We Turn Around One Thing

Unity is not the same as uniformity. Unity, in fact, is the reconciliation of differences, and those differences must be maintained. We must actually distinguish things and separate them, usually at a cost to ourselves, before we can spiritually unite them (Ephesians 2:14‒16). Perhaps if we had made that simple distinction between uniformity and true unity, many of our problems, especially those of overemphasized, separate identities, could have been overcome. The great wisdom of Pentecost is the recognition through the Spirit of an underlying unity amidst the many differences!

Paul already made this universal principle very clear in several of his letters. For example, “There is a variety of gifts, but it is always the same Spirit. There are all sorts of services to be done, but always the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people. It is the same God working in all of them” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). We see this beautiful diversity and yet unity in the universe itself—from Latin, unus + versus, “to turn around one thing.”

Although we here at the Center are fully committed to the perennial tradition—the recurring themes and truths that surface in all the world’s religions—we are not seeking some naïve “everything is one.” Rather, we seek the hard fought and much deeper “unity of the Spirit which was given us all to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Here we must study, pray, wait, reconcile, and work to achieve true unity—not a foolish and boring uniformity, which is rather undesirable and even unholy. The deeper unity we seek and work for is described by Julian of Norwich when she writes, “The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person” [1], or any other creature, I would add. This is something that we can embrace originally at a primal and then deeper levels of consciousness. Children already enjoy this unity at a pre-rational level, and mystics later enjoy it consciously at a trans-rational and universal level.

So what we might now call deep ecumenism is not some form of classic pantheism or unfounded New Age optimism. It is the whole method, energy, and final goal by which God is indeed ushering in an ever recurring “new age” (Matthew 19:28).

What has been “unveiled,” especially this past year with the pandemic, is that we really are one. We are one in both suffering and resurrection. Jesus’ final prayer is that we can consciously perceive and live this radical union now (John 17:21‒26). Our job is not to discover or even prove this, but only to retrieve what has already been discovered—and rediscovered—again and again, by the mystics, prophets, and saints of all religions. Until then we are all lost in separation—while grace and necessary suffering gradually “fill in every valley and level every mountain” to make a “straight highway to God” (Isaiah 40:3–4).

[1] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chapter 65. Rohr paraphrase.

Richard Rohr, “Introduction,” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 13‒14. No longer in print.


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