Only Love can be entrusted with Wisdom or Big Truth. All prayer disciplines are somehow trying to get mind, heart, and body to work as one, which changes one’s consciousness

By Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation, Feb 2020

The first principle of great spiritual teachers is rather constant: only Love can be entrusted with Wisdom or Big Truth. All other attitudes will murder, mangle, and manipulate truth for their own ego purposes. Humans must first find the unified field of love and then start their thinking and perceiving from that point. This is the challenging insight of mature religion.

All prayer disciplines are somehow trying to get mind, heart, and body to work as one, which entirely changes one’s consciousness. “The concentration of attention in the heart—this is the starting point of all true prayer,” wrote St. Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894), a Russian monk, bishop, and mystic. [1] Apart from Love, any other “handler” of your experience, including the rational mind or merely intellectual theology, eventually distorts and destroys the beauty and healing power of Wisdom.

The second principle is that truth is on some level always beautiful—and healing—to those who honestly want it. Big Truth cannot be angry, antagonistic, or forced on anyone, or it will inherently distort the message (as the common belief in a punitive God has done for centuries). The good, the true, and the beautiful are their own best argument for themselves, by themselves, and in themselves. Such deep inner knowing evokes the soul and pulls the soul into All Oneness. Incarnation is beauty, and beauty needs to be incarnate—that is specific, concrete, particular. We need to experience very particular, soul-evoking goodness in order to be shaken into what many call “realization.” It is often a momentary shock where we know we have been moved to a different plane of awareness.

This is precisely how transformation differs from simply acquiring facts and information. Whereas information will often inflate the ego, transformation utterly humbles us. In that moment, we know how much we have not known up to now, and still surely do not know! Such humility is a good and probably necessary starting place and, I would say, the very seat of Wisdom.

Love is luring us forward, because love is what we already are at our core, and we are naturally drawn to the fullness of our own being. Like knows like; to paraphrase Meister Eckhart, “God’s own whole being is poured out into identity. It is God’s pleasure and rapture to place God’s whole nature in this true place—because it is God’s own identity too.” [2] Like an electromagnetic force, Infinite Love is drawing the world into the one fullness of love. When we are comfortable in our true identity, we will finally be unable to resist such overwhelming love. (Some saints said even the devil would be unable to resist it in the end.) So don’t fight it, resist it, or deny it now. Love will always win.

In the West, we rely predominately on “head” knowledge, but our hearts offer us plenty of information as well through powerful experience of awe and empathy, joy and heartbreak (even if we choose to dismiss it most of the time). But it seems to me that we have lost or ignored the wisdom of the body almost completely. I have often taught that if we are not transformed by our pain, we will almost certainly transmit it to those around us, and I am learning that we pass it on to future generations as well. Author and therapist Resmaa Menakem speaks directly about “bodily knowing” and the transmission of trauma from a historical and corporate perspective. 

Our bodies have a form of knowledge that is different from our cognitive brains. This knowledge is typically experienced as a felt sense of constriction or expansion, pain or ease, energy or numbness. Often this knowledge is stored in our bodies as wordless stories about what is safe and what is dangerous. . . .

The body is where we live. It’s where we fear, hope, and react. It’s where we constrict and relax. And what the body most cares about are safety and survival. When something happens to the body that is too much, too fast, or too soon, it overwhelms the body and can create trauma. . . .

Trauma is not primarily an emotional response. [It] always happens in the body. . . . Trauma is the body’s protective response to an event—or a series of events—that [the body] perceives as potentially dangerous. This perception may be accurate, inaccurate, or entirely imaginary. . . .

An embedded trauma response can manifest as fight, flee, or freeze—or as some combination of constriction, pain, fear, . . . reactive behaviors, or other sensations and experiences. This trauma then gets stuck in the body—and stays stuck there until it is addressed.

Menakem explains how layers of trauma have built up in the United States: 

America is tearing itself apart. On the surface, this war looks like the natural outcome of many recent social and political clashes. But it’s not. These conflicts are anything but recent. One hundred and fifty-six years ago, they spawned the American Civil War. But even in the 1860s, these conflicts were already centuries old. They began in Europe during the Middle Ages, where they tore apart close to two million white bodies. The resulting tension came to America embedded in the bodies of Europeans, and it has remained in the bodies of many of their descendants. Over the past three centuries, that tension has been both soothed and deepened by the invention of whiteness and the resulting racialization of American culture.

At first glance, today’s manifestation of this conflict appears to be a struggle for political and social power. . . . While we see anger and violence in the streets of our country, the real battlefield is inside our bodies. If we are to survive as a country it is inside our bodies where this conflict will need to be resolved. . . . If we are to upend the status quo of white-body supremacy, we must begin with our bodies

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