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If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul, life ceases to have meaning. 

The creative process shrivels in the absence of continual dialogue with the soul. 
And creativity is what makes life worth living.

Marion Woodman - quoted in W-ISDOM list 9/5/04 - see newsletters page

Image from book : Pregnant Virgin : A Process of Psychological Transformation 
(Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian Analysts) - by Marion Woodman

 
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"Spiritual path" is the hilarious popular term for those night-blinded mesas and flayed hills in which people grope, for decades on end, with the goal of knowing the absolute. Only by living completely in the world can one learn to believe.

Annie Dillard

from book: Philip Zaleski. The Best Spiritual Writing 2000 

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Thomas Merton wrote, "There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues." 

There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end.

It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won't have it. 

The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. 

We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as those who have "not gone up into the gaps." 

The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit's one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound. 

The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery. 

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. 

Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock -- more than a maple -- a universe. This is how you spend the afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you.

Annie Dillard. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


 
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Spiritual Cinema

Stephen Simon is a producer ("What Dreams May Come" and other films), and director of "Indigo," written by Neale Donald Walsch, about a psychic child and her "ability to heal even the deepest of family wounds."

Magical Blend Magazine : What kind of teaching potential do you think this film has?

Stephen Simon : I hope that it doesn't teach anybody anything, because entertainment is not supposed to be for teaching.

Entertainment is supposed to be for entertaining people, and hopefully for inspiring and empowering people.

So it is very important that if you have spiritual messages to deliver in 
movies, that they be done in subtext. ///

The passion of my life is Spiritual Cinema. I decided a year and half ago to leave Los Angeles, to come to a different place to help birth a new kind of entertainment where we don't have to pull back, where we don't have to homogenize, where we don't have to dumb things down. 

Where I don't have a studio saying "Well, but some people in Missouri might not understand this so you have to make it clear for everybody." We're not going to do that. 

from Indigo Insights: An Interview with Stephen Simon by Robin Rice and Susan Dobra, Magical Blend Magazine

Stephen Simon sites : 

Moving Messages Media / The Institute for Spiritual Entertainment

The Spiritual Cinema Circle

....book: The Force is With You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives  

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When I was eighteen I had this experience where I thought everything is for a purpose. It was incredibly grounding. Then six months later I had another experience that made me feel the opposite, that there is nothing higher.

We eat, we sleep, we procreate. We want to fulfill our own desires, and that's it. I remember asking my boyfriend at the time, Which is it? And it's something I still ponder.

Amy Brenneman... [from article by Kitty Bowe Hearty, Interview, Aug, 1998]

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....Images of God: Sixty Reflections of Spiritual Beliefs  - by Adam Gaynor

".. a series of portraits of people from a wide range of cultures, pondering the universal question, "What does God mean to you?" 

These photographs were taken over a two year period throughout the Eastern coast of the United States. From large cities such as New York, Charlotte, Miami, to small rural towns like High View, West Virginia, Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and Islamorada, Florida Keys, these photographs and accompanying interviews explore these variant individuals diverse beliefs of God.

description and photo from Adam Gaynor site

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From article The Trojan Horse of Fiction - by
Gregory Benford [Science & Spirit Magazine]

The deep questions explored in our traditional religious texts can often be found hiding in mainstream science fiction.

The Matrix: Reloaded is a spiritual story of a quest for the true world hidden behind what we think of as the real one. When it hit theatres in May, it immediately became a box-office behemoth. Yet, the science fiction movie received few notices in the religious press. 

This collusion of theology and science fiction is not new. The Matrix movies.. are elaborated views of a world dominated by artificial intelligences, which keep most of us in pods, feeding us an illusory world-this one you're sitting in-through spinal taps. Our lives are piped into our brains, complete with sensory experiential Muzak. ....

Wild thinking about religion and theology abounds in perhaps the most unlikely quarter, modern science fiction. Though many think of science fiction as atheistic, Walter Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) is just one of the genre's classics that spring equally from scientific/ technological and theological concerns.

This balance is typical, bridging the customary materialistic chasm between belief and knowledge. 

The theofiction tradition was truly set forth in Olaf Stapledon's novels such as Star Maker (1937), which portrays God the Scientist as an agency forever shaping his Creation to attain higher expressions of his vision. 

Stapledon incorporated both biological evolution and the grander evolution of the cosmos into a supreme pantheon, ruled by a hovering Godlike presence, the Star Maker. 

Still, Stapledon stood out for two reasons. His style ignored conventional character and plot, focusing upon ideas and scope. And he spoke about the largest issues without a hint of conventional theology. He stood alone in his time. 

 "The Matrix Revolutions" actor photos ©2003 Warner Bros. Pictures - from site

image far right from book: The Gospel Reloaded

Matrix Reloaded [dvd]  /  Matrix [dvd]

....Gregory Benford books

The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in The Matrix

The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real

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"Joan of Arcadia" introduces us to an ordinary 16-year-old girl with a penchant for running into folks who reveal themselves to her as God, then give her chores to do.

The tasks -- like getting a part-time job at a book store or joining the chess club -- may seem like odd things for God to be concerned with. Odder still: He doesn't really order Joan to do them.

