Moral Injury is a Spiritual Emergency,

spiritual growth

Moral Injury is a Spiritual Emergency, Introduction
Not to know is bad; but not to wish to know is worse.
— Nigerian Proverb

If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

— words of Jesus in saying 70 of the Gospel of Thomas

In some special way every person completes the universe. If he does not play his part, he injures the pattern of all existence.

— Rabbi Judah Loew (1521-1609)

The SOUL OF WELCOMING HOME: MORAL INJURY IS A SPIRITUAL EMERGENCY, INTRODUCTION
c. 2019, F. Christopher Reynolds, M.Ed.

Our Grandmother by Diane Pinchot

INTRODUCTION

The Soul of Welcoming: Moral Injury Is A Spiritual Emergency is an online book that hopes to bring both ancient and new, holistic, participatory, quantum, Vision into service. In the gentlest way possible, I encourage you to make the journey through the screens it covers. The challenge we face is bigger than veterans, their families, and communities who support them. We are in a profound cultural shift towards a more soulful future — a global climate change — in all ways of literally and poetically understanding those words.

Certainly, this cultural rite of passage falls hardest on the most vulnerable. However, we are all in it together and need each other. All have their work to do wherever they live and breathe. By reading this text, you will gain a capacity to discern the cross-winds we face now together, a vocabulary with which to describe mental, emotional, physical, ecological, and spiritual wholeness, and sense of direction that yields to the wider expanse of our American journey.

The Soul of Welcoming represents the “bread” of the ideas that I have field-tested over the years – 30 years as a public school teacher, department chair, academic writer and adjunct professor, nearly 30 years as a shamanic healer, and 40 years as a singer-songwriter. This is a contribution to the larger body of work being done to become wiser about war and to co-create a peaceful world for future generations.

It is meant to be a partner book to John Schluep’s mentor text, Soul’s Cry, and an educational resource for the communities, medical professionals, Those who wait and Persons of Strong Heart connected to Warriors Journey Home Ministry, though not limited to it. By “Persons” or “People of Strong Heart,” I use John Schluep’s description:

those who form a protective perimeter for the returning warriors allowing them to heal

To his description, I add:

Those of Strong Heart are citizen participants inside community and healing circles. They are the bridge between and are able to stand for the people inside and between both worlds. They may or may not be “those who wait” — family members of the veterans.

This updated definition represents a work in progress:

Persons or People of Strong Heart are:

Citizen participants in community and healing circles who form a protective perimeter for the returning warriors allowing them to heal. They are bridge persons between those circles and are able to stand for the people in both worlds.

The subject matter of welcoming home those who serve is as old as humanity itself. We are not always successful either. Two Fairy Tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, The Devil’s Sooty Brother and Brother Lustig, both at least 500 years old, remind us how God, Country, King, and community have a chronic habit of forgetfulness that leaves veterans homeless and with few friends except tricksters and devils.

What I have witnessed in all the areas of my life is that the healing that individuals experience in classrooms, ceremonies, concerts, workshops, retreats and healing circles is mis-understood. American educational, religious, healthcare, and political institutions lack the wholeness of soul you find in all kinship communities where quality of life is derived from the love of family, extended family, clan, tribe, and is soulfully rooted in the sacredness of the environment, in connection with the ancestors, all held in a caring cosmos.

Healing, meaning, to be whole again, in kinship cultures, includes numinous experiences beyond rational sciences and religious dogmas. I define and elaborate numinous experiences in chapter 6. You can jump there now and come back, if you want.

Briefly, a numinous experience is an experience of awe that opens your heart. Our institutions, generally, feature either very narrow or non-existent psychological ideas that honor and nourish such awe.


Reynolds Family in Mississippi

The information in this work emerges in the context of a centuries old, unfolding family history. During the Civil War, the 6 Reynolds brothers were divided between North and South. My great-great-grandfather, James H. Reynolds fought for the North.

We know that 2 of his brothers who fought for the South disappeared at Shiloh. A third brother who fought for the North and died has left no stories. Earlier, the ancestral path to Arkansas began in 1740 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. My ancestor, Hamilton Reynolds, fought in the Revolutionary War. He went on to fight in the War of 1812 and then took part in burning the cornfields of the Creek people. For generations, our family benefited from wars, policies, Trails of Tears, that took lands and ways of life from the Indigenous.


