The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
“Rohr takes his hat off to mystics and describes them as having moved"from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience.”These inner explorers are willing to surrender to the gift of grace that has opened their hearts"to the naked now of true prayer and full presence.”They realize that although God is unspeakable, the divine is at the same time as close and as accessible as our breath.”Oneness is no longer merely a vague mystical notion, but a scientific fact.”Thanks to their third-eye vision of understanding, mystics are able to grasp the big picture.”
Book review: The Naked Now Learning to See as the Mystics See
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Naked Now
Learning to See as the Mystics See
S&P Book Awards:
One of the Best Spiritual Books of 2009
Richard Rohr is a revered speaker, a million-selling author, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, a regular contributor to Sojourners and Tikkun, and one of the Living Spiritual Teachers profiled on this website. He is the author of many books including Everything Belongs.
In this timely, cogent, and enlightening volume, Rohr challenges Christians and other spiritual seekers to give up the either-or dichotomies of dualistic thinking and to turn to another"software" for dealing with the big issues of death, love, infinity, suffering, God, and war. This alternative vision has at various times been described as mysticism, contemplation, prayer, or pure presence.
Rohr takes his hat off to mystics and describes them as having moved"from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience.”These inner explorers are willing to surrender to the gift of grace that has opened their hearts"to the naked now of true prayer and full presence.”They realize that although God is unspeakable, the divine is at the same time as close and as accessible as our breath.”Oneness is no longer merely a vague mystical notion, but a scientific fact.”Thanks to their third-eye vision of understanding, mystics are able to grasp the big picture.
Rohr claims that Jesus was the first nondualistic religious teacher of the West and is one who would surely understand and affirm the nonpolarity thinking of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Along with Native religions, these three traditions emphasize the overcoming of conflicts and oppositional thinking by conversions of the heart, mind, and emotions. They are more concerned with this world than the world to come.
In contrast, the traditional accent of the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) on individual salvation and"us" versus“Them"thinking has led to elitism, ethnic hatred, war, violence, homophobia, poverty, and the savaging of animals and the earth. Much of this conflict stems from the judging mind which ranks and excludes in its quest for certainty. Rohr laments the resistance to the radical change that Jesus proclaimed and embodied in his teachings on nonviolence, a simple lifestyle, love of the poor, forgiveness, love of enemies, inclusivity, and compassion.
The author celebrates what he calls“A renaissance of the contemplative mind, the one truly unique alternative that religion has to offer the world.”He discusses how the contemplative mind approaches faith, great love, suffering, paradox, mystery, being awake, and leadership. One of the major hallmarks of this spiritual path is the"Principle of Likeness.”Here's how Rohr explains it:
“The enormous breakthrough is that when you honor and accept the divine image within yourself, you cannot help but see it in everybody else, too, and you know it is just as undeserved and unmerited as it is in you. That is why you stop judging, and that is how you start loving unconditionally and without asking whether someone is worthy or not. The breakthrough occurs at once, although the realization deepens and takes on greater conviction over time.”
Imagine what would happen in America and around the world if Christians abandoned dualistic thinking and began to live out the radical teachings of Jesus that have been ignored. Imagine what would happen if governments would be prodded by the world's religions to practice the contemplative mind and move beyond the need for war, demonizing of the enemy, and"us"versus“Them"thinking!
The Naked Now
review by Carl McColman on February 16, 2010
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
By Richard Rohr
New York: Crossroad, 2009
Review by Carl McColman
Many of the finest studies of Christian mysticism are just that: studies. While authors as renowned as William Ralph Inge, Cuthbert Butler, Evelyn Underhill, Louis Bouyer, John Macquarrie, Bernard McGinn and Robert Davis Hughes have made splendid contributions to our knowledge and understanding of contemplative and mystical spirituality, their erudite and scholarly works are, alas, often just too challenging for the ordinary, non-theologically-educated layperson. Although perusing their work can be a dazzling journey of insight and cognition, the casual reader may well be left wondering the all-important question, largely unaddressed by the scholars: “How do I apply this wisdom to my life?”
Enter Richard Rohr and his inviting, accessible introduction to the mystical element of spirituality written for the average seeker in our time. He understands that mysticism is far more than just"experiencing God,” and he refuses to reduce contemplation to mere psychological nurture or stress management. He deftly understands that mysticism often exists in tension with established religious authority, and yet at its heart Christian mysticism is about reconciliation and relationship more so than revolution and rebellion. Rohr has a clear sense of the paradox and play at the heart of mysticism, and manages to avoid both the trap of esotericism (mysticism as a retreat into private spirituality) and devotionalism (mysticism as a metaphor for super-piety). The title, The Naked Now, evokes a range of"present-moment"spiritaul masterpieces, from Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now to Jean-Pierre de Caussade's Abandonment to Divine Providence. Like these previous works, The Naked Now recognizes the mysticism is a gift already given, not something we achieve so much as something we, by God's grace, simply allow: in the undefended, un-judged (hence,” naked") here-and-now present.
