Richard Rohr

“…feminine, cooperative and supportive.”

July 17, 2018

The shift to a more sustainable political policy will involve:

. . . a shift of emphasis away from means towards ends; away from economic growth towards human development; away from quantitative towards qualitative values and goals; away from the impersonal and organisational towards the personal and interpersonal; and away from the earning and spending of money towards the meeting of real human needs and aspirations. A culture that has been masculine, aggressive and domineering in its outlook will give place to one which is more feminine, cooperative and supportive. A culture that has exalted the uniformly European will give place to one which values the multi-cultural richness and diversity of human experience. An anthropocentric worldview that has licensed the human species to exploit the rest of nature as if from above and outside it, will give place to an ecological worldview. We shall recognize that survival and self-realisation alike require us to act as what we really are—integral parts of an ecosystem much larger, more complex, and more powerful than ourselves. 

James Robertson, Beyond the Dependency Culture: People, Power and Responsibility, as cited by Richard Rohr and The Center for Action and Contemplation.

We cannot expect to draw a pattern of this right seeing from he objective world of confusion or our inner thoughts of doubt and fear. We are to look and think independently of the confusion in the moment.  I am seeing through confusion to peace, through doubt to certainty, through fear to faith. As I do this everything I look upon shall become transformed and reborn. -Ernest Holmes

Terrible things are hard enough to experience the first time. Beyond their second and third and fourth experience as trauma, ,their impact can easily makes u become terrible if we do not keep our want to love alive. Perhaps the most difficult challenge of being wounded is not turning our deepest loving nature over to the lie and way of the wound. The human heart–no matter how often it is cut–can reassert its impulse to love. -Mark Nepo

Also from Mark:

I see that we’re such fragile, resilient creatures, here for just a long unplanned moment, tumbling and waking in this beautiful, harsh tender existence.

Dialogue is a matter of understanding, of peeling away the mind to stand under (our thoughts) in Oneness.

Tyranny & Treason

July 16, 2018

Richard Rohr:

We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. 

We reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. . . . Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.

___

DT, next to Putin, refused to say whether he believed US intelligence or Russia on 2016 elections.’ [NYTimes]

Treason: The offense of assisting its enemies, or, adhering to, or giving aid & comfort to its enemies by one who owes it allegiance.

Congress, your move.

___

The Atlantic:

The Crisis Facing America, by David Frum

The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has. […] At the 1787 convention in Philadelphia, the authors of the Constitution worried a great deal about foreign potentates corrupting the American presidency.

America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/trump-putin/565310/

The power of organized people.

July 10, 2018

Richard Rohr

Center For Action & Contemplation

People have good reasons to be angry and afraid today. Poverty, racism, climate change, and so many other injustices are causing real suffering for much of the world. Unfortunately, dualistic and oppositional energies cannot bring the change we so desperately need; we cannot fight angry power with more angry power. Only the contemplative mind has the ability to hold the reality of what is and the possibility of what could be. Unless our hearts are transformed, our fears will continue to manipulate our politics, reinforcing a polarized and divided society.

Quaker activist and teacher Parker Palmer has a hopeful, but not Pollyannaish, view. He writes:

Human beings have a well-demonstrated capacity to hold the tension of differences in ways that lead to creative outcomes and advances. It is not an impossible dream to believe we can apply that capacity to politics. In fact, our capacity for creative tension-holding is what made the American experiment possible in the first place. . . . America’s founders—despite the bigotry that limited their conception of who “We the People” were—had the genius to establish [a] form of government in which differences, conflict, and tension were understood not as the enemies of a good social order but as the engines of a better social order.

As “We the People” retreat from the public square and resort to private gripe sessions with those who think like us, we create a vacuum at the center of America’s public life. Politics abhors a vacuum as much as nature does, so nondemocratic powers rush in to fill the void—especially the power called “big money.” . . .

When the Supreme Court gave big money even more power [in the 2010 Citizens United decision], it made many Americans feel even more strongly that their small voices do not count. . . . Wrongly held, our knowledge of the power wielded by big money can accelerate our retreat from politics, discouraging us from being the participants that democracy demands and reducing us to mere spectators of a political game being played exclusively by “them.” 

