The Third Eye – More Musings Helped Along by Richard Rohr and The Naked Now Book Tour

One of my ministries is a blog that I write for my parish. This piece is cross posted there. If you want to have a look, see The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor.

If you are at all like me, you may have thought that the idea of a “third eye” is a concept of new age thinking and practice. Not exactly!

When I was listening to Richard Rohr, OFM last week, it was interesting to learn that there is also a Catholic foundation for this way of “seeing.” I should not be surprised, given the rich, full corpus of Catholic thought and learning through the centuries. (I am always greatly saddened when others, Catholics often among them, think of Catholicism as some tightly bound ideology that is narrow and harsh. I do understand why some might think that however.)

Richard Rohr, during his talk for the Naked Now book tour gave some insight into the “third eye” way of seeing. Hugo of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor, both 12th century Franciscan mystics, expressed this way of prayer and being.

Richard of St. Victor wrote of the oculus carnis (eye of the senses), oculus rationis (eye of reason) and the oculus fidei (eye of faith). It is the eye of faith that is the “third eye.” This eye takes us beyond what we can physically see and experience, what we know through reason, to what is both beyond and within. This eye helps us to see and know God.

Beyond and within – note those words. If you read my Rohr inspired post from the other day you recall the need to leave duality at the door and enter into the ambiguity of both/and to experience God and the world at a deeper level. This reminds of a labrynth – a journey that might seem to go nowhere, yet goes everywhere.

Consider the Cross of Jesus Christ… Great suffering and great love in one nexus that changed (and continues to change) the world in ways that we could never imagine. Follow that with death followed by resurrection, which is where the Cross leads to and from. Perhaps you can see the numerous non-dualistic paths of the both/and way of seeing and how deeply Christian it is.

This is why we so desperately need the oculus fidei. The oculus carnis or the eye of the sense sees the resurrection. The oculus rationis or eye of reason denies this. It is only through the oculus fidei or eye of faith that we can begin to follow the Risen Christ.

If you give this any thought at all, it is the ultimate cognitive dissonance. And yet for many of us, it is the Truth and the Way. No wonder people think we are nuts! The only way for things to make sense at all to have them make no real sense at all. Which is of course ultimately the only thing that makes sense. Are you still with me here?

Richard Rohr, in his newest book further plumbs these depths of mystery and contemplation. During his talk, he elucidated the need to seek the place in between. It is no coincidence that Rohr runs the Center for Action and Contemplation, another place for the oculus fidei. In order to have action, we must feed it with contemplation… and vice-versa.

It must be noted that Rohr diverted from his talk to relay a story of giving an 8 day retreat at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton was a monk. Rohr kept mentioning Merton and clearly the monks seemed disinterested. Finally he asked the abbot why and he was informed that Merton had told his brother Benedictines that they were not contemplatives but rather introverts! And perhaps that is the bitter fruit of dualistic thought… One is an introvert or an activist, but where is one’s heart in the end? It seems it might be found in this place of both/and, lest we be lost in the either/or, which seems to go nowhere.

One of the points that Rohr made was that Jesus does not so much give us the answers, rather that Jesus is The Answer. He told us that in the Gospels, Jesus was asked 183 different questions…

And Jesus only answered 3 of them directly. (Three of them? How trinitarian, now that is interesting.)

Jesus is not an answer giver, as I said. He is The Answer.

Consider this, Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Hmmm – do you see how we can’t simply see with the eye of the senses or of reason? It doesn’t make sense? A God that does not rumble from on high alone, but rather becomes one of us? It is truly mind-boggling if you just sit with that that thought.

I guess that God had really been working on this, rather cooperatively at that point – we were made in God’s image after all. That clearly did not do it; we could not accept that as humans it seems. So God made the conscious, active and loving choice to not simply make us in God’s image, but rather to fully be one of us. Rohr reminded us of the “scandal of the incarnation”, to use Irenaeus’ term for it.

I can only glimpse all of this, like a flash of light at the edge of my vision or perhaps a dream that I know I had, but yet can’t fully recall. I glimpse this with my oculus fidei. This is my journey and may be yours as well, as we know without understanding and how we understand without knowing.

It is a mystery indeed and yet all very clear. Isn’t it?

(Interested in the work of Richard Rohr? Click here to read and learn more about him and The Center for Action and Contemplation, to see where he might be giving a talk or workshop or to buy his books.)

5 thoughts on “The Third Eye – More Musings Helped Along by Richard Rohr and The Naked Now Book Tour

  1. No wonder people think we are nuts!Yep. As you know, I've been wrestling with that very same issue lately…The only way for things to make sense at all to have them make no real sense at all. Which is of course ultimately the only thing that makes sense. Are you still with me here?All the way to the end, dear one.


  2. Well, I came from Doxy's place to here. Great minds….Maybe it's just that I'm getting old, but I seem to live a good part of the time in that place of mystery, where no explanation, no words are needed. The place of mystery is a loving presence within, throughout my being.But, too often my ego gets in the way and ignores the presence and asserts itself in ways that are not loving. And that's a mystery, too – how that happens, because what good is the loving presence if it does not bear fruit in my life? It's not just for me. It seems to me that I need constant reminders that the loving presence MUST lead to outward loving actions.When will I ever learn?And if this makes no sense….


  3. Fran, I have no problem with this. Although I'm a pretty rational, but sometimes I'm confronted with things that I just don't understand. Usually, I just leave it open ended, and that's ok. I trust God to handle what I cannot. But sometimes I don't need to understand, because I just know.


  4. You know, Fran, how thoroughly convinced I am a life of faith begins and ends with seeing beyond what's visibly expected and proven. But I never equated this with "a third eye," confining the concept to the New Age mysticism you mention.But it makes a world of sense to me. When Jesus declares His mission to the "home crowd" at Nazareth, He emphatically says He's come to enable "recovery of sight for the blind." (Luke 4.18) All these years, I've assumed it's a sort of catch phrase for His healing ministry. Now I see it differently. It's a miracle that transcends physical healing. It's sight we all need, a miracle we should seek and expect we'll receive.Thank you for this illumination–and for your daring to entrust us with a fresh perspective. Your insight and courage never cease to astound me.


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