photos of Charlie Finn, Dave Pruett, and John Yungblut

Summary

Workshop Number: 13
Leaders: Charlie Finn, Dave Pruett
Who May Register?: Open to All
Worship/Worship-Sharing: 20%
Lecture: 40%
Discussion: 30%
Experiential Activities: 10%

Who May Attend?
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

John Yungblut (1913-1995) was an Episcopalian priest turned Quaker, civil rights worker, beloved mentor, author, ecumenical pioneer, and mystic. In this workshop, two whose lives were deeply influenced by John will introduce participants to an extraordinary contemporary Quaker by examining his life, influences, writings, vision, and mysticism.


Workshop Description

The hope of the facilitators is that those attending this workshop will come away with two things. The first is a better intellectual grasp of John Yungblut’s great vision—marrying the contributions of Teilhard de Chardin (generalized evolution) and Carl Jung (individuation) with Quakerism. The second is a felt experience of John’s continuing mentoring presence, through both his writings and his impact on the lives of the two facilitators, inviting participants to come home to the mystic within themselves.

What follows is an outline of how we will proceed through the week. Each day will begin and end with worship, between which will be a variety of activities—instructional and experiential—that will accent the themes of that day.

Friends interested in the workshop are encouraged to peruse the associated annotated bibliography.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations below, indicated in italics, are excerpted from John Yungblut’s writings.

Monday’s Introduction
  • An overview of John Yungblut’s life.  (Click here to preview.)
  • An invitation for participants to share what led them to this workshop, after the facilitators share what prompted them to lead it.
  • An introduction to the centrality for Yungblut (following Rufus Jones) of mysticism. “All are special kinds of mystics, at least potentially.”
  • Reflections of the facilitators on how this workshop deepens Friends’ commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist faith community.
  • Mention of several key figures who mentored John, including Rufus Jones, Teilhard de Chardin, Carl Jung, Loren Eiseley, Thomas Merton, Thomas Berry, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Encouragement for participants to journal each evening, thereby mining treasures from that day’s session: “What most struck me today . . .” There will be opportunity to share a few such treasures each following day.
Tuesday’s Themes
On the Primacy of Myth/Metaphor over the Literal/Dogmatic
  • “Religion has never known how to speak of the ultimate truth which it believes it has perceived save through myth and metaphor.”
Teilhard’s Myth of Cosmogenesis and Law of Complexity-Consciousness
  • “The labor of seaweed as it concentrates in its tissues the substances scattered, in infinitesimal quantities, throughout the vast layers of the ocean; the industry of the bees as they make honey from the juices broadcast in so many flowers—these are but pale images of the ceaseless working-over that all the forces of the universe undergo in us in order to reach the level of the spirit.”—Teilhard
  •  “The diaphany of the Divine at the heart of the universe on fire.”—Teilhard (John’s favorite of Teilhard’s expressions)
  •  “This means spirit all the way down into the heart of matter, and no dichotomy such as even the Bible accepted.”
  •  “The Fall” becomes “a quantum leap forward.”     
Jung’s Myth of Individuation (Wholeness vs. Perfection)
  •   “The dialogue between Quakerism and Jungian psychology is potentially inexhaustible.”
  •   “Jung asserts that the archetypes of the self and the Self are ultimately indistinguishable.  No mystic ever made a bolder claim!”
Wednesday’s Themes
Quakerism: Fertile Soil for both Teilhard and Jung—with Challenges for Each
Mystical/Prophetic:
  •  “Perhaps the most distinctive characteristics of the leaders of the Society of Friends . . . was the peculiar balance in them between cultivation of the inward life and a passion for social reform. It was an activist mysticism or mystical activism.”
Evangelical:
  •  “Strange and unendurable irony—that Friends who speak so much about the Inward Light should so timidly hide their own light under a bushel!”
Where Does Jesus Fit In?
Distinguishing the Jesus of history from the Christ myth
  •  “This emerging, evolving image of the Godlike man is not to be contained in or fully identified with that historical figure.”
  •  “It is time we abandoned what may well be the most persistent idolatry for Christians, one that Jesus himself counseled against, namely, that which would make Jesus into God.”
“The Gospel of Evolutionary Christianity”
  •  “Oh God, I wish I could preach again because I’ve got hold of a prophecy. I would preach the gospel of evolutionary Christianity.”
Atonement to At-One-Ment
Forgiveness is the key
  •  “Forgiveness’s importance is on the scale of evolution. It invariably releases love, and love is the energy of creation.”
  •  “Jesus was able to love much because he had been forgiven much by God. The Apostle John loved much because he had been forgiven much. Jesus and John began to forge a chain of forgiveness, the end of which has not yet been reached.”
Thursday’s Themes
Walking Gently on the Earth
  • “History has shown that we have deliberately misunderstood what God meant when she bestowed upon us the care of the earth. We took it to mean having ‘dominion’ over the earth and its creatures. But God meant to bestow on men and women the tender care of other creatures in a recognized community of all living things. And not living alone but of matter in its many forms as well as that from which life has come.”
  •  “Nothing less than a mysticism that can perceive the ‘diaphany of the divine at the heart of matter’ itself is capable of experiencing mystical union with nature.”
Mentoring by Example
Hallowing one’s diminishments
  • “The most effective workshop for learning how to hallow one’s diminishments is the faithful practice of contemplative prayer. . .[This is] the field in which lies the pearl of great price.”
Making a good end: An octogenerian’s counsel on living and dying
  • “To practice contemplation is to embrace life’s greatest diminishment. In this way we may learn how to die into God.”
Friday’s Themes
“Binding into One Sheaf” and/or “Getting on Thread”
  • Lengthier sharings (stretchings, bafflements, revelations, leadings . . .)
  •  Mentoring journal exercises: After listing major wisdom figures in your life, you will be invited to begin a dialogue with the one you are led to consult at this point in your spirit journey.
  •  Final worship-sharing send-off.
Workshop Preparations:

Here’s an annotated bibliography of John Yungblut’s writings and additional works by those who influenced him or were influenced by him. Highly recommended for this workshop is Charlie Finn’s Pendle Hill pamphlet (#417) entitled “John Yungblut: Passing the Mystical Torch” and his longer work, with ample quotations from each of John’s works, entitled Gentle Warrior: Guide on the Mystic’s Journey. The former can be ordered directly from Pendle Hill Bookstore (610-566-4507, ext. 124) and the latter directly from Charlie at charles.c.finn@gmail.com.

