Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Author at Center for Action and Contemplation
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Images of God: Weekly Summary

Images of God

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Week Forty-Eight Summary and Practice

Sunday, November 28—Friday, December 3, 2021

Sunday
There is an absolute connection between how we see God and how we see ourselves and the universe. —Richard Rohr

Monday
Our DNA is divine, and the divine indwelling is never earned by any behavior or any ritual, but only recognized and realized (see Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8–10) and fallen in love with. —Richard Rohr

Tuesday
I have allowed God to be mediated to me through images of God foreign to the very idea of God: God the puppeteer, God the potentate, God the persecutor make a mockery of the very definition of God. —Joan Chittister

Wednesday
Although Jesus was clearly of the masculine gender, the Universal Christ is beyond gender, and so it should be expected that the Big Tradition would have found feminine ways, consciously or unconsciously, to symbolize the full Divine Incarnation and to give God a more feminine character—as the Bible itself often does. —Richard Rohr

Thursday
In its truest sense, religion should reconnect human beings—bind them again—to the creation, to one another, to the Divine, to Love. —Jacqui Lewis

Friday
Either we see the divine image in all created things, or we end up not seeing it very well at all. —Richard Rohr

 

God the Nourisher

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love. —Meister Eckhart, Sermon on Sirach 24:30 [1]

At the seventh and final CONSPIRE conference that took place in September of this year, Father Richard led the gathered online community in contemplative prayer using this maternal image of God.

Without exaggerating I think we can say that all of us live in the mirror of others’ eyes. We’re told that the first time a child can focus their eyes it’s almost exactly the number of inches between the mother’s breast and the child’s eyes, and that’s why the child becomes fixated on the mother. In fact, they become fixated on one another. Science tells us that what’s happening on the neural level is that there’s a huge release of oxytocin, the big joy hormone. It’s like “Wow, this is good!” Neither of them wants to leave. [2] This is apparently the creation of “mirror neurons” in both mother and child, which makes them capable of attachment, intimacy, and basic relationship.

When we’re sitting in prayer, we’re waiting for a gaze like that—one we can trust will not change, a gaze that is utterly reliable. We’re waiting for a gaze that will fixate on us, tell us that we’re good, we’re special, we’re enough, we’re beloved. Choose your good word because it’s always a good word! I’d go so far as to say this is the beginning of the inner journey of transformation. We spend the rest of our lives, through friends and partners and even our own children, searching for a repeat of that gaze that matters.

This gaze is our entrance into the trinitarian flow and once we’re there, we’re there. Now we have to keep re-choosing it, being reminded of it, allowing it. That’s what we’re doing when we sit in contemplative prayer. Just sitting, allowing the gaze, choosing the gaze, enjoying the divine gaze. Eventually we do have to come out of the eternal gaze as our prayer sit ends, but not really. Stay in the trinitarian flow, which isn’t mere theology, but the very shape of the universe.

In Christian metaphysics we gave each entity of the Trinity a placeholder name, but I want to offer some new names so that we can really hang on to the feeling of it. The Mother is ironically the one we call “Father.” She’s inaugurating the gaze toward the child, whom we call the “Son” (“Daughter” would work just as well, except that Jesus was male). The Child then returns the gaze that was given and received. It’s a bounce back of identity, and thus we have this eternal delighting, loving, admiring, allowing between two—God and Creation.

What then is the third element which keeps the dynamic moving? It is rather perfectly symbolized by the “Divine breast” that feeds and nurtures the Child and is thus being handed over to feed and nurture everything else. It’s not risky theology at all. In fact, it’s almost too perfect, and I hope it helps us to stay in that loving gaze and flow all day long, even as we change places. Are we the giver, the receiver, the enjoyer, the feeder, the nurturer, the source? It doesn’t matter which role we’re momentarily in. Just stay in for the ride! Sometimes you are Lover, sometimes you are Beloved, and sometimes you are the “act” of Loving itself.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

References:
[1] This apocryphal book is included in Catholic but not Protestant Bibles. Also, Eckhart used the Latin Vulgate; today, his selected verse would be identified as Sirach 24:22.

