Category Archives: Richard Rhor

Beyond Gender

English: the first of the Epistles to the Colo...

Julian of Norwich sometimes refers to God as Father and sometimes refers to Jesus as Mother. Gender means almost nothing to her because she is beyond that. There’s something deeper than gender. As alluring and as important as gender is, as it is our metaphor held in our body, it is not our ontological identity. It is not our foundational, essential truth. Your gender is not the True Self. It’s part of the False Self. That’s what Jesus is referring to when he says, “…in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25). But because gender is so deep in our early conditioning, in many of our lives we cling to it until the very end.

Male and female are most different at their most immature levels and most alike at their most mature levels. When you have matured to the point where you are beyond the dualisms that our dualistic minds have imposed on reality, then you know you are children of the resurrection. You are children of light and there is no male or female, as both Paul and the Gospel of Thomas say. People who already begin to experience such unity in this world will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward lesbian, gay, and transgendered people, because they know that the True Self, who we objectively are in God, is prior and superior to any issues of gender, culture, or sexuality. Gender is important, but it is still an “accidental” part of the human person and not its substance.

The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world. Here “there is no distinction…between male and female” (Galatians 3:28). Mature Christian spirituality leads us toward such universals and essentials. Yet people invariably divide and argue about nonessentials!

Gratefully, Christ “holds all things in unity…the fullness is found in him, and all things are reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and on earth” (Colossians 1:17, 19-20)—including everything sexual that seems to always be unwhole or split in halves (sectare=to cut or divide).

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Practicing the Ripening

I share this article from The Center for Contemplation and Action.

A ripening mind and heart might simply be described as a capacity for non-dual consciousness and contemplation. Many might just call it growth in compassion, but surely no growth in compassion is likely unless one learns how to forgive as a very way of life, and to let go of almost everything as we first imagined it had to

English: Blackberries in a range of ripeness, ...

be. This is possible as we grow in the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian notion of faith, where not-knowing (the apophatic way) must be carefully paired with knowing (the kataphatic way). The Judeo-Christian tradition balances our so-called knowing with trust, patience, allowing, waiting, humility, love, and forgiveness, which is very nearly the entire message and surely the core message necessary for any possibility of actual ripening. Otherwise, we all close down, and history freezes up with all of its hurts, memories, and resentments intact. A non-dual way of knowing in the moment gives us a life process and not simply momentary dualistic answers, which always grow old because they are never totally true.

My guidance is a simple reminder and recall to what we will be forced to learn by necessity and under pressure anyway—the open-ended way of allowing and the deep meaning that some of us call faith. To live in trustful faith is to ripen, it is almost that simple. Let’s start practicing now, early in our life, so we do not have to take a crash course in our final years, weeks, days, and minutes of our lives. The best ripening happens over time, lots of time.

—-Richard Rhor

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Floating in Love

If we are to speak of a spirituality of ripening, we need to recognize that it is always (and I do mean always) characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them! I cannot imagine any other way of coming to broad horizons except through many trials, unsolvable paradoxes, and errors in trying to resolve them.

Without such a gradually-renewed mind and heart, we almost certainly will end with a whimper, not just our own but also the whimpering of those disappointed souls gathered around our sick bed or gravestone. Too many lives have indeed been lives of “quiet desperation” and God must surely rush to console and comfort all humans before, during, and after their passing. Many put off enlightenment as long as they can, and some, it seems, until the last five minutes of life! Perhaps some never do reach enlightenment, which is why most religions have some metaphor similar to “hell.”

Maybe this whole phenomenon of late stage growth is what Catholics actually mean by purgatory. Without such after-death hope, I would go crazy with sadness at all the lives which appear to end so unripened. The All-Merciful One is surely free to show mercy even after we die. Why would God be all-loving before death but not after death? Isn’t it the same God? I’ve not seen anyone die perfectly “whole.” We are all saved by mercy, “wound round and round,” as Merton said. Some do appear to float into pure love in their very final days among us. Heaven is an endless continuum of growth and realization

by Richard Rhor

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A Bright Sadness

There is a gravitas in the second half of life, but it is now held up by a much deeper lightness, or “okayness.” Our mature years are characterized by a kind of bright sadness and a sober happiness, if that makes any sense. There is still darkness in the second half of life—in fact maybe even more. But there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety. It is what John of the Cross called “luminous darkness,” and it explains the simultaneous coexistence of deep suffering and intense joy that we see in the saints, which is almost impossible for most of us to imagine.

