Devastatingly explosive faith

Image: Igor Ovsyannykov

Sometimes I come across something so profound that, as much as it seems lazy to do so, I feel it’s better for you if I just copy/paste it here for you (with full credit following, of course).

The text below blew my mind. I received it in an email from one of my favorite humans, Richard Rohr. Please, if you get on one other email list (besides mine, of course) please get on his — totally worth allocating a little of your digital real estate to.

With the help of another incredible spiritual luminary, Ken Wilbur, he absolutely nails how I feel about the projection of spirituality in our lives: (1) To create meaning for the separated self and (2) As it matures, to transcend that very separated self.

One thing that might help you if you’re like me and have some inner-resistance to the word ‘religion’, just replace it with ‘spirituality’.

Ok, enough from me, I’ll let you read it firsthand:

Ken Wilber sees religion as having two primary functions. The first is to create “meaning for the separate self.” The second and mature function of religion is to help individuals transcend that very self. [1] Great religion seeks full awareness and expanded consciousness (often called “holiness”) so that we can, in fact, both give and receive in equal measure. For me, this is the simplest sign of emotional and spiritual health. Things can be both received and also let go of — exactly as it is between the three persons of the Trinity. Remember, I believe the Trinity sets the pattern for all creation and all growth into Love. Trinity is the ultimate code breaker!

Although the majority of religions and individuals remain at the first stage of creating meaning for the separate self, I continue to find people inside every religion and profession who are on the true further journey. These are the ones who have “died before they die,” who have let great love, suffering, or prayer lead them beyond their small self into the Big Self. They have let go of who they thought they were, or needed to be, to discover who they always were in God.

The second function and goal of religion, Wilber says, “does not fortify the separate self, but utterly shatters it.” Mature spirituality offers “not consolation but devastation, not entrenchment but emptiness, not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution.” [2] Rather than bolster our habitual patterns of thinking, it radically transforms our consciousness and gives us what Paul calls “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

The mind of Christ is not binary, either/or thinking. The mind of Christ can live with paradox, uncertainty, and mystery. This way of not knowing, and not even needing to know, is precisely what we mean by Biblical faith. In the first half of our lives (not strictly chronological!), we are largely not ready to understand what faith is, because we still cling to naïve beliefs and false certainties. We need them to get us started! In the first half of life we are still afraid of darkness and “the cross.”

In time, through trials, suffering, and prayer, we will allow ourselves to be broken open to the Larger Knowing that can hold everything in love, grace, and freedom. Only at that point do we move from mere religion to the beginnings of a spiritual journey that will help us and the world.

[1] See Ken Wilber, The Essential Ken Wilber: An Introductory Reader (Shambhala: 1998), 140–43.
[2] Ibid., 140.

I don’t know about you, but I want to print this out and stick it on my refrigerator door next to my daughter’s Thanksgiving turkey artwork.


Jonas writes short stories and preachments about spiritual, whimsical, creative matters on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing here.