Latest Posts

Author Talk this Wednesday

Please come join my author event this Wednesday
Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom, author of SPIRITUAL PILGRIM:
Awakening Journeys of a Twenty-First Century Transcendentalist
Wednesday, October 17 at 7 pm Main Library, 129 Main Street

Jim’s spiritual memoir tells stories of his mystic travels on spiritual pilgrimages with Sufi’s, Taoists, shamans, Buddhists, Christians and Transcendentalists.

“Equal parts memoir and guidebook, Spiritual Pilgrim entrances with stories that reveal Jim’s unabashedly open heart and deep well of knowledge.”
Doug Stone and Sheila Heen, co-authors of New York Times bestselling book Difficult Conversations

Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom is a transcendentalist author, scholar, mystic, theologian, entrepreneur, and investor. He holds a BA in history from Yale, an MBA from Harvard, and Masters in Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Andover Newton Theological School.

He lives a transcendentalist existence with his wife Loretta in Concord, MA where you will often find him ambling trails once loved by Emerson, Alcott, Hawthorne, Fuller and Thoreau. Come hear of one man’s universal spiritual journey.

Register on the library’s online calendar of events
at http://www.concordlibrary.org or call 978-318-3365

SPIRITUAL PILGRIM book launch

Come help me celebrate the launch of my second book:

SPIRITUAL PILGRIM: Awakening Journeys of a Twenty-First Century Transcendentalist

At First Parish in Concord at 7:30 pm on Friday September 28, 2018.

The book is full of quotes from historical and contemporary mystics.  To test your knowledge of how mystics relate to the divine mystery, here is a short quiz:

Mystic Quiz

In my book SPIRITUAL PILGRIM: Awakening Journeys of a Twenty-First Century Transcendentalist I quote many mystics about the nature of divine mystery.  See if you can match each mystic with their words (at least five are Unitarian Universalist mystics):

A: Teresa of Avila;   B: Buddha;   C: Bernard of Clairvaux;   D: Confucius;   E: St. John of the Cross;   F: Meister Eckhart;   G: Ralph Waldo Emerson;   H: Abhi Janamanchi    J: Jesus of Nazareth;   K:Kabir;   L: Lord Krishna;   M: Mirabai of Jodhpur;   N: Moses of Midian;   O:Om Prakash Gilmore;  P: Rabinadrath Tagore;   Q: Henry David Thoreau;   R: Jacob Trapp;   S: Lao Tzu

 

  • Loving yourself as a child of God unites you with God through love______
  • God was present in my arms… then I knew my soul, every soul, has always held Him______
  • We blossomed in spring. Our bodies are leaves of God_____
  • If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street pregnant with Light and sing______
  • Girls, think twice before inviting God near. His charms will turn you into a slave – are you ready for such wonderful bondage? ______
  • If I told you the truth about God, you might think I was an idiot ______
  • Everything that lives is holy… and it can lift you up to God ______
  • Dance wildly, sing joyfully, fill your heart with the beauty of the Beloved as the Beloved turns your soul to Light ______
  • Where there is no desire, all things are at peace ______
  • I followed my heart’s desire with bliss without overstepping the lines of propriety _____
  • Once you know how to return to the present moment, you will be awakened, and in that moment, you will find your true self _____
  • The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances rhythmic measures ______
  • The impermanent has no reality, reality lies in the eternal _____
  • May all be happy. May all be healthy.  May all experience what is good.  May no one suffer ______
  • Blessed are the selfless and humble for theirs is the kingdom of God _____
  • May God bless you and keep you; may his face shine upon you ______
  • The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and particle of God _____
  • I love the wild not less than the good _______

How did you do?  The answer key is on a separate page.