[2] It’s well-demonstrated that bottle-fed babies and their mothers and caregivers also share these intimate gazing experiences and the benefits of this close and nurturing contact.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, CONSPIRE 2021 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2021).

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

God Is Present in All

Images of God

God Is Present in All
Friday, December 3, 2021

In keeping with his Franciscan tradition, Father Richard teaches that we can find God’s freely given image in all of creation, beginning with ourselves!

The purpose of prayer and religious seeking is to see the truth about Reality, to see what is. And at the bottom of what is is always goodness. The foundation is always love. Here is a mantra that we might repeat throughout our day: “God’s life is living itself in me. I am aware of life living itself in me.”

We cannot not live in the presence of God. We are totally surrounded by God, even as we read these words. This not some New Age idea; recall St. Patrick’s (c. 373–c. 463) blessing, “God beneath you, God in front of you, God behind you, God above you, God within you.”

Once I can see the Mystery here, and trust the Mystery even in this piece of clay that I am, then I can also see it in you. We are eventually able to see the divine image within ourselves, in each other, and in all things. Finally, the seeing is one. How we see anything is how we will see everything.

Jesus pushes this seeing to the social edge. Can we recognize the image of Christ in the least of our fellow human beings? That is his only description of the final judgment (see Matthew 25). Nothing about ten commandments, nothing about church attendance—simply a matter of our ability to see. Can we meet Christ in the “nobodies” who can’t play our game of success? In those who cannot reward us in return? When we see the image of God where we are not accustomed to seeing the image of God, then we see with the infinitely tender eyes of God.

Finally, Jesus says we have to love and recognize the divine image even in our enemies (see Matthew 5:44). He teaches what many leaders, spiritual and otherwise, could never demand of their followers: love of the enemy. Logically that makes no sense. Yet soulfully it makes absolute sense, because in terms of the soul, it really is all or nothing. Either we see the divine image in all created things, or we end up not seeing it very well at all. There is a first epiphany, and gradually the circle keeps moving outward, widening its embrace. It is almost the core meaning of a whole and holy life!

The Christian vision is that the whole world is a sacred temple. If that is true, then our enemies are sacred, too. Who else created them but God? The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing. And it doesn’t stop with human beings and enemies and the “least of these.” It moves to frogs and water and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting once we have full sight. One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love (see Ephesians 4:4–6). All we can do is participate and enjoy. I love to ask Christians—why would anyone be afraid of that?

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (Crossroad Publishing: 2003), 55, 57–59.

Story from Our Community:
I struggle with questions, am hesitant about reality, and lack confidence in my future; but God’s eternal promise gives me hope. My soul rests with God, so I am in comfort. The power in my life belongs to God and therefore I can love all of his creation. I believe in this promise, so I share my heart with all. —Russell C.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

God as Fierce Love

Images of God

God as Fierce Love
Thursday, December 2, 2021

Like many of us, CAC friend Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis has struggled with both the possibility and the pain-points of religion. Healthy religion unites but toxic religion uses God to create more separation and hurt in the world:

Before I made my living talking about God, thinking about God, writing about God, I was a person struggling to have a relationship with God. I had been given a god to believe in, some mixture of what my parents believed, what my preachers taught over the years, and what my imagination made of the parts of the Bible I read. In my early twenties, I often had more doubt than faith—doubt in what I’d learned, doubt in what those teachings implied for my life and for the world. I was frustrated; how is a God whose name is Love appropriated to justify violence, hatred, and enmity around the world? Over and over again, I was struck by how religion—which means to bind together—gave humankind license to hurt others, to put people out, to leave people behind. . . .

In its truest sense, religion should reconnect human beings—bind them again—to the creation, to one another, to the Divine, to Love. Rituals, song, prayer, preaching, reflection, dancing, meditation—all of these religious practices are intended to bind us together in love and restrain us from harming one another. Religion should reconnect us to the ground of our being, to the source of our existence. . . . Religion should help us see how our biases about color, gender, sexuality, and class cause deep hurt to both body and soul.

