Rule of Thirds – Part 2


Earth laughs in flowers.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)


Kohan Reflection Garden 2 - Bruce Witzel photo



A rose  - bruce witzel photo




Wisteria - bruce witzel photo




Rose Garden, Washington Park - Portalnd Oregon - bruce witzel photo



At the Getty Villa - bruce witzel photo




Finding the nectar - bruce witzel photo




14a - Francis Guenette photo



Finnerty Garden at University of Victoria - bruce witzel photo


Architectural Design – from City to Countryside


Rule of Thirds is a universal design principle and the most basic rule of artistic composition.

The following ten photos illustrate one thirds/two thirds compositional proportioning.


Built in bench seat - Bruce's Sunrise Carpentry

One of my deck designs on Vancouver Island



Kentuck Knob designed by Frank Lloyd Wright - bruce witzel photo

Kentuck Knob in Pennsylvania designed by Frank Lloyd Wright



Downtown Tucson Arizona - bruce witzel photo

Downtown Tucson, Arizona



At Taliesin East designed by Frank Lloyd Wright - bruce witzel photo

Taliesin East in Wisconsin designed by Frank Lloyd Wright



Montreal metro station - bruce witzel photo 

Montreal Metro Station



Portland, Oregon (2) - bruce witzel photo

Portland, Oregon and the Willamette River



Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on Washington State coast  - Bruce Wtizel

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on the Northwest Pacific Coast



Downtown Tucson (2) - bruce witel photo

Downtown Tucson, Arizona



Front deck of a cabin overlooking the ocean - bruce witzel photo

Sunshine Coast in British Columbia



Downtown Montreal at sunrise - Bruce Witzel photo

Downtown Montreal, Quebec


“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV.

Happy 92nd to Charles Brandt

Father Charles Brandt at his hermitage on January 31, 2015 - b.witzel photo

Charles at his hermitage on Oyster River, Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

In his left hand is his Thomas Merton file.

~ Happy Birthday Charles ~

On Thursday, February 19th, Father Charles Brandt turned 92 years of age. He has said that this is a short span of time considering the earth is 4.5 billion years old. His primary vocation over the latter half of his life, and more, is concerned with transformation of Consciousness… We all have work, teachers, etc. But we are all called to the Great Work: Our society has to change from having a disruptive influence on the earth to one of having a benign presence.

I recently posted an article by Charles but because of technical difficulties you may have missed it in your reader. If so, please click on the following green coloured link to read what this modern day hermit-priest articulates about A New Consciousness. Charles is inspiriting as ever as he shares his wonderful insights.  Head on over and wish him a happy birthday!


Cheers ~ Bruce

 ~ Charles Brandt photo ~

Black-bellied plovers - charles brandt photo


The Brandt Series

~ A New Consciousness ~


photos and text by Fr. Charles Brandt (except as noted)


Coast Mountains, from Oyster Bay, Dec. 2, '14. charles brandt photo

In all things there is a “hidden ground of Love”. These are the words of Thomas Merton, my mentor in the life of prayer. He was one of the guides who inspired me to live as a hermit.

In my Anglican days, Dom John Chapman’s Letters taught me Christian meditation and a protege of his, Evelyn Underhill, also was a source of inspiration. Later, it was through the writings of Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB, I found my way into the Catholic Church.


BEDE GRIFFITHS Feier 85. Geburtstag 17 - photofrapher unknown Saccidananda website photo

In 1989, I spent two months in father Bede’s Ashram, Saccidananda, South India. There “the hidden ground of Love” confirmed me on the path of “praying always”.

I have come to realize that while we are distinct from this Loving Ground, the Cosmic Christ, we are not separate from Him. Here lies the basis for contemplative prayer. On this foundation we build a life of prayer.

To seek how to “pray always” is not necessary since this stream of love, is always flowing between Jesus and the Father. We simply have to become aware of this Stream of Love.


RufousHummingbird - charles brandt photo

A Sufi story speaks to this: One day a Lover approached the home of his Beloved. He knocked on the door. A voice within responded to the knocking: “Who it there?” The Lover answered: “It is I”. The voice within spoke, almost sadly: “There is no room here for me and thee.”

The Lover went away and spent much time trying to learn the meaning of the words of his Beloved.

Sometime later he again approached the home of his Beloved and knocked. Once again the voice within asked: “Who is there?” This time the Lover answered: “It is Thou”. And the door opened and he entered the home of his Beloved.


