My Wisdom Lineage
Monday, December 21, 2015
This year’s meditations have explored the traditions, texts, and teachers that have had the greatest influence on my worldview and theology. Together they compose my “wisdom lineage.” I’ve shared these elements not to persuade you that my way is the only or best path, but to illustrate that there are many different levels and understandings of truth. The ecumenical future of religion is becoming rather obvious. Either religion moves beyond its tribal mind or it has no chance of “saving the world,” just as Pope Francis has taught and exemplified in recent visits to non-Christian cultures. The “emerging church” is gathering the scriptural, contemplative, scholarly, and justice-oriented wisdom from every part of the Body of Christ.
Here are my own lineage building blocks (You may listen to a short description of each here.):
- “Bible” of Nature and Creation
- Hebrew scriptures interpreted by the Prophets
- Gospels, Incarnation, and Jesus
- Paul as the first Christian mystic
- Desert Fathers and Mothers
- Patristic Period (particularly in the East)
- Early Franciscanism (Bonaventure and Duns Scotus)
- Non-dual thinkers of all religions
- Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism
- Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art
- Non-violent recovery of Gandhi and Martin Luther King
- Much of the teaching of C. G. Jung
- Scientific evidence from the Universe
- Twelve-step Spirituality
- Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory
If truth is one (Ephesians 4:4-6), we must recognize we are all approaching that one divine truth from different angles, with different needs, in different eras, and with different starting points. But I find the final goal to be the same. We are moving toward ever greater union. Unity is not the same as uniformity; in fact, the unity the Spirit creates is precisely from reconciling differences (1 Corinthians 12:4-13). So my own path has been to find and emphasize the essentials so clearly that we can then easily see what the non-essentials are. In my experience, this confusion between essential and non-essentials, between means and ends, is the most common mistake of religious people in all religions, clergy and laity alike. We make means and gifts (e.g., Bible, Sacraments, priesthood, church) into ends in themselves; the means then become idolatrous, and we lose our absolute God-centeredness and true perspective.
God seems to honor and use each individual path. As Jesus put it, “There are many mansions in my Father’s house” (John 14:2). Honestly, what else is possible? God clearly creates and allows diversity in endless forms. But it is also helpful to have reference to the common elements so that I know I am not alone and my ideas are not just my own but from the One Holy Spirit. If we can remember that we all came from God and are headed back to God, whatever circuitous route we take, I think it will help us be more humble and patient with each other. Each group and era has its own preferred symbols, rituals, scriptures, and words for things, but let’s not ever let them get in the way of what they are all pointing to and leading us toward—union of the soul with God.
Gateway to Silence:
Keep me in Your truth.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Authority of What Is,” the Mendicant (Center for Action and Contemplation: January 2015).