Paradox and Mystery – 8 quotes from Richard Rohr’s new book – What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self

by Mark Votava


1. One of the surest ways to avoid

“And I’d like to reiterate that religion is one of the surest ways to avoid faith and to avoid God…”

2. A quality of paradox and mystery

“Untested faith tends to produce a very mechanistic and impersonal spirituality.  Mature faith, however, almost always has a quality of paradox and mystery about it – as if to leave room for the freedom of God.”

3. Liberates us from our own control towers

“True participation in paradox liberates us from our own control towers…  Here, the paradoxes – life and death, success and failure, loyalty to what is and risk for what needs to be – do not fight with one another, but lie in an endless embrace…”

4. The language of “descent”

“God is light, yet this light seems to dwell in darkness.  We must go into this darkness to see the light.  Our age, however, resists the language of ‘descent.’  We belong to an age and culture that have been able to manufacture a kind of ‘ascent’ unlike that of our ancestors…”

5. The world is afraid of reconciliation

“The world is afraid of reconciliation.  We prefer to live in a world of black and white where we create and maintain enemies, because that keeps our own group together…”

6. Seeing everything through the eyes of God

“Faith is the opposite of resentment, cynicism, and negativity.  Faith is always, finally, a self-filling prophecy.  Faith actually begins to create what it desires.  Faith always recreates the good world.  Without faith, you sink into the bad world that you most feared…  As has been so often said, faith is a matter of having new eyes, seeing everything through and even with the eyes of God.”

7. Each of us is a story

“Each of us is a story.  We were created by God as a story waiting to be told, and each of us has to find a way to tell our story.  In the telling of it we come to recognize and own ourselves.  People without a place to tell their story and a person to listen to it never come into possession of themselves…  For many people, ‘myth’ means something that isn’t true.  Please put aside that understanding.  Myth is, in fact, something that is so true that it can be adequately expressed only in story, symbol, and ritual.  It can’t be abstracted and objectified.  Its meaning and mystery are so deep and broad that they can be presented only in story form.  When you step into a story, you find it is without limits and you can walk around with it and inside it.  It is natural to sing, dance, and reenact a story.  It is too big and too deep to be merely ‘understood’ or taught.”

8. A different way of knowing and touching the moment

“Humans tend to think that because they agree or disagree with the idea of a thing, they have realistically encountered the thing itself.  Not at all true, says the contemplative.  It is necessary to encounter the thing in itself.  ‘Presence’ is my word for encounter, a different way of knowing and touching the moment.  It is much more vulnerable and leaves us without a sense of control.  Such panoramic and deeper seeing requires a lot of practice, but the rewards are superb and, I believe, necessary for both joy and truth in this world.” 

Which quote resonates with you the most?