Richard Rohr

Shhhhhh…the trees are speaking.

November 8, 2019

Robin Wall Kimmerer:

In the old times, our elders say, the trees talked to each other. They’d stand in their own council and craft a plan. But scientists decided long ago that plants were deaf and mute, locked in isolation without communication. The possibility of conversation was summarily dismissed. Science pretends to be purely rational, completely neutral, a system of knowledge-making in which the observation is independent of the observer. And yet the conclusion was drawn that plants cannot communicate because they lack the mechanisms that animals use to speak. . . . But pollen has been carried reliably on the wind for eons, communicated by males to receptive females to make . . . nuts. If the wind can be trusted with that fecund responsibility, why not with messages?

There is now compelling evidence that our elders were right—the trees are talking to one another. They communicate via pheromones, hormonelike compounds that are wafted on the breeze, laden with meaning. Scientists have identified specific compounds that one tree will release when it is under the stress of insect attack—gypsy moths gorging on its leaves or bark beetles under its skin. The tree sends out a distress call: “Hey, you guys over there? I’m under attack here. You might want to raise the drawbridge and arm yourselves for what is coming your way.” The downwind trees catch the drift, sensing those few molecules of alarm, the whiff of danger. This gives them time to manufacture defensive chemicals. . . . The individual benefits, and so does the entire grove. Trees appear to be talking about mutual defense. . . . There is so much we cannot yet understand with our limited human capacity. Tree conversations are still far above our heads.

Some studies of mast fruiting have suggested that the mechanism for synchrony comes not through the air, but underground. [1] The trees in a forest are often interconnected by subterranean networks of mycorrhizae, fungal strands that inhabit tree roots. The mycorrhizal symbiosis enables the fungus to forage for mineral nutrients in the soil and deliver them to the tree in exchange for carbohydrates. The mycorrhizae may form fungal bridges between individual trees, so that all the trees in a forest are connected. These fungal networks appear to redistribute the wealth of carbohydrates from tree to tree. A kind of Robin Hood, they take from the rich and give to the poor so that all the trees arrive at the same carbon surplus at the same time. They weave a web of reciprocity, of giving and taking. In this way, the trees all act as one because the fungi have connected them. Through unity, survival. All flourishing is mutual.

Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

‘For too long science and faith fell into the “sin of certainty,” each claiming Truth only for themselves and ignoring the beautifully symbiotic relationship that exists between them. Scientists like Robin Wall Kimmerer are an essential part of the Great Turning, dissolving the artificial binaries that have walled them off from one another. May we all have minds and hearts open enough to integrate the wisdom of our spiritual elders.’

Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.


‘…we see what we believe.’

November 6, 2019

We think that we believe what we see. Actually, the opposite is true: we begin with belief, and then we see. What do you believe?

-Judith Lasater, PhD.

Think about trust…whom you put your trust in. Trust is earned.

-Alexandra Stoddard

ELIZA ANYANGWE:

‘Corporations and billionaires get tax cuts while convincing individuals that our consumer choices make the world a better place.

Today, managing editor Eliza Anyangwe makes one thing clear: we must let go of our misguided devotion to personal agency and take action alongside other people if we want to bring these systems down.

History shows that the only way to change the system is to stand with the people around us and fight it head on.

Individual action isn’t bad or meaningless – it’s completely natural – but it’s no substitute for tax reform, migration policy reform, criminal justice reform, intellectual property law reform, international trade law reform and so on.

It’s clear that when we have the means, we’re happy to act – recycle, buy ethical, go green – but we need to think beyond our individual actions and choices and learn to talk, plan, and get to work alongside others if anything is going to change.

On occasion, falling down the rabbit hole that is Instagram yields positive results. It was there, on the social media platform, where I learned that American writer Anand Giridharadas would be speaking in Amsterdam. And, as though the gods of procrastination were this once glad to reward me for my fealty, the event would be free.

And so off I went to listen to the best-selling author of talk about the fallacy of “win-win”. Our economic model, Giridharadas explained, was indeed creating winners – But, there were also losers, left to gather up the crumbs from under the table; and a new entrepreneurial class who believed in their ability to “do well and do good”.

[…]

(American writer Anand) Giridharadas offered an answer: perhaps the success of our current system was in part thanks to the ability of that system to focus our attentions on personal agency rather than systemic transformation.

I believed in the power of my own agency: if the social enterprise lark didn’t work, would choose an employer with a moral compass. And I would be a better consumer; picking products and services that were good for people and planet. Politicians didn’t listen, I reasoned, but corporations did, and they were in charge anyway, so I would vote with my “spending power” – boycotting those brands who had poor records on the things I cared about, and rewarding with my meagre income those companies who took their social responsibility seriously.

We scarcely consider the fact that for all of its virtues, ethical or conscious consumerism is no substitute for tax reform, migration policy reform, criminal justice reform, intellectual property law reform, international trade law reform and so on. What we have contented ourselves with doing instead is essentially playing the same game (consumerism) by the same rules (I buy, therefore I am). We’ve simply changed the ball (ethical products and services).

My guess is that we fear that if we weren’t doing this – buying better, recycling more, eating less meat – we would be doing nothing at all. We have lost sight of the value, or even the possibility, of collective action and it’s easy to see why.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

But (this) will force me to reimagine what good I can do alongside other people, rather than in spite of them. I will see and hear the challenges of those who are most intimately affected by the issues, and maybe one day, when one of us has a grand idea that can “bring the whole system down”, we’ll know other foot soldiers who can stand alongside us.’

https://thecorrespondent.com/102/we-need-to-let-go-of-our-misguided-devotion-to-personal-agency/448868442-92556139

Rev. Masando Hiraoka, Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, Colorado:

“I’ve got to make a confession: I often find it hard to relate with the religious figures of the past. Feeling this, I can also breathe into the vows of the Buddhist who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as my grandfather took refuge in the Colorado, the only state that welcomed Japanese Americans during World War Ii.

This is why I love Colorado, why I take such pride in where I’m form. It was sanctuary, like the sanctuary that Medina became for Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the first Muslims who were expelled from their home, their holy land of Mecca, because they were considered a threat.

The restoration of dignity and the seeking of safety is part of our legacy.

