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The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

by Richard Rohr

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490847,456 (4.11)6
For Christians seeking a way of thinking outside of strict dualities, this guide explores methods for letting go of division and living in the present. Drawn from the Gospels, Jesus, Paul, and the great Christian contemplatives, this examination reveals how many of the hidden truths of Christianity have been misunderstood or lost and how to read them with the eyes of the mystics rather than interpreting them through rational thought. Filled with sayings, stories, quotations, and appeals to the heart, specific methods for identifying dualistic thinking are presented with simple practices for stripping away ego and the fear of dwelling in the present.… (more)

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“I can survive only by trying to build bridges, both affirming and denying most of my own ideas and those of others.”

As good as my initial engagement with Richard was, (I could read comedies and feel good about myself for being wise, instead of feeling paranoid and threatened), really I did not start to engage with him in a full way until I had once decided that he was wrong, at least that he Could be wrong. Before that it was just preening. Now I flatter myself that I’m like a mini Richard. (Albeit not so big and publishable.) I don’t know. I see people as being full of shit, but I love them. It’s ok. We all go through things. Jesus didn’t tell the woman at the well to sit down and shut up because she initially liked Jacob better than her. (How many of us like someone from Back Then, or some famous or semi-famous person, like Richard, even, instead of the person we’re actually with….) I don’t know. There’s a lot I could say, but none of it would make any sense. I need a biographer, not because I matter like that, but because I don’t understand myself well enough to write a memoir. I could read some girl’s book about me, and then I would go, Oh! Oh, ok. And I would understand.


I was reading this science book, (about COVID), and I used to be irritated by the science use of the word “myth”—debunking myths—because myths are stories and stories can be good and blah blah blah, I’m great. (Blah blah blah.) But maybe it’s good. Stories can be good OR bad—certainly there can be untruth in ideas—and maybe “debunking myths” means “un-telling stories”—like un-telling yourself the story of white superiority—or, as Richard says, all caps, bro: “All saying must be balanced by unsaying.” Literally debunking ALL myths, simultaneously.

…. But there will be darkness, in this life.

…. Maybe it’s better not to “understand” your neighbor so well, if you don’t think that she’s a son of God.

…. Richard is very grown-up, you know, mature. Matthew Fox is very dualistic, like Old Values = Bad, please replace with New Values = Good, because You Oldsters= Bad, so please shut up. You know, like, Mommy it’s hard to love the people and not sleep around—let’s just have a bingo night, and if people want to have sex and denounce their enemies, ok! Have fun, the end! (It seems like that to me, anyway.) Richard is like, No the values are where we should be, loving the people and not fleecing them for sex, but sometimes it seems like we just don’t love anybody and wail on them instead. So, let’s take it apart in our heads and hearts, and put it back together again, like Jesus used to do when he was on earth….

Of course, ultimately (or contingently?) we all have our own point of view, and I probably don’t look at things exactly like Richard. (I think I am a bit more like Richard than Brian, but, who cares.) And, really—how much can you explain? It all depends on the assumed context on who’s reading you and what they’re like, and much of that you obviously don’t know, so, there you go.

…. Richard is right; there’s hope for the person who is self-critical, but not negative.

…. Sometimes jokes happen, and I don’t really like it, you know. (I’ve heard all the jokes before.) But sometimes prayer happens, and it makes my life better.

…. ‘Opening the door—great love and great suffering’

It’s notable (Richard mentions this in one of the appendices I think), that great learning is not exactly a door, maybe a way of walking, but not a door, exactly—it’s a way of interpreting or *using* great love and/or great suffering, you know, but by itself, what is it?

Of course, there is the old saying that Alexander the Great’s horse was still just a horse at the end of his campaign; he didn’t learn anything, you know. (So the random Nazi needs to do more than suffer for a thousand years, unrepentant and fuming, to get out of hell, ‘where the Fire goes not out’—although sometimes I like suffering even better than love, as it seems to be, more democratic, you know, more available.) But, *pace* the horse, unless your circumstances are extremely narrow, you’ve probably also met the person who’s stumbled across “enlightened”, edifying teaching much like a language learner, you know. —Gobeley-gook, to save, gobeley-gook. Gobeley-gook-y, salvation, gobeley-gook-y.

Whereas on the other side, if you seriously looked at a decent children’s story, (unlike most children, I suppose, in it for the spectacle or fuming at alcoholic mommy or just learning their native language, to save, how nice, to save), and it’s not some racist delusion that also sells sex, then you might actually learn from from it, in terms of honesty and integrity, than you might from even a really nice encyclopedia (something I’d like to have, incidentally).

…. “1. Try to stay *beneath* your thoughts, neither fighting them nor thinking them.”

It’s basically throwing out all the Freud’s parts of the self, you know. (In a way.) I have a feeling I don’t like, ego muses on whether to act out with id or get tough, get ‘righteous’ with superego, but whatever ego decides, self is the master and not God. So you bend down a little bit, even though it’s hard to just bend down a little bit, and say, whatever, I’m in a place where I don’t want to be, an unwell person will be waiting for me when I’m done, and I have this and that to do to check off boxes and really ‘be’, ‘somebody’, but none of that matters. Right now, I’m here, and that’s all there is. Later, all that might or might not happen, but then later later will be all there is, you know. But not now.

