The Universal Christ: Book Review

 

I am excited to share my review of The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr.

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. 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.

Richard Rohr is the author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, Immortal Diamond, The Divine Dance and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. His newest book is The Universal Christ.

Richard Rohr is academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Living School is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings.

(I received this book for free to review and this post may contain affiliate links.)

The book begins with some great questions:

“What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every “thing” in the universe?”

“What if Christ is a name for the immense spaciousness of all true Love?”

“What if Christ refers to an infinite horizon that pulls us from within and pulls us forward too?”

“What if Christ is another name for everything—in its fullness?”

Let me share 5 key points that jumped out at me.

Christ

“Is Christ simply Jesus’s last name? Or is it a revealing title that deserves our full attention? How is Christ’s function or role different from Jesus’s?”

“But in this book, I want to suggest that the first incarnation was the moment described in Genesis 1, when God joined in unity with the physical universe and became the light inside of everything.”

“Long before Jesus’s personal incarnation, Christ was deeply embedded in all things—as all things!”

“But instead of saying that God came into the world through Jesus, maybe it would be better to say that Jesus came out of an already Christ-soaked world.”

We often start with the human incarnation of God: Jesus. We need to actually go back much further then that. As Rohr mentions the first incarnation happened some 13.7 billion years ago “when God joined in unity with the physical universe and became the light inside of everything”. Jesus came out of this all ready Christ-soaked world. Jesus is actually the second incarnation Rohr tells us. We definitely need to shift our perspective on who this God is!

Incarnation

“God seems to have chosen to manifest the invisible in what we call the “visible,” so that all things visible are the revelation of God’s endlessly diffusive spiritual energy. Once a person recognizes that, it is hard to ever be lonely in this world again.”

“What I am calling in this book an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.””

“Most Catholics and Protestants still think of the incarnation as a one-time and one-person event having to do only with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, instead of a cosmic event that has soaked all of history in the Divine Presence from the very beginning.”

All things visible are the revelation of God’s spiritual energy. That changes everything. We are called to be stewards of all creation! We do not get to pick and choose what we will honor and take care of and throw out what we consider scraps and not important. We must love each other and all of creation, even if we do not feel like it.

In Christ

“When your isolated “I” turns into a connected “we,” you have moved from Jesus to Christ.”

“All of us, without exception, are living inside of a cosmic identity, already in place, that is driving and guiding us forward. We are all en Cristo, willingly or unwillingly, happily or unhappily, consciously or unconsciously.”

“At this point, at least in the United States, it appears that our cultural meaning has pretty much shrunk down to this: It is all about winning.”

We are all in Christ. We are all connected. What I do impacts others and what others do impacts me. It is not about me winning. It is about how we can all work together and move forward together. We all need each other.

Implanted Spirit

“All people must learn to draw from their own Implanted Spirit, which is the only thing that will help them in the long run anyway.”

“But think about it: If the incarnation is true, then of course God speaks to you through your own thoughts!”

“I would even say that anything said with too much bravado, overassurance, or with any need to control or impress another, is never the voice of God within you.”

“If any thought feels too harsh, shaming, or diminishing of yourself or others, it is not likely the voice of God.”

I connect to my implanted spirit via my centering prayer practice. God speaks to me through my thoughts. I believe God prays in me during my centering prayer sit. God’s prayers become my thoughts and drive my daily actions or non actions.  Sometimes no actions are the best action.

I agree with Rohr in that anything said with too much bravado, overassurance, or with any need to control or impress another, is never the voice of God within me. I also believe that if any thought feels too harsh, shaming, or diminishing of myself or others, it is not likely the voice of God.

I will add my barometer. I will move forward if I am excited about it and it will not harm me or others. (Fear of movement out of my comfort zone is never a reason to not move forward.)

Healing

“Once a person recognizes that Jesus’s mission (obvious in all four Gospels) was to heal people, not punish them, the dominant theories of retributive justice begin to lose their appeal and their authority.”

Jesus did not come down to help us go up. Jesus came down to heal us and make us whole. (I say down to exaggerate the point.) If we let him, Jesus can heal us. I mean a deeper healing, one that makes us feel whole and loved by the great Creator of the universe.

This healing will produce an inner calmness despite an outer chaos. This healing will produce inner confidence despite the outer confusion. This healing will produce an excitement and joy for life.

I read Rohr’s book twice. I am sure I will come back to read again with a highlighter in hand! I encourage you to read this wonderful book.

Also by Richard Rohr:

Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, Immortal Diamond, The Divine Dance and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home.  I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work.  I’m a proud affiliate.

Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.

Celtic Spirituality At the Edge of Mystery by Carl McColman: Consider it a pilgrimage into one of the best examples of everyday spirituality. Celtic wisdom and poetry ​encourages us to recognize the holy all around us, honors and protects the sacred earth, gives inspiration to free our creative voice, and presents a holistic path that links the quest for holiness with ​an ​embodied​​ sense of Divine love.

Holy Silence: The Quaker Way by J. Brent Bill:  Quaker silence is not about stillness, as such, but rather about encountering God in a living and vital holy hush. This e-course encourages women and men to undertake a journey of spiritual silence. The destination is a quiet inner place where God teaches us directly. Friends (as Quakers are formally known) have been honing their take on silence for more than 350 years. It’s a silence that invites us to an immediate and personal encounter with God. That’s because Quakers believe that when we are silent, then the Spirit of God grants us insights, guidance, and understanding of spiritual truth.

For over 2000 years men and women have set out for the hills, fields and mountains to become Monks – searching for happiness, freedom, peace, joy, balance, fulfillment, confidence, stability, passion and God.

Who says the rest of us can’t experience the same things?

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