starting afresh.

>>Matthew: Right. So reclaiming the feminine, reclaiming the earth, reclaiming the Mother, all that seems important, but if we just focus there, I think we miss the point and we stay stuck in binaries.

And it seems to me that just the concept of “masculine or feminine” as sort of archetypal, this sort of essentialist conception of the masculine and feminine, but it is actually deeply problematic because it is so culturally constructed. What is feminine or what is masculine varies from culture to culture, and so to uplift one set of qualities as the archetypal feminine, well, it’s just not true, or it’s culturally relative, in that sense.

And I think, ideally we’re moving into in era in which we don’t see people as masculine or feminine; we see each individual as a unique combination of human qualities, moving away from binary gender identities. This is one of the great things that is happening because of awareness around gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender minorities, that they are helping break us out of binary thinking altogether.

And I think when I was writing using that language even of “uplifting the feminine,” I honor what said there but I also think we have to go beyond that.

>>Rick: So just to have you elaborate a little more … you hear a lot these days about the Divine feminine and maybe you could just elaborate a bit more about what that actually means, and what impact the enlivenment of it might be having or might have on our world.

>>Matthew: Well on one level we’re talking about not the suppression of the feminine, but the suppression and the oppression of women. And we can talk about uplifting women, to fall into then gender language of feminine and masculine, it seems to reinforce culturally constructed ideas of what those are, and that woman is feminine and that, you know ….

I think that whole gendered, binary language is problematic, but to say that there are qualities that perhaps culturally we have associated as feminine that have been suppressed, that we want to raise those up, is important. Does that follow?

>>Rick: It kind of does, and I don’t think you are suggesting that in an enlightened world we would all be androgynous, although I’ve heard of esoteric, woo-woo people saying there are planets where that’s the way it is, and so on and so forth.

>>Matthew: Right, I think we would all be our utterly unique selves, you know, every one a unique expression, every one a unique combination of these qualities that we might call “masculine” or “feminine,” that they manifest in different degrees and combinations in every person, but that there’s not perhaps an “ideal.”

We often talk about sort of moving towards a kind of balanced, integrated equilibrium of these qualities, which seems like an erasure of diversity, that everyone is supposed to come to a sameness, whereas I would rather us celebrate the diverse range of human qualities in all their combinations and possibilities.

>>Rick: Well look at nature itself, how diverse it is, how many species there are and just incredible diversity. Even human beings, I mean, no two faces are the same, out of 8 billion people, although there are people who make a living because they look like George Clooney or something, but basically we are all distinct and unique.

>>Matthew: But before we can move toward that celebration of our diversity, we have to uplift all those voices and expressions that have been oppressed, suppressed, silenced, and so that includes women, that includes gay and lesbian folks, that includes transgender folks. So there has to be a healing before there can be an integration and celebration.

>>Rick: Yeah, and again, it’s interesting to look at political orientations and which orientation tends to that more than the other, you know? And therefore, which one is perhaps more … evolutionary, a harbinger of things that hopefully are to come … a world that hopefully is to be born.

And just a … when I think of that whole Divine feminine and having that dawn in the world more, I kind of think of feminine as nurturing, caring, and how that is so critically needed in terms of our environment and the fact that we are killing off 150 to 200 species every day, going extinct, and destroying our home planet, the only one we have. And that [being] largely due to the preponderance of the intellectual qualities and science at the expense of the heart, at the expense of spirituality, and money at the expense of the environment, and so on.

There is just sort of a lack of feeling inherent in the way we treat animals and the planet, and so on, that it seems to me is the antithesis of motherliness and femininity and so on. Just a comment. You’re welcome to respond J

>>Matthew: Right, right, no, no, I agree with you and I think that the qualities that you’re naming as “feminine:” nurturance you said, what else did you say?

>>Rick: Yeah, that was one of the main ones … nurturance.

>>Matthew: Right, so I do think that perhaps we have suppressed qualities like that and it has allowed us to destroy the earth, commodify the earth. The question I’m raising is: is also part of the problem the gendering of that quality to begin with?

>>Rick: Yeah, I mean a good father is protective of his family and providing and caring, and so on, so there’s a nurturing quality there too.

>>Matthew: So there’s a quality that we’ve suppressed, by and large as a species, within patriarchal cultures, and then there’s half of our population which we have suppressed, women, and we’ve associated the quality with the sex. And I’m saying we need to uplift women and we also need to free the quality, in a way.