Antelope Canyon, Page Arizona - July 2007 by Charles A.E.Brandt

This story in two parts describes two modes of spirituality. Many of us, I think, move from where we sense we are separate from God to where we realize that, although distinct, we are not separate. This realization confirms that we are not separate from our brother and sister, nor from the earth.

At first, my spirituality was more about doing than being: more about fulfilling God’s will than experiencing it. This spirituality of dualism clearly stressed God’s transcendence and separateness from the world.

 Bruce Witzel photob,witzel photo


The second mode of spirituality is less verbal, less speculative. It prefers silence to words. Experience is more important than scholastic terminology.

There is a great desire to experience God. It is in forgetting myself that I find God and discover my true self in God. I feel comfortable in saying “It is Thou”. I come to realize that God’s transcendence necessarily flows into immanence.


Snowdrops - charles brandt photo

Where does contemplation lead one? Since it finds the Ground of Love in all reality, it leads to one’s sisters and brothers: it creates a social consciousness; it leads to a deeper unity and love with and for the earth.

École Polytechnique de Montréal with St. Joseph's Oratory in the background -bruce witzel photo b.witzel photo

Contemplation leads to transformation. Without being unmindful of the need for change in behaviour, the stress is in the need for a change in consciousness, coming to see reality differently.


Wild Rose rose hips Courtenay airpark Sept 27 2014 - charles brandt photo

As Thomas Berry points out, it is necessary for the human community and the earth community to go into the future as a single sacred community.

The key to this is recognition that while distinct from the Ground of Love, we are not separate.


thomas merton photo

3 rocks and grass - photo by thomas merton


Then we realize our unity and communion with every human being, with the earth and with the universe.


Planet earth from space. Photo source - 

On February 19th Charles turned 92 years of age.

This article originally appeared in 1991. The photos are more recent.


Happy birthday Fr. Charles

A Spiritual Reflection on the Centenary of Thomas Merton – Part Two


“I know the birds in fact very well, for there are exactly fifteen pairs of birds living in the immediate area of my cabin and I share this particular place with them: we form an ecological balance.”

Thomas Merton – Dancing in the Water of Life


House Finch (female) - by Charles A.E. Brandt

Charles Brandt photo




In regards to my Catholic upbringing I previously wrote of being a faithful non-conformist. More humbly and accurately, I am a doubting Thomas.

I also wrote  – my spirituality is interfaith to its core, grounded in the roots of all world religion. Upon reflection I realize this is overstated – I barely know any religion other than Christianity. And to some degree, Buddhism.

A local bishop once said  that “a truly catholic vision embraces the whole of creation, our environment, our global structures, all humankind.”  With this I agree.

Within this series  I am using numerous quotes and references from the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. I do not mean to infer that these expressions of his spirituality are exact representations of my own.  Nonetheless, his faith and witness has helped form who I am and continues to move me.



A spiritual reflection on the Centenary of Thomas Merton


Part 2


by bruce thomas witzel


merton & war and peace

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.31.40 PM-merton quote


In the conclusion of Part One I refer to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the nuclear weapons tests of the early 60’s. Both gave rise to the environmental and peace movements.

During those times Thomas Merton was living his vows in quiet solitude at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he also acted as the resident forester.


tree - photo by thomas merton

Thomas Merton photo

Merton’s active Christian witness on contemporary world issues like ecology, war and peace was often evident in his correspondence and writings.

On December 11, 1962 while he waited to receive a copy of Silent Spring, Thomas Merton wrote in his journal:

“Someone will say: “You worry about birds. Why not worry about people?” I worry about both birds and people. We are in the world and part of it, and we are destroying everything because we are destroying ourselves spiritually, morally, and in every way. It is all part of the same sickness, it all hangs together.” 


Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 7.39.57 PM - from Charles Brandt

And on the next page:

“… The deep forest … the great birds Isaias and Jeremias sing. When I am most sickened by the things that are done by the country that surrounds this place I will take out the prophets and sing them in loud Latin across the hills and send their fiery words sailing south over the mountains to the place where they split atoms for the bombs in Tennessee.”

(from Dancing in the Water of Life: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage)


Roots, snow and branches  - photo by thomas merton                                                                                  Thomas Merton photo


In Merton’s 1962 book New Seeds of Contemplation is an essay entitled The Root of War is Fear :

“… Consider the fabulous amount of money, planning, energy, anxiety and care which goes into the production of weapons… Contrast all this with the pitiful little gesture “pray for peace” piously cancelling out our four–cent stamps. Think, too, of the disproportion between our piety and the enormous act of murderous destruction… It does not seem to even enter into our minds that there might be some incongruity in praying to the God of peace, the God Who told us to love one another as He had loved us, Who warned us that they who took the sword would perish by it, and at the same time planning to annihilate not thousands but millions of civilians and soldiers, men, women and children without discrimination….”  