"I give suggestions, not assignments," says God, at that moment facing Joan as a sanitation worker. "Free will is one of my better innovations."

The reassuring message of the show: Divine intervention, and the answers it might lead to, can conceivably occur with any personal encounter. ...

On "Joan," there is no violence, nor are there grisly displays as in the corpse-populated "CSI" genre. 

Another big difference: While those series try to solve each mystery surrounding a death, "Joan of Arcadia" confronts the mysteries of life. 

"Those are questions people wish they could ask God in person," says series star Amber Tamblyn, explaining why, like them, she identifies with her character.


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"Joan is starting to focus on things she's never focused on before. But she's also an adolescent, and I know how that feels," says Tamblyn, 20. "You don't listen to people. You want to stay in your own little world."

Accordingly, Joan is often moody and self-centered.

"I'm not religious, you know," she informs God (who is now a cute guy at her school). 

"It's not about religion, Joan," God tells her. "It's about fulfilling your nature." 

"Uhhh," she stammers, "I definitely haven't done that." 

[CNN.com / AP, October 16, 2003]

photo: Joan (Amber Tamblyn) has an encounter with God in 
the form of a boy at her high school (Kris Lemche). 

theme song: What if God Was One of Us? by Joan Osborne

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...Jerry Wennstrom. The Inspired Heart : An Artist's Journey of Transformation

I tell mostly stories here. ... The particular point of view from which the stories are told and lived is that of a spiritual seeker and artist. However detached I may have become from the label "artist," I never lost sight of art's essential heartland, and I held a creative vision throughout my journey. 

My detachment from any particular religious affiliation did not preclude the essential spirituality of the journey. I hold true that the path lived attentively is a sacred path, and that the fundamental spirit of art is alive, well, and deeply esoteric. 

As does any spiritual path, art has the potential to deliver us into our own true becoming, which is identical to our world's becoming. Art expresses and defines the deep and collective spirit of our time.....Jerry Wennstrom

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from Foreword by Thomas Moore:   While Jerry's stories will remain with me for a long time as lessons in being open to life's paradoxes, I am also taking note of powerful phrases that conjure up ancient wisdom: "Seasoning sanctifies. Insanity, that too is God. ... Form is death. I have to leave this perfection. ... Enlightenment is surrender." 

I'm sure that many people will find comfort and inspiration in this book. Jerry is able to describe a spiritual journey outside of any ancient tradition or modern system, and I trust that originality. He avoids the many hollow words sometimes enter contemporary spiritual thought and embodies the idea that you can be fully spiritual and fully secular at the same time. 

Jerry's experience shows that simply by being receptive to deep intuition and living intelligently from the heart, you can achieve a degree of holiness....

Moore is the author of Care of the Soul; The Reenchantment of Everyday Life and other books

top photo: detail of "the tallest of Jerry's sculptures, and the most dynamically interactive. The unit 
vibrates noisily through different overtoned cycles..." -- from artist's site


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*video: In The Hands Of Alchemy :
................The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom

Psychologists Carl Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz and others consider alchemy to be a spiritual discipline that enables personal transformation toward balance and wholeness.

Artist Jerry Wennstrom in this video speaks of the kind of spiritual evolution that inspires creative excellence.

"In terms of art.. I don't think it's about knowing as much as it is about living into the love we feel for other people," Wennstrom comments. 

He concludes that what he has to offer is his own story of realization as an artist - and a human being - that shows "you can't get there by way of will, intelligence and good intention. It's always been about surrender and being present to the kind of luminous void where everything unfolds."


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One charming sequence is Buddhist monks being encouraged by teacher Marilyn Strong [also a singer and Wennstrom's  wife] to create drawings "without worrying... just from your own self." 

This is accompanied by poet and writer David Whyte commenting about the kinds of spiritual paths and lessons shown by Wennstrom's life: "One of the great disciplines of existence, especially as we grow older, is the discipline of innocence, and of keeping the sense of wonder and enlargement and surprise alive in your own heart. 

"The moment that you stop, in a sense, living from your innocence is the moment when you start feeling besieged by existence, and the moment you need defenses and walls. 

"One of the great difficulties in life is claiming your own happiness. I think Jerry is one of the few people I know who, in a very quiet way, has claimed his happiness and existence." ... [review by Douglas Eby]

photo of Jerry Wennstrom and Marilyn Strong 
from artist's site

 
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illustration by Meinrad Craighead
for chapter "Creation Rituals" in book:
Woman Prayer Woman Song
by Miriam Therese Winter
"The creative spirit I know within me 
has the face and the force of a woman. 
She is my Mother, my Mothergod, 
my Generatrix, the divine immanence 
I experience signified in all of creation."

Meinrad Craighead


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Meinrad Craighead. The Mother's Songs: 
Images of God the Mother
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Kabbalah is not a religion -- it's a belief system. You can come from any religious background to study Kabbalah, but it's too weird for people, too foreign. They can't get their heads around it, so they have to devalue it by saying it's a trend or a cult.

