Richard Rohr – Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction – 2 – A Spirituality of Addition

Meister Eckhart – ‘the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction that with addition’

Comment – Generally, we imagine spiritual maturity as amassing more spiritual ‘goods’, as defined by our own spiritual tradition – general knowledge of Scripture; number of Bible verses memorised; extent of time spent in prayer, or fasting; our performance in terms of spiritual disciplines; rarely we add to these matters of social justice; etc. Yet, according to Meister Eckhart, and Richard Rohr, spiritual maturity has more to do with what we are ready to leave behind, than with what we acquire.

* * *

What we are involved in is in great part a spirituality of addition. Where did that come from? It comes from the consumer view, from the capitalist worldview… which is [that] we see reality, we see other experiences, other events, other people, other things, in fact everything, as an object for my consumption… This is the nature of the capitalist mind, that reality is ‘what’s in it for me’.

Comment – This is an interesting thought. There may be more that one explanation for our tendency to understand spirituality in terms of addition (like, for instance, our bent towards performing in order to ‘merit’ God’s grace – a real oxymoron), but we have to admit that this view of spirituality fits perfectly with the selfish worldview of capitalist consumerism.

* * *

I think we have underestimated the power of the ego. I see it at every level of the church… Our moral theology has acted as if the shadow [our sinful nature] was the problem – to get people not to do nasty, and bad, and unkind things. But that concern for the sinful behaviour, for the shadowy behaviour , as we have defined it, has in some ways been the smoke screen to cover up what the real issue is of where evil is coming from – the overarching ego and the need of the ego to look good, to be in control, to control our life and other people’s lives…

Religion is the most effective way to cover up your own darkness.

Comment – Generally, religious systems define holiness in terms of avoidance of sinful behaviour and, in their best instances, encourage the acquiring of positive character or behavioural traits that counterbalance the negativity of the first. Yet, according to Rohr, and following a spiritual tradition that transcends Christianity, this only scratches the surface of our sinfulness. It was not so much sinful behaviour, but the self- deification impulse of the ego that led humans to build the Tower of Babel, and leads every one of us to building our own thrones, using all the means available. The more religious this looks, the more credible in the eyes of the immature, naive and gullible. Thus, religion becomes a very effective smoke screen behind which the ego reigns.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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