And to continue calling it a “feminine quality” is to continue to gender it, and gendering, we walk into a binary: masculine/feminine, male/female, and if we could break out of the binary gendering altogether, there would be as many genders as there are human beings. Free and liberate those qualities for all of us … seems to me like that’s a helpful direction to move in.

>>Rick: Yeah …

>>Matthew: Perhaps.

>>Rick: It does, and I guess when you were saying that I was thinking, “Well yeah, but the freeing of that quality is also going to be the freeing of half the population.” It is inextricably linked, the two of those.

>>Matthew: But all women may not, and I can’t speak for all women, but all women may not find that [to be] one of their primary, natural qualities or tendencies, nor want to.

>>Rick: Yeah, I see what you are saying …

>>Matthew: But it implies that that’s a woman’s quality.

>>Rick: Right, okay, I think I get your point, that we’re just all an infinitely complex mixture of qualities, and that we just need to blossom in our fullness whatever … in our unique fullness. And I’ll just throw in one point here, which is that if you have let’s say a jungle or a forest and the soil is deficient, then all the plants are going to be less diverse, less rich, less vibrant, perhaps all looking grey or something. Whereas if you have a really rich soil in the forest, then each of the plants is going to thrive fully as what it is, and the whole thing will look much more diverse and alive and rich, and so on.

So the ground in this metaphor would be, in my understanding, consciousness itself, and as that awakens in the world, the diversity … when we think of consciousness we think of, sort of, unification and oneness, but that the enlivenment of consciousness is actually going to enhance the diversity because that’s the “life stuff” of all of us, and it’s that which enables us to be fully what we are.

>>Matthew: Right, that consciousness is the ground of all potentiality that holds all qualities, all potential qualities, and that if each of us are a name of God being spoken into being, that is a unique combination of qualities that only we can manifest individually … anyway …

>>Rick: Yeah, that is what I was trying to say, you said it much better.

Alright, let’s throw out one more thing, unless you think of even more things, but there’s one more thing I had in my notes which might be fun to touch upon and that is, like you used the phrase “Buddhist Christian,” and you mixed a number of other ones like that … “Muslim Hindu,” or whatever. There seem to be a lot of people who are mixing traditions and the symbiosis of the different traditions is really helping them.

One person, for instance, said, “Jesus tells me to love my neighbor and the Buddha tells me how to love my neighbor.” So do you want to talk about that a little bit?

>>Matthew: Sure. That was a friend of mine in college who identified as a Buddhist Christian, and she had said that Jesus told her to love her neighbor and the Buddha told her how. And that Buddhism gave her practices, teachings on contemplative practice that at the time weren’t as available or accessible to her in Christianity.

And I think that is often what happens, someone finds that some facet of their soul, a longing of their being isn’t being developed, cultivated, spoken to, within the tradition that they were given in childhood, and they go to another tradition to find resources to develop that part of themselves.

And that can go in different ways. Sometimes they go and find that in another tradition and then they come back to the original tradition, and having found it in that tradition, now they can locate it in [their] original tradition and sort of awaken and enliven it there. So they maintain a primary identity as a Christian, but their Christianity has been enlivened by an encounter with another tradition.

Some people then forever maintain a dual-identity: “I’m a Hindu-Christian,” or …

>>Rick: Or a Hin-Jew …

>>Matthew: A Hin-Jew! Right, or a Jew-Bu, or all these different combinations that people are claiming. And it’s all good, it all belongs. This is part of that process of convergence that Teilhard talked about, [that] as religions meet, their nests are going to mix, mingle, and fuse one another. And I think it has to be discerned on a case by case basis whether or not that’s a distraction for someone on the spiritual path, or whether it is a deepening for them on their spiritual path.

And one possibility that a lot of spiritual teachers warn against is flitting from tradition to tradition. They say that every time you start coming to the hard work in one tradition then you just bounce over to another one, and that you have to choose one well in order to dig deep to holy water, otherwise, it is just shallow surface-skimming.

And I think that sometimes this is true, but the thing that blew that open for me was when Ramakrishna Swami said to me, “There is a difference between digging 15 shallow wells and using 15 tools to dig one well.” And so that is the other possibility, is that you gain tools from different traditions that help different parts of your own spiritual unfolding.

I still think for most of us it is probably helpful to have a primary tradition that gives you a container or framework and practices, so that you can dig deep, but again, I think it is a case by case basis – that some people certainly, I believe, are being vocationally called to stand in two or more traditions, as an act of healing, reconciliation, as a way of speaking some new reality into the world. And I think some people are also being called to stand outside of the traditions altogether, that they are not going to hold a traditional religious identity and they will cultivate spaces outside of the religions. And I think conversations need to be happening between all of those different groups.

