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The Depth of Our Belonging (review)

Margaret T. Kelso
On Words (November 2021)
The Depth of Our Belonging
by Mary Conrow Coelho
reviewed by Margaret T. Kelso

Many people educated in the rational laws of Newtonian physics have difficulty accepting mysticism or even the concept of God. Although Mary Conrow Coelho was raised in an environment of Quaker mysticism, she found no place for that outlook in the materialistic (pre-quantum) science degree she pursued in college. Nevertheless, she continued her exploration of religion in general and mysticism in particular until she discovered the newer quantum physics, which offered her a way to reconcile the two realities of her life – the external/materialistic and the internal/mystic.

The Depth of Our Belonging: Mysticism, Physics, and Healing is Mary Conrow Coelho’s third publication with the purpose of synthesizing quantum physics and mysticism. Here, she explores these topics more deeply and broadly than in her prior publications. She also weaves in the story of her own personal healing – as an example of how to recover from a split between outdated science and mystical consciousness.

After earning a degree in biology, Coelho earned an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary and a PhD in Historical Theology from Fordham University. During her doctoral studies, Coelho experienced a profound recognition of the significance of quantum physics and the “New Story” of the universe’s origin. This led to her belief that understanding mysticism can save our species and the planet.

The Depth of Our Belonging is divided into four chapters. The first describes Coelho’s personal childhood trauma and later mystical experience. Chapter Two outlines an explanation of quantum physics. The next chapter highlights writings of mystics whose views resonate with quantum physics. The final chapter proposes that the new science links with mysticism in ways that create space for people to find deep healing, belonging, and participation in the evolving universe.

As a bonus, this book includes some of Coelho’s beautiful, luminous watercolors. They remind me of Alex Grey, although Coelho’s work is softer and more numinous. Some pieces are representational – a barn owl, a New York neighborhood vibrating with light. Other works delve below the surface of the material world, highlighting design and energy – including “Great Red Oak” and, one of my favorites, “Everything Has a Within.” Coelho’s watercolors both illustrate her ideas and provide sources for meditation.

I have also read Coelho’s Recovering Sacred Presence in a Disenchanted World (Pendle Hill Pamphlet 433). Her explanation of quantum physics was more fundamental in this pamphlet and gave me a better understanding of concepts she conveys in The Depth of Our Belonging. The pamphlet also focuses more narrowly on Quakerism and its mystical tradition.

In this newer book, Coelho turns to Carl Jung’s depth psychology and his concept of archetypes to describe the self-organizing forces of the universe. “Everyone as a human being has a profound depth of belonging, wounded or whole,” she writes. “The Self/soul (as described by Jung) may be brought forth in later years; wounding is not the final story.” Coelho advises that the path to healing and full consciousness is found by understanding our place in the larger whole, which includes the suffering of our past. Through her words and art, Coelho illuminates the complex connections within ourselves and the universe. ~~~

Margaret T. Kelso is a member of Humboldt Friends Meeting (PacYM).


Mysticism Quakers and science

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