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Breathing Under Water: Day 5

Posted by Richard Rohr, OFM on 11/13/15 2:00 AM

Breathing Under WaterEach in our own way, we are all breathing, or trying to breathe, while not recognizing that we are first of all “underwater”—under the water of our own untested assumptions, our cultural blindness, the compulsive neurological responses often inherited from family and childhood, our early wounding (which somehow seems to be universal), and the narcissism of our own egoic responses to almost everything, including most especially our learned defenses to that early wounding—which are almost entirely unconscious and well-practiced by now.

It is the beginnings of enlightenment to begin to see this and to begin to raise our periscope above the water level. Only then might we see and find pure air to actually breathe in and out. Some might call it the air of the Spirit. As long as you stay “underwater” you will not breathe, but you will drown instead—while not calling it drowning but presume it is “living.” Most peoples’ initial level of free response is very limited.

While thinking they are surely “doing their own thing,” they are almost totally programmed, conditioned, and addicted to everybody else’s thing and everybody else’s wounding It is the foundational work of spirituality to increase, deepen, and expand your true inner freedom (see Galatians 5:1), so you can maturely act and not just re-act.

It was the spiritual genius of Bill Wilson, Doctor Bob, their circle of admitted addicts, and the influence of many of the key ideas of the “Oxford Group” from 1919–1939 that all coalesced to an astounding epiphany among a group of sincere seekers toward the end of that period. It became the practical Twelve Step program in, of all places, Akron, Ohio—probably because the depth of the suffering and addiction had become “unmanageable” for so many at that time.

For me, it is clearly a work of the Holy Spirit, precisely because of the coming together of so many forces, ideas, and key people without any single person or one single idea steering the insights. Like the first Pentecost, it was a descent of many tongues of fire and many tongues of speech (Acts 2:1–13) in Akron, Ohio. For me, part of the genius of the Twelve Step program is that it combines very deep and rather obvious Scriptural principles (although not obvious till someone tells you!), a Jesuit and Catholic sense of the discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10), much hard-earned pastoral wisdom, good psychology on how people change, along with a kind of American pragmatism and practicality that has now moved it all over the world with continuing but quiet success.

This feels like Gospel.


Breathing Under Water

Topics: Richard Rohr, Spirituality, Inspiration, Breathing Under Water