Friday Book Club | What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self.

November 20, 2020

Friday Book Club | What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self.

May 29, 2023

Richard Rohr is an unconventional modern Christian mystic who has been influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism, Gandhi, Carl Jung, Spiral Dynamics, and Integral Theory. He’s written and spoken about the ancient personality typing tool, the Enneagram, and he has a following that may be more full of non-Christians than Christians.

And, yet, this book has a strong Christian theme while also being accessible to just about anyone, no matter your belief system. It’s a book that emphasizes the value of wisdom in the modern age.

“We all want to love, but as a rule we don’t know how to love rightly. How should we love so that life will really come from our love? … We haven’t helped people to enter upon the narrow and dangerous path of true wisdom. On this path we take the risk of making mistakes. On this path we take the risk of being wrong. That’s how wisdom is gained. On the spiritual path, the enemy isn’t pain; it’s fear of pain. We haven’t become wise, because we’re so afraid of pain.”

He suggests seven steps toward developing a mystical union while finding one’s deeper self:

  1. The Enlightenment You Seek Already Dwells Within You. Unfortunately, we don’t often seek or connect with that inner guidance except in extreme circumstances. Self-worth is not created. It is discovered. He cites Julian of Norwich, Angela Merici, and Junipero Serra as people who had a taste of the religious inside of them around age 18, but it was approximately age 55 when they discovered what they were born for. “When that moment comes, it is great and it is all synchronicity. We know then that grace is at work and we are not manufacturing our own lives.”

  2. God is Found in Imperfection. We aren’t perfect, nor is our journey. But, we are looking for someone or something to help us make sense of the journey. It’s a waste of time trying to figure out who are the good guys and the bad guys and better to embody goodness oneself without an impossibly high standard. The standard you create for yourself is that which you create for everyone else. We are all mirrors for each other’s imperfections. The question we should always ask is, “How can I serve here?” We are the masks of God and good.

  3. From Profound Suffering Come Great Wisdom and Joy.It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things you cannot do anything with that do something with you...Faith demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.” Being human is about both pain and beauty and in these two states, we come face-to-face with the sacred. All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. Letting emotions run through you (much as Rumi suggested in his poem “The Guest House”) is a form of spirituality.

  4. The Mystical Path is a Celebration of Paradox. “God is light, yet this light seems to dwell in the darkness. We must go into this darkness to see the light. Our age, however, resists the language of ‘descent.” We live in an age and culture that have been able to manufacture a kind of ‘ascent’ unlike that of our ancestors. Reason, medicine, technology and speed have allowed us to avoid the ordinary ‘path of the fall.’ Now we are unpracticed and afraid.” God isn’t who you think he or she is. It’s not that simple.

  5. Contemplation Means Practicing Heaven Now. Contemplation and reflection are divine therapy. “Rightly sought, action and contemplation will always regulate balance and convert each other. Separately, they are dead-ended and trapped in personality.” There’s a rationale for why Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque has its name. “Mature religion will always lead you to some form of prayer, meditation, or contemplative mind to balance out our usually calculative mind. Such ‘seeing’ gives you the capacity to be happy and happily alone, rooted elsewhere, comfortable with paradox and mystery, and largely immune to mass consciousness and false promises. It is called wisdom seeing.”

  6. To Discover the Truth, You Must Become the Truth. Like Gandhi suggested, “be the change,” Rohr advises us to “be the truth” as we have no idea what kind of catalytic effect our role modeling may have on others. The higher we are in leadership, the more contagious our emotions and lessons. So, a leader who lies fosters a society that doesn’t understand the difference between a lie and the truth. We all have an inner authority that reveals our truth and if we’ve endeavored to accomplish the first five pathways, we will be able to hear that inner authority as our righteous conscience.

  7. When You Are Transformed, Others Are Transformed Through You. The word “sacrifice” comes from sacrum facere - to make sacred or holy. You are more of an instrument for transformation than you know. “I’ve met so many people in the world who are already full of love and really care for others. I believe that what we lack is not love, but wisdom. It became clear to me that I should pray above all else for wisdom in the next decade.” May we all pray for more wisdom, both inside ourselves and in society as a whole.

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