Anti war artwork - University of Arizona @ Tucson

1962 was the height of the cold war. Talk of peace was dirty talk – or worse, seeing red. In the spring  of 1962 Merton finished writing Peace in the Post Christian Era. This book was banned by the Superior General of his order, Dom Gabriel Sortais. Merton was also prohibited from any further publishing about war and peace. However Merton’s own abbot, Dom James Fox, decided the ban was only for wide spread commercial production and hence six hundred mimeographed copies were in distribution by the end of  1962. The book was published officially in 2004.

Although the title Peace in the Post Christian Era seems startling Merton explains:

Whether we like it or not, we have to admit we are already living in a post-Christian world, that is to say a world in which Christian ideals and attitudes are relegated more and more to the minority… It is frightening to realize that the facade of Christianity which still generally survives has perhaps little or nothing behind it, and that once what was called “Christian society” is more purely and simply  a materialistic neo-paganism with a Christian veneer.”

And this, from the chapter entitled Can We Choose Peace?

“I wish to insist above all of one fundamental truth: that all nuclear war, and indeed massive destruction of cities, populations, nations and cultures by any means whatever is a most serious crime which is forbidden to us not only by Christian ethics but by every sane and serious moral code.”

  Los Alamos National Museum of Nuclear Science and History Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory


The mimeographed copies of Peace in the Post Christian Era had an impact during those turbulent times. President Kennedy’s sister-in-law, Ethel Kennedy, received a copy. So too did Cardinal Montini in Milan, later to become Pope Paul VI.

Later in 1963, Pope John XXIII published the encyclical Peace on Earth which widely condemned the arms race and also called for legal protection of conscientious objectors to military service.  Much of what Thomas Merton had written about was echoed by John.

In another journal entry Merton wrote:

“It is my intention to make my entire life a rejection of and protest against the crimes and injustices of war and political tyranny which threaten to destroy the whole human race and the world with it. By my monastic life and vows I am saying NO to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socioeconomic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace.”


A statue at Queen of the Missions, Santa Barabara - bruce witzel photo



Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.22.42 PM


Meanwhile through the 60’s and into the 70’s, the Vietnam war raged on.


Living Memorial Sculpture Garden near Weed california

“When you are led by God into the darkness where contemplation is found, you are not able to rest in the false sweetness of your own will. The fake interior satisfaction of self complacency and absolute confidence in you own judgement will never be able to deceive you entirely:  it will make you slightly sick and you will be forced  by a vague sense on interior nausea to gash yourself open and let the poison out.”

Thomas Merton (1915 –1968)


End of Part Two

A spiritual reflection on the Centenary of Thomas Merton – Part 1

“In a word, to my mind the monk is one who not only saves the world in a theological sense, but saves it literally, protecting it against the destructiveness of the rampaging city of greed, war, etc. And this loving care for natural creatures becomes, in some sense, a warrant of his mission and ministry as a (person) of contemplation.”

Thomas Merton’s 1967 letter to feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Reuther


Photo of Thomas Merton by Eugene Meatyard

photo by Ralph Eugene Meatyard




My life and work has been quite busy since the turn of the new year. Blogging has taken a back seat. 

Nonetheless, January has germinated a seed within me. Some readers may recall my December 26th post, Inter-being, where I quoted the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Fellow blogger Tanya, from New York, asked me this question.

“By the way, how would you describe your spirituality? Do you consider yourself part of any religion? I personally admire Buddhism (although I think Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion) and have incorporated some of its teaching into my life. I don’t practice all of its teachings, however,  so I can’t say I’m completely a Buddhist – some teachings are so hard to practice! I ask about your spirituality because I admire your way of seeing the world.”


merton quote - wow


Buudha in our wilderness garden - bruce witzel photo


For a few days I mulled over Tanya’s question, sharing it with my partner Francis. She gently suggested that I answer in a blog post. A month has past. Here is my reply.