Jacqui suggests there are harmful images and beliefs about God that need to be let go of before we are able to embrace God as Love:

Unfortunately, religion is too often weaponized. Wars are waged in the name of religion. People are enslaved and terrorized in the name of religion. Wealth has been amassed on the backs of the poor in the name of religion. I’m a Christian pastor, and these are things my tribe has done, all in the name of Jesus. Jews were exterminated, in the name of a poor, brown, Jewish baby who was at one time homeless and at another a refugee.

If humankind is to thrive, we need to let go of any religion that wounds and kills. Some of what we believe about God is actually about us; at times we create God in our own image. In other words, some of us imagine God as punitive, angry, and vengeful because these are aspects of ourselves that make us feel powerful and protected, rather than vulnerable. But we need to exercise a spiritual imagination free of fear and shed the constraints of unhealthy religion. Hate-filled religion needs an exorcism!

In the interest of exorcising hate, I find myself preaching and teaching folks to see through the eyes of Love, to believe with all their heart in Love. I invite them to worship Love, to pray to Love, to be part of Love.

Reference:
Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness that Can Heal the World (Harmony: 2021), 129–130, 193–194.

Story from Our Community:
I struggle with questions, am hesitant about reality, and lack confidence in my future; but God’s eternal promise gives me hope. My soul rests with God, so I am in comfort. The power in my life belongs to God and therefore I can love all of his creation. I believe in this promise, so I share my heart with all. —Russell C.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

God Is Beyond Gender

Images of God

God Is beyond Gender
Wednesday, December 1, 2o21

Virtually all Christians are taught to call God “Father,” as Jesus did himself. Yet Richard understands the need for both masculine and feminine images of God. He writes:

I must invite us all to reclaim and honor female wisdom, which is often qualitatively different from male wisdom. I hope this perspective can invite you to trust your own experiences with the divine feminine as well. For many, it is an utterly new opening, since they always falsely assumed that God is somehow masculine.

Although Jesus was clearly of the masculine gender, the Universal Christ is beyond gender, and so it should be expected that the Big Tradition would have found feminine ways, consciously or unconsciously, to symbolize the full Divine Incarnation and to give God a more feminine character—as the Bible itself often does. [1]

New Mexico friend and mystic Mirabai Starr offers images of God as female and feminine, which is affirming and healing for many people.

Your God transcends gender. And yet She is also Mother. She is Shekhinah, pillar of holy fire, guiding you through the wilderness. She is Sophia and Al-Hakim, the essence of Wisdom, filling your troubled heart and telling you exactly what needs to be done next. She is Jamal, beauty, and Sakina, serenity. She is Rahim, the merciful source of all life. She is Shakti, coursing through your veins when you cry out for God, infusing you with unbearable longing. She is Guanyin, radiating well-being. She is Tara, formed from the Buddha’s own tears as he gazed upon the suffering of the world and wept. She is Miriam, Mary, Maryam.

You feel Her closest when you are shattered and when you are exalted. She dives into the heart of the tidal wave and scoops you into Her arms, promising that no matter how disastrous the disaster, She will always be with you. She is in the front row clapping too loudly when you get it right. Your God sneaks you in the back door to daven with the learned men in the synagogue. She whispers in your ear when you are trying to control yourself: Go ahead, She says, break the alabaster jar and cover His feet with priceless nard.

Your God transcends form. And yet She also dwells within every created thing. She animates all that is growing and going to seed, all that is ripened and fragrant, all that is raw and undomesticated. She dwells in creativity, in beauty, in chaos. She breathes with the laboring female animals, breathes with the newborn’s first inhalation, breathes with the old ones as they exhale one last time. She is the passion of lovers, the dignity of the queen. She is merciful, but She is not the least bit sentimental.

You do not mean to break the rules and call Her God. You try not to even conceive of God that way. But sometimes you can’t help it. Everything that feels holy feels like Her.

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019, 2021), 121–122.

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing Company: 2012), 155–156.