Life is much more spacious now, the boundaries of the container having been enlarged by the constant addition of new experiences and relationships. You are like an expandable suitcase, and you became so almost without your noticing. Now you are just here, and here holds more than enough. Such “hereness,” however, has its own heft, authority, and influence.

One’s growing sense of infinity and spaciousness is no longer found just “out there” but most especially “in here.” The inner and the outer have become one. You can trust your inner experience now, because even God has allowed it, used it, received it, and refined it. As St. Augustine dramatically put it in his Confessions:

You were within, but I was without. You were with me, but I was not with you. So you called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed, and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped.

— Richard Rhor

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Goodness or Resentment

English: Richard Rohr at a conference in Pragu...

 Richard Rohr at a conference in Prague 

People who are already good, tend to be good and forgiving to me. People who are already resentful or negative, tend to be that way with me too. Why do I bother to take either the credit or the blame? It is mostly about them! Yet it still has much to teach me too.

Richard Rohr

This thought has two messages. First,understand that not all  the bad things that come your way are your doing. Second, are you good or resentful?

Lord God our greatest rewards come when we make life more fulfilling for others. May you give us the wisdom to spend this day as “other centered” people. Center us in your circle. Forgive when we vie for the chief seats and make our ways a blessing to all we meet. Amen

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The Eternal Now


I share with you some words of Richard Rhor taken from “Living the Eternal Now.” I hope they speak to you.

Jesus’ primary metaphors for the Eternal Now are “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven.” He is trying to tell you that there is a place where you can live connected to the Real and to the Eternal. That place is simply the here and now, which always feels like nothing, like nowhere (now-here), but is where everything always happens! So be sure to be here—and not somewhere else!

The reason we can trust the Now so much is because of the incarnation and because of the divine Indwelling. The Word has become flesh, God has entered into the human, God is here and everywhere!

John Duns Scotus, one of the great Franciscan teachers, said that God did not create genus and species; God only created what Scotus called “thisness,” in Latin “haecceity.” He said that until you can experience each thing in its specific “thisness,” you will not easily experience the joy and freedom of divine presence. In other words, I can’t be present to all women in general. I’ve got to be present to this woman, right here, right now, in her specificity and particularity, and maybe even her eccentricity. Might that be what love means?

In that way, the here and now has the power to become the gateway and the breakthrough point to the universal. The concrete, the specific, the physical, the here and now—when you can be present to it in all of its ordinariness—becomes the gateway to the Eternal. I call this the very foundational Christian principle of Incarnation. It is the great and unique insight that we offer to all world religions, yet we ourselves have often not celebrated this immense breakthrough.

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Non-Dual Consciousness

Non-dual or contemplative consciousness is not the same as being churchy or reflective or introverted. Unfortunately this is the way the word is often used even by people who should know better. Contemplation is a panoramic, receptive awareness whereby you take in all that the situation, the moment, the event offers without eliminating anything. That does not come naturally. You have to work at it and develop practices whereby you recognize your compulsive and repetitive patterns.

It seems we are addicted to our need to make distinctions and judgments, which we actually call “thinking”! Most of us think we are our thinking, yet almost all thinking is compulsive and habitual. And educated people are just as bad as the uneducated, sometimes even worse.

That is why all forms of meditation and contemplation are teaching you a way of quieting the dualistic “thinking” mind. After a while you see that this kind of thinking is not going to get you very far, simply because reality is not all about you and your preferences! And frankly, the universe is not all about any one of us, but only all of us together and with God.

Non-dual consciousness is about receiving and being present to the moment and to the now exactly as it is, without judgment, without analysis, without critique, without your ego deciding whether you like it or whether you don’t like it. It is a much more holistic knowing, where your mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment just as it is. You are not dividing the field of the moment (and eliminating anything that threatens your ego), but holding it all together.

The non-dual, contemplative mind is a whole new mind! With it, you can stand back and simply observe the self and the event from the standpoint of the “stable witness,” or what Christians would call the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). Now you can laugh or weep over your little dramas and dances, without being attached to them or hating them. You can look at yourself and others calmly and compassionately because you are able to see things as they are in themselves and not from the viewpoint of how they affect you.