A spiritual reflection on the Centenary of Thomas Merton


by  b. thomas witzel


January 31, 2015 was exactly one century since Thomas Merton’s birth. He died in Thailand in 1968. I and many people throughout the world still remember and celebrate the life of this humble man who was a prolific writer and a Catholic pacifist monk.

 dalai lama at thomas mertons grave, Abbey of Gethsemani , 1997 - photographer unknown 

The Dalai Lama visits the grave of Thomas Merton, Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky


Within this post, this stream of consciousness, I have taken the opportunity to discern and borrow liberally from Thomas Merton’s keen eye and lively nature. His wellspring of faith, love and hope goes deep. 


Stream of consciousness - bruce wtizel photo


“Action is the stream, contemplation is the spring,” Merton once wrote.

For me, spirituality is like this – the fountain that contains both. And so it goes in this composition. In the process I have brought back memories both good and bad. Opening the gate I bare my soul.



fence - photo by thomas merton

Thomas Merton photo


The question, “How do you describe your spirituality?” has challenged me in a good way. It has lain dormant within me for years. From the depths of my being, I am thankful to Tanya for asking.

I too, personally admire Buddhism. On the surface, it may simply be how I react when I encounter Buddhists.  

The kindness and contemporary wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is inspiring. In news reels, when I see the glint in his eye and his mischievous child-like smile, I can’t help but feel happiness.


Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama in India, 1968 


When I read or listen to Thich Nhat Hahn, Johanna Macy and others who witness to Engaged Buddhism, I feel so much hope, love and connection.

I haven’t studied in depth the actual Sutras and teachings, though I am aware of the four noble truths and the noble eight-fold path. My yearning is towards Zen, non-attachment and enlightenment.


clouds, trees, and ocean - bruce witzel photo



Life -brush painting by thomas merton

Brush drawing by Thomas Merton 


I do meditate once daily using a personal Mantra and occasionally a few other prayer phrases. This is within the Christian apophatic tradition of imageless non conceptual prayer – the way of unknowing or from words into silence.


thomas-merton no contradiction buddhisn and christianity


My spirituality is interfaith to its core, grounded in the roots of all world religion. I am also committed to the urgent need for ecumenical based Christian co-operation. Beyond this, my love and faith extends to all people of good will and in all the directions of mother earth . . . to the breadth and depth of the cosmos, to the very heart of creation. This is my universal spirituality.


brush drawing of celtic cross - by thomas merton

 Brush drawing of Celtic Cross by Thomas Merton


Historically speaking, I was brought up within the Catholic tradition and “practiced faithfully” until about two decades ago. Upon reflection, I am somewhat mystified about this because I now realize it is here that I remain on the ragged edges, but as a faithful non-conformist.


Thomas_Merton big-2



For years I haven’t attended religious service more than a handful of times – weddings and funerals, one might guess. I still love to visit churches, especially when they are empty. I sometimes sing.  


Church in Oaxaca - Zapotitlan del Rio - Bruce Witzel photo 1990


Integral to my understanding of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ, I’ve always maintained a commitment to social and ecological justice. I believe that faith must be intertwined into daily life of the body politic and Gaia, the great mother earth herself. 


Somewhere in the Dakotas - bruce witzel photo


As toddling child of the early 60’s, I was partly formed at the birthing of the environmental movement when biologist Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring in 1962. Her extensive research documented the ecological catastrophe and human cancer being caused by the indiscriminate use of various chemicals (like  DDT) and hundreds of nuclear weapons tests that spread radioactive fallout throughout the globe.


After reading her expose, Thomas Merton wrote to her:

“The awful responsibility with which we scorn the smallest values is part of the same portentous irresponsibility with which we dare to use our titanic power in a way that threatens not only civilization but life itself. The same mental processing—I almost said mental illness—seems to be at work in both cases, and your book makes it clear to me that there is a consistent pattern running through everything we do, through every aspect of our culture, our thought, our economy, our whole way of life.”


Nevada Nuclear Test Site - public domain

courtesy of the Nevada Nuclear Test site – public domain





Artwork 2 from Tubac Arizona - artist unknown

















Where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves . . .  


                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Art from Tubac Arizona - painting entitled Grief Knows No Boundaries - artist unknown


















. . . where we had thought to travel outwards, we shall come to the centre of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.            

Joseph Campbell


Artwork from Tubac Arizona - artist unknown























Photographs are expressions created for the Tubac anti-war art exhibit (original artists unknown). The second painting is entitled “Grief Knows No Boundaries.”

Tubac was the original Spanish colonial garrison in Arizona.

Tubac Arizona is located near the the only remaining Titan 2 Nuclear Missile Site. The silo is now a museum. The other 50 plus Titan locations in the United States were dismantled in in the early 1980’s when President Ronald Reagan ordered a weapons modernization plan.


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