Last weekend, I engaged in an event that was choreographed by a group of talented people, many of whom I have known for more than 20 years. I am part of several interfaith communities in the Philadelphia area. One is called Common Ground Fellowship. One of the things we love to do, is create rituals around the changes of the season. For the Winter Solstice, we delve deeply into the treasure trove that is the Techno Cosmic Mass. Once Catholic priest, now Episcopal priest, Matthew Fox designed what many call a ‘spiritual rave’ that incorporates music, dance, light, sound, and interactive ritual. My delight has been both in co-designing the event (last year) and assisting (this year, since with my mother’s illness and passing, I had not the time or energy to be on the planning committee). The beauty of my role this year, is that it allowed me to simply BE, which in and of itself was healing and transformative. My own process through the death of my mother is reflected in the stages you will read about below. This came from the promo material for the Common Ground event.
The Four Paths
The Techno Cosmic Mass itself is based on the Four Paths of the Via Positiva, the Via Negativa, the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa. If you’d like to learn more about this framework, you may be interested in the Stanford lecture video where Matthew Fox describes the paths in more depth.
This is the way of celebrating life, of seeing the world with its beauty and goodness, its grace and generosity–and being open to seeing more. This is the way of reverence, respect and gratitude. It’s the way of original blessing, whereby we live out the truth that the universe and life itself, for all the struggle and pain they dispense, have birthed us as individuals and communities with what we need for happiness and for sharing joy.
This goes into the darkness, the wounds, the pain and silence and solitude of existence to find what we have to learn there. It’s a way of letting go and letting be, of emptying and being emptied, of moving beyond judgment and beyond control, and learning to breathe, to sit, to be still, to dwell in silence, to taste nothingness without flinching and, ultimately, to focus. It’s the way of grieving. Without grief we can’t move on to the next stage, one of giving birth.
Having fallen in love with life often (Via Positiva) and having been emptied and learned to let go and let be numerous times (Via Negativa), the spiritual warrior is ready to give birth. Creativity is the weapon, the sword, of the spiritual warrior–who is mother as well as father, and who digs deep into a wellspring of wildness that provides the energy for new life, connections, images and moral imagination by which to change things in a deep, not superficial, way. “The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation hovers over the mind of the artist at work.”
Claims to artistry and to creativity and to co-creation need to be tested. The Spirit requires discernment and evaluation. The primary test for claims of spirit work is that of justice and compassion. Does the work I’m doing pass the justice test? Does it fill gaps between haves and have-nots or make the chasm deeper? Does it contribute to healing and empowerment of the powerless or re-establish the privileges of the few at the expense of the many?
As I experienced this event, I witnessed nearly 200 people in a state of sacred interaction, with each other, with the processes, with their perception of the Divine. Eyes closed in meditation, placing stones in water into which they had cast their let-go’s for the year, sipping wine or sparkling cider to celebrate the sweetness of life, whispering their prayers and desires for the next year into delicate pale pink tinged white roses, holding hands and doing a spiral dance throughout the space…a feast for all of the senses was had. Clergy from various faith traditions, co-led the experience.
My joy was enhanced by connecting with so many old friends that I think of as ‘overlapping soul circles’, whose loving service to the world over the years, continues to inspire me. I felt that I was truly at home in the cosmos.