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Center for Action and Contemplation
Experience, Scripture, and Tradition
Experience, Scripture, and Tradition

The Seven Themes

Sunday, February 5, 2023

About ten years ago, Father Richard summarized his wide variety of teachings into seven central themes. We now call them “Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy.” During the final CONSPIRE conference in 2021, Father Richard shared how these Seven Themes came to be: 

A previous director at our Center asked me, “Richard, you talk about so many things, but what are your underlying major themes that keep recurring in different forms?”  

As I remember, I took at least two or three months to try to say, “Okay, that’s foundational, that’s foundational, and so forth.” And I brought them to her. 

She read them, and she looked at me and said, “We have the curriculum for a school.”  

It became the beginnings of what we now call the Living School, where we’re not trying to teach just theory, but practice. And I really think Christianity in general has been weak on practice. We attend services but note the word “attend.” “Attending” is not really participating with our active, embodied selves.  

So what these Seven Themes led to were seven highly participatory conferences that we called CONSPIRE, because conspirare (Latin: con, with + spirare, to breathe) means “to breathe together.” How can we breathe together a kind of wisdom, a kind of what we hope is goodness for the world? 

The Seven Themes are, I hope, an honest statement about the underlying foundations of what I teach. [1] 

From the CAC website: 

  1. Scripture as validated by experience, and experience as validated by Tradition, are good scales for one’s spiritual worldview. (METHODOLOGY) 
  1. If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of but is the Ground of Being and on our side. (FOUNDATION) 
  1. For those who see deeply there is only One Reality. By reason of the Incarnation, there is no truthful distinction between sacred and profane. (FRAME) 
  1. Everything belongs. No one needs to be punished, scapegoated, or excluded. We cannot directly fight or separate ourselves from evil or untruth. Evil becomes apparent when exposed to the Truth. (ECUMENICAL) 
  1. The “separate self” is the major problem, not the shadow self which only takes deeper forms of disguise. (TRANSFORMATION) 
  1. The path of descent is the path of transformation. Struggle, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines. (PROCESS). 
  1. Nonduality is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion. (GOAL) [2]  

David Benner, a spiritual writer and friend of Father Richard, writes:  

[The Seven Themes] “are more than simply the themes that have organized [Richard Rohr’s] life’s work; they are the fundamental issues that any serious Christian must engage in to develop a healthy and holistic spiritual worldview.” [3] 


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Good Theology Creates Good Politics,” CONSPIRE 2021 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021) video. 

[2] Living School Lineage and Themes, Center for Action and Contemplation.  

[3] David G. Benner, foreword to Yes, And…: Daily Meditations, Richard Rohr (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2013), vii–viii. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 7. Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 6. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

The landscape of our own lives informs how we understand Scripture and Tradition. 

Story from Our Community:

As a cradle Catholic, I always identified as a heterosexual woman and believed I would grow up to marry a man.… After relationships with different men, I fell in love with a woman; I was 36. That began my journey of discovering myself. Now my young adult daughter is attending a Catholic college, and I find myself accompanying her in her journey to reconcile being Catholic in a tradition that does not honor her parents’ relationship. I’m still in the process of reconciling my faith with my sexuality, even now, teaching at a Catholic University.… Richard Rohr has been an inspiration to me on this journey, for which I am grateful. I believe we are all children of God, created in His image and of His flesh through the Eucharist, and I fiercely defend my Catholicism and relationship with God. —Suzanne N. 

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