So yeah, yeah, I think it’s good. I think it’s like how we have fusion cuisine in some restaurants, and sometimes it works really well and sometimes it’s not very good at all, you know? So again, case by case in how the traditions meet in individuals … is an area of discernment.

>>Rick: Yeah, I wonder if things continue to converge, to use Teilhard’s term, if we’ll not only end up with kind of a one-world civilization without all kinds of separate countries, but also a one-world spirituality, perhaps with various streams and variations within it, but just a sort of a unified thing where it would, you know, seem absurd to say that, “My thing is better than your thing, and “My way or the highway.” It could be like that 500 or 1,000 years from now, or maybe even sooner, I don’t know.

>>Matthew: Right, and maybe it is a both-and scenario again, that if traditions dissolve their claims to competition and superiority conflict and they can become transparent to each other, the diversity of the traditions need not be lost in that process, just like the diversity of the human beings need not be lost.

And so you can still have people holding the Buddhist current of spirituality into being, the Christian current, the Sufi-Muslim current, as unique streams, you also can have people mingling streams, [and] you also can have people representing something universal, you know, it can just be all of it.

>>Rick: Yeah, interesting. Okay, well, anything we haven’t covered?

>>Matthew: So many things!

>>Rick: Yeah, right.

>>Matthew: That’s why you will have to interview someone else next time.

>>Rick: I will, there will be every week a new one.

Well, I don’t go to church but if I lived in Woodstock, New York I would go to yours.

>>Matthew: Oh, I would love to have you there. If you are ever up [there], feel free to stop by.

>>Rick: Yeah, I’m sure it’s really an enjoyable service to participate in. I’ll probably see you coming to SAND this year?

>>Matthew: I don’t know if I’ll be at SAND this year. I think I’m going to miss it this year and maybe hopefully be there again next year.

>>Rick: Alright.

>>Matthew: But, my good friend and teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault, I think she may be at SAND this year as a Christian voice.

>>Rick: Oh that’s right, and Richard Rohr is going to be there too.

>>Matthew: Good, good.

>>Rick: And I’ve been having a hard time landing both of them for interviews, so maybe I’ll snag ‘em there.

>>Matthew: Okay, good, good, good.

>>Rick: Alright, thanks. So let me just make a few concluding remarks. I’ve been speaking with Matthew Wright and there will be a page on www.batgap.com about this interview, with links to anything Matthew wants us to link to, and which will lead you to ways of getting in touch with him.

Do you do anything remotely, like Skype consultations or anything, or do you just pretty much serve a local congregation?

>>Matthew: It’s mostly local. Sometimes I meet with people for spiritual direction one-on-one here at the Monastery, serve the local congregation, we’ve got a weekly Gospel of Thomas discussion group and contemplative Eucharist, but I’d be happy to connect with people through email or possibly Skype, now and then.

>>Rick: Yeah, so they can get in touch with you if they want to do that, and maybe some will.

I don’t think you’ve written a book. Have you written a book?

>>Matthew: No, no.

>>Rick: Just things on websites.

>>Matthew: Right, a thesis and articles online.

>>Rick: Yeah, maybe at some point you’ll glom it all together into a book.

>>Matthew: That would be nice, one day if there’s a time.

>>Rick: Alright, thanks. Let me make a few concluding remarks, in general about BATGAP. It is www.BATGAP.com , B-A-T-G-A-P. Go there and you’ll find a number of things, it will be pretty obvious, like a place to sign up for the audio podcast, a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted, an index of ‘Past Interviews,’ a page where it lists all the ‘Upcoming Interviews,’ a place to suggest a guest if you have someone in mind or to vote for someone who has already been suggested.

And a new thing which just developed or evolved significantly, which is this ‘Geographical Index’ page, where for instance, if Matthew registers for it and you were to type in someplace, let’s say you typed in “Newberg, New York,” which is not where he is located, you would then see, “Oh, x number of miles away there is this guy in Woodstock, New York doing things,” and you would also see New York City and you would see everything within a certain radius, maybe 500 miles, that is happening there.

>>Matthew: Oh wow.

>>Rick: So that’s the ‘Geographical Index’ page. It is under the … I think it is under the ‘Resources’ menu.

Um, so, that’s it. Thanks for listening or watching. Thank you again, Matthew. I really enjoyed this as I knew I would, and take care. And take care to those who have been watching, and we’ll see you next time.

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