Adapted from Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening by Richard Rhor

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The Great Turning

Contemplation is no fantasy, make-believe, or daydream, but the flowering of patience and steady perseverance. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of true prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness. Our hope lies in the fact that meditation is going to change the society that we live in, just as it has changed us. It is that kind of long-term thinking that God seems to be involved in and kindly invites us into the same patient process.

I know the situation in the world can seem quite dark today. The negative forces are very strong, and the progressive development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But the Great Turning is indeed happening, as people like Joanna Macy, David Korten, Byron Katie, and Thomas Berry believe and describe.

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul has a marvelous line: “Where sin increases, grace abounds all the more” (5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society, almost in tandem with the emergence of unbelievable violence, fear, and hatred all over the world.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung from Getty Images

It seems to me that true progress, or the hope that we have, is not naively optimistic, a straight line, or without regression. Spiritual progress, ironically, develops through tragedy and through falling. As C. G. Jung said, “Where we stumble and fall is where we find pure gold,” the gold of the Gospels, the hidden gold of our own souls, and then the beautiful soul of the whole creation.

——Richard Rhor

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Paradox

All that is hidden and all that is plain I have come to know through Wisdom. Within her is a spirit that is intelligent, unique, manifold, subtle, active, incisive, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, dependable, unperturbed, all seeing…. She pervades and permeates all things, she is the untarnished mirror of God’s active power. She is one, and makes all things new, and in each generation passes into holy souls. — Wisdom 7:21-27

The history of spirituality tells us that we must learn to accept paradoxes, or we will never truly love anything, or see it correctly. (Normal thought would say you are either human or divine, but you can’t imagine being both until you meet Jesus!) Seeming contradictions are not impediments to the spiritual life, they are an integral part of it. They don’t encourage you to abandon your critical faculties, but to sharpen them. Please trust me on that.

Ikona_SofiyaPremBozhiyaGRMThe above passage personifying Wisdom (Sophia), is an insightful description of how one sees things paradoxically and contemplatively. Interestingly enough, Scripture calls this subtle seeing “she,” which in a patriarchal culture is a way of saying “alternative.” Alan Watts says that the loss of paradoxical thinking is the great blindness of our civilization, which is what many of us believe happened when we repressed the feminine side of our lives as the inferior side. It was a loss of subtlety, discrimination, and capacity for complementarity.

Each of us must learn to live with paradox, or we cannot live peacefully or happily even a single day of our lives. In fact, we must even learn to love paradox, or we will never be wise, forgiving, or possess the patience of good relationships. “Untarnished mirrors,” as Wisdom says, receive the whole picture, which is always the darkness, the light, and the subtle shadings of light that make shape, form, color, and texture beautiful. You cannot see in total light or total darkness. You must have variances of light to see.

Richard Rhor
Adapted from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

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Necessary Humiliations

I share this piece from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

By Richard Rhor

Your Loyal Soldier tells you to be socially vigilant: How am I coming across? Will people like me? Will this be acceptable? Will this help me succeed? Your Loyal Soldier can serve you well by giving you some social niceties and protection. But after you’ve lived out of these niceties for years, they become your idealized self, your persona, your chosen public image, your False Self. To protect this image, all the contrary and negative aspects of yourself have to go underground, hidden from others and even from your own awareness. These forgotten and denied qualities make up what many call the “shadow” self.

Frankly, much of the movement from the first half of life to the second half of life is shadowboxing. Shadow work involves facing the negative part of yourself that you’re not proud of, like those hateful thoughts that you have once in a while that you hope nobody knows about. Or recognizing the log in your own eye when you’re confronted with the speck in someone else’s eye. This is humiliating, necessary work in every human life.

When you get your False Self (and the Loyal Soldier who is protecting this self) out of the way, the soul stands revealed. The soul, or True Self, cannot be created or worked for. It is, and it is already. The soul is God’s “I AM” continued in you, the part of you that already knows, desires, and truly seeks God. Ironically, the Loyal Soldier that you mistook for God actually defends you from God! I suspect this is exactly what the Dominican Meister Eckhart (c. 1260–c. 1327) meant when he said, “I pray God to rid me of ‘God’

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