• Wayfarer
    7.1k
    Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar, author, teacher and mystic. I first encountered him through his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life in 2012.

    Hereunder is a video of a recent talk of his at Science and Nonduality.

    Points that I found interesting: the idea that 'unitive consciousness' was fundamental to the early Church, but has become fragmented due to the emphasis on language (especially since the advent of printing.)

    The discussion of 'apophatic and cataphatic' modes of knowing at around 10:00. (This resonates with me as it maps well against Buddhist meditation.)

    Also the discussion of the nature of the Trinity towards the end of the talk.


  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I saw a video by him a few months ago and was slightly intrigued but then watched a few more and slowly began to see his MO. He's just another new age, self-help guru who peddles pseudo-science and shallow universalism, but with the unique angle that he pretends to be a Catholic, even though almost all of his views conflict with Church teaching. How much do you want to bet he's a millionaire, or at the very least, a very wealthy man? "Franciscan" my ass.
  • Janus
    6.9k
    How much do you want to bet he's a millionaire, or at the very least, a very wealthy man?Thorongil

    Do you have any actual evidence for your confidence that he is a rich man?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    He's "written" dozens of books, has a new age center, and goes around giving talks like the above one. No, I don't have any direct evidence, that's why I said I'd place a bet that he's a very wealthy man. St. Francis is rolling in his grave to see this hack running around in any case.
  • Janus
    6.9k


    Seems to me you are being quite unnecessarily judgemental. After all, his target audience is not professional or even serious amateur philosophers. There is no point in 'over-engineering' your intellectual rigor and philosophical sophistication; it's 'horses for courses' if you ask me.

    Even if he is wealthy; and he has earned it, then so what? Would you turn away wealth if it came your way?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Seems to me you are being quite unnecessarily judgemental.John

    Cry me a river.

    Even if he is wealthy; and he has earned it, then so what? Would you turn away wealth if it came your way?John

    A Franciscan would. I don't give two figs if someone's wealthy.
  • Janus
    6.9k


    Some traditional (or even contemporary) Franciscans might. You cannot possibly speak for all of them. Are you saying there can be no change within religious institutions? In any case you don't even have any evidence he is wealthy. Who say he owns the Center for Action and Contemplation? He might have donated the royalties from his books to the Franciscans.

    Religious organizations in general are having to adapt to the needs of their prospective constituents if they want to survive, to be considered relevant to modern life and continue to exert any influence. Are you saying that is somehow wrong? How do you know it is "new age"? Have you been there to confirm that?

    To be honest, your attitude seems to be lacking in subtly, unsophisticated and snobbish.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Religious organizations in general are having to adapt to the needs of their prospective constituents if they want to survive, to be considered relevant to modern life and continue to exert any influence.John

    No, that's how they wither and die. See mainline Protestant Christianity.

    How do you know it is "new age"? Have you been there to confirm that?John

    Been where? Watch his damn videos. The man has the Om symbol equaling mc2 behind him in the one above, for goodness' sake.

    To be honest, your attitude seems to be lacking in subtly, unsophisticated and snobbish.John

    Well, there are plenty more rivers to go cry in.
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    I think he is very much New Age, but I don't see anything intrinsically the matter with that fact. The logo is from the Science and Nonduality Conference, if you don't like New Age there is plenty not to like about that. But I also think Richard Rohr is a genuinely insightful teacher.
  • Janus
    6.9k
    No, that's how they wither and die. See mainline Protestant Christianity.Thorongil

    Rubbish. It's adapt or become extinct.

    Been where? Watch his damn videos.Thorongil

    His videos are not the Center..doh!

    Well, there are plenty more rivers to go cry in.Thorongil

    If that's your penchant, then off you go...

    :-}
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Rubbish. It's adapt or become extinct.John

    Nah.

    His videos are not the Center..doh!John

    And I never claimed they were....
  • Janus
    6.9k
    And I never claimed they were....Thorongil

    I said "How do you know it is "new age"?", referring to the Center he founded and you said "look at his videos". Since, as you admit, his videos are not his Center then even if his videos are new age, this gives you no warrant for concluding that his Center also is new age.
  • Janus
    6.9k
    Nah.Thorongil

    Have you got any argument to support your claim that religious organizations escape the common condition constraining all things such that they must adapt to survive? Things may be able to survive (increasingly poorly) for some little time without adaptation, but not over the long term.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I said "How do you know it is "new age"?", referring to the CenterJohn

    I thought you meant what he says, not the center.