I believe we know how do do this togetherness. We’ve been taking refuge in each other forever. So we continue this great tradition of staring over again and again and let the ancient ones of the past come back alive in the present through us.

The story of peace is encoded in our DNA. Refuge is written on our bones.”

Center for Action & Contemplation:

“Religion is undergoing a massive shift in perspective . . . as wrenching as the Copernican revolution, which required humanity to bid farewell to an Earth-centered understanding of our place in the cosmos. The religious revolution on the horizon today might well be called the “Evidential Reformation.” We humbly shift away from a human-centric, ethnocentric, and shortsighted view of what is important. At the same time, we expand our very identities to encompass the immense journey of life made known by the full range of sciences. In so doing, we all become elders of a sort, instinctively willing to do whatever it takes to pass on a world of health and opportunities no lesser than the one into which we were born.” –The Rev. Michael Dowd, Eco-theologian

Fr. Richard Rohr:

An evidential worldview has become crucial. We now know that evolutionary and ecological processes are at the root of life and human culture. To disregard, to dishonor, these processes through our own determined ignorance and cultural/religious self-focus is an evil that will bring untold suffering to countless generations of our own kind and all our relations. We must denounce such a legacy. Ours is thus a call to . . . sacred activism. [Twenty-five] years ago, Carl Sagan both chided and encouraged us in this way:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed.” . . . A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge. [1]

[1] Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (Random House Publishing: 1994), 50.

More from Fr. Rohr:

“However, if we truly want to be a part of the “Evidential Reformation,” we must each do our part to understand and share the ways science and our faith affirm one another.”

The universe is a single reality—one long sweeping spectacular process of interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself. . . . This [great cosmological] story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers—fashioned from the same stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story . . . humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation. . . . It bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting a solemn and collective responsibility for the future. —Loyal Rue [1]

[1] Loyal Rue, Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution (SUNY Press: 2000), 42-43.

“Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action.

Ours is the prodigal species. Having squandered our inheritance, we are waking up to our painful predicament. Thankfully God—Reality personified—awaits us with open arms and a welcoming heart. As Thomas Berry would remind us, the entire Earth community is rooting us on!”  Rev. Michael Dowd

Fr. Rohr: “I believe we have squandered our inheritance, which is the earth itself, the majesties and mysteries it holds. We’ve taken it for granted, using it too freely for our own selfish purposes while ignoring the deeply divine messages communicated in everything from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest black holes. Surely it is time for us to bring science and religion together.”

Just as Augustine reinterpreted Christianity in light of Plato in the 4th century, and Aquinas integrated Aristotle in the 13th, today there are dozens of theologians across the spectrum re-envisioning the Christian faith. Whose ideas are they integrating now? Darwin, Einstein, Hubble, Wilson and all those who have corrected, and continually contribute to, an evidence-based understanding of biological, cosmic, and cultural evolution. . . .

Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action. –Rev. Michael Dowd


 

The Great Turning

November 4, 2019

I have set before you life and death . . . therefore choose life. 

—Deuteronomy 30:19

R. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

Eco-philosopher, Earth elder, friend, and spiritual activist Joanna Macy, now ninety years old, has been promoting a global transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society for most of her life. She calls it the Great Turning, a revolution of great urgency: “While the agricultural revolution took centuries, and the industrial revolution took generations, this ecological revolution has to happen within a matter of years.” [1] She is hopeful as she sees individuals and groups participating in “1) Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings; 2) Analysis and transformation of the foundations of our common life; [and] 3) A fundamental shift in worldview and values.” [2]

Macy understands that the third type of action—essentially, a new way of seeing— “require[s] a shift in our perception of reality—and that shift is happening now, both as cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening.” [3] While the shift may not be obvious in my own generation, we need look no further than the ongoing powerful and prophetic presence of young leaders, like indigenous teenagers Tokata Iron Eyes (a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who plays a key role in the “Rezpect Our Water” campaign) and Autumn Peltier (also a water protector and a citizen of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation); they have been joined recently by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and helped inspire Climate Strikes around the world. In the face of criticism, Greta calls her Asperger’s syndrome a “superpower” that gives her a clear perspective on the climate crisis. May we be motivated by these committed young advocates and lend our voices and strength to heal our wounded world.

Macy explains:

The insights and experiences that enable us to make this shift may arise from grief for our world that contradicts illusions of the separate and isolated self. Or they may arise from breakthroughs in science, such as quantum physics and systems theory. Or we may find ourselves inspired by the wisdom traditions of native peoples and mystical voices in the major religions; we hearken to their teachings as to some half-forgotten song that our world is a sacred whole in which we have a sacred mission. [4]

St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), a Germanic nun, mystic, and healer, was doing this 800 years ago. In her book Scivias she wrote, “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” [5] Somehow, she already understood what science is now affirming: “The macrocosm is mirrored in the microcosm.” Science is finding that the world is an integrated whole rather than separated parts. Nothing in the cosmos operates independently. We are all holons, which are simultaneously whole in themselves, and at the same time part of a larger whole. This understanding is moving us from a narrow, mechanistic, Newtonian view of the universe to a holistic/ecological view. [6] Nothing is static, and if you try to construct an unchangeable or independent universe for yourself, you will be moving against the now obvious divine plan and direction.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

 

[1] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects (New Society Publishers: 2014), 4.

[2] Ibid., 6. Emphasis mine.

[3] Ibid., 14.

[4] Ibid., 14.

[5] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, 1.2.29. Translation from Avis Clendenen, “Hildegard: ‘Trumpet of God’ and ‘Living Light’” in Chicago Theological Seminary Register, vol. 89, no. 2 (Spring 1999), 25.

[6] Ilia Delio explores the concepts of holons and moving toward a holistic view in CONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), MP4 video download.

Mark Nepo:

‘…to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing. -Rilke

Ilia Delio:

‘Creation is not a demonstration of God’s boundless power but of God’s boundless love, a love so great that creation is drenched in it.’

‘Out of a long history of cosmic cataclysms and mass extinctions, we human emerge. We are born out of stardust, cousins of daffodils and bonobos; we are the conscious voice of a fragile earth.’

