What Do You Want?

Perennial Tradition

What Do You Want?
Friday, August 3, 2018

A good gauge of spiritual health is to write down
the three things you most want.
If they in any way differ,
you are in trouble.
—Daniel Ladinsky, inspired by Rumi [1]

Big Truth was manifest in reality itself before it was ever written in books. All disciplines and religions are looking at reality from different angles, goals, assumptions, and vocabulary. If we are really convinced that we have the Big Truth, then we should also be able to trust that others will see it from their different angles—or it is not the Big Truth.

As my fellow faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault says, “We begin to discover that our Buddhist and Jewish and Islamic and Hindu friends are not competitors. Religion is not a survival of the fittest. There is a deep understanding that we all swim together or we sink together. Each religious tradition reveals a color of the heart of God that is precious.” [2] As the old saying goes, do you want to be right or do you want to be in relationship?

If it is true, it is common domain, and “there for the mind to see in the things that God has made” (Romans 1:20). Or, as Aquinas was fond of saying, quoting Ambrose (another Doctor of the Church), “If it’s true, it is always from the one Holy Spirit.” [3] The important question is not, “Who said it?” but, “Is it true?”

The deepest truth is that we are one—with each other and Ultimate Reality. Mirabai Starr, one of our CONSPIRE 2018 teachers, explains it so well (as she always does!):

I have glimpsed the same shining thread running throughout the tapestry of our perennial wisdom legacy and appreciated the ways in which we sing the one song of the human heart. It has become clear that while all the world’s religions cannot and must not be reduced to one truth, their core teachings are unifying; they are all calling us to the truth of our essential oneness. This unity in diversity is a cause for celebration. [4]

At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others. Pope Francis insists that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths [5], and everything falls apart whenever mercy is displaced by anything else or anything less. Bourgeault writes:

When the center starts to wobble, it’s a pretty sure bet that what’s lacking is not means but depth: a vision rich and sustaining enough to contain all this restless striving and shape it into a more universal and subtle understanding of human purpose. “Think; take stock; what do you really want?” This is the traditional terrain of Wisdom. [6]

What do you want? If it’s union with Love, then listen to that longing and it will be a reliable guide to truth and intimacy.

References:
[1] Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002), 72. Used with permission.

[2] Cynthia Bourgeault, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy, disc 1 (CAC: 2015), CDMP3 download.

[3] Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 1, a. 8. Also Summa Theologia I-II, q. 109, a. 1, ad 1. The statement “Omne verum, a quocumque dicatur, a Spiritu Sancto est” is recorded in Patres Latini, 17, 245; today, the unknown author is called Ambrosiaster.

[4] Mirabai Starr in World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, Rami Shapiro, ed. (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017), viii.

[5] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 36-37. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html.

[6] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart (Jossey-Bass: 2003), 4.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 135-136.

Image credit: Broken Obelisk (detail), by Barnett Newman. A permanent installation in the reflecting pool on the grounds of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas, United States.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Awakening the essential Self is one reason that the Center for Action and Contemplation is dedicated to reinvigorating the teaching of Christian contemplation. The consistent practice of contemplation helps to uncover our essential Self, our connected Self, our True Self. —Richard Rohr

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