Donovan Family at Coney Island, 1918

Though my grandfather, Frederic Carnagie Reynolds, served in the Navy and returned without trauma from WW2, his brother, Dee Vernon Reynolds, however, came back broken. My uncle told me a few times of when he was a child he heard a knock at the front door and answered it. He opened the door to a destitute man who asked to see his father. His father talked to the man at the door and afterwards told the family that the man at the door was his brother. As with all family stories, I take the last one with a grain of salt. I have never gone into the military records to double-check on Dee Vernon. However, the story that was told lives on in me as regards the troubles of coming home from war.

On the other side of my family, the Donovans, one of my uncles worked on developing the pressurized cabin of the B-29 that would later be used to drop the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Over the years, I have felt burdened by three national, cultural issues for which our family has paid in blood. The first is the issue of divisiveness about human worth due to Biblical, Protestant and Catholic religious infighting, especially as regards slavery, sexism, racism, and sexuality. The second is the worldview of colonialism and the prejudice that drives it. The third is the moral double-bind of thermonuclear war.

Essentially, it is the chronic inability to find a way of peace on Earth that I hope to transform by bringing the best of myself to work with communities of like-hearted others. There are many hard at work doing all they can so the children and grandchildren live in a more peaceful world than the world we inherited.

Very personally, I went through my own spiritual emergency in 1992 and part of my healing came because I was helped by a Vietnam veteran named, Andy. He helped me by introducing me to The Good Red Road, which is the name given to Earth-based spirituality of the Indigenous of Turtle Island (North America). After his death, I knew in my heart that if the opportunity came for me to help veterans come home, I would pay forward the gifts I was given. I met John Schluep of Warriors Journey Home in 2015 and said, “Yes.”

Work towards healing from war is not a guilt-ridden prison term. My family has gifts for the future that have come through sobriety, education, spirituality, music, all manner of creativity, crafts, engineering, world travel, languages, poems, jokes, horses, cattle, writings and especially love. My siblings and I are the children of peoples who were former enemies, especially Catholic and Protestant Christians. We have sent loving and creative ripples forward into the future too.

The opportunity to continue to help in shared efforts to bring about peace on Earth is the most meaningful activity that I know. It represents the combined goals of all forms of spirituality of our planet. All the courage, creativity and generosity of the past comes forward. Mistakes from the past come as wisdom-lessons and our co-workers include remarkable beings. From the Indigenous perspective, the Earth and the cosmos too wish for peace and for life of all our relations to go forward in a good way.

In October 2018, I went to Vietnam with WJH for the healing of 4 veterans. As part of my preparations, I found the book, The Ghosts of War in Vietnam by Heonik Kwon.

To date, Ghosts of War is the best book I know as regards the full reality of soul-healing as a cultural value. Warrior’s Journey Home has a saying: Listen-Speak-Heal. In order to truly listen and understand what Kwon described, and, in my opinion, to truly hear and understand the stories of the two worlds we People of Strong Heart walk, a spacious, spiritual wholeness, open to more learning should guide our choices. Our work is moving into, through, and out of sacred spaces.

From John Schluep’s Soul’s Cry:

Telling the story in the protective confines of the crucible we call the “Healing Circle” keeps us in the present, and something new emerges. The memories have entombed the veterans and kept them in bondage. Being in spiritual and psychological bondage is like having an infected wound. Bringing to light the stories is like a tender wound that begins to heal. The wound is fragile and sensitive to the touch. The healing soul-wound needs time to allow the life blood of the spirit to flow freely once again and birth a new creation — a warrior. It is essential that the circle be prepared through ritual, prayer and ceremony. (p. 28)

The material that follows is intended to instill the confidence, receptivity, creativity, compassion and resilience we are asked to bring forth in order to lean into our mission with one heart, one mind, as one people. That mission, as Schluep noted, is to find the entombed who are held in bondage by memories, to loosen the spiritual and psychological bindings so that the life blood flows freely once again, to participate in what is the birth of a new creation together — for if one of us is in bondage, we all are in bondage.