Mutual love, not fear.

October 30, 2019

‘The Church came into existence as a community that preserved the dangerous memory of Jesus—totally without reproach but was rather utterly new and beyond anything that could have been previously imagined. This new radical community has held together over two thousand years, as a community based, at bottom, on mutual love and not, as with other human institutions on fear.

The Church’s contemplation of this dangerous memory is what we call ‘theology’, which is actually founded on the marriage of sacred Scripture with philosophy—particularly classical Greek philosophy. This is important. A religion . . . that is without theology quickly becomes fundamentalist as it begins to interpret Scripture in a literal way, full of cultural bias and with little rational underpinning.

Fundamentalism is always culture-bound, whereas, although the story of Jesus is historical, set in a particular time, place and culture, a teaching essentially transcultural.’

-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation

~

‘When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us at give us light—then we find out whether or not we live by faith.’

-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

ℒℴve

October 6, 2019

Ghandi recognized, as no other world leader of our time has done, the necessity to be from from the pressures, the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent because it is essential greedy, lustful, and cruel.

He recognized the impossibility of being a peaceful and nonviolent man, if one submits passively to the insatiable requirements of a society maddened by overstimulation and obsessed with demons of noise, voyeurism, and speed.

Gandhi believed that the central problem of our time was the acceptance or the rejection of a basic law of love and truth which had been made knows to the world in traditional religions.

His whole, his political action, finally even his death, were nothing but a witness to this commitment: “If love is not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces.”

-Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction

 

The most inward and loving of all,

he came forth like a new beginning,

the brown-robed brother [St. Francis] of your nightingales,

with his wonder and good will

and delight in Earth.

Rilke, The Book of Hours III, 33

 

This is the miracle of love: to discover that all creation is one, flung out into space.

[…] 

This is the principle of nonviolence, and I want to recommend it to you with all the enthusiasm I can command. . . .

If human beings go to war, it is because they fear someone.

Remove the fear, and you re-establish trust, and will have peace.

Nonviolence means destroying fear.

-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.

—John Steinbeck, The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957)


What is our plan?

October 3, 2019

‘Exactly when we began a style of production and consumption that would eventually ravage planet earth, he decided to love the earth and live simply and barefoot upon it. Francis of Assisi is a Prime Attractor to what we really want, what we definitely need, and who we finally are. And, apparently, he did it all with a “perfect joy” that comes from letting go of the ego!’ -Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation

The change in my own inner climate. -Thomas Merton

Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of global warming and those who said they accepted the science but failed to change their lives in response?

In We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves―with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life.

UK, US and European studies claim our meat consumption should be reduced by 90%, and dairy consumption by 60%. Two meals a day should be vegetarian, and think about a family climate plan. One couple a month out from their wedding day came up with theirs at book signing:

  • Vegetarian meals
  • Vegan meals 2x per week
  • Driving less than 1,000 miles a year
  • Only two kids

Jonathan’s response? “Holy crap. I don’t have a plan.”

“An ode to collective action, persuasively asking readers to take a hard look at our own role in the climate crisis and its solutions.” ―Kate Wheeling, The New Republic

Sam Sanders interviewed Jonathan on “It’s Been a Minute”. Follow the link to about 16:00 into the program.

https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510317/its-been-a-minute-with-sam-sanders

The Correspondent

#Unbreaking

Climate change is about how we treat each other

by Eric Holthaus

’What this moment needs, more than anything, is moral clarity. […] American media was curiously obsessed with President DT’s stubborn insistence that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama.

Seen through the lens of climate inaction, against a backdrop of unfettered economic growth, one can only conclude that climate change is an intentional act, in which the media is complicit.

‘We need to know, viscerally, that we can no longer abandon our neighbours in their time of greatest need. We need to relearn our interdependence. There is the alternative. The way to write this story that doesn’t end in apocalypse.’

https://thecorrespondent.com/34/climate-change-is-about-how-we-treat-each-other/149622814-e324a49f

More from Richard.

August 28, 2019

Most people believe that physicists are explaining the world. . . . They are only dancing with it. —Gary Zukav [1]

☆☆•*¨*•.¸¸

Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

The more ways of knowing we use, the closer we come to understanding, and yet the full picture will always elude us. In this way, mystery is endlessly knowable.

From our own experiences we know that reality is not a seamless whole. Multiple realities rise, recede, and eclipse on our cognitive horizons as subuniverses that we inhabit from time to time. . . . The portals to these universes are not always cognitive. Perhaps they can be entered through dance and song and story.

The superstring theory provides useful analogies. . . . Physicist Brian Greene says, “If string theory is right, the microscopic fabric of our universe is a richly intertwined multidimensional labyrinth within which the strings of the universe endlessly twist and vibrate, rhythmically beating out the laws of the cosmos.” [3] The theory speaks of universes coiled into infinitesimal loops that may hold the secrets of all forces in the cosmos. The beauty of the theory is that it is dynamic and rhythmic. It is a resonant and dancing universe that invites us to view its mysteries. . . .

Hopi elders engage multiplicity by referring to the ineffable as “a mighty something [a’ni himu].” [5] Wisdom instructs the elders that one cannot stake life on limited human perspectives; there must be more. And so the elders inquire into the nature of ontology, social location, and the universe with the humble acceptance of an abiding wonder for “the thing not named.”


[1] Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (Morrow Quill Paperback: 1979), 35.

[3] Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Vintage Books: 1999), 18.

[5] See John D. Loftin, Religion and Hopi Life in the Twentieth Century (Indiana University Press: 1991), xv-xvi.

Shifting the Cosmic Paradigm

August 26, 2019

We’re reaching a fork in the road; two paths are diverging on planet Earth, and the one we choose will make all the difference for the life of the planet. Shall we continue our medieval religious practices in a medieval paradigm and mechanistic culture and undergo extinction? Or shall we wake up to this dynamic, evolutionary universe and the rise of consciousness toward an integral wholeness?

-Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist

From Fr. Richard Rohr

We are called to make the paradigm shift to an utterly new cosmology and worldview. I believe, even unbeknown to themselves, many are leaving organized Christianity now because these two cosmologies no longer coincide.

Deliver us from evil.