Palmer quotes Bill Moyers: “The antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people.” 

Justice education.

June 14, 2018

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row. The book is now a best seller on a number of lists including the New York Times Book Review and Amazon.  urrent EJI [Equal Justice Initiative] staff member and former client, Anthony Ray Hinton, spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.  His memoir is a powerful and revealing story of hope, love, and justice.

Richard Rohr, Center for Action:

Commitment to Nonviolence

Violence is awful. Violence is ugly. Violence is the saddest of human acts. As [Pope] John Paul stated, “War is a defeat for humanity.” It is so very difficult to lead people into a willing critique of their politics, their country, their allegiances, without some awareness of how violence is so often the handmaid of greed and power. 

When our lives are active and occupied in the name of doing good, there is little space for violence and doing harm.

Community

Community is the most neglected and probably the most difficult ingredient for us to hold to in the U.S. context. And for the most obvious of reasons—we have come to worship at the altar of independence, individualism and autonomy. As much as there is a deep hunger for connection, common purpose, and kindred hearts, there is a merciless, deep-rooted entrenchment in the forces of competition, freedom and self-rule.

As you might guess, when I say community I do not mean the bowling community, or even the church bowling community. Rather, I mean a community that makes very intentional commitments, including those I have mentioned so far: engagement with those of the margins, justice education or formation, simplicity, prayer, and peacemaking.

We must imagine what peace and justice look like on this earth, and we must begin the work of crafting structures, institutions, human realities that are the antithesis to division, hate, greed and scarcity, that anticipate and cultivate justice and goodness and peace.

Restorative justice.

June 12, 2018

The aim of restorative justice is to return the person to a useful position in the community. Thus, there can be healing on both sides. Such justice is a mystery that only makes sense to the soul. It is a direct corollary of our “economy of grace” and yet the term restorative justice only entered our vocabulary in the last few decades. How can we deny that there is an evolution of consciousness?

What humanity really needs is an honest exposure of the truth and accountability for what has happened. Only then can human beings move ahead with dignity. Hurt needs to be spoken and heard. It does not just go away on its own.

As any good therapist will tell you, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. What you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control from within, festering and destroying you and those around you. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus teaches, “If you bring forth that which is within you, it will save you. If you do not bring it forth, it will destroy you”.

Only mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity. Otherwise, we are controlled by the past, individually and corporately. We all need to apologize, and we all need to forgive or this human project will surely self-destruct. Otherwise, history devolves into taking sides, bitterness, holding grudges, and the violence that inevitably follows. As others have said, “Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different past.” Reality is what it is, and such acceptance leads to great freedom, as long as there is also both accountability and healing forgiveness.

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action

Crossroads of identity.

June 11, 2018

As we saw earlier this year, humans need concrete and particular experiences to learn the ways of love. We don’t learn to love through abstract philosophy or theology. That’s why Jesus came to show God in human form, revealing a face we could recognize and relate to. Let’s first call justice giving everything its full due. Thus, it must begin with somehow seeing the divine (ultimate value) in the other. If we really see someone in their fullness, we cannot help but treat them with kindness and compassion.

Even as we know that every human’s being is inherently and equally good, dignified, and worthy of respect, we cannot ignore our very real differences. The problem is that the ego likes to assign lesser and greater value based on differences. Until all people everywhere are treated with dignity and respect, we must continue calling attention to imbalances of privilege and power. Arbitrary, artificial hierarchies and discrimination are based on a variety of differences: for example, gender, sexuality, class, skin color, education, physical or mental ability, attractiveness, accent, language, religion, and so on.

“Intersectionality” is a rather new concept for most of us to help explain how these attributes overlap. You can be privileged in some areas and not in others. A poor white man has more opportunities for advancement than a poor black man. A transgender woman of color has an even higher risk of being assaulted than a white heterosexual woman.  Someone without a disability has an easier time finding a job than an equally qualified candidate who has a disability.   

Pause for a moment and think about the areas in which you benefit, not because of anything you’ve done or deserve but simply because of what body you were born with, what class privilege you enjoy, what country or ethnicity you find yourself in.

