Story editor Betsy Cornwell looks at Cynthia Bourgeault’s “The Way of the Heart,” from our spring 2017 issue. Cynthia is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat leader. Among her many books are The Meaning of Mary Magdalene and The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three.
Now it may concern some of you that you’re hearing Islamic teaching here, not Christian. And it may well be true that this understanding of the heart as “spiritualized mind”— “the organ prepared by God for contemplation”—has been brought to its subtlest and most comprehensive articulation in the great Islamic Sufi masters. As early as the tenth century, Al-Hakîm al Tirmidhî’s masterful Treatise on the Heart laid the foundations for an elaborate Sufi understanding of the heart as a tripartite physical, emotional, and spiritual organ.4 On this foundation would gradually rise an expansive repertory of spiritual practices supporting this increasingly “sensitive, focused, energized, subtle, and refined” heart attunement.
But it’s right there in Christianity as well. Aside from the incomparable Orthodox teachings on Prayer of the Heart collected in the Philokalia, it’s completely scriptural. Simply open your Bible to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:8) and read the words straight from Jesus himself: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
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