August 25, 2019

“You cannot be a (wo)man of faith unless you know how to doubt. You cannot believe in Gaia unless you are capable of questioning the authority of prejudice, even though that prejudice seems to be religious. Faith is not blind conformity to a prejudice–a ‘pre-judgment.’ It is a decision, a judgment that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven.”

-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

[G7 in France]

But deliver us from evil, past, present, and to come.

We must strive to overcome evil, but even our best efforts will require Gaia’s help.

The Lord said to Evil, “‘Where did you come from?’ Evil answered, ‘From prowling about on the earthmovers going back and forth on it.” Job 1:7

Cosmology: Part I

The Change of a World View

Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation

Today, every academic, professional discipline—psychology, anthropology, history, the various sciences, social studies, art, and business—recognizes change, development, and some kind of evolving phenomenon. But in its search for the Real Absolute, much of Christian theology made one fatal mistake:

It imagined that any notion of God had to be unchanging, an “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it.

There’s little evidence of a rigid God in the biblical tradition or the image of Trinity—where God is seen as an active verb more than a substantive noun. But many Christians seem to have preferred a stable notion of God as an old white man, sitting on a throne—much like the Greek god Zeus (whose name became the Latin word for God or “Deus”)—a critical and punitive spectator to a creation that was merely a mechanical clock of inevitable laws and punishments, ticking away until Doomsday.

We need a new way of thinking about the universe and our place in it. To begin our two weeks on this theme, I offer a clear and concise description of our changing worldview from Australian theologian Denis Edwards (I waited in a long line once just to thank him for his fine work):

Our theological tradition has been shaped within the worldview of a static universe. The great theological synthesis of St. Thomas Aquinas [1224–1274], for example, was formed within a culture which took for granted that the world was fixed and static, that the Sun and the Moon and the five known planet stars revolved around the Earth in seven celestial spheres, moved by angels, that beyond these seven spheres there were the three heavens, the firmament (the starry heaven), the crystalline heaven, and the empyrean, and that there was a place in the heavenly spheres for paradise. It was assumed that human beings were the center of the universe, that Europe was the center of the world, and that the Earth and its resources were immense and without any obvious limits.

By contrast, we are told today that the universe began with a cosmic explosion called the Big Bang, that we live in an expanding universe, with galaxies rushing away from us at an enormous rate, that the Earth is a relatively small planet revolving around the Sun, that it is hurtling through space as part of a Solar system which is situated toward the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, that we human beings are the product of an evolutionary movement on the Earth, and that we are intimately linked with the health of the delicately balanced life systems on our planet.

The shift between these two mindsets is enormous. It needs to be stressed that most of our tradition has been shaped by the first of these, and even contemporary theology has seldom dealt explicitly with the change to a new mindset. . . .

We have no choice but to face up to the ecological crisis which confronts us. Religious thinkers . . . are searching for a new synthesis of science and faith, a new cosmology, and a “new story.” [1]

☆ ☆ ☆

[1] Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Paulist Press: 1991), 3-5.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Evolution Is Another Name for Growth,” “Evolutionary Thinking,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2016), 111-112.

Image credit: Starry Night Over the Rhône (detail), Vincent van Gogh, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

 

 

From Sarah Ivy Arters.

August 23, 2019

May our prayers and our altars come together to calm the spirits of the fire in the Amazon – Sacred Temple of mystery and native jungle, lung of mother earth, place of power, home of ancestral tribes!

May our songs call the sacred water of rain, which are heard by the guardians of this place!!

Let human beings open the heart, to wake up and not sleep, to honor mother earth with each of our acts and not allow this to happen more times. Let’s send love, strength and peace to the peoples, to the animals, to the ancient trees…

Let us know in every way possible to listen to us, we need to echo the order of so many indigenous peoples who have already been giving alarm signs on the atrocities that are committed in the name of development.

How many more places have to be devastated for the ” good of humanity “, for the ” well being ” misunderstood of societies? Shattered by the policies of incapable governments! Let’s ask our authorities to act in favor of life and not against it!!

Let us act to the extent of our possibilities!! from our prayer, from our altar, from our sacred matrices that give life..

Let us remember that we are one being… that we are the extension of mother earth and what happens in it, anywhere happens in our body!


Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation.

 

 

Next stop, Supreme Court.

August 22, 2019

The bias of white males is typically power and control. From this perspective nonviolence and love of enemies makes no sense whatsoever.

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

A letter from Lawrence Lessig.

I’m writing to tell you about a critically important decision in a case of ours by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that could advance substantially our campaign to reform the Electoral College. At a minimum, it will get us a hearing in the United States Supreme Court, so that the fundamental question that our case raises can finally be resolved.

That question is this: Can presidential Electors within the Electoral College be forced to vote one way or another? 

For most of my legal career (I won’t pretend to have thought much about the question before becoming a lawyer), I thought the answer to this question was easy: Of course they can! But in 2016, when Electors (and others) started raising the question, I began to look at the issue closely. To my surprise, I came to the view that the answer is actually no: That states cannot, constitutionally, control how their electors vote.

This conclusion is a bit terrifying: Can it really be that the choice for president could ultimately hang on the decision of a handful of electors? But terrifying or not, it seemed clearly to be what our Constitution prescribes. And after a record number of electors chose to vote their conscience in 2016, and not how they were pledged, we at EqualCitizens.US determined to get the question resolved finally before it creates a constitutional crisis.

Because remember: We know Electoral College contests are going to be closer in the future than they have been in the past; and as they get closer and closer, even a small number of electors could change the results of an election. Whether you think that’s a good system or not, we believe it is critical to resolve the question before it would decide an election. That means getting the Supreme Court to hear the case outside of a particular presidential contest, when they can answer the question without worrying about which candidate would benefit from their decision.

It now looks like that’s exactly what will happen. As I’ve written to you before, we’ve had two cases moving through the courts addressing this question — one in the Washington state courts, and one in federal court in Colorado. In Washington, three electors were fined $1,000 each for voting contrary to their pledge; in Colorado, one elector was removed, and two threatened for their decision to vote contrary to their pledge. We took the Washington case to the Washington Supreme Court and lost. Yesterday, we learned that we won in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This conflict now pretty much guarantees that the question will be before the Supreme Court next year.

