Exploring the Paradox of Our Wholeness: Narnia, Thin Places, and Imaginal Reality

Oblate School of Theology

Wednesdays, Jan 11 – Feb 1 | 9:30AM – 11:30AM Central Time | IN-PERSON AND ONLINE OPTIONS AVAILABLE

“We humans are curiously bilingual; we speak the language of this world with all its charms and nuances, but we also strain toward that invisible other that seems to hover right beyond us in…dazzling glimpses and visions….”  (Bourgeault, Eye of the Heart)

“Celtic imagination considers sacred places to be “thin,” or places where the veil between heaven and earth seems especially permeable, and the worlds discernibly close to each other.”  (Stanz, Braving the Thin Places)

A previous course explored “thawing” Narnia as a metaphor for reclaiming childhood’s faith, wonder, and joy. This course expands that metaphor with a look at how doing so can return us to our wholeness as humans who are, in Bourgeault’s words, “curiously bilingual.” (NOTE: the previous course is not a pre-requisite for this one)

The first week—Returning to Narnia—discusses the first step to becoming whole: returning to where our hearts first burned with hope and enthusiasm. It takes its inspiration from a column by Fr. Ron Rohlheiser (4/6/2015) in which he talks about Jesus’ message to the apostles to return to Galilee. During this first week participants are also introduced to two other terms central to the course: “thin places” as understood in Celtic imagination, and “imaginal world,” that in-between reality that “sits on the dividing line between the visible and invisible worlds” (Bourgeault, Eye of the Heart).

The second week—Transcending Contradictions—focuses on a distinctive feature of thin places and the imaginal realm: shifting from either-or perspectives, which dissolve wholeness into irreconcilable options, to nondual perspectives that preserve wholeness and emphasize complementarity. Three key contradictions are explored as representative of wholeness divided: presence and absence, knowing and unknowing, holding on and letting go.

Incredible Treasures provides the theme for the third week. Content focuses on three treasures revealed as contradictions are transcended and wholeness is regained: the immensity of unearned love, the power of a trusting voice, and the strength of sustained readiness. Each adds its contribution to wholeness.

The fourth week then turns to where divine consciousness and human experience meet (i.e., Where the Two Seas Meet). It concludes with a deeper discussion of “becoming bilingual” in response to the paradox of divine and human experience, reflecting on them as one whole, each inclusive of the other.

Course discussions and reflections are guided by both participants’ and presenter’s experiences of wholeness as well as experiences of its felt absence.

Class Dates

All classes will take place on Wednesday mornings, 9:30 am to 11:30 am Central Time, ONLINE via Zoom Meeting and IN-PERSON on campus.

Portions of each class session will be recorded and made available to registered participants through February 15, 2023. Please note that periods of participants’ sharing in small and large group settings will not be recorded. In general, the following portions of each class session will be recorded: opening prayer and teaching period.

Week 1January 11, 2023Returning to Narnia
Week 2January 18, 2023Transcending Contradictions
Week 3January 25, 2023Incredible Treasures
Week 4February 1, 2023Where the Two Seas Meet

Suggested (BUT NOT REQUIRED) Readings

Barrera, I. Sustaining Heaven on Earth: Keys forged By and for Love. This book shares my thoughts on living the paradox of divine consciousness (“heaven”) and human experience (“earth”).

Barrera, I. Unwrapping Beloved’s Gifts, Co-Creating Soul’s Song. This book contains my original reflections on transcending the contradictions that challenged my own wholeness.

Bourgeault, C. At the Corner of Fourth and Nondual. A wonderful little book that presents Cynthia’s thoughts on wholeness and nonduality in a concise fashion.

Bourgeault, C. Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm. A detailed and at times challenging presentation of Cynthia’s thoughts on the imaginal realm. Course material will highlight only the section in which she describes her understanding of the world of human experience vis-à-vis that of divine consciousness and the section where she discusses her thoughts on how to “become bilingual” (i.e., able to speak and live the language of both).

N.E. Enterprises. Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World. The visual “puzzles” in this book are a great metaphor for the wholeness of two “realities” existing at the same time.

Pintauro & Kent. To Believe in God. A delightful little book that celebrates the nature of divine consciousness in very simply language and images.

Stanz, J. Braving the Thin Places: Celtic Wisdom to Create a Space for Grace. A great book about thin places as places “where God and humanity meet in a mysterious way.”


Isaura Barrera, Ph.D., MA (Spirituality), is a lifelong spiritual seeker. She retired after being a professor at the University of New Mexico for 20 years and returned to San Antonio. There she enrolled in and completed the Master’s of Spirituality program at Oblate School of Theology (OST). She has taught several courses for Continuing Education at OST and has published several books including Beloved’s Gift: Following Soul’s Song into Love, Hope and Faith; Unwrapping Beloved’s Gift, Co-Creating Soul’s Song: Way Stations on the Path to Awakening Deep Love, Hope and Faith; and Sustaining Heaven on Earth: Keys Forged By and For Love. She is currently working on her next book tentatively titled Thawing Narnia: Reawakening to the Miracle of God’s Incredible Reality. She is also developing a blog on her website: www.isaurabarreraauthor.com

Registration Fee: $20

Individuals can register to participate either online (via Zoom Meeting), or in-person (on the OST campus). Fee includes cost for entire 4-week series.

For those participating online: We will send you a Zoom link and login instructions via email approximately one week before the series begins.

For information or to register by phone, contact Victoria Luna, Director of Continuing Education, at vluna@ost.edu or (210) 341-1366 EXT 325.

Continuing Education events are free* to all OST faculty and staff, and to all students currently enrolled in certificate, credit, or graduate programs at OST.

All other students receive 50% off with student ID. To receive this discount, register with Victoria Luna at vluna@ost.edu or (210) 341-1366 EXT 325.