    Have you got any argument to support your claim that religious organizations escape the common condition constraining all things such that they must adapt to survive?John

    I just gave you an example.
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    Why is 'new age' a pejorative? What if it really is a 'new age'? Global culture really has crossed thresholds of conscious awareness that weren't even possible before, there are ways of being, and cultural forms emerging that really are novel. I fail to see what is necessarily bad about that.

    Sure there's phoney new age, there's phoney gurus, there's phoney religion of all kinds, but there would be no fool's gold, if there were no real gold, as the old saying has it.

    I think Richard Rohr's teaching is quite 'new age' - but that doesn't necessarily invalidate it. From everything I have read and listened to, I don't think Richard Rohr is a phoney. If you want to believe that, bully for you.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    So what's "good new age?"
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    Arguably, all of the influx of vedanta-yoga-buddhist ideas into Western culture, beginning with Thoreau and Emerson. Theosophy, Richard Maurice Bucke, Krishnamurti, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; Findhorn, Lindisfarne; many (but not all) of the speakers at Science and Nonduality. Rohr fits into that profile, but there's another couple of Christian speakers on that circuit, one being Cynthia Bourgeault and another Timothy Freke.

    But then, also arguably, one of the reasons the 'new age' exists is because of the shortcomings of the Christian mainstream - it's authoritarianism, inflexibility, dogmatism, and the rest. So, many of these types are rascals, tricksters, sometimes even charlatans. But that's maybe because God is not actually Super Commandant, the divine boss in the chain of command, which the institutions of the West used to legimize their political power for centuries. (However, notice that Francis was also subversive of that.)
  • Janus
    6.9k


    Sorry, I missed that.

    In any case, from Wiki:

    "Mainline Protestants were a majority of all Christians in the United States until the mid-20th century, but now constitute a minority among Protestants." Shrinking?

    However:

    "Mainline churches share a liberal approach to social issues". Adaptation to a liberal society?

    "While in 1970 the mainline churches claimed most Protestants and more than 30 percent of the population as members,[25] today they are a minority among Protestants; in 2009, only 15 percent of Americans were adherents."

    It does sound like they have adapted to some extent in the past, but have now failed to adapt to a growing penchant for fundamentalism among the faithful. Fundamentalist churches have obviously adapted to meet people's desires and needs or they would not be so popular (relatively speaking) today. The New Age movement has probably taken many of the more liberal minded away form the Churches altogether. It is a fact that adherence to organized Christianity is diminishing pretty much everywhere in the modern western world.

    In any case, it seems obvious that the general rule is adapt or languish and perhaps die, however slow that languishing or death might be. Even if there were one genuine counterexample that would not contradict the general rule, since sociological and even biological trends are not as hard and fast as physics or chemistry.
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    A useful analysis of new age movements can be found in: Camille Paglia's Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in America in the 1960's. It's a longish read, but insightful.

    The New Age movement deserves respect for its attunement to nature and its search for meaning at a time when neither nature nor meaning is valued in discourse in the humanities. New Age has a core of perennial wisdom. It exalts the broth- erhood of man, encourages contemplation, and finds beauty in the moment. But too much cultural energy has been absorbed by New Age over the past twenty years to the detri-ment of the fine arts, which frittered away their authority in their dalliance with trendy political tag lines. Despite its appeals to the archaic, New Age is fuzzily ahistorical. It lacks an analytic edge: with its soothing promises and feel-good therapies, New Age induces a benevolent relaxation that may be disabling in the face of aggression. In a world of ter- rorism, New Agers can only take to the hills and leave their scriptures in jars at Esalen.

