The Spiritual Engineering of Sacred Ecstasy
And How to Drink a Glass of Holy Water.
Last spring Brad received a series of visionary dreams about Charles Henry, the late nineteenth/early twentieth century sensory physiologist and multidisciplinary scholar at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Brad first encountered the work of Charles Henry as a young man when a book flew off a shelf in a university library and nearly hit him on the head (see our account of this in Climbing the Rope to God). To make a long story short, Charles Henry had been searching for ways to induce an experience of “the white light,” something Brad experienced as a young man. Henry envisioned a future therapy comprised of a multi-sensory “bath” that would awaken such mystical experience.
We maintain that what Charles Henry sought can be found in the Kalahari laboratory, where all that is needed to see the light and feel the love are clapping hands, stomping feet, trembling bodies, rising hearts, and singing voices. However, the Henry visions taught us that there is more to be noticed and learned. The initial vision of this dream series took place at the same mystical university where Brad had earlier dreamed the ropes (This is one of Hillary’s all time favorite visions that we wrote about in Climbing. It’s called “The Ropes Are Back” if you want to look it up). There in vision we met the foremost scholar on Charles Henry. He was excited that we were there to learn what Henry had to offer seekers of sacred ecstasy. After this beginning vision, there were dreams where Brad was introduced to a particular method or device, only to discover that Henry had invented and experimented with that very same thing many years ago. We allowed these divinely inspired visions to direct us, and over two hundred pages later we have the beginnings of a new contribution to the practical art of nurturing sacred ecstatic experience.
In our book, Sacred Ecstatics, we mention the importance of “spiritual engineering”—paying attention to the embodied action and interaction that take place among people who know how to turn up the spiritual heat. The Charles Henry visions inspired us to more closely examine Sacred Ecstatics from such a practical engineering perspective. Our goal became the identification, articulation, and prescription of the key processes that underlie “getting spiritually cooked.” The result is a series of creative daily practices that can be done alone or with others, all aimed at cultivating the habits that constitute ecstatic living.
In general, you must learn how to experience yourself as a well-tuned resonating body instrument that can conduct, align, and transform acoustic and mechanical vibration in order to amplify sacred emotion and all that it evokes. Simply put, you need a special relationship to changing rhythm, spontaneous movement, soulful tones, and sacred emotion, which is best conveyed through holy song. When these ingredients are mastered and blended in a special way you find the skeleton key that unlocks the gate to the big room and its ecstatic fire.
Enactment of the three-step recipe of Sacred Ecstatics—building sacred ground, getting spiritually cooked, and returning to the everyday with newborn vitality—requires effective spiritual engineering that makes use of the above named ingredients. If you listen to and watch people who know how to light a fire and keep it burning, you will find these ingredients are being employed. If you have joined us for a Sacred Ecstatics intensive, you have experienced these ingredients yourself, even if you were not aware of it. Sacred Ecstatics is a syncretic blend of practical techniques, strategies, and heuristics used by the Kalahari Bushmen of southern Africa, the Shakers of the Caribbean, the early parishioners of sanctified black churches in the United States, and the seiki jutsu practitioners of old Japan. These traditions are the main pragmatic roots of Sacred Ecstatics, though other contributions to the holy pyrotechnics (spiritual fire setting), autokinetics (spontaneous body movements), and ecstatic performing arts (sacred dance and music) of spiritual ecstasy (mystically excited bliss) continue to influence and contribute to our spiritual engineering knowledge.
The high art of sacred ecstatic engineering is your minute by minute, hour by hour escape hatch from the grip of trickster of mind that endlessly interprets as it adds unnecessary layers of names and beliefs until you feel crazy or lost or worse—trapped inside misplaced concreteness and its illusory certainty. The paradox of living is that the big questions cannot be answered in the cold and our desire for semantic answers disappears in the ecstatic heat. You can’t really know this is true, however, until you experience it yourself. We’re not suggesting that you can magically become a fully cooked human being overnight through changing your habits of spiritual engineering. We are saying, however, that without good ecstatic engineering you are guaranteed to stay chilly.
We have witnessed and experienced firsthand how people are able to transform when they consistently stop their habits of psychologizing and instead take ecstatic spiritual action. As one of our mentorship students told us recently, “I’m so thankful for the spiritual engineering of Sacred Ecstatics – I’m amazed at how it makes prayer come alive and feel on fire!”
We join the ecstatics throughout history and invite you to have a new relationship to life that is primarily sonic, rhythmic, and kinetic rather than so heavily linguistic and cog-nistic. In particular, spiritual engineering advises you to not forget sacred emotion, the most important ingredient for spiritual cooking. When you blend all the ingredients together you will turn the divine love wheel and find yourself thrown in the arms of God. Like all relationships, you find that you can’t think your way to love. A true courtship involves song and dance. The heart rises when it is moved by the rhythms and tones of sanctified music that get you on the mystical dance floor where God awaits with a soulful heartbeat.
Drinking a Glass of Holy Water
We’ll pause here because we need to get back to work on the spiritual engineering project, but we’ll leave you with a prescription for action to get you started:
Hold a glass of water in your hand and say a prayer as a personal expression of your longing for God. Choose the simplest tender words such as, “I need Thee every hour” or “Take me, I’m yours.” The next action is most important: sing your prayer and rock your body. This is how you make your prayers become conduits for God’s love to course through you. Pour the awakened and amplified sacred emotion of prayer into the nearby glass of water. See your praying as a feeling workout. This is the time for you to throw some heart and soul into your prayer life. When you finish, have a glass of water. Drink your blessing and make it a part of you. This is how you get things moving toward God’s fountain of life that consists of rhythm, tone, melody, harmony, and the emotion this whole magical mix brings to your heart.
You are better off to throw away your vitamins and start drinking a single glass of prayer-infused holy water every day for the rest of your life. This will make your rope stronger and more able to receive a downpour of ecstatic blessings.
– The Keeneys, September 30, 2017