Story from Our Community:
I really resonate with Fr. Richard’s message that we are loved children of God. As a hospital chaplain, I say it often, especially in our behavioral health units. So many people who have never been told they are a loved child of God—that they can even be loved. Usually, the tears start to flow and I know that God has touched their hearts. I feel blessed to share the love. —Dawn C.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

What Kind of God Do We Believe In?

Images of God

What Kind of God Do We Believe In?
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Author and Benedictine sister Joan Chittister catalogs how some of the most common images of God influence our behavior and reminds us that we can choose more helpful and loving images.

In the long light of human history, then, it is not belief in God that sets us apart. It is the kind of God in which we choose to believe that in the end makes all the difference. Some believe in a God of wrath and become wrathful with others as a result. Some believe in a God who is indifferent to the world and, when they find themselves alone, as all of us do at some time or another, shrivel up and die inside from the indifference they feel in the world around them. Some believe in a God who makes traffic lights turn green and so become the children of magical coincidence . . . . Some believe in a God of laws and crumble in spirit and psyche when they themselves break them or else become even more stern in demanding from others standards they themselves cannot keep. They conceive of God as the manipulator of the universe, rather than its blessing-Maker. . . .

I have known all of those Gods in my own life. They have all failed me. I have feared God and been judgmental of others. I have used God to get me through life and, as a result, failed to take steps to change life myself. I have been blind to the God within me and so, thinking of God as far away, have failed to make God present to others. I have allowed God to be mediated to me through images of God foreign to the very idea of God: God the puppeteer, God the potentate, God the persecutor make a mockery of the very definition of God. I have come to the conclusion, after a lifetime of looking for God, that such a divinity is a graven image of ourselves, that such a deity is not a god big enough to believe in. Indeed, it is the God in whom we choose to believe that determines the rest of life for us. In our conception of the nature of God lies the kernel of the spiritual life. Made in the image of God, we grow in the image of the God we make for ourselves. . . .

Chittister invites us to the prayerful inner work necessary to discover the God we really believe in, for the sake of encountering the true and living God:

Until I discover the God in which I believe, I will never understand another thing about my own life. If my God is harsh judge, I will live in unquenchable guilt. If my God is Holy Nothingness, I will live a life of cosmic loneliness. If my God is taunt and bully, I will live my life impaled on the pin of a grinning giant. If my God is life and hope, I will live my life in fullness overflowing forever.

Reference:
Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief (Liguori Publications: 1999), 20–21, 22.

Story from Our Community:
I really resonate with Fr. Richard’s message that we are loved children of God. As a hospital chaplain, I say it often, especially in our behavioral health units. So many people who have never been told they are a loved child of God—that they can even be loved. Usually, the tears start to flow and I know that God has touched their hearts. I feel blessed to share the love. —Dawn C.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

Finding Ourselves in God

Images of God

Finding Ourselves in God
Monday, November 29, 2021

Father Richard reminds us that we are created in the image and likeness of God, which offers us a solid foundation from which we can operate in the world.

The biblical creation story says, “Let us make humans in our image” (Genesis 1:26). The plural pronoun is a first hint that we are going to be brought into a relational, participatory, and shared life. The secret is somehow planted within our deepest identity and slowly reveals itself—if we are attentive to this “reverence humming in [us],” as Jane Fonda once described it. [1]

Our DNA is divine, and the divine indwelling is never earned by any behavior, group membership, or ritual whatsoever, but only recognized and realized (see Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8–10) and thus fallen in love with. When we are ready, we will be both underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the boundless mystery of our own humanity. We will know we are standing under the same waterfall of mercy as everybody else and receiving an undeserved radical grace, which is the root cause of every ensouled being.

When I started in ministry in the early 1970s in Cincinnati and worked with young people, it seemed like I spent most of the time trying to convince teenagers that they were good. They all seemed to endlessly hate and doubt themselves, often with a little help from parenting and clergy. Later I saw it in adults, too, who were also well practiced in hating and fearing themselves. What the Scriptures promise us is that we are objectively and inherently children of God (see 1 John 3:2). And you can’t change that!  This is not psychological worthiness; it is ontological, metaphysical, substantial worthiness that cannot be gained or lost. When this given God image becomes our operative self-image, we are home free! Such a Gospel is just about the best good news anyone could hope for!

