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
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.
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.
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.