Items to bring:
  • writing materials, ideally a journal

Leader Experience

Charlie Finn is a retired professional counselor living with his wife near Fincastle, VA, a half hour north of Roanoke. Raised Catholic in Cincinnati, in 1959 he entered the Jesuits out of high school but left the order in 1969 and then a few years later the church. Considering himself a spiritual maverick, he began gravitating to the Quakers in the mid-1980s and was then electrified to discover the writings of John Yungblut in 1988. Correspondence and then visits with Yungblut in the final years of his life opened up for Charlie a powerful experience of being mentored. A Pendle Hill workshop in 2011, Pendle Hill pamphlet in 2012, and a subsequent book–all on John Yungblut–attest to John’s transformative influence on Charlie’s life. He welcomes the opportunity to lead a workshop on Yungblut with a friend who has similarly been impacted. Charlie began attending the Roanoke Monthly Meeting in 1990 and became a member in 2007. He has self-published over thirty books, mostly poetry.

Dave Pruett is a retired applied mathematician with a decade of aerospace experience at NASA Langley Research Center and three decades of experience teaching high-school, undergraduate, and graduate mathematics.  In 1987, at mid-life, Dave attended an Advent retreat led by John Yungblut, subsequently asking John to serve as a mentor. John honored that request faithfully until his death in 1995. Weekend retreats with John proved life-changing.  His two most significant professional accomplishments—an award-winning science-religion undergraduate Honors course and the book Reason and Wonder (2012)—germinated under John’s guidance. Since retiring from mathematics instruction at James Madison University (JMU) in 2012, Dave has continued to teach or team-teach a dozen Lifelong Learning Institute courses at JMU on topics as diverse as Darwin, Climate Change, Teilhard de Chardin, and Science and Mysticism. Dave has been a regular attender of Valley Friends Meeting (Dayton, VA) since 1996. He is married to Suzanne Fiederlein, interim director of JMU’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery.

So that participants may know something of the manner of man that was John Yunblut, we also include his biography:

John Yungblut and his twin brother Charlie were born on April 29, 1913 in Dayton, Kentucky, the youngest of six children.  After attending Harvard College, Harvard Divinity School and the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts, John served in the 40’s and 50’s as an Episcopal priest in Ohio and Connecticut.  Though he formally left the priesthood in 1959, he remained—in a way that matters—a “priest” to those who knew him.  After a year’s “Mission to Isolated Liberals in Louisiana and Mississippi” sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, John joined the Religious Society of Friends in 1960.  From 1960 to 1968 he directed activities at Quaker House in Atlanta, Georgia, working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  From 1968 to 1972 John served as Director of the International Student House in Washington, D.C., and then, from 1972-1976, as acting Director of Studies at Pendle Hill, the Quaker center for study and contemplation outside of Philadelphia.  For the next ten years, from 1978-1988, John was the founding Director of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance in Rye, New York.  In 1977 he moved to Loudoun County, Virginia, and in 1978 established Touchstone, Inc., a non-profit foundation dedicated to helping individuals grow in the life of the Spirit.  In all these activities John maintained an inspiring balance between the contemplative life and the life of responsible social action.

John led many retreats and workshops, and published seven pamphlets and five books.  He was a lifelong student of the mystical approach to religious experience and was deeply interested in the conjunction of ideas of Teilhard de Chardin, Carl Jung, and the beliefs of Friends. 

The first of the two great revelations of the 20th century, according to John, was Teilhard’s expansion of Darwin’s insight into the continuity of all life.  Teilhard saw evolution as extending unbroken from pre-life to life.  No longer can we speak, John insisted, of a dichotomy between matter and spirit because of what Teilhard called “the diaphany of the Divine at the heart of a universe on fire.”  Following Teilhard, he saw the great story of the universe to be a cosmogenesis instead of a cosmos, a creation story that continues all the way to the present moment.

The second great revelation of the 20th century according to John, bringing Teilhard’s macrocosmic vision to bear on the microcosm of each human individual’s spiritual journey, was Carl Jung’s myth of the psyche.  “The counterpart of this vast universal theme of a cosmos still being born is the solitary process of individuation in each human person.”  The depths of one’s inner being, illuminated by “that of God” within each of us, are greater than we can imagine.  John, more than most, could use the evocative language of Christianity to marry the complementary cosmological and psychological visions.   Both in John’s mind are part of one numinous tapestry, and all the writings he leaves us sing of this tapestry.

In his last years, John spoke and wrote of his difficult struggles with Parkinson’s Disease and then cancer.  Like Teilhard, he wanted to “make a good end,” and his last two pamphlets, “On Hallowing One’s Diminishments” and “For That Solitary Individual”, demonstrate his courageous struggle to do just that.  He was supported and comforted by the devotion of his wife Penelope who continues his work at Touchstone.  He died on June 29, 1995.

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