I am convinced that so much guilt, negative self-image, self-hatred, and self-preoccupation occurs because we have taken our cues and identity from a competitive and comparing world. But Jesus told us to never take this world as normative. Jesus asks, “Why do you look to one another for approval instead of the approval that comes from the one God?” (John 5:44). So many of us accept either a successful or a low self-image inside of a system of false images to begin with! (Smart, good looking, classy, loser—are all just words humans create). This will never work. We must find our true self “hidden within Christ in God,” as Paul says in Colossians 3:3. Or, as Teresa of Ávila envisioned God telling her, “If you wish to find Me / In yourself seek Me. [2] Then we do not go up and down, but we are built on the Rock of Ages. It is the very shape of all spiritual maturity, regardless of what religion we may belong to.

References:
[1] Anthony DeCurtis, “Jane Fonda,” Rolling Stone, no. 1025/1026 (May 2007): 102–5.

[2] Teresa, “Seeking God,” in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, vol. 3, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (ICS Publications: 1985), 385.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (Crossroad Publishing: 2009), 22; and

Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent (Franciscan Media: 2008), 55–56.

Story from Our Community:
The more I read the meditations the more I think I should have been a Franciscan! Everything resonates with my heart and experience. I am soon entering my 80th year, and each day I feel such a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given. Even in the storms of life, God works miracles. So many thanks for the inspiring, sometimes challenging daily meditations. —Bridget H.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

Creating God in Our Own Image

Images of God

Creating God in Our Own Image
Sunday, November 28, 2021
First Sunday of Advent

The Advent season begins with Scriptures that focus on the “second coming” of Christ. At times, this has been presented as a frightening event, exacerbated by the negative images of God which many Christians hold. Father Richard writes:

Your image of God creates you—or defeats you. There is an absolute connection between how we see God and how we see ourselves and the universe. The word “God” is a stand-in word for everything—Reality, truth, and the very shape of our universe. This is why good theology and spirituality can make such a major difference in how we live our daily lives in this world. God is Reality with a Face—which is the only way most humans know how to relate to anything. There has to be a face!

After years of giving and receiving spiritual direction, it has become clear to me and to many of my colleagues that most people’s operative image of God is initially a subtle combination of their mom and dad, or other early authority figures. Without an interior journey of prayer or inner experience, much of religion is largely childhood conditioning, which God surely understands and uses. Yet atheists and many former Christians rightly react against this because such religion is so childish and often fear-based, and so they argue against a caricature of faith. I would not believe in that god myself!

Our goal, of course, is to grow toward an adult religion that includes reason, faith, and inner experience we can trust. A mature God creates mature people. A big God creates big people. A punitive God creates punitive people.

If our mothers were punitive, our God is usually punitive too. We will then spend much of our lives submitting to that punitive God or angrily reacting against it. If our father figures were cold and withdrawn, we will assume that God is cold and withdrawn too—all Scriptures, Jesus, and mystics to the contrary. If all authority in our lives came through men, we probably assume and even prefer a male image of God, even if our hearts desire otherwise. As we were taught in Scholastic philosophy, “whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver.” [1] This is one of those things hidden in plain sight, but it still remains well-hidden to most Christians.

All of this is mirrored in political worldviews as well. Good theology makes for good politics and positive social relationships. Bad theology makes for stingy politics, a largely reward/punishment frame, xenophobia, and highly controlled relationships.

For me, as a Christian, the still underdeveloped image of God as Trinity is the way out and the way through all limited concepts of God. Jesus comes to invite us into an Infinite and Eternal Flow of Perfect Love between Three—which flows only in one, entirely positive direction. There is no “backsplash” in the Trinity but only Infinite Outpouring—which is the entire universe. Yet even here we needed to give each of the three a placeholder name, a “face,” and a personality.

References:
[1] For example, see Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I, q. 75, art. 5.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Yes, and . . .: Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2013, 2019), 63–64.