The key to this book's accessibility and usefulness lies in its subtitle. Rohr does not promise his readers that The Naked Now will make them become mystics; instead, he promises to invite them to"see“As mystics do. He uses the metaphor of seeing and even of the"third eye"to unpack not only what is wrong with religion in general, but to present mysticism as a shift into all-embracing, nondual consciousness. He grounds this fundamental truth in the Christian tradition, discussing how mysticism relates to the Christian (particularly but not exclusively Catholic) life, and especially to the teachings of Jesus. Like Cynthia Bourgeault or even Ken Wilber, Rohr's understanding of Jesus liberates Christ from the kind of metaphysical superhero who dies to placate a wrathful God and instead celebrates him as a wisdom teacher whose death and resurrection become the archetypal pathway for the life of mystical initiation: descent into the dark night (and surrender of the ego), followed by the resurrection into the"new mind"or"mind of Christ" (metanoia, conversion) that characterizes mystical seeing — and being.
In his introduction to the book, Rohr suggests that these principles epitomize what he is trying to say: “All saying must be balanced by unsaying, and knowing must be humbled by unknowing,” and“All light must be informed by darkness, and all success by suffering.”The key to these mystical axioms, of course, is unlearning the dualistic way of seeing and thinking by relaxing into the naked now: the"sacrament of the present moment.”
The Naked Now is a gentle book, and probably will not convert anyone who is not already predisposed to its joyful and expansive message. It lacks the polemical punch of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity or Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence; but it really has a different mission than either of those books. It's not about convincing the ego of how"right“The mystical path is, but rather simply about accepting the invitation to walk the mystic path and see for yourself. Because Rohr is not interested in oppositional consciousness, so he is not particularly interested in meeting his critics (or the critics of mysticism in general) on their level. Rather, he simply invites everyone to"come higher"to the third-eye, naked now level of contemplative seeing. Those who accept the invitation will find this book encouraging and hopeful. Those who don't probably wouldn't read the book to begin with.
If you like The Website of Unknowing I can confidently say that you will love The Naked Now. If you're not particularly familiar with my website, then consider if you are drawn to centering prayer, interfaith spirituality (Christianity in dialogue with Buddhism, etc.), Benedictine/Monastic spirituality, Celtic Christianity, or the emergent conversation. If any of these are of interest to you, get this book. It will inspire you to connect to the spiritual heart of all these creative movements within the Christian community.
“The Gift Is Already Given
Our hope is not deceptive. The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. — ROMANS 5:5
You already know. The Spirit is with you and the Spirit is in you. — JOHN 14:17
The future is by definition the unsayable and the uncontrollable, filled with paradoxes, mysteries, and confusions. It is an imperfect world at every level. Therefore, the future is always, somehow, crazy. We attempt to build for ourselves many protections against this imperfection, even in the patterns of our mind. This unsayable future—preparing for it and also fearing it—determines much of our lives. Thus we search for predictability, explanation, and order to give ourselves some sense of peace and control.
Even much of religion itself has become a search for social order, group cohesion, and personal worthiness, or a way of escaping into the next world, which unfortunately destroys most of its transformative power. True spirituality is not a search for perfection or control or the door to the next world; it is a search for divine union now. The great discovery is always that what we are searching for has already been given!...
Union and perfection are two different journeys with very different strategies. Common religion seeks private perfection; the mystics seek and enjoy the foundation itself—divine union, totally given. Personal perfection insists on private knowing and certitude. Surprisingly, union is a much better way of knowing. It is a shared knowing that is much more solid and consoling...
The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection—and told us that we must do the same or we would never be contend on this earth. This is what makes Jesus so counterintuitive to most eras and cultures, and why most never perceived the great good news in this utter shift of consciousness. That failure to understand his core message, and a concrete program by which you could experience this truth yourself, is at the center of our religious problem today. We looked for hope where it was never promised, and no one gave us the proper software so we could hope for ourselves, least of all in disorder and imperfection! Worst of all, we did not know that hope and union are the same thing, and that real hope has nothing to do with mental certitudes.”
Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See The Crossroad Publishing Company (September 1, 2009) pp. 15-6
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