Remembrance of the 1914 Christmas Truce: It’s Our Turn Now

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This is an account of a pilgrimage in remembrance of the 1914 Christmas Truce. In World War I, enemy forces left the safety of the trenches to the song “Silent Night” in their own language. Soldiers; sons, husbands, fathers wanted the peace beyond understanding. You are invited to follow the author’s pilgrimage to renew how we imagine the meaning of Christmas. Noel “New Sun” in Gaelic, has always been the unexpected birth of New Life in a most degraded, forgotten, even despised place. In our traditional telling, the savior was born into a forsaken shelter surrounded by animals. In the early 20th century, that unexpected location was No Man’s Land — the devastated landscape between the enemy trenches. This book is a recollection of the past in order to bring forth a more peaceful future.

SING THE DREAM OF PEACE ONWARD

peace on earth

Western culture is in the midst of the largest transformation in its history. What is passing away is a patriarchal coercive way of life that was set down 5000 years ago in Sumer. Joseph Campbell referred to this (following Frobenius) as the Monumental Stage. Its identifying features have been coercive government, literacy, numeracy, astronomy, astrology, cattle-breeding, agriculture, enslavement, and a patriarchal hierarchy bestowed by all-powerful sovereign on high who gives immortality to a chosen few.

A culture in its monumental stage is split from a feeling the Earth. Its people as a rule are not in relationship with their own ancestors as a spiritual practice. The sense of personal awe before the cosmos is no longer encouraged or nourished. Dreams are of little importance. This condition is called normative dissociation in the work of Jurgen Kremer.

We are emerging into a participatory way of life on Earth that honors all the voices and the dream-lives of every individual of the planet — Theodore Roszak called the collective individuality of voices, The Voice of the Earth. Thomas Berry prophesied of the collective individuality of dreams in his book, The Dream of the Earth. Joseph Campbell wrote of this as mythologiization. He reminded us:

“The Kingdom of the Father”, we have just heard, “is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.” Land nam, mythologization, has been the universally practiced method to bring this intelligible kingdom into view in the mind’s eye. The Promised Land, therefore, is any landscape recognized as mythologically transparent, and the method of acquisition of such a territory is not by prosaic physical action, but poetically, by intelligence and the method of art; so that the human being should be dwelling in two worlds simultaneously of the illuminated moon and the illuminated sun. [Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p. 62]

Failure to know the difference between a “Promised Land” in which the relationships with all that is are stewarded poetically in ritual, intelligence and the method of art and a realm taken by war has been a human stumbling block. I have named the cultural symptom of taking territory by war, prosaic physical action, chorapathology.

This is the Time of the The Third Great Awakening, the Preparation of the 8th Fire, in the Ojibway/Chippewa Prophecies. I call this, The Magnification. Author, Joanna Macy, named this largest shift, The Great Turning. Eco-spiritual theologian, Thomas Berry, called it, the opening into the environmental age. He wrote in Dream of the Earth:

It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we are in-between stories. The Old Story – the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it – sustained us for a long time. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with life purpose, energized action, consecrated suffering, integrated knowledge, and guided education. We awoke in the morning and knew where we were. We could answer the questions of our children. But now it is no longer functioning properly, and we have not yet learned the New Story.

Vision

We are all trying to return to right planetary relationship and to awaken in the cosmos that magnification has revealed.
The wholeness where I have lived with the circles here in northeast Ohio can be imagined in this way:

And a new soul-image we have been birthing can be imagined like this:

I am also the founder of Urrealism, No Man’s Folk Music and Earthbriety. I am a co-founder of archetypal ecology. My work as an adjunct professor in Art and Religious Studies is at Ursuline College. I also teach as an adjunct professor in Creativity Studies for the Gifted at Ashland University. My community includes Warriors Journey Home where I am a board member. WJH Minstries works to assist communities to welcome veterans home from military service.

I am also a faculty member of Lake Erie Institute that offers workshops, retreats, and leadership programs that support the emergence of an Earth-honoring global civilization. Our events and programs re-indigenize Western minds by fostering a relational worldview and an ethic of care for the Earth.