Story from Our Community:
The more I read the meditations the more I think I should have been a Franciscan! Everything resonates with my heart and experience. I am soon entering my 80th year, and each day I feel such a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given. Even in the storms of life, God works miracles. So many thanks for the inspiring, sometimes challenging daily meditations. —Bridget H.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

Carl Jung: Weekly Summary

Carl Jung

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Week Forty-Seven Summary and Practice

Sunday, November 21—Friday, November 26, 2021

Sunday
Carl Jung suggested the whole problem is that Christianity does not connect with the soul or transform people anymore. He insists on actual inner, transcendent experience to anchor individuals to God, and that’s what mystics always emphasize. —Richard Rohr

Monday
In the journey toward psychic wholeness, Jung stresses the necessary role of religion or the God archetype in integrating opposites, including the conscious and the unconscious, the one and the many, good (by embracing it) and evil (by forgiving it), masculine and feminine, the small self and the Big Self. —Richard Rohr

Tuesday
A Great Story Line connects our little lives to the One Great Life, and even better, it forgives and uses the wounded and seemingly “unworthy” parts (1 Corinthians 12:22), which Jung would call the necessary “integration of the negative.” —Richard Rohr

Wednesday
Jesus seems to precede Jung and modern depth psychology by two thousand years when he says, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?” (Matthew 7:4). —Richard Rohr

Thursday
The quest for aliveness is the best thing about religion, I think. It’s what we’re hoping for when we pray. It’s why we gather, celebrate, eat, abstain, attend, practice, sing, and contemplate. —Brian McLaren

Friday
Christianity rarely emphasized the importance, the plausibility, or the power of inner spiritual experience. “Holiness” largely became a matter of intellect and will, instead of an inner trust and any inner dialogue of love. —Richard Rohr

 

Keeping a Dream Journal

In his podcast Another Name for Every Thing [1], Richard discusses how Carl Jung helped him to understand that dreams are a way for the unconscious to break through into our conscious life—especially when we remember them! Richard recalls having many revelatory dreams as a young man, and how Jung’s work gave him permission to trust their symbolic power. Here we share a practice inspired by Jung’s emphasis on dreams—keeping a dream journal:

A Dream Journal is a record of dreams and dreamwork kept over a period of time. . . .

A dream journal can be a written record of a life journey—the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual parts of it. In keeping dreams and dreamwork recorded in a journey journal, we add a concrete record of how we value our relationship to our dreams. It becomes a barometer of our journey and our growing relationship to ourselves and to God. . . .

There are a number of benefits that come from keeping a dream journal over a period of time. First, as we review our dreams and dreamwork, we begin to notice a pattern in our attitudes toward life as a journey, and we see where we are being asked to question our values.

Second, we see, in perspective, potentials for a unique and meaningful destiny. Dreams are a manifestation from our inner depths of our own meaning. Watching their pattern over a period of time may reveal the trajectory of our journey and emphasize what we are really meant to do in life.

Third, to help us in the process, the dream journal highlights major transition points in our lives and helps us understand adversities in the light of our larger destiny. In the journal we notice how a number of dreams reflect issues important for us to deal with in making the transitions of our journey.

Fourth, dreams offer us key symbols that we can relate to on our journey, so that we may know where to look for the major energies that are available to us. One of the most productive tasks to do with a dream journal is to go through its pages marking or underlining images, issues, characters, and themes that repeat or that recur in various forms or guises.

Fifth, in working with a dream journal we gain a larger perspective on life, more than any single dream might give us. Looking over a broad scope of dreams and dreamwork in our journal, we become aware of the immense power and scope of the world to which dreams are a gateway for us personally and as members of a believing community. We begin to see the call to holiness and wholeness as an exciting goal toward which our journey is leading us. We strive to bring into balance and harmony more and more aspects of our life and personality that are slowly being revealed, including what we naturally do well, what we don’t do well, what we like and what we don’t like.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:

[1] Richard Rohr, with Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson, “Transformation,Another Name for Every Thing, season 4, episode 6, July 4, 2020 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), audio podcast.

