Rev. Matthew Wright on Second Axial Age Emergence

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The Rev. Matthew Wright, a priest serving St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Brewster, NY, and a member of the Community of the Holy Spirit’s Bluestone Farm, believes that in our interspiritual world, the Christian Wisdom tradition must be revived and reexamined. In the Contemplative Journal, Matthew writes that becoming aware of Wisdom in our own traditions in this second axial age is the key to union, consciousness, and belonging:

We see it in the birth of Christianity, directly in the life of Jesus, who rejected a First Axial ascetic path in favor of one that fully embraced the world—he feasted, danced, and wept, all the while associating with those designated outcasts and sinners. He refused to recognize the expected divisions between sacred and profane. This full on embrace of phenomenal existence was enshrined in Christianity’s core doctrine of the Incarnation—that “the Word became flesh” in the world “God so loved”—but the Second Axial impulse of its founder was repeatedly roped back into the existing First Axial road maps.

Most clearly, perhaps, we see the Second Axial emergence in Islam and its mystical tradition, Sufism. The Islamic world took the rhythm of monastic prayer and offered it in the marketplace. Like Christianity, it broke out of the ethnic and tribal identity of its parent religion, Judaism (which itself never completely lost touch with its pre-Axial earthiness and embrace of the world). Islam’s mystical path, based on the life of a prophet who was husband, lover, parent, warrior, and statesman, found it practically impossible to give way to the First Axial impulse toward asceticism and monasticism. Sufism pledged to keep the contemplative life fully integrated into the life of the world. It was in many ways the first wave of what many today are calling “the new monasticism.”

Today we can claim these streams for what they are: the early in-breaking of Second Axial consciousness, a dramatic shift away from the dualistic separation of “Spirit” from “world.” Channels for these waters are the ones we must dig and deepen. As this Second Axial Awakening takes hold on the global scale, we must begin the work of reimagining and realigning our First Axial religions. What will change when we see these great traditions as so many currents within a vast planetary movement of awakening and integration? How will we carry their wisdom forward in an age characterized by a primary consciousness of union, belonging, and interconnection?

I believe that our hope still lies in our religions, and that we abandon them at a great loss. They hold much of the wisdom we will need in this next great transformation. But the invitation now is to a dance, not a lecture. The traditions will no longer be only the teachers, but the students as well. As they teach us, we will teach them. The evolution, like all such dances, will be mutual. The wheel will turn once more and the waters will flow powerful and strong, the Divine Heartbeat loud and full.

The rest of Matthew’s piece in the Contemplative Journal is here.

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