So, of course, what I’ll be asking at the end of those of you who listened to Rohr’s talks about Men and Women: The Journey of Spiritual Transformation is, “What struck you? What was helpful? Was there anything problematic? Do you imagine you’ll change anything as a result of listening to Rohr’s talks?” But let me take an initial shot at my own responses to those questions.
I heard these talks perhaps a decade ago and have listened to them many times since. They prodded me to delve a bit deeper into Rohr’s teaching and I’ve since heard maybe three much longer sets (each with maybe ten 80 minute lectures) and have read, if I’m remembering, four of his books. So clearly something struck me!I—as mellow a theologian as one would find, at least in my circle of friends—have found that Rohr can push my own sense of orthodoxy a bit farther than I prefer. For a contemplative, I don’t hear a ton from Rohr about hearing from God or even, in some ways, knowing God. After awhile with Rohr, I can feel like everything he says or writes is interesting, but abstract, as if Rohr’s silver tongue has covered over the hollowness of some of those fascinating ideas. He reminds me in some ways of Thomas Merton, whom some of you may have read, in that Merton often seems—as is generally acknowledged—to be a genius…and yet what does one actually do with anything he says?
So there are some of Rohr’s weaknesses. But we come not to bury Rohr, but to praise him, at least from this quarter.
In these lectures, Rohr—to my mind—captures some deep longings of men and women I’ve known, and gives some really helpful perspective. His take on male initiation has gotten a lot of traction among some of my friends. The idea that every boy wants to be a hero has been just central to my thinking about discipleship in Jesus ever since I heard this. The importance of ascent and descent, of course, is the crux of his point here, and that has made a major impact on me. So much of my life has been geared towards ascent—along with that of most everyone I know—and to hear him not devalue that, while at the same time putting it in context and offering such profound warnings about the risk of becoming “an old fool” (as opposed to “a holy fool”). All this has really shaped me and focused me back on Paul’s comment that he knows how to have lots and how to have very little.She’d feel the waste of this—do these people know who this man is? But he’d be perfectly cheerful and eager to go, saying to Carol, “I’m so pleased to talk with anyone who wants to consider how to know and follow Jesus better.” This strikes me as a very appealing picture of Rohr’s “descent.”
His take on the importance of ascent for many women has also really resonated with me, as I’ve experienced some women, somewhat past their youth, choose to step out and take their place at the table.
Rohr says that this and his other epic teaching on this spiritual direction tool, the Enneagram (above), are not intended for anyone under 30, that they won’t know enough about themselves to employ his insights. I was introduced to them when I was perhaps 35, so maybe I got to them just in time, but they seem invaluable to me now. “If you don’t transform your pain, you will always transmit your pain” seems like deep—and perhaps obvious—wisdom that nonetheless was rarely stated as clearly, in my experience, before Rohr got there.
For those of you familiar with our “stage 4” rhetoric (see more under the multimedia section tab, if you’re interested), I occasionally talk with Rohr-loving friends about whether Rohr would be, under this thinking, stage 4. On the one hand, he seems like the dictionary picture of stage 4. If not him, who?
And yet, maybe quirkily, I still seem to see him as top of the line stage 3—with several toes firmly in stage 4’s water. And that’s that, for all my appreciation for and love of what he brings to the table, he doesn’t seem so much a “mystic” in this sense of knowing, loving, and talking often with Jesus as he does the single most brilliant critic of institutional Catholicism alive. But that’s just me.
So…what did you take away from these talks?