Note from CM: Each day I receive meditations from Richard Rohr. I found Sunday’s article quite insightful, and hope you will too.
• • •
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same;
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying what I do is me: for that I came.
• Gerard Manley Hopkins
Franciscan philosopher-theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) taught extensively on the absolute uniqueness of each act of creation. His doctrine of haecceity is derived from haec, the Latin word for “this.” Duns Scotus said the absolute freedom of God allows God to create, or not to create, each creature. Its existence means God has positively chosen to create that creature, precisely as it is.
Each creature is thus not merely one member of a genus and species, but a unique aspect of the infinite Mystery of God. God is continuously choosing each created thing specifically to exist, moment by moment. This teaching alone made Duns Scotus a favorite of mystics and poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Merton, who both considered themselves “Scotists”—as do I. I studied this largely unknown genius for four years in college, which is why I quote him so often.
Duns Scotus taught that you cannot know something spiritually by saying it is a not-that, by negation or distinguishing it from something else. You can only know anything by meeting it in its precise and irreplaceable thisness and honoring it there. Each individual act of creation is a once-in-eternity choice on God’s part. The direct implication of this truth is that love must precede all true knowledge, which was at the heart of all Franciscan-based philosophy.
In a word, this is contemplation: to look at reality with a primary gaze of love. Contemplation has been described as “a long, loving look at the Real.” Nondual consciousness is learning how to be present to what is right in front of me, to the Now, exactly as it is, without splitting or dividing it, without judgment, analysis, or resistance. We must say yes before we offer any no!
In other words, our mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment, just as it is. This allows us to say, “Just this,” and love things in themselves, as themselves, and by themselves, regardless of how they benefit or make demands on us. Is there any other way to truly love anything?
Spiritual knowledge is to know things subject to subject (I-Thou), whereas rational knowing is to know things subject to object (I-it). There is, of course, a place for both; but most people have never been taught how to see in this deeper, non-dual way, center to center and subject to subject—and that is the seeing that changes our lives.
60 thoughts on “Richard Rohr: Thisness”
The Clinton Foundation.
–> “…a failure to recognize his rhetorical use of prosopopoeia…”
I hate people who don’t recognize other people’s rhetorical use of prosopopoeia!
BTW…My doctor just prescribed me Prosopopoeia. I’m not supposed to take it on an empty stomach, and if I start getting chills or feel feverish, I’m supposed to stop and contact him. I’m also not supposed to drive while taking Prosopopoeia, nor operate heavy machinery, nor lift items over 20 pounds; I’m to avoid milk, peanuts and apples; if my vision become impaired while taking Prosopopoeia, I’m to go into a dark room for two hours. Failure to take the right dosage of Prosopopoeia could result in hospitalization or death.
As one tract from my time in-country put it:
“FOR GOD HATES SIN WITH SUCH A PERFECT HATRED…” (combined with Worm Theology & Total Depravity).
The “Roman Road” is the epitome of a bad reading of Paul and especially a failure to recognize his rhetorical use of prosopopoeia…
“[…] Jesus cares only about whether people are someplace where *trust alone* can get them, not about whether they can claim to have worked their way there by noble efforts. So in his stories he goes out of his way to reward those whose only virtue consists of trusting enough to be in the right place at the right time (like the tax collector in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican) – and he usually gives them shabby reasons for being there, just to make sure you won’t have any stray virtues to keep track of. And that’s because the Gospel is not some self-improvement scheme devised by a God who holds back on us till he sees the improvements. Above all, Jesus wants to make sure we understand he doesn’t care a fig about our precious results. It doesn’t even make a difference to him if we’re solid brass bastards, because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” By the Mystery of the Incarnation, he has included everybody, from Aalborg to Zzwickendorf. He’s had you home free from the start, not matter what you’ve done; all you have to do is *believe* him. Therefore, God isn’t *fair*; if he were fair, we’d all be in the soup. God is *good*; crazy, stark-staring-bonkers good.”
