Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Healing Our Violence
Healing Our Violence

Mystical Nonviolence 

Friday, August 4, 2023

For CAC teacher James Finley, mystical nonviolence reminds us of our deepest identity in God. 

God created you as God’s beloved, as someone to whom God could completely give the infinity of Godself away as the mystery of who you are in your nothingness without God. All that is true for stones, trees, and stars too. You’ve been endowed by God with the gift to realize it, the gift to taste that oneness.…  

Here, then, is the first taste of what I would call mystical nonviolence: that we will not do violence to the infinity of ourselves, that we will not do violence to the God-given, Godly nature of life itself, that I will not go around acting as if I’m nothing but the self to which things happen in the idolatry of conditioned states, the closed horizon of what my eyes can see, my hands can touch, and my mind can grasp. If I act out of that idolatry, I commit violence against the infinity and divinity of every breath and heartbeat—unexplainably so.  

In the Gospels, they asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” (Mark 12:28). That is to say, “Of all these beautiful things you say about God, about life, what is it that, if we would ground ourselves in that, everything that you say would fall into place?” Jesus didn’t respond with a doctrine…. Jesus said, “The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. That’s the greatest commandment” (see Mark 12:30).…  

But there’s a catch to this: our wayward ways. We’re exiled from the generosity of God pouring God’s self out as life itself. We know it’s true, but we’re estranged from it. This is the meaning of “original sin,” but not as a blight against the soul. Rather, it means we’re exiled from the divinity of every breath and heartbeat, because to taste the divinity of every breath and heartbeat means fear has no foundations.…  

So, we ask: “How can I learn, Lord? How can I learn to be free from the tyranny of fear in the midst of my fears? How can I learn to be free from the tyranny of my brokenness in the midst of my brokenness?”…  

God is the presence that spares us from nothing, even as God unexplainably sustains us in all things. God depends on us to protect ourselves and each other, to be nurturing, loving, protective people. When suffering is there, God depends on us to reach out and touch the suffering with love that it might dissolve in love.  

But here’s the thing: To be present to suffering and to touch the suffering with love, that it might dissolve in love, means to be grounded in the peace that is not dependent on the outcome of the effort because, regardless of how it turns out, God is unexplainably taking us to God, breath by breath, moment by moment. That’s mystical nonviolence. 


James Finley, “The Mystical Foundations of Nonviolence,” Oneing 10, no. 2, Nonviolence (Fall 2022): 127, 128–129, 132. Available in print and PDF download

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Tuesday Chemistry (detail), digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 1 (detail), oil pastel on canvas. Taylor Wilson, Field of the Saints, print. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

How can we move outside our constricting and restricting patterns of violence? We need each other. We need all the colors. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’ve been contemplating Cynthia Bourgeault’s reflection on how constrained circumstances can open up an exquisite dimension of love. While walking with my wife’s dementia, an exquisite window of grace and healing has opened to us. We have found joy in our daily visits to Dairy Queen. We’ve gone over 218 days in a row! We know the servers by name, and they already know what we want. On the way there and back, we play music from the 1960s (we were married in 1971). As we both sing along in our daily ritual, her voice and memory become wondrously clear. When James Brown sings: “I feel good—cause I got you!” she points at me, and I at her. We are connected as never before. Exquisite. Thank you, Gracious Spirit.
—Terry M. 

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.