Thursday, April 17, 2014


"Our error (thank God there is an error or life would be unendurable!) is that we use the word religious in a wrong way. The word religion stems from the Latin roots re, meaning again, and ligare, meaning to bind, bond, or bridge. Our common word ligature comes from the same root. Religion means, then, to bind together again. It can never be affixed to one of a pair of opposites. In the preceding discussion I have pointed out the secular versus the religious attitude. This is a flaming, flagrant error and is the seat of the most of the neurotic suffering of mankind. To think that one way of action is profane and another sacred is to make terrible misuse of the language. There is no such thing as a religious act or list of characteristics. There can only be a religious insight that bridges or heals. This is what restores and reconciles the opposites that have been torturing each of us. The religious faculty is the art of taking the opposites and binding them back together again, surmounting the split that has been causing so much suffering. It helps us move from contradiction—that painful condition where things oppose each other—to the realm of paradox, where we are able to entertain simultaneously two contradictory notions and give them equal dignity. Then, and only then, is there the possibility of grace, the spiritual experience of contradictions brought into a coherent whole—giving us a unity greater than either one of them.

To say [for example] that it is better to give than to receive is to indulge in the same kind of error that proves that 2 equals 3. To focus on one pair of opposites as 'religious' is truly a mistake. It is only the realm of synthesis that is worthy of the adjective.

We must restore the word religious to its true meaning: then it will regain its healing power. To heal, to bond, to join, to bridge, to put back together again—these are our sacred faculties."
pp. 84-85

"It is good to win; it is also good to lose. It is good to have money; it is also good to give to the poor. Freedom is good; so is the acceptance of authority. To view the elements of our life in this paradoxical manner is to open a whole new series of possibilities. Let us not say that the opposites are adverse, but that they make up divine reality that is accessible to us in our human condition. It’s incorrect to label one of a pair is secular and the other religious. We must reframe this perspective and think that each represents a divine truth. It is only our inability to see the hidden unity that is problematic. To stay loyal to paradox is to earn the right to unity. Indeed, the most valuable experience of life is this “unified” vision, the most treasured experience of mystical theology, which is achieved by surrendering to paradox. The medieval world understood this experience, which took one beyond the collision of opposites and brought one into harmony with God."
p. 88

--Robert A. Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow


For more Easter reflections, check out my column in this week's ALETEIA: Love or Vinegar?


  1. Wise stuff.

    But I did stumble on the part that says Acts: 20:35 is actually in error: "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

    That seems basic truth rather than erroneous.

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  3. I'm needing to heal and to be put back together again, so I guess I'm in the right place...Blessings!


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