— Robert Farrar Capon, The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It
The greatest failure of Evangelicalism as I see it is that it is rooted not in the perspective that God is Good, rather in Augustine’s semi-Manichean sense of an aloof stainless steel teflon coated deity who cannot abide the presence of the mess which is Humanity. Such a deity may constitute “perfection” but could never be said to be “good.”
One of the great understandings of E.Orthodoxy of which I have gleaned is that God’s grace is as infinite as God him/herself.
And, from my favorite Episcopalian…
To St Therese of Lisieux, it can be found in everyday routine.
Kind of like the Jewish emphasis on “live your life”.
John, “AcceptJeesusChristAsYourPersonalLOOORDandSavior” has been so overdone it SHOULD be all one word, with “Accept” and “Reject” command buttons below like a Microsoft Licensing screen. Like I commented re Burro above, reduced to a High Pressure Sales Pitch.
And lose the Bible-verse Zip codes; they make you sound like a Calvary Chapel zombie.
Your description is that of a high-pressure sales pitch using fear and guilt manipulation to close the sale.
In what way, Burro?
Whose “Little Way” consisted of Holiness coming in everyday events of our life.
Or Mohammed abu-Hamid al-Ghazali.
The Deep State(TM).
Good input. Thanks!
Thanks for your thoughts. Very helpful.
All roads might have led to Rome but there is only one road to salvation and that is the road that takes you to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and the Son of God. John 3.16 and John 6.47 pretty well sum it up.
That is the sum of it no matter and if that is your true belief and faith you are on the road to be with God. There is no other way .
Ah, yes… The Roman Road. That’s a good one, too. You know, it’s not a bad illustration, but sure gets used in unhealthy ways.
Yes there were a lot of things the New Testament knew nothing about, Makes me devoutly wish for an afterlife so I can be present at Paul’s first interviews with his interpreters, from Marcion to Augustine. And woe betide the unknown who forged the Pastorals. We will find out if fisticuffs are allowed in the Kingdom.
I think it is some version of the ‘Roman Road’ I was taught in evangelism class. 1) Get them to feel bad about their moral performance. 2) Impress on them that this shoddy performance has uncomfortable consequences. A century before, this would have been hellfire and brimstone, although in our gentler days it is usually referred to as ‘eternal separation from God’, which I think would actually be preferable to sinners than an eternity in His in-mediate presence. 3) Your poor performance pisses God off a lot, but fortunately He has agreed to torment one of the best and wisest men who ever lived in your place. 4) If you are sufficiently impressed by and grateful for this and agree to amend your low-down cussin’ whorein’ gamblin’ fightin’ ways, He’ll accept Jesus’ torment instead of yours and you get a pink ticket to the good place. The jury is still out if you can lose it by reverting to the norm, but it’s better to be safe.
Evangelicals are those who believe this, or some form of it, probably better stated with Biblical references. I call it Christianity 2.0 and see it as an innovation that the New Testament knows nothing about.
Rick Ro. , Thanks for the information, I know a lot of people who are evangelicals believe that the sinners prayer as it is called is needed but most once they grow realize it is not. Most grown up evangelicals know you can not say a word publicity but it is encouraged at the famous ‘alter’ call that is stressed but not going to save you. A lot Calvinist evangelicals will not disavow the altar call publicity but they does not go with the elect belief and it is part of many in the evangelical culture and certainly Billy Graham made it seem like a part of salvation. I think the sinners prayer was in response to many , new to faith and unable to articulate what they felt short of a comforting shorthand t the person not to the Lord. Like my poorly educated Grandmother use to say, it is not the preacher, the prayer, the altar call that saves you, it is Jesus
Chris, will you come pastor my church??
My guess is that he’s referring to the Evangelical tendency to believe that someone is saved only if they say the Sinner’s Prayer. It’s what most Evangelicals tend to hold up as “this is how I know someone is saved.”