    There was a massive failure by American universities to address the spiritual cravings of the post-sixties period. The present cultural landscape is bleak: mainline religions torn between their liberal and conservative wings; a snobbishly secular intelligentsia; an alternately cynical or naively credulous media; and a mass of neo-pagan cults and superstitions seething beneath the surface.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Whereof one cannot speak, let's make a word for it. The 'immeasurable' or something. That which breathes fire into the equation. Is it not a great tragedy, that this side of religion seems always to be lost to 'the institution'?

    If I say 'thirdness', it might invoke the Pierceans to engage a little in the doctrine of the Trinity, or of id, ego and superego. Note, by the way, that that particular doctrine is that of the ego - one might as well call it the superego and the subego. God, man, nature.

    Necessarily, one makes a distinction. And there is the triad; one, and the distinguished this and that.

    The unseen seer, the ego, the crucified, the invisible storyteller, or even the visible but neglected storyteller about whom the story is not, unless by happenstance it is, but even then it is -by time - distinguished, the protagonist from the storyteller, and still I haven't progressed beyond the subject of the sentence, I, the speaker, (you know who that is stolen from), indulge myself in a deliberate confusion of language, because there is a folly of wisdom that thinks it can encompass even itself, let alone the world, let alone God.

    I hope I will be forgiven for talking - even thus loosely - about what the wretched monk says, rather than the despicable 'ism that he embodies. You are all fake philosophy, arguing about who is fake philosophy rather than exposing failures of thinking and conceptualisation. Start playing the fucking ball, not the man.
  • TimeLine
    2.7k
    I saw a video by him a few months ago and was slightly intrigued but then watched a few more and slowly began to see his MO. He's just another new age, self-help guru who peddles pseudo-science and shallow universalism, but with the unique angle that he pretends to be a Catholic, even though almost all of his views conflict with Church teaching. How much do you want to bet he's a millionaire, or at the very least, a very wealthy man? "Franciscan" my ass.Thorongil

    (Y)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.5k
    But then, also arguably, one of the reasons the 'new age' exists is because of the shortcomings of the Christian mainstream - it's authoritarianism, inflexibility, dogmatism, and the rest.Wayfarer

    This is likely the most difficult issue of religion, to establish compatibility between the idea that the human being has real freedom of choice, yet there is also real objective authority. The answer is not to oppress freedom of choice with authoritarianism (as Agustino implies), because we must respect the fact that the human race progresses through advancements in knowledge, and evolution, such that what was once believed as true, in the past, may not be believed as true anymore. Nor is the answer to proceed forward with completely unprincipled decision making.

    So there is a very awkward need to allow the free thinking human mind to reach out into the fringes, groping in the dark, as it may be, grasping at straws in the realm of the unknown, in order to find principles to cling to, as leverage, to pull the unknown into the realm of becoming known. This is the activity through which knowledge progresses. But this activity, whereby the unknown becomes known, which can only be carried out by the freest minds, must itself be principled in some way.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    'new age' exists is because of the shortcomings of the Christian mainstream - it's authoritarianism, inflexibility, dogmatism, and the restWayfarer

    These are precisely its strengths that have allowed it to endure for 2000 years. You no longer have a universal church when you take such things away.

    It does sound like they have adapted to some extent in the past, but have now failed to adapt to a growing penchant for fundamentalism among the faithful. Fundamentalist churches have obviously adapted to meet people's desires and needs or they would not be so popular (relatively speaking) today.John

    You're using the word "adapt" so that you always come out in the right. What you're effectively saying in the quote above is that those churches that stress more traditional values and beliefs are doing better. Okay, but that's not exactly "adapting to modern life," which was the phrase you used. When I think of "adapting to modern life" I think of precisely what the mainline churches have done, which is to get in bed with progressive politics. This has caused such churches to decline.

    One can use Buddhism in Japan as another example. When it abandoned the traditional monastic code during the Meiji restoration, ever since then it has largely become a funeral business that is irrelevant to most people's lives.
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    The way I have approached religion is through wanting to understand: what is the meaning of 'spiritual enlightenment?' That is an idea or a principle that I discovered through books on Eastern philosophy that were popular in the 1960's when I grew up (and also through some vivid experiences with hallucinogens).