Words and Our Social and Spiritual Conditioning

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If you examine the word, addict, in its Latin roots are to surrender the voice. Culturally, we have a habit of ad-diction. This voice that is surrendered is to be understood in multiple ways at once: Your own point of view, way of perceiving, your way of creativity, your way of dreaming, your way of singing, writing, dancing, your way of loving. Expanding this with other languages, in French, the word for voice, voix, is also the word for vote. And the Chinese word, Tao, tao, when understood as a verb, means, to say.

It’s harsh, but true, that American culture is one that forces persons to surrender their relationship to the Tao, to surrender their Ways.

All of the singing, teaching and healing I do are intended to lead persons out of the Monumental world view and its ad-diction which is also known as normative dissociation.

My mission intends to invite individuals into the Third Great Awakening, a participatory world view of a New Earths and New Heavens, the New Story. This re-mythologization heals our ad-dictive cultural practices. Together, we can restore awareness of all voices and features of our ecosystems in such a way that all life and the cycles of evolution place our minds into relationship with the enduring and nourishing Beauty, the powers that sustain all that is.

Robert Almeder, among others, echoes my experience in the preface to his 1992, Death and Personal Survival: The Evidence for Life After Death. He wrote: “My 1987 book, Beyond Death: Evidence for Life after Death offered a brief defense of personal survival and concluded that the evidence garnered from the best case studies on reincarnation, possession, apparitions of the dead, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and trance mediumship is collectively compelling in ways not yet appreciated either by the public at large or by the scientific, religious, and academic community.”

More recently, theologian Marcus Borg (1942-2015) described this same kind of cultural reality in his 2014 book, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most:

“The trigger for my third (conversion) was a series of experiences that began in my mid-thirties. They weren’t the product of thinking, even though over time they have greatly affected my thinking, perhaps more than anything else has. And they made God real to me.

In retrospect, I understand that they were mystical experiences. But I did not know that at the time. I knew nothing about mysticism. It had not been part of my four years of undergraduate education and five years of graduate study in religion. And whenever I had tried to read books about mysticism, they were utterly opaque. My eyes glazed over. I could not figure out what they were talking about.” (pp. 35-36)

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Educational reformer, Elliot Eisner offered this insight into how our own educational methods actually teach our children to limit their own awareness through the null curricilum – that which is never spoken of in the educational process:

What school programs tend to emphasize is the development of a restrictive conception of thinking. Not all thinking is mediated by words or numbers, nor is all thinking rule-abiding.

Many of the most productive modes of thought are nonverbal and illogical. These modes operate in visual, auditory, metaphoric, synesthetic ways and use forms of conception and expression that far exceed the limits of logically prescribed criteria or discursive, mathematical forms of thinking. When attention to such intellectual processes, or forms, of thinking is absent or marginal, they are not likely to be developed within school programs… (p. 98)

Musical Family Tradition

About

Our family has been blessed by having a living folk music tradition. By that, I mean that we have songs that have been memorized and handed down, that a central aspect of our family gatherings is singing and music. It is expected that persons in our extended family will learn an instrument and sing. This can happen at any point in life.

Reynolds family at the Reynolds Ranch, Porterville, Mississippi

Reynolds family at the Reynolds Ranch, Porterville, Mississippi

The Reynolds cousins at Pea Stock, 2017, in Door County, Wi.

The Reynolds cousins at Pea Stock, 2017, in Door County, Wi.

All of my mentors, all of my family members, my father, my mother, aunts, uncles, brother, sister, my cousins, grandmothers, grandfathers, my students during 30 years of teaching high school, undergraduate, post-graduate, all of my closest friends, colleagues, conference attendees, teachers, veterans, doctors, lawyers, musicians, psychologists, artists, dancers, philosophers that I know – and I mean All, have suffered because of the awe of mystical experiences and psychological symptoms mis-understood, distorted and mis-valued, mis-diagnosed.

All of our cultural institutions I have experienced in my lifetime perpetuate that suffering. It occurs through chronic mis-appropriation of our attention and intention. Our voices and all the voices of nature are silenced. Our receptivity is dumbed down and numbed. The symptom is a collective feeling of powerlessness and profound underestimation of our full potential as human beings.

about Christopher Reynolds, singer, teacher, shaman CLE OH

about Christopher Reynolds, singer, teacher, shaman CLE OH

I am F. Christopher Reynolds, M.Ed., a singer-songwriter, teacher and community shaman from Cleveland, Ohio. My mission is to sing the dream of Peace on Earth onward through empowering as many as possible to share in the Third Great Awakening now occurring in the United States. All of my songs, chants, writings, art, workshops and ceremonies encourage waking up together and participating fully in this Awakening. My main methods are Third Great Awakening Concerts and No Man’s Folk.