I used to believe that, too. Heck, I once said the Sinner’s Prayer myself. Now, I’m not so sure of its necessity in gaining God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ.
Jesus saves. This I know. HOW he saves, WHEN he saves… not really sure.
–> “The more I read the Bible, the more convinced I am that modern Evangelicals have got salvation dead wrong.”
Same here. And it’s something I’ve come to believe over the past 5 years or so for some reason, in my further reading of the Bible and the gospel accounts.
This view would get me labeled as a heretic among those Evangelicals, of course, and I’m careful who I share it with among my Evangelical friends. 😉
you wrote ‘but it does not say that in the Bible’
if you are referring to God writing His laws upon the hearts of men and ‘giving choice’, I think you need to take another look . . . . it’s in there, yes
Also, Therese was a Catholic ‘Doctor of the Church’, so likely she understood the importance of moral conscience as a God-given guide.
Therese would have believed THIS:
“‘Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.'”
I don’t know of any evangelicals who teach this, no. But I imagine many are drawn to the idea that grace works in mysterious ways, that God’s ways are far above our understanding, that the Holy Spirit goes where He wills and that His special grace is possible, and that the Mercy of God is greater than we know. In short, I see some evangelical people are not without hope for those who ”through no fault of their own” belong most especially within the care of their Creator in ways unknown to us.
Inclusive / Exclusive???? I don’t know if what Therese is talking about applies to that dichotomy; I think her words belong more to her deep trust in the mercy of the Creator towards His Creation. What witnessed to her of God’s love for His wounded Creation? Maybe the ‘they know not what they do’ in His Words of forgiveness from the Cross?
The God In The Box is limited by what ‘fundamentalist’ men say he can do.
But the Risen Lord who is not bound by death will not be bound by the limitations of those fundamentalists, no. The Spirit goes where He wills. God will save whom He will save.
Burro, exactly what have the evangelicals got wrong about what they believe? What is your definition of an evangelical? thanks
Great stuff, Chris
Thanks Mr. Rick! Don’t go changin’!
The more I read the Bible, the more convinced I am that modern Evangelicals have got salvation dead wrong. Wronger than wrong, almost dangerously wrong, but good luck trying to convince any Evangelical about that.
rick ro, I guess it is possible but it does not say that in the Bible. I can only go by what is in the Bible when it comes to salvation. Again , it is what you believe and why you believe. We will all find out one day.
I , unlike Therese of Lisieux, do not know or pretend to know God’s plan for those who have not heard about the salvation found in Jesus Christ but I have heard the word about the Word so I can only speak for myself and not very coherently at that.
I think it is, of course, VERY possible . . . .
“He has created the poor savage with no guide but natural law,
and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop.
They are His wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him.”
(Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church)
The Lutheran Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this about the Incarnation of Christ:
“” We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others. The incarnate Lord makes His followers the brothers and sisters of all humanity.
The “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3:4) revealed in the Incarnation is the ground of Christian love toward all on earth that bear the name of human. The form of Christ incarnate makes the Church into the Body of Christ. All the sorrows of humanity falls upon that form, and only through that form can they be borne. The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross.
The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed: in other words, they must be conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:4). The Christian life is a life of crucifixion.”
Is it possible that God sees those who have NOT accepted Jesus as their savior as sinless as Jesus took our sins to the cross?
Hello Br. Paul
Once, on Calvary, God in the Second Person, Our Savior, suffered, out of love for His creatures. So, I would say ‘yes’.
” This thought should keep us humble. We are sinners, but we do not know how great.
He alone knows who died for our sins. ”
(John Henry Newman)
Nice post, Chris!
Consider you are viewing creation with a human viewpoint.
Does God’s creation create suffering for God?
I do not know.
Last footnote. The term “attraction” has zero to do with sex,gender or physical features.
