Book Review – The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr

by Mark Votava


This is one of my favorite books of all time!  I love Richard Rohr’s perspective on the ways we have become stuck in our dualistic thinking.  In fact, we seem to hide behind our dualistic thinking in the name of Christianity, the Bible and God often times.

Richard Rohr gets to the heart of learning to see as the mystics have known and practiced throughout the centuries.  It all comes down to seeing the sacredness of all of life without dualities.  We cannot go on judging, labeling and categorizing everything that has the nature of mystery.  If we do, we cannot love the paradoxes of life that have so much meaning to offer.

The Naked Now is about presence, wisdom, suffering, love, inner experience, practice, becoming human and the kingdom of God.  This book shows us that contemplation is countercultural and leads us out of our dualistic thinking.  We learn to see as the mystics, who had a rich interior life, deep discernment and the abilities to embrace mystery in all of life.

This is one of the best books on recovering mysticism, contemplation and necessary paradoxes in everyday life.  Rohr helps us to become aware and conscious of our dualistic thinking is so many profound ways.  If you are wanting to understand dualistic thinking and how this has affected our spirituality in the Western world of North America, this book is a good one for you to read.  Highly recommended!

  • The contemplative mind withholds from labeling things or categorizing

“In effect, the contemplative mind in East or West withholds from labeling things or categorizing them too quickly, so it can come to see them in themselves, apart from words or concepts that become their substitutes.”

  • Inner experience and actual practices

“Too often, religion offers more doctrinal conclusions, more competing truth claims in the increasingly large marketplace of religious claims, but seldom does it give people a vision, process, and practices whereby they can legitimate those truth claims for themselves – by inner experience and actual practices.”

  • Cannot really love reality with the judgmental mind

“You cannot really love reality with the judgmental mind, because you’ll always try to control it, fix it, or understand it before you give yourself to it.  And usually it is never fixed enough to deserve your protected gift of self.”

  • Becoming so defended that you cannot love or see well

“Never underestimate the absolute importance – and the difficulty – of starting each encounter with a primal ‘yes!’  Isn’t this what we consistently see in great people and those who make a difference?  To start each encounter with ‘no’ is largely what it means to be unconscious or unaware.  You eventually become so defended that you cannot love or see well…”

  • Presence is wisdom

“Wisdom is not the gathering of more facts and information, as if that would eventually coalesce into truth.  Wisdom is precisely a different way of seeing and knowing those ten thousand things.  I suggest that wisdom is precisely the freedom to be present.  Wise people always know how to be present, but it is much more than that.  Presence is wisdom!  People who are fully present know how to see fully, rightly, and truthfully.  Presence is the one thing necessary, and in many ways, the hardest thing of all…”

  • Learning to become human

“With dualistic minds it is always one or the other – it can never be both.  The result is that we still think of ourselves as mere humans trying desperately to become ‘spiritual,’ when the Christian revelation was precisely that you are already spiritual (‘in God’), and your difficult but necessary task is to learn how to become human…”

  • Dualistic thinking is not naked presence

“Ultimate Reality cannot be seen with any dual operation of the mind, where we eliminate the mysterious, the confusing – anything scary, unfamiliar, or outside our comfort zone.  Dualistic thinking is not naked presence to the Presence, but highly controlled and limited seeing.  With such software, we cannot access things like infinity, God, grace, mercy, or love – the necessary and important things!”

  • The ego hates change

“Why so much status quo?  Once you know that the one thing the ego hates more than anything else is change, it makes perfect sense why most people hunker down into mere survival.  Whether because of abuse and oppression or other causes, defended and defensive selves will do anything rather than change – even acting against their own best interest…”

  • The kingdom of God is the naked now

“Jesus’ primary metaphor for this new consciousness was ‘the kingdom of God.’  He is not talking about a place, or an afterlife, but a way of seeing and thinking now.  The kingdom of God is the naked now – the world without human kingdoms, ethnic communities, national boundaries, or social identifications…”

  • A tree of continual and constant fruitfulness

“The contemplative, nondual mind is a tree of continual and constant fruitfulness for the soul and for the world.”

  • Preoccupied with enemies

“When you are preoccupied with enemies, you are always dualistic…”

  • Contemplation is simply too countercultural

“Today, contemplation is simply too countercultural for most of us who get caught up in that normal world of buying and selling, working, and raising children.”

  • Love and suffering

“Only love and suffering are strong enough to break down our usual ego defenses, crush our dualistic thinking, and open us up to Mystery…”

  • Learning to live with paradox

“Each of us must learn to live with paradox, or we cannot live peacefully or happily even a single day of our lives.  In fact, we must even learn to love paradox, or we will never be wise, forgiving, or possessing the patience of good relationships…”

  • Strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves

“We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.”

How can we learn to live in the naked now?