Our time of The Third Great Awakening is period of Western Renaissance. The rebirth is a cultural rite of passage out of the modern and late-modern world views, and into an emerging, participatory, holistic, and quantum worldview. We are being invited to courageously participate in tending a sacred relationship with the land and with the Ancestors so that literally, spiritually and metaphorically, the Earth takes its place as the most life-giving of celestial bodies we know, in a galactic consciousness in an ever-expanding cosmos of more than 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies. It has been unfolding now for more than 170 years.

The First Great Awakening occurred in the 13 colonies and Britain in the 1730’s and 1740’s. It was a Protestant movement that emphasized experiences of re-birth through conversion and knowledge of being saved by Christ who was soon to come. The Second Great Awakening occurred in the United States from 1790-1820. It, too, was a Protestant movement that encouraged life and cultural reform, salvation, and, once again, the immanent return of Christ in the Second Coming.

The Third Great Awakening, also calls to a re-birth, an ecological conversion, life and cultural reforms, yet not for a Second Coming of Christ, although it is an integration of essential love and compassion for all beings. Our ‘salvational’ knowledge is to be found at the growing edges in new and unexpected cultural ways for the West. The awakening we are experiencing is not a sudden explosion of awareness, but a very slow and methodical development that has been slowly dismantling old conceptual structures and making way for a new sense of what it means for us to be “home” where we know from direct experience survival and evolution of soul over many lifetimes.

Richard Tarnas in Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View offered wonderful language for what we face together:

The Western mind must be willing to open itself to a reality the nature of which could shatter its most established beliefs about itself and about the world. This is where the real act of heroism is going to be. A threshold must now be crossed, a threshold demanding a courageous act of faith, of imagination, of trust in a larger, more complex reality; a threshold, moreover, demanding an act of unflinching self-discernment. And this is the great challenge of our time, the evolutionary imperative for the masculine to see through its one-sidedness, to own its unconscious shadow, to choose to enter into a fundamentally new relationship of mutuality with the feminine in all its forms. The feminine then becomes not that which must be controlled, denied and exploited, but rather fully acknowledged, respected and responded to for itself. (p. 444)

The Third Great Awakening was nicely explained by Paul Hawken in his book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming, Hawken described awareness to the global transformation now going on, especially in relationship to the environment and social justice.

The protests at Standing Rock in 2016 marked the largest gathering of Indigenous peoples in United States’ History. Environmental respect is a foundation of Earth-based spirituality. Besides the cry, Mni Wiconi! (Water is Sacred), a common statement heard was, Don’t let them fool you, our ways are sacred.

To share in The Third Great Awakening means to move out of the patriarchal modern world view with its notions of a highest God who is in eternal control, as well as, the late-modern world view with its notions of absurd humanity in an accidental and meaningless universe. To be alive now and to not understand the differences between the modern, the late-modern, and emerging participatory world views presently in play are forms of personal and community soul-neglect.

Knowing through direct experience of the emerging participatory world view generally includes a profound feeling of being connected to all that is, a deep reverence for Earth, experiential relationships with Ancestors, and an embodied appreciation for the beauty and vulnerability of life for future generations.

As we awaken to the direction of change, life becomes richer and wiser. By richer, I mean that life deepens as regards direct personal experience of the awe, also known as the numinous, that makes life worth living. By wiser, I mean that when we are mentally oriented so that the modern and late-modern world views are released, our “heart’s horizon” of the numinous becomes a central, guiding element in waking, dreaming, and creative life – especially in times of greatest suffering.

I carry out my mission through original music in Third Great Awakening Concerts, No Man’s Folk, writings, rituals, healing concerts, and workshops.

I am currently performing my new release, The Dreaming Gourd: For Shadow Contact: spiriman@aim.com 440-876-7610