The Depth of Our Belonging: Mysticism, Physics, and Healing

By Mary Conrow Coelho. Producciones de la Hamaca, 2021. 94 pages. $25/paperback; $15/eBook.

I was first introduced to the writings of Thomas Berry by Mary Coelho at a Quaker Earthcare Witness meeting, probably 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate all the dedicated people writing and lecturing about the importance of understanding our human and earth beginnings and how this understanding could unite us as one. This is better said by Coelho:

The origin story told by a culture molds the community’s identity. There is reason to be hopeful that our most remarkable origin story will help transform human self-understanding, awakening us to the inestimable value of Earth and its inhabitants and increase our awareness of our common origins and common destiny.

Coelho has shared with the reader an exquisite and intimate look into her own story, beginning in tragedy and emerging into a sense of sacred belonging. She helps share this story with some of her evocative watercolors, which are sprinkled throughout the book. Although I have read many of the books that Coelho has recommended, and participate in a “New Story” group that meets monthly, I gained a new perspective on the importance of understanding our evolutionary story. I saw how unifying it was.

Another exciting lesson comes from physics, and Coelho is able to share in an understandable way the complex discoveries by physicists into the hidden dimensions of matter that might suggest that they, the physicists, have become part of the ageless search for Spirit. She suggests that we should not be intimidated by the reputation of physics but come to embrace the “energetic interiority of the physical world which includes, of course, the interiority of our very person and the entirety of the natural world.”

After learning about this growing field of physics, we are treated to the words of some of the mystics who already had a sense of the interconnectedness of all life. Coelho asks the question, “Are physicists and mystics touching on the same non-visible dimension?” She explains that physicists once described the creative source to be a “vacuum,” but some now describe it as a “seamless plenum,” giving life to creativity—a way that mystics have described God. This is an exciting merging of scientific and spiritual perspectives that helps confirm those moments we have of awe and interconnectedness with all of life.

Coelho’s deep sharing of her personal suffering and her awakening to the fullness and wholeness within her is woven into the book in such a way that many of us will resonate with her story. She writes: “one way the universe works in human beings is by alluring us and by captivating us.” She was allured by the promise of the depth of our belonging in the new story.

As a fellow Quaker on this journey, I’m so grateful that Coelho wrote this book and that I can continue to journey with her. I share her words here, hoping to entice you to read this book: “Instead of thinking of the universe as a background in which we exist, we realize we are an integral form, one among many, of the continually emerging totality.”

Ruah Swennerfelt is a member of Middlebury (Vt.) Meeting. She is also a homesteader, active in the Transition Movement nationally and locally, and loves to read.

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