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Critiquing the New Age Ideas of Richard Rohr and Teilhard de Chardin

An investigation and a warning into a New Age theology, first put forth by Chardin, later espoused by Rohr, that has gone too far beyond the realm of Catholic orthodoxy




Often in history, an apprentice will rise up after his master’s time is long gone. This student will perhaps appear to be original, but for those who remember the source of their ideas, they are but a mere echo. That is what Fr. Richard Rohr is like to Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.


Tiehard de Chardin arose during the great surge of modernism and its battle with the Church. He was condemned by the Magisterium in his time, yet his ideas lingered on, much so because they appeal to the modern scientific imagination. And now these ideas are starting to reemerge.


It is imperative that we know the sources of these ideas and understand their hidden implications lest we be taken off guard by them.


The Universe is the Body of God?


See here how Rohr develops his theology from Chardin, taking things to the final end of this strange belief:


"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience." Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“We are not just humans having a God experience. The Eucharist tells us that in some mysterious way, we are God having a human experience.” Fr. Richard Rohr, Universal Christ

Firstly, we are not souls trapped in a body. That is the heresy of Manichaeism or Albigensian. No, God made us humans: body and soul. St. Augustine states: “If the world wasn’t necessary for us to learn the ways of God, God wouldn’t have created the world.” We, being physical creatures, learn about spiritual realities from the earth.


Secondly, we are not God. It seems to me that some try to lower God from being the First Principle of all creation. Instead of acknowledging God as Creator, they wish to lower God to His creation. In doing so, they are seeking, in a Humanistic way, to proclaim that man is God.


To continue along this path of investigation, we shall continue to look at The Universal Christ, Rohr’s newest book. It is telling that Fr. Rohr excludes a very important part of the following excerpt, quoted at the beginning of this book:


(St. John of Damascus:) “I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor it, but not as God


In his book, Rohr left out the final line: “I honor it (speaking of matter), but not as God.”


It is once more telling that Rohr thought it appropriate to include this quote at the start of his book. He was trying to support a narrative. The fact that he leaves out the full clarity of the excerpt, as if to mislead, must put us on guard.


Rohr’s Universal Christ furthermore states: “The universe is the Body of God, both in its essence and in its suffering.”


This is completely against Catholic teaching. Vatican I, Session Three (On God and the Creator of All Things) clearly states, “If anyone says that the substance or essence of God and that of all things are one and the same: let him be anathema.”


Thus, with this thinking, God the Creator is reduced to his creation. Suddenly, if the essence of creation is God, than man must be God. Of course, we know that is not so.


“[Christ is a cosmic reality that is found] whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere.” —Rohr


“The Universe is the body of God…yes, it’s the second person of the Trinity in material form.” —Rohr


Loosing God in the Ambiguity of “Awakening”


"Most of the Catholics Christians I’ve met would for all practical purposes believe Jesus is God only, and we are human only. We missed the big point. The point is the integration, both in Jesus and ourselves." (Fr. Richard Rohr, Source)


The most important part of the former quotation for our investigation is his conclusion: The point of the Incarnation and Resurrection is our integration in Jesus and ourselves.


Rohr believes the point of life is to combine ourselves with Jesus in one whole. This reasoning sounds orthodox on the surface, however, instead of this reasoning being used in the Catholic sense, Rohr means to use it in the monistic way. Monistic, meaning that God and man are one, or that man is God.


I may be coming too quick to my conclusion, but I pose the question: What else is the natural progression of this Chardinian/Rohr thought if not that man is God and that God is one with his creation? Rohr has already stated as much.


It would help us now to bring in a few other peers of Rohr. By examining their line of thought, we can perhaps better understand Rohr.


James Finley is a fellow member of Fr. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. Finley spent six years at the Abbey of Gethsemani before he became a psychologist. He is known for his book, “Merton’s Palace to Nowhere”, and he is also the voice of the popular podcast, “Turning to the Mystics.”


In a recent interview, Finley was asked the question: “Is God real?”


