LIVING THE DIVINE SPIRITUALLY AND POLITICALLY: ART, RITUAL AND PERFORMATIVE/PEDAGOGY IN WOMEN’S MULTI-FAITH LEADERSHIP BARBARA ANN BICKEL B.A., The University of Alberta, 1984 B.F.A., The University of Calgary, 1992 M.A., The University of British Columbia, 2004 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Curriculum Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) June, 2008 © Barbara Ann Bickel, 2008 ii Abstract In a world of increasing religious/political tensions and conflicts this study asks, what is the transformative significance of an arts and ritual-based approach to developing and encouraging women’s spiritual and multi-faith leadership? To counter destructive worldviews and practices that have divided people historically, politically, personally and sacredly, the study reinforces the political and spiritual value of women spiritual and multi-faith leaders creating and holding sacred space for truth making and world making. An a/r/tographic and mindful inquiry was engaged to assist self and group reflection within a group of women committed to multi-faith education and leadership in their communities. The objectives of the study were: 1) to explore through collaboration, ritual and art making processes the women’s experience of knowing and not knowing, 2) to articulate a curriculum for multi-faith consciousness raising, and 3) to develop a pedagogy and methodology that can serve as a catalyst for individual and societal change and transformation. The co-participants/co-inquirers (including the lead researcher as a member of the group) are fourteen women, who practice within eleven different religions and/or spiritual backgrounds, and who are part of a volunteer planning team that organizes an annual women’s multi-faith conference (Women’s Spirituality Celebration) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The aesthetic/ritual structure of the labyrinth served as a cross-cultural multi-faith symbol in guiding the dissertation, which includes three art installations and four documentary DVDs of the process and art. New understandings found in the study include: 1) the ethical sanctuary that a/r/tography as ritual enables for personal and collective change to take place within, 2) the addition of synecdoche to the renderings of a/r/tography, assisting a multi- dimensional spiral movement towards a whole a/r/tographic practice, 3) a lived and radically relational curriculum of philetics within loving community that drew forth the women’s erotic life force energy and enhanced the women’s ability to remember the power of the feminine aspect of the Divine, and 4) the decolonization of the Divine, art and education, which took place as a pedagogy of wholeness unfolded, requiring a dialectic relationship between restorative and transformative learning. iii Table of Contents Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i Table of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii List of Images and DVDs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . x Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvi Curatorial Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Chapter 1: Sacred Inquiry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Sacred Inquiry: An Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 The Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 The Research Site . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 The Problem: Religious Pluralism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Spirituality and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Mindful Inquiry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 The Practice of A/r/tography as Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Addressing Complications of the Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Transformation as the Joyful Revolt of the Uninvited Guest . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Novel Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Chapter 2: A/r/tography as Radical Relatedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 A Journey with A/r/tography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Laying the Ground for A/r/tography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Kenneth Beittel: Artist/Researcher/Educator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 A/r/tography and Self/Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 A/r/tography as a Relational Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 A/r/tographic Renderings and the Labyrinth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The Rhetorical Triad of Metaphor/Metonymy/Synecdoche: Extending a Rendering . . 47 A/r/tography as Ritual and Performative/Pedagogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Reverence and the Sacred . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Sacred Epistemology and a Pedagogy of Wholeness . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 An A/r/tographic Vision of Collaboration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 At the Labyrinth Entrance: Art Installation I Researcher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Writing For/With Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Curatorial Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Chapter 3: Re/Turning to Her . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Artist Introductions: Barbara Bickel and Tannis Hugill . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Introduction to the Ritual Inquiry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Co-creating with Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Trance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 In the Dance Studio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Re/Turning to Her: The Performance Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 iv Post-Performance Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Delving Deeper into the Re/Turn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Unthought Being: Returning to the Source . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 The Walk into the Labyrinth: Art Installation II Teacher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Curatorial Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 Chapter 4: Womb Entering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 Artist Introductions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 Introduction to the Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Mistica . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Women’s Sacred Space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Women’s Spiritual Leadership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Sacred Epistemology and Pedagogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 From Private to Public: A Pedagogy of Unknowing . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 Womb Entering: The Art Exhibitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 The Individual Created Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 The Co-created Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 Woman Spirit Shield . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 Her Divine Countenance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Womb Entering Gallery Installations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Becoming Sacred Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154 In the Center of the Labyrinth: Art Installation III Artist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157 Curatorial Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Chapter 5: Stillpoint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Waterlessness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 Dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 Visual Writing Within the Stillpoint of Art and the Labyrinth . . . . . . . . . . 164 Watering the Erotic Connection With The Divine Feminine . . . . . . . . . 166 Crossing the Water to be Hugged . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178 Voicing the Stones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181 Re-integration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 Ecstatic Trance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190 Walk out of the Labyrinth A/r/tographer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192 Curatorial Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 Chapter 6: Expanding the Sacred Cycle of Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 Leaving the Womb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195 Guidelines for Assessing Validity in the Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198 Feminist Guidelines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199 Tenants of Mindful Inquiry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203 Four Commitments within A/r/tography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204 Participation in the Whole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 vA Connective Aesthetic and Radical Relatedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210 Extending the Sacred Circle: New Visions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212 Holding Sacred Space and Women’s Spiritual Leadership . . . . . . . . . . . 214 Living the Divine Politically and Spiritually . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218 Religious Disidentification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220 From Private to Public . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 222 Decolonization of Art and the Divine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 Cosmic Christ Blessing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227 Spiritual Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228 Restorative and Transformative Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229 Walking the Nomadic Feminist Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232 Naked Feet Keep Walking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238 Postscript: Emergent Understandings from the Labyrinth Walk . . . . . . . . . 243 Elaborations on A/r/tography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244 Women’s Spiritual and Multi-faith Leadership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245 The Philetics of a Loving community as a Base of Art, Education and Spirituality . . . 247 Ritual as Performative /Pedagogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248 Appendix A Research Schedule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265 Appendix B Re/Turning to Her Invitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266 Appendix C Re/Turning to Her Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 267 Appendix D Womb Entering Group Trance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268 Appendix E Womb Entering Posters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271 Appendix F Womb Entering Performance Ritual Outline . . . . . . . . . . . . 273 Appendix G Womb Entering Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275 Appendix H Womb Entering A/r/tographic Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277 Appendix I Stillpoint Art Invitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279 Appendix J Voicing the Stones Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .280 Appendix K Stillpoint Art Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281 Appendix L Stillpoint A/r/tographic Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282 Appendix M Stillpoint DVD cover . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 284 Appendix N Patti Lather’s Guidelines for Validity in Qualitative Research . . . . . 285 Ethic Certificates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286 vi List of Images and DVDs 1 Wreck Beach Cretan labyrinth in sand – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 Thirty Days of Mandalas - day fourteen – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 3 Visual Writing Mandala - February, 9, 2008 – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 4 Visual Writing Mandala - November, 1, 2007 – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 5 Re/Turning to Her –video still.69 6 Tannis and Barbara in Authentic Movement – video still . . . . . . . . . . . 74 7 Tannis and Barbara in Authentic Movement – video still . . . . . . . . . . . 74 8 Tannis and Barbara in Authentic Movement – video still . . . . . . . . . . . 74 9 Re/Turning to Her – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 10 Labyrinth from above – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 11 Re/Turning to Her – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 12 Re/Turning to Her – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 13 Re/Turning to Her – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 14 Re/Turning to Her – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 15 Re/Turning to Her, dress rehearsal – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 16 Re/Turning to Her, dress rehearsal – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 17 Re/Turning to Her performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 18 Re/Turning to Her performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 19 Re/Turning to Her performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 20 Re/Turning to Her performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 21 Re/Turning to Her performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 22 Re/Turning to Her performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 23 Cathy Bone’s backyard labyrinth – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 24 Her Divine Countenance (top view) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 25 Her Divine Countenance in process – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 26 Women’s Spirituality Celebration front altar installation – photo . . . . . . . . 117 27 Women’s Spirituality Celebration central altar installation – photo . . . . . . . 119 28 Women’s Spirituality Celebration dancing the altars ritual performance – photo . . . 119 29 Womb Entering performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 30 Womb Entering performance ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 vii 31 Womb Entering performance ritual – video still. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 32 Untitled – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 33 La madre del mar- photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 34 Dance of the Holy Spirit – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133 35 Untitled – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133 36 Virgin Bride – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 37 The Lap of Generosity – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 38 Ancient Wisdom – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 39 Gaia – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 40 Awaking Grace – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 41 Untitled- photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 42 Priestessing for the Divine Feminine – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 43 The Elder – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 44 animal/vegetable/mineral/animal- photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 45 Woman Spirit Shield – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 46 Her Divine Countenance (top view details) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . 144 47 Her Divine Countenance (top view details) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . 144 48 Her Divine Countenance (top view details) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . 144 49 Her Divine Countenance (underside view) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 50 Divine Countenance namasté hand being painted by Shirin – photo . . . . . . . 146 51 Her Divine Countenance installation (post performance ritual) – photo . . . . . . 146 52 Womb Entering entrance altar – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 53 Womb Entering inside altar and sanctuary – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . 148 54 Womb Entering installation – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 55 Womb Entering art opening – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 56 Womb Entering installation – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151 57 Womb Entering installation- photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 58 Womb Entering – St. Marks Anglican/Trinity United Church entrance with invitation board – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153 59 Womb Entering board room installation – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153 60 Water Labyrinth (detail) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158 61 Thirty Days of Mandalas - day three – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 62 Solstice Labyrinth – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165 viii 63 Thread Labyrinth in Studio A – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166 64 Stillpoint altar – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 65 Stillpoint, Cretan altar (detail) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 66 Sewing the Water Labyrinth – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 67 Sewing the Water Labyrinth – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 68 Water Labyrinth (detail) – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 69 Water Labyrinth – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 70 Contra Pedagogical Time/Walk on Sand- photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 71 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 72 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 73 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 74 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 75 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 76 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 77 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 78 Waterwalk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 79 Foot washing ceremony – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179 80 Studio walk – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182 81 Voicing the Stones performance ritual - video stills . . . . . . . . . . . . 184 82 Stillpoint Art Installation – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 83 Stillpoint Art Installation – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 84 Stillpoint Performance Ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 85 Stillpoint Performance Ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 86 Stillpoint Performance Ritual – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 87 Visual Writing Mandala - December 2, 2007 – photo. . . . . . . . . . . . 189 88 Stillpoint triptych labyrinth altar – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192 89 WSC Vision – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 90 Womb Entering performance ritual – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196 91 Womb Entering performance ritual – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197 92 Dancing the Altars performance ritual – photo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210 93 The Foot Washing –photo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236 94 Water Labyrinth Walk – video still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 ix 1 Re/Turning to Her: Performance Ritual Inquiry Documentary DVD . . . . . . . . . 68 2 Womb Entering –The Co-Creative Process – DVD 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 3 Womb Entering Art - DVD 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 4 Stillpoint: A Reflective Artful Inquiry – DVD compilation . . . . . . . . . . 160 xGlossary altar – traditionally, an altar is a raised structure used to hold sacred religious objects for use in ceremonies. In women spirituality ritual circles, an altar is a central area that can hold a variety of objects that are significant to the women as personal, historical, religious or spiritual, and political artifacts. Objects on the alter are rendered sacred by their intentional placement. apophatic – “... a Western theological tradition that is less well known than its kataphatic counterpart.... Aphophatism is a “negative way,” a knowing by unknowing,” which means more than simply an absence of knowledge but asks as well for a surrender of the ego, a receptive waiting for the hidden god (Shantz, 1999, pp. 64-65); it is basically a way to God or Goddess (Spirit) by removing obstacles in the way, by dissolving images of, and letting go of what we think (and have been taught) Spirit is supposed to be. arational - the arational is recognized as the non-rational in a philosophical definition of mysticism but does not merit its own definition within the HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy. The arational (drawing from Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser and mystical traditions) is a form of knowing that includes the body, the emotions, the senses, intuition, imagination, creation making, the mystical, spiritual and the relational, alongside the rational. The arational can be found in the practices of art, meditation, psychoanalysis, the body, the senses, and so on. (Bickel, 2007, p. 239). art - is the expression of spirit coming into form. Within this frame of understanding, art is a living practice of opening to spirit; being humbled in the presence of spirit’s incarnation, and developing disciplined practices of acquiring technical skills and abilities to express spirit arts-based priestessing - working with art as the arational base for guiding creative ritual processes and/or creative spiritual practices; priestessing is self-proclaimed rather than officially given sanction by any necessary authority or traditional hierarchy of sanctification. collaboration - is a “with/and” experience. It is a conscious working relationship with another or others that requires each participant to join with the collective, and extend beyond their own personal self in an effort to create something that is greater than the individuals involved. Divine Feminine – can refer to female deities of pre-historic and historical religions. It can also be understood as Luce Irigaray recognizes “... that, unless a mode of a female divine can be imagined, women will not be able to affirm their own identity in a way that liberates them from their previous symbolic confinement” (Joy, 2006. p. 23). Irigaray argues the divine feminine is embodied in all women and all relationships and needs to be recognized as such by women to reclaim subjecthood (p. 20). Divine – Amma’s teaching of the Divine is that, “[t]he Divine is present in everyone, in all beings, in everything. Like space it is everywhere, all pervading, all powerful, all knowing. The Divine is the principle of Life, the inner light of consciousness, and pure bliss--It is our very own Self.” (Amma, 2007, p. 2) education - is a life long interrelationship between learning and teaching. Ideally, it draws from rational and arational ways of knowing and engages autonomous and relational forms of xi learning/teaching in its pursuit of diverse and transformative knowledge practices and construction. erotic – Audrey Lorde wrote, “The very word erotic comes from the Greek work eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony.... it is an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our living, our work, out lives.” (Lorde, 1995, p. 241) feminist spirituality – when engaged, as bell hooks (2000) wrote, “... created a space for everyone to interrogate outmoded belief systems and created new paths, representing god in diverse ways, restoring our respect for the sacred feminist, it has helped us to find ways to affirm and/or re-affirm the importance of spiritual life. Identifying liberation from any form of domination and oppression as essentially a spiritual quest, returns us to a spirituality which unites spiritual practice with our struggles for [political] justice and liberation. A feminist vision of spiritual fulfillment is naturally the foundation of authentic spiritual life” (p. 109). Spiritual feminist Carol P. Christ (1979) claimed that spiritual feminists’ work with “[c]hange and touch, process, embodiment, and relationship… [to get to] the heart of … re-imaginings of God and the world….” (p. 1). guru – a master teacher (used in Eastern religious traditions). One who is dedicated to making the path visible for the student and holds space for their growth as a total commitment of their relationship. In this sense, a guru is not limited to a religious and spiritual domain but may be found in all domains of learning (e.g., philectic teaching and learning). Her – returning to an understanding of the Divine as manifest in a woman’s body in a patriarchal society requires the reclaiming of feminine-based pronouns as sacred utterances. Kosmos –the integral philosopher Ken Wilber wrote, “...the original meaning of Kosmos was the patterned nature or process of all domains of existence, from matter to math to theos, and not merely the physical universe, which is usually what both “cosmos” and “universe” mean today.” (Wilber, 1995, p. 38) immanence – refers to the embodiment of the Divine. “Immanence calls us to live our spirituality here in the world” (Starhawk, 1989, p. 10); in its healthy form, immanence integrates with transcendence as part of growth and development. labyrinth – “The archetypal classical labyrinth design consists of a single pathway that loops back and forth to form seven circuits, bounded by eight walls, surrounding the central goal. It is found in both circular and square forms.... Found in historical contexts throughout Europe, North Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Indonesia, this is also the design that occurs in the American Southwest and occasionally in South America” (Saward, 2005, p. 1). Lauren Artress (2006) wrote, “Labyrinths are unicursal. They have one well-defined path that leads us into the center and back out again. Mazes, on the other hand, are multicursal. They offer a choice of paths, some with many entrances and exits.... the unicursal path of the labyrinth is what differentiates it and sets it apart as a spiritual tool. The labyrinth does not engage our thinking minds. It invites our intuitive, pattern-seeking, symbolic mind to come forth. It presents us with only one, but profound, choice. To enter a labyrinth is to choose to walk a spiritual path” (pp. 51-52). xii multi-faith - the current Women’s Spirituality Celebration (WSC) planning team has defined multi-faith as people of diverse spiritual and religious traditions worshipping together and sharing each others faith practices, while remaining rooted in their own tradition that may or may not be connected to a religious faith. They distinguish it from creating a hybrid religion or spiritual practice that draws many traditions together; however, multi-faith, in the WSC sense, would include either approach. multi-faith consciousness-raising – I link the two terms multi-faith and consciousness-raising as they reflect a branch of the feminist consciousness raising of the 1970s-80s that was so important in changing women’s understandings of themselves in relation to the dominant patriarchal paradigm. oracle – eg., Tarot, I Ching, Astrology, Runes, palmistry. These techniques employ intuition and psychic powers to expand consciousness beyond the ordinary everyday consciousness. performance ritual – I combine the terms performance and ritual as ways to acknowledge and connect art with the sacred. As ritual emerged from within my art practice and most often takes place within a gallery setting, I have chosen to use the art term of performance before ritual. philetics – is one of three teaching/learning styles based on Harry Broudy’s pedagogical theory: “philetic, heuristic, and didactic, Philetics emphasize their relationships with students...” (McHugh, P. 1974, p. 476). Kenneth Beittel elaborates the philetic as one who assists, through the act of loving, the emergence of creation or what he calls “arting” (p. 7). priestess – in a contemporary context, a priestess is a woman who take spiritual leadership roles in the work of ritual, be they roles sanctified by a traditional authority or self-proclaimed. religious pluralism – as defined by religious scholar Diana Eck (2002) tackles the challenges of a global interdependent world through fully knowing the roots of one’s own religious faith and being willing to study and understand the roots of other religious traditions-- and in doing so, to understand the interrelatedness of all religious traditions. reverence – an honouring and acknowledgment of the mystery and sacred beauty of all life. ritual – is a practice of creating sanctuary for awareness of the sacred-- of Divine presence in ones life, community or the world. Within the container of ritual group’s or individual’s attention is heightened and focused by beholding all actions (which can involve art making, researching and teaching) with reverence. Within ritual expressions of the sacred can be expressed through “... gestures, postures, dances, [and] patterns of movement” (Crossley, 2004, p. 32). “Ritual activity facilitates the penetration and embodiment of symbols into human selves and societies” (Grimes, 2003, p. 38). sacred - honoring, receiving, and holding reverence for mystery. Ritual theorist Ronald Grimes (1995) clarifies that, “Sacred” is the name we give to the deepest forms of receptivity in our experience” (p. 69). Reason (1993) suggests, “Sacred experience is based in reverence, in awe and love for creation, valuing it for its own sake, in its own right as a living presence. It is based in emotions– zest, joy, passion– that help the life process flow as opposed to the stuck unexpressed emotions that may distort experience“ (p. 278). xiii sacred epistemology – “... places us in a noncompetitive, nonhierarchical relationship to the earth, to nature, and to the larger world (Bateson, 1972, p. 335). This sacred epistemology stresses the values of empowerment, shared governance, care, solidarity, love, community, covenant, morally involved observers, and civic transformation (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, pp. 36-37). sacred space – Lauren Artress (2006) describes sacred space in its complexity as, “... the place where two worlds flow into each other, the visible with the invisible. The finite world touches the infinite. In sacred space we can let down our guard and remember who we are. The rational mind may be released. In sacred space we walk from chronos time to kairos time, as we allow our intuitive self to emerge” (p. 155). Source – is the “ground of being” referred to by many spiritual teachers (e.g., Andrew Cohen, Paul Tillich) as the void from which all life arises. It also “evokes a spring or a fountain, water springing up from under the earth, and the waters of life (including the waters of birth)” (Christ, 2003, p. 8). Spirit – is understood as the dialectic unfolding of consciousness through the universal and the plural, the One and the Many (Ferrer, 2002. p. 183) spirituality - as understood within this research, includes but is not limited to the adherence to and practice of particular religious doctrines. It is one’s deepest connection and knowing of the sacred, Divine, God, Goddess, spirit, Source, Kosmos. Spirituality is immanent and transcendent, infusing ones mind, body, and soul. spiritual feminism – see feminist spirituality spiritual leadership – can include leadership affiliated with a religious institution or tradition, or it may be based in a person’s commitment to leading as a spiritual person in one’s personal life or community. In this dissertation a spiritual leader is identified as one who is actively giving to their community to enhance spiritual growth and awareness. synecdoche – derived from a Greek word which means “simultaneous understanding.” It is closely related to metaphor and metonymy and denotes the part of something in relation to the whole or the whole of something in relation to the part. trance – can be described as a form of active or process meditation and visioning, a waking dream state, and a practice of active imagination or free association; where one can journey to other realities through an altered state of consciousness. Within the waking-dream-state of trance, time and space become fluid, non-linear, and most normal physical restrictions and barriers dissolve. transcendence – rather than a notion of “leaving behind” which the word transcendence most often evokes, I draw from Ken Wilber’s (2000) analogy of “the cell that transcends—or goes beyond—its molecular components, but also includes them. Molecules transcend and include atoms, which transcend and include particles... (p. 27); transcendence is a movement of growth and development toward greater embrace of reality—which, in its healthy form, integrates with immanence. xiv unconditional love – is a ‘gift’-- love that is shared freely without the needs of its giver motivating the giving of it—that is, without conditions or expectations attached to it. Void – a Buddhist term (Sunyata) meaning absolute emptiness, from which relative form arises; it refers to the ontological reality that all form is laden with impermanence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunyata) witch – “... is a “shaper,” a creator, who bends the unseen into form, and so becomes one of the Wise, one whose life is infused with magic” (Starhawk, 1989, p. 22). wholeness – Parker Palmer (2004) describes wholeness as “...not mean[ing] perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life” (p. 5). It is distinguished from “Wholism” which professes the absolute attainment of a whole which then excludes parts. Wholeness, includes both parts and the whole. As the part becomes whole it becomes a part of the whole again in an ever evolving expanding process (Wilber, 1995, p. 36-37). xv Acknowledgements A dissertation does not come to fruition in isolation. There are numerous people who have supported, nourished and sustained me along the path. My deep felt gratitude goes to the thirteen women who were the co-inquirers in the study and inspiration for the art installations: Mary Bennett, Cathy Bone, Monica Brammer, Melodie Chant, Sophia Freigang, Tannis Hugill, Nané Ariadne Jordan, Valerie Lys, Medwyn McConachy, Ingrid Rose, Annie Smith, Shirin Theophilus, and Catherine Wilcox. It is the circle of trust and erotic life force passion created by these women that holds me still as I take my next steps into the world. A dissertation requires compassionate and clear mentors and I thank my committee members for their support and wise guidance on this journey: Dr. Rita Irwin (my supervisor), Dr. Daniel Vokey and Dr. William Pinar. I also, have been blessed with an inspiring live-in mentor, my life-partner R. Michael Fisher, who created art pieces and hung them by my writing desk, changing them as needed: a myriad of colourful support quenching the thirst of my visual soul while writing. It is his scholastic rigor and love of learning and teaching that drew me into graduate studies. Unfailingly, he supported me in heart, mind, body and soul throughout the dissertation. My thanks is extended to the friends and family who supported me and the work of this dissertation in many small and significant ways, Wende Bartley, Mary Blaze, Eva Tihanyi, Vanessa Fisher, Leah Fisher, Chris Koppitz, Celeste Snowber, and Leslie Stanick. The Women Writing Women Collective of Luanne Armstrong, Danielle Arsenault, Lynn Fels, Gillian Gerhard, Cindy Lou Griffith, Karen Hawkins, Alyson Hoy, Nané Jordan, Wendy Nielsen, Jennifer Peterson, Annie Smith, Jeannie Stubbs and Valerie Triggs was invaluable in listening to, editing and encouraging me as a ‘writer.’ As well, I would like to acknowledge the many past and current women of the Women’s Spirituality Celebration planning team who have and continue to nourish women’s spiritual leadership in the world: Rejoice Anthony, Karen Bartlett, Laura Bowie, Corrine Chepil, Susan Dumoulin, Angelica Jane Taggart, and Jandyra Walker. May the many circles of trust that have touched me on this journey continue to expand and enrich the work of the Divine in this world. xvi Dedication I dedicate the art and writing of this dissertation to the lineage of spiritual seekers and teachers that have preceded me in my family of origin. May the Divine in its many forms continue to reveal itself and take hold in the generations to follow. 1Curatorial Statement Image 1 Bickel, Barbara, and Jordan, Nané. (2007). Wreck Beach Cretan labyrinth in sand. Vancouver, BC (Video still). 2Curatorial Statement [I]t is a very kind thing to invite women together and hold carefulness amongst us, and I think your clarity... helped set intention of being gentle with each other, as you asked us to expose our bellies to each other... that was not without its power or assertiveness ... [it] is very, very political, very global. - Cathy Bone (co-inquirer/co-participant in the study) What if women were acknowledged spiritual leaders within our religious institutions and our society? 1 These two opening quotes span the personal and political dimensions of this study which asks, what is the transformative significance of an arts and ritual-based approach to developing and encouraging women’s spiritual and multi-faith leadership? Led by spirit, art, and the art making process, this dissertation inquires into the importance and difficulties of women’s multi- faith leadership. Their struggles, like many others, reflect a global world’s struggle to live respectfully and without fear in the midst of religious diversity and difference (Dalai Lama, 1997, 1999; Eck, 2002). To assist the politically laden inquiry the dissertation study employs the ritual care of art, care in relationships with diverse others, and care of the Divine self. Working in the subaltern of women’s religious and spiritual leadership, this dissertation risks the exposure and questioning of “truth making” (Ahmed, 2003, p. 379) testimonials of the women co-participants/co-researchers and myself as co-participant/curator/lead researcher, in bearing witness to what has been oppressed, repressed, hidden and/or lost. Feminist and cultural studies scholar Sara Ahmed recognizes the interconnections of the story or testimony of subaltern woman as a political act of “truth making” in the service of “world making” where truth is made and remade (p. 383). I offer the aesthetic architecture of the labyrinth and its embodied and contemplative practice as a guide for truth making and world making that is cross-cultural and ancient, to assist the spiritual feminist movement through the a/r/tographic installation that is this dissertation. The sacred structure of the labyrinth is a container for all the turns of this dissertation journey, from entry into the labyrinth at the moment of decision to research the Women’s Spirituality Celebration (WSC) planning team, to dwelling in the center during the self-reflective one month solo artist residency, to the exit of the labyrinth at the public doctoral oral defense. 1 Excerpt from the opening statement from a description written for the Women’s Spirituality Celebration by their Roots ‘n’ Future committee, 2007. 