All this nonsense about how only celebrities are into it just makes me laugh, because to say you're a Kabbalist, there's nothing easy about it. It's not enough just to read a book. You have to change, and the only way you can change your nature is to constantly, constantly study.

Madonna - Ladies' Home Journal LHJ.com, June 2005 / Kabbalah books


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Once a cloistered religious, Craighead brings a contemplative focus to her life as an artist. Her day begins outside with a walk along the riverbank, or before her altar where she builds a fire in the belly of a gourd shaped vessel, gathering in the energy of nature so it will be with her as she works. 

Moving inside, she then makes a ritual circumambulation of the altars she has placed around her studio, each one honoring a sacred direction. 

Dusty with the cornmeal that she sprinkles on her animal fetishes and cluttered with stones, pots, postcards from friends and photographs -- of the Black Madonna, Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, and family members -- these "living" altars reflect the rich mythlogy of Craighead's life, the creative cauldron out of which her work emerges.

They are paradigmatic of one of the most powerful statements in her book The Mother's Songs: "I am born connected. I am born remembering."


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Pythia Peay - from her book Soul Sisters
The Five Sacred Qualities of a Woman's Soul 

photo from mooncircles.com  /  quotes from meinradcraighead.com

Pythia Peay is also editor of Awakening: A Sufi Experience

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Stephen Simon, a producer on films such as "What Dreams May Come" and "Somewhere in Time," observes how movies ranging from "A Beautiful Mind" to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" explore the nature of life, love and time in his new book... 

"Spiritual cinema has been around since at least the 1940s," says Simon, citing "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" as examples. "They are movies that look at who we might be when we operate at our very best. It's important to distinguish 'spiritual' from 'religious,' because mainstream media almost always use the two words as synonyms, and they're not.

"Religion pertains to an organization that tells us a specific set of regulations, rules and rituals that we must utilize in order to experience God. Spirituality respects every individual's path to God, and every individual's definition of God. The films in the book don't deal with religious beliefs. They deal with our search for meaning in life."


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Simon examines more than 70 films, categorizing them under cinematic themes such as life after life, enhanced powers and sensibilities, angels, and reality and the concept of time.

from article: It's a wonderful, meaningful life by Dinah Eng, LA Times, 2/23/03

...The Force Is With You... Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives - by Stephen Simon

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If I hadn't been studying texts and poems of the mystics and spiritual masters at the time I started with video, I don't think I could have made as much progress. 

These individuals gave me the language to understand what I was really seeing. One of the common threads in all these traditions, cutting across diverse cultures, is the idea that everything in front of us right now is merely a world of appearances. It's only a surface... the task is to understand and master sensory experience because you need the language of the senses to help decipher this surface and penetrate to the deeper connections underneath. ..Bill Viola

from catalogue for Getty exhibition - Bill Viola: The Passions  /  more about exhibition on page: visual arts

...related books: 
Representing the Passions: Histories, Bodies, Visions  //  Bill Viola: The Passions

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This prayer was given to me when I was attempting to portray Thomas More in the play A Man For All Seasons in New York in 1962. I was there for nine months and beginning to feel homesickness and, oddly enough in that city, a certain loneliness. This prayer helped me. .....Paul Scofield
Give me thy grace. good Lord, to set the world at nought; To set my mind fast upon thee, and not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths; To be content to be solitary; Not to long for worldly company; Little and little utterly to cast off the world, and rid my mind of the business thereof.
Part of a prayer Thomas More wrote in the margin of his prayer book, while imprisoned. - quotes from Spirituality & Health, Summer 2001

*...Paul Scofield: An Actor for All Seasons by Garry O'Connor

.......The King's Good Servant but God's First : The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More - by James Monti

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Despite sour faces from some traditional psychiatrists, spiritual orientation and practice are clearly associated with greater quality of life, less depression, and less anxiety, as well as greater longevity. ...

However, the spiritual traditions teach that it is not these unusual experiences themselves that carry the value, but rather the expanded awareness that may accompany them. While a single experience may lead to a shift in values, it is usually more extensive exploration and practice that lets a person integrate that new awareness.

from article: Who's to Say Who's Nuts by Elisabeth Targ, M.D. [1961 - 2002]

more excerpts on page: dysfunction / disorder

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Before my spiritual transformation, I had developed my intellect at the expense of my body, heart and soul. In fact, I was proud of the fact that I was primarily an intellectual, albeit with better social skills than most cognitive people. 

It seemed to me that the development of both physical and spiritual capacities would somehow impede the growth of my intellect. ... 

Now I have more ways of knowing. Science is one of the disciplines, like meditation or the sweat lodge, for accessing knowledge. Science gives specific details with probabilities attached; religious meditation and ceremony give broader truths, with many possible interpretations. I like to think in and to use the languages of both science and spirit. 

Barbara Kerr - psychologist and educator of the gifted

*Letters to the Medicine Man: An Apprenticeship in Spiritual Intelligence  ... [cover art by May S. Cheney

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The creative process is a spiritual path. This adventure is about us, about the deep self, the composer (photographer / artist / writer / dancer / inventor) in all of us, about originality, meaning not that which is all new, but that which is fully and originally ourselves.

   Stephen Nachmanovitch - from his book: Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

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