Saturday, September 29, 2018


I was rereading Fr. Richard Rohr's "The Divine Dance" this week, the section where he uses the analogy of a computer's "operating system." This post is a mixture of my thoughts and Fr. Rohr's.

First, a definition of a computer's "operating system," or "OS:"
"An operating system is software that communicates with the hardware and allows other programs to run. Every desktop computer, tablet, and smartphone includes an operating system that provides basic functionality for the device. Common desktop operating systems include Windows and OS X."


As human beings, our first experiences are sensory ones  (taste, touch, etc.). As a species we've survived by learning to operate well on this sensory level -- we depend on our senses for food, self-defense, and so forth. Over millennia we've fine-tuned our use of the senses in the physical sciences so that we keep achieving advances that are close to miraculous in medicine, physics, astronomy and so forth.

We've become so used to thinking and operating on this sensory level of reality that we may have become the first civilization that has forgotten that there's another operating system besides the sensory-based one, a system that is not bounded by the limits of time and space. (It might be helpful if you were to go back and look at two posts about the Holy Trinity: Feb. 10, 2018, and May 26, 2018.)


This alternative operating system is where we interface with God, where we experience the Beyond of things. Our explorations into the Divine dimension of reality, however, can't be understood with the normal mind, the one trained in the sensory operating system -- they're best perceived with an alternative OS what we call the contemplative mind. Here's how Richard Rohr puts it. 

"Really, it's only God in us who understands the things of God. We must take this very seriously and know how it operates in us, with us, for us and as us. The failure to access our own operating system has kept much Christianity very immature and superficial, filled with secondhand cliches instead of any calm, clear and immediate experience of reality. It has left us argumentative instead of appreciative.
"Thus anything in the realm of mystery -- which happens to be, of course, all mature religion, including the idea of the Trinity -- remains static in the form of dogma or doctrine, highly abstract, densely metaphysical, and largely irrelevant. Certainly not life-changing ....

"What I believe, and have dedicated my life to reversing, is that we have not moved doctrine and dogma to the level of inner experience. As long as 'received teaching' doesn't become experiential knowledge, we're going to continue creating a high quantity of disillusioned ex-believers."

It seems to me that one of Rohr's points is that religious people sometimes have a hard time escaping the comfortable closed-in world of the material OS where you measure things out, where there is always a comfortable connection between cause and effect, and where there is no place for mystery. A church that is stuck in this world view offers no experience of the Beyond, and says nothing to people who are looking for an experience of transcendence and meaning in their lives.


Fr. Rohr blames this confusion of operating systems in the church for the growing number of "nones." (A "none" is someone who, when asked to fill in their religious affiliation answers "none.")

[Yet] many of our young people, and many of our old people, too, are not having it. They're leaving the right-belief systems of their parents and grandparents in droves. This is a mass exodus from institutional faith that demographers are calling "the rise of the Nones." Nones comprise about 20 percent of all Americans, and one third of Americans under thirty. 

I think he's right. Having opened this can of worms, I suppose that I'll have to write a follow-up post.


  1. I think you're quite right. The social and intellectual forms that Christianity has developed are not enough in this age. We also need to develop a contemplative connection with the spiritual world as well.

  2. Agreed. We need more focus on mysticism and service and less on dogma and sex.