3The symbol of the labyrinth incorporates a unicursal walking pattern, offering a single path that once entered, carries one into the center and back on a pathway that turns in all directions. Although physically walked on a horizontal earthly plane, one’s consciousness can descend and ascend during the walk, entering altered and potentially subversive dimensions of time, space, and place. It is a sacred walk that often enacts a spiritual/political pilgrimage. The curatorial intention of this dissertation installation is to invite others to experience walking the pilgrimage, through entering multiple realms of knowing and not knowing, of being and beingness that spirit, through the medium of art, leads us toward. If not a sacred pilgrimage, the dissertation may be entered as a postmodern art installation that is non-linear, questioning of hegemonic traditions and power relationships particularly in the spirit of the feminist art movement. That said, this dissertation can be read and experienced at many levels depending on the particular perspective(s) one enters with, for example political, spiritual, artistic, and educational. Multiple aspects of spiritual pilgrimages and “truth making as world-making,” within the community of women spiritual and multi-faith leaders of the WSC are reflected in the art that leads the writing of this dissertation. Three art projects direct the walk into the center of the labyrinth; Re/Turning to Her, Womb Entering, and Stillpoint. Art that is spirit-led is demanding, in that its depths cannot be fully experienced through a quick objective glance. It calls to be lingered with, as one lingers on a long stroll with a lover. To assist the experience of lingering, video DVD’s of the art-making process and art are included in the three installation chapters as essential components of the labyrinthal walk, along with the art images and poetry. The writing of the dissertation began at the moment of realization in the center-stillpoint of the labyrinthal dissertation journey. It is in the center of the labyrinth where one stops and awaits for the wisdom of the Divine, in whatever form that wisdom may take. Wisdom involves encountering one’s place in the larger cosmos (Fox, 1988). It is not limited to intelligence in a rational form. It draws from the right and left hemispheres of the brain (Bolte Taylor, 2008), employing “both analysis and synthesis,” it is “playful and erotic” (Fox, 1988, p. 21). Rhineland Mystic, Hildegard of Bingen posits that wisdom lives in “the very act of birthing and creativity in intercommunion with the forces of the universe” (Hildegard of Bingen, 1985, p. 49). The walk through the dissertation installation is not restricted to a linear and/or analytic reading and may cause perturbation at times for the reader/viewer, as it simultaneously reveals and subverts from direct view the mysteries of the world-making experience of the women spiritual leaders. Chapter One is an introduction to the dissertation study, and includes some of the her/history behind the WSC. It offers theoretical underpinnings of the work as a form of “joyful revolt” 4(Kristeva, 2002), and “free association” within “pedagogical imagination” (Britzman, 2006). Chapter Two focuses on the emerging arts-based method of a/r/tography, a/r/tography as ritual, and the development of a conception of radical relationality within a/r/tography. Chapter Three introduces Re/Turning to Her (2005-06) as the first entry into the research as a researcher-self, involving co-inquiry and a performance ritual into the unknown with healing artist, Tannis Hugill. In this chapter the path of the labyrinth intimately introduces the dissertation modality of research through a sacred structure meant for walking. A relational aesthetic unfolds through the art making process as we travel the spiritual path of being within “intuitive darkness” (Shannon, 1981, p.12) as a way of “knowing by unknowing” (Shantz,1999, p. 65). It is here that we encounter and grieve the estrangement of the Divine Feminine. In Chapter Four the walk into the labyrinth continues and deepens, and the teacher-self is fully activated in the installation of Womb Entering (2006-07). With a community of fourteen women as co-inquirers/co-participants (from this point on I will use the single term co-inquirers), the spiritual inquiry becomes a community learning journey. The spiritual unfolding of the group is revealed through the art making process. Nourished by the care and compassion of the women, the erotic as the Divine Feminine emerges as an individual and collective force, propelling the group to reveal themselves publicly and to celebrate courageously within a mixed-gender audience at the opening performance ritual of the Womb Entering installation. In Chapter Five the installation entitled Stillpoint (July 2007) reflects the creation of one’s own education where I, as the lead researcher, return to the artist-self, nourishing my depleted self on an island surrounded by water, which becomes the metaphoric center of the labyrinth and the dissertation journey. The chapter begins with a disturbing dream. It is a collective dream of the subaltern; of women spiritual leaders creating sacred space to engage with world making, and the personal, political, historical, and sacred obstacles they face in doing this work. This unexpected dramatic dream holds associative elements and energies of a collective historical trauma of loss predominant in many women’s lives. It reflected for me women’s tenuous autonomy, empowerment, and status as spiritual leaders and healers that was systematically removed during the Middle Ages when witch burnings and hangings were carried out by the Medieval Church (Goldenberg, 1982). The chapter closes with an ecstatic trance journey that recognizes the renewable source of writing as one’s own blood. The final Chapter Six, is the walk out of the labyrinth. The complexity and fragility of women’s spiritual multi-faith leadership is acknowledged and expressed. Within this chapter the need for greater understanding of “restorative learning” (Lange, 2004) and an arts-based approach in the work of “decolonizing the Divine” (Alexander, 52005; Fernandes, 2003) is brought forward as a crucial aspect of affective and effective women’s multi-faith and spiritual leadership. It involves walking through what was discovered through the lens of the artist/researcher/teacher on the walk in, and what was revealed in the dissertation research from the co-researchers/co-participants. 6Chapter One Sacred Inquiry Image 2 Bickel, Barbara. (2008). Thirty Days of Mandalas – day fourteen. Toronto Island, ON: Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts, (Ink on paper). 7Sacred Inquiry: An Introduction Spirit knowledge/knowing [i]s the medium through which a great number of women in the world make their lives intelligible. It is at these crossroads of subjectivity and collectivity, Sacred knowing and power, memory, and body, that we sojourn so as to examine their pedagogic content to see how they might instruct us in the complicated undertaking of Divine self-invention. (Jacqui Alexander, 2005, p. 299-300) This collaborative a/r/tographic dissertation study carries forth a sacred inquiry, an embodied heart and mind inquiry into the complexity of women’s spiritual and religious multi- faith leadership and pedagogy that holds an intention of offering “what is sacred within us to the life of the world” (Rilke cited in Palmer, 2005, n. p.). Obstacles are many in the work of bringing spirit knowing into the world. I often feel that I am “fighting a loosing battle”1 as a spiritual woman artist working within a secular society and now researching and learning/teaching within the secular academy. I find myself questioning, how does one let go of “winning” yet not give up the battle to lead a sacred life of Divine self-invention? These thoughts have increased as I have come into closer contact with institutions and their architectures of higher learning and the hegemonic powers that imbue them. I have been grateful for the inspired academic teachers/theorists I have encountered on my journey. I am encouraged to write an “alternative” dissertation because of those that have led and done so before me (e.g., the many dissertations described in Four Arrows, 2008; Sinner et al., 2006). I know the voices of alternative creative narratives are essential to uphold within institutions to counterbalance the power discourses, if we are to challenge limiting hegemonies from within. Despite this I frequently silence myself and find myself returning to the words feminist poet Audre Lorde wrote (1984), “In the cause of silence,...each of us draws the face of her own fear – fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live” (p. 42). Alexander (2005) defines the epistemology of the sacred as immortal and “linked to the pulse of energy of creation” (p. 326). The life force that is the sacred, she shares is simultaneously individual and collective, involving “multiple praxis of embodiment” (p. 326) that includes yet moves beyond, the body and involves a “rewiring of the senses” (p. 328). To take the sacred seriously she writes “would mean coming to wrestle with the dialectic of permanent impermanence” (p. 327). The Western rational enlightenment paradigm, she argues, is unable to see from its hegemonic position the mystery of the sacred, and as such is destructive of life force energy. Undertaking the mysterious work of the sacred, and rewiring the senses is 8laden with contradictions in our Western society and is not easy work. The threat of being misunderstood is always looming. Despite the difficulty of work that includes the sacred, qualitative researchers Yvonna Lincoln and Norman Denzin (2000) in writing of the bridge between the past and future in qualitative research, encourage “that we make ourselves visible [and vulnerable] in our texts. Each of us is a universal singular, universalizing in our singularity the crises and experiences of our historical epoch” (p. 1053). My story, as an artist/researcher/teacher on a sacred spiritual path, is deeply embedded within this dissertation. Autobiographical narratives are interspersed throughout the dissertation as I universalize my singularity through the experiences of my/our her/historical epoch. I introduce myself by offering a brief her/history of my spiritual lineage. I am a descendant of Lutheran missionaries and farmers from Germany. I am a granddaughter, daughter, and niece of Lutheran ministers, raised in a relatively protected and privileged environment that did not encourage questions within its male-dominated tradition. As a child and young person, my silence and compliance was rewarded with familial and religious ‘security.’ As an independent young woman, traveling in Europe and exploring religious and cultural sanctuaries (such as cathedrals, museums, and historical sites), engaging an art practice and studying yoga, I discovered a spirituality that was not limited to religious institutions and doctrines. This ‘new’ spirituality was grounded in felt experience, the body, and the act of creating. Today, as a spiritual feminist, artist, researcher, and educator, I locate my practice within “a sacred, existential epistemology” (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005, pp. 36-37) as well as a “spirited epistemology” where “[e]very education event is movement toward a metanoia, the passage of spirit from alienation into a deeper awareness of oneself” (Vella, 2000, p. 10). In 2000-01, I embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage to my German motherland (without physically traveling there) via an art project entitled Illuminatus. This art project, led by a longing to reconnect with my female spiritual heritage, directed me to female Christian mystics of the thirteenth century through books and art, and consequently to the female spiritual and religious heritage that proceeded them. During this project, I began to incorporate writing with my visual art, and ritually performed with some trepidation for the first time alone in a church sanctuary.2 In studying the Northern mythologies of my ancestors I discovered that, ... [p]re-Christian European cultural traditions are well-known to have nurtured the presence of female visionaries, prophetesses and wise women known as Volvas, who lived and practiced their art in northern Europe. Their skills, respected and valued, were integral to the 9spiritual life of the community. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries also produced many female Christian mystics (e.g., Hildegarde von Bingen, Mechtild of Magdeburg). These women were revered for their visions and teachings within their communities and beyond. After this period the status of women as spiritual leaders declined drastically. The Inquisition, which lasted from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, managed to erase virtually all of women's spiritual, visionary and leadership roles in their communities, leaving a hidden legacy of terror that continues to confront women today as they reclaim and practice spiritual arts and leadership. (Bickel, 2001, p.1) Performing artist Ananya Chatterjea, who was interviewed regarding her powerful collaborative work with women from the streets of Calcutta, holds artists as special members of civic society who can address current state issues, such as the oppression of women, racism, genocide, and the culture of fear (cited in C. Palmer, 2006). For the past sixteen years I have worked collaboratively with women in arts projects that include performance ritual dedicated to reclaiming agency through embodiment and voice. Ritual infused arts-based processes offer a depth of inquiry and trust building that I have not found in other group inquiry processes. American feminist ritual artist Mary Beth Edelson (1982), who began working with private and public ritual in the 1960s, describes the unique offering that women and the art making process bring to “ever-changing and evolving” ritual performances: The unique and sometimes zany way in which some women think is given full reign in our art/rituals, where we have the opportunity to re-create the work in our image. Artists bring the creative process to ritual. This process adds to its contents, stimulates ritual’s evolution, and helps to avoid repetitious stagnation. (p. 323) This dissertation exposes and renders visible the sometimes zany, pedagogical imagination of a small group of women spiritual leaders, as the underbelly of women’s spiritual and multi-faith leadership expressed by the co-inquirers through the art making experience, art and ritual. I invite the reader/viewer/listener to walk the labyrinth path one step at a time, pausing when needed while reading/viewing/listening to this experiential-based and ritual-infused dissertation which is a multi-modal art installation. Curatorial statements are interspersed within the dissertation to remind and guide one’s way in the presence of art and the sacred inquiry. The Study The co-inquirers within the study are a diverse group of fourteen women spiritual leaders (representing eleven different religious/spiritual backgrounds3), who are part of a volunteer 10 planning team that co-hosts an annual multi-faith woman’s spirituality conference (WSC). The current WSC planning team has defined “multi-faith” as, people of diverse spiritual and religious traditions worshipping together and sharing each others faith practices, while remaining rooted in their own tradition or spiritual practice. They distinguish it from creating a hybrid religion or spiritual practice. I have been a member of the WSC planning team since 1999. Over the past sixteen years more than one thousand women have taken part in this conference. It takes place at and has been co-sponsored by the Vancouver School of Theology (VST), a large post-secondary Christian theological school in Western Canada.4 The study is situated within and crosses the multiple domains of art, education, and spirituality, and is thereby transdisciplinary to a large degree. The notion of ‘trans,’ as described by film theorist Trinh T. Trinh (2005), is helpful here to understand the study as, ... something that goes over that cuts both ways…. crossing rather than having to deny one side or the other, the crossing allows us more freedom of movement and hence, of no movement as well. We can shuttle back and forth, being more mobile in what we do, even though that mobility—as we can see in the current political world events—can be turned around against us as well. (p. 25) As an artist/researcher/teacher I embody the hyphenated identity that curriculum theorist Cynthia Chambers (2003) describes in her writing about Canadian curriculum research: Through their work [Canadian curriculum scholars] are braiding languages and traditions, stories and fragments, desires and repulsions, arguments and conversations, tradition and change, hyphens and slashes, mind and body, earth and spirit, texts and images, local and global, pasts and posts, into a mettisage, one that is perhaps as Canadian as possible under the circumstance. It is our way, and it is what we have to offer any international conversation that is curriculum. (p. 246) The dissertation research is situated within a Faculty of Education but it includes: the making and public exhibiting of art, the stories from women organizers’ lives, a public adult education conference, and takes place largely within a traditional School of Theology. Tensions abide within the three domains of art, education and spirituality, while a desire to hyphenate, bridge and transgress the rigid boundaries is the implicit purpose behind the research. What gives meaning to me as a ‘hyphenated curriculum scholar’-in-the-making, is to excavate and critically challenge the limitations of these three constructed domains. Arguably, the ‘world of art’--‘world of education’--‘world of spirituality’ are too often entrenched in patriarchal and cultural norms 11 and values that limit many women from reaching their full potential as valued and honoured leaders in these ‘worlds.’ My lived experience in each of these ‘worlds’ has replayed what I suspect is a her/historical struggle that many women have, and have had, as leaders, change- makers, world makers. It has become clear that my choice of locating the dissertation inquiry within an event that transverses the three realms of art-education-spirituality, is a significant place of inquiry because of its commitment to fully engage these three worlds in pursuit of a sacred and whole education. Beyond the walls of institutions, art, spirituality, and education are significant components of human life. They are distinct yet interconnected paths and locations that lead toward transformative forms of knowledge practices and construction. Recent literature within the field of education has indicated an increasing number of educators supporting the importance of understanding the interconnectedness of art, education and spirituality (Beittel and Beittel, 1991; Campbell, 2006; Irwin, 2007). Yet, Western society and its institutions still value the expertise of distinct disciplines,5 which can develop unencumbered by other potentially competing discourses, hence, these three paths to knowledge practices and construction, and deeper understandings of the world, have been separated and are most often not welcome in each others’ domain. This study works to illuminate and offer ways to learn and live a dynamic relationship with and between the three domains, specifically within the context of contemporary adult education. Art, spirituality, and education are each large domains of knowledge construction that require a dissertation each. This dissertation crosses these domains and consequently cannot enter the full depth of scholarly study required for each one. To assist the reader, I offer my basic intuitive understandings of art, spirituality and education: 1) art, I believe, is the expression of spirit coming into form. Within this frame of understanding, art is a living practice of opening to spirit; being humbled in the presence of spirit’s incarnation, and developing disciplined practices of acquiring technical skills and abilities to express spirit, 2) spirituality, as understood within this research, includes but is not limited to the adherence to and practice of particular religious doctrines. It is one’s deepest connection and knowing of the sacred, Divine, God, Goddess, spirit, Kosmos. Spirituality is immanent and transcendent, infusing ones mind, body, and soul, 3) education is a life long interrelationship between learning and teaching. Ideally, it draws from rational and arational6 ways of knowing and engages autonomous and relational forms of learning/teaching in its pursuit of diverse and transformative knowledge practices and construction. 12 The learning objectives developed for the co-participants at the start of the research were to: 1) investigate the ritual art making process (using multiple art mediums and forms) of female spiritual leaders, nurturing a culture of honesty and trust, to examine and articulate the co- participants understanding of religious and spiritual pluralism, 2) explore and understand how collaborative art making could be a catalyst for individual and societal change, particularily in challenging the “culture of fear” surrounding religion and developing compassionate spiritual and religious pluralism, 3) develop and nurture a community of co-a/r/tographers, potentially extending the theory and practice of a/r/tography into the larger community and, 4) articulate a conference curriculum and pedagogy that incorporates arational and rational learning experiences. The research questions at the start of the research were: 1) as women spiritual leaders, how do we understand the nature and impact of our own religious/spiritual attitudes, i.e., assumptions, ideology, values, worldview, political correctness? 2) how have our individual spiritual/religious beliefs been influenced by participation in the co-organizing of a multi-faith conference?, 3) how might we further develop an ethical and transformative curriculum of religious and spiritual education within a multi-faith conference? and, 4) how does collaborative engagement with art, support and extend inquiry into spiritual and religious pluralism/education? The learning objectives and questions offered an entryway into building a “circle of trust” (Palmer, n.d.) among the women through the visual, embodied, and spoken sharing of stories. The circle of trust revealed wounds, wisdom and corrective practices that can assist the building of an integrated and whole self/leader. This dissertation posits that, from a place of wholeness, one is able to lead fully and compassionately, building community that is respectful and which embraces diversity and learns through diversity. The Research Site I offer my herstorically rendered account of the WSC to situate both myself as the researcher and the study. I began my connection with the WSC in 1999, when I first volunteered for and attended what was then called the Women’s Spirituality Dialogue, an annual one and a half day conference. The conference began in 1991 as an ecumenical Christian women’s event organized by eight Anglican women seeking the sacred in a secular academic world. I entered the organizing group during the cusp of a multi-faith direction change in the conference. I was eagerly welcomed by some of the women who were striving for a multi-faith vision, and not welcomed by others who wanted the event to remain Christian. Bringing my identity as a 13 spiritual feminist witch,7 engaging and exploring pre-Christian pagan and earth-based traditions, into the group, began a two year journey of intense often conflictual meetings impacted by strong theological questions and fear from inside the group, our co-sponsor, and its constituents. I became what Trinh (2005) terms an ‘“inappropriate/d other” [who] in both ways, [i]s someone whom you cannot appropriate, and as someone who is inappropriate. Not quite other, not quite the same” (p. 125). I was like them and different at the same time. I was an insider become outsider returning to the inside. I was an “inappropriate(d) other” in this group and I brought the outside into the inside “undercutting the inside/outside opposition” (Trinh, 1992, p. 74) of the group as a solid whole. The questions and concerns expressed at our planning meetings at this time revolved around ‘Who is to be allowed to enter this sacred space of women’s spirituality?’ I was sometimes terrified walking into the meetings and often wanted to leave the group. However, the lived experience I had of the presence of the Divine Feminine at that first conference and my personal desire to reconcile my familial Christian tradition with the understanding of a feminine–based spirituality kept me returning to the meetings. Despite a desire from a number of the Anglican women within the original planning team to continue as a Christian-only event or to shut it down, the planning team shifted, but not without loss and unresolved conflict. By the late 90s, the planning team included women of diverse spiritual and religious backgrounds. To date, the event has included workshop facilitators and presenters within the large group gatherings from a variety of spiritual traditions8 along with women who identify with no one tradition. Today, women of all religious traditions and spiritual practices are welcome onto the WSC planning team and to participate in the conference. During that spiritually tumultuous time of transition to a multi-faith context I was reading the work of thealogian9 Carol Christ (1979). This early writing gave rise to my own questions, still relevant today. She questioned: Where in the history of religion have women’s voices and experience contributed to the molding of tradition? What would it mean for women’s experience to shape theology and religion in the future? The word experience becomes a key term, a significant norm for feminists reconstructing traditions and creating new religious forms. (p. 6) Experience is a key term within this dissertation and has been a constant quality present in the construction and reconstruction of the WSC conference over the years (see Chapter Six). Each year the transforming of the Christian chapel (that hosted this event for fifteen years) is a significant part of the pre-visioning, planning and metamorphosis of the institutional space. 14 The creating of the altar and the opening and closing rituals, perform the sacred entry of the Divine Feminine presence within the educational Christian institution. In her book entitled Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion, Grace Jantzen (1998) draws from Luce Irigaray’s concept of the Divine Feminine, from which I also draw. She wrote: For Luce Irigarary, our fundamental moral obligation is to become divine; and the task of philosophy of religion must be to enable that becoming, or else it is ultimately useless. ‘Philosophy’ in its ancient meaning is ‘the love of wisdom’ sophia, which in Greek (as in Hebrew, and many other languages) is female, and divine. According to Irigaray, the wisdom that women and men in the postmodern world most require is the wisdom of becoming divine, without which we ‘shrivel and die.’ (p. 6) The Problem: Religious Pluralism The problem area, for which the dissertation research was initially focused was the need for an education of spiritual and religious pluralism. Religious pluralism, according to religious scholar Diana Eck (2002), addresses the challenges of a global interdependent world, through fully knowing the roots of ones’ own religious faith and being willing to study and understand the roots of other religious traditions -- and in doing so, understand, somewhat, the interrelatedness of all religious traditions. Religious (Dalai Lama, 1997, 1999; Eck, 2002; Fox, 1988, 2000) and educational (Glazer, 1999; Simmer-Brown, 1999, Tisdell, 2003) scholars have been advocating for a corrective practice of spiritual and religious pluralism, which can actively build community among diverse cultures and faiths. In a UNESCO Round Table on “Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue” prior to 9/11, spiritual pluralism was unanimously acknowledged as vitally important in the context of modern globalization to prevent “conflict” and “tragic consequences” (Anon., 2001). In a growing “culture of fear” (Fisher, 2006; Giroux, 2003; Palmer, 1998) ignited by 9/11, it has become evermore imperative to raise awareness and educate for spiritual and religious pluralism (Nash, 2002). Bishop Mark Hanson (cited in Devine, 2006), the current president of the Lutheran World Federation and Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, speaking to 500 religious leaders from all major religions admitted at the International Aids conference in Toronto that, “Our identities have been shaped by our deeply-held principals and beliefs,... When we come together, we deeply distrust the beliefs and practices of ‘the other.’ The current world situation is fostering this distrust, and our political leaders do their part in fostering this culture of fear” (cited in Devine, 2006, p. 2). 15 The critical political issue of the twenty-first century has been identified by some activists and scholars (e.g., Soyinka, 2004) as “religion.” To forestall the conflict and violence that can result from the ignorance of other traditions, it is imperative for research, education, and art to raise awareness and educate for spiritual and religious pluralism. I agree with some feminists (e.g., Christ, 2003; hooks, 2000), who claim that feminist transformation of society is dependent on the transformation of religious beliefs and ideologies. I have come to acknowledge the impossibility of separating religion from politics and propose that art offers an important bridge between the two. This bridge can serve as a resistance to the dominance of a culture of fear through supporting an educative (not propogandist) “culture of trust” (Gibb, 1991) and “community of truth” (Palmer, 1983). This educational challenge requires inquiry/learning/ teaching methods that can transform deeply held principles and beliefs leading towards an expansive and compassionate worldview. Religious communities in our globalizing world are struggling to live in relationship with a variety of other religions and spiritual practices in mutual respect, compassion, and trust. Multi-faith conferences are notable learning sites in that participants can directly confront distrust and fear of the Other in our society. As an artist/researcher/educator, committed to developing “spiritual and religious literacy”10 (Dalai Lama, 1997, 1999; Eck, 2002), this study offered a location for inquiring into the personal, historical, political and sacred (Abalos, 1998) motivation behind women spiritual leaders’ commitments to a multi-faith conference11 through the arts-based inquiry process of a/r/tography (explained in Chapter Two). The layers of experience and understanding that lie behind the creation of the WSC could be revealed through the women’s a/r/tographic inquiry. The knowledge revealed can open the possibility of extending the vision for a whole and “sacred epistemology” (Lincoln and Denzin, 2005) beyond this particular conference and group of women into the field of education and beyond. Nurturing a learning community that dwells within and respects diversity is modeled by this particular group. The struggles and insights revealed through the sharing of the art making process within the sacred context of ritual in this dissertation are not limited to this group. In recognizing sacred connections with others we move towards a sacred epistemology. Spirituality and Religion Spirituality and religion are terms that defy clear and simple definitions as some authors have noted (English et al., 2003; Heron, 2006; Tisdale, 2003; Wilber, 2005). Cultural and political contexts and inner development are among many contributing contexts 16 affecting the meaning and manifestation of spirituality and religion in an individual and community. English, Fenwick and Parsons (2003), in their comprehensive book Spirituality of Adult Education and Training, point to the growing use of the word “spiritual” in the past 75 years. Possibly, they suggest, because it is safer than a focus on “religion.” They believe “if one is to understand the impact of spirituality, one’s definition should be as inclusive as possible while embedding a sense of movement, relationship, and mystery” (p. 6). They advocate for an “undivided life” on the part of learners and adult educators--,\ a life that does not separate one’s spiritual and religious self from one’s public self. They state that the fear of religious indoctrination on the part of the learner, facilitator, and community is the first hurdle that adult educators must address when embarking on the facilitation of “spiritual learning.” They have culled together practices that encourage spiritual learning in adults. These include “adopting a spiritual perspective, reflective reading, journal writing, participating in rituals, and cultivating soul friends” (p. 49). Elizabeth Tisdell (2003), in her study that explores spirituality and culture in adult and higher education, posits that creating space for transformative learning to occur requires a grounding in spirituality and cultural relevance that “involves the knowledge construction processes of the whole person” (p. 188) using multiple learning modes; that is, somatic, spiritual, cognitive, and through understanding that learning is relational, taking place within the paradox of “the individual [a]s the communal, and community [a]s the individual” (p. 190). Within the a/r/tographic inquiry as ritual, each of these practices is attended to in some form. The community of learning is led by a commitment to spiritual learning that holds at its base the premise of striving for wholeness. In attending to the spiritual, through the making and sharing of art, attention is given “to the interconnectedness of all things... creat[ing] a space for people to bring in new ways of discovering and sharing their authenticity” (Tisdell, 2003 p. 194). “Leona English and Marie Gillen (2000) explain that ‘religion is based on an organized set of principles shared by a group, whereas spirituality is the expression of an individual’s quest for meaning (p. 1)’” (cited in MacKeracher, 2004, p. 173). At a recent talk12 in the Women’s Studies Department at UBC, long-time feminist Dr. Dorothy Riddle offered a similar distinction between religion and spirituality. Separating religion from spirituality is a common practice of distinction that becomes complicated when the focus shifts to multi-faith learning in the context of a women’s spirituality conference. At the conference and in the research project, learning about other religions through workshops, ritual, and dialogue is an integral component of spiritual development (individual and communal). The lines between religion and spirituality blur as an 17 understanding of multi-faith consciousness emerges. We run the risk of creating an unnecessary dualism of spirituality as personal, and religion as public and institutional, if we do not acknowledge that both contain elements that are personal and public. Returning to the Latin origin of the word re-ligio, the two terms are conjoined “connecting to a time-space-time continuum to one’s own origin” (Jantsch and Waddington, 1976, p. 43), where “it is only through the full re-ligio, the interpenetration of integration and differentiation, that human life becomes fully creative” (p. 233). Transpersonal philosopher Ken Wilber (2005) addresses the importance of understanding the multiple meanings of religion and spirituality in A Sociable God: Toward a New Understanding of Religion. He posits that individuals who demarcate spiritual as personal and religion as organized and institutional are, ... pointing to a spiritual truth for themselves, but they haven’t given much thought to what happens if they wanted to pass their spiritual experience or truth on to another human being, because as soon as they do so, their “spirituality” starts to look a lot like “religion”.... once my spirituality is shared with another, or passed on to another generation, then I am faced with all the same problems of “religion” that I temporarily avoided by introducing the distinction. (pp. 4-5) Distinct definitions of religion and spirituality did not emerge amongst the women as a group within the study, although individual spiritual and traditional religious identities, understandings, and experiences, were often shared. In contrast, her/historically (1999-2001) the definition of religion and spirituality was part of the planning team’s dialogue when the team was investigated and questioned by their co-sponsor, triggered by constituent complaints13 regarding the inclusion of witches on the planning team and as facilitators at the conference, within a Christian School of Theology. At the time, many of the women argued amongst themselves and with VST, not to limit women’s spiritual expression to any one religious tradition, and to embrace the spiritual experience of all women within a spiritual and religiously- inclusive multi-faith context. The shift to a multi-faith context required that the group take the next step of naming the spiritual and/or religious identities of planning team members. For the first ten years, using the term spirituality (Women’s Spirituality Dialogue) without identifying the organizing team’s dominant Christian faith tradition created, at times, a confusion of purpose and meaning for some. At times, women came to the event and volunteered to assist the planning team not necessarily knowing the group was spirituality housed within the context of one religious tradition. The challenge to the founding members was one of facing the reality that women’s 18 spirituality on the university campus was not limited to those practicing within the Christian religion. The Christian-only context was shifting and consequently, the conference shifted to a multi-faith focus. To date, the planning team continues to work towards finding clarity in their mission and vision. It took many years to agree on the term multi-faith in the mission statement. Tackling a collective working definition of spirituality has not been undertaken by the group as yet. In one sense, not defining spirituality in the context of this conference could be said to be avoiding conflict. In another sense, it is an acknowledgment of the amazing diversity of spiritual and religious understandings and experience. In general, the women in the study do not limit their spirituality to religion or religious practices. They understand spirituality as a way of life, which can include religious beliefs and practices and be profoundly influenced by religious traditions. Mindful Inquiry In preparation for the collaborative research study, which I knew could potentially disorient and cause perturbation in the lives of the women (myself included), I practiced “mindful inquiry.” Mindful inquiry employs critical social theory and challenges the positivist worldview that “factual sciences are the only legitimate form of knowledge, replacing religion, metaphysics, and philosophy as valid knowledge” (Bentz and Shapiro, 1998, p. 27). It questions the assumption that there is one unified scientific model and that, ... [e]thics, values, and politics have no rational basis, on the ground that they are not scientific [and r]ationality can only exist in the realm of science and not in the ethical or practical realm, which is seen as the expression of irrational or nonrational emotion, will, instinct, or arbitrary decision making. (p. 28) Mindful inquiry situates the person at the center of inquiry. In addition, spirituality (Buddhist mindful awareness practice) is key to the research method. Although I am not a Buddhist, this unique spiritual component assisted the preparation. As a phenomenological creative act the mindful inquirer prepares and opens sacred space for the research to take place within. A depth inquiry of mindful inquiry invokes what Skolimiwski (1992) would term reverential thinking, where “...for the appreciative and sensitive mind, reverence for life appears as a natural acknowledgement of the miracle and the beauty of life itself” (cited in Reason, 1993, p. 24). In sharing spiritual principles with Buddhism such as: “1. the importance of mindful thought itself; 2. tolerance and the ability to inhabit multiple perspectives; 3. the intention to alleviate 19 suffering; 4. the notion of clearing, or openness, [and]underlying awareness (p. 39),” mindful inquiry reflects what William Torbert (1991) calls a liberating practice of “intellectual power of balance” (p. 5) which, ... includes