Listening for the Genuine

Interspiritual Mystics

Listening for the Genuine
Friday, August 9, 2019
Anniversary of the Bombing of Nagasaki

I’m encouraged by the rediscovery of the broad and deep contemplative mind, which for the first two thousand years of Christianity had largely been limited to monks, women religious, and mystics. It is not our metaphysics (“what is real”) that is changing so much as our epistemology—how we think we know what is real. For that, we can thank a combination of insights from psychology, therapy, spiritual direction, history, and Eastern religions, along with the rediscovery of the Western and Christian contemplative tradition, starting with Thomas Merton in the 1960s.

Now this new epistemology is emerging all over the world and in all denominations and religions. I pray it will thrive and grow so we can heal the planet’s suffering before we’ve done irreparable damage.

Episcopal priest and friend Matthew Fox writes:

The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a mystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk. [2]

How do we find the path forward? Howard Thurman (1900–1981), a mystic who sought to make peace between religions and founded the first major interracial, interfaith church in the United States, urged people to “listen for the sound of the genuine.” Read these excerpts from one of Thurman’s talks several times to fully appreciate it:

There is something in everyone of you that waits, listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself and if you can not hear it, you will never find whatever it is for which you are searching and if you hear it and then do not follow it, it was better that you had never been born. . . .

Sometimes there is so much traffic going on in your minds, so many different kinds of signals . . . and you are buffeted by these and in the midst of all of this you have got to find out what your name is. Who are you? . . .

Now there is something in everybody that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in other people. . . . I must wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in you. . . .

Now if I hear the sound of the genuine in me and if you hear the sound of the genuine in you it is possible for me to go down in me and come up in you. So that when I look at myself through your eyes having made that pilgrimage, I see in me what you see in me and the wall that separates and divides will disappear and we will become one because the sound of the genuine makes the same music. [3]

References:
[1] C. G. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Pantheon Books: 1963), 375.

[2] Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011), 2-3. Learn more about Fox and his daily online reflections at dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org.

[3] Howard Thurman, “The Sound of the Genuine,” Baccalaureate Address, Spelman College (May 4, 1980). Text edited by Jo Moore Stewart, Spelman Messenger, vol. 96, no. 4 (Summer 1980), 14-15.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 205.

Image credit: Sacred Heart (detail), Odilon Redon, 1910, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Mysticism . . . is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta
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