“I would say, God does not exist. There isn’t some infinite being called God who exists. God is the name that we give to the beginning-less, boundary-less, endless, infinite plenitude of existence itself. I am who am. God is that by which we are. And furthermore, God is a presence in an ongoing self-donating act that’s presencing itself and utterly giving itself away in and as the gift and the miracle of the intimate immediacy of our very presence. The closer we can start to get to it are these moments of awakening we spoke of earlier, like these awe moments of quickening…”


We will touch on this error: “Moments of awakening” to our true self, or the realization that we are God.


The idea of a “spiritual awakening” or “realization” stems from Eastern Buddhism. In their philosophy, they believe that God is within the human, in a panthiestic way. This idea of “realization” is not Christian. Repentance is what we have. We must conform ourselves to the God who is within our hearts, yes, but infinitely above us in His majesty.


It is also noteworthy that Fr. Rohr once invited Marianne Williamson to one of his Center’s events. She is the author of the occult book “A Course in Miracles”.


In this book, “it is taught that the crucifixion of Jesus has no meaning and was even wrong, because people think that sin doesn’t exist or is a lack of consciousness. After all, there’s nothing that keeps you separated from God, except for the thought that you are separated from God (...) Rohr endorses the teachings of Marianne Williamson on ‘A course in miracles’, in which she states that we are all in heaven now but we simply do not realize it because we haven’t found the illumination of the ‘God consciousness.’ ” (Stichting Promise)


This illumination, or realization, of a “God consciousness” is a new age, Buddhist idea that is not Christian. At that, it is a Marxist idea, because it believes the progress is continual.


In 1952, Fr. Teilhard wrote in a letter: “As I love to say, the synthesis of the Christian God (of the above) and the Marxist God (of the forward) – Behold! that is the only God whom henceforth we can adore in spirit and in truth.”


Douglas Farrow, a theologian, remarks: “The Christ of Rohr includes, just as that of Teilhard, the whole creation. Jesus may be the unique Christ, but He is nevertheless just one example of the revelation of the Christ. It is a revelation, not a reconciliation, which we have to look for in Jesus”


The New Yorker, speaking of Fr. Richard Rohr, builds dangerous assumptions on the foundations laid out: “According to his teachings, you don’t have to follow Jesus or practice the tenets of any formal religion to come by salvation, you just have to “fall in love with the divine presence, under whatever name.”


If We Are God, There Is No Law That Is Above Us


What is evident in many pagan cultures is that they fall short of Judeo-Christian morality.


Man was and still is too dominated by concupiscence to imagine the tenets of Christianity by himself. Since God is above us, and He makes the law, Christianity is not something any worldly man would set in stone.


While Hinduism seeks to escape from suffering, Christianity embraces suffering. In knowing that God suffered first for us, we find joy and peace. In knowing that God loves us and wills us to repent and come to Him, we pick up our cross and leave our former lives behind.


Many heretics in ancient days, such as the Pelagians or Quietists, believed in a logic like this:


  1. We are capable of being the source of our own grace

  2. Whatever we will is lawful since we are capable of our own self determination

  3. We can therefore do evil and it can be good


This is why many moderners who reject the ethos of Christianity reject original sin and the existance of Hell. Yes, it is pride to reject these things. “How dare anyone condemn me for doing these evil things that I chose to do?” To mention sin is to attack their pride.


Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had a problem with dogma of original sin. Evolutionary theory was his way to get around it.


Christiancentury.org states: “Teilhard also aimed to show that the doctrine of original sin could be understood as the condition for the original act of creation. Evolution suggests that humans exist in a process of becoming, rather than being made perfect from the start. Adam and Eve are therefore best understood as images of sin, not as our biological ancestors. Paradise is a state of salvation open to all who live in unity with Jesus. Teilhard thought that attributing all sin to a single historical act that might, in fact, not have occurred was grossly immature. And to defend a version of the doctrine of original sin that ignored the evidence of reason and experience diminished its deepest meaning.


Thus, Fr. Chardin was stripped of his teaching position in 1925 for denying Original Sin and the existence of Hell.


It is Church teaching that Adam and Eve were are biological ancestors and that their disobedience is the cause of original sin, which, like DNA, passed down to their children.