You know, RDavid, my book group read Rohr’s “Divine Dance,” and that really put me off Rohr, if the book is an example of how he runs his workshops and what he actually thinks. I found many things that sounded pretty good, but then even in the same paragraph I’d have to note things like “NO!” and “This is Modalism!” in the margin… Anyhow, I don’t know if or how much Rohr agrees with EO, having not read much else of his except occasional quotes like CM posted here. From what I have read, I think he would be in agreement, but would talk about it in such a roundabout way that it would make you think he might not.
In EO, God is good and loves mankind, period – full stop. We don’t spend a lot of time asking “why” about our sufferings; the answer is, because we live in a world tainted and driven by death until the Lord returns, and suffering is a given in this life. Serious Orthodox spend more time seeking to see and know Christ with us in our sufferings, doing the “simple and pedestrian” things outlined by Mule below. They’re simple, but not easy a whole lot of the time; they’re not things that we can measure in terms of “effectiveness”, which painfully goes against our Modern American grain of wretched urgency of various kinds. But they are a matter of being truly human.
In EO, we don’t require that our theologians be completely correct about everything, even our beloved Church Fathers. It’s the consensus to which we adhere, and allow for differing opinions about other things that aren’t true heresy. I haven’t read deeply enough of the Fathers to be able to say if Scotus’ opinion on “positive creation” was in line with the patristic consensus.
Did you know that “Scotus” means “from Ireland”? Yup. I haven’t read him, but from others I understand that Scotus also believed that God always intended to be united to humanity, and that the Incarnation was in no way a kind of “plan B.”
If you want something from a good contemporary Catholic source, I think Fr Ronald Rolheiser is much better than Rohr.
The best and most simple explanation of accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior is “I am not what I use to be ” by the blood of Jesus Christ our Savior. We should go on Changing by accepting Jesus as our Savior. We are sinners saved by grace. Works, meditation , medication, speaking in tongues, singing , not singing, praising, social work and all the human efforts earn rewards perhaps but not salvation . Forgive means to forget and the price for our sins have been paid. How we live in this world will be a reflection of the type of religion we chose to follow and what they teach but it is a work finished if you believe and accept Jesus as your personal savior.
God sees those who have accepted Jesus as their savior as sinless as Jesus took our sins to the cross.
Don’t say that, Mule. You don’t have to live with me.
Just a note about “don’t go changing“. No one is fooling themselves. We all know we need change. When I say that to you I mean to say I am with you. I like you. I’m better for being with you. Whatever changes you may make or ultimately find yourself unable to make, won’t affect my attraction to you. (Some of the biggest issues never get resolved. We just live through them). I will help you make changes if you need me to. If you find that you can’t I will be there to help you with that as I know you will for me. Let’s fix our eyes on Christ together. This world can be a living hell at times so I need someone like you to help me through and I’m always here for you, hell or high water.
You can have something like this:
“I have an agenda for your improvement. I need you to get your lust, jealousy and anger issues better under control. Until I see clear evidence of Christ being formed in you I can’t thoroughly relax and be fully accepting of you. You need to show me that you’re truly committed to your formation in Christ. When I see clear signs of Godliness, the Elders, the Deacons and I will ease up a little and allow you to be more on the inside. We will all be keeping a careful eye.”
That sort of thing gets said in myriad subtle ways and demolishes any spirit of life. Love is generative. It creates and brings lasting change over time. A lot of time. How that practically plays out is varied. It’s Bruce Cockburn’s, “…billion facets of freedom, turning in the light”. Billy Joel’s line, “Don’t go changing” is one of my favorites. Say it to someone and see how they react.
Of Course we all want godliness. The question is what will bring us there? Clarity about our sin is essential, it’s true. That recognition is the simple part. Then the very long process of growing in Christ, surrounded by love and giving love proceeds. Developing certain conformative behaviors that make me acceptable is a dead end project that results in despair and I personally will never be subject to that business again. He came that we might have abundant life. He came to set us free. The finger wagging crowd is generally threatened by that.
I love the idea of ‘uniqueness’ for many reasons, but I do ‘get it’ that we are being held in existence by God from moment to moment . . . . . ‘generated’, if you will by the ‘Source of All Being’, God Himself.