Louis M. Savaray, Patricia H. Berne, Strephon Kaplan Williams, Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Judeo-Christian Way of Dreamwork (Paulist Press: 1984), 101­, 103.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Holding it Together (detail), 2016, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: How many ways can I express myself? People ask me “who is your work modeled after?” And they’re all self-portraits because the only story I can really tell is my own. And so they’re all about different journeys I’ve had in my life. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

Trusting Our Inner Experience

Carl Jung

Trusting Our Inner Experience
Friday, November 26, 2021

Father Richard elaborates on 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.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, unpublished “Rhine” talk (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015).

Story from Our Community:
I’ve been following Fr. Richard for at least 10 years and so much of what he says parallels others in the fields of human psychology and spirituality. Fr. Richard’s work has kept me grounded through many challenging times. I am grateful for the work that he’s done and can’t say enough about the impact it has had on my life. —James H.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Holding it Together (detail), 2016, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: How many ways can I express myself? People ask me “who is your work modeled after?” And they’re all self-portraits because the only story I can really tell is my own. And so they’re all about different journeys I’ve had in my life. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021

Shadow Work in the Gospels

Carl Jung

Shadow Work in the Gospels
Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Father Richard describes Jung’s concept of the shadow and how it is present in Jesus’ teachings.

The ego wants to eliminate all humiliating or negative information in order to “look good” at all costs. Jesus calls this self an “actor,” a word he uses fifteen times in Matthew’s Gospel, though it is usually translated from the Greek as “hypocrite.” The ego wants to keep us tied to easy and acceptable levels of knowledge. It does not want us going down into the “personal unconscious” or, in Jung’s term, our “shadow self.” The shadow includes all those things about ourselves that we don’t want to see, are not yet ready to see, and don’t want others to see. We try to hide or deny this shadow, most especially from ourselves.

Jung asks: “How can I be substantial if I fail to cast a shadow?” [1] He makes clear that the unconscious is not bad or evil; it is just hidden from us. Jung describes shadow also as “the source of the highest good: not only dark, but also light; not only bestial, semi-human and demonic, but superhuman, spiritual” [2] and, in Jung’s word, “divine.” That is why we dare not avoid the deep self. Wild beasts and angels reside in the same wilderness, and it takes the Spirit to “drive” us there (see Mark 1:12–13).

The more we are attached to any persona, bad or good, any chosen and preferred self-image, the more shadow self we will have. We absolutely need conflicts, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies. These are necessary mirrors, or we will have no way to ever spot our shadow self. Even if we only catch a glimpse of such shadows, that may offer graced insight and a moment of inner freedom.

Jesus seems to precede Jung and modern depth psychology by two thousand years when he says, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your sister or brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye’ when all the time there is a log in your own? Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother or sister’s eye” (Matthew 7:4–5).

Note that Jesus does not just praise good moral behavior and criticize immoral behavior, as a lesser teacher might. Instead, he talks about something caught in the eye. He knows that if we see rightly, our actions and behaviors will eventually take care of themselves. God wastes nothing and includes everything. The God of the Bible is best known for transmuting and transforming our shadow selves into our own more perfect good. God brings us—often through failure—from unconsciousness to ever-deeper consciousness and conscience. I doubt if there is any other way. All the rest is mere self-validation.

References:
[1] C. G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Harcourt, Brace and Company: 1933), 40.

[2] C. G. Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy: Essays on the Psychology of the Transference, and Other Subjects, trans. by R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed. (Princeton University Press: 1976), 192.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 75–76; and

Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2001, 2021), 31–33.

Story from Our Community:
Carl Jung’s beliefs always resonate with me, even his yogic path. As a Westerner with reverence of Eastern philosophy, thank you for these meditations that lift my spirits, help me learn more (the more I learn the more I realize how little I know), and heal my heart a bit more each day. —Stephanie A.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Holding it Together (detail), 2016, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: How many ways can I express myself? People ask me “who is your work modeled after?” And they’re all self-portraits because the only story I can really tell is my own. And so they’re all about different journeys I’ve had in my life. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021
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