Now, this is what God has offered me, so this is all there is.

…. I used to have a higher opinion of Richard, and being perfect, you know—not being rich and happy but wise and prophetic and maybe a LITTLE poverty-stricken and discontent, you know; I read another contemplation book of his, “Everything Belongs”, and it seemed great at the time but I’ve deleted it. I have a spiritual practice still, but it’s more visualization and manifestation based—feeling good instead of being a classic contemplation or mindfulness sit person and just…. I don’t know. Going beyond all definitions and then getting up after awhile and reading a book defining silence.

Meditation (or whatever, you notice every tradition has its own name for it), did help me release toxic desire which is a thing, and it cleared my mind for all these strange understandings, but I notice in myself and others the advertised goal and the result often aren’t the same. For a practice aimed at mollifying the toxic mind—which is a thing—it sure seems to produce a lot of strange intellectuals bent on ultimate wisdom and dismissing every last thing that anyone outside of the ultimate reality niche view as important…. I know that some of this isn’t inevitable and some of it is, but I can’t unweave all the strands now. But if you don’t do or feel, what else is there to it but to know, and to know the ultimate, and is that enough.

I think, in my own case, I’m having a journey to have a Lot less toxic mind by settling down into the relative as a place that’s friendly, and not the alien shore, you know. The mind does need to be relaxed and de-strained sometimes, and meditation is one way to do that. But the celibates naturally, given what they are, have such a problem with money and materiality and ordinary non-ultimate things that make people feel good. The wars of religion as usual have not served people well. Because what’s left at the end of it is either some form of snobbery on the Protestant side, either biblical or semi-materialist it doesn’t matter, almost, or medieval Catholic hierarchy ultimate knowing over pleasure, finances, and a good non-ultimate life—I mean, that’s what’s left, you can’t be free, and the only way to even not be humiliated by the wisdom/snobbery people is to submit to an authority that does do those things, so you are screwed anyway if you let them, right….

I suppose that’s very radical, at least for me (“I guess if I weren’t deceitful or afraid I would love”, said the Six…. Also, even the Everything Belongs book was somewhat good for me, since I could begin tentatively to value joy over formalism and being alternative over being afraid, but when I liked contemplation and contemplation books themselves, I didn’t see the joy and the freedom over the fear and the formalism as kinda the whole point and not just this cute side effect on the road to “silence” or “the ultimate” or something), and I suppose I am now an ordinary radical, as I find myself becoming more ordinary and less ultimate, and more radical and less afraid. I’m still very un-Eight; more un-Eight than before, really; I don’t like confrontation and I find it hard to like people that do. But I can sorta get the whole idea of there being an idiot price to idiot formalism and idiot fear.
  goosecap | Aug 21, 2022 |
Rohr tackles dualistic thinking in the Western Christian faith and points to a time where mystery and paradox were not only embraced in the tradition but a significant aspect of practice. His clarity and brevity dealing with heady matters demonstrates a deep level of distillation and I truly appreciate the appendix that offers practice to accompany his theoretical endeavors. The end paragraphs at the end of each chapter made me wince, their style akin to a self-help manual, but overall this is an accessible book of faith and wisdom.
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
“I am.... moving between cultures, seeing between religions, but also happily a Christian.” Richard Rohr

A good place to be.
  smallself | May 14, 2019 |
I especially like some of the prayer exercises in the appendix.

4 star? 5 star? I originally gave it 4, because I hate to be too enthusiastic, but then I bought 3 copies of the book to lend to friends because my own copy is so annotated and dog-eared as to be unreadable by someone else. ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
I’ve had this book recommended to me for years, and when I got a gift card for Mother’s Day, I finally plunged in and bought it. So glad I did.

The author is a Catholic priest and he’s had time to reflect on what religion should bring to us and what it isn’t bringing to us. And since religion isn’t doing its job, Rohr has decided to help out and share some real secrets we are missing out on.

Shall I share one? I think I shall.

Jesus is telling us these secrets in every word he speaks, but we are too caught up in our dualistic thinking to understand what he is telling us. To get to Jesus, to experience God, we have to let go of our scientific yes-no, black-white thoughts and be in the naked now.

Sounds easy, right? Rohr would beg to differ. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do.
I better get busy, then. Off to live in the naked now. Let’s see if I can try to put Rohr’s secrets to work. ( )
  debnance | Jun 27, 2016 |
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For Christians seeking a way of thinking outside of strict dualities, this guide explores methods for letting go of division and living in the present. Drawn from the Gospels, Jesus, Paul, and the great Christian contemplatives, this examination reveals how many of the hidden truths of Christianity have been misunderstood or lost and how to read them with the eyes of the mystics rather than interpreting them through rational thought. Filled with sayings, stories, quotations, and appeals to the heart, specific methods for identifying dualistic thinking are presented with simple practices for stripping away ego and the fear of dwelling in the present.

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