Introduction: Image and Likeness
Growing and Waking Up
Thursday, January 4, 2018
In the beginning, in our original unwoundedness (“innocence”), we lived in an unconscious state of full connection with the divine, like Adam and Eve walking naked in the garden with God. But it didn’t take long for us to think of ourselves as separate, and from that position outside the garden, we grabbed for an autonomous identity. This is the “false self.” Many people live most of their lives under this delusion, and confuse this concocted persona as the real deal.
How do I get back to union and innocence? Objectively I have never left the state of union, but it feels like I have. We already and always have the divine image (imago Dei) within us; but we hopefully grow into the divine likeness (similitude) as we begin to externally resemble the goodness of God. It usually takes us a long time to rediscover what has been true all along as we gradually find our unique way of embodying Love. Finding God and finding our True Self—which is letting go of our false self—are finally the same thing.
It’s not about being privately correct; it’s about being fully connected. It’s not about fulfilling requirements; it’s about a trusting relationship. It’s not so much about what we do; it’s about what God does. God and life itself eventually destabilize the boundaries of the small self so we can awaken inside of the Large Self. This usually happens through experiences of great love, suffering, or the forms of prayer that allow the private ego to collapse back into the True Self, where we gratefully shout with Jacob, “You were here all the time, and I never knew it!” (Genesis 28:16).
Our life is a dance between the loneliness and desperation of the false self and the fullness of the True Self, which is re-discovered and experienced anew as an ultimate homecoming. The spiritual journey is a path of deeper realization and transformation; it is never a straight line, but a back and forth journey that ever deepens the conscious choice and assent to God’s work in us. It is growing up, yes, but even more it is waking up. You can see why it will take us a year to even touch on this immense mystery.
Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Contemplative Prayer (CAC: 2000), CD, MP3 download;
True Self/ False Self, disc 2 (Franciscan Media: 2003, 2013), CD;
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 189-191; and
“On the Occasion of Its 14th Birthday,” unpublished homily and letter to the New Jerusalem Community, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1985.