How do we find new wineskins with sobriety and continuity?

Cynthia reflects on the upcoming John Main Seminar 2023

Cynthia Bourgeault is one of the three speakers of the upcoming John Main Seminar 2023, New Wine, New Skins, 14 – 17 September (online & from Bonnevaux). 

In this short video, she reflects on the metaphor of the wineskins from the Gospel. A wineskin was usually made of goat or sheep skin to store or transport wine. Putting new wine into old skins while it was still fermenting risked breaking the skin and losing the wine.

The point of this metaphor she says is that ‘You got to have new wineskins for the new wine or otherwise you’ve lost the whole thing.’ 

Watch Cynthia’s video here or read the full video transcripts below. 


Below are the transcripts from the video by Cynthia Bourgeault

I’m so delighted to have been invited to participate and be one of the presenters, joining my friends Andrew Harvey and Laurence Freeman to try and bring our collective hearts and spirits together around this topic. We all come with such different perspectives and energies and with such a profound love for the subject and for each other that I think the sparks will fly. 

The topic is the beautiful phrase ‘new wineskins’ which of course comes from the Gospel metaphor: new wineskins for new wine. In our own age, this is perhaps often not understood since so few of us are Mediterranean farmers anymore, what this metaphor actually means. Essentially what happens is that when you put new wine into old wineskins, the very strength and power and newness of it, the new brew, essentially rots and destroys the old wineskin so that it splits and breaks open.

The wine falls out on the ground and all is lost. So the trick in this metaphor and the way it works against itself is that you got to have new wineskins for new wine or otherwise you’ve lost the whole thing. 

So the question that I will be bringing to this year’s Seminar is…

How do we construct and how do we begin to find new wineskins with sobriety, continuity and respect for what we've received, what's gone before?
Cynthia Bourgeault, WCCM
Cynthia Bourgeault

Some of the great evolutionary thinkers in the evolution of consciousness have said that you have a feeling that we’re at a major inflection point in our culture right now, that’s quite true in our world. Not only do we have global warming out of control, the population masses are beyond the tipping point. But we also have the fact that we seem to be coming to the end of a 2500-year cycle of a way of thinking, a whole structure of consciousness of seeing the world on which Western culture essentially is built. It’s a very, very old one skin. It’s a very, very settled, stable, full and rich and most of us know nothing else. So it’s this structure that’s up for grabs. 

And we know there’s something new, the evolutionists of consciousness say the new wine is a whole new structure of consciousness which will contain all that’s gone before and grow a new dimension in it so that it holds together rather than fighting against each other. 

So I’m gonna develop that topic as my part of the contribution, taking you a little bit more deeply into Jean Gebser and the evolutionary theory that supports the idea of how to avoid just getting drunk on the new wine. We all get so excited about the new, the Holy Spirit, the coming thing that we lose our bearings and we forget how to deal with sobriety, sober intoxication, not getting carried away and not reinventing the wheel.

So I’m going to explore this paradox with the help of the tool that we all have in common. First of all, the sobriety of meditation, the beauty that it allows us to detach from our over-excitement, from our overstimulation and see things already from a periscope at least, from this wider and more integral perspective.

And I’m also gonna be looking particularly with Laurence and Andrew at my side at the continuity of beauty and how what we have experienced in creating in culture, in the spark of joy that emerges out of really bringing a new form out of an old is itself a great source of a levering and a levelling reverence and tempering and how we as meditators bring that dimension to a world which is sort of swinging in a schizophrenic way between hyper exaggeration and utter despair. How do we find the centre? 

So come and join us in September and let’s see if we can collectively not only find that centre but create the new wineskin. Thank you! 

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