In the book Intersectionality in Action, experienced educators recognize that “admitting one’s privilege can be very difficult,” especially for those who consider themselves tolerant and prefer to not use labels, “calling themselves color-blind, for instance.”

When we finally recognize our unearned benefits—at the expense of others—we may feel ashamed and that may lead us to make excuses for ourselves or overly identify with a less privileged aspect of our identity (for example as Jewish or female). Yet as we move beyond these attachments and emotions, “[We] learn that [our] privileges and disadvantages can coexist, intersect, and impact the way [we] move through different environments.” 

We must work to dismantle systems of oppression while at the same time honoring our differences and celebrating our oneness!

Our differences must first be maintained—and then overcome by the power of love. 

Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them.

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action

BIONEERS

•compound racism

•intersectionality

•justice vs status quo

•women’s leadership

‘When the current president rode a wave of white anxiety into the White House in 2016, it was part of a backlash to the Obama presidency, one that revealed an increasingly explicit white nationalism and revived an overtly exclusionary agenda: roll back rights and protections for people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, and gay and transgender people. Then came the backlash to the backlash: a rapidly spreading awakening that all these peoples, movements and struggles are actually connected in one story. Visionary law professor and change-maker Kimberlé Crenshaw shows that it’s only at the crossroads of our many identities that will we will find a story big enough to embrace the diversity and complexity of our globalized 21st century world.’

Leadership.

June 8, 2018

I’m sad to report that in the past few years, ever since uncertainty became our insistent 21st century companion, leadership has taken a great leap backwards to the familiar territory of command and control. Margaret Wheatley 

Center for Action & Contemplation

Richard Rohr

There is no greater training for true leadership than living in the naked now. There, we can set aside our own mental constructs, receive input and ideas from all directions, and lead even more creatively and imaginatively—with the clearer vision of one who lives beyond himself or herself. This is surely why some of Christianity’s great mystics, such as Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), and Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), were also first-rate leaders, motivators of others, and creative reformers of institutions.

Here are some insights into what every good, servant-hearted, nondual leader knows and practices, whether in community, in the workplace, or in the classroom. Creative leaders:

  • are seers of alternatives.
  • move forward by influencing events and inspiring people more than by ordering or demanding.
  • know that every one-sided solution is doomed to failure. It is never a lasting solution but only a postponement of the problem.
  • learn to study, discern, and search together with others for solutions.
  • know that total dilemmas are very few. We create many dilemmas because we are internally stuck, attached, fearful, over-identified with our position, needy of winning the case, or unable to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering.
  • know that wisdom is “the art of the possible.” The key question is no longer “How can I problem solve now and get this off my plate?” It is “How can this situation achieve good for the largest number and for future generations?”
  • continue finding and sharing new data and possibilities until they can work toward consensus from all sides.
  • want to increase both freedom and ownership among the group—not subservience, which will ultimately sabotage the work anyway.
  • emphasize the why of a decision and show how it is consistent with the group’s values.

In short, good leaders must have a certain capacity for thinking beyond polarities and tapping into full, embodied knowing (prayer). They have a tolerance for ambiguity (faith), an ability to hold creative tensions (hope), and an ability to care (love) beyond their own personal advantage.

Jon Meacham/The Soul of America, The battle for Our Better Angels

“The Presidency is not merely an administrative office. That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, who knew much about the possibilities and perils of politics, wrote shortly before her death in 1962, “The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves.

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault,’ not ‘leadership.’ I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion, and conciliation, and education, and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in, or will practice.”

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

A community paradigm.

May 9, 2018

There is simplicity…ease…in kindness, inclusivity, and  compassion. Complexity and chaos are created when we allow ‘other’, dominance, greed, and power.

Grace is born in community, communication, and care.

A new paradigm, therefore, is created locally, which in turn effects the collective.

Not government, or policy, or military.

We, the people, can embrace our own dialogue, and meaning, without outside influences born of profit, and alternative motive.

’It’s not that there are no difference—the world is made of infinite variety—rather it is the seizing of differences, the fearing of differences, that keeps us from feeling grace.

Paradoxically, everything in life touches the same center through its uniqueness, the way no two souls are the same, though every soul breathes the same air.

