Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Richard Rohr is a Franciscan Monk who teaches the Roman Catholic mystical tradition from a non-dualist perspective, incorporating many Buddhist and eastern ideas and practices. He’s one of the few Catholic teachers I draw from. I am not a deist, so I apply references to “God” to “spiritual practice.”
How do we live the contradictions? Live them—not just endure them or relieve ourselves from the tension by quickly resolving them. The times where we meet or reckon with our contradictions are often turning points, opportunities to enter into the deeper mystery of God or, alternatively, to evade the mystery of God. I’m deliberately using the word mystery to point to depth, an open future, immense freedom, a kind of beauty and truth that can’t be fully spoken or defined.
Many mystics speak of the God-experience as simultaneously falling into an abyss and being grounded. This sounds like a contradiction, but in fact, when you allow yourself to fall into the abyss—into hiddenness, limitlessness, unknowability, a void without boundaries—you discover it’s somehow a rich, supportive, embracing spaciousness where you don’t have to ask (or answer) the questions of whether you’re right or wrong. You’re being held and so you do not need to try to “hold” yourself together. Please reflect on that.
This might be the ultimate paradox of the God-experience: “falling into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). When you can lend yourself to it and not fight it or explain it, falling into the abyss is ironically an experience of ground, of the rock, of the foundation. This is totally counterintuitive. Your dualistic, logical mind can’t get you there. It can only be known experientially. That’s why the mystics use magnificent metaphors—none of them adequate or perfect—for this experience. “It’s like. . . . It’s like . . . ,” they love to say.
Mystery is not something you can’t know. Mystery is endless knowability. Living inside such endless knowability is finally a comfort, a foundation of ultimate support, security, unrestricted love, and eternal care. For all of us, it takes much of our life to get there; it is what we surely mean by “growing” in faith. I can’t prove this to you. Each soul must learn on its own, hopefully aided by observing other faith-filled people.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox (CAC: 2007), disc 3 (CD, MP3 download).