The British spiritual writer Evelyn Underhill used to advise her retreatants to keep a “minute book” in their pocket or purse. In it, they could jot down phrases or prayers that resonated with them. Then, when waiting for an appointment or stuck in a line, they could take out the little book and get some spiritual nourishment.
The idea may seem woefully outdated in a world of smartphones, texting, and iPad minis.
Still, I’ve come across so many “minute book” appropriate lines in Kevin O’Brien’s book on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, “The Ignatian Adventure.” I’d thought I’d pass on a few nonetheless – for a little book, or online retrieval.
The day will come when, after harnessing the space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
— From Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “Toward the Future.”
Let Your love play upon my voice and rest on my silence.
Let it pass through my heart into all my movements…
Let me carry Your love in my life
as a harp does its music,
and give it back to You at last with my life.
— Part of a prayer by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and a friend of Mahatma Gandhi.
Lord, You have made us for yourself,
And our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
From St. Augustine’s “Confessions.”
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This week, he’s looking at the contemplative foundations of nonviolence because the root of violence, Rohr believes, “is the illusion of separation — from God, from Being itself.” Next week, he’ll profile the peacemakers who’ve most affected his spiritual growth.
Rohr just finished a two-week primer on Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung (1875-1961), someone I knew very little about. Now, I know a little more.
“Some people do not like the fact that I quote Jung at all,” Rohr writes. Yet Jung “surely is no enemy of religion, as some imagine. When asked at the end of his life if he ‘believed’ in God, Jung said, ‘I could not say I believe. I know! I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God.’”
Carl Jung, Rohr maintains, was not just a believer, but a mystic.
Jung made popular the phrase “the two halves of life” as a way to examine the stages of maturity. “One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning,” Jung wrote, “for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.”
The “two halves of life” is also a central theme of Rohr’s, who titled one of his books, “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.”
Over these past two weeks, Rohr looked at many of Jung’s writings about therapy, myth, the experience of God, Jesus, and the role of belief in mental health. It’s all still available on his website.
But here’s just a bit of what Rohr said about Jung’s views about those two parts of life.
The first half of life, Jung believed, is spent building our sense of identity, importance, and security, “what I would call the false self and Freud might call the ego self,” Rohr writes. But through the losses or failures or illnesses that inevitably accompany growing up and growing old, we learn that our real selves are different and deeper than the selves we present to the world. We learn as well that it’s not enough anymore to find meaning in success or good health. We need a deeper purpose.
Jung said that “during the second half of life our various problems are not solved so much by psychotherapy as by authentic religious experience,” Rohr writes. Jung’s claim of such experience as his own profoundly influenced psychotherapy going forward. Clearly it also influenced Rohr. And as Rohr notes, it influenced as well many healers outside traditional psychotherapy, including Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God.” That’s the quote from Jung, above. Yet it could also be the quote of any AA member in recovery. The 12 steps are all about being “gripped by something that is stronger than myself.” That something, says Wilson, too, is God, however we choose to understand Him.