In the CAC article titled Heaven Is a Great Party, Rohr says. “God has always had a very hard time giving away God: No one seems to want this gift. We’d rather have religion, and laws, and commandments, and obligations, and duties. I’m sure many of us attend church out of duty, but gathering with the Body of Christ is supposed to be a wedding feast.”


What is a true wedding feast but a high mark of man’s dignity? It has the laws of manners and decency. It has vows made before God. A religion without laws, commandments, obligations, duties, and virtues, without religion itself, is chaos.

For now, let us conclude.



 

Further Errors

Appendix: The Dancing “God”?



“I would believe only in a god who could dance.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


“More often than the sacred beings of other cultures, the gods of Hinduism and Buddhism dance. They express their creative and destructive energies through fluid rhythmic movements, setting the pulse of the universe. In benign moods they dance gracefully in divine play. In stern moods they dance with a force that, if fully unleashed, could destroy worlds. Sculpture and paintings depicting deities including Shiva, Krishna, and the elephant-headed Ganesha, together with video clips of dance performances, will illuminate these ideas.” —Sdmart Blog


See: The Cosmic Dance of Shiva. Shiva, which means “nothingness”, is a dancing god who creates in the chaos of a dance. Speaking of this dance, called the Nataraja, Aldous Huxley said:


“The whole thing is there, you see. The world of space and time, and matter and energy, the world of creation and destruction, the world of psychology…We (the West) don’t have anything remotely approaching such a comprehensive symbol, which is both cosmic and psychological, and spiritual.”


The popular writer Sadhguru breaks this down clearly: “India is the only place where our gods must dance…This is because the closest analogy you can give to the phenomenon of creation is that it is like a dance. Today, modern physicists are using such words – they say creation seems to be in a dance. If you observe a dance, on the surface, there seems to be no logical coherence to what is happening. But if you look closely enough, there is a very profound system to the whole process.


(...)


You cannot understand the dance because everything that you understand will only be a wrong conclusion. But you can experience the aesthetic of the dance, or you can become the dance…If you become the dance, you become the divine…”


Fritjof Capra (author of the Tao of Physics), Carl Sagan, and many other modern scientists are facinatined by this concept. Sagan, known for the series Cosmos, says that he liked to imagine the Nataraja was “a kind of premonition of modern astronomical ideas.”


Religious ideas of the East have crept far into modern science, the new age, and Christianity itself.


Fr. Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: Exploring the Mystery of Trinity: “Scientists are discovering this reality as they look through microscopes and telescopes. They are finding that the energy is in the space between the particles of the atom and between the planets and the stars. (Is this where his idea that the essence of God is in everything comes from?). They are discovering that reality is absolutely relational at all levels. When you really understand Trinity, however slightly, it’s like you live in a different universe. And a very good and inviting one!”


Fr. Richard Rohr (Ibid): Trinity is the very nature of God, and this God is a circle dance, a centrifugal force flowing outward, and then drawing all things into the dance centripetally.


In Hinduism, the idea of a dancing god enclosed in a circle is: god is the creator and creation, the dance and the dancer.


Fr. Richard Rohr (Ibid): “If this God names himself/herself in creation and in reality then there must be a “family resemblance” between everything else and the nature of the heart of God.”


Thus, the error.


Many will try to claim this idea of a dancing “god” is based in the Fathers, by showing that they used the term “perichoresis.” However, this write up on Wikipedia explains why this is not so:


"Perichoresis" is derived from the Greek peri, "around" and chōreō, "to go, or come". As a compound word, it refers primarily to "going around" or "encompassing", conveying the idea of "two sides of the same coin". Suggested connections with Greek words for dancing ("choreia", spelled with the short letter omicron not the long omega) are not grounded in Greek etymology or early Christian use, but are modern in origin.” —



Further investigation of their belief in physics:


“Before Albert Einstein propounded his theory of relativity in the early 20th century, it was assumed that matter could ultimately be broken down into indivisible indestructible parts. But when individual subatomic particles were smashed against each other in high-energy experiments, they didn’t scatter into smaller bits. Instead, they merely re-arranged themselves to form new particles using kinetic energy or the energy of motion: subatomic dynamism.