the visionary capacity to see what one does not see-- the visionary capacity to challenge the assumptions of one’s current way of seeing and thinking-- the visionary capacity to see other perspectives and to see through transformations in one’s own perspective. (p. 5) Attending to a triangulation of methods, the critical social theory aspect of mindful inquiry, similar to adult educator Elizabeth Tisdell’s (2003) findings, in her study of adult educators who bring spirituality into their teaching practice, affirms the cultural and historical contextual ground of both the researcher and the co-inquirers, while remaining aware of the “historical forces of oppression” (p. 63). Through mindful inquiry, which included a practice of critical self reflection, thoughtful and non-violent communication with myself and others, a commitment to dwelling with difference, and clearing my mind through regular meditative labyrinth walking and making, I prepared the ground to enter and honour the diverse life-worlds and perspectives of the women. Additionally, I took into consideration the affect and effect that the collaborative a/r/tographic inquiry into multi-faith understandings could have on the co-researchers. Tisdell (2003) further acknowledges that a spiritual dimension of learning is most often accessed and represented through the arts (p. x). Embarking on an a/r/tographic inquiry with the women of the WSC planning team extends Tisdell’s study on two levels. Her study was based on individual interviews, whereas this study involved a group engaging the heart, mind and spiritual dimensions of learning directly, through the powerful medium of the arts that she advocates for but did not engage in her study. The Practice of A/r/tography as Ritual Through the practice of a/r/tography as ritual (explained in Chapter Two) the significance of living relationships through and with the multiple domains of art, spirituality and education as a praxis of wholeness emerged. These living relationships coincided with the making, being and doing that is inherent in the practice of a/r/tography. In opening to a living inquiry process with thirteen women spiritual leaders, the research questions, formulated by myself as the lead researcher, where left behind, but not forgotten. They were replaced by a relational and embodied experience of ritual making, art making, spiritual practice and learning/teaching that 20 was supported by mutual respect, compassion, and trust. The inquiry space became a sacred praxis for truth making and moving towards wholeness, even becoming Divine. The art making process significantly captivated the women. The adventure of making art together as an experiential ritual unfolding as a community of women coming to know themselves and each other more deeply became the desired focus of the inquiry and the study. New theoretical understandings about religious and spiritual pluralism, although not absent, became secondary to the lived experience of the women. The original research agenda of coming to understand the worldviews of women spiritual leaders of a multi-faith educational conference, through an arts-based exploration of spiritual and religious pluralism, shifted. Upon reflection, I see numerous reasons for this shift, in terms of both a theoretical academic focus, and a methodological focus in the study. One reason is that the women, for the most part, knew me as an artist/teacher first. A number of them have taken art courses with me or collaborated with me in past art projects. Although I had done prior academic research on the area of spiritual and religious pluralism, the women had not, and in the midst of their busy lives they were not overly interested in the theoretical aspect of the study.14 With my own bias as a practicing artist, it was easy to allow the flow of the art to take the lead in the research process. As a community of women, the participants made the project an opportunity for self and group nurturance, while having their voices of experience heard, witnessed, and recorded. In this way the women were deeply involved in an active practice of religious pluralism as historical, political, personal, and sacred stories of religious experiences were shared. When we entered the a/r/tographic process, the sharing of personal stories in ritual circles was interspersed with the making of art individually and collaboratively in ritual circle. These processes were extremely powerful and creatively generative for nearly all of the women in the study. The a/r/tographic inquiry process with the women involved multiple processes (Appendixes A, D, E, F, and G) and levels of engagement (explained more fully in Chapter Four). These included: three sets of ritual sharing circles, at the beginning, middle and end of the study; two group art making weekends, one of which included individual trance journeys; one group trance; individual art making, video editing, writing reflections, and poetic writing throughout the study; regular email communication; three performance ritual rehearsals; two performance rituals, one at the WSC, and the other on the opening night of the full art installation; three public art installations; and two art talks in the gallery. Not all of the women participated in everything. As lead researcher, I facilitated and kept the communication flow going. Digital video 21 documentation took place within each of the processes. Each woman had the opportunity to be behind the camera if she chose. Addressing Complications of the Study A somewhat risky aspect of this research arose, in that the women agreed to ethical forms that stated they will not be anonymous. In contrast to research that offers anonymity to participants, this study crossed the safety boundary of anonymity as the women became visible through the public art installations and performance rituals. As co-a/r/tographers, the public exhibition of the art and performance rituals were a component of public pedagogy,15 offered by women spiritual leaders to the larger community at the annual WSC in 2007, and in two public gallery spaces in the city (Vancouver, B.C.) where the study takes place. All of the women remained involved in the study during its eight month duration. Nine of the fourteen women have continued on with the current 2008 WSC planning team. During the debrief ritual sharing circles and in individual conversations the women reflected on the new understandings to which they had come to; and these, when possible, have been incorporated into the dissertation (see Chapters Four and Six). The written, visual, and digital components of the dissertation were read and viewed by the women and their individual feedback taken into account in the presentation and final analysis of the study. The women were given the option of a pseudonym in the final edit of the dissertation. None have chosen this option. My dual role as a co-participant and lead researcher with thirteen co-inquirers is complicated and, at times messy. I agree with critical curriculum theorists, such as Patti Lather (1991) who claim, “just as there is no neutral education.... there is no neutral research” (p. 50). There are a few complicating aspects to my location within this research: 1) I was not completely “equal” with the women in terms of curating the research project, and 2) I am not neutral in my philosophical-political-pedagogical stance. Both these aspects impact the validity of this study. I addressed the first complication of “inequality” at different points throughout the dissertation on my own initiation, as the women never mentioned it as a problem themselves. I take responsibility for my leadership throughout this study, although, it was a project co-led by everyone. To address the second complication, I’ve chosen here to elaborate my shifting standpoints in terms of a growing directionality and ideological critique embedded in my work, particularly in regard to my spiritual feminist philosophical-political-pedagogical stance about Western culture. 22 Through the gathering of theoretical resources for writing the dissertation, it became clear how many authors hold similar (or overlapping) critiques of Western culture that, when aggregated, speak quite profoundly of the beliefs they and I hold. I am not alone in my views. What I value most highly as a spiritual feminist a/r/tographer is to return to and to re-instigate ethical and embodied decisions for living an integrated and whole life. For many social critics and theorists a paradigm shift or worldview shift is offered along this ideological continuum of movement, with a format that appears quite dualistic, that is, “bad (old) paradigm” vs. “good (new) paradigm.” For example, I see this dichotomy in Matthew Fox as he calls for us to shift from a “Fall-Redemption cosmology” to a “Creation-Centered cosmology,” or Luce Irigaray as she calls for a shift from “mental-masculine wisdom” to a “feminine-relational wisdom,” or Peter Reason and John Heron who call for a shift from a “materialistic science” to a “sacred science.” However, in following a more integral (or bridging) approach, which identifies the dichotomies of paradigms or worldviews but focuses rather on the relationships in/with the paradigms, integrating them and/or operating in between them; for example, I utilize mostly the work of Jacqui Alexander (“logos-mind” and “eros-body”), David Abalos (“false coherency” and “coherency”), Parker Palmer (“divided self” and “whole self”), Leela Fernandes (“colonized Divine” and “decolonized Divine”), Ken Beittel (“broken art” and “whole art”), MacKeracher (“autonomous learner” and “relational learner”), Homi Bhabha (“pedagogical” and “performative”), Suzi Gablik (“pure aesthetic” and “connective aesthetic”), hooks (“fear-based” and “love-based”), Elizabeth Lange (“transformative learning” and “restorative learning”), and Deborah Britzman (“knowing” and “not knowing”). I acknowledge that my attraction and longing for change and transformation is not neutral and my desire to bridge what is recognized as dichotomous has somewhat impacted the study’s shape and direction as well as the interpretation and re-presentation of some of the data. As an a/r/tographer fully engaging in the co-a/r/tographic process with the WSC women, I reflect and share my own autobiographic narratives throughout the dissertation. In teaching and engaging the co-a/r/tographic practice, my interest shifted to a focus on the a/r/tographic practice that was unfolding beyond my original expectations with the women and within myself. This shift became more apparent in the writing of the dissertation, which has three chapters (Chapters Three, Four and Five) dedicated to three separate but interrelated a/r/tographic studies. Chapter Three is a pilot study that preceded the large study, but because it reveals such an important learning experience for myself and Tannis as co-a/r/tographers/artists engaging spirit in a collaborative inquiry, I have felt it important to include as part of the complicated praxis of 23 wholeness that underpins this dissertation. Chapter Six became a way for me to step back and distance myself from the intense eight month research project with the women, and to visually respond to the experience as a first layer of visual writing during a solo one month artist residency. Both curriculum theorist William Pinar, in his theory of curerre, and artist researcher Kenneth Beittel in his theory of the art of qualitative thinking, incorporate a cycle in the inquiry process that suggests stepping back to see the past and the future from a distance. Distancing, according to Beittel and Beittel (1991), brings forward “the absent quality… in imagination” (p.141) and dispels habituation in the reading/seeing of text/art and opens the door to a depth of reading not possible prior to distancing. Similarly, Pinar et al. (1995/2004) wrote, “phenomenology and the aesthetic process share that distancing from the everyday and the familiar in order to see them with a freshness and immediacy which is like seeing them for the first time” (p. 415). Through distancing myself from my familiar environment, I was able to restore my imaginative artist self and perceive the research study with a fresh eye. Transformation as the Joyful Revolt of the Uninvited Guest The WSC has organically abided by the ancient understanding of philosophia by nurturing and honouring feminine wisdom. In its transformation to an inclusive multi-faith event,16 it has served as a political challenge to monotheistic institutions and fear-based patriarchal organizations that have lost this ancient wisdom. Julia Kristeva (2002) wrote of “joyful revolt” as “a return to the past, and innovation, renewal of the self – … a process of re-evaluation of the psyche, a questioning of identities and values” (p. 75). I have personally experienced joyful revolt through my initial intransigent position as a member of the planning team, my ongoing participation in the conference, the co-creation of altars and facilitation of workshops at the WSC. I have witnessed a similar experience of joyful revolt in others, who have been part of the conference organizing. This has occurred, I believe, through what Kristeva would call “symbolic deconstruction,” and “renewal” through “psychic” and “aesthetic creation” which has assisted individual “rebirth” (p. 76). I link the work of Elizabeth Tisdell (2003) with Kristeva’s practice of joyful revolt, and the psychic and aesthetic creation that is present in the her/historical unfolding and growth of the WSC. Tisdell draws from the work of religious and sociological scholar David Abalos (1998), whose community-based, social justice work extends beyond personal transformation as focus to societal transformation. In doing so, Tisdell forefronts the importance of educators understanding 24 their historical, cultural, familial, and religious pasts. She suggests that everyone, especially white Western learners/educators explore and become familiar with their cultural and religious her/histories. As part of her radical stance in a secular poststructuralist academy, Tisdell refuses to separate cultural, ethnic identities from religious and spiritual identities and the impact that spirituality and religion has in constructing knowledge and creating meaning in lives. She wrote that, indeed, ... spirituality is one of the ways people construct knowledge and meaning. It works in consort with the affective, the rational or cognitive, and the unconscious and symbolic domains. To ignore it, particularly in how it relates to teaching for personal and social transformation, is to ignore an important aspect of human experience and an avenue of learning and meaning-making. (pp. 20-21) Personal and social transformation through sacred relationship with spirit (the Divine life- force) is a driving impetus behind my own evolving pedagogical and epistemological understandings and practices. Transformative learning theorist Edmund O’Sullivan includes spirituality and a ‘sense of the sacred’ in his vision statement for transformation. O’Sullivan (2002) wrote that, ... ‘transformative education’ must address the topic of spirituality and...educators must take on the concerns of the development of the spirit at a most fundamental level. Contemporary education today suffers deeply by its eclipse of the spiritual dimension of our world and universe.... Nevertheless we are beginning to see a concern in education that opens onto considering education as a spiritual venture. The sense of the sacred... encompasses all aspects of transformative vision. (p. 5) Educator Daniel Vokey (2007), in his transformative oriented work, similarly guides educators to integrate heart and mind in education. He wrote: ... desire for transformative learning very often reflects a belief that, individually and collectively, we need a radical change of heart and mind to respond adequately to the social, political, economic, moral, and/or spiritual crises that... are seen to be either looming on the horizon or already unraveling the fabric of life. (p. 2) Curriculum theorist William Doll “envision[ed] a transformative curriculum” (Pinar et al, 1995, p. 498) that embraces a language of “development, dialogue, inquiry, [and] transformation” (p. 499) in a postmodern curriculum. This theory works to replace the modernist canonical model of science with “chaos theory.... open ended process, the roles of perturbation and confusion in disrupting structures, interactionism, nonlinear transformation, and self generation” (p. 500). For 25 me, each of these theorists validate Kristeva’s notion of joyful revolt the WSC has practiced since its inception in 1991, although concepts such as transformative learning and joyful revolt would not be found in WSC documents, nor do they occur in conversations amongst the WSC planning team. Expanding pedagogically on the experience of joyful revolt and its nonlinear process towards transformation, feminist educators Jacqui Alexander and Leela Fernandes, and educator and psychoanalyst Deborah Britzman see pedagogical practices as relational, erotic, and desirous in the work of becoming whole. In sharing her own struggle to authenticate her writing voice Alexander (2005) wrote, “Authenticating a voice comes through the rediscovery of the underbelly, literally unearthing and piecing together the fragmented members of existence” (p. 279). To carry out the task of piecing fragments together and thus shifting perceptions, according to Alexander, requires a daily practice of spiritual ethics. Vision assists daily work she writes, once we begin to cross boundaries and the invisible becomes seen, we long to place our soul in its service. It is important to know who walks with us as we travel closer to “being one with the Sacred” (p. 301). A sacred praxis, she writes, engages a “cycle of action, reflection and action” (p. 307). I have had glimpses of ancestral Volvas in the faces of my co-inquirers, and in the theorist’s writings I have been led to. I have walked with many teachers, gurus, artists and leaders in this dissertation journey in my desire to articulate a pedagogical praxis of sacred wholeness that breaks silences, witnesses and reflects, and moves towards social transformation. Leela Fernandes (2003) similarly shares her notion of a “spiritual-material transformation” that is a “kind of mystical revolution,” which can be achieved through a “lived divinity, that can transform and transcend all forms of hierarchy, injustice and repression” (p. 118). Although I am most at home in spiritual narratives, as this dissertation reflects, a praxis of wholeness is not limited to a spiritual discourse, and can be found in other narratives such as psychoanalytic thought and various forms of critical theory with a more political discourse. Drawing from psychoanalysis rather than a spiritual discourse Deborah Britzman (2006) calls for “free association” within a “pedagogical imagination” as a practice of learning and not learning in pedagogical relations. The idea of free association, she writes, “began not with speech but with the poet’s writing preparation, the taking of uncensored notes that recorded reveries” (p. 26). The rule of free association then, begins with “the emphatic unconscious: its lawless interruptions, its susceptibility to experiences not consciously noticed, and its inclination for welcoming the repressed.” Within free association “meaning unhinges itself for desire. It is as if in free association desire suddenly slips into the back door of language, or leaves the door open 26 to the uninvited guest who arrives without reason or purpose” (p. 26). Britzman understands the practice of free association within education as an invitation to conflict and a “way of training thought to derail itself” through “giving oneself over to the Eros of language” and loosing the censor within a “clinical container.” In doing this, she claims, “research can return to what it cannot understand” (p. 29). Free association as described by Britzman, authenticating voice as understood by Alexander, and living divinity as aspired to by Fernandes, are each fitting ways to explain the pedagogical relations that evolved within the dissertation study and the writing style of this dissertation where “meaning unhinges itself for desire.” Narratives of desire and the sacred emerge at times as “uninvited guests” as the research turns and returns “to what it cannot understand.” Novel Education As I write this introductory chapter to my dissertation after months of writing and rewriting the main body of the dissertation, I turn to Britzman’s theorizing on novel education, and share an experience that was pivotal in coming to understand my own work as novel education. In sharing this narrative I hope to assist others in walking the labyrinth journey, the educational journey that is this dissertation. At one of my first American Education Research Association conferences (in 2005) I had the opportunity to hear feminist educators and curriculum theorists speak on a panel17 in a large, (but not large enough) conference room that was packed to overflowing. It was an experience that became etched in my mind as a new graduate student, seeing and hearing the women curriculum theorists I had been reading and walking with in my studies, and now getting a sense of their character. Amongst these women Deborah Britzman’s demeanor, voice, and words stood out for me. I found myself attending her presentations throughout the rest of the conference. I wanted to speak with her following each of the three sessions, but was unable to push beyond the anonymous and distant place of awe that I found myself in. She represented for me what I now understand as an undivided and integrated educator. I recognize her as a wise woman who has done, and continues to do, the work and practice of becoming whole in this life. One of the few books I took with me to read during my artist residency on Toronto Island in July 2007 was Britzman’s Novel Education. I began reading it on the flight there, and as I read I made the decision to contact her while I was in the same city where she lived. I found myself deeply moved by her writing and longed to connect with this educator who understood the illness 27 of teachers. The longing outweighed my shyness, and to my surprise she was easy to contact. After an hour long phone conversation, she suggested we meet for dinner at one of her favorite restaurants close to the ferry terminal. With a combination of excitement and nervousness, I set out to meet with her, hoping I would be able to sound somewhat coherent and intelligent in her presence. She was physically very small, smaller than I remembered, and easy to talk with. I sensed her estrangement from the world that she writes of as an analyst and solitary writer. She spoke of her anticipation of returning to teaching after many years of not teaching in the classroom. In sharing her learning of living a balanced life as an academic, she reflected that a good balance for her included solitary writing, the intimacy of psychoanalysis, and classroom teaching. When I shared that I was beginning my dissertation writing through visual writing while at the artist residency she commented that I was “making my own education.” These words resonated and stayed with me. The questions that initiated Britzman’s writing on novel education are akin to my own questions as I introduce my dissertation. Britzman (2006) asks: From a pedagogical side, what is it to report, to one’s colleagues and students [co- inquirers], the experience of one’s work and remark upon how the ideas made and sometimes discarded there resist and instruct the narrative? How is a case study an encounter with learning and not learning? Existentially, what form of life do words create? What are the psychodynamic tensions within interpretation, the ones analysts create in the analytic time and those that constitute the afterwardness of treatment, that is, the writing of the case study? What is it to write therapeutically? (vii) Within this dissertation I present as case studies the art making processes and art. I offer them in a novel form, a visually aesthetic and narrative form that includes the emotional, physical, and spiritual domains of an “unruly subjectivity” that threatens to be “an improper study” (p. ix); only if one is looking for “certainty, stability and transparency of method” (p. ix). Novel education, Britzman writes, allows the aesthetic presentation of education to alter “discourse and its object,” and consequently “Learning and not learning, it turns out, will be the expression of intersubjectivity, not a representative of the knowledge learned” (p. 15). As the narrator, my own learning is blurred with teaching as the “boundary between the object of learning and the subject of who learns” (p. 1) is obscured. She cautions that “when writing, reading, or listening to the case study, there is no such thing as innocent bystanders; we find ourselves on the side of otherness, the affect” (p. vii). 28 I pause here to caution others that writing into, reading, listening, and viewing this dissertation is an intimate and affective spiritual encounter with learning and not learning. It is an encounter of “radical relatedness” “... that sees beyond merely personal existence to intersubjective coexistence and [ecological] community” (Gablik, 1992, p. 51). Like the labyrinth, the form of the dissertation is not linear. Rational understandings and readings of time, space, and place are disrupted. At times one may feel dizzy or lost as the dialectic encounter between rational and arational modes of expression bump and rub against each other looking for edges of certainty, which seem often to remain aloof and distant. It is best entered as one would enter an art installation, ideally, with what the Buddhists’ call “beginners mind” (Suzuki, 1975). The experience of being with the multiple expressions of the dissertation includes encounters with academic theory, narratives, visual art, time-based art, poetry, trance, transcript portions of the women’s voices, and email correspondence. The dissertation admits partiality, while simultaneously striving towards an understanding, and experience of wholeness. It synecdochically oscillates amidst individuality and collectivity. It is about living and co-evolving relationships; with oneself, each other, the Divine and the Kosmos, and as such often asks one not to try to know or understand but to be with it, witness it, and through bearing witness, be willing to be transformed (Fernandes, 2003). This dissertation, like a/r/tography itself, dwells in the hybrid zones between the disciplines of art, social science research, and education, and within the discourses of the artist, researcher, and teacher. It also works to bridge and reunite the philosophical domains of art, education, and spirituality. Interrelationality and intersubjectivity are the guiding principles of the intertextual dissertation as it draws from a variety of lenses, such as post-modern (Becker, Wilber), post- colonial (Bhabha, Trinh), transformative (O’Sullivan, Tisdell) and a spiritualized feminism (Alexander, Christ, Fernandes, hooks). The time-based visual text of the DVDs, containing video documentation of the art making process and art, as part of the three art installation chapters, are best viewed before entering the printed text of the remaining chapters. The videos are one step less removed from the actual lived experience of the research. The videos make possible an intersubjective, affective, and spiritual encounter with the research that is not as easy to achieve through the printed text. That said, watching the videos after reading the text will offer an alternate perspective on the videos. However one chooses to walk/read/view this dissertation, it will be a unique experience based on how the reader chooses to be in relationship with the work. 29 Chapter Two engages a post-reflective practice of currere as it reveals a relational journey with the theoretical ideas of a/r/tography and its practices as they support and guide the dissertation study. 30 End Notes 1 As an artist and woman spiritual leader, who has consciously chosen to live and work in the margins of society, I know well the disabling impact of withheld or non-existent societal, financial and/or institutional support. I continually argue for the importance of the marginal spaces of learning within our society, as I know that it is within these spaces that transformative change begins, and yet I live everyday knowing that it is a life of perpetual struggle. 2 The art of Illuminatus was exhibited and performed (June 5) in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver May 28 – June 24, 2001. 3 Christian (Anglican, Baptist, Foursquare Christian, Presbyterian, United, Creation Spirituality), First Nations, Muslim, Buddhist, Religious Science, Spiritual Feminist Wiccan, Reclaiming, Earth-based, Feri, New Thought, Unitarian, and Jewish. 4 A significant development occurred during the time of this study for the women’s spirituality organizing team. The Vancouver School of Theology (VST), that has been the co-sponsor of the event, supplying administrative support and a location for the event, downsized and in that downsizing ended its co-sponsorship. The year this study took place was the last year the conference was housed at VST. This made the significance of the study, and the dissemination of the work done over the past fifteen years, that much more imperative to document and share. There was a risk that the event would not be able to find a suitable new home and the added work of relocating, and covering the lost administrative support during the year of the study, added stress for the women who operate as volunteers for this conference. On the other hand the transition, was also an opportunity for the group to clarify its purpose, deepen commitments and move to a qualitatively new level of community and service. Personally, the co-sponsorship of the School of Theology has been significant, as the Christian church, and consequently the educational system, has generally been a hegemonic force in sustaining religious illiteracy in our society. At the same time, changing the co-sponsorship and location of the event may open it to a greater number of women of ethnic diversity, and different religious traditions, who may not have felt welcomed or comfortable worshipping in a Christian environment. 5 I am not inferring that disciplinarity and expertise in a field of study is a bad thing, but I am suggesting that a field of study is enriched by interdisciplinarity and transdiciplinarity. 6 To further explain the concept of the arational, I draw from Jean Gebser’s (1905-1973) theory of the arational. Gebser places the arational a-perspectival worldview as an evolutionary step beyond the rational [egoic]. He posits that rationalism within Modernism has appointed itself as authority (master) and that this self-appointed status stands in the way of an “integral worldview” of wholeness (Tarbensen, 1997). Gebser coined the term ” integral a-perspectival,” where no perspective is privileged and a fluid wholistic worldview is sought. He contrasted this with formal rationality, which he called “perspectival reason,” a monological perspective with a narrow (egoic) lens (Wilber, 1998, p. 131), relative to an integral lens. Gebser’s theory includes the rational with the arational. The arational viewed from the hegemonic Western rational (cognitive) perspective, has most often been confused with the irrational, thus disqualifying it from being seen as a valid and significant site of learning (Tarbensen, 1997). Spiritual feminist author Sally Gearhart (1981) understood the importance of distinguishing and engaging arational processes when she prophesized that “as the world situation grows worse, more pople will be turning to what is called the irrational, to religion[’s based in fear], to all the freaked and fanatic doctrines that are bound to turn up. From that perspective our job may well be to get ourselves together (both individually and collectively) with our arational skills that we’ll be able to cope with the onslaught of chaos.” (p. 205). A limited dualistic reading (of rational and irrational) has kept arational forms of knowing marginalized, often pathologized and excluded from traditional 31 educational systems. The arational, has historically been acknowledged within the mystic traditions, and by artists. As an artist/researcher/educator, I would like to expand the use of the arational beyond this marginalized positioning. Western rationalism has dominated our educational systems (Gebser cited in Tarbensen, 1997; McLaren, 1991). Rationalism can be looked back upon as the colonial justification for suppression and forced assimilation of colonized ‘Others’ to civilize their barbaric (read irrational) cultures (McLaren, 1991). Rationalism, in its pathological dualistic form, has relegated, marginalized and devalued (as irrational) women and marginalized others who practice arational ways of knowing. This has left a large part of our understanding and education of the arational underdeveloped in our Western educational systems. The arational has been kept alive in the world and our educational systems predominantly through the arts and spiritual teachings. Philosopher-futurist designer, Buckminster Fuller (1971) refers to artists as miracles. “[A]rtists are the human beings whose comprehensivity was not pruned down by the well-meaning, but ignorant educational custums[sic] of society” (p. 43). 7 I use the name witch to reclaim the aspect of women that has been demonized; to reclaim the feminine within as Divine and powerful. Ecofeminist witch Starhawk (1979) defines “A Witch [a]s a “shaper,” a creator who bends the unseen into form, and so becomes one of the Wise, one whose life is infused with magic“(p. 22). 8 To date, women of the following traditions have facilitated or led in the large group rituals of the WSC: Baha’i, Buddhist, Vispassana Buddhist, Goddess Spirituality, Hindu, Sufi, First Nations, Feri, Christian (Anglican, Foursquare Christian, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, Quaker, United) Religious Science, Spiritual Feminist, Wiccan, Reclaiming, Earth-based, Unitarian, Jewish, Shamanic, Shea Muslim, Zoroastrian 9 Carol Christ (1979) identifies herself as a thealogian, in distinction to theologian, denoting the feminine aspect of the study of religion. 10 During my years of growing up Lutheran, I received no education on other religions. I was indoctrinated into and participated in the Lutheran tradition while I lived in my parent’s home, but did not find a spiritual home there. In my late twenties, at the same time that I began my art training, I was introduced to earth-based spiritual traditions through women’s circles. After ten years of much self study, art making and community based ritual, and inquiring into alternate feminine based spiritual traditions, I felt able to call my self a spiritual feminist witch. During this time of spiritual exploration I became an “inappropriate(d) other,” using Trinh T. Minh-ha’s (1992) term, with my family of origin. From my new location outside of the family tradition, I began to openly question and challenge the oppressive patriarchal qualities of the Christian tradition and was perceived as a threat to my family. The pain of being mistrusted and feared as an ‘enemy’ was experienced as a deep betrayal. For a number of years I was estranged from my family and only recently have tentative relationships reformed. I admit that my personal and family loss and grief has been a powerful impetus for this study. This dissertation journey has moved me to extend myself and my work into the larger community. I believe this inquiry is an opportunity to diminish future suffering in the world through continuing to open dialogue between religions and consequently families, neighbours, and communities the world over. 11 The drawing together of pre-modern religions with modern religions in a multi-faith setting is not without dangers in our society. Iranian Canadian scholar and philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo has fostered what he calls a religious “dialogue of civilizations” (Savage, 2006, p. 33) and for four months was “locked up in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where detainees are routinely subject to torture and abuse” (2006, p. 33). The scope of this work is not of the same scale, nor the cultural and political threat that Jahanbegloo’s dialogue poses for cultures that are still bound by fundamental pre-modern beliefs. In contrast to Jahanbegloo, my journey (and the journey of 32 the women) has been set in a Western modern “civilized” society. This has allowed me to re/discover pre-Christian Western feminine-based spiritual and religious practices via the female Christian mystics, through reading and engaging contemporary spiritual feminist practices. Despite this freedom, choosing to identify as a witch in a society (that has silenced, oppressed, and demonized the memory of the pre-Christian Divine Feminine) has been a dangerous act. Because of my own lived experience of exile from my family of origin, I have been cognizant of the potential dangers and difficulties that arise within religious and spiritual dialogues. Religious and spiritual dialogue is fraught with taboos and ghosts, conscious and unconscious, that will remain in place if we continue to ignore and or demonize them. I was saddened to hear that one of my teachers within the Reclaiming tradition (a wiccan tradition that emerged in the 1970’s) say that she has chosen not to share her witch identity with her family, as she finds the thought more frightening than coming out as a lesbian. I have found within the community of witches that I know in Vancouver, that few of them share their witch identity with their family of origin, work places, or peers. The danger of revealing a witch identity or a religious identity that has been demonized within our Christian-based society, and is not understood by others, will not necessarily result in incarceration and torture in our society but the potential emotional, social, and monetary exile is very present. I am reminded of how far we have not come in regards to spiritual and religious literacy and understanding in our society, when in 2008, teachers/leaders are not able to freely express their spiritual and religious paths with their families and the larger community for fear of being misunderstood and/or feared. 12 Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies, 2008 Lecture Series, UBC. January 23, 2008. Dr. Dorothy Riddle lecture entitled, “What Is Feminist Spirituality, and Why Should We Care.” 13 The complaints came from people who had never attended the WSC but read the brochure, which listed a description of workshop facilitators and the word priestess was used. 14 An exception to the co-inquirers non-interest in the theoretical aspects of the research was with Nané Jordan, as her own academic research is in the area of women’s spirituality. It is Nané who introduced me to the spiritualized feminist work of Leela Fernandes and Jacqui Alexander. I am deeply grateful for the sharing of feminist writing and in depth conversations regarding women’s spiritual lineages with Nané. Our on-going conversations and collaborations continue to inspire and support our often times overlooked work in the academy. 15 Henry Giroux (2003) advocates for a public pedagogy not limited to schools, that emphasizes politics, is performative, and takes place in multiple sites and contexts across society with the potential to persuade and transform the public to critically engage dominant values leading to “collective outrage” and action towards promoting “autonomy and social change” (pp. 63-64). 16 In 2001, a ritual farewell took place at the Women’s Spirituality Dialogue (WSD) annual conference, honouring the original founders of the conference. In 2002 the name was officially changed to the Women’s Spirituality Celebration (WSC) and the multi-faith focus was instated in the mission statement. 