Christianity and Unknowing

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Richard Rohr, as a Catholic priest and Franciscan Friar, will offer a concise history of how Western Christianity once had, soon lost, tried to retrieve, and now is roundly rediscovering its own traditional understanding of unitive consciousness (which was our word for non-dual thinking). The Christian contemplative mind was usually a subtext, and yet it was always clearly there too, and much closer to the surface, but only for those exposed to the mystical base that was revealed in the Gospel of John, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the Celtic and monastic traditions, and what was generally referred to as the apophatic or wisdom stream of Christianity. These were our many saints and mystics. This possibility was brought to the fore by Thomas Merton in the middle of the last century, and is now flowing in many positive directions. It is now our task to rediscover the pre-Enlightenment Christianity that reveled in “the cloud of unknowing”, what some called “learned ignorance”, and the very notion of Mystery itself. Only when we got into competition with rationalism and secularism, did we adopt this rather recent mania for certitude and a very limited kind of scientific knowing. Almost the entire history of Protestantism emerged in this period, and thus the contemplative mind is an utterly new revelation for them, and frankly for all of us, as we again learn to be comfortable living on the edge of both the knowable and the unknown.

Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized. Fr. Richard is the author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, Immortal Diamond, and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.

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