    At the time, I had declined confirmation in the Church (I had been raised Anglican, albeit in a very secular household). I didn't believe, at the time, that enlightenment (whatever it was) had anything to do with what I had been taught about 'religion. Of course, that was a very long time ago, and my attitude has changed since, but I still think it's the case that the mainstream of Western religion doesn't really accomodate the idea of enlightenment very well. I have the idea that this was something that was suppressed very early in the Christian era.

    As it happens, there is a confluence between the teachings of mystics from many traditions - this is the basis of books such as William James' influential Varieties of Religious Experience and Huston Smith's Religions of the World (and many others). So, you can find similarities between Zen Buddhism and mystical Christianity, which was written about at length by D T Suzuki. (Two of the main influencers at the time were Alan Watts and Suzuki. They both had a generically theosophical approach to religion - Suzuki's American-born wife was a leading figure in Theosophy. I also think theosophy played a large role in my spiritual path.)

    So they are the kinds of books I started off reading. After some time, it seemed to me the most practical approach to the whole enlightenment business was from Buddhism, through the well-known book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. That book is from Sōtō Zen, and emphasises the key importance of 'just sitting' (shikantaza) without any attempt to gain an experience of any kind. It was a very simple method: just sit, maintain clear but relaxed alertness (like a frog waiting for a fly to come along, was the instruction) - and repeat every day.

    Somewhere along the line, I realised that to commit oneself to such a practice - sitting every day - was actually 'religious' in the sense of 'something one does religiously'. 'Abandoning any idea of gain' was actually a very difficult thing to do, because naturally it seems like enlightenment would be something you would want. But if you wanted it, it wouldn't happen! There's the rub. And that, I learned, had a lot to teach about the meaning of devotion. It was something you had to devote yourself to, 'without any gaining idea' - which turns out to be the key to the spiritual path.

    Later I read To Meet the Real Dragon by Nishijima, which is also a Sōtō Zen book. I am not a formal member of a Sōtō Zen sangha or any other Buddhist religious organisation, however have been practicing that form of meditation since then along with reading and reflection. I have found that what you learn from meditation is very subtle, but definite. A part of it is 'the way of unknowing' - the negative way, neti neti. That understanding is also predominant in Christian contemplative prayer. Hence the confluence between different traditions. And that is why I can relate to teachers like Richard Rohr. But the other thing I really like about Rohr, is his teaching that imperfection and failing are an indispensable part of the process of spiritual maturity; that is what he calls 'falling upward'.

    So, I feel very drawn to Christianity, or, should I say, Christ, but via a very 'inner path' approach. Suffice to say, I am uncomfortably theistic for some of my Buddhist friends, and uncomfortably Buddhist for some of my Christian friends. I really don't think about going back to the Church, although I think I'm probably part of the 'invisible Church'.

    So there is a very awkward need to allow the free thinking human mind to reach out into the fringes, groping in the dark, as it may be, grasping at straws in the realm of the unknown, in order to find principles to cling to, as leverage, to pull the unknown into the realm of becoming known.Metaphysician Undercover

    Spot on, MU. Agree with everything you say in that post. ;-)
  • Janus
    6.9k
    You're using the word "adapt" so that you always come out in the right. What you're effectively saying in the quote above is that those churches that stress more traditional values and beliefs are doing better. Okay, but that's not exactly "adapting to modern life," which was the phrase you used. When I think of "adapting to modern life" I think of precisely what the mainline churches have done, which is to get in bed with progressive politics. This has caused such churches to decline.Thorongil

    Yes, but organized religion as a whole has declined insofar as it has failed to adapt to the prevailing modern scientific worldview. Now, maybe such institutions simply cannot adapt adequately to ensure long term survival in their traditional forms, or maybe various sects can more or less adapt. But the glaring fact is that the percentage of people who hold a theistic worldview has been declining since the 17th Century. There has also been the influx of religious ideas from the East to consider; many of which are not based on any strict conception of theism.

    Failure to adapt is not necessarily a willful thing; it may be due to sheer incapacity. If there remains a portion of conservative humanity who want to cling onto traditional forms or simple-minded literalist interpretations of scripture, then to provide that in order to hang onto a fundamentalist constituency is also an act of adaptation.
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    No, true believers do not imagine God as some thing among others things, they imagine Him as something beyond all things, something infinitely greater than all things, something incomprehensible with infinite power, knowledge, goodness and love, that can create all that we know. That is the view expressed in the Gospels, and it is a view widely considered to be naive today in view of the scientific understanding of the origin of the universe and life.John

    That is 'instructively mistaken'.