As for ‘uniqueness’, comes to mind this:
“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.
(Therese of Lisieux)
I am the parent of a son born with Down Syndrome and multiple medical problems who now lives as a resident of Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat in Wyckoff NJ.
But I think this post speaks to something I have witnessed that brought some light on the ‘why?’ we parents of developmentally disabled initially ask of God.
My son can walk. But some of the residents at the Retreat are ‘stretcher-bound’. One day, I saw my son get up and choose a musical toy from a shelf and carry it over to one of the stretcher-bound residents and gently place the toy into his hands. The staff tells me that my son will frequently show kindness in this way.
I can’t explain it, but seeing that happen was a ‘healing’ moment for me. . . . I had seen my son ‘serve’ someone less fortunate than himself. And I had seen him do it with great gentleness. There are no words . . . .
What makes us ‘persons’? That we are made in the ‘image of God’ and are given souls by God? By what “standard’ can I measure my son’s kindness to someone less fortunate than himself in a world where so many are born ‘healthy’ but yet who are unkind and deeply wounded in spirit?
I’m having a difficult time with this piece myself, and an even more difficult time trying to articulate my thoughts, but I think you’ve captured some of it Thelliot. A meditative piece like this works well in utopian conditions, but doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny, especially under the brokenness of the world and what some people are living through. It’s very “monk-ish” to me, that is to say, removed from the real world.
This is the very core of my unquietness. If we believe that people are not ‘fit for God’ pretty much as they come from their mother’s womb, we are always going to have an agenda for their improvement, and thus, we aren’t really going to love them.
Thinking this through, it may be that we are not ‘fit for God’ but to think that there is some experience that we have had that makes us ‘fit for God’ in a way that others aren’t is absolutely lethal to the project of loving others as Christ loved us. This spiritual hubris may be mitigated by the teaching of the Calvinists that the source is in God rather than man, and indeed the best Calvinists I have met are able to reflect this and wear their election very loosely. Generic Evangelicals, not so much. The Human Improvement Project is very much front and center, and it has done more damage in my family, to my children, than I can recount.
I need someone to talk to about this.
Thelliot, poetry aside that is the mystic vision. That all is as it must be nor could it be otherwise. It is a monstrous vision which is why most faith traditions have always been at least a little leery of its mystics.
“To us it is given to say, ‘Yes'”
The late Dr. Bruce Morgan often said, quoting someone else as I recall, that you can tell the people who love you because, “their faces light up when they see you and they do not have an agenda for your improvement.” It is that “agenda” that so often removes our attention from what is right in front of us, making us somewhat blind.
Great stuff there.
JOHN DUNS SCOTUS: – Each creature is thus not merely one member of a genus and species, but a unique aspect of the infinite Mystery of God. God is continuously choosing each created thing specifically to exist, moment by moment.
Sounds like “neo-cal.”
You may want to wait for Dana to chime in. She has a purer soul than I and thus is more apt to give a truly Orthodox response.
I think there is some kinship between Rohr’s idea of contemplative practices leading to a direct intuitive (“spiritual”) understanding of things and the Orthodox goal of cleansing the nous so as to apprehend the logoi of created things, especially in their relationship to Christ the Logos. The practices that the Orthodox church recommends to accomplish this are quite simple and kind of pedestrian; go to church, pray with faith, don’t eat too much and restrain yourself even from lawful foods at particular times, give away as much of your income as you can bear to and always strive to give away more, don’t do things with your genitals that you shouldn’t, pay attention to your daily life and seek God’s presence in it, be as kind to people as you can, especially with those who irk you.
I am certain that Fr. Rohr has some practices that he would recommend, but in the absence of any concrete examples I cannot say anything further.
“Duns Scotus taught that you cannot know something spiritually by saying it is a not-that, by negation or distinguishing it from something else.”
