Friday, November 04, 2016

Rohr's Magical Metaphors Breathe Life into the Old Tradition

Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation
by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell

Richard Rohr once again has delivered an imaginative light to shine on the path of the “Old Tradition” of Christianity. And Mike Morrell has beautifully gifted us with this possibility. With Rohr’s encouragement, Morrell took two of Rohr’s conferences, The Divine Dance and The Shape of God, and artfully wove them into a masterpiece. Having attended several of Rohr’s conferences, I could hear his voice in every word, yet, there is a fresh component that illuminates the work but does not impede the message—that is Morrell’s hand in crafting The Divine Dance.

Rohr dares ask the question that lies hidden in the plain sight of the Christian story—all things must die before being reborn. “Maybe our Christian religion in its present formulation has to die for a truly cosmic and love-centered spiritual path to be born.” (127) He narrows the scope a bit for the intent of this book by asking, “What would it look like to rebuild a Trinitarian metaphysic and recreate a truly human full personhood?” (75) The purpose of Rohr’s proposed reformulation of the Christian language, grounded in the Perennial tradition, is for the sake of the “quantum era,” in which we live and the next age to come. (73) He suggests that this “re-verbed” Christianity must take a vastly different shape and cosmology, “not only of God, but of everything.” (136) For Rohr, everything is witnessed in the “spiral” that contains “the divine circle dance,” (31) the “web of communion that we call the Blessed Trinity.” (136)

Rohr shows the courage to invoke the ancient tradition of Christian Hermeticism (though he doesn’t make a direct reference to the existence of such a philosophy). He writes, “The of magic of three breaks us out of our dualistic impasses, and always invites a fourth world for us to enter into.” He then cites Cynthia Bourgeault and her book, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, in a lengthy footnote. He credits Bourgeault for the heavy lifting in regards to the obscure Hermetical references. It is the Hermetical tradition that uncovered the language of nature’s constant movement from the three to the four. The natural flow, Rohr says, brings the Trinitarian language of relationship into full view. Within this relationship of flow, all creation, human and nonhuman, can participate in the divine circle dance. Without the spiral-circle image constantly in flow from three to four, the Trinity has remained trapped in a three-way hierarchical pyramid, a configuration from which conversation is impossible. Instead the triangle becomes a model that dispenses truth, wisdom, and judgment from on high. Rohr, instead, uses several magical metaphors for the divine that invite us into the flow. Without raising the eyebrows of traditional Christians, he is able to use a variety of images that help the reader reimagine theological words that have lost their substantive value in today’s lexicon.

With all due respect to Richard Rohr, whom I admire and respect, The Divine Dance, at times, feels like he is doing a two-step by using dusty theological words that traditional Christian believers can’t seem to let go of; words like blessed Trinity, sin, salvation, transcendence, incarnation. Rohr goes as far as to defend the need for the continued use of the Trinitarian formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With all the creative work Rohr has done to provide a new imagination for the radical reformation of the relational God language there seems to be no need of clinging to old tired words that are on life support. Rohr’s words that define the Divine as, “flow,” the “Life force of everything,” absolute relatedness,” “Divine wave,” “web of communion,” and the “Divine circle dance,” can breathe new soullife into an old tradition.

Still, I find Rohr’s work exciting as he provides a platform for the conversation that must take place in order for Christianity to finds its new place in the constantly unfolding cosmos. Even as Pope Francis has called for a synod at the 1,700th anniversary of the Nicene Creed, we can only imagine what new words might enliven the old creed. And, yes, what old words will discover new life. I pray that Richard Rohr will able to contribute to that conversation in 2025. The Divine Dance has done so in 2016.

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