When I describe this case to people, their first response is usually something like this: Why would you ever try to get the Court to say that electors are free? The answer is that if indeed they are free, we should know that before the next election. If the Court decides as the 10th Circuit did, then that means that we as a nation need to decide whether we want to keep this system, or replace it — either through the National Popular Vote Compact, or through an Amendment to the Constitution. Or if the Court decides as the Washington Supreme Court has done, then at least we don’t need to worry about this instability within our presidential election system.

My bet is on the 10th Circuit. You can read its incredibly thoughtful opinion below. And when the Supreme Court affirms that result (in the Washington case — for technical reasons, that’s the case we’ll bring to the Supreme Court), then the race will be on to decide whether we keep the system the framers gave us, or decide as a nation — finally — to adopt something new.

Congratulations to my colleague, Jason Harrow, who argued the case before the 10th Circuit. And thank you to all the plaintiffs in both cases — Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, Robert Nemanich (Colorado) and Bret Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, Dove John (Washington) — who both did what they believed was the right thing to do in 2016, and have continued to fight in the almost four years since.

Stay tuned for the next episode. Meanwhile, we’re turning to the petition to ask the Supreme Court to take up this case for review.

Lessig

 

A Vindication For The Hamilton Electors

Jason Harrow, Equal Citizens Executive Director and Chief Counsel

What are the powers of individual presidential electors in the Electoral College? Believe it or not, through over two centuries of history across 58 presidential elections, most lawyers are still not sure, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not definitively weighed in. But, because of an amazing group of electors we’ve been representing and a remarkable decision released yesterday afternoon by the federal appeals court in Denver, that is very likely to change before the election of 2020. And whatever way the Supreme Court goes, it’ll be a good thing for our country that, at last, the Supreme Court will be forced to grapple with the constitutional role of presidential electors.

Back up a few steps. We all know that the president is not directly elected based on popular votes but is instead elected by the votes of members of the Electoral College. The members of this most unusual College are appointed by each state following the popular election, and electors are real people who cast individual votes that may — or may not — be for the presidential candidates that they are expected to vote for.

In the 2016 version of the Electoral College, there were more of these independent electors than there has ever been in the modern era: there were seven official anomalous electoral votes for president and six for vice president, and several more electors tried to cast such votes but were prevented by state officials. Each elector had his or her own reason for casting a vote for someone not named Trump or Clinton, but many presidential electors were no doubt responding either to evidence of electoral interference that may have ensured Donald Trump’s election or to the historically large mismatch between the popular vote and the predicted outcome of the electoral college.

The issue of whether those independent votes must be counted, or whether states may intervene and tell electors who to vote for, has been percolating in the courts since then. Yesterday, a federal appeals court, for the first time in history, definitively ruled that presidential electors have the constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choice. That’s huge.

The case arose from the actions of three brave electors in Colorado — Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, and Robert Nemanich — who were threatened with removal if they failed to vote for Hillary Clinton, the winner of the popular vote in Colorado. Mike Baca was undeterred even by threats of serious punishment (including potential criminal perjury charges) and voted for John Kasich, in the faint hope that a few dozen Republican electors would join him and send the election to the House of Representatives, where a Republican other than Trump could be elected. His vote was never counted, though. Instead, after his vote was revealed, he was removed as an elector and replaced with another elector who voted for Clinton.

We filed suit to defend these electors in 2017. Yesterday, the federal appeals court in Denver agreed with our argument the Constitution protects his right to vote for president. It did so in a remarkable opinion that dug deeply into the constitutional text and historical practice — so deeply, in fact, that the opinion is 114 pages long. But there was a lot for the court to get to, and it’ll be a gripping read for those who appreciate careful judging and wise constitutional analysis.

We at Equal Citizens also represent a separate group of electors from Washington state, and in May, the Washington Supreme Court went the other way and said electors could be penalized for casting these faithless votes. Now that there is a direct split between these two appellate courts, it is very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will accept one of the cases for review in the coming months and, at long last, definitively resolve the issue of the freedom of presidential electors.

Finally: A win is, of course, a win. But some may be wondering why we are still pursuing this case, long after the election of 2016 has been decided. If we really believe in democracy — and, at Equal Citizens, we really do — should we really be pushing for 538 presidential electors to have the constitutional discretion to take the presidential election into their own hands?

Of course chaos and unpredictability is not the end result what we want; instead, we want to make presidential elections better, not more random or uncertain. And this litigation is consistent with that mission, for several reasons.

First, the current situation of uncertainty among increasing numbers of faithless votes is simply untenable. There have been only 58 prior elections, but we’ve nonetheless had our fair share of oddball results. We have had elections decided by a single elector (1876); we’ve seen the Supreme Court halt a recount in a swing state (2000); we’ve had a tied election thrown to the House for decision (1800); and we’ve even had an entire state shift its vice-presidential votes to throw that race into the Senate (1836).

This just shows that crazy things happen more often than we might predict, and the current situation — where about 30 states have laws purporting to bind electoral college votes, but no one knows if they’re legal — could lead to the most destructive crisis of them all: a situation where there is disagreement over the validity of one or more key electoral votes. What if the election hangs in the balance and an elector votes one way but a state official says it’s invalid? That crisis just cannot happen; it could tear the country apart. We need to know in advance of the next election whether it’s legal to bind electoral votes.

Second, whether we like it or not, we don’t think the ultimate question is even close — which means that if it were litigated in the middle of a presidential election, it could change the outcome. If America doesn’t like this result — and even some of us don’t like this result — we should have a chance to avoid it before the next election. Those who wish to change the system — as we do, and as our clients do — should therefore want this question resolved now. If the Supreme Court agrees with us, it would give real momentum to real alternatives, whether a constitutional amendment or the National Popular Vote compact. . And even if we lose in the Supreme Court, that would make clear that states in the National Popular Vote Compact could legally bind their electors and ensure there are no dissents there. Either way, this case will provide an important improvement over the status quo.