 

 

Paddling Musketaquid

Approaching Concord’s wildness from the south or west is best done paddling on the rivers.  The Algonquin indigenous people called this ancient river system Musketaquid.  It is a land defined by its sandy esker ridges, left from the melting of the last ice age, and its plentiful waters.  My house is a half mile from egg rock, on a street that ends at the Assabet river.  I often paddle my kayak as a form of transcendental meditation there.   Once I’m on the river, with only bird sounds to distract me, my heart rate slows, and I paddle gently with the current.

As we circumnavigate rocky shoals and fallen limbs, the edge of Barrett’s Mill Farm, the final destination of the British troops on April 19, 1775 appears on the river’s northern shore.  I am already drifting between Concord’s two revolutions, the eighteenth century civic fight for freedom and the nineteenth century transcendentalist reimagining of the role of reason and our senses in spirituality.  This tranquil final mile of the Assabet River is mentioned often in Thoreau’s journals, as if he was paddling off into paradise, free of mundane toil and strife.

Nathaniel Hawthorne loved this section of the Assabet River.  He wrote, “A more lovely stream than this, for a mile above its junction with the Concord, has never flowed on earth, — nowhere, indeed, except to the interior regions of a poet’s imagination.”  This is why this area is still home, or at least a pilgrim’s destination, for many transcendentalists today.  On the far side of Barrett’s Mill Farm the Spencer brook empties into the Assabet from Anglers’ Pond providing a widening of the river to create a swimming hole.  As a twenty first century transcendentalist this is my primary spiritual playground and meditation practice.

Coming up on the southwestern shore we pass what had been the site of the leaning hemlocks, a favorite nineteenth century walking and picnicking site along the river, much celebrated in the writings of the transcendentalist authors.    Hawthorne wistfully wrote: “At one spot there is a lofty bank, on the slope of which grow some hemlocks, declining across the stream with outstretched arms, as if resolute to take the plunge.  In other places the banks are almost on a level with the water; so that the quiet congregation of trees set their feet in the flood and are fringed with foliage down to the surface.”  This is a transcendentalist deeply experiencing life beyond his mere senses.

The river turns east again through marshland and swamp, past the farm of the fur trapper Simon Willard, as Nashawtuc Hill rises above us.  Nashawtuc, which in Algonquin means hill between rivers, is a glacial drumlin rising 250 feet above the Sudbury and Assabet rivers at their confluence to form the Concord.  Many indigenous people lived summers along the Atlantic coast, where they began interacting with European fishermen and explorers early in the sixteenth century, and they would travel back up the Merrimack and Concord rivers to spend the rest of the year within easy walking distance of Nashawtuc Hill.

Members of indigenous tribes in this area in the fifteenth century numbered in the tens of thousands.  However, after European contact, a plague broke out among the indigenous people, decimating their numbers, and over the following years outbreaks of small-pox continued to kill off even those who had survived the earlier plagues or death in various outbreaks of war with white settlers.  By the 1630’s European warfare, plagues and diseases had reduced their numbers over ninety percent to just a few hundreds of indigenous people.

William Wood was an English explorer, adventurer, and propagandist, who in 1632 published a pamphlet in London encouraging white Anglo-Saxon Protestant emigration to this new land of Massachusetts, and he included a map showing the confluence of these three rivers which he, like the indigenous people, called the Musketaquid watershed.

He described empty meadows and fields for the taking standing ready to be easily cultivated.  Simon Willard was an English beaver fur trapper who in the 1630’s was living here among the indigenous people.  In 1635 he co-led with Rev. Peter Bulkeley a group of English colonists to become founders of Concord.   While the other colonists initially settled on the east side of the Sudbury and Concord rivers, he chose to make his home on the west side of Nashawtuc Hill, near the 17th century primary village site of the few remaining indigenous peoples.

Many Concordians befriended the indigenous people.  But by the end of the 17th century the last fifty-eight survivors were rounded up by colonial soldiers, imprisoned in Boston Harbor, and those who did not die were sold into slavery.  This is perhaps Concord’s original sin.  We often tell the story differently, but White Anglo-Saxon colonists coming to this land led to the indigenous peoples’ deaths and destruction.

