Trusting Our Inner Experience

Father Richard Rohr elaborates on Carl Jung’s teaching on the importance of inner experience as the only pathway to transformation.

Carl Jung wanted to bring externalized religion back to its internal foundations. He saw how religion kept emphasizing the unbridgeable distance between the Creator and creation, God and humanity, inner and outer, the one and the many. In spite of creation’s ecological unity (Genesis 1:9–31), Christianity too often began by emphasizing the problem of separation (“original sin”) instead of beginning with the wonderful unity between creation and Creator.

Except for the experience of many saints and mystics, religion has greatly underemphasized any internal, natural resonance between humans and God. This gives us clergy an almost impossible job! First, we must remind everyone that they are “intrinsically disordered” or sinful—which then allows us to just happen to have the perfect solution. It is like a vacuum cleaner seller first pouring dirt on the floor to show how well this model works. As if the meaning of this beautiful universe could start with a foundational problem!

Christianity rarely emphasized the plausibility or power of inner spiritual experience. Catholics were told to believe the pope, the bishops, and the priests. Protestants were told to believe the Bible. The Catholic version has fallen apart with the pedophilia crisis worldwide; Protestantism’s total reliance on preaching the Bible has been undone by postmodern worldviews. But both Catholics and Protestants made the same initial mistake, I’m sorry to say. It’s all about trusting something outside of ourselves. We gave people answers that were extrinsic to the soul and dismissed anything known from the inside out. “Holiness” largely became a matter of intellect and will, instead of a deep inner trust with an inner dialogue of Love. It made us think that the one with the most willpower wins, and the one who understands things the best is the beloved of God—the opposite of most biblical heroes. We’ve been gazing at our own “performance” instead of searching for the Divine in us and in all things. 

We must begin with a foundational “yes” to who we are and to what is (Reality). This is mature religion’s primary function. It creates the bedrock foundation for all effective faith. If we begin with a problem, the whole journey remains largely a negative problem-solving exercise that never ends. We’re left with inherently argumentative and competitive Christianity.

If we begin with the positive, and get the issue of core identity absolutely clear, the rest of the journey—even though it isn’t always easy—is by far more natural, more beautiful, more joyful and all-inclusive. What else should the spiritual journey be? When we start in the basement, most people never believe they can even get to the first floor, and they just opt out. Isn’t this obvious at this point in Christian history? Sadly, we clergy became angry guards instead of joyful guides, policing dogma instead of proclaiming the Great Gift which is perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed at the heart of all creation from the very beginning.

Only Love Can Handle the Truth – Richard Rohr


The contemplative mind does not need to prove anything or disprove anything. It’s what the Benedictines called a Lectio Divina, a reading of the Scripture that looks for wisdom instead of quick answers. It first says, “What does this text ask of me? How can I change because of this story?” rather than “How can I use this to prove that I am right and others are wrong or sinful?”


The contemplative mind is willing to hear from a beginner’s mind, yet also learn from Scripture, Tradition-and others. It has the humility to move toward Yes/And thinking and not all-or-nothing thinking. It leads to a third way, which is neither fight nor flight, but standing in between where we can hold what we do know together with what we don’t know. Holding such a creative tension with humility and patience leads us to wis dom instead of easy answers, which largely create opinionated and smug people instead of wise people. We surely need wise people now, who hold their truth humbly and patiently.


+Adapted from What is the Emerging Church? (Recording)

Incarnation – Celebrating an Eternal Advent – by Richard Rohr

In the first 1200 years of Christianity, the greatest feast was Easter with the high holy days of Holy Week leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But in the 13th century, a new person entered the scene: Francis of Assisi felt we didn’t need to wait for God to love us through the cross and resurrection. Francis intuited that the whole thing started with incarnate love, and he popularized what we now take for granted as Christmas, which for many became the greater Christian feast. The Franciscans popularized Christmas. Maybe their intuition was correct.

Francis realized that if God had become flesh—taken on materiality, physicality, humanity—then we didn’t have to wait for Good Friday and Easter to “solve the problem” of human sin; the problem was solved from the beginning. It makes sense that Christmas became the great celebratory feast of Christians because it basically says that it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to be flesh, it’s good to have emotions. We don’t need to be ashamed of any of this. God loves matter and physicality.

With that insight, it’s no wonder Francis went wild over Christmas! (I do, too: my little house is filled with candles at Christmastime.) Francis believed that every tree should be decorated with lights to show their true status as God’s creations! And that’s exactly what we still do 800 years later.

Remember, when we speak of Advent or preparing for Christmas, we’re not just talking about waiting for the little baby Jesus to be born. That already happened 2,000 years ago. In fact, we’re welcoming the Universal Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is forever being born in the human soul and into history.

And believe me, we do have to make room, because right now there is no room in the inn for such a mystery. We see things pretty much in their materiality, but we don’t see the light shining through. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material.

The early Eastern Church, which too few people in the United States and Western Europe are familiar with, made it very clear that the incarnation was a universal principle. Incarnation meant not just that God became Jesus; God said yes to the material universe. God said yes to physicality. Eastern Christianity understands the mystery of incarnation in the universal sense. So it is always Advent. God is forever coming into the world (see John 1:9).

We’re always waiting to see spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new form in which spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens, we’re celebrating Christmas. The gifts of incarnation just keep coming. Perhaps this is enlightenment.

Parachurch As a New Kind of Reformation – Fr. Richard Rohr – Daily Meditations – 44 of 52

What some call “Emerging Christianity” has four common elements, in my opinion, even if they might be described in different ways:

  • There is a new honest, broad, and ecumenical Jesus scholarship. We are reading what theologians of all denominations are saying. And the amazing thing is that, at this level of scholarship at least, there is a strong consensus emerging about what Jesus really taught and emphasized.
     
  • There is a reemergence of a contemplative mind in all of the churches. It’s not content with the dualistic mind which has dominated for the last five hundred years. Contemplation receives the whole field of the moment and lets such an open lens teach us—both what we understand along with what we don’t understand. Finally there is room for mystery and the acceptance of even being wrong or just partially right.
     
  • This consensus (both at the scholarly and experiential levels) is revealing that Jesus tended to emphasize very different things than present organized Christianity tends to emphasize. Present organized Christianity (in all denominations) tends to be preoccupied with things that Jesus never talked about ever, and sometimes even disagreed with. 
     
  • New community structures and new parallel church organizations are often emerging and flourishing to make this possible. (The CAC would be an example of such a “parachurch” group, as well as Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, various social service ministries, contemplative prayer groups, and volunteer and mission work, etc.) None of these are in competition with Sunday religion, but they give us ways to actually do what we are told to do on Sunday. The emphasis is often orthopraxy (practice) instead of just repeating the orthodox creeds every Sunday.

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More about Richard Rohr – https://cac.org/richard-rohr/

When in the soul of the serene disciple – Thomas Merton

When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone:
He has not even a house.
 
Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.
 
Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment.
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.
 
Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction.
 
What choice remains?
Well, to be ordinary is not a choice:
It is the usual freedom
Of men without visions.