Richard Rohr: Nearing Death

The Nearing Death Experience implies a natural and conscious remerging with the Ground of Being from which we have all once unconsciously emerged. A transformation occurs from the point of terror at the contemplation of the loss of our separate, personal self to a merging into the deep, nurturing, ineffable experience of Unity.

My experience is that most people who are dying have no conscious desire for transcendence; most of us do not live at the level of depth where such a longing is a conscious priority. And, yet, everyone does seem to enter a transcendent and transformed level of consciousness in the Nearing Death Experience. . . . It is rather profound and encouraging to contemplate these indications that the life and death of a human being is so exquisitely calibrated as to automatically produce union with Spirit.

Richard Rohr: Seeing with God’s Eyes

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov [1] 

God refuses to be known in the way we usually know other objects; God can only be known by loving God. Yet much of religion has tried to know God by words, theories, doctrines, and dogmas. Belief systems have their place; they provide a necessary and structured beginning point, just as the dualistic mind is good as far as it goes. But then we need the nondual or mystical mind to love and fully experience limited ordinary things and to peek through the cloud to glimpse infinite and seemingly invisible things. This is the contemplative mind that can “know spiritual things in a spiritual way,” as Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:13).

What does it mean when Jesus tells us to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind (not just our dualistic mind), and strength (Luke 10:27)? What does it mean, as the first commandment instructs us, to love God more than anything else? To love God is to love what God loves. To love God means to love everything . . . no exceptions.

Of course, that can only be done with divine love flowing through us. In this way, we can love things and people in themselves, for themselves—not for what they do for us. That’s when we begin to love our family, friends, and neighbors apart from what they can do for us or how they make us look. We love them as living images of God in themselves, despite their finiteness.

Now that takes work: constant detachment from ourselves—our conditioning, preferences, and knee-jerk reactions. We can only allow divine love to flow by way of contemplative consciousness, where we stop eliminating and choosing. This is the transformed mind (see Romans 12:2) that allows us to see God in everything and empowers our behavior to almost naturally change.

Religion, from the root religio, means to reconnect, to bind back together. I would describe mystical moments as those attention-grabbing experiences that overcome the gap between you and other people, events, or objects, and even God, where the illusion of separation disappears. The work of spirituality is to look with a different pair of nondual eyes, beyond what Thomas Merton calls “the shadow and the disguise” [2] of things until we can see them in their connectedness and wholeness. In a very real sense, the word “God” is just a synonym for everything. So if you do not want to get involved with everything, stay away from God.

Richard Rohr Meditation: The Challenge and Opportunity in Relationship

The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what we do for one another as loving people—offer safe relationships in which we can change. This kind of love is far from sentimental; it has real power. In general, we need a judicious combination of safety and necessary conflict to keep moving forward in life.

Richard Rohr: The Face of the Others

Jesus taught us what God is like through his words, his actions, his very being, making it clear that “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is indeed a benevolent universe—at its very core.

The brilliant Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Lévinas (1906-1995), said the only thing that really converts people, the ultimate moral imperative, is “the face of the other.”

.. When we receive and empathize with the face of the other (especially the suffering face), it leads to transformation of our whole being. It creates a moral demand on our heart that is far more compelling than the Ten Commandments. Just giving people commandments on tablets of stone doesn’t change the heart. It may steel the will, but it doesn’t soften the heart like a personal encounter can.

.. So many Christian mystics talk about seeing the divine face or falling in love with the face of Jesus. I think that’s why Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) often used the image of “mirroring” in her writings. We are mirrored not by concepts, but by faces delighting in us, giving us the face we can’t give to ourselves. And, of course, the ultimate and perfect mirror is the face of God.

The early mirroring we receive from our parents is particularly important. Neuroscience now shows that the gaze between a newborn and his or her loving caretaker creates “mirror neurons” that help a person become compassionate and have empathy for others. Moreover, although none of us can demand or expect absolutely unconditional divine love from another human being, we can experience very real aspects of it. This helps us be able to imagine what God’s love is like and keeps us open to God’s love.

James Finley offers a fitting poetic image for this idea:

When God eases us out of God’s heart into the earthly plane, God searches for the place that is most like paradise, and it’s the mother’s gaze. In the mother’s gaze, she transparently sacramentalizes God’s infinite gaze of love, looking into the eyes of the infant. And when the infant looks into her eyes it is looking into God’s eyes, incarnate as her loving eyes.

When caregivers and infants gaze at each other, their brain activity increases; parts of their brains literally light up. Similarly, Finley says:

.. When God gazes at us and we gaze at God, both of us light up. God lights up in the sense of the joy of being recognized by the one that God created in his own image and likeness for the very sake of this recognition. For us it’s a moment of visceral, intimate communion or oneness that feels like homecoming. [2]