Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 16, 2010

Across the Universe (the Big Bang According to Fr. Rohr)

“Jai guru deva om” ( Sanskrit: जय गुरुदेव ॐ ) –  literally, “glory to the shining remover of darkness”[1] – compliments of Wikipedia

                             -Chorus of “Across the Universe” – John Lennon/Beatles (1969)

The Big Bang was the true first Incarnation, and Jesus was the first idea in the mind of God.”

                             – Richard Rohr, June 13, 2010

Last Sunday afternoon featured a gathering of about 400 people to hear Franciscan teacher Richard Rohr speak on men’s spirituality, in advance of his forthcoming book:  On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men. (Click link for MoJo, the Men on the Journey blog and forum corresponding with the book release.)

It was an exciting yet challenging message, as Rohr almost always delivers. He’s gotten the “radical” label among some of the more conservative Roman Catholics, but at the most basic level, he’s pretty orthodox. Small “o” Christian orthodoxy is not much more than a conviction about two things — two miracles, really:  “Jesus is the Son of God”, and “Jesus died and was resurrected, for our sake”.

I dunno what’s so radical about that? I mean, yeah, if one isn’t a Christian, or if one is a scientific materialist, then believing either of those two things is radical, illogical, and downright ridiculous. But that’s why they call it faith. It’s unquantifiable quality is its spiritual core, its power, its godliness. It’s in the quantifying and specific application of orthodoxy to create ideolgy that we get into trouble.

Anyway, today I’m here to relay a few of the more ponderable quotes or summaries from Richard’s talk. Let me be clear, though. Anything below “in quotes” is pretty much what Rohr said. Anything alongside it is my own take on it, or addition to it. So without further ado, here’s a slightly random sampling. As SNL’s “Linda Richman”/Mike Myers once said, use these to “talk amongst yourselves” :

 Creation as Witness: “This has been evident for 13.7 billion years, with Earth itself as the first Bible.”

Definining Contemplation: “Contemplation is just training to step back from the precipice of dualistic, either-or thinking.” — to see and feel and hear and walk and ask, all the other modes of approaching God INSTEAD of ‘read and decide’

Semantics and the danger of ideology: “We got too enamored w/ the written word over the past 500 yrs. Yet we’ve been almost always at WAR (esp. Christians!) over those words and meanings and beliefs, as all were caught in dualistic ‘right-wrong’ thinking”, esp. in opposition to the identified Other(s)

On Paul and the intended outcomes of spiritual practice: “By the fruits you will know — meaning ‘love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) — that you are close to the truth.”  Where these are present and naturally proceeding from one’s life choices, the Spirit is at work.

 The “Big Five” that we cannot get around, and at some level can’t help but talk about endlessly:





eternity (infinity)”


Male anger: “Male anger -so widespread-  is actually disguised sadness, …but in this system we’re not allowed to cry, fail, feel. So bottling it up leads to anger.”



Paradox of Transformation: “Proceeds from struggle, from the mass of contradictions within a person, and therefore within culture. Because God alone is perfect. All else is tinged w/ Shadow.”


Male Archetypes: “The 4 classic Characters/Roles of Men within the mythology or philosophy of every culture, regardless of economics, location, etc.:






Wise Man (artist, prophet, shaman, maybe an academic if he’s healthy)




Wounds/struggle/initiation: “ Markings and woundings are used in all cultures as part of male initiation. It has to do with acceptance of limitations. Universality like this leads one to believe it is somehow of God (also related to Jung’s collective unconscious)” — He related this also to the “Father Wound”, so prevalent in Western culture, where elder male’s focus on achievement leads to father absence, invulnerability, perfectionism.


Maturity: related strength and achievement cycle to the “first half of life”, so that a man is not ready to make the spiritual journey of descent (into something deeper, the True Self) typically until the “second half of life”, or middle age. Giving and generativity proceed from men who surrender themselves to this change.


Solitude or Retreat: “Regular removal from one’s usual milieu is essential to transformation.”



Book recommendationWar and the Soul, by Edward Tick. “One of the five best books I have ever read.” – an ex-military man writing about the often false initiation (no descent, vulnerability, or acknowledgment of limits) offerred by the military, and the need for genuine elders, mentors, and guides. Also points to PTSD as a ‘soul sickness’.


 The Beginning of Transformation: “One confronts the tension of opposites”, where two seemingly true ideas directly conflict with each other. “He finds it unresolvable, needing then to turn to a third way, an in-between, a watchfulness”



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