Bottom-line: next stop, Supreme Court. Exciting times.

https://medium.com/equal-citizens/a-vindication-for-the-hamilton-electors-f114134da74d

 

Ultimate Reality

August 16, 2019

Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

Rami Shapiro, a rabbi, teacher, and author on Judaism and spirituality reflects on the enriching, powerful experience of interspiritual dialogue initiated by Fr. Thomas Keating (1923–2018).

In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic—to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called “a big experiment.” [1]

The experiment was to see what would happen when meditators from different traditions meditated together and shared the spiritual insights they gleaned from their meditation. Within a few days it became clear to the attendees that while their religious vocabularies were different, their experiences were not. As one attendee put it:

I enter into meditation as a slice of American cheese: thick and solid; my egoic self intact and feeling apart from both God and creation. I return from meditation as a slice of Swiss cheese: thin and filled with holes. I know myself and all others to be a part of God. Indeed, there is no other at all, only the One, the Whole, the Ultimate Reality I am calling God. And with this sense of wholeness comes a sense of holiness, a sense of love from and for all beings. . . .

During the first few years of the Snowmass Conference, a series of agreements arose among the attendees. Father Thomas compiled the first eight and brought them to the group for consideration. With lots of conversation and some editing, the Snowmass Conference Eight Points of Agreement came into being. We include them here as a way of sharing a contemporary expression of perennial wisdom arising not from ancient texts but from the lived experience of contemporary mystics—women and men who, while coming from specific traditions, dare to step beyond them to see what is on its own terms.

The Eight Points of Agreement

1.  The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality, to which they give various names.


2.  Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.

3.  Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.

4. The potential for human wholeness—or, in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transcendence, transformation, blessedness—is present in every human being. 

5. Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.

6. As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.

7. Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one’s own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality. [2]

It took us until the late 20th century to say such things, and now we almost see them as obvious. There is indeed an evolution of consciousness and a convergence of consciousness that does not need to dismiss or dilute any one tradition.


[1] The Common Heart: An Experience of Interreligious Dialogue, ed. Netanel Miles-Yepez (Lantern Books: 2006), 1.

[2] Thomas Keating, “The Points of Agreement,” Introduction to The Common Heart, xvii-xviii.

Beholding.

August 13, 2019

‘The divine encounter is something of a pure or direct encounter because there are no appropriate words or concepts through which to interpret it. Maggie Ross refers to the encounter with the divine as “beholding.” [1] 

Beholding is the antithesis of ordinary experience in that the self, which usually processes the data of our experience through an understanding inherited from our history, culture, and language community, is suspended, and we change our focus in order to be open to an engagement that defies whatever understanding we bring to it. . . .

What makes the contemplative experience universal and perennial is that contemplatives suspend the understanding through which their minds actively process and assess the data of their experience. . . . The prejudice of the modern mind is that knowledge must be something we can possess, but the knowledge that comes from our encounters with the divine possesses us and infuses an ineffable knowing within us. . . .

The prayer of the contemplative is, essentially, an attention to the omnipresence of God. God is omnipresent not as a theological doctrine, but as the great silence that is present in every moment—but from which we are usually distracted by an overactive mind that refuses to wait in a humble unknowing for a pure wisdom from above [James 3:17]. [2]’

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation


[1] Maggie Ross, “Behold Not the Cloud of Experience,” The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Exeter Symposium VIII, ed. E. A. Jones (Boydell and Brewer: 2013), 29-50.

[2] James P. Danaher, “What’s So Perennial About the Perennial Philosophy?” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 50-51, 53. No longer in print; a Kindle version is available from Amazon.

Interspiritual Mysticism

August 9, 2019

‘Each of us brings a lifetime of experiences to this moment, our perspectives colored by our individual history. No one is worthier than another. Relaxing, I can simply let everyone be, knowing we’re all doing the best we can where we are now.’

Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:

Now this new epistemology is emerging all over the world and in all denominations and religions. I pray it will thrive and grow so we can heal the planet’s suffering before we’ve done irreparable damage.

Episcopal priest and friend Matthew Fox writes:

The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a mystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk. [2]

How do we find the path forward? Howard Thurman (1900–1981), a mystic who sought to make peace between religions and founded the first major interracial, interfaith church in the United States, urged people to “listen for the sound of the genuine.” Read these excerpts from one of Thurman’s talks several times to fully appreciate it:

There is something in everyone of you that waits, listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself and if you can not hear it, you will never find whatever it is for which you are searching and if you hear it and then do not follow it, it was better that you had never been born. . . .

Sometimes there is so much traffic going on in your minds, so many different kinds of signals . . . and you are buffeted by these and in the midst of all of this you have got to find out what your name is. Who are you? . . .

Now there is something in everybody that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in other people. . . . I must wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in you. . . .

Now if I hear the sound of the genuine in me and if you hear the sound of the genuine in you it is possible for me to go down in me and come up in you. So that when I look at myself through your eyes having made that pilgrimage, I see in me what you see in me and the wall that separates and divides will disappear and we will become one because the sound of the genuine makes the same music. [3]


[1] C. G. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Pantheon Books: 1963), 375.

[2] Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011), 2-3. Learn more about Fox and his daily online reflections at dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org.

[3] Howard Thurman, “The Sound of the Genuine,” Baccalaureate Address, Spelman College (May 4, 1980). Text edited by Jo Moore Stewart, Spelman Messenger, vol. 96, no. 4 (Summer 1980), 14-15. Digital version available at http://digitalcommons.auctr.edu/scmessenger/546/.  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 205.


Fr. Richard Rohr on his porch‘Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.’

Marianne. Beyond the fairy dust.

July 1, 2019

From Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation:

‘While our society places great emphasis on the individual, true prophets are almost always concerned with social, institutional, national, or corporate evil and our participation in it.

That’s because the future is always contingent upon our cooperation, choices, and actions. Therefore, if we live in love and treat the poor with justice, the good will happen.’

From Marianne Williamson:

‘Where racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamaphobia and xenophobia have become collectively politicized, we must collectively politicize decency, dignity, mercy, justice, compassion and love. This isn’t philosophy; it’s strategy.’