The mind’s worst diseas: the endless deciding between want and don’t want, the endless war between for and against.’ -Mark Nepo

‘Living in community means living in such a way that others can access me and influence my life and that I can get “out of myself” and serve the lives of others. Community is a world where brotherliness and sisterliness are possible. By community, I don’t mean primarily a special kind of structure, but a network of relationships. On the whole, we live in a society that’s built not on community and cooperation but on individuality, greed, and competition—often resulting in oppressive economic systems, unnecessary suffering, and environmental devastation.

Today we might call powers and principalities our collective cultural moods, mass consciousness, or any institutions considered “too big to fail.” These are our idols. We are mostly oblivious to this because we take all our institutions as normal civilization and absolutely inevitable. It is the “absolutely” that makes us blind and allows us to make passing structures into complete idols. Because we partly profit from these frequently collective evils, it doesn’t look like evil at all—but something good and necessary. For instance, I’ve never once heard a sermon against the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods,” because in our culture that’s the only game in town. It is called capitalism, and we live comfortably because of it. It is only our unwillingness to question such powers and principalities, or in any way limit them (which is worship), which makes them into a false god. “The angels of darkness must always disguise themselves as angles of light.

(see 2 Corinthians 11:(14-15)

The individual is largely helpless and harmless standing against the system of disguise and illusion. Thankfully, we’re seeing many people, religious and secular, from all around the world, coming together to form alternative communities for sharing resources, living simply, and imagining a sustainable and nonviolent future. It is hard to imagine there will be a future without them.’

-Richard Rohr

 

 

Collective consciousness.

May 5, 2018

‘The dynamic relationships in a family, classroom, workplace, or grassroots movement can have an evolutionary effect, creating new ways of thinking and being. Louis Savary and Patricia Berne share how Christopher Bache, a college professor, noticed what he called “collective consciousness” emerge when he gave assignments to small groups of students. Many showed abilities “as team members” that he hadn’t witnessed before in their individual work:

Bache recognized that each of the teams in his classroom had a life of its own . . . [and] enjoyed a kind of “collective consciousness.” They were thinking as one unit and each person seemed to have access to the consciousness of the others. When someone on the team made a good suggestion, everyone on the team seemed to recognize its value, so it became easy to implement with minimal discussion, without people taking sides, pro and con. 

Savary and Berne turn to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to explain how this happens:

Teilhard’s insight [that union differentiates] revealed that each student team had become a true unity, or “union.” It had also become a new being. . . . The team as a unit was more complex than any of the individuals in the team, and their shared consciousness was richer . . . than any of the team members.

Furthermore, that new being (the Third Self, or the team, itself) allowed each member to find a fuller identity and capacity within that team. Each student was, in Teilhard’s words, “differentiating” himself [or herself]. . . . In order to contribute to the success of the team, each member was challenged by that team spirit to manifest latent abilities in themselves. . . 

Love is the most powerful force or energy in the universe. That power is multiplied in relationships. Love’s potency is released most powerfully among people who have formed a relationship (a union). People who truly unite for a purpose beyond themselves become “differentiated” as they unite and work together in a shared consciousness to achieve their larger purpose.

In a true relationship, no one’s individuality is lost. It is increased. That is the beauty of Connections.
These unions that enjoy a collective consciousness become the launching pads for the next stage of evolution, as we learn consciously how to create them and use them. [2]

I see groups working creatively on many fronts, often outside church and political structures, with a growing capacity for what many call “intersectionality” (recognizing the interconnectedness of race, gender, and class). One wonderful example is the new Poor People’s Campaign led by Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis, and joined by people across the United States. They’re continuing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work to dismantle racism, poverty, and war. (Learn more about the Poor People’s Campaign and how you can join below today’s meditation.) Next week we’ll explore more of the generativity and healing that can happen within such community.’