17 This panel, which I (with awe) referred to as the panel of Curriculum Theory Diva’s amongst my graduate student colleagues was entitled “(Non) Evidence and Things Unseen: Feminisms, Curriculums and Democracies in the Rage for Accountability.” It included presentations from Deborah Britzman, Elizabeth Ellsworth, Patti Lather, Janet Miller and Elizabeth St. Pierre. Maggie Maclure was the discussant. It took place on April 14, 2005 (AERA catalogue, 2005, p. 293). 33 Chapter Two A/r/tography as Radical Relatedness Image 3 Bickel, Barbara. (2008). Visual Writing Mandala - February, 9, 2008, (Watercolour crayons on paper). 34 A Journey with A/r/tography This chapter introduces the conceptual framework of a/r/tography and my evolving relationship with a/r/tography, in order to assist the reader/viewer in their interpretation and understanding of the dissertation. As a practicing professional artist, I was embraced in 2002 by the small but thriving arts-based research community in the Faculty of Education at The University of British Columbia. My ritual1 background, as a spiritual feminist artist, easily transferred into the practice of a/r/tography and my journey with a/r/tography began within my Masters program. The Masters thesis (Bickel, 2003) developed a theoretical understanding of a/r/tography as ritual -- in which ritual contributed to the creating of time, space, and sacred understandings of an ethical sanctuary or container for transformative learning and inquiry to unfold within. Writing of my learning within the practice of a/r/tography as ritual, I proposed that accessing the arational texts of the body, and altered states through ritual allowed ignored, forgotten and hidden knowledges to emerge in the inquiry process. My relationship with a/r/tography as ritual has continued to develop within the Ph.D. program and the dissertation study. Although placed at the front of the dissertation, this chapter was written towards the end, after reflection on the a/r/tographic projects in Chapter Three, Four and Five. In the tradition of currere2 this chapter offers a meta level analysis of a/r/tography -- traversing expansive ground, reflexively traveling to some theoretical antecedents to a/r/tography, situating it within a broader scholarly context, and leading to emergent understandings that can enlarge one’s understanding and practice of a/r/tography. These new understandings call for further exploration, articulation, and synthesis in the future. I acknowledge that I am foremost a practitioner-methodologist. The underlying passion that has driven my graduate work has been to find practices that allow humans to experience a liberatory, whole and sacred education through art. I have been enamored with and have inquired into numerous qualitative research methods and theorists that have influenced my a/r/tographic practice, among them are mindful inquiry (Bentz and Shaprio, 1998), spiritual inquiry (Heron, 2006), participatory action research (Kemmis and MacTaggart, 2000; Reason, 1993, 2000; Sumara and Carson, 1997), arts-based research (Finley, 2005), decolonizing methodology (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999), collaborative inquiry (Torbert, 1981), cooperative inquiry (Heron, 1996), organic inquiry (Celments et al., 1998 ), narrative inquiry (Ellis, 2000), living inquiry (Meyer, 2005), performative inquiry (Fels, 1999), and a/r/tography (Irwin and de Cosson, 2004; Kind, 2006; Springgay, 2004). Through the theory and concepts that render a/r/tography, I have been 35 able to embrace the diversity of these many forms of inquiry, expanding my understandings of art as sacred inquiry, political intervention and pedagogy. Developing the work of a/r/tography as ritual, as a sacred inquiry, and an “embodied” (DiRubbo, 1995; Jaggar and Bordo, 1992; Snowber, 1999) and “feminist pedagogy” (hooks, 2000; Irwin, 1997; Lather, 1991; Raven, 1979) within the collaborative learning community of this study, serves to elaborate an expanded understanding of a/r/tography as “radical relatedness.” Radical relatedness, understood as “connective aesthetics” by art writer Suzi Gablik (1992) “redefine[s] the self as relational, rather than as separate and self-contained, [and] could actually bring about a new stage in our social cultural evolution (p. 51). Building upon ongoing relations between the body and the mind in learning, feminist pedagogy tends to encourage critical consciousness and an awareness of power relations. Feminist pedagogy holds the intention of building community through deep listening, dialoguing on ideas and paradigms, and creating new models of social interaction. Feminist pedagogy is collaborative at its root, offering mutual support and respectful supportive criticism. From the individual and collaborative practice of a/r/tography as ritual, the dissertation thesis that has emerged is that a/r/tography has created a conceptual and theoretical foundation for an ongoing critical practice of interrelational wholeness for individuals and community. The practice of a/r/tography requires an engagement with the multiple lenses of the artist/researcher/teacher in relationship to/with each other. The interrelationship between part and whole is always shifting and developing as it reaches towards an ever-evolving understanding of radical relatedness. The a r and t are symbolic of a waking-up of each part, artist/ researcher/ and teacher to a whole/parts relationship in a trialectic movement of learning and expansion as synecdoche. It is here that human/nonhuman/earth/Kosmic connections are exposed, embraced, and transcended. Within this chapter, I offer an extension to the current a/r/tographic renderings to further support the practice of part/whole relations in the form of synecdoche as a sacred/grounding/story/source. Just as the co-inquirers of the study were stretched by the practice of a/r/tography, so too were my theoretical understandings of a/r/tography. Entering into the context of multi-faith leadership and education has taken me to the margins of culture and into the realm of the sacred and Divine, revealing an area that has been veiled behind a/r/tography’s current theoretical understandings. Assisting indirectly in the unveilings, various theorists were drawn upon, who are not the poststructural critical theorists such as Ahmed, Aoki, Deleuze, Guattari, Kwon, Merleau Ponty, Nancy, and Rogoff, whose work on embodied ethics, relationality, border 36 crossing and aesthetics has assisted the rich theoretical development of a/r/tography to date. Rather, within this chapter, I introduce spiritual political emancipatory theorists and pedagogues, David Abalos, Kenneth R. Beittel, Leela Fernandes, Jacqui Alexander, and Parker Palmer -- each of whom call for a sacred epistemology that leads towards an ever-transforming pedagogy of wholeness -- revealing the Divine as telos, which radical relatedness desires. I believe these latter theorists offer yet another location from which to approach the radical relatedness of a/r/tography. Laying the Ground for A/r/tography A/r/tography draws theoretical understandings from action research, feminisms, post- structuralism, visual methodology, hermeneutics and other postmodern theories in its practice of understanding and integrating “theoria, praxis, and poesis, or theory/research, teaching/learning, and art/making” (Irwin, 2004, p. 28). Given its theoretical structures, it is not surprising that a/r/tography emerged as a form of interdisciplinary inquiry from within a collaborative community of artists and teachers, who were researching within the discipline of art education (Irwin and de Cosson, 2004). A/r/tography is preceded by many forms of arts-based inquiry3 that have merged within qualitative research in post-colonial contexts (Finley, 2005). These include: “arts-based educational research” (Eisner, 1998), where “broadening the range of perspectives available for constructing knowledge” in research through the arts is encouraged (Finley, p. 685); “arts-based research” from the graduate work of art therapists (e.g., McNiff, 2000); “arts- informed research” that encourages “scholartistry” by bridging art and social science research (Cole, Neilsen, Knowles, and Luciani, 2004); “artistic research methodology” (Gray, 1996) that evolved in the field of art and design within MFA programs in the UK; “practice-based arts research and design” (Frayling, 2001) that emerged in the UK within multidisciplinary MFA programs; and visual “art practice as research” (Sullivan, 2005) which focuses on the artist studio as a site of research. In her overview of “arts-based inquiry,” Susan Finley (2005) wrote, Making art is a passionate visceral activity that creates opportunities for communion among participants, researchers, and the various audiences who encounter the research text. Arts- based research crosses the boundaries of art and research as defined by the conventions formed historically, culturally bounded by contexts of the international art market and in the knowledge market dominated by higher education. (p. 685) 37 Gary Knowles and Ardra Cole (2008) in the “Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research” similarly write of “exploring the relationship between the arts and knowledge” (p. 1). They write in the preface: The productive fusions and tensions among qualitative inquiry and the literary, fine, applied, performing, and media arts give rise to redefinitions of research form and representation as well as new understandings of process, spirit, purpose, subjectivities, emotion, responsiveness, and ethical dimensions of inquiry. (p. xii) Arts-based research provides opportunities for communion and spirit making amongst members of a community that have been lost for the most part in our contemporary art and knowledge markets. Despite the sacred possibilities of communion through arts-based inquiry, in my reading of the variations of arts-based inquiry, I have found very few references within art-based educational research that incorporate a sacred or spiritual practice of art making with exceptions like Irwin (2006), Kind (2006) and Snowber (2002). Recently, within the field of art education, there has been a modest, yet significant, return to the spiritual aspects of art and education (i.e., Campbell, 2006; Gradle, 2004; Irwin, 2007; London 2006). In addition to these arts educators, I have found art and education addressed most profoundly in relation to the spiritual in the work of the late artist-educator Kenneth Beittel, who like the philosopher Hegel and art educator Victor Lowenfeld before him, understood “Spirit as artist.”4 The experience of spirit as artist emerges within the dissertation study and is addressed more fully in Chapter Six. As this dissertation and my a/r/tographic practice is situated within a multi-faith spiritual discourse, I offer a brief background on Beittel and his work, as it has significantly impacted my evolving theoretical understanding of the spiritual component of a/r/tography as ritual. Kenneth Beittel: Artist/Researcher/Educator The late art educator Marilyn Zurmuehlen, a former student and colleague of Beittel, described him as “[A] distinguished scholar, researcher, and teacher” (Zurmuehlen, 1991, p. 1), an artist-philosopher grounded in “Langer’s philosophy of art as presentational symbol… as well [as in] the praxis philosophies of existentialism and phenomenology [later hermeneutics and poetics], and through them to art as presence (Zurmuehlen, 1991, p. 18). His interests included, yet transcended, institutional art education, delving into the holistic and spiritual dimensions of life and the evolution of human consciousness5 through art. He had an active professional art practice and exhibited his pottery internationally throughout his career. His research at Penn 38 State in his Drawing Lab for 16 years, actively focused on the creative process of “artists”6 and the transformation of those that engaged the serial art making process reflectively. The foundational method that emerged from the Drawing Lab was what he called “the art of qualitative thinking”-- where an indepth interrelational dialogue is entered into with the artist through the art. In this method he drew from, and expanded upon, Dewey’s writing in Art as Experience and the concept of “qualitative thinking.” Beittel and Beittel (1991) explained this theoretical linkage with Dewey: While all experience might not be thought of as art, what Dewey called an experience, organizes itself as art does and remains the model for a vital conceptualization of art itself. In like manner, all experiencing might not be thought of as expressing, but qualitative experiencing is meant to be the equivalent to Dewey’s usage and in addition to connote that it provide us, through expression, with an invaluable text for understanding the deeper meaning of that experience itself. This is what I refer to as an art of qualitative thinking. (p. 138) They go on to explain, The overarching purpose of the art of qualitative thinking is to express, describe, and lead to epiphany, so that through its hermeneutic-expressive cycle consciousness becomes self- conscious of its expansion and can evolve. It moves from one expression to a still deeper one. The purpose of its cycle, as one large art process, is to extend qualitative time, to extend depth interpretation, to extend expression. (p. 149, italics theirs) The art of qualitative thinking challenged what Beittel called the “broken art,” (1985/2003) that he was witnessing in the art education field, which divided the process of making art from the spirit of art. In contrast, his vision was “a hermeneutic cycle which reveals the phenomenon and the interpreter’s hidden motivation as one” (p. 43). The art of qualitative thinking is “where paradoxical language and direct intuition take on their necessary consciousness-expanding function” (p. 181). It is composed of four moments that are dialectical and cyclical in process: (1) expressive text, (2) distancing, (3) interpreting, and (4) renewing. Within expressive text the originary quality of art/text is called forth as the starting point of the circular inquiry. Distancing brings forward “the absent quality…in imagination” (p. 141) and dispels habituation in the reading/seeing of text/art and opens the door to a depth of reading not possible prior to distancing. Interpreting moves the thinker/creator into explaining and understanding, and renewing returns to the next cycle of expressing/creating as the “mental forces reach their limit and subside” (p. 141). Each prior moment then becomes the ground for the moment to follow. 39 The art of qualitative thinking leads towards a global vision of spirit manifesting in the world through the nurturance and expansion of the human imagination. The relational art practice that evolved within the drawing lab between the artist, the art process and the researcher, Beittel (1974) identified as “arting7.” Arting, as described by Beittel was a co-sharing between the artist, the art making process and the witness(es). In this practice the witness/researcher steps into the artist’s creative relationship with the art and “a potential “third eye” or “mid-wife of the preconscious” is encouraged into being” (p. 3). Through the witness the artist is able to see beyond the process to recognize alternate paths that may have been taken in the arting process. Thus, Beittel wrote: ...artist, witness and aborning work stand in relation: artist-witness, artist-work and witness- work. A trinitarian co-agency, co-sharing, co-creating, transcending but not usurping autonomous otherness, in as in-relation, as in-between, is what is involved. (p. 6) Through the relational practice of arting one can understand and move with the artist and the art making process. Beittel believed all humans to be capable of creating, learning and transforming through the process of arting within the context of a “loving community” (p. 5). Assisted by a loving and nourishing dialogue, the internal eye of the artist is strengthened, in contrast to the external eye dividing the artist, as he laments, is often the case in western art education. He understood the “nature of “love” which enables the witness and co-journeyer not to “bug” but to “be with”, “to be in sympathy with”, the artist in a formative way” as a “formative philetic hermeneutics, or philetics of art education” (p. 6). He wrote, I see now that “teaching” arting is like “teaching” loving, and since that is not possible directly or transitively...one can only begin by loving the arting itself which is concretely present, no matter how weakly, in an other. Loving the arting in an other is of necessity also a widening of transference to loving the other as a person, which makes the fullness of his [her] individuality progressively stand forth. Beittel (e.g., 1985/2003) held an ideal and ethical vision of the power of art in assisting the development of awareness in humans. This vision was supported by his own experience of learning, growth and transformation through his life-long practice as an artist supported by his research and mentoring work at Penn State, and being mentored within an ancient Japanese pottery tradition by a hereditary Japanese pottery master. He was a very astute scientist (experimental researcher) too, as his early work in the 1950- 60s and early 70s exemplifies (e.g., Beittel, 1953; Beittel and Burkhart, 1963; and a summary in Beittel, 1972). However, as early as 1959 he critiqued science as “unwarranted scientism” (p. 26) 40 and “methodolatry” overall (see Beittel, 1973). In the late 1950s he was also a critic of artists and art educators, who wanted to dismiss the value of scientific research initiatives in art education, as insensitive to and incapable of understanding what artists and art teachers do. Ted Aoki, whose work is a “complex interdisciplinary configuration of phenomenology, poststructuralism, and multiculturalism” (Pinar and Irwin, 2005, p. 1) and, who has had a large impact on reconceptualist curriculum thinking, has acknowledged the significant influence of Beittel’s thought on his own thinking (Pinar and Irwin, 2005, p. 92). Beittel’s methods are, in part, that of a structuralist, in contrast to a totally committed poststructuralist. Beittel embraced tradition, deconstructed the tradition, and reconstructed it anew—making his work postmodern, but not constrained by postmodernist’s attack on spiritual holarchic8 development. Bringing the best of science and mysticism as inquiry together was of great interest to Beittel. In 1959 he wrote, “While feeling that nothing is sacred in the sense that it cannot be studied, I have maintained that there is an area of proper mysticism associated with research in art or art education” (p. 26). Beittel (1997) would be quick to acknowledge his philosophical and intellectual work (the analytical discursive) as limited, and at times taking him away from “ground zero,” (the process of making art itself) and, thus, he would try and integrate that with his “transcendelic or numinous and poetic part, since that is the real end which is my beginning, and always has been...” (p. 533). Beittel’s philosophy and writings resonate with my experience and journey as an artist/researcher/teacher committed to the evolution of consciousness through the practice of a/r/tography as ritual in loving community. His ability to acknowledge and describe with passion the interconnectedness of the artist, researcher, and educator, with spirit, community, and nature, has assisted me to clarify my own philetic connection to the Kosmos on an ongoing basis. He draws together wisdom from his own mentors, be they his teachers, philosophers he has studied, his students, or his pots. He refuses to downplay the mystical dimensions of art. “There is a proper mystical dimension to the arts which cannot be wished away by the most rigorous thinkers” (Beittel, 1961, p. 116). I discovered Beittel’s work in a reprinted 1985 article, in a 2003 issue of Visual Arts Research, the year of his death. Since 1985, his work has been largely overlooked in the field of Art Education. According to Fisher and Bickel (2006), Only one art educator, and former student, the distinguished late Marilyn Zurmuehlen (1991), ha[s] taken Beittel’s work and given it full attention in a journal article, that we know of. Any other published renderings have been scant or tangential (not to forget the 41 dissertations, collecting dust on library shelves, by the plenitude of Beittel’s students over the years). (p. 35) Although many art educators have used and cited Beittel’s work historically, his visibility as a theorist in the field of art education is low. In recent years though, art educators, some with an interest in holistic education, art as a spiritual practice, and the transformative power of art, have drawn support from Beittel’s work (Campbell, 2005; Chung, 2006; Gradle, 2004, 2004a, 2006, 2007; Svedlow, 2004). As well, art educators mapping the history of the field refer to Beittel (Chalmers, 2004; Stockrocki, 2005; Thurber, 2004; White, 2004; Wilson, 2001) and those interested in art research in the artist studio (Sullivan, 2005). Beittel was a large figure in the field, spending his entire career of more than thirty years within it. He had many supporters coupled with resisters of his work and thinking. This resistance carries on today, more than twenty years since he retired and five years after his death (see Fisher and Bickel, 2006). A significant portion of the resistance appears to be to the spiritual/mystical aspect of Beittel’s teaching and philosophy. He has been referred to pejoratively by some art educators as the “mystic in art education” and wary critics make accusations of guru worship to those working with his theories. Such comments about his life and work still occur today (I received a reader’s anonymous review of an article on Beittel with a statement in this vein). I link this to my own experience of the emergent community of a/r/tography. The mistrust and wariness that a particular form of inquiry might be led by any one person or one university is ever present in criticisms of a/r/tography, as it is sometimes misunderstood and perceived as enclosed and self-referential. I believe creative movements are often spirit striving towards its own development. Educational environments are logical locations for these movements to arise, but sadly this is also where the forces to repress creative coalition between universities, faculty, and graduate students is greatest, it seems. Beittel wrote often of his decision to stay close to the ground of art making as a practicing artist, researcher, and teacher, and I would assume this assisted him in clarifying his lifework directions. He worked collaboratively with his students in a drawing lab with community members. Similarly, a/r/tography forefronts the importance of an art making process to guide living inquiry and forefronts the relational aspects of inquiry. It is the “relational understanding of community, art, and research that shapes the methodology of a/r/tography” (Springgay, Irwin and Kind, 2008). I believe Beittel’s work foreshadows the current work of a/r/tography, which has a relational base and calls for a rigorous commitment to an art-making, researching, and teaching practice. As this chapter progresses, I will draw further from Beittel’s 42 theorizing on art (and spirit) for a new age9 to extend theoretical understandings of a/r/tography as it is currently conceived in the a/r/tographic literature. A/r/tography and Self/Spirit The inception, art making, theorizing, and writing of this dissertation has been a process of living inquiry – a lived curriculum of being and becoming. Irwin and Springgay (2008) write that, “A/r/tography as practice-based research is situated in the in-between, where theory-as- practice-as-process-as-complication intentionally unsettles perception and knowing through living inquiry” (p xxi). Living inquiry is one of the six renderings or conceptual practices of a/r/tography along with contiguity, metaphor and metonymy, openings, reverberations, and excess (explained later). A/r/tography has been influenced by, and supported by, many creative and critical thinkers within the field of education. It is informed by curriculum theorists Maxine Green, Dwayne Huebner, Elliot Eisner, Madeleine Grumet, and Ted Aoki among others who support the arts and imagination within a revisionist understanding of curriculum (Pinar, 2004, p. 23). William Pinar’s theory of currere,10 which provides a location for intellectual risk-taking where “the theorist must continually be willing to give oneself up, including one’s point of view” (Pinar, 2004, p. 119), has influenced the emergence of a/r/tography as an autobiographical practice of self-reflexive inquiry within the field of education. Pinar wrote in the introduction to the first edited compilation of a/r/tographic work that a/r/tography is “a significant advance in the sector of scholarship and research ... characterized as understanding curriculum as aesthetic text” (Pinar, 2004, p. 23). In “Walking to Create an Aesthetic and Spiritual Currere,” Irwin (2006) draws together spirituality, art making, and currere in her pedagogical practice. She wrote: Walking to create a spiritual and aesthetic currere is an excursion into a pedagogy of self. A commitment to a pedagogy of self encourages further excursions through recursive activities such as artmaking and writing that serve to create who we are. It is through the rhythms of a walking currere, a walking pedagogy of self, that we are introduced to a sense of freedom, transformation and flow. (pp.13 -14) Some a/r/tographers, similar to Beittel and Beittel’s (1991) art of qualitative thinking, have referred to a spiritual aspect to their a/r/tographic practice where their “express[ions], describe, and lead to epiphany” (p. 149). Early in her practice of a/r/tography, Sylvia Kind (2004) wrote of how she, 43 …began to see art-making as contemplative practice and as a prayerful act. I saw similarities between inquiry and search for revelation and understanding and prayer. In this way I came to think of art-making as prayer, as a deeply spiritual act of giving voice to the inner longings of the spirit with an attitude of receptivity and openness. (p. 57) A/r/tography, as I have come to understand it through my individual and collaborative engagement of walking with it, is an integrative form of inquiry that can move one towards a whole and sacred epistemology and pedagogy. Through one’s excursion into the self through art, one can then move towards deepening radical relationships of inquiry with others (human and non-human) and the sacred. A/r/tography as a Relational Practice As an emerging form of inquiry, a/r/tography calls for a committed self-reflexive practice of art making and writing (graphy). The multiple identities of the artist, researcher, and teacher are called upon and, when fully utilized, offer rigour and multiple perspectives to the inquiry. Within this self-reflexive practice “[a]/r/tographical research is not subject to standardized criteria, rather it remains dynamic, fluid, and in constant motion (Irwin and Springgay, 2008, p xix). The complex collaboration with multiple self-identities requires the a/r/tographer to step outside of what may be a more familiar or comfortable identity into an interrelational process with the self. Elsewhere (Bickel, 2005), I wrote of the distinct yet overlapping identities and practices at work within the a/r/tographer: At its best, a/r/tography encourages the combined creative freedom and risk-taking of the artist, the rigor and responsibility of the academic researcher, along with the ethics and compassion of the educator. (pp. 13-14) To date the main research of a/r/tography has been autobiographical (Bickel, 2004: de Cosson, 2003: Kind, 2006, Pente, 2008), fictional (Sameshima, 2006), biographical (Diaz, 2005), school- based (Darts, 2004: Friedman, 2006; Springgay, 2004), teacher education-based (Sinner, 2008) and, collaborative and community-based (Irwin et al., 2006). Sylvia Kind (2006) writes that the relationality of the artist, researcher, and teacher is the foundation of a/r/tography. It is a living inquiry that resides within the “tensioned and difficult inbetween spaces” (p. 52). “[T]he a/r/t touch, relate to, speak to, inform, enrich, and enliven the other” (Kind, 2006, p. 62). In a similar vein Stephanie Springgay (2004) writes of “touch as intercorporeality” (p. 91), where body knowledges are understood as being “formed through 44 beings(s)-in relation (p. 91). Irwin and Springgay (2008) further suggest that it is the relational “and ... the intertextual situations that provoke a/r/tographical research, not necessarily academic intentions (p. xxv). Irwin et al., (in press) extend the aspect of relationality in a/r/tography: A/r/tography is a living inquiry of unfolding art forms and text that intentionally unsettles perception and complicates understandings through its rhizomatic relationality. In so doing, space and time are understood in different ways. (p 11) In this way the rhizomatic relations of a/r/tography act as “one large art process,... to extend qualitative time, to extend depth interpretation, [and] to extend expression” (Beittel, 1991, p. 149). A/r/tography addresses three areas of relationality (Irwin et al., 2006, p. 79) which are not limited to, but can be addressed through, the identities of the artist/researcher/teacher: relational aesthetics, lived through the lens of the artist; relational inquiry, as experienced through the researcher; and relational learning, as understood through the teacher (Bickel et al., 2007). Relational aesthetics is a growing practice of art in the contemporary art world as the art field becomes, in the words of French art historian and curator Nicolas Bourriaud, ‘porous’ rather than closed and autonomous (2002, p. 27). Bourriaud (2002) has suggested relationality is an “arena of exchange” where dialogue between the artwork and audience takes place (cited in Gade, 2005, p. 18). In this sense it is “public, community-based art, emphasizing social interactions between artists and spectators” (Ross, 2006, p. 136). In a recent issue of Flash Art, relational aesthetics has been defined as an approach, “in which the artist loses his [her] ego-centrality, in order to create a good communication with his [her] ‘object’ – but at the same time [is] always deeply respected as a ‘subject’” (Ross, 2006, p. 138). Philosophers Deleuze and Guattari see relational aesthetics as a movement towards ‘truth’ based on the interaction between the artist and the audience (cited in Bleeker, 2004, p. 146). Art writer Suzi Gablik (1992), drawing from feminist theory, writes of “the politics of connective aesthetics” in contrast to modernism’s “radical autonomy and individual uniqueness.” She understands connective aesthetics as “the spirit, or ‘binding power’ that holds everything together,” which is missing in our modernist world (p. 51). Within relational inquiry, barriers between researcher and subject are crossed (Reason, 2005) and a relationship of care, compassion, and trust is invoked. Because of this it can hold the tensions of insider outsider research (Tuwaihi Smith, 1999). Social psychologists define “relational inquiry [a]s a way of thinking and acting that, in practice, is responsive to the emerging context. It is not a set of skills or techniques that can be learned and then performed” 45 (McNamee and Gergen, 1999, p. 165). Within leadership study, Fletcher and Kaufer (2003) describe the relational skills that are required to contribute to “growth-in-connection:” [They are]... characterized by the construct of mutuality in which the boundary between self and other is more fluid and multi-directional.... The process is one that moves from mutual authenticity (we bring our authentic selves to the interaction); to mutual empathy (in which we hold onto self but also experience the other’s reality); and finally to mutual empowerment (in which each is in some way influenced or affected by the other, so that something new is created). (p. 28) Feminist Jacqui Alexander (2005) in writing (in particular) of identity politics within Women Studies, where she has witnessed feminist scholars keeping their work divided based on identities, directs relational inquiry within the academy to “move across... borders to develop frameworks that are simultaneously intersubjective, comparative and relational, yet historically specific and grounded” (pp. 253-254). Relational teaching/learning assists learners to “become partners in their own education of life” (Boyd and Sullivan, 2006, n.p.). Curriculum theorists Britzman, Doll, and Pinar conceptualize pedagogy as “profoundly relational” (Pinar, 1998, p. 27). Adult educator Dorothy MacKeracher (2004) points to the importance of “other-connected or relational learning” which is understood as “supportive, co-operative and collaborative and social action based” (p. 19). A/r/tographers grapple with the richness and complexity of relational aesthetics, relational inquiry, and relational teaching/learning in their a/r/tographic practices. They draw from the relational theories and practices in each of the domains of art, research, and teaching to strengthen their understandings and practices. A/r/tographic renderings assist in the conceptual unfolding and depth interpretation of the relational a/r/tographic practice. The renderings offer multiple interconnected entry points from which to enhance learning within the inquiry and create a base from which to share the a/r/tographic research with others. A/r/tographic Renderings and the Labyrinth The renderings of a/r/tography assist in the expansion of our notions of space, and time. They are “theoretical conceptualizations of aesthetic knowing and being” (Springgay, 2004, p. 42) that offer entry points for crossing the boundaries of writing, art making, knowing, and living. They orient themselves to process rather than method. As I strive to explain a practice that encourages the undoing of oneself, I turn to the labyrinth as an ancient cross-cultural structure that synergistically embodies the a/r/tographic renderings of metaphor/metonymy, 46 contiguity, living inquiry, openings, reverberations and excess (Springgay, Irwin and Kind, 2005). Labyrinths are most often circular in shape, signifying wholeness. Unlike mazes, which are a puzzle to find one’s way through, the labyrinth has one entrance and one path that leads to the centre, and which one retraces on the way out. Renderings offer a linguistic path to assist and guide ones’ understanding of the multiple aspects that emerge within the art-making/inquiry/teaching process. An a/r/tographer may enter the inquiry through these guideposts or allow renderings to emerge out of the inquiry process. This is similar to walking a labyrinth where one can enter with specific concepts or questions to meditate upon or enter with no guideposts and allow the concepts, questions and ideas to emerge through the walking. There are no specific rules for walking the labyrinth, although guidelines have been developed from spiritual traditions that practice walking meditation in the labyrinth. Similarly, there are no rules for working with the guideposts of renderings in a/r/tography. They have been developed by those practicing a/r/tography and can shift and be added to as the practice develops. The labyrinth is a sacred container for the ritual of living inquiry to take place within. Living inquiry refuses to separate our daily lives from an a/r/tographic inquiry process. It calls for a wide awakeness to all aspects of our lives, emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual. As a contiguous structure, the labyrinth weaves the past, present, and future as well as art, spirituality, and the moving body together. Contiguity reminds us of the nearness and immediacy of our artist, researcher and teacher selves. Each role rubs up against the other, sometimes causing friction at other times support. Openings are the in-between spaces that we often overlook or try to cover over as they can take us into other realms of awareness outside of our normal comfort zones as artist, researcher, and teacher. The openings of the a/r/tographic journey can potentially open our hearts and minds to new ways of being, generating new ways of perceiving and knowing. Metaphor/metonymy bring the power of symbol into our inquiry. They can take us beyond our own self-contained worldviews. Novelist Joyce Cary (1958) wrote of the transformative ability of symbols, It is the ambivalence of the symbol that enables the artist, as teacher or expositor, as creator of meanings, to bridge the gap between the individual idea and the universal real emotion, forming by art a personality which unites them both in a single active and [subconscious] rational will. (p. 190) 47 The labyrinth is a contemporary metonym; that is, a symbol that has recently, by some, come to represent a sacred multi-faith space (Artress, 2006). Symbols are multi-vocal and connect us historically to past and contemporary cultures, and can assist in the transformation of future cultures. The labyrinth reverberates with the history of past civilizations and contemporary lives. Reverberations invite us to respond to patterns and connections that emerge through the a/r/tographic process. They make visible what may at first appear to be a simple occurrence, but if explored may lead to new and provocative understandings. Excess offers permission to overdo it, to extend beyond ourselves into forbidden territory. Excess is found in the margins of our lives and our society. The excess or endlessness that the labyrinth can evoke through the winding journey can cause leaks and fissures in the journeyer, transgressing limiting ways of being and knowing. The Rhetorical Triad of Metaphor/Metonymy/Synecdoche: Extending a Rendering The framework of a/r/tography as ritual with the addition of synecdoche to the renderings is important in understanding the sacred and whole a/r/tographic process of this dissertation study. To support the addition of this rendering and the maturation of a/r/tography within the twenty first century, I refer to Beittel’s (1985) understanding of sacred art for a new age, and the sacred cycle that can move a broken art to a whole art. This cycle can be endlessly entered, according to Beittel, through the dialectic and poetic interrelationship of metaphor, metonymy, and synecdoche. Metaphor and metonymy, are already in place as renderings within conceptual practices of a/r/tography. Just as metaphor and metonymy are fundamental to assisting the flow of language in its construction and complexity, they serve as a creative rendering within a/r/tography to assist movement and flow in the complexity of the a/r/tographic process. Based upon Beittel’s understanding of the rhetorical triadic relationship of metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche, I have brought synecdoche into my own a/r/tographic practice as ritual. Synecdoche introduces the movement of the multi-dimensional spiral into the dialectic relationship of metaphor/metonymy. It blurs the boundaries of metaphor/metonymy even further encouraging and nurturing the radical relationality of the part/whole, individual/universal, individuation/unity, autonomous/communal. Radical relationality is itself synecdochical in that it conjoins automomy with community, the human with the environment interrelationally. I suggest that it is an addition that assists the radical and relational journey towards a whole art and a whole a/r/tographic practice. 