2020: Marianne Williamson On Big Truths And Moral Outrage – Pod Save America

https://www.marianne2020.com/posts/2020-marianne-williamson-on-big-truths-and-moral-outrage-pod-save-america

‘For those who might think I want fairy dust to replace public policy, here is the Issues page from my campaign site. Please peruse for any signs of extra-terrestrial influence.’

https://www.marianne2020.com/issues

Washington Post

David Byler
Data analyst and political columnist

July 1 at 2:20 PM

‘She only spoke for five minutes during the debate, but she managed to advocate for reparations; implicitly compare herself to John F. Kennedy; rail on her opponents for focusing too much on policy plans; bring “chemical policies” into the health-care debate; advocate for a spiritual, love-based strategy to beat President Trump; promise to call the prime minister of New Zealand on her first day in office; and beat the other candidates in debate-night Google search interest (although Kamala D. Harris was the top “trending topic” on all of Google). We may never have seen anyone exactly like Williamson on a national debate stage, but she’s channeling a real, and underserved, constituency in American politics.’ [Washington Post]
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/01/marianne-williamson-sounds-unusual-her-style-is-surprisingly-mainstream/?utm_term=.af3fe3025856

Post from twitter on June 29th:
“If you are curious about Marianne Williamson, stop throwing insults and jokes around. Watch this instead. She is a thoughtful person. -Emmy-Nominated Producer of Documentary Films.
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-marianne-williamson-thinks-she-can-defeat-trump

PBS News Hour

‘Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson called climate change the country’s greatest moral challenge in an interview Thursday, spotlighting an issue at the center of the 2020 primary race.

The author and activist told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff that investing resources to combat climate change now would pay off in the future.

“I’d rather pay with money now than pay with our inability to breath 25 years from now, 50 years from now,” said Williamson, who supports the Green New Deal.

Williamson also said the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion services, needs to be repealed.

The remarks come as several states have pushed controversial bills limiting abortion services. The debate over abortion is playing out in the 2020 primary race as well. Former Vice President Joe Biden made headlines Thursday by reversing his support for the amendment.

Other highlights from the interview:

  • On military spending: Williamson criticized U.S. military spending as excessive, touching on an argument she makes in her new book, “A Politics of Love.” “Anybody who thinks that our military budget is based only on military considerations is fooling themselves. It is based at least as much on short-term profit maximization for defense contractors,” she said.

  • On creating a Department of Peace: Williamson reiterated her call for a new agency with the name the “Department of Peace,” which would deal with domestic peace-building efforts, including in neighborhoods grappling with violence. “We do not spend money and put our resources behind the factors that create peace, like expanding education for children and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering,” Williamson said.
’What I saw outside the fence is as important as what I saw when I looked over it: politicians, human rights groups, religious groups, social justice advocates and others, all bearing witness to a tragic situation and refusing to look away. Gandhi’s concept of soul force means bearing witness to the agony of others as a form of political expression. People from across all religious and spiritual and social justice communities are ready to take a stand for love, and turn it into a political force.’
From Marianne: I recommend that you read these articles about us in the Washington PostVanity Fair, and Rolling Stone.
 

God is in the roses.

June 15, 2019

God is in the roses
The petals and the thorns
Storms out on the oceans
The souls who will be born
And every drop of rain that falls
Falls for those who mourn
God is in the roses
And the thorns. -Rosanne Cash

“Vulnerability transforms you. You can’t be in the presence of a truly vulnerable, honestly vulnerable person and not be affected. I think that’s the way we are meant to be in the presence of one another.” [Richard Rohr]

The cross was not a transactional moment, but deeper, ensconced in humility and vulnerability. [Reference to Richard Rohr]

“As he draws near Jerusalem, Jesus weeps out of a sadness and frustration at people’s blindness to what is right in front of them…oblivious.” [Forward Day by Day]

“The Talmud says that unhappy conditions arise when we mistake shadower substance. We are ever renewed by the presence of that which cannot change. We are ever renewed by the passage of the Divine light through our consciousness. Silently, I pass from less to more, from isolation to inclusion, from separation into oneness.” [Ernest Holmes]

“And this above all: that through these petals light must pass. From a thousand skies, each drop of darkness is filtered out and the glow at the core of each flower grows stronger and rises into life.

And the movement of the roses has a branch none could discern, were it for for what it ignites in the universe entire…

One could say they were self-contained if self-contained meant to transform the world outside, patience of springtime, guilt and restlessness, the secrecy of fate and the darkness of Earth at evening…on out to the streaming and fleeing of clouds and, farther yet, the orders of the stars…take it all and turn it into a handful of inwardness.”

See how it lies at ease in the open roses. -Rilke

 

The world will always be broken.

June 13, 2019

 

“Hard, awful things happen in this broken world. Nothing we can do will change that fact. Bad things happen, and they will happen to good people we love, or to us.” [Forward Day by Day]

“Those who love us will miss us.” -Keanu Reeves

“Identification with suffering might just be non-dual thinking in its most active and proactive form and why nonviolence demands such a high level of transformation. Our resistance to suffering is an entire industry now, perhaps symbolized by the total power of the gun lobby and the permanent war economy in America, the fear of any profit sharing with the poor, or the need to be constantly entertained. Maybe that is why some have said that the foundational virtue underlying al others is courage (“cor-agere” = an action of the heart). It takes immense courage to walk in solidarity with the suffering of there’s, and even our own.” -Fr. Richard Rohr

As an inlet cannot close itself to the sea that shapes it, the heart can only wear itself open.

“One of the hardest blessings to accept about the heart is that in the image of life itself, it will not stop emerging through experience. No matter how we try to preserve or relieve what has already happened, the heart will not stop being shaped. It knows that the only way to truly remember or stay whole is to take the best and worst into its tissue.