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplations

~

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Fifty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., people around the country are taking up his mantle, challenging systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation. We are compelled to stand with those on the margins. Rev. Dr. William Barber, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, and organizations across the United States are mobilizing thousands to mass non-violent civil disobedience from May 13-June 21 at state capitals and in Washington, D.C.
Learn more and sign the pledge at The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival poorpeoplescampaign.org

“We hold the mystery of transformation…’

April 13, 2018

Richard Rohr, American Franciscan friar and author

”Being on the edge of the inside…”

“Your body is not an isolated, separate entity. We are our truest selves only in community—with our ancestors (carrying their stories and DNA), our natural environment, and our neighbors. We hold the mystery of transformation…”

Today Barbara Holmes continues reflecting on the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM) and their evolving, embodied way of fighting for justice:

As the millennials will tell you, “This is not your grandmother’s Civil Rights Movement (CRM).

”They are right. Although both the CRM and BLMM seek the betterment of life for black people and their communities and both resist oppression with contemplative practices and activism, they use different strategies and leadership models and seek different goals. . . .

The BLMM is a decentralized network of local organizations. . . . Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the BLMM, says, “We are not leaderless, we are leader-full.” [1] . . . It is difficult to infiltrate, undermine, or disrupt an organic movement that draws its power from regenerating communal cells. . . .

During the CRM, the blindness of dominant culture to the plight of the African American community meant that the message had to be delivered by one voice in language that white Americans could understand and support. Lives were at stake, and [Martin Luther] King’s biblical and patriotic references combined with his soaring oratory ignited the nation and inspired the movement.

Now, fifty plus years after the CRM, another approach is needed, and the BLMM like the LGBTQIA justice movements are updating the art of contemplative confrontation and noncompliance with the status quo . . . oppression and violence against black bodies. Today, the most respectable image that young protesters can offer is their authenticity, resolute voices, and pride in community and culture. . . . The BLMM uses disruption for transformation rather than the predictable politeness and political compromises that were part of the ordinary negotiations of social activists. . . .
They block traffic and refuse to allow “business as usual.” The response is not riot or violence, it is the twenty-first-century version of the sit-in. CRM activists got parade permits and stayed along the side of the road so as not to interfere with traffic. BLM activists “shut it down” with song, putting their bodies on the line. . . .

BLM activists are not singing “we shall overcome,” they are not saying “I am yet holding on” or “making a way out of no way” like the church mothers and fathers of old. They are saying “we ain’t gonna stop ‘til our people are free” and “I can’t breathe,” as they shut down malls and highways to stop the killing of young black men and women. [Far too often, by the very officers who are supposed to “protect and serve,” I might add.]

#

‘…the ‘whole-making spirit.’

March 17, 2018

☆The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars. —Joanna Macy

☆Our inner spiritual world cannot be activated without experience of the outer world of wonder for the mind, beauty for the imagination, and intimacy for the emotions. —Thomas Berry

Viriditas

Richard Rohr:

Long ago, St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), named a Doctor of the Church in 2012, communicated creation spirituality through music, art, poetry, medicine, gardening, and reflections on nature. She wrote in her famous book, Scivias:
You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you. 

This is key to understanding Hildegard and is very similar to Teresa of Ávila’s understanding of the soul. Without using the word, Hildegard recognized that the human person is a microcosm with a natural affinity for or resonance with its macrocosm, which many call God. Our little world reflects the big world. The key word here is resonance. Contemplative prayer allows your mind to resonate with what is visible and right in front of you. Contemplation erases the separateness between the seer and the seen.

Hildegard often used the word viriditas, the greening of things from within, similar to what we now call photosynthesis. She recognized a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She also saw an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are; become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or what Carl Jung called the “whole-making spirit.”
Hildegard is a wonderful example of someone who lives safely inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. Hildegard said, “O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” [2] It is truly a Trinitarian universe, with all things whirling toward one another: from orbits, to gravity, to ecosystems, to sexuality.

Indeed, for Hildegard nature was a mirror for the soul and for God. This mirroring changes how we see and experience reality. Later, Bonaventure (1217-1274) wrote: “In the soul’s journey to God we must present to ourselves the whole material world as the first mirror through which we may pass over to the Supreme. “ The Dominican Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) said the same: “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.” [5]

Nature is not a mere scenic backdrop so humans can take over the stage. Creation is in fact a full participant in human transformation, since the outer world is absolutely needed to mirror the true inner world. There are not just two sacraments, or even seven; the whole world is a sacrament.

[Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, ed. Maurice O’Connell Walshe, rev. Bernard McGinn (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009), 275.]