48 The character of metaphor as understood by Beittel (1985) is the relationship of a whole to a whole, metonymy a relationship between parts, and synecdoche enters with the desire to relate the parts to the whole (p. 50). Hazard Adams (1988) similarly expands our understanding of synecdoche and method in his theory: Further, what counts is the relation of part to part and part to whole: Method [says Coleridge]... becomes natural to the mind which has been accustomed to contemplate not things only, or for their own sake alone, but likewise and chiefly the relation of things. (p. 41) Coleridge in his treatment of poetic method brings forth a temporal multi-dimensional and developmental aspect to synecdoche that is not just spatial (as part and whole) but, as Hazard implies, a part which anticipates the whole– a telos on the way to wholeness. Metaphor and metonymy engage a dialogue, and when synecdoche is brought in, a trialectic between all three can extend the cycle of inquiry and learning to a full embrace of the Kosmos and our place within it. My own part/whole situatedness within the dissertation as a co- participant/co-inquirer, planning team member/university researcher is an example of synecdoche as an experience of living inquiry within this a/r/tographic study. Radical relationality itself is synecdochical in the part/whole tensions that it creates, which can alter those living the tensions so prevalent within an individualistic Western world. I suggest that synecdoche is an addition to a/r/tography that anticipates a radical and relational journey towards a whole a/r/tographic practice. As another example of a symbolic synecdochical rendering, I offer the reflective description I wrote after a temporal multi-dimensional ritual encounter I had with a sound installation entitled “Forty-Part Motet” by internationally renowned Canadian artist Janet Cardiff. The installation was collaboratively created with her partner George Bures Miller in 2001, and has been exhibited in numerous international public galleries and cathedrals. Cardiff shares in her artist statement that she wanted to enter the music and understand the composition from the inside out, and to allow the viewer/listener an experience from the choir’s perspective. Peaceful... Amazing... Magnificent... are words written on yellow post-it notes by gallery visitors outside the gallery door to Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet sound installation at the Surrey Art Gallery in British Columbia (February 27, 2008). A young family is exiting the installation and asks if I have seen it and if not, to hurry in as it is starting. I quickly enter, and observe the large plain gallery space with identical hi-fidelity speakers on tripods at average ear height, placed in an oval formation. Echoing sounds of men coughing, throats clearing, and 49 young male voices in conversation are heard emerging from the forty individual speakers. As one moves around the oval installation different vocal warm up sounds and conversations are heard, then die out as the conductors voice, heard in the distance (his voice does not merit a mic) tells the choir of male singers that he will not stop unless something disastrous happens. A moment of quiet and the a cappella choral music begins. A single piercing voice emerges from one speaker and contiguous voices join in waves as my ears slowly follow the building polyphonic choral sounds, slowly turning by body clockwise from my location in the center of the oval. Just as the full circumference of my body turning is complete, the voluminous choir sound is released from all speakers and I am moved to tears in response as I stand transfixed in the center of the oval for the duration of the performance. The fourteen minutes of 16th Century English composer, Thomas Tallis’s complex polyphonic music ends at the moment of climatic choral richness and is followed by an achingly full silence. I remain, for the most part alone within the installation space of reverent sound, while four more exactly the same performances take place. I find myself exploring the different ways one can interact with the choir and the installation. Moving randomly throughout the space, pausing to listen to individual voices as they attract my attention. Laying down on the cushioned bench in the center of the oval, allowing the sound to drop into my body from all directions. At times I become a choir member adding my own vocal harmony to the motet. Walking clockwise at a steady pace for the fourteen minutes as the square-faced speakers become stickmen, blurring as I pass by, individual voices catching my ear momentarily to be replaced by another voice. This stark gallery space has become a soundscape within which one can play and explore uncensored. I become part of the whole that is this oval unity made up of forty, sometimes forty- one distinct voices. I synecdochically become the whole while standing and laying in the center, and a part amidst the whole as I move about listening and responding to the different voices. As I reluctantly walk out of the installation I stop at the post-it board and add the word synecdochical. Within the seventy-five minutes of immersion in the installation I experienced a sense of profound rest. The visual, being only one aspect of the whole sensory event, sanctioned a shift from an intense and focused viewing state to a soft-focused receptive and embodied state. One moment I was transformed into a choir member performing, in another moment I was a receptive audience member, and in yet another moment I became a keenly aware conductor. I found myself shifting effortlessly from part to whole, to whole to part depending on my physical location in the installation. The opportunity to soften and at times close my eyes, while my ears, 50 body, and spirit were auditorily touched and entered, revealed my entire being to a rich connective aesthetic. I became an active participant/creator in a ritual of my/the artist’s making within this public gallery space. Living for a brief time in the ever expanding sacred cycle of relating parts to/with the whole. A/r/tography as Ritual and Performative/Pedagogy For some, a/r/tography offers a unique inquiry space that expands notions of art, writing, and inquiry, while simultaneously holding space for the spiritual. The theory and practice of a/r/tography has resonated with and expanded my philosophy of art and education. As an artist interested in art as public pedagogy and research, a/r/tography became an intermediary between my artist self and the academy. During my Masters thesis, I developed a/r/tography as ritual, and made visible the spiritual and aesthetic relationships between the body, art, space, place, text, ritual, inquiry and education. At the same time, I lived through an expansive journey of identity transformation; from artist to a/r/tographer. This transition conjoined the identities of researcher and educator to my more developed artist identity. Ritual11 was the sacred container that held and assisted me through the often disorienting thesis journey. In the development of a/r/tography as ritual, I have found the work of ritual theorist Ronald Grimes (1995) helpful in expanding traditional understandings of ritual.12 He found that artists play a consistent role in bringing “emergent ritual” into society through art and artistic performances, which act as vehicles to awaken reflexive consciousness in society. I perform a/r/tography as ritual as a “[p]rocess of invention” (Irwin et. al., 2005, p. 46) so as to move beyond mere content, interpretation, and a rational reading alone. The performative aspects of a/r/tography as ritual are essential to understanding what I have come to articulate as a performative pedagogy. Grimes further wrote that “[r]itual enactment at once awakens the reflexivity of consciousness and tranquilizes the anxiety provoked by doing so” (p. 69). Through offering an understanding of “nascent ritual” or emergent ritual, he challenged the study of ritual to focus, not only on historical and established rituals, but also on the new creation of ritual in postmodern society. Nascent ritual, I believe, supports the role of ritual as part of postmodern a/r/tographic inquiry. He further explains that rituals in this context are not set structures but “structurings” that “surge and subside, ebb and flow (p. 62).” The “knower and known” are conjoined (p. 69)” in ritualizing, and the realization that research and education happens not just on ritual, but in ritual is acknowledged. 51 Likewise, film-maker and theorist Trinh t. Minh-ha (2005), whose postcolonial films contain aspects of spirituality and ritual, recognizes rituals as “... dynamic agents in the ongoing process of creating a symbolic world of meaning and truth” (p. 74). She validates the aspect of ritual performance in the work of the artist: I’ve sometimes defined artists and activists as “pathmakers,” and “art” as a way of marking moments in our lives…. Similarly, one can say that media practice, at its best, is ritual performance. A work that remains alive is a work always in performance.... One should treat rituals as rituals if one is to step out of the servile one-dimensional mind and turn an instrument into a creative tool. (p. 74) As part of the creative tool, spirituality, Trinh wrote “… is not something that can be discussed lightly, since spirituality has always resisted analytical thinking and the logic of consciousness (2005, p.176). I concur that the analysis and the logic of consciousness is resisted within the lived experience and inquiry of ritual. Rita Irwin (2007, p. 10) writes that performance and rituals are often” evocative and/or provocative” assisting each person involved to think critically, moving beyond patterned and comfortable ways of thinking and being with others, towards new perspectives and transformative learning experiences. Ritual, in contrast to theatrical performance, is not focused on the “performance” or the end product with entertainment as the goal. Instead, ritual is focused on the “process” of the experience for both the enactor of the ritual and the viewer/witness while in relationship with spirit. Symbols become the connecting element in ritual through enacted movements, forms and sounds. Within my own lived experience of ritual as performative/pedagogy I am not an actor performing a script but a priestess engaging with spirit in a sacred context that holds the intention of re-making our perceptions of the world. Feminist Kay Turner (1982) in writing of contemporary feminist ritual in North America forefronts the importance of women enacting rituals as a way of women empowering themselves and each other. She reminds us that “[g]enerally, men have held the rights to ritual use: in fact, the participation in ritual by men has been their most profound display of cultural authority and their most direct access to it” (p. 221). In reclaiming ritual as an emancipatory performative and pedagogical process, one can dramatically reaffirm one’s place of belonging and identity within community (K. Turner, p. 226). Nascent or emergent ritual, as described by Grimes, is what artists and women gravitate to as they create symbolic worlds of meaning (Grimes, 1995; Northrup, 1997). The practice of a/r/tography as ritual within this study works with this nascent ritual practice. Nascent ritual offers a fluid structure for inquiry and learning processes that interweave the performative and 52 pedagogical. The simple structure that guides nascent ritual as practiced in this study includes: 1) an intention which grounds and clarifies the purpose of the work to be done, 2) a chosen or created sacred space which acts as a safe sanctuary for the work, 3) an intentional form of witnessing that may or may not include other human beings and, 4) some manner of closure that allows one to leave the ritual space and process to return to ordinary life. The collaborative dissertation study works with a/r/tography as ritual to create a sanctuary that holds and supports the performative/pedagogical inquiry/excavation processes, creating a supportive ground for risk-taking, challenges, and new knowledge to emerge within. Trinh (2005) wrote: In other words, rituals serve as a ‘frame’ whose stabilizing effect, experienced through repetition in cycles and rhythmic recurrences, allows us to see things with a different intensity and, … to perceive the ordinary in an extra-ordinary way. (p. 135) A potential political outcome of ritual is to reinforce “bonds that inspire social change... renew[ing]... commitment[s] to evolving and transforming society as a whole” (K. Turner, 1982, p. 227). Reverence and the Sacred Within the frame of a/r/tography as ritual, reverence is drawn together with the sacred. Spiritual teacher and artist Peter Reason (1993) positions action research as a spiritual practice within a “living, sacred cosmos” (p. 282) that integrates a critical social consciousness with the sacred. His relational philosophy includes an aesthetic, as well as a spiritual imperative (Reason, 2005) that requires face-to-face interaction within communities of inquirers (Reason, 2002). His notion of “action research as spiritual practice” (2000) echoes with the practice of a/r/tography as ritual. Ritual can include the process of community making. Philosopher and educator, the late Rudolf Steiner theorized on what he called “Cosmic Ritual” or “Spiritual Communion” where it is possible to achieve communion, when one beholds the other and consequently begins to understand the other. Steiner (1964) wrote that , ... the great process of transformation begins, where the one is able to work upon the other out of a profound knowledge and understanding, and the plastic molding of the spirit is taken up and changed to music and to speech....Word meets word; articulate word meets inwardly living word. The human souls are themselves words; their symphony is the symphony of the spoken cosmic Word in its very being (communion). (pp. xiv-xv) 53 Steiner teaches, “The arts are another path to Spiritual Communion through transformation and purification of feeling” (Benesch, 2001, p. xi). Art educator Sally Gradle (2006) similarly teaches future art educators, ... that humans have always responded to challenges with artful participations, sometimes called rituals, which honor and strengthen community, elaborate on valued experiences, (Dissanayake, 2000), passages of time (Eliade, 1959), and life transformations (Highwater, 1994, Abram, 1996). (p. 13) Likewise, educator and researcher John Heron (1998) reflects that, when groups of people enter collaborative practices13 of inquiry, they often come to share an “intersubjective perspective on what is universal” (p. 15). He further explains that we need to go “beyond rational discourse to resolve issues of spiritual validity” (p. 15). He suggests adopting “concourse” (a la Jurgen Kremer), that draws from the multiple levels (arational and rational) of human experience through all art forms, “...ritual, silence, stories, humour, spiritual practice” (p. 15). He has observed that groups entering interreligious dialogue have found it helpful to combine rational discussions with ritual and spiritual practices (p. 15). In essence, I attempted to do this throughout the study. The inquiry practice of a/r/tography as ritual has offered a location for me, as someone interested in art as transformative education, to challenge the limiting classical and modernist aesthetics of form, order and beauty alone and to engage an integral and spiritual art aesthetic that is in relationship—a practice that follows the art process and is curious about the space between, around and inside the: mind/body, the rational/arational, cultural/spiritual, writing/art, and ritual/education. Kenneth Beittel (1989/92) understands this as an integral spiritual transformative practice of art for a new age. He wrote that, The practice of art… is a spiritual discipline that offers a powerful antidote to an age suffering from its loss of center…. In this coming age we will see a big shift in human consciousness, away from the mental, egoistic, toward more spiritual ways of being and knowing…. to practice thus is to work at self-transformation. (p. ix) Ritual opens the threshold to a “sacred” and “spirited” epistemology (Lincoln and Denzin, 2000 and Vella, 2000) where the spiritual and arational become significant sites of knowledge making and pedagogy, alongside the rational within our educational systems and our cultural roots of ritual. A/r/tographic ritual has challenged and expanded my ability to bridge “articulate word” with “inwardly living word” (Steiner, 1964). It is in the practice of a/r/tographic ritual that 54 I have been able to bring together the rational and arational aspects of art, writing, research and education. Ritual, I argue, thoughtfully supports the practice of a/r/tography, while interweaving “the arts with scholarly writing through living inquiry” (Springgay, Irwin and Kind, 2008, p. 84). This further complicates and expands traditional understandings of what art, research, and education are. Ritual creates a sacred space that we can create, perform, explore, learn, and teach within. Rudolf Steiner (1964) taught the 3R’s of education as rhythm, ritual, and reverence. Through the embodied rhythm of ritual we can move into places of reverence and awe in our connections with others. From this place of open connection, revelation has the opportunity to surface, transforming our understandings of each other, ourselves, and the world that we live in. When the sacred and thoughtful space of ritual is missing, we struggle to hold the intangibleness of the arational aspects of our experiences, and revelation is more easily lost or destroyed. Sacred Epistemology and a Pedagogy of Wholeness14 The significance of a “sacred epistemology” that guides my art making, pedagogy, and research as an a/r/tographer was made clear to me through a revelation I had while ritually walking a labyrinth. I spoke about this experience at an artist talk,15 I had a recent experience being in San Francisco and going to Grace Cathedral. When I was younger I traveled in Europe and went to cathedrals to look at the art. Spending time at Grace cathedral and walking its indoor and outdoor labyrinths, reminded me that my greatest experiences of learning have started with art – it draws me in - then spirit enters, and as I’m touched by spirit in some way, learning and education follow. That is the ongoing cycle. The experiential relationship with art begins the learning experience and that’s a place of not necessarily knowing. When I look/listen/touch art and I’m open to the spirit connection that is always present ... then... I’m in multiple conversations and I can learn. .... Art is about learning, going to a place where I don’t know and I am not guiding it. It comes from a place of not knowing first, where you take the risk of making or doing. I often don’t know what my art pieces mean and I don’t care what they mean when I am making them. When I share my art with people and they respond to the pieces, they give me insights and teach me about my art. (Artist Talk Excerpts, April 19, 2006) 55 Beittel (1989/92) might understand the revelation I received while walking the labyrinth and looking at the art in Grace cathedral as an experience of anticipatory wholeness. He wrote of artists’ commitment to dwelling with the unknown: Artists live in a kind of participatory and anticipatory wholeness. They are committed to the form of things unknown. Tradition shows them that these forms are natural, selfless, and timeless at the same time that they are unique, present, and part of their own destiny. (p. 8) Similar to Beittel’s reflections on the critical and self-aware artist in touch with tradition, a commitment to participatory and anticipatory wholeness is present within the radical relatedness of a/r/tography. In addition, an openness to arational ways of knowing finds a receptive home within a/r/tography as ritual. The arational, as I have come to learn, has historically been acknowledged within the mystic traditions and by artists. I believe it is essential for the development of a “sacred epistemology” which expands sacred texts, “ is political, presuming a feminist, communitarian moral ethic stressing the values of empowerment, shared governance, care, solidarity, love, community, covenant, morally involved observers, and civic transformation" (Lincoln and Denzin, 2000, p. 1052). Peter Reason (in press) takes an ethical stance in support of arational ways of knowing arguing “that reliance on the conscious and rational mind unaided by art, religious experience, dream and such like is ‘necessarily pathogenic and destructive of life’ (Bateson, 1972, p. 146; cited in Reason, forthcoming, p. 3). Reason (1993) teaches that we require diverse artistic means to take experiential knowing and present it in creative performative ways prior to the application of concepts, theories, and abstract ideas (p. 279). Within rational scientific forms of research, the spiritual aspects of life and inquiry are too often seen as irrational and relegated to the margins. A/r/tography as ritual offers a corrective to this marginalization where a sacred cycle of discovery and experience through art can unfold expanding knowledge construction in the arational realm alongside the rational. My commitment to sustaining a sacred and whole practice of art/research/teaching has been both a blessing and a struggle. Keeping a balance of studio, academic, and teaching practices is not easily accomplished, as the journey through my graduate program revealed. A few years ago I was challenged reading an article by Beittel. He described the experience of writing an academic article in his studio surrounded by his pottery tools and pots. At the time of reading, I could not imagine bringing my academic writing into my studio space. The distance between 56 these two, seemingly oppositional mindsets (rational and arational), felt extreme and impossible. Yet, I did not forget his demanding words of wisdom. Through the writing of this dissertation I have evolved to bringing studio supplies in to my writing space. As I have laboured to express my understanding of concepts, ideas, and theorists through words, I move back and forth to visually express these concepts in daily process mandalas (Images 3 and 4). In this way, I have kept a sacred and whole dialect in motion as I visually ‘write’ alongside textual writing. I still feel in the nascent stage of fully living and expressing this integration but the foundation to continue the evolution of a sacred and whole life is in place and supported by the practice of a/r/tography, and the many theorists whose work assist in its development. I suggest that within a sacred epistemological context we can work to create alternative scripts that begin with art, and can lead to spirit and new understandings. The result includes aspects present within the “sixth” and “seventh moments of qualitative inquiry,” which Lincoln and Denzin (2000) envision as: ... a form of qualitative inquiry in the 21st century that is simultaneously minimal, existential, autoethnographic, vulnerable, performative, and critical. This form of inquiry erases traditional distinctions among epistemology [true], ethics [good], and aesthetics [beautiful]; nothing is value-free. It seeks to ground the self in a sense of the sacred, to connect the ethical, respectful self dialogically to nature…. It seeks to embed this self in deeply storied histories of sacred spaces and local places, to illuminate the unit of the self in its relationship to the reconstructed, moral, and sacred natural world…. (p. 1052) They note that since the turn of the century disciplines within qualitative social science have begun to bring spirit and science back together in a movement to resacralize life experiences (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994, p. 583). Educator Rudolf Steiner contributes to this movement in teaching that the task of the arts is to “carry the spiritual-divine life into the earthly” (1964, p. 45). A sacred epistemology is a manifestation of the rejoining of spirit and science, often enacted in public spaces as ritual performances with members of culture(s). The performative and community aspects of a/r/tography as ritual can contribute to this resacralization of life experiences. These performances can transport us out of ordinary reality and invite us to write alternative scripts that can assist in changing our actions with the world (Cohen-Cruz, 1998, p.1). Working within a community of co-inquirers has the potential to offer checks and balances as we explore alternate paths that move us beyond the familiar. 57 The five theorists: David Abalos, Kenneth R. Beittel, Leela Fernandes, Jacqui Alexander, and Parker Palmer, mentioned earlier in this chapter, each elaborate on the understandings of sacred epistemology and the resacralizing of life experiences that Lincoln and Denzin present in the sixth and seventh moments of qualitative inquiry. Unlike a/r/tography, four of the five theorists do not forefront the use of art in the inquiry process, yet I believe that their theories complement the philosophical roots of a/r/tography as currently theorized. Their theories can contribute to an indepth sacred and whole understanding of a/r/tography as ritual. I have found their theories assist in developing an understanding of a/r/tography as an intersubjective spiritual and political practice. What follows is a brief introduction to their work and theories, while Chapters Four, Five and Six explore in more depth the rhizomatic connections and understandings that have arisen from employing their theories in this dissertation study. David Abalos is a contemporary Latino American religious scholar and sociologist, who advocates for critical multi-cultural education that includes strategies of transformation. His theory is developed from the liberational work of Paulo Freire, and his own teacher Manfred Halpern, who developed a theory that distinguishes the four faces of humanity: the personal face, political face, historical face, and sacred face. Abalos’s theory of transformation engages “the four faces of our being” for transforming culture (1998, p. 35). He defines culture as “... a network of stories that hang together in order to create a cosmos of meaning for the members of a society” (1996, pp. 6-7). Within this notion of generic culture he argues that we and the stories we live have four faces. The personal face tells the story from our individual voice, the political face tells the story from the viewpoint of societal and governmental structures. Historical face stories can be connected to traditions, codes of behavior, and can be from one’s family or cultural tradition. The sacred face can involve one’s religion and/or spirituality. The sacred face underlies all the other faces. It is the ethical core of a person’s story, according to Abalos. Abalos stresses the importance of telling, retelling, reclaiming, and changing our stories as they may have been imposed on us from these four faces of being and culture. Within each of the four faces we live stories that are transforming or deforming. Ultimately, he writes, acting in the service of the transformation of stories is “the deepest of all sacred sources, which can guide us to form a more compassionate and inclusive world” (1996, p. 25). He teaches that many of our faces hold stories with a false coherency. To transform the false coherency one must shift to an incoherent story that enables the transformation of the face and its story to begin. Abalos uses drama as a metaphor to teach his theory and incorporates reading literature, viewing films, and writing essays within his curriculum for transforming culture(s). However, his pedagogy and 58 theory would be enhances by the creative art making process of a/r/tography. A/r/tography offers a direct entrance into the incoherent shifting grounds of culturally embedded stories through the arational process of art making. Adding the awareness of the four faces to one’s practice of a/r/tography extends the scope of its inner phenomenological and hermeneutic practice to that of a political, historical and sacred practice. Leela Fernandes and Jacqui Alexander are post-colonial feminist women of colour theorists, who advocate for the decolonization of the Divine as a personal and political act. They each call for a spiritual practice that can bring oneself into alignment with oneself, while simultaneously aligning with the Divine through the collective (Alexander, 2005). They offer an ethical feminist approach to leadership that does not separate erotic knowledge from political knowledge and offer the erotic as a life force which will assist in crossing the divisions within our society (Fernandes, 2003). Their refusal to separate the spiritual from the political supports the extension of a/r/tography as ritual into a transformative political realm. Their work calls for a crossing of ‘bridges’ and the leaving of familiar locations similar to the a/r/tographer’s practice of identity and discipline crossings. I write in more depth about their work in Chapters Four, Five, and Six in relation to the a/r/tographic research of this dissertation. Similar to Abalo’s “incoherence” of self, educator Parker Palmer (2005) addresses the “divided self” in our society and acknowledges the damage living a divided life does to our ability to learn and trust within community. If we are living in a lie (or false coherency), he writes, it is difficult for those in relationship with us to feel secure and to trust. He advocates the creation of “circles of trust” in community that support individuals to make discerning choices in life -- decisions that are integrated and move one towards their whole self. I address his work and pedagogy for a whole education further in Chapters Four, Five and Six. The foundational and evolutionary thrust of the practice and theory of a/r/tography leads towards personal, political, historical, and sacred transformations of the self and community. Each of these theorists, I believe, offer complementary transformative practices and theories that can assist the political, historical, and sacred development of a/r/tography. An A/r/tographic Vision of Collaboration Yvonna Lincoln and Norman Denzin (2000), advocate for the emergent qualitative research frontier that I believe a/r/tography inhabits: 59 The performed text [i]s one of qualitative research’s last frontiers. It is a version of Victor Turner’s (1982, p. 25), “liminal space,” an old, but new, border to be crossed. When fully embraced this crossing will forever transform qualitative research methodology. (p. 1048) I am committed, yet sober in my efforts, to assist the crossing that can potentially transform qualitative research methods. I recognize myself fully in Springgay, Irwin, and Wilson’s (2003) description of the artist/researcher/teacher that lives “... an anxious life, where the a/r/tographer is unable to come to conclusions or to settle into a linear pattern of inquiry. Instead there is a nervousness; a reverberation within the excess of the doubling process” (p. 3). They suggest that difficult and complex questions that cannot be linearly understood “permeate a life and engage emotional, intuitive, personal, spiritual, embodied ways of knowing–all aspects of one’s private, public and/or professional self” (p. 4). Through engagement with sacred mindful inquiry, art making, and writing, I have often been undone and exposed through the “excess of the doubling process.” This doubling can be experienced as being part and whole simultaneously. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (cited in Rule, 1997, p. 68) in her book Aurora Leigh, alludes to the uneasy task of crossing the boundaries between worlds and the doubling process that artists are confronted with: But poets should Exert a double vision; should have eyes To see near things as comprehensively As if afar they took their point of sight And distant things, as intimately deep As if they touched them (line 182-187) Philip Rule (1997) interprets Browning’s lines as “Certainly this ‘double vision’ entails combining a divine and a human perspective which is one of the goals of religion - to try to see things as God sees them even while we are immersed in the particularity of human experience” (p. 68). As I am particularly interested in the education and the evolutionary practices of artists in our society, I am aware and concerned that many contemporary artists do not have the emotional, spiritual, and material support required to cross the boundaries between all aspects of one’s life and world. A relational practice of art making can address and support artists’ double vision. Communities of feminist artist’s emerged in the 1960-70s with a political (and for some a spiritual) understanding of the importance of collaborative art practice and collectivity in the face of a patriarchal art world that for the most part did not acknowledge women as artists. The 60 feminist backlash of the 1980s rendered the groundbreaking work of these women artists (e.g. , Eleanor Antin, Mary Beth Edelson, and Suzanne Lacy) invisible for the most part, and only since the 1990’s has their art individual and collaborative and community-based begun to be studied and added to the art “canon.”16 A unique quality of the feminist art movement, in contrast to traditionally defined art movements, is that it is a “relatively open-ended system” not confined to manifestos and particular charismatic individuals (Cornelia Butler, 2007, p. 15). As a collaborative artist, I am encouraged in reading and witnessing the expansion of the individual art practice within contemporary art to that of collaborative art practices. In the past ten years collaborative art has been acknowledged and inquired into more fully by the international art world (Bishop, 2006), than it has for decades. Within these practices the “intersubjective space created through these projects becomes the focus–and medium–of artistic investigation” (Bishop, 2006, p. 179). This growing relational aesthetic (Bourriaud, 1998) further develops “the modernist call to blur art and life, that has the potential to re-humanize a fragmented and numb capitalist society” (p. 179- 80). At the same time, Bishop cautions that the isolated ethical stance of some collaborative artists, who sacrifice artistic authorship and aesthetics for ethics alone, will not fully assist re-humanization of society. I concur with her integral suggestion to combine the aesthetic and the social/political with the ethical (p. 182). I return now to the mystical writing of Kenneth Beittel as he clearly laid a vision for the twenty-first century, that I believe is worth revisiting within the twenty-first century practice of a/r/tography. His writing and art, first and foremost, do not let one forget that the practice and discipline of the artist moves the artist and society towards a greater understanding of the world. He wrote that “… spirit itself is artist, and thus the way of being of the artist provides us a model of models in the purity of its uncodified method as a spiritual discipline for revelation and for the evolution of consciousness” (Beittel and Beittel, 1991, p. 45). In his 1985 article entitled “Art for a New Age,” he first prophesized for the next millennium, which we are now living, and within which a/r/tographic inquiry has emerged. Although he privileged the role of the artist, he at the same time encouraged all people to engage a creative practice and to be artists. The making of art on my own and with others, within the a/r/tographic dissertation, has assisted an embodiment and thus understanding of the concepts of spiritual practice, arting, centering, disciplined spontaneity, and ultimately the “art of qualitative thinking” (Beittel and Beittel, 1991). Many of these theoretical connections are addressed in the remainder of the dissertation. Beittel’s expressed idealistic vision of “art for a new age” for the next millennium is not his alone, and is one I have attempted to live and be with in my own art making/researching/teaching 61 practice. His vision emerged from his own art making/research/teaching practice, where he acknowledged “the breaking of art [a]s hopeful, for it coincides with the gradual emergences of a whole art. And it turns out that to put art back into wholeness we must put ourselves back into wholeness” (1985, p. 50). The quest for wholeness, he wrote, is never absolute, but always evolving to the next moment of wholeness, requiring a dynamic and living relationship between revelation and reason. Beittel understood revelation and prophesy as the present “experienced as unfinished” (p. 40). He suggests that artists are “natural lightening rods for prophecy and revelation” (p. 41). Reason, Beittel argued stimulates and revitalizes revelation. To live the vision of art for a new age, Beittel taught that one must engage the active imagination as it is the mediator between intellect and matter as it shifts into a Great Tradition of “planetary scope” that is “transcultural, transhistorical, and transpersonal” (p. 44). In this Great Tradition the artist moves through time from Being (autobiographical) to Becoming (universal) as “[o]ur imaginations about ourselves and the universe reach out with yearning for certainties we cannot locate” (Beittel, p. 45). He further clarifies that it is within traditions that we acquire the knowledge to traverse traditions and come to understand the “unity of tradition” (p. 45). His many years of research in the Penn State Drawing Lab, his long career as a potter, which included studying within the ancient Arita pottery tradition in Japan under a master,17 and his own hermeneutic and phenomenological “exploration of the role of art in expanding human consciousness” (p. 42), brought him to this epiphany of/within a Great Tradition. Beittel’s art for a new age calls for a giving away of one’s art metaphorically and/or concretely. I understand this through my own journey of becoming an a/r/tographer in my graduate work. Despite the art of myself and the women in the study coming from a very personal place, the art created did not belong to myself or the women alone. The art as research, presented to the public and to the academic research community was an ethical giving away of personal ownership of the art, a shift from the autobiographical to the universal. It was not limited to people (the artists included) liking the art; but extended to people questioning and learning from, through and with the art, and in this, gaining understanding and ownership of the concepts and ideas raised in the art as research. In this giving away of one’s art, a dialectic and radical relationship between private, public, and education is opened in an ever-evolving sacred cycle. Beittel shared that, “... circulating artworks freely, outside of the official economy, is a secret political act hopeful of art for a new age” (1985, p. 50). A/r/tography offers a place outside of the “official economy.” In refusing to locate itself within any one domain and instead 62 collaborating and developing across disciplinary domains of art, research and education, a/r/tography, in my view, becomes a “political act hopeful of art for a new age.” 63 End Notes 1 My ritual background has been influenced by the German Lutheran rituals that I grew up with in the church and in my home. As an adult, rituals most profoundly emerged within my art practice when working intimately with those I understand as co-creators (those that join an art inquiry process with me as models). In the co-creative process rituals emerge with others. In addition, when I work on my own I use ritual processes that assist my creative work. From 1999 - 2003 I studied with Reclaiming witches and learned the more formal ritual and trance practices that this community works with. As an artist, I prefer to work with intuitive processes, and I acknowledge my ritual and trance work is influenced by the traditions that I have studied and practiced within. 2 In 2004, Pinar wrote of the “moments” of “currere” (p. 35). These moments break down the journey of “running the course.” When a cycle has run its course the person is infused with a clear energy source:1) the past (regressive), where one can “enlarge–and transform–one’s memory (p. 362), 2) future (progressive), “where the student of currere imagines possible futures” (p. 36), 3) (analytic) being present to the past and the future, 4) (synthesis) a full engagement and integration of the past, present, and future (pp. 36-37). 