“At the subatomic level, all material particles interact with one another by emitting and reabsorbing (i.e., creating and destroying) other particles. Modern physics shows us that every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For the modern physicist, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter,” Capra wrote in a letter.”



Appendix: Substitutionary Atonement Theory


Rohr: "I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is a revelation of the infinite and participatory love of God, not some bloody payment required by God’s offended justice to rectify the problem of sin. Such a story line is way too small and problem-oriented.


“This theory of atonement ultimately relies on another commonly accepted notion—the “original sin” of Adam and Eve, which, we were told, taints all human beings. But much like original sin (a concept not found in the Bible but developed by Augustine in the fifth century), most Christians have never been told how recent and regional this explanation is or that it relies upon a retributive notion of justice”


On the contrary:


Council of Trent: “If anyone asserts that the transgression of Adam injured him alone and not his posterity, and that the holiness and justice which he received from God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has transfused only death and the pains of the body into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul, let him be anathema, since he contradicts the Apostle who says:


“By one man sin entered into the world and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” [Rom. 5:12]



Notes:


Fr. Richard Rohr wrote a book called The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. The Vatican document Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life, speaking of the Enneagram, says that “when used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith.”


More suspect quotes by Fr. Rohr:


The brilliance of Buddhism is that it put enlightenment front and centre, where as we [Christians] put ...salvation front and center, and its just messed up because Jesus was talking about enlightenment too, but we didn't let him do that, we turned him into an answer giver.”


“When Christians hear the word “incarnation,” most of us think about the birth of Jesus, who personally demonstrated God’s radical unity with humanity. 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. (This, I believe, is why light is the subject of the first day of creation, and its speed is now recognized as the one universal constant.) The incarnation, then, is not only “God becoming Jesus.” (Universal Christ)



Fr. Chardin:


“It has sometimes seemed to me there are three weak stones sitting dangerously in the foundations of the modern Church: first, a government that excludes democracy; second, a priesthood that excludes and minimises women; third, a revelation that excludes, for the future, prophecy.’ (Letter to Christophe de Gaudefroy, 7 October 1929)


“Like the countless shades that combine in nature to produce a single white light, so the infinite modalities of action are fused, without being confused, the one single color under the mighty power of the universal Christ.” (Science and Christ)


“Christ has a cosmic body that extends throughout the universe.” (Cosmic Life, 1916, XII, 58)


“It seems we are now reliving after 1,500 years the great conflicts with arianism - with the big difference that we are now concerned with defining the relations, not between Christ and the Trinity, - but between Christ and a universe that has suddenly become fantastically large, formidably organic and more than probably poly-human (...planets - millions perhaps). And if I may express myself brutally (but expressively) I see no valid or constructive way out of the situation except by making through the theologians of a new Nicea a sub-distinction in the human nature of Christ between a terrestrial nature and a cosmic nature.” (Letter to Andre Ravier SJ, 14 January 1955, Lettres intimes, 452)


“A general convergence of religions upon a universal Christ who fundamentally satisfies them all: that seems to me the only possible conversion of the world, and the only form in which a religion of the future can be conceived.”


“Lastly, to put an end once and for all to the fears of 'pantheism’', constantly raised by certain upholders of traditional spirituality as regards evolution, how can we fail to see that, in the case of a converging universe such as I have delineated, far from being born from the fusion and confusion of the elemental centres it assembles, the universal centre of unification (precisely to its motive, collective and stabilising function) must be conceived as pre-existing and transcendent. A very real 'pantheism' if you like (in the etymological meaning of the word) but an absolutely legitimate pantheism-for if, in the last resort, the reflective centres of the world are effectively 'one with God', this state is obtained not by identification (God becoming all) but by the differentiating and communicating action of love (God all in everyone). And that is essentially orthodox and Christian.” (The Phenomenon of Man)



 

This investigation is written without enthusiasm, but I think worth sharing to warn others about jumping into the works of these two priests, Fr. Richard Rohr and Fr. Teilhard de Chardin. If any false accusations are put forth, do excuse them. All said, I think the larger work stands as a warning worth hearing. May Fr. Rohr, let us pray for him, hold fast to the teachings of the Catholic Church and may Fr. Chardin rest in peace.


May God bless you, dear reader!


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