So is he not in agreement with the apophatic theology of Eastern Orthodoxy (which is balanced with cataphatic theology- both/and), or does he say no apophatic theology is helpful (either/or)?
Would also like to hear the thoughts of some EO’s out there on this. Dana Ames?
You do not have to buy into Rohr’s beliefs and speculations concerning non-duality to engage in the helpful practices of contemplation. Contemplation can be completely Christ and God-centered; you might try the Jesus Prayer; just look it up online; there is plenty of information about it, and how to practice it.
Your intuitive rejection of gratuitously cruel suffering as being out of keeping with the character of God is not something you have to give up to engage in contemplative practices. Contrary to what Rohr says, you don’t need to say yes to all things before you can say no to anything, and you don’t have to yes to all things before you can engage in direct intuitive knowing of existence and contemplative practices. Don’t let being put off by Rohr’s analysis and expression of this subject put you off trying contemplative practices; you might find them to be of great value to you.
Susan, Rohr is making this seem too intellectual and specialized. Direct intuition of existence is simple and primary to living creatures; my cat does it every day, without instruction. Your practice of haiku is as good a way as any, and better than some, to contemplatively develop your God-given direct intuition of and into existence.
I know there is great value in contemplative spiritual practices that cultivate our intuitive way of knowing existence. I disagree with Rohr’s suggestion that this intuitive way of knowing is something separate from our intellect/rationality. Everyone intuits existence directly, although not everyone has developed their ability to do so by contemplative practices. It is our intellect/rationality that leads us to the understanding that we are able to develop our intuitive way of knowing ; and then our intellect/rationality guides us into the practices, and goes with us through them, and assesses what we have learned and experienced in them, and gives them expression like the expression Rohr attempts here. But Rohr’s analysis and expression of them is faulty, because he divides the ways of knowing into discrete compartments; and this seems ironic, because it means that he is separating experience and knowledge into two compartments at the same time that he is commending the contemplative way of knowing things as the only way to apprehend non-duality! I think this is wrong analysis and expression of the value and character of contemplative/intuitive knowing.
My faith takes a simple turn, the discussions on this site sometimes gives me the colly-wobbles with the counting of angels on the head of a pin.
My faith needs a more simple path, yes, call me simple. I have no problem with that. I don’t believe I see our Lord decrying the metal ability of his followers and allotting spaces by His side according to IQ.
I find some IMonkers trying to up their chances of a seat in Heaven because of their knowledge, much of which passes by us of lesser studies. I have had a lot of Christian and Biblical studies ( I have a Diploma! Wow!) and find that we either are trivial or intense in the comments to this usually excellent site.
Can we be more considerate of the reason for the amazing opportunity we have to contribute appropriately here.
I also hope the site can be also less focused on the US political scene. I am aware that a number of international commentators have no knowledge of some of the comments, we are a wide world. Relate to the rest of us please.
I will get down from my soap box now.
Have a nice day. God bless us believers.
Susan in Aust.
My comment has disappeared – don’t understand why
It is amazing that this piece has appeared here, having been frustrated that with Rohr’s own email there is no way to question some of it. I really struggle with the concept of:
‘the absolute freedom of God allows God to create, or not to create, each creature. Its existence means God has positively chosen to create that creature, precisely as it is’.
What about those born with appalling genetic defects – no brains, hearts outside bodies etc. etc. or even our own child born almost 40 years ago with acute spina bifida and hydrocephalus? Does God really decide to create such beings with such conditions? Thisness I can cope with but that feels like a punishment.
“. . . . Its existence means God has positively chosen to create that creature, precisely as it is. Each creature is thus not merely one member of a genus and species, but a unique aspect of the infinite Mystery of God.. . . ”
Rohr’s meditation speaks about this teaching of Duns Scotus,
and I’m wondering if the writings of Duns Scotus might have been a conscious or an unconscious inspiration for Emerson’s words in his essay ‘Self Reliance’, these:
““There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.
Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact makes much impression on him, and another none.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)