3 I focus this overview on arts-based research that is predominantly visual arts based. There are numerous forms of arts-based research that work with multiple art forms. 4 Hegel’s own words (cited in Beittel and Beittel, 1991, p. x). “For Lowenfeld, art was a transcendent spiritual calling. To practice it was to work at self-transformation” (Beittel, 1982, p. 21). 5 Beittel frequently cited the contemporary American transpersonal (integral) philosopher Ken Wilber. Wilber’s philosophy has influenced my life and work as well, and the notion of the development of self, as well as the notion of the evolution of consciousness (and E-W. philosophical integration) in Beittel’s mature work are directly linkable to Wilber’s theoretical influence on Beittel. 6 Beittel referred to any person willing to engage an art making process as an artist. 7 The term “arting” has been used by others, for example, in the area of social psychology and inquiry (McHugh, 1974). 8 Wilber defines holarchic as part/whole = holon-- developing together toward greater complexity so that each whole becomes part of a greater whole. His theory of holarchy is an attempt to improve traditional definitions of hierarchy (Wilber, 1995). 9 Beittel made the distinction more than once he was not using “new age” in the popular way it is often understood (the latter, without critical philosophy). 10 Currere, as conceived by Pinar (1994), was formed as a method for cultivating an authentic investigation of an internal dialectic (p. 119) along with political “analysis of the socio-economic system[s], of hegemony” (p. 131). Of this work Pinar (1994) wrote, that it “…often feels like a voyage out, from the habitual, the customary, the taken-for-granted, toward the unfamiliar, the more spontaneous, the questionable. The experimental posture in its most profound meaning suggests this openness to what is not known, a willingness to attempt action the consequences of which cannot be predicted fully. Such a capacity to risk–intellectually, biographically–can be cultivated…. It is a capacity those of us interested in education are obliged to develop” (p. 149). 11 As early as 1912, sociologist Emile Durkheim, recognized ritual performance as a significant part of constructing social life (Quantz, 1999). Although much research supports the significance of ritual as a site of learning (Driver, 1997; Northrup, 1997; Shorter, 1987; Zigler, 1999), educational analysis of ritual is more difficult to find. 12 I acknowledge the word ritual can illicit a response of mistrust and fear, as it can and has been used to silence and control others. Because of its power and transformative ability, ritual can be 64 used destructively as well as productively (Driver, 1997; Pryer, 2002). When the intention is for affirmation, expressing our experience of mystery, letting go, transformation and a re-inscribing experience, it can function as a subversion to limiting cultural norms. 13 Heron’s (1998) description of co-operative inquiry is a form of collaboration where two or more people inquire into an area of interest as co-researcher and co-subject. The inquiry moves in cycles relationally, from individual reflection of personal experience to reflecting together. In these cycles the inquirers move “between four ways of knowing: conceptual, practical, experience, and imaginal” (p. 16). 14 I have not explored in detail the work of holistic educators (e.g., D. Jardine, 1998; J. Miller, 2007; R. Miller, 2000) in this dissertation, but want to acknowledge the important work they have done in introducing wholeness into educational literature and thought. Ron Miller (2000) explains the basis of holism which “asserts that everything exists in relationship, in a context of connection and meaning--and that any change or event causes a re-alignment, however slight, through the entire pattern, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ means that the whole is comprised of a pattern of relationships that are not contained by the parts but ultimately define them” (p. 21). 15 Inarticulate Ground was a three person installation with R. Michael Fisher and Jennifer Peterson at the AMS Art Gallery on the University of British Columbia campus. 16 After six years of research, curator Cornelia Butler brought the international feminist art movement of the 1960–70s into greater visibility through a traveling exhibition entitled “WACK” exhibited between 2007–2009 in Los Angeles, Washington, D. C., New York, and Vancouver, Canada. I was able spend time with this exhibition while it was in NYC and appreciate the vision and work behind it. The work in the exhibition carries a radically different aesthetic that can only be described as feminine and relational in contrast to the masculine agentic aesthetic that still holds dominance in the contemporary art world. 17 Beittel was influenced by his traditional training in the highly disciplined Japanese Arita tradition coupled with individual inspiration. Most of his art incorporated trees in some way. His art produced artifacts, but it is the lineage of tradition combined with the creative process and its connection to the land he lived on that he fore-fronted in his writing on art and the creative process (Beittel and Beittel, 1991). His art form was very physical, collecting clay from the earth, preparing it, preparing the kiln that was often out of doors, the discipline of meditation that preceded the centering of each pot on the wheel, and the relationship of the clay with his body in the formation of the pot. Once completed, he referred to his pots as mentors that he lived in relationship with. 65 Art Installation I: At the Labyrinth Entrance Researcher Image 4 Bickel, Barbara. (2007). Visual Writing Mandala – November, 1, 2007, (Watercolour crayon on paper). 66 Writing For/With Others Each day I cross the threshold of my office and light a tall glass-encased candle to mark the ritual space of writing. The small flickering candle light accompanies me as I move into the space of presenting, through writing, what for me has been a long and rich collaborative journey that began with a small collaborative pilot study before the larger collaborative study. My now solitary writing process is assured by the small protected candle flame. It reminds me that my writing is entrusted to thirteen women who have allowed me to travel with them, to witness and be witnessed by them, and to learn from and with them, and to re-present our journey together. Although these women are not physically with me in the writing of the two projects, their belief and trust in me is. I, in turn, trust that the small flame of my writing is protected by this circle of women spiritual leaders. Through numerous trances and dreams throughout my graduate studies, I have been graced by the presence and guidance of supportive foremothers-- wise women, all willing and able to be open and receiving of others, in order to rebuild and create beauty, despite the setbacks and obstacles present amongst ourselves and in society. Dreams and trances have been an important component of my learning/teaching. They can assist in creating a relationship between me and the listener/reader that is reciprocal, and invites mutual dream/story sharing, enhancing a spiritual learning relationship (MacKeracher, 2004). Lighting the candle each day I write assists me to accept entering a masculine tradition of logos, a tradition with a nonfigurative, bodiless bias (Irigaray, 2004). The protective glass container that the flame is held within offers my reluctant being/body assurance that there is a non-destructive and non-oppressive way to be in relationship with logos and eros; with fire and water, the nonfigurative and figurative, the mind and body, the masculine and feminine, the transcendent and immanent, the erotic and Divine. A sketchbook finds it way into my office from my studio and allows my hand and mind to express spontaneous colours and shapes in the sacred container of a mandala. A mandala-a-day emerges. It offers respite from excessive mechanical and nonfigurative writing. When my fingers no longer want to type letters from a keyboard, the art-mandala writes organically, breathes freely, bleeds colour alongside my text driven writing. Still the felt sense of anticipation of the risk of creation/destruction is present and hovers close by my side. Trinh (2005) calls this interval “between a so-called loss of reality and an excess of reality... the interval of speed-light that is neither temporal or spatial....“Women’s Time.” (pp. 10-11). Within Women’s Time, in this place of immanent danger and possibility, I write, simultaneously feeling the fragile appearance and disappearance of words, images, and my being. 67 Curatorial Introduction to the Chapter As is often the experience in collaborations, much communication is needed to come to a mutual understanding of what kind of collaboration the project is. Barbara has extensive experience with collaborative creative work and initiated what came to be called Re/Turning to Her as a pilot for the larger collaborative Ph.D. research, which Tannis is part of as a co-inquirer. That said, Tannis struggled to claim full ownership within the collaborative process and Barbara assumed the role of overseeing (lead) researcher as part of her academic program. The writing of this essay, now a chapter, and the creation of the documentary DVD, brought the notion of collaboration into question again. Barbara has been the scribe, adding in elements of Tannis’s reflective writing, and created the DVD with Tannis reading, viewing, and endorsing the final pieces. As part of a critical feminist inquiry process (Lather, 1991), Tannis has been in discussion and present for the creation and analysis of these texts. Despite Tannis not being a main writer the chapter is written as a “we,” with the understanding that Tannis’s contribution to the entire creative process was essential to the writing and DVD creation. As I pause at the entrance to the labyrinth, my memory sweeps back to the pilot study that took place 2005-2006. Chapter Three includes the art installation of Re/Turning to Her. It begins with a sixteen minute DVD documentary of the ritual inquiry. The DVD text and images reveal the sacred cycle of two women a/r/tographers journeying to the Source from an estranged and broken place of self and art with a commitment to put art and themselves back into wholeness. Within this study the challenging work of collaborative research is entered and the labyrinth surfaces as a vessel that can hold the full intensity of the study. The learning that occurred in this study laid the mindful researching ground for the larger group study, of which Tannis is also a part of, in Chapter Five. 68 Re/Turning to Her - DVD Re/Turning to Her: Performance Ritual Inquiry Documentary 16.5 minute video Production: Barbara Bickel Editing: Barbara Bickel Camera work: Barbara Bickel, R. Michael Fisher, Jennifer Peterson Co-creators: Barbara Bickel and Tannis Hugill Copyright 2006 See http://www.barbarabickel.com for DVD on-line 69 Chapter Three Re/Turning to Her Image 5 Bickel, Barbara, and Hugill, Tannis. (2006) Re/Turning to Her. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver School of Theology, (Video still - Video camera Cindy Lou Griffith). 70 Artist Introductions: Barbara Bickel and Tannis Hugill The two artists identify as priestesses: Tannis as a Feri initiate, and Barbara as a self initiated witch.1 They met in 2002 through the WSC planning team, and have developed a rich friendship over the years. They believe that all creative acts are sacred, and bring us closer to the Divine. The following excerpts written individually by each of the authors are post-performance reflective writings on their spiritual and artistic paths: Tannis: The theme of Art and Spirituality is central to my life as an artist and a person. As a young college student of Art History I felt the separation of art from spirit, which occurred in the west with the Renaissance as a severe tragedy which began a wounding in our cultural ethos that has deepened over the centuries. Finding ways to bring a spiritual essence into form was central focus for some avant- garde artists of the twentieth century. The anguish of their struggles affected me deeply as a young artist in New York in the 70s. At that time I was also riveted by Native American art and inspired to make theatre that achieved the same resonance as the Northwest Coast rituals I was able to watch on the movie footage taken by Edward Curtis in the early 20th century. These moved me because everything was alive with spirit and the non-material world interacted fully with our reality in a way that instructed, inspired and brought greater meaning to my own life. The pressures and influences of the New York art world were completely secular and I unconsciously succumbed to these. My own work became focused first as a minimalist exploration of body in space, then moved towards the creation of short, emotionally intense stories that expressed the existential challenges facing women. Then I began to work with people with disability and re-connected with the healing power of art. This led to my discovery of the wounded healer archetype, and my becoming a dance and drama therapist. It is here that I re-discovered the relationship of art to spirituality, and my journey led me back to the origin of my art making inspiration. Now I make ritual theatre, a new yet ancient form that must be re-introduced into our culture, though it has really never vanished. Barbara: Although I could not have articulated it at the time, the making and looking at visual art was a form of meditation and prayer in my life since childhood. I lived in a home that regularly created sacred ritual space as a family through the Christian holy days. They also appreciated and encouraged my artistic ability. Traveling as a young woman in Europe I was in awe of the spirit that I envisioned producing the art that I saw. Like Tannis, it was not until I began creating art with people who have physical and mental disabilities that I became conscious of or fully understood art as an expression of healing and spirit. Awakening to art as spirit, through my role as a caregiver, drew me to return full-time to my own art practice in the late 80s. Living in the frontier city of Calgary, Alberta, I left art school (with a BFA in Painting) prepared to fulfill my dreams and naive enough to follow through with them. I founded an alternative educational healing and arts center called the In Search of Fearlessness Centre and Research Institute (1992-2000) with my new life partner.2 A community of men and women gathered around our teachings, art and work, and we soon expanded to a larger center that had space for an art gallery. This became the Centre Gallery3 (1995-2001), eventually structured as a women’s-focused gallery where women, many who had never publicly shared their work, felt safe to exhibit along with established artists (men and women). The gallery was energized and run predominantly by volunteer women. It was 71 within this context of community, art and healing, that performance ritual emerged within my art practice. I am not a trained performer. Working with spirit, the body, and artists in other arts disciplines lured me into the active role of what I have come to understand as priestess. I continue with this practice of priestessing through art as an individual and collaborative artist today. Introduction to the Ritual Inquiry Ritual and a relational aesthetic (Bourriaud, 1998) with the different ‘other’ leads this co- inquiry into what writer Luce Irigaray (2002) describes as the “unthought of human becoming” (p. 99). Ritual entry into the unknown, facing the ‘other’ as different, as the familiar stranger turned us towards that which is below, above, between and within us. As artists who do not separate art from the sacred act of creation, we co-evolve with spirit in our art making. In this close proximity with spirit we come to know ourselves, and must “become open to the movement of Spirit in order to wrestle with the movement of history” (Alexander, 2005, pp. 294- 95) Joining ritual with a/r/tography assists the shift into the transformative realm of the sacred and spiritual through setting intentions and opening to the guidance of spirit.4 Anthropologist, Victor Turner has expanded the traditional image of liturgical ritual and extended the imaginary of ritual to “threshold-crossing” (cited in Grimes,1995, p. 60). Post-colonial theorist and film- maker Trinh T. Minh-ha (2005), similarly crosses borders as thresholds with ritual in her films disrupting traditional film-making norms. Because of its power and transformative ability, ritual can be used destructively as well as for the good (Driver, 1997, Pryer, 2003). Yet, when performance rituals have the intention of affirmation, expressing our experience of mystery, letting go, transformation, and a re-inscribing of human experience, they can function as a much needed subversion of limiting cultural norms. Within a collaborative and ritual-based a/r/tographic inquiry we explore our spiritual/religious and artistic journeys in an effort to more deeply understand our relationship with spirituality and religion(s), informed by the making of art. The underlying educational motive behind this inquiry was to personally question our historical and current multi-faith5 understandings and experiences through our lived and living spiritual/religious narratives. We are both committed to expanding multi-faith awareness in our work and art practices. We agree with some feminists (Christ, 2003; Daly, 1978; Fernandes, 2003; hooks, 2000; Irigaray, 2003), who claim that feminist transformation of society is dependent on the transformation of religious 72 beliefs and ideologies. As practicing spiritual feminists,6 artists, researchers, and educators, we have come to acknowledge the impossibility of separating religion from politics and propose that the arts offer an important bridge between the two. We have chosen to live lives as spiritual feminists, who like public intellectuals7 confront, from many angles, fixed notions of constructed discourses based on rationality, sameness, and fear of the ‘other.’ As a pilot study for the larger Ph.D. study, Barbara wanted to have a first-hand experience of opening what can be the dangerous ground of women’s spiritual and religious lives to deeper inquiry through art. That said, this project was an opportunity for Barbara to take on the researcher8 cloak fully within the University system before embarking on the larger collaborative project with the women of the Women’s Spirituality Celebration planning team. We began the inquiry by formulating interview questions for a digital video documented co-interview: 1) What has your spiritual journey been and how has the journey included the exploration of religious and spritual traditions? and, 2) How has your artistic path been connected to your spiritual/religious journey? At the same time as creating our interview questions we set intentions for our inquiry together: 1) to explore and open to creativity and spirit, 2) to cycle with the dark moon and, 3) to acknowledge we are entering the spirit world which requires opening to the direction of spirit, which means we can’t preplan. In retrospect, we probably could have revisted our intentions more often together as a reminder of the spirit-directed work we were engaging. In addition, as co-a/r/tographers, we kept journal notes and emails, shared our writings on the project, video recorded our trances, studio work, dress rehearsals and the public performance ritual, and wrote poetry. Co-creating with Spirit Trance As spiritual feminist artists9 familiar with entering the altered reality of trance, beginning in September 2005, we chose to enter trances together as a way to access spirit guidance for the performance ritual art we were to create. We have found trance to be a powerful inquiry practice that enables one to access alternate knowledges, leading toward new understandings of life and our purpose/role within it. Trance can be described either as a form of active or process meditation and visioning, a waking dream state, a practice of active imagination or free association, where one can journey to other realities through an altered state of consciousness. Within the waking-dream-state of trance, time and space become fluid, non-linear, and physical restrictions and barriers dissolve. Upon analyzing the trance text after transcription, Barbara has 73 come to recognize trance as a “female sentence” (Cixous, 1997; Irigaray, 1997), unaided by grammar and traditional sentence structure, freed from a masculinist hegemonic discourse. Trance has assisted us in finding and crossing the paths and scaffolding of aspects of the feminine principle (Artress, 2006) that has been repressed and mostly disappeared within our hegemonic rationally-based western society. After creating a ritual circle we sat in meditation postures and through trance allowed the mind’s imaginary to guide us. In an awake-dream state we spoke out loud and shared our inner observations and experiences; seen, felt, heard, sensed and smelled, as we interacted and journeyed together. In the two different trances entered that autumn, the deep void repeatedly enveloped us as we shifted from form to formlessness. One of us would disappear to be found by the other, allowing a fully sensory, emotional, and spiritual penetration of the nothing/ness of the void to come into our inter-subjective existence. We circled large wheels in space and wrapped each other in layers of blue energy. We gathered stones that shone with an interior light, found a brilliant red flower, dissolved into gold liquid, and were draped in snake skin cloaks. We shape- shifted and traveled through the Kosmos, to other planets, and into the earth’s underworld with a blue cord attached to our waists bringing us back when we were ready to return. In the Dance Studio In January 2006, for the next phase of our inquiry we shifted to working in the dance studio. Here we invited the arational narratives revealed through trance, to enter our physical bodies through gesture, movement and sound. In this layer of the inquiry we bodily entered moving trance states through an adapted collaborative practice of Authentic Movement,10 where we followed the moving impulses of our bodies and breath. We moved and witnessed each other simultaneously in the studio sessions, followed by verbally sharing reflections on our experience together. Moving and witnessing each other simultaneously meant that we could not completely let go into an individual altered state. The challenge of authentically moving as an individual and remaining authentically connected to the other proved to be quite difficult at times. Remaining open to the guidance of spirit when we were struggling to stay connected as humans and expressing through our individual lenses and bodies, left us feeling often times dislocated and floundering. Initially we invited a friend to witness us by documenting our movement with a digital video camera, and then for simplicity sake, we chose to have a still video camera documenting us through the reflection of the studio’s large mirror. We would sometimes watch these video recordings together but more important was taking 74 time to write and share after our sessions in the studio. These sharing times became essential as we worked to hold the thread of connection with each other. Barbara wrote in a post-authentic movement writing reflection, Self or Other? I or we? how to decide where to focus attention? Self or Other? Fleeting glances outward Great sadness Let the smaller self go If nothing else she can move her body In addition, we reflected within our individual spiritual practices on our own and would return with small insights into our collaborative inquiry when we next met. Trusting that our inquiry would become clear when we were ready to receive it, and trusting that the other was working for the collaboration with spirit as well, was the thread that kept us connected in our times of open non-knowingness. The study of sacred geometry reveals that formlessness moves in a coherent manner towards form in infinite patterns (Lawlor, 1982 cited in Artress 2006, p. 50). Knowing that the work we were doing was based in sacred inquiry together, we allowed ourselves to fully experience the sometimes painful process of division that was leading us toward the same source. Images 6, 7, and 8 Bickel, Barbara. (2006). Tannis and Barbara in Authentic Movement. Vancouver, BC: Forufera Studio, (Video still). The trance narratives, along with the embodied narratives that presented themselves to us within the studio inquiry sessions, eventually became the source material for the public performance ritual, which we entitled Re/Turning to Her. The trance imagery and moving 75 gestures slowly began to weave together the story of two women seekers returning to the Source. We came to realize through our authentic movement together that our roles were different. We physically embodied different aspects of the Divine Feminine creative process, and these differences, as revealed through the moving body, were to be honoured. Tannis generally held the space of the maker and shaper, and Barbara the de-constructor and un-doer. Within the trances and in the studio, we had rich experiences of bodied communication that was quite beautiful to experience, but at other times we felt physically destabilized and ungrounded. We often found ourselves struggling to negotiate our bodies within a void or in the midst of shifting ground. Moving together brought us face to face with the great sorrow of knowing the difficulty, and often impossibility, of negotiating space with an/other and the Self simultaneously. Image 9 Bickel, Barbara. (2006). Re/Turning to Her. Vancouver, BC: Forufera Studio, (Video still). It should be noted that during the nine months of our inquiry we were being influenced by the powers of creation and destruction occurring simultaneously in many dimensions of our 76 lives. We were not able to always give time and space to fully feel and heal. In mid-May, after a disturbing and chaotic dream about the Women’s Spirituality Celebration, where two toddlers wrapped like mummies in fabric, were carried around at the event, Barbara wrote in her journal, I grieve the loss of Tannis as she is contemplating leaving the WSC planning team next year... the quality of my collaboration with her is decreasing – I am critical and feel that the pilot project has failed. I have not had the space for it to do it well and with quality. Barbara found herself turning to the labyrinth in her place of sadness and grief in an effort to find nurturance in the fast moving ground of her life. The question of a location for the public performance ritual at this point remained an unknown. Following the dream and her self admission of failure Barbara envisioned the performance ritual on the Vancouver School of Theology labyrinth (Image 10). Our inquiry together shifted markedly with the support of this sacred structure. In particular, the center of the labyrinth kept coming to mind as significant. The labyrinth has been part of both our spiritual practices. Its ancient roots called to us, offering an anchor in the midst of our very open, shifting, unsettling spiritual inquiry. The labyrinth as an ancient art symbol crosses cultural and religious boundaries and fit our exploration of religions and the artistic process well (Compton, 2002). Once the decision to perform on the labyrinth was made, our recurring experience of the void became located and directed into the labyrinth’s center. It became evident that the void was the unthought, forgotten aspect of the Divine Feminine in mainstream religious traditions. Our task was to do the grieving, lament, and recovery work to reclaim the Divine Feminine within the ancient container of the labyrinth’s center. The story that took form, guided by our trance and movement work, was the departure and descent of the Divine Feminine into the void or the earth, which was located in the center of the labyrinth. Tannis being the elder, became the priestess who unraveled the spool of fate leading to the center of the labyrinth, and descended into Her embrace. Barbara is the initiate priestess who follows, struggling to reclaim the thread of life and whose grief calls Tannis back, revealing Her gift of Love. Luce Irigaray (1992) referred poignantly to the loss of the feminine in Western religious traditions and the need for alternative processes to facilitate recovery of the Divine Feminine. She wrote, “Femininity is precisely, that which is excluded from patriarchal representations and can only be glimpsed in their gaps and silences. For it to return, and to unsettle that which repressed it, a special process is required” (cited in Larrington, 1992, p. 448). A spiritual inquiry through a/r/tography as ritual became the special process that allowed us to enter into the 77 Image 10 Fisher, R. Michael. (2006). Labyrinth from above. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver School of Theology Labyrinth, (Digital photograph). Image 11 Fisher, R. Michael. (2006). Re/Turning to Her. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver School of Theology Labyrinth (Digital photograph). 78 unknown of the inquiry with trust, and offered a vehicle to move with and towards that which we had forgotten. Re/Turning to Her: The Performance Ritual During the two weeks prior to the public performance ritual of Re/Turning to Her we met regularly at the Maltese labyrinth11 at the back of the School of Theology to rehearse, and the process of the ritual formation intensified. We unloaded our bags that held the large spool of blue thread, the blue glass bowl, the blue snake cloak, the synthetic red flower, and the many yards of white fabric that were the ritual objects we performed with. We were often tired and unfocused coming from other meetings and appointments, so there was little time to connect with each other before we began to work, yet we were grateful to be working together at the labyrinth for these few short hours. We entered the labyrinth and the sacred story evolved as we assisted each other to fully embody the experience together. We still had many details to work through with the actual performance ritual and at the same time Barbara was organizing the program to be printed, the volunteers, and site logistics (Appendixes B and C). The most disappointing detail that was missed during this time was the WSC planning team email invitation to the women. It was thought to have been sent but did not get sent. The work that we were doing as preparation for the larger study that was to follow was not to be shared live with them.12 We are both seasoned practitioners of ritual processes, yet our personal struggles came to the fore with the pressures of ‘performance’ and the difficulties of disentangling from internalized cultural habits of being in a hegemonic patriarchal world. Habits such as overwork and fulfilling others needs to avoid feelings of failure, contributed to our struggle to connect and listen to each other, and dulled our ability to listen to, or for the guidance of spirit together. We at times lost sight of the larger spirit work that we were carrying. Tannis in later reflective writing on the project poignantly notes that, During practice sessions, my longing and fear related to disappearing into the void, under the veils of fabric, manifested as a resistance and irritability, which at the time we found baffling, and frustrating. Yet, once covered, the pull to melt completely into a semi-stupor at times made me unresponsive to Barbara’s efforts to engage with me, bringing fear and more frustration. An overwhelming grief muted my consciousness, dulled my desire and made each movement effortful. It was as if, the process of spiraling into form required that we experience the isolation and separation of the human condition with concentrated intensity. The spiritual lesson for me is that She is always present, has never been lost, and is especially visible in all acts of love and beauty. It is we who have turn away from Her. 79 Images 12, 13 and 14 Bickel, Barbara. and Hugill, Tannis. (2006). Re/Turning to Her. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver School of Theology Labyrinth, (Video still - Video camera Cindy Lou Griffith). 80 Image 15 and 16 Fisher, R. Michael. (2006). Re/Turning to Her, dress rehearsal. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver School of Theology Labyrinth (Digital photograph). Although we did not know it at the time, the white fabric that Tannis became wrapped in and that Barbara assisted her release from, was an uncanny reminder of the dream of the mummified toddlers that appeared so disturbingly in Barbara’s earlier dream (Images 15 and 16). The final dress rehearsal did not go well. We were scattered, and Tannis became lost on the labyrinth path. Barbara’s dream of chaos and lostness was being replayed at the height of our work to share a different transformative story. The night before the performance ritual, there was no place left to go but to accept what was unfolding and to trust each other and spirit. Barbara shared the realization that came to her later that evening by email with Tannis: July 7, 2006 Barbara: My thoughts post rehearsal where somewhat disturbed (and also okay with it ) by the struggles that seem to be going on with us individually and together in this piece. Last night while taking a bath I had the thought which caused all of my analytical thoughts and trying to figure things out i.e. “how do we connect fully” thoughts to drop away from me and left me in a place of joy, appreciation and peace with the space that we have created and that we will be sharing with others on Sat. eve. That on the day we just need to love each other as 2 women priestesses. If our purpose is to re/turn to the divine feminine it is to return to an unblocked place of love with each other. She holds us all and we have only to allow the love to be released from the bondage of our personal egos. Art allows us a place to practice this. I also want to acknowledge that we have both fit this into lives that are very full with work, 81 other commitments, grieving.... We have made space for the creative space of art making in a world that wants to keep us preoccupied and not giving way to the spirit of art. I greatly appreciate your commitment to this place. I feel very good with where we have come to and look forward to where it will lead. Tannis in response: It is so good to hear from you in the fullness of your experience. You have such a wonderful ability to sense quality of connection and your constant attention to cultivating this is inspiring to me. I am a lot less conscious but realize that my question to you about how was I really came from our lack of time to stay connected in the more subtle ways we have had up till the pressure increased in performance production/creation. When I loose connection, I go right away into fearing criticism, anger, rejection. It is an old habit and very myopic I know, but feels so real often it is hard for me to catch myself in it. We haven't been able to travel together and debrief our working times and the presence of Michael, though so lovely and helpful, has decreased, for me, direct contact with you. None of this is bad, it's just how it is. But we have lost the leisurely intimacy we have been used to in the creation times before this intense phase. Your bath transformation sounds lovely. After I expressed my concern to you I was fine. My distraction during the piece I think was caused by the environment and my knee was in pain. The performance ritual unfolded as outlined below. What occurred in the thirty-five minutes of that evening became timeless as we entered the labyrinth. We purify ourselves at the entrance with water from the blue glass bowl. Tannis picks up the spool of blue thread and lures Barbara into an entranced state Tannis enters the labyrinth at a steady walking pace while unraveling the spool of thread Barbara calls out the names of goddesses from many cultures from her entranced state Barbara awakes and discovers the end of the blue thread that has been left behind by Tannis Barbara begins to follow the blue thread into the labyrinth. She stumbles and gets tangled in the process of following and holding onto the windswept thread Unseen by Barbara, Tannis continues her steady walk into the center of the labyrinth. Arriving at the center Tannis with passion drops her blue snakeskin cloak and breaks the thread, severing it from the spool. The spool drops Barbara, still following the blue thread falls into an unconscious state when the thread breaks Tannis begins her descent into the fluid environment of the void in the center of the labyrinth. Her voice calls out as she becomes covered in the fabric of the void and she descends into it Barbara awakes upon hearing the call and continues her journey of following the thread. As she nears the center of the labyrinth she discovers the snakeskin cloak and realizes she is too late Barbara enters the labyrinth and discovers the dead body of Tannis and begins a sorrowful lament and circling of the lifeless covered body Barbara’s grief calls Tannis out of the void and she resurfaces to offer the gift of a brilliant red flower to Barbara The gift is shared and a reunion dance between the two priestesses ensues 82 Their dance takes them around the circumference of the labyrinth and back into the center, breaking the bounds of the single path They halt the dance in the center of the labyrinth by falling into each others hands, balancing their weight against the other Tannis picks up the discarded snakeskin cloak and drapes it over Barbara’s shoulders, hands Barbara the bundle of white fabric, and they walk out of the labyrinth together. Images 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 Bickel, Barbara. and Hugill, Tannis. (2006). Re/Turning to Her performance ritual. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver School of Theology Labyrinth (Video stills - Video camera Cindy Lou Griffith).). 83 Post Performance Ritual Following the ritual some people walked the labyrinth. Others joined us for refreshments and conversation. One woman shared that she felt the struggle of her brother, who has Alzhiemer’s disease when the thread broke and the way of the path was lost. We both felt very satisfied and elated with the performance ritual coming together without mishaps, and with the opportunity to share it with others. The following day Tannis called and left Barbara a message. Although we did not connect, we emailed each other from our differing locations, knowing that we had a debrief meeting planned for the night after. July 9, 2007 Hi Tannis, Thanks for your phone calls and your thoughts. I too am wandering through this day and was in a deep sleep and did not hear your second call... I feel a contented happiness as well as a quiet sadness in this space of post performance ritual today. I was on the Drive doing a few errands and was moved to tears hearing the singing and the crowds of collective energy in the aftermath of the Italia soccer victory. Remembering Cindy Lou and Jenny's words of our work being a "counter ritual" to this male cultural ritual that can gather such grand attention. Remembering the beauty of your blue eyes when we turned to face each other at the bowl. In sad peace, barbara Hi Barbara Thank you! I look forward to tomorrow night. Today was a wonderful work day, a treat retreat starting with church then seeing Helen's work which was brilliant. I was weeping on and off all day just cracked open. Then I wrote, went into a vision, did a trance, wrote more, transcribed what I said in the vision and saw in the posture trance...improvised to Gurdjief's music, sang. opening heart and spiraling through. Love, T As a closing part of the study we met and recorded a conversation intended as a debrief of the project at Tannis’s home. This was the beginning of working to understand the process that we had gone through together – the good and not so good parts. Much of the conversation was focused on our differing understandings of the collaboration. Tannis admitted to having the best of both worlds, as the work was done collaboratively but she did not have to take the full responsibility for the piece. Her sense of elation following the successful performance ritual was unencumbered by the disappointments that related to the whole of the event that Barbara carried. 