    First in respect of overall growth vs decline of traditional religion - it is true that in advanced industrial economies, membership of church organisations is declining. But globally, membership is increasing and shows no sign of fading away (this is backed by research).

    Second, many of those who don't identify as 'religious' still express some belief in a 'higher intelligence'. This actually goes for at least some people who identify as atheist. Many others identify as 'spiritual but not religious' i.e. consider themselves religious but don't attend churches.

    Third, the understanding of God as 'not some thing amongst other things', whilst formally true, is certainly NOT the understanding of many mainstream US Christians. That is why, I think, Richard Rohr talks about the similarity between 'deus' and 'Zeus' - he says that many people believe in a 'sky-father-god' who hurls thunderbolts, designs beetle-wings, and the like.

    There have been a few debates over the years between Ed Feser (neo-Catholic philosopher) and the ID people at Uncommon Descent over this question. They're very long-winded debates, but basically it comes down to them saying that Feser's view (which is orthodox Catholic) is too near to atheism for their liking. (I've long since given up reading anything the ID people say, because among other things, they're total climate-change deniers.)
  • Janus
    6.9k
    First in respect of overall growth vs decline of traditional religion - it is true that in advanced industrial economies, membership of church organisations is declining. But globally, membership is increasing and shows no sign of fading away (this is backed by research).

    Second, many of those who don't identify as 'religious' still express some belief in a 'higher intelligence'. This actually goes for at least some people who identify as atheist.

    Third, the understanding of God as 'not some thing amongst other things', whilst formally true, is certainly NOT the understanding of many mainstream US Christians. That is why, I think, Richard Rohr talks about the similarity between 'deus' and 'Zeus' - he says that many people believe in a 'sky-father-god' who hurls thunderbolts, designs beetle-wings, and the like.
    Wayfarer


    Regarding your first point, I was referring specifically to the the decline of religious belief in the advanced industrial societies, because that is where the traditional scientific worldview has had its greatest impact. I mean it hasn't even eliminated widespread belief in traditional medicine in India and China.

    As to your second point I was specifically addressing traditional theistic religious belief. The fact that alternative spiritualities, which might be imagined as being more in accordance with science, does not weaken, but only strengthens my point as far as I can see.

    Sure there might be some uneducated fundamentalists who still hold the "sky-father' view. But even then I doubt that means that, if asked, such people would say they truly believe God is a 'big man' somewhere in the universe. The view I was referring to is the one actually proclaimed in the Gospels; not so much the vision we might find in a literalist reading of the Old Testament.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    because there is a folly of wisdom that thinks it can encompass even itself, let alone the world, let alone God.unenlightened

    Speaking of thirdness, that's Kant's right there. The transcendental illusions, the three transcendental objects that we can't help but posit, but can never be possible objects of experiences (according to Kant): the soul, the world, and God.
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    I doubt that means that, if asked, such people would say they truly believe God is a 'big man' somewhere in the universe.John

    I think a great number of religious believers believe that. I'm certain that is what New Atheism believes they believe.

    If I haven't mentioned it before, I loved Terry Eagleton's review of The God Delusion, Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching. He says:

    Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized. He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ‘existent’: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects.

    X-)
  • Janus
    6.9k
    I think a great number of religious believers believe that. I'm certain that is what New Atheism believes they believe.Wayfarer

    Well I find that simply incredible, but since I haven't gone to personally ask "a great number of religious believers" to explain precisely what they believe; I will have to remain reliant on my incredulity. All I can say is that if they truly believed that, then they must be either hopeless morons, or have failed to gained any decent education beyond about year 5.

    The New Atheists are either being tendentiously uncharitable ("surprise, surprise, surprise" [visualizes Gomer Pyle]), or are themselves morons for imputing such a belief.

    Nice quote from the ever ascerbic Eagleton!
  • Wayfarer
    7.1k
    look who got elected.
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