When we look down on the Earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also at the same time, looks extremely fragile.—Ron Garan, NASA Astronaut

I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life. —Deuteronomy 30:19

‘Lovingly poured out.’

December 11, 2017

In sum, we are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God in the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world. But this turns out to be a kenotic, a sacrificial love. —Sallie McFague [1]

‘A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. She gives most who gives with joy.’

-Mother Teresa

“The key to kenosis is knowing that your life is not about you. Everything—each breath, heartbeat, morsel of food, seeming success—is gift. We are entirely dependent upon God’s loving us into being, and keeping us in being, interdependent with all other beings. Your life does not really belong to you, as countercultural and difficult as that is to understand in our individualistic, competitive, consumer culture. As the Trinity reveals, life and love are poured into us that we may pour into others.”

-Richard Rohr

 

Sallie McFague, Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (Fortress Press: 2013), 9, 22.

Richard Rohr.

December 4, 2017

[The] perennial philosophy . . . is the gold within the sectarian dross of every great religion. —Alan Watts [1]

The “perennial philosophy” or “perennial tradition” is a term that has come in and out of popularity in Western and religious history, but has never been dismissed by the Catholic Church. In many ways, it was actually affirmed at the Second Vatican Council in their forward-looking documents on ecumenism (Unitas Redintegratio) and non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate). The Church, like the perennial tradition, recognizes that there are some constant themes, truths, and recurrences in all of the world religions.

In Nostra Aetate, for example, the Council Fathers begin by saying that “All peoples comprise a single community and have a single origin [created by one and the same Creator God]. . . . And one also is their final goal: God. . . . The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions.” [2] The document goes on to praise Native religions, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam as “reflecting a ray of that truth which enlightens all people.” [3] This must have taken great courage and brilliance to write this in 1965 when very few people thought that way.

For as long as there have been humans on Earth, it seems we have struggled with the problem of unity and diversity. The dualistic mind, which most of us were taught to emphasize, is incapable of creating unity. It “smartly” divides reality into binaries. It cannot help but choose sides. Can you think of an era, nation, religion, or culture in which the majority has not opposed otherness? When there was no obvious “other” around (for example, sinners, Jews, or Muslims), Christianity divided itself into warring groups calling each other heretics. Yet underneath the very real differences between religions and peoples lies a unifying foundation. I see that unifying foundation as the continual bubbling up of certain constants in all of the world religions, or if you will, the perennial tradition.

Just what is this perennial tradition? I like British philosopher Aldous Huxley’s (1894-1963) description as the combination of a spiritual metaphysics, a recurring psychology of the human person, and an ethic or morality that flows from these two:

  1. A metaphysic which recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds;
  2. A psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality;
  3. An ethic that places man’s [sic] final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being.

[This] is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions. [4]

You might not agree with every word of Huxley’s definition or even fully understand it, but it is hard to deny that he is pointing toward truth. In fact, it sounds very similar to the first questions and answers in the old Baltimore Catholic Catechism that I studied in the 1950s.

White Privilege

November 17, 2017

BuzzFeed: ‘One-third of black men will go to prison at least once in their lifetime.

The Invisible Character of White Privilege

11.17.17

by Richard Rohr

If we are going to talk about God as me, we must also talk about God as theetoo!  For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment just because of the color of our skin. This “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true?

Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us.

Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The white man’s easy advancement was too often at the cost of others not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.

I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees, and frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid! Recognition was slow in coming. I am not only white, but I am male, overeducated, clergy (from cleros, “the separated ones”), a Catholic celibate, mostly healthy, and part of the American empire.

Power never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there (what exactly is it that is up there?), we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity” (revolutionary ideals that endure as mottos for France and Haiti).

To repeat, if God operates as me, God operates as thee too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.

Richard Rohr, an American Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He is a known inspirational speaker and a author.

The Center for Action and Contemplation began as a dream of Fr. Richard Rohr’s in 1986 during his first year in Albuquerque. By October of 1987, the first edition of Radical Grace was published. The name was chosen because it expressed the paradoxical nature of the Center’s purpose: standing in a middle place, at the center of the cross, where opposites are held together. [wikipedia]

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