Despite all our intentions not be hurt again, the heart keeps us going by moving us ever forward into health. Though we walk around thinking we can direct it, our heart is endlessly shaped like the land, often against our will.” -Mark Nepo

 

Gaia Earth

June 7, 2019

Diversity, Essence, and Communion

Sr. Joan Brown is a longtime friend and Franciscan, serving as Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit that works for climate justice. She writes about three foundational principles needed for harmony and wholeness:

‘All of us who live, breathe, and walk upon this amazing, holy Mother Earth are called to understand the cosmic principles inherent in the interdependent energy dynamic that throbs through every element of life. Nothing exists without these three interdependent energies that emerged from the first flaring forth over 13.8 billion years ago: differentiation or diversity; subjectivity, interiority, or essence; and communion or community and interconnectedness. These energies offer vital lessons for the critical times in which we live, where diversity causes conflict, living is often at a superficial level, and individualism runs rampant. [1]

First, every one of us—every human being, every drop of water, every molecule, every bird, each grain of sand, and each mountain—is distinct or different. Each is a distinct manifestation of Divine Love energy. The universe thrives upon, and cannot exist without, diversity. The very differences that we shun, avoid, or even destroy are necessary for life to continue in a multitude of magnificent forms. . . .

The second cosmic principle, interiority or essence, is more easily understood by people of all religious traditions. Every created thing is holy. Every blade of grass, grasshopper, child, and element is holy. Ecological degradation, racism, discrimination, hate, and disinterest in working for justice and love each speak to the lack of honoring the interiority of that which stands before me. . . . In order to help people adjust and cope with climate change, which is the most critical concern of our day, I believe we must get in touch with the sacred essence of everything that exists.

The third cosmic principle, communion or community, is intimately linked to differentiation/diversity and interiority/essence. A quote attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh states it well: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” [2] The gravitational pull of love draws everyone and everything into relationship and communion. . . .

Perhaps, as Beatrice Bruteau wrote, “If we cannot love our neighbor as ourself, it is because we do not perceive our neighbor as ourself.” [3] If we are unable to see that we are in communion with another, we will not realize that what we do to ourselves, we do to the other and to the earth. Likewise, we do not realize that, ultimately, our lack of understanding turns back toward us in violence, whether that is fear of other races and diversity, or destruction of Earth because we see the natural world as an object rather than a subject with interiority. . . .

We are called to be larger than who we can imagine being in this moment. The cosmic principles are a new way of understanding, seeing, and acting in a world that seems to be torn apart by a misunderstanding of the beauty of diversity, the holiness of essence, and the evolutionary pull of communion.’

[Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation]

[1] Passionist priest and eco-theologian Thomas Berry (1914–2009) and evolutionary cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote about these principles in their book, The Universe Story (HarperCollins: 1994, ©1992). Their work builds upon the cosmological investigations of paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), which were also explored by the writer and mystic Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014).
[2] Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching shared by Wendy Johnson, “A Floating Sangha Takes Root: Early Days in Plum Village with Thich Nhat Hanh,” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, vol. 24, no. 3 (Spring 2015). See https://tricycle.org/magazine/floating-sangha-takes-root/.
[3] Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis: 2005), 6.
Joan Brown, “Embracing Diversity through the Cosmic Principles,” “Unity and Diversity,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2018), 18-22.
Image credit: Pure Diversity (detail), Mirta Toledo, 1993. Art Collection of TCU University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

One love.

June 4, 2019

Love, the attraction of all things toward all things, is a universal language and underlying energy that keeps showing itself despite our best efforts to resist it. It is so simple that it is hard to teach, yet we all know love when we see it.

After all, there is not a Native, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian way of loving. There is not a Methodist, Lutheran, or Orthodox way of running a soup kitchen. There is not a gay or straight way of being faithful, nor a Black or Caucasian way of hoping.

We all know positive flow when we see it, and we all recognize resistance and coldness when we feel it. All the rest are mere labels.

When we are truly “in love,” we move out of our small, individual selves to unite with another, whether in companionship, friendship, marriage, or any other trustful relationship.

For Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), a French Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, love is “the very physical structure of the Universe.”  That is a very daring statement, especially for a scientist to make. Yet for Teilhard, gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields, electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, animal instinct, and evolution all reveal an energy that is attracting all things and beings to one another, in a movement toward ever greater complexity and diversity—and yet ironically also toward unification at ever deeper levels. This energy is quite simply love under many different forms. 

(Please, use another word..energy…flow…Gaia…if it works better for you.)

-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation

[Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Sketch of a Personal Universe,” Human Energy, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1962), 72.]

Naïve, indeed.

June 3, 2019

Diversity Protected

‘White dominant culture has been alive and well for centuries, and its grasp for power is only growing more desperate. Today we see unabashed racism, classism, and sexism at the highest levels of the United States government. How naïve many of us were to think we lived in a post-racial society after the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and after we saw an African American president and his family in the White House. Now our collective shadow has again come out in the open for all to see.

It seems every generation must be newly converted. While we seek to transform individual hearts and minds we must also work to create change throughout systems. Until a full vision of equity is realized, we must continue naming and resisting the ways in which so many people are excluded and oppressed. Author and activist adrienne maree brown writes:

Separation weakens. It is the main way we are kept (and keep each other) in conditions of oppression. . . . Where we are born into privilege, we are charged with dismantling any myth of supremacy. Where we are born into struggle, we are charged with claiming our dignity, joy and liberation. . . .Adrienne Maree Brown, “Report: Recommendations for Us Right Now from a Future,” Sublevel, issue 2 (2018)

If we remain exclusive monotheists, like Judaism, Islam, and much of Christianity up to now, we normally try to impose a false uniformity on others but rarely know how to love, honor, and respect diversity. We remain in competing tribes and colonies.’

-Richard Rohr, Center of Action & Contemplation

Let’s remake the world with words.
Not frivolously, nor
To hide from what we fear,
But with a purpose.

Let’s, as Wordsworth said, remove
“The dust of custom” so things
Shine again, each object arrayed
In its robe of original light.

And then we’ll see the world
As if for the first time,
As once we gazed at the beloved
Who was gazing at us.

-Gregory Orr

“The beauty of being human is that we are incredibly, intimately near each other, we know about each other, but yet we do not know or never can know what it’s like inside another person.”

-John O’Donohue, Irish poet, author & priest

On Being


Trevor Noah:

The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.

[…]

Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. The architects of apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure we were separated not just physically but by language as well. Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked. If you’re racist and you meet someone who doesn’t look like you, the fact that he/she can’t speak like you reinforces your racist preconceptions: He/She’s different, less intelligent. However, if the person who doesn’t look like you speaks like you, the brain brain short-circuits because your racism program has none of those instructions in the code.

-Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood

 

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