84 Barbara still grieved the loss of the missed details, such as the WSC planning team not being there to share the event. She shared disappointment in herself for backing off many things she really felt were important because of time restraints, and Tannis’s boundary setting around details of the production. Further, for Barbara, the difficulty of bringing this kind of work forward into a secular university setting manifested in her being reluctant to invite colleagues she did not know well to the event. An important place of difference and struggle that came forward in this post-dialogue was the different understandings of the union of art and priestessing. Tannis spoke of understanding herself as a performer in the collaboration working for Barbara. She wanted more feedback and encouragement so she would know what Barbara wanted. But as Barbara was not coming from the location of performer and priestess being split, she most often did not have direction for Tannis. This was a place of frustration for Tannis. Barbara: ...maybe I didn’t speak it out loud who knows, I just remember it from the beginning, knowing that this was preparation for priestessing together... Tannis: And that’s where, this is like a level of learning. The line between performing and priestessing is the distinction between performing and priestessing. Barbara: Which is probably, more something, because for me I’m not a performer...so I don’t actually...I always feel like I’m priestessing, it is not something I have to... Tannis: Yeah, it’s a new threshold for me. Despite our blindness and stumbling regarding our roles in the collaborative work, it did become clear to us in the last weeks prior to the performance ritual that we were working to reclaim the Divine Feminine the entire time. It just took a long time to realize it, despite our confusion of the roles we where working with and priestessing for spirit. In the months that followed Barbara had the opportunity to make visual art from the project. She entered an intense video making process, working with the many hours of footage that had been collected during the creation of Re/Turning to Her. During this time of dwelling with the visual traces of the inquiry, she acquired a deepened appreciation for the work that Tannis and she had done. The 16.5 minute art documentary style DVD that accompanies this chapter collages segments of the initial interview, movement and sound produced during the studio experience, trance and the performance ritual-- offering a visual, audio, and moving glimpse into the full inquiry process. Despite that fact that only twenty people witnessed the original performance ritual, the DVD has allowed the work to be seen by many in other settings. A 85 shortened version of this DVD was part of the Womb Entering installation the following year, and the DVD has been submitted to video festivals. One year later (June 24, 2007) we arranged to meet at the Renfrew Ravine Labyrinth in East Vancouver near our homes, to walk the labyrinth together and share further reflections. Shortly before this date Tannis had experienced the loss of her companion cat. Upon reaching the centre of the labyrinth Tannis found herself filled with grief and wept, while Barbara walked in circles around her. Only upon reflection did we recognize the very familiar cycle of the year prior and our performance ritual repeating itself; grief releasing into the center of the labyrinth while the edges of the void were held to enable a return. Finding herself in a deeply reflective place, Tannis came prepared with a question: What impact has the performance ritual had on your life? Barbara was not prepared for the question but realized as she began to share that it had multiple impacts that had not been fully shared. Barbara: It kept me sane as the main creative work I did that year while I was preparing to do the doctoral research. It was a difficult but very satisfying collaboration. Also showing the video to people, and telling the myth/story of the return of the Divine Feminine to young girls in my life has been wonderful. They are completely mesmerized watching the video. Even my twenty-four year old step-daughter, chose to get married on the labyrinth this past year. I am reminded of the importance of taking the video and this work out further into the world. It also gave me the foundation of the labyrinth as a practice of centering in my life. Tannis: It took a while to realize the impact. The importance of intimacy and relationship with another person, not just animals. I no longer feel the need to dissolve into the Divine Mother but that the Divine Mother is in my body. The shift from formlessness to form with the Divine has occurred, and it opened a very productive year for me with lots of important work around ritual. These are significant personal revelations that emerged as the result of our work together. The importance of working within the symbolic structure of the labyrinth to contain the work while we became lost in the process, staying open to loving each other as struggling women on this journey and holding the understanding of spirit as collaborator significantly informed the work done in the large collaborative dissertation research with the women of the WSC. Delving Deeper into the Re/Turn Luce Irigaray (2002) wrote of the unbridled labyrinthal sojourn back to the “forgotten Being,” the mystery that we enacted through our mind, bodies and spirit in our work together: 86 Turning back to the unthought of human becoming is indispensable. But sometimes the task of discovering it will not be easy. Because what is inadequately thought paralyzes the spirit as well as the domain to which it has applied. And to ensure the stepping back which leads to the source of thinking is not obvious– sometimes the paths and the scaffoldings have disappeared in the production of discourse, and a void has deepened. Between the forgotten Being and the one already fixed in language, the bridges are cut. A flight forward then takes the place of a dialectic movement going from the past to the future, from the future to the past, ceaselessly widening its circle. (p. 99) In choosing to create our own rituals outside of traditional institutions and social structures, we encountered a great freedom accompanied by an inevitable existential struggle. We do not know whether the performance ritual transformed those who witnessed the event. We do know that our skills and learning as priestesses was expanded and called into greater awareness. These skills and awareness we took forward into the larger collaborative study with the WCS planning team. Our ability to hold the space of the unknown and to surface briefly from it, and to share it with others disrupted the fear-based forces that keep the Divine Feminine repressed in our society. The Re/Turning to Her research project intersected at the thresholds of art, spirituality and education. The crossings were not always smooth and clear. The sacred epistemological research context that we worked within to create alternative scripts, began with art, through the practice of collaborative dance/movement. This led us closer to spirit. We then entered a trance together as a way to deepen a relational and inspirited awareness of each other. The result was learning, through opening to what was not known or understood prior. In creating a performative ritual narrative of the loss and return of the Divine Feminine as experienced by two women Priestesses, we reclaimed a lost part of our Divine lineage as women and offered a teaching parable to the larger community. Our task as researchers in the co-a/r/tographic process was to stay connected to spirit, which meant being willing to work with the unknown. To remain present to the void and to trust the inquiry as led by spirit is a requirement for new knowledge to surface-- beyond our egoic-self understanding as humans. Opening to the unknown of inquiry echoes the apophatic spiritual path, which entails a contemplative and dialectical practice of being within “intuitive darkness” (Shannon, 1981, p. 12) as a way of “knowing by unknowing” (Shantz, 1999, p. 65). We began with a mutual understanding that performance ritual is the manifestation of art and spirit through our bodies. We further acknowledge the body as a “site of scholarly awareness and corporeal literacy” (Spry, 2001, p. 706). The gesturing, breathing, uttering body was the ‘guide’ that repeatedly Re/Turned us to Her. 87 The significance of the collective emotional grief that we were performing, as part of the larger Kosmos,13 was not completely clear to us until after the public performance ritual. The heaviness of spirit, that Tannis held during the months leading towards the performance ritual, lifted almost immediately after the performance ritual. Barbara became aware of the extent of a physical injury incurred during the last two weeks of rehearsals--only after the performance ritual was over. Emotional discomfort accompanied us on this inquiry as we stretched ourselves in an effort to remain authentic and open with each other. Our ability to acknowledge and share the emotions that arose was assisted by our spiritual and ritual practices, and the strength of our friendship. Through ritual inquiry, we were able to include and embrace our motivating passions and emotions. Within a shared sacred context of respect and reverence, we accepted our emerging emotional states and did not project them onto the other. Consequently, we kept the turmoil of emotions moving. Educator Megan Boler (1999) supports and acknowledges this as a “pedagogy of discomfort.” She argues that there are “gendered rules of emotional conduct” that have created a hegemonic “politics of emotion” in our society and social institutions (p. xi). To address the educational ethics of emotions she challenges us to not privatize emotions in our learning environments. Emotions, as expression come (in part) from arational domains, and are necessary sites of resistance to oppression, according to Boler. We need to recognize how we turn emotions into an ‘other’ or dangerous ‘stranger’ through our current constructed discourses of emotions (p. xviii). In sharing the emotion-laden process in this chapter, we cross the public and private barriers of the education discourse that Boler writes of. Through the performance ritual we brought what was private and arational into the public realm for inquiry. As artists, working as a/r/tographers, within a research intensive university (at the site of a Christian education institution) we encountered many historical oppressive triggers that threatened to undermine the work. Tannis’s reluctance to take a full role in the collaboration was impacted by the project being situated as a research study at the university. Barbara’s desire to not be solely responsible for the project and wanting it to be an equal collaboration, was a denial of her privileged position of power as a member of the university research community. Her struggle to fully advertise and share the performance ritual within the University community reflected her fear and ambivalence within this privileged community. The collaborative a/r/tographic inquiry that we engaged as ritual and performed publicly, as a performance ritual, was a contribution to the enactment and deeper understanding of a “spirited” (Vella, 2000) and sacred epistemology that moved beyond our personal selves and into 88 the world. Adult educator Jane Vella locates “spirited epistemology” where “[e]very education event is movement toward a metanoia, the passage of spirit from alienation into a deeper awareness of oneself” (p. 10). Although awareness of ourselves, mirrored by the other, at times brought great sadness, we continued to work through and learn within the evolving experience. Through our personal practices and during reflective moments after our sessions together, we were able to recognize and distinguish personal emotional struggles and grief from the struggles that were larger than us as individuals. The intention that we set clearly at the start of the inquiry involved working with spirit. What that has come to mean to us is that we were not only collaborating with each other but we were collaborating with spirit. As Tannis clearly writes, As artists creating ritual, we learned that habitual attitudes learned in secular art and theatre making must expand when working in a sacred context to include awareness of divine participation. The artist becomes a collaborator, a vehicle, a mediator, and must be cognizant that she is not in control but in the presence of a mysterious unfolding. Human parameters of emotional and physical reality are limited and can prevent from discerning the truth of revealed reality. These shifts in perception change everything, as the artist’s ego must become transparent, fluid, yet strong enough to sustain awareness of Divine presence. We are struck how clearly Luce Irigaray’s (2002) writing of the feminine Divine holds and reflects the essence of our collaborative experience: The rift between the other and me is irreducible. To be sure we can build bridges, join our energies, feast and celebrate encounters, but the union is never definitive, on pain of no longer existing. Union implies returning into oneself, moving away, dissenting, separating. To correspond with one’s own becoming requires an alternation of approaching the other and dividing from him, or her. (p. 157) Coming together and going apart was the familiar pattern of the trances, authentic movement, rehearsals, and performance ritual. The moment of reunion was combined with the pain of separation. Through assisting and witnessing each other in the process of sacred artful inquiry and ritual, we traveled to the hidden and forgotten roots of our spiritual/religious traditions. By performing and documenting the performance ritual of Re/Turning to Her on the outdoor labyrinth of a theological school, we embodied the role of public intellectuals disrupting the “culture of fear” (Fisher, 2006; Giroux, 2003; Palmer, 1998) that too often accompanies the diverse expressions of religion and spirituality. In a small way, through the public performance ritual, the sharing of the DVD, co-presenting at conferences14 and this writing, we desire to assist 89 in widening the circle of compassionate multi-faith awareness that does not exclude the feminine aspects of the Divine. Unthought Being: Returning to the Source We complete the cycle of this chapter where the performance ritual began, by meditating upon and invoking15 the unthought Being who has been known by many names around the world, before the next chapter on the research project with the thirteen women spiritual leaders begins. Sophia Mari Kwan Yin Tara Erishkegal Isis Kali Hestia Luna White Buffalo Woman Diana Coatlique Innana Shakti Demeter Lakshmi Freya Mary Ariadne Bathsheba Changing Woman Inari Sedna Verdandi Yoruba Bridget Morgan le Fay Maeve Hathor Ishtar Ashtarte Tiamat Shekina Arianhrod Cerridwen Pele Oshun Hecate Parvati Sarsvati Lilith Cybele Durga Maat Ameratsu Epona Rhiannon Danu Venus Dakini Sita Holle 90 End Notes 1 Tannis’s teacher and initiate in the Feri Tradition was Chris Rossi. Both studied with Victor Anderson, “The Feri Tradition is an earth-based, goddess-centered ecstatic tradition stemming from the teachings of Victor Anderson and his wife Cora.” Retrieved from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstasy_%28state%29) The Wiccan tradition is a very open tradition and one can choose to be initiated or initiate one’s self. Barbara has chosen to take the name witch as a reclamation of the demonization of the word witch within her familial tradition of Christianity. She has studied with Reclaiming witches, Sage, Bridgid and Starhawk. In its original meaning witch meant wise woman (Kozacari, Owens and North (1994). p. 14. 2 Robert Michael Fisher began the In Search of Fearlessness Project with his then partner Catherine Sannuto the year before Barbara met him. Barbara joined him in the project in 1991 and the Centre extended that vision into a public walk-in venue. 3 The Centre Gallery was co-founded by Barbara Bickel and Pamela Grof, an artist entrepreneur. 4 Within Barbara’s Masters thesis she introduced the practice of a/r/tography as ritual and the importance of an ethical collaboration practice. See http://www.barbarabickel.com 5 We struggle with the term multi-faith as it assumes a non-critical use of the term faith. Faiths are normally understood as the main text-based religions in our society (i.e. Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic) and do not generally include the pre-textual earth-based spiritual/religious traditions. 6 Sociologist of religion Cynthia Eller, outlined five main characteristics of feminist spirituality that reflect Barbara’s working definition of spiritual feminism: 1) valuing women’s empowerment, 2) practicing ritual and or magic, 3) revering nature, 4) using the feminine as a chief mode of religious analysis and, 5) advocating the revisionist version of western history (cited in L. Brown, 2005, p. 1). 7 Writer and artist educator Carol Becker (1997) advocated for an expanded understanding of the artist in North American society to that of a “public intellectual” or in Gramsci’s term the “organic intellectual.” Described as fluid intellectuals, these artists are always moving “forever inventing themselves and renegotiating their place on the [in-between] border zones between disciplines, never stuck in one discipline” (p. 18). Not bound to any one body of knowledge, they address and reframe complex problems from any and multiple disciplinary angles, serving a valuable public role in society. 8 This project was an independent study done under the supervision of Barbara’s supervisor Dr. Rita Irwin, for which we wrote a paper. It served as the first draft of this chapter. Rita suggested that Barbara do a pilot prior to taking on the larger project to get her feet wet as a researcher in her larger Ph.D. study, as well as going through the process of having the research approved by the University Behavioral Research Ethics Board (BREB). 9 Other spiritual feminist artists that bring spirituality, feminism and art together in their practices are visual and performance artists Mary Beth Edelson, and Carolee Schneemann, and poets Judy Grahn, and Adrienne Rich. 10 Elsewhere Tannis (Hugill, 2002) wrote of the purpose of the practice of Authentic Movement: “The symbols of the Self, which for Jungian psychology is the unity of being, arise from the depths of the body, bringing material from the personal, collective and transpersonal unconscious into embodied form. This process is integrated into conscious awareness through dialogue with the witness, the one who is observing while the mover moves” (p. 2). 11 The concrete Maltese labyrinth replaced the prior grass labyrinth at the time of the schools renovations. It is a space that is open and welcoming of the public. A sign invites those who come across it to walk the labyrinth and enter its structure as an act of meditation or prayer. 91 12 At a later date they did each receive a copy of the DVD that was created from this work. 13 The Kosmos as defined by transpersonal philosopher Ken Wilber includes the multiple “domains of existence,” from matter to mind to Spirit, and is not limited to the material realm as the word cosmos is most often related to in contemporary literature (2000, p. 16). 14 A co-presentation on this study entitled Re/turning to Her: An a/r/ographic ritual inquiry was given on May 31, 2008 at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) in the ARTS SIG which took place at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. 15 These divine Beings were called to and invoked at the beginning of the performance ritual as the journey to the center of the labyrinth began. 92 Art Installation II: The Walk into the Labyrinth Teacher Image 23 Bickel, Barbara. (2006). Cathy Bone’s backyard labyrinth. Ladner, B.C., (Video still). 93 Curatorial Introduction we are flesh we are word we are flesh-made word we are kiss Betsy Warland ( 1987, n.p.) The erotic arises as an individual and collective force in the co-creation, art installations, and performance rituals of Womb Entering. The erotic in this work (influenced by poet Audre Lorde’s definition) is understood as the life force, and is a resource that resides within a “deeply female and spiritual plane” (Lorde, 1995, p. 239) of relationships. Although women have generally been taught to mistrust this resource in Western Society (Alexander, 2005, Lorde, 1995), they can be replenished by it if they choose to reclaim it as life-giving nourishment; a relational gift, not separated from the Divine. Sadly, the erotic and the relational aspects of human and divine life have not been cared for in many religious traditions (Christ, 2003, p. 92) where females have not been sanctioned to perform sacred rites (K. Turner, 1982, p. 221). In re- asserting their right to create sacred space and perform ritual women reclaim their “source of power, vision, and solidarity [a]s the symbolic corollary to equal pay, choice of abortion, domestic freedom, the establishment of women’s business. etc. Successful and enduring change in the status of women will come only through the parallel transformation of symbols and realities” (K. Turner, 1982, p. 222). Nourished by the individual and collaborative making of art, ritual making and the deepening relationships among the fourteen women in this study, eros emerged in its full force to guide the co-a/r/tographic inquiry. Making the commitment to walk the labyrinthal journey together, acting as witnesses for each new creation and each birth, the women took on the “spiritual responsibility” (Fernandes, 2003, p. 92) of self-learning, self- restoration, opening the door for self-transformation, and consequently, the spiritual and political evolution of the collective. All agreed to collaborate, explore, and reflect upon the project as co- a/r/tographers, although some were able to do this more than others. Within this chapter the teaching and learning of the a/r/tographic process as ritual is revealed as a significant component of the study. 94 As the witness/participant scribe, who has the privilege and responsibility of collating all the research data, I draw upon a practice of spiritual ethics. A spiritual ethics challenges the “objective observer/scholar because the witness consciously accepts both the power-laden relationship and the ethical responsibility of the act of witnessing” (Fernandes, 2003, p. 83). This requires a humbleness on the part of the witness and an openness to learn from the witnessing, allowing transformation of the self to occur. A difficulty of collaborative work is deciding how one voice can speak for the collective, especially a large collective. Chapter Five is written understanding that is it impossible to have a completely objective view. The women have read and endorsed the writing and the videos, in particular when their voice/experience is being referenced. Two DVD’s open this chapter. The first DVD documents the co-creative process from conception to the physical making of art. This DVD has four chapters of the co-creative process: 1) a sharing circle where some of the women reflect on the individual art pieces they created which were an expression of their spiritual lives, 2) the idea generation for what was to become Her Divine Countenance mask, 3) the co-creative process of Her Divine Countenance mask, and the Woman Spirit Shield, and 4) the idea generation for the performance ritual, which took place following a group trance process. The second DVD offers a glimpse of the gallery environment through a video walk in the AMS gallery, a slide show of all the art, and the two collaborative performance rituals. 95 Womb Entering - DVD 1 Womb Entering: The Co-Creative Process 46 minute video Chapters: Sharing Circle – 20 min. Conceiving the mask – 3 min. Co-creating the art – 18 min. Conceiving the Performance ritual – 5 min. Production: Barbara Bickel Editing: Barbara Bickel, Valerie Lys, Medwyn McConachy, Ingrid Rose Co-creators and camera work: Mary Bennett, Barbara Bickel, Cathy Bone, Monica Brammer, Melodie Chant, Sophia Freigang, Tannis Hugill, Nané Ariadne Jordan, Valerie Lys, Medwyn McConachy, Ingrid Rose, Annie Smith, Shirin Theophilus, Catherine Wilcox with Danaan Cordoni-Jordan helping with camera work Copyright 2007 See http://www.barbarabickel.com for DVD on-line 96 Womb Entering DVD 2 Womb Entering Art 31 minute video Chapters: Dancing the Altars performance ritual – 5 min. Womb Entering performance ritual – 18 min. Womb Entering gallery walk – 8 min. Womb Entering art slide show (AMS Gallery and Trinity St. Marks Church) Production: Barbara Bickel Editing: Barbara Bickel, Medwyn McConachy Camera work: Barbara Bickel, R. Michael Fisher, Chris Koppitz, Leah Fisher Co-creators: Mary Bennett, Barbara Bickel, Cathy Bone, Monica Brammer, Melodie Chant, Sophia Freigang, Tannis Hugill, Nané Ariadne Jordan, Valerie Lys, Medwyn McConachy, Ingrid Rose, Annie Smith, Shirin Theophilus, Catherine Wilcox with Danaan Cordoni-Jordan helping with camera work 2007 See http://www.barbarabickel.com for DVD on-line 97 Chapter Four Womb Entering Image 24 Bickel, Barbara. (2007). Her Divine Countenance (top view). Vancouver, BC: AMS Gallery. The University of British Columbia, (Plaster bandages, paper, fabric, acrylic paint, beads - 38 x 38 x 10 inches). 98 Artist Introductions The first day the new WSC planning team of 2006/2007 met was also the last time they met at the Vancouver School of Theology. A decision was made to meet at the labyrinth at the back of the school on this day of transition before beginning the planning meeting in the school. I responded poetically describing the poignant ritual walk that marked the beginning of a new planning team year, which would include the a/r/tographic dissertation study, and the ending of the VST co-sponsorship simultaneously. from a distance I see colourful forms of woman moving closer closer at arrival energies intensify with full embrace touch laughter words of delight mark reception at the labyrinth we twelve have come to vision for the future our work joined as servants of spirit without orchestration footsteps encircle unwind the exterior circumference the grass tread while breath by breath the women enter into the ancient laid path as spirit wisdom waiting to emerge individual steps walk as unified movement soles press the lingering trace of feminine soul that precedes the winding twisting turning journey the center penetrated 99 nectar drenched fluid of multiple aura’s blend surge and coalesce multi-full translations take form in stillness a deep intake of breath holds the nectar in the chalice of her body extended colour full on the return tapestry weaving heightened bodies crossing crossing prayers inner circle transfigured outer circle forms held till the thirteenth woman emerges from the labyrinths inner sanctuary undoing the circle that holds the labyrinth supple resolute bodies enter the halls of the theological fortress strength exuding with each sure step as the chain of women extends the length of its halls expanding beyond the walls into the future Barbara Bickel, June 2006 The fourteen women that make up the co-inquiry group of this project are all members or former members1 of the annual WSC conference planning team. I hold multiple roles as researcher for whom this is my dissertation project, as a co-member of the planning team and co- participant in the study. The event began as a Christian ecumenical gathering on the University of British Columbia campus (then called the Women and Spirituality Dialogue) in 1991. At that time all the women organizers were Anglican. In 2001, in response to changing dynamics and interests within the planning team it officially became a multi-faith event and the name was changed to the Women’s Spirituality Celebration. The event has fore-fronted experiential learning, creativity, art and ritual as essential components of the weekend. This increased significantly when artists (emerging and established) began to join the planning team in 1997. 100 The women involved at the time of this 2006/07 study2 come from a variety of religious/non-religious backgrounds and current spiritual practices: Atheist, Buddhist-Wiccan, Christian (Anglican, Baptist, Creation Spirituality, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United), Communist/Jewish, Earth-based, Feri, Pagan/Goddess, New Thought, Reclaiming, Spiritual Feminist, Wiccan and Unitarian3. Some have art backgrounds in theatre, dance, performance art, creative writing, and visual art. Others have no formal arts training. More than half of the women have graduate degrees, although not all the women have postsecondary education. All are leaders within this group, as well as within other communities. Some work in professional leadership capacities, a few within religious institutions, and others volunteer as leaders/activists within their local communities. The women range in age from 27 to 65: mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters; single, or in committed heterosexual and lesbian relationships. The majority of the women are of European descent, and one woman is of East Indian descent from Kerola, India. The cultural and religious demographic of the group changes each year as new women join and others leave. Every year an open call is made at the conference for new women to join. The year this study took place there were four new members who joined the planning team. During the year, one member retired from the planning committee, but continued on with the research study. The group is aware that it has not attracted women of colour and non-Western religious women to the planning team in a sustainable way. The conference attracts their participation as facilitators and large gathering ritual leaders during the event, but the year long commitment to the planning team is more difficult to sustain for reasons that the group has yet to surpass. Introduction to the Study The co-inquiry process was multi-layered incorporating group ritual sharing circles at the beginning, middle and end of the study: two weekends and two evenings of ritual, trance and art making; a visioning trance evening to conceive the first performance ritual for the WSC, and two subsequent rehearsals; the performance ritual at the WSC; video editing; the installation of the art; two rehearsals for the expanded performance ritual at the art gallery; the performance ritual at the opening of the Womb Entering exhibition; two art talks in the gallery; sitting the gallery during exhibition hours, and sharing reflective writing over email with each other, and directly to myself, the lead researcher. In addition to the collaboratively generated art making process, the women worked independently on creative writing and art making. It was never possible to have 101 the entire group present at the same time during any of the aspects of the research process. As the curator of the inquiry, I orchestrated the gatherings and was the only one always present. To accommodate the busy schedules of the women, two gatherings were scheduled for each of the multiple aspects of the research. In addition, I met individually on a few occasions with women unable to make it to a group gathering. To assist the flow of communication linking all aspects of the research to everyone, I regularly sent group and individual emails, and telephoned the women. The project spanned a period of eights months (Appendix A) while the group simultaneously organized the annual WSC. An agreement was made to keep the research distinct from the WSC organizing meetings, although occasionally, time was set aside at the end of a WSC meeting to share research updates. Whenever the group met as part of the dissertation study, a sacred ritual space was created, and the larger intention of the gathering, be it sharing in circle, making art, sharing art made, or visioning the performance ritual, was set. I offered guiding questions prior to the first, and at the last ritual sharing circles, to assist the women enter into, and then to debrief the co-inquiry process. The initial question emailed to the women prior to the first ritual sharing circle was, What has your spiritual and/or religious practice and journey been to lead you to being committed to organizing the WSC multi-faith event? This was offered as a guiding question. It was suggested that they either think about it prior to the gathering or to let spirit lead them to share what needed to be spoken on the day. The art making process was organic. The group began the art inquiry process by creating individual art pieces while in the weekend retreat space together. The large art projects envisioned during the first art making weekend were collaboratively created. At the end of the study four guiding questions were given to the women to assist the closing reflections at the ritual sharing circles: 1) How have you personally grown/struggled with your spiritual leadership journey/practice in this research project? 2) What have you observed/experienced the group go through with its multi-faith leadership practice/work in this research? 3) How/do you see this research process and research affecting multi-faith leadership practice/work in the larger world? 4) What have you learned/struggled/experienced within the a/r/tographic inquiry process? Some of the responses to these questions are shared in this chapter and in the final chapter of the dissertation. 102 Mistica The term “mistica,” used in liberation theology, originated within informal grassroots communities. It means “the spirit of community” (Fernandes, p. 70). Mistica is the gathering call of the WSC planning team. The conference they organize has a spiritual focus which is committed to expressions, practices, and paths, of the Divine through the particular experience of women. As a woman-only event that recognizes women’s embodied spiritual experience4 as unique from male spiritual experience, the women risk the academic critique of essentialism. Although the group advocates for women’s liberation many, but not all, of the women on the planning team identify as feminist.5 An academic and political feminist discourse, that most often omits spiritual discourse, has not presented itself in the research sharing circles. In contrast, a spiritual feminist discourse (Christ, 2003; hooks, 2000), which recognizes the integral unity of the Divine that is present in all women has. Many of the women hold the understanding of unity and diversity within masculine and feminine principles of the Divine, which are most often experienced as the tangible (masculine) and intangible (feminine), each interdependent, complementary, and equally valued as part of a healthy whole (Vandana Shiva, n.d). Some of the women in contrast hold a non-dual, non- gendered, understanding of the Divine, yet all can be said to recognize what spiritual teacher and eco activist Vandana Shiva teaches, that Western Society has generally lost respect and recognition for “[w]omen's roles as carriers of the Feminine principle of respect for life in nature and society (n.d., n.p.). On the planning team and at the WSC conference, women are honoured for their roles as carriers of the feminine principle. The intention is to empower women to take on the regenerative, embodied, and erotic leadership work needed to be done in their spiritual lives and society. At the conference women re/learn about their connection to each other, as women, the Earth, the Kosmos, Spirit, and the Divine, not solely through religious teachings and dogma but through “gatherings that nourish body, spirit, emotions and mind through the arts, contemplative and embodied spiritual practices” (cited from draft of WSC 2008 mission statement). This study is a co-a/r/tographic ritual inquiry into the mistica that sustains and motivates the individuals of this study, the collective growth of the group, and consequently the annual conference. From this a/r/tographic inquiry the following areas emerged as themes that are further elaborated in this chapter: 1) Women’s Sacred Space, 2) Women’s Spiritual Leadership, 3) Sacred Epistemology and Pedagogy and, 4) From Private to Public: A Pedagogy of Unknowing and Discomfort. 