Walking Walden Transcendentally

A lecture for the Thoreau Society 2018 Annual Gathering by Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom adapted from his soon to be released book (September 2018) SPIRITUAL PILGRIM: Awakening Journeys of a Twenty-First century Transcendentalist. 

What is a transcendentalist?  Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1842 lecture describing The Transcendentalist said: “As thinkers, [humankind] has been divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive the senses are not final, and say, the senses give us representations of things, but what are the things themselves they cannot tell.”  The actual data of our senses represents just a small part of our experiences in life.  So, how do we experience the underlying reality beyond what our senses perceive?  What transcends our senses?

Whether you approach Concord from the north, east, south or west, all directions pivot around this place.  Walking, driving, cycling or paddling in Concord as a transcendentalist can be a journey across space and time.  If you come on foot from the north, through Estabrook Woods, you can experience wildness like Thoreau did. If you approach Concord from the east, perhaps through the Great Meadows National Wildlife sanctuary, you will experience a profusion of life in all of its fecundity.

If you approach Concord from the south, perhaps paddling a canoe or kayak, the view from the river gives you a radically different perspective then from the land.   If you approach from the west, you pass through the village into the wilds of Walden country.  Wherever you begin, and however you proceed, shapes your experience of place, and your ability to encounter it transcendentally, being transcendentalist beings.

Nowhere is this more apparent than entering Concord from its northern boundary with Carlisle, along the Old Carlisle road, now in Estabrook Woods.  This land is maintained much as it was two hundred years ago through a remarkable series of conservation trusts binding together properties of Harvard University, the town of Concord, the town of Carlisle, and multiple private land trusts.  It covers over three thousand acres of land permanently protected from development.

Beginning in Carlisle swamp, making our way south upon the hard-packed dirt and mud of this ancient cart path, brings transcendence.  It is a shady country lane traversing along the higher ground between swampy bogs, crisscrossing occasional brooks and small streams.  The ancient stone walls around old fields and homesteads gradually giving way to a more forested environment.  This old road is one horse drawn wagon wide and made of mud, and rocks, and ancient tree roots.  It has been essentially this way for hundreds of years.  The dappled morning light falling upon the mostly new growth forest casts a narrow rainbow of color entirely within various hues of green and brown.

The silence of the woods is interrupted by the chatter of birds, perhaps a runner, or horse rider, or dog walker, and an occasional plane flying overhead.  Approaching Botrycrim swamp we remember Thoreau reported indigenous people living here because of its natural spring.  A little further ahead on the trail is the automobile sized boulder Thoreau called “Indian Rock”, a glacial remnant of the last ice age.  At this point the trail crosses a little brook flowing into the swamp.  A little further along a larger stream requires walking across wet stones to remain on this road through the swamps.  These wet, boggy, New England woods won the moniker Swamp Yankees for those who thrived in such places.

Nearly four-hundred-year-old stone walls, some already ancient in Thoreau’s time, border and delimit this old country road, reminding us that in colonial times much of this land was farmed or at least kept for wood lots.  The interplay of wood, mud, and water creates a spiritual aura in this small forest preserve, one Thoreau noticed in his walks here.  It is a deeply spiritual place, it evokes spiritual audacity.

A stone marker on the Estabrook Road informs us that we are two miles directly north of the Old North Bridge which separates this swampy woodland from Concord proper.  The old limestone quarries here are in ruins, mostly settling back into the bog, as has the ancient lime kiln used to bake and extract the lime for local use as mortar and wall plaster.  As the wind ripples through the trees it dislodges flurries of raindrops from last night’s storm.  One could follow this old road another mile to where it leads out of the woods at Brooks Clark farm, where parts of Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin saw its final usage for grain storage, and eventually parts of a pig pen, and a mile further south from there cross over the North Bridge into Concord village.