103 Women’s Sacred Space There is a distinctiveness to gathering with a group of women in sacred space, that at this point in time is not for the most part reproducible when men are present. It reflects the many years of oppression that women and the Feminine principle have been subjected to in our Western Society (Christ, 1979; Daly, 1978). The rupture between the Masculine and Feminine principles of religious and spiritual understanding of the Divine causes suffering for both men and women (Christ 2003). In the research with the WSC planning team and at the WSC conference a sacred space is created for women to be present to themselves and each other, to empower themselves and each other. The planning team members of WSC, because of their own individual experiences and the feedback received from those who have attended the conference, are very aware of the need for women-only healing and worship space for women to experience what has been lost, repressed, excluded or hidden in their religious and spiritual practices. Women who are sensitive to the loss of the honoured sacred feminine often require a women- only space to do the healing that is essential to bring it forward fully into their lives again. The importance of offering a communal sacred space for women to experience the liminality and ecstasy of female-led ritual supported by women, contradicts the hundreds of years of silencing and oppression of women within male-dominated religious cultures (K. Turner, 1982). Bani Shorter (1987) in her study of women’s self-initiation healing journey in psychoanalysis writes: What takes place in the dark phase of liminality is a process of breaking down, differentiation, and purification of one’s own attitudes in the interest of ‘making whole’ one’s meaning, purpose and sense of relatedness once again. (p. 115) The intention of the WSC is not to punish males through exclusion, but to begin to heal the pain that has rendered women silent, to allow women to break down, differentiate, and purify themselves in the relative absence of gendered oppression--in the desire to make whole again one’s relationship with the Divine and hence with all of humanity. The women spiritual leaders of this study are in differing stages of healing in their relationship with the principles of the Masculine and Feminine Divine within religious and spiritual teachings. Because of their own spiritual practices they understand and embrace the healing power of sacred space within which they can continue to evolve as spiritual beings. Lauren Artress (2006) describes sacred space in its complexity as, ... the place where two worlds flow into each other, the visible with the invisible. The finite world touches the infinite. In sacred space we can let down our guard and remember who we 104 are. The rational mind may be released. In sacred space we walk from chronos time to kairos time, as we allow our intuitive self to emerge. (p. 155) In the first ritual sharing circle of the study, the women uniquely express the form of sacred space they long for. Melodie highlights the male-female distinction for herself: I lack women in my life and have tried to get femaleness out of men and it does not work.... This group makes mundane religious ritual routines come alive – it brings life in. Valerie admits that although she has been part of activist communities, “this is my first women’s community.” Annie is very clear of her needs, I am needful of women’s space – it is very difficult to be in male spaces and male spaces of the family. I chose to stand between and being torn apart – how to negotiate that --I feel very vulnerable and this space offers a refuge for me to see myself. Tannis shares her longing to fully reunite the Masculine with the Feminine Divine in her spirituality and shares, “I am longing for a place of permission to be as I am with or without words.” Cathy then reveals her understanding of female wisdom: My sensate self woke up my spiritual self – through mothering, babies and bodies...vaginal wisdom in all its forms – that which is not spoken has a place to come forward in this group...the tender tenuous world changing aspect of this WSC -- it is dangerous critical work – no matter who walks in the door to be on our planning team – despite our different languages. Catherine shares with gratitude the feminine archetypes and women that guide her spiritual evolution, I am reminded of my grandmother who was a mentor for me. I am 27 years old and the youngest to be mentored in the group while connecting with the crone energy in myself.... It is precious to be in the mentorship of women as I cycle out of maiden and into mother energy. Shirin reveals that, despite being a woman, and an Anglican in the planning team since its inception, she still deals with feeling an outsider: As the only one on the planning team for the first 8 years as a minority of different skin colour, I felt isolated but didn’t want to give up. When we became multi-faith it was my dream come true. I confess my own gender biases learned while growing up: I grew up with a very clear split between boys and girls in my [religious] home and come with a bias of working and creating art with women. I am trying to figure out what is it about religion that creates separations? ... I am glad that art is leading this research to the place of not knowing. Sophia shares her dream of sacred space in the form of a women’s church: 105 This is like a refuge – a sacred place at the event and a more intimate space here. What would a women’s church look like? – a place of regular ritual- women need alot more and I’m looking for this church for women that is all about healing and spirituality, they are not separate. The women I meet with the WSC have something to offer that is unique to women no matter what faith – it is safe ground to walk and a place to call home – I quest for place and I still quest. Nané speaks of her journey of integrating different aspects of her life within female sacred space: My M.A. [practicum] project in Women’s Spirituality brought me in – I felt like a baby with wise elders...I am connecting my spiritual journey with my academic journey with this circle and see the transitions and my own maturing in the process... What we do together is follow the nose...through this group I have come to a greater understanding of Christianity. I brought Ariadne and Mary figures for the altar – both are keepers of the labyrinth from different times and places holding sacred space for female space that I strongly identity with. I appreciate our ability to walk into that space together and how the group holds that. Ingrid describes the difference between male created space and female creation space, ... spires and towers, aspiring spaces... what buildings can be the highest? and women’s space is underneath, earth, labyrinth, caves... If spirituality is about creation our [creative] identities are our identities. Monica admits, My whole life has been leading me to this. I began with very black and white teachings and I have moved to realize we are all the same....WSC has helped me to be with not knowing. Its not an instinctual place for me to be yet I know it works. To practice being in this space of rule following and jumping off the abyss – they are the same thing... This group is a safe way to become familiar with practice outside of our scope – I can learn and expand who I am. A longing for, and knowing of women’s sacred space, is embodied in these sharings. Each woman comes to the group with an individual story and life that is not necessarily shared on a daily basis with the group, but the group is impacted by nonetheless. To understand the complexity of the lives that the women bring to this group, an acknowledgment of some of the demands and crisis that occurred alongside this study is worth sharing. One woman was in the midst of a ecological and political protest, she found herself facing legal charges for her stance. Another, the director of an educational institute, was in the midst of massive downsizing, while another was negotiating a work contract that would give her more time in her Vancouver home. Four of the women are mothers of dependant children (two are single mothers), who juggle childcare schedules and deal with developmental life transition crises on a regular basis. Two woman were volunteer lead-organizers in a large international spiritual conference. Two women, having recently completed graduate degrees, were in the process of finding sustainable and 106 appropriate work. Two, including myself, were in the midst of finding their way into and through their doctoral programs. One woman was grieving the loss of her elderly mother the year prior, another the loss of a good friend’s son to suicide, and yet another lost her sister to cancer during the study. A few were dealing with health issues, and one was experiencing life as a single person after the ending of a ten year relationship. In the struggle to live with grace and integrity in a complex, not always supportive world, sacred space offers an opportunity for women to connect with others, be it human or non-human as Divine. To assist in the creation of sacred space in the gatherings as a planning team, and within the research process, altars are created. The altar is a central focal area that changes with each gathering. Although the designated facilitator sets the altar up, all the women are free to add to it. It most often has candles which are lit at the opening, and extinguished at the close. It can consist of objects from nature, home altars, photos, sculptures, and fabric. Stories behind the objects are often shared as a grounding connection with each other, and as a way to share knowledge of particular spiritual icons. For example, Nané shared the story of her altar figurines, Mary and Ariadne. For the first ritual sharing circle of the research, I had asked each woman to bring an altar item that represented her spiritual path. This provided a familiar ritual that, as one woman shared, “elevated our comfort level” for the group sharing, and focused the particular research intention of the circle. The altars are augmented by creating and activating ritual space through gestures such as lighting candles, ringing bells, praying, invoking deities, singing, moving, and touching. Co-creating sacred space together assists in transitioning the women out of what was often a distressing and overwhelming location to a nurturing and loving space. Each ritual circle is unique and is influenced by the woman attending, and also by the women who may not be present but are remembered. Within the sacred space of ritual, compassion, care, love, and a holding of each woman in the group is practiced as the work of discovering and expanding themselves as women spiritual leaders unfolds. Women’s Spiritual Leadership This project challenges the Hegelian masterful teacher/leader model (Felman, 1997), and instead engages a “novel education” that “stay[s] close to [an] affected improper study” where the risk of not knowing is embraced and new thinking has opportunity to reveal itself (Britzman, 2006, ix). During the gallery art talks, and at the debrief closing ritual circles, each woman in different ways admitted being taken out of a comfort zone at different stages of the project. At the same time, they were witnessing a care in co-leadership that acknowledged and embraced 107 their discomfort. As the doctoral researcher in the project, I struggled with the “disorienting dilemma” (Mezirow, 2000) raised by the scholarly program I was immersed, where I questioned my own competency as a leader, .... part of going through a Ph.D., you become a non-expert, non-valued, at some level you are just brought back down until you are in kindergarten, so it is interesting having to facilitate a process like this when you actually feel like you don’t have any skills.... I have worked collaboratively with alot of groups and this was different.... definitely more humbleness was present for me with this one. I was multi-projecting at the same time, which has been my big learning through this whole graduate program – is how do you do multiple big things at the same time? In the past I had the luxury of one big project at a time. In this project I had to trust that whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Another learning ... and I don’t know if this is a good learning, it is connected to humbleness, but I am more and more.... I don’t feel like I am a complete human being on my own..., like relationships are so important, and working together is so important, and I feel less and less able to do anything on my own as a complete individual.... we—I need to be working with other people because I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know everything I know I need to know to do something really well, with a richness and a depth. So that’s been a big humbleness. And then also, with my struggle, which I had to let go of is not having, not feeling really strongly with any traditional ritual practices, and having to still lead, because this was mine to lead, this part of it. And to keep doing it, and even today, just loving how it comes together at the last minute... the rituals just happen, they are there, and I know I don’t have to be these ancient traditions that are practiced and know all the right sequence and ordering, and I know that, but at some level I have gone through insecurity because I don’t have the great traditions behind me that I am going to be teaching you. I remember the first sharing circle, I came with my questions. and everyone was kind of nervous to go first, and I said okay I’ll go first, So I answered the questions, and Valerie says – you didn’t answer your question. It was like -- so I can’t even answer my own questions..., it was good. It is like the questions are the starting point, and then the conversations and questions grow, change and morph as we went along. The women witnessed and experienced in a variety of ways, my particular form of leadership-- my willingness to surrender to not knowing– yet trusting the ability of all to do exactly what needed to be done. What follows are the voices of some of the women as they speak of witnessing and experiencing a way of leadership that is different from what one might recognize as leadership in a patriarchal dominated world and academy. Leela Fernandes (2003) further describes what is needed to develop, ... a feminist approach to leadership which is based more centrally on qualities such as humility and tolerance; where visibility is a tactic rather than as end; where leadership is understood more appropriately as a form of labor and service rather than in terms of achievement. It is here that we see the ethical component of practice begin to give ways to a 108 wider, spiritualized understanding of practice. For a transition in the ways in which leadership operates is linked as much to an attitude of the spirit as it is to one’s public and visible actions. (p. 57) Although the group has worked with a co-leadership model for many years, the opportunity to fully experience and reflect upon an ethical spirit-led form of women’s leadership in a new learning experience was a powerful revelation for them in multiple ways. The women’s reflections in the circle articulate this. Tannis clearly articulates her experience of surrendering to her limits as a leader in this group, and her coming to recognize that she is enough in whatever capacity as part of a whole: My personal growth and struggle with this research project that we did was occurring simultaneously to a number of challenging enterprises that I was engaging in my life, one of them was a huge also spiritual project, the leadership of the ritual committee for the Spiritual Directors Conference, which I have complained about.... The question for me personally has always been – I take leadership positions alot—it has always been – the solo work, or the initiator of a project. Although I have been in ensemble, but then there was a director – we all followed the director. So to be in a collaborative environment, although initiated and guided by you Barbara, your leadership was such that you held such a huge space for all of us to be co-leaders, even though at times I would try to defer to you -- you would sort of step aside and not tell me - yes do that. So my personal struggle and this is in relationship to the Divine as well, is am I enough? So I am always doing everything, you know, to prove that I am enough. So it was hard for me to be in this with all of us and not be able to just be there all of the time, to not bring my voice forward in a really strong way. But just to be one of.... So it was a very important growth process for me to learn again and again that whatever my presence each one of our presence was in that, was absolutely enough, and a significant component to the whole spiral, creation process that we engaged. Annie reflects on the intertwining relationship between the co-creative projects which occurred alongside the administrative organizing of the WSC: I’m thinking of just how your fingers kind of slide in, and we slide into each other and slide out and that is amazing, utterly amazing. I think that what we have done in this project that Barbara has led us into and not knowing quite where it would go – where we’ve entered into a creative space but we’ve also entered into it with in an intention around our work together in terms of the Women’s Spirituality Celebration, that what we are in fact doing is creating a way of working together that may have some influence in terms of other groups that we are affiliated with.... I think maybe this is one of our callings – is to open to space and to hold space open, I see that as Barbara’ great gift. Shirin reminds the group of how this is an experience that infiltrated individual lives, that carried and carries on in the lives of the women, calling each woman to take the work further into the world: ... I think Barbara was just a catalyst for us to create this, and a/r/tography again, she brought forth in the form of art and we all indulged, very bravely, you know and created something 109 and blew our minds off, because this project was not a one time event, it was a process event, in all our lives – it took a year of our life actually. Which in our subconscious mind we stored it, and drew from it every time we got together, and just the presence of each other, our memories are you know revitalized and energized and we live it.... And Barbara has done a fantastic job because I think gently and at the same time giving direction -- what it all means to us and as well as her. If it does not mean anything to me I won’t participate in it, so I think including me is not enough....You looked into individuals and I am really grateful for that, we all grew from it. And I do hope it opens up to the world, this kind of change. And I think we are responsible to do it for others, even more so now, that Barbara has given us this opportunity to do it. Medwyn expresses passionately the educational mind shift she experienced as a seasoned leader in corporate and spiritual domains: ... there was a really important piece of education in this for me... This project wasn’t about creating a bunch of artists. There was a part of it about the women creating art but it was much more about the women finding ways to express themselves through creating something that spoke clearly to other people. And I’ve done alot of facilitation working business scenarios and all over the place but your capacity to facilitate this process has just been remarkable to me and you’re already an established artist in your own right, so inviting a bunch of us who do not consider ourselves artists to participate in making art with you could have created a somewhat intimidating situation for people and it was the exact opposite. There was this constant sense that you were encouraging and supporting and pulling this stuff out and always reminding people that there was still time, still space and the contribution they make is important. I don’t know how you are going to express that. Quite remarkable, then the whole, sort of sense you get if you create and hold a trusting intentional space for something to happen, it will. Monica illuminates the importance of practicing a non-judgmental form of leadership, and expanding that from the group into the larger world: ... each of us brings our own experience with the honesty and integrity that we have, we’ve learned to express with each other, and we are capable of expressing, and encouraging other people to express that same sense of their own self, however that comes out of no judgment. So this has been a great place to practice. So we figure if we do then we are setting the templates for the rest of the world. So Barbara encouraged each of us to go beyond, to express ourselves, to explore and to play with no judgment. She had no idea, didn’t say okay now this is the way it’s going to look and this is the way it is going to be, she was wide open for whatever we came up with so it has really been a really interesting experience... and its becoming a little thicker. Cathy’s reflections incorporate the kinesthetic and vulnerable body-led element of the leadership in the research experience, and its link to political and global change: I was thinking a lot as we were walking the labyrinth together, about what it was like for both of our bodies to be in a space together, when we haven’t been together for a long time. And you hold for me the bodies and inertia around the project that we’ve been sharing. So I was experiencing you as more than you out there, so it took me back to some of the places the rooms we’ve been in and the ways our hands have worked together and the mediums 110 that we have experimented with in the last two years as we have journeyed with you in your research. And I was aware how tender and kindness of the work that you are doing. That whatever motivated you, whether art never happens alone for you, when you needed companions, it is a very kind thing to invite women together and hold carefulness amongst us, and I think your clarity as you had it of the process and the rituals that we shared, the tone of voice you used, helped set intention of being gentle with each other, as you asked us to expose our bellies to each other and I think that kind of respect and gentility that was not without its power or assertiveness, I think that kind of kindness and gentility is very, very political, very global. Sophia reflects boldly on the leadership aspect of acceptance for the wrenching dichotomous struggle, so common to many women, when attempting to lead in one’s individual life as a mother and partner, and in the world simultaneously: ... but there was a time period where I was out of the loop..., and I felt like—I don’t know why but I couldn’t say it to anybody, I couldn’t go you know what I’m out of it, so I need to just step back and get out, I just kept hoping sort of to be able to step back in. And that just wasn’t happening. You would call every once in awhile, and say ‘how’s things going’? And I’d be like oh god, she’s still there, she’s still there, she still thinks I’m part of this, that’s great. I am, I mean spiritually I am, although actively I thought I was just not keeping up, I could not keep up to the amount of e-mails that were coming through, and I would have loved to. Part of me is like an all or nothing person, and if I can’t keep up, okay I don’t want to look at it. Cause I knew it was so big and so beautiful, I just couldn’t look at it anymore, it was like no, you have to deal with the other aspect of your world, if you go into here you are going to get sunk, you’re just going to get sunk with—I don’t know what it is? Just overwhelmed with just another side of yourself—you cannot soften up right now, you can’t because there’s this other thing that you have to keep going, whatever that is. So that was sad, very sad for me. And I still chose to do it. So there must have been a gain in there for me so that is something else. And from Barbara ...there was a lot of acceptance. Just yeah, compassion and acceptance. Like a river who knew how to just get around the rocks. Catherine speaks as the youngest and a new member of the group, and reminds the group of the importance of being mentored in leadership through this research process: I think it was an incredible way to step into being part of the group as a new member as well. Having this project happen alongside coming into the planning committee was just such a way into deepening the intimacy and the place, and the process actually.... I just wow... have a lot of gratitude for your mentorship Barbara, it’s meant a lot, you give a lot, and have just such a lovely way of being, yeah, very non-forceful but powerful. I appreciate that Barbara’s leadership is very guiding, not—leading is almost strong, not that you were not strong, but you were never forceful, you were just there, holding, guiding, providing and fluid at the same time, so it wasn’t obstructive or difficult, everything flowed, it was never a problem that... fill in the blank. There was always a way to fill in the blank, it was amazing, really. As a whole that process seemed that way to me. Nané further describes the significant female leadership quality of holding space and how that was created, and how it has assisted the group’s evolution into the world: 111 Another thing comes up about leadership, Barbara,... but your leadership in particularly has been—I have been very acutely aware, because of being in an academic role and doing a Ph.D. also, I am aware of how you are conducting—how your leadership—that’s she calling you, she’s calling you, she’s calling all of us, she’s sending the e-mails, and you’ve been very fluid about how you work with us, like you are the one that is holding—I mean I appreciate that we are all holding the space too—but in fact the project, how you’ve held that—you’ve allowed—that spiritual piece. I’m just thinking it is so fascinating how far it’s come, and your role within the group has actually shifted into this leadership role of the group moving out of the VST space and into this other space, and this process of going more public, outside the Christian-based academy, into these other spaces—you, and this project... has been part of that shift and that kind of plays into this work in the larger world. The teachings of a feminine-based mistica as compassionate, gentle, powerful, ethical and flowing leadership, becomes clearly identifiable at the close of the co-researching process through the co-witnessing reflections of the co-inquirers. Spiritualized knowing, as described by feminist scholar Leela Fernandes (2003), is a transformative knowledge practice that is based in the mystery of the unknowable. It resists the colonizing tendency to bend knowledge to individual or collective will. She writes, “It is a a sense of mystery that dispels the mistaken assumption that the intellectual, writer, teacher [leader] or activist is the knower rather than a witness who is always in the process of being known” (p.99). A spiritualized knowing unfolds as the women come to know each other, and themselves, amidst the ritual circles of sharing. (Edelson, p. 316, 1982). The reflections at the end of the study share a glimpse of the struggles present in manifesting mistica in our cultures, revealing how women leaders struggle to balance a life of caregiving others and the guilt and shame that often accompanies not being able to accomplish it all or to do it well enough. Remembering and witnessing the sacred aspect of themselves and their journey assists in coming to a place of acceptance of their perceived limitations. What was experienced in the group of co-inquirers, resonates with what educator Peter Reason (1993) articulates as “sacred human inquiry” which “integrate[s] a critical self-reflexive consciousness with a deep experience of the sacred” (p. 282). Reason (2000) further describes the fine line that rests between “power and authority on the one hand, and collaboration on the other” (p. 5) for the initiating facilitator. He cautions that, for this balance to be achieved, the power must always be “in service of creating a space for the collaboration” (p. 6) in order to facilitate an authentic space of “us.” As the facilitator of the project, I drew from my years of experience working on collaborative projects, and trust in the mystery of the art making process which leads to an experience of the sacred. I managed this, in part because of the trust and belief 112 the women had in me, in spite of my own feelings of inadequacy, and not knowing, that surfaced frequently during the project. Image 25 Bickel, Barbara. (2007). Her Divine Countenance in process, Vancouver, BC. (Video still). Sacred Epistemology and Pedagogy A sacred epistemology and pedagogy is articulated within this project, reflecting what Lincoln and Denzin (2000) describe as the “seventh moment in qualitative research” which is: ... political, presuming a feminist, communitarian moral ethic stressing the values of empowerment, shared governance, care, solidarity, love, community, covenant, morally involved observers, and civic transformation…” (p.1052) The pedagogical “holding of the space” and “fluid guiding” I practiced invited the group to enter into a poignant interrelationship of sacred co-inquiry and co-learning where, as Shirin poetically reflected after the first ritual sharing circle that the, ... air was stilled in moments of spoken words and at the same time was pulsating by short and long breath and sighs of the listeners. We were swept by the Divine presence in various forms, shapes, sounds, songs, poems, rhythms, movements and awarenesses. Having learned the importance of acknowledging the presence of spirit in the inquiry process in the Re/Turning to Her project, on a regular basis through emails, and in circle with the 113 women, I reminded myself and the women that they were entering a relationship with spirit together. The co-inquiry practice of a/r/tography as ritual gave them a pathway to follow. After the first group ritual sharing circle in November 2006, I wrote: Dear Women, Thanks for a warm and embracing beginning to this research project. I still resonate with a high frequency of aliveness in my body this evening. I am left thinking of the many things I did not speak to regarding the whole research process. As I am committed to the exchange of air in this process of communing with you and I do not want to fill space that does not need to be filled I want to invite you to contact me (phone or email) with any questions, insights, confusions, hunches, ideas, suggestions. You may want more information than I am giving. I am very much working with a trusting in spirit to guide us and appreciate the preciousness of having this kind of time and space with you. I attached a brief overview sheet on a/r/tography at the back of the package. It may help or not in understanding it. I am keen to have conversations with those that want to explore this in more depth with this project. My insight that occurred on the Grace Cathedral labyrinth in SF last year was: Art (creation-making) leads us to spirit, spirit leads us to new understandings of life, and from that place of new understanding we make an effort to teach and share with others. This is the essence of what I consciously work to do as an a/r/tographer. Thanks for your thoughtful sharing of your selves today. Many blessings, Barbara The women entered the collaborative a/r/tographic process with varying degrees of comfort. Planning and getting the group together for the first weekend of ritual and art making together simultaneously included excitement and discomfort. Excitement in anticipation of the co-creative process, disappointment for a few of the women who where not able to attend the weekend, and the struggle of traveling away from home, losing one’s personal space for twenty-four hours. For some, holding the tensions between anticipation and personal comfort levels expressed itself in tiredness, headaches and nausea, for others in annoyance and/or nervousness in being video documented and being unsure of what was expected. The ritual sharing circles allowed a space for the excitement and struggles to be shared amongst the group, as well as a place to plan and agree upon the agenda for the weekend. During this intense and precious collaborative process of creating, eating, sleeping, trancing, playing, crying, singing, sharing of stories, ideas and art together the many Divine aspects of the women emerged to be witnessed. Following that first art making weekend in November 2006 at Cathy’s home in Ladner I wrote to the women: 114 It was a weekend of Being in the presence of the Divine Feminine mirrored through each of you creating and birthing, manifesting in her many aspects, including her tired, overwhelmed and wounded aspects. And it is all good. May the Divine continue to guide us as we travel this journey of co-creation and discovery together. Doing the important work of bringing personal and collective lived understandings of multi-faith practices and experiences to the larger world. As the lead researcher, I experienced feelings of grief and loss in the midst of the project. Some loss was due to logistical struggles, including the impact the complexity of the women’s lives were having on myself and the group. I turned to my spiritual practices, to walking the labyrinth, and to my understanding of sacred epistemology, to support the work of keeping the group connected as a whole, and to hold the larger context of the research project. In addition to these autonomous practices that assisted my role as facilitator, I was able to share and acknowledge my struggles with some of my co-inquirers. In January, 2007, Tannis and I exchange communications: Thanks so much Barbara for your call and care. I hope I didn't sound edgy on the phone - but I am frighteningly tired which raises my fears about accomplishing all I have taken in to do in the next few months, and want to do... Please know that my heart is there but right now my body really isn't. T Tannis Its a hard place to be - of wanting to do it all and do it all well. How do we support each other to manage the complexity of our lives and the limits of our physical/emotional selves? I gathered your distressed tone was not solely because of the research project. I have to keep practicing letting go - letting go - such hard work and yet it is the only way to keep doing what we are doing. taking/being care/ing/ful, barbara Acknowledging the absence of some of the women through group emails, was a way to remind all that their presence was honoured and felt even in their absence. After the group ritual sharing circle of making art in January 2007, I wrote: Dear all, An inspiring, nourishing gathering with you yesturday. Thanks to each of you for your commitment, energy and contribution to this research - at all levels. In the midst of complex and full lives I am very aware of the extra effort this work is calling forth from each of you. Please remember that whatever you are able to contribute is exactly what it needs to be. Our collective energy infuses this process whether we are physically present or not. For those unable to be with us yesterday and those that were not there for the entire time here is an overview of our time together and future logistics to think about. As the absences made apparent, in the midst of the generative creativity and powerful heart opening experiences, there was the limiting reality of some of the women’s physical health, time 115 restraints, and the capacity to fully enter the spirit of co-inquiry with the group. Dancer and educator Celeste Snowber (2004), advocates being willing to enter what she calls a “spirituality of messiness” (p. 125) as we “are schooled in the soul of life” (p. 12). She writes, “Teaching is a bodily act, and we must engage every part of the knowledge available to us: kinesthetic, cognitive, intuitive, artistic, perceptual; the list goes on and on” (p. 128). Her philosophy of art, education and research is a relational one and encourages the wide embrace of a dance partner, entwined with the breath and rhythm of the body as it dances with creation; whose arms hold suffering and grief as well as ecstasy and joy leading the life dancer toward multiple “avenue(s) of spiritual formation” (p. 134) and the “shoulder of Mystery” (p. 134). The vulnerable dances of relationship between the women allowed all to rest on the shoulder of Mystery at different times throughout the study. Theologian and educator Dwayne Huebner (1999) alludes to the ever shifting relational qualities of sacred epistemology. He writes, “All knowing requires openness and vulnerability... To have new forms emerge, old forms must give way to relationship” (p. 350). There is a giving way, a release, letting go, and a dying so new forms can emerge.” (p. 99). Giving way to the relational process of art making, accepting the imperfect humanness of each other, while simultaneously recognizing each other as Divine, and opening to the mystery-filled guidance of spirit, assisted the emergence of new ways of knowing for individuals and for the group. Adult educator Dorothy MacKeracher (2004), suggests at least seven conditions a facilitator should be aware of and incorporate within her teaching practice, for spiritual learning to occur. These spiritual learning practices were engaged throughout the study, and are described by MacKeracher as strategies that: 1) facilitate altered states of consciousness, 2) encourage play and entry into the unknown and arational modes of knowing, 3) include self awareness and self reflexive practices, i.e., dream journaling, 4) are non-judgmental, 5) deliberately return to insights and enter further contemplation through art making, writing, performing etc., 6) include respectful interchanges with others, i.e., sharing circles, and, 7) look for connections in what may seem like paradoxical places (pp. 177-180). Within the project, the group entered altered states of consciousness through facilitated trance journey, meditation, the creative exploration of metaphor (most collectively powerful was the metaphor of womb entering), and humour. Entry into the unknown was facilitated through art making processes, spontaneous singing, dancing, and an ecstatic silliness of play with each other at times. The digital video recording (although not always easy), reflective journaling and sharing of thoughts, insights, trances, and physical sensations allowed the group to individually 116 and collectively reflect upon and delve into the experiences, with ever increasing depth and awareness. This was done in a non-judgmental caring way and propelled the women into deeper explorations of themselves and the group. The creation of poetry, individual and collective art pieces, the performance rituals, and art installations, allowed a revisiting of the many layers of metaphors and insights produced during the project. Meeting on a regular basis in sacred ritual sharing circles, augmented the individual learning by making visible themes and patterns which emerged amongst the women. Seeing connections to the women’s lives, although they may have felt very separate from the project, was at times jarring--but ultimately the realization that spirit flows through all aspects of one’s life, was affirmed. From Private to Public: A Pedagogy of Unknowing The first exhibition of the art, and an initial short version of the performance ritual, entitled Dancing the Altars, took place at the 2007 WSC conference (Image 28). For some of the women this meant stepping out from the behind-the-scenes-leadership of the event they were accustomed to. It was a nascent presentation of the a/r/tographic research to the public. The individual created art was displayed in the common lounge of the conference, and the collaboratively made drum shield and mask became part of the two main altars in the Epiphany Chapel, where the large multi-faith ritual gatherings took place (Images 26 and 27). We had committed as a group to create a ritual performance with the drum and the mask for the opening evening multi-faith gathering. A few weeks before the conference in preparation for this offering, half of the women gathered with the finished collaborative art pieces in Tannis’s home and entered a group trance. For most of the women, this was the first time participating in a group trance. They had experienced an individual Ecstatic Posture trance6 led by Tannis, while on the weekend of ritual and art making the November prior. This trance, introduced by myself, was different in that they spoke out loud what they saw, felt, heard, smelled, sensed, and stayed connected as a group as the trance journey unfolded. Tannis began the meditation with the ringing of her glass ‘singing bowl’ while the women lay on the floor like spokes on a wheel with their heads underneath the faces of the mask. Their bodies were supported by the ground beneath them, and through breathing deeply, they released their beings into the collective energy of the mask, as the mutual spontaneous journey unfolded transporting them into an altered realm (see Womb Entering Video 1). 117 Images 26 Bickel, Barbara. (2007). Women’s Spirituality Celebration front altar installation. Vancouver, BC: Epiphany Chapel, Vancouver School of Theology. The images and events that occurred within the trance state of: salt water waves, laughter, trees, white feathers, and women of all ages dancing with the heartbeat of the drum in dialogue with the mask became the colours, elements, movements, and sounds, mutually choreographed into the five minute ritual performance (see Appendix D). With minimal rehearsal time, the women boldly stepped into the experience, followed the drum, danced with the mask, trusted spirit and became priestesses of the moment--awakening the altars for the large circle of witnessing women at the WSC. Each woman took on a role within the performance ritual that suited her level of comfort. Some moved to the edges of the circle at times to hold space and others entered fully into the center of the dance. During the small group sharing following the performance ritual, an older woman in the audience shared that she did not understand the dance. I replied that the women were only coming to understand the dance themselves-- still riding the waves of the mystery of co-creation. On March, 4, 2007, Ingrid shared a poem she wrote in response to the experience that expresses the mysterious and sacred magic of the ritual performance, where the women danced the two altars to life. 118 here at the centre of things infinite store women come gills to tail open porous skin like a glove dive into spumey wave quicksilver unafraid together voice uncoils our countenance blooms mirrored petals drum shields sacred site salt gold laughter song tears dance rhodocrosite gaia’s garland braid 119 Images 27 Bickel, Barbara. (2007). Women’s Spirituality Celebration central altar installation. Vancouver, BC: Epiphany Chapel, Vancouver School of Theology, (Digital photograph). Image 28 Bickel, Barbara. (2007). Women’s Spirituality Celebration dancing the altars ritual performance. Vancouver, BC: Epiphany Chapel, Vancouver School of Theology, (Video still) 120 The weeks following the
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Living the divine spiritually and politically : art ritual and performative/pedagogy in women's multi-faith… Bickel, Barbara Ann 2008
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