In early 2019, Franciscan mystic Richard Rohr featured a guest editorial by Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault in his Daily Meditation*newsletter. Bourgeault focused on the familiar phrase known to Christians as “the kingdom of Heaven.” She writes:
So, what is the Kingdom of Heaven? Biblical scholars have debated this question for almost as long as there have been biblical scholars. Many Christians, particularly those of a more evangelical persuasion, assume that the Kingdom of Heaven means the place you go when you die—if you’ve been “saved.”
Others have equated the Kingdom of Heaven with an earthly utopia…. Jesus shrank from all that and said, strongly and unequivocally, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
She then cites American mystic Jim Marion’s suggestion** that “the Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from.” She writes:
Marion suggests specifically that the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus’ way of describing a state we would nowadays call “nondual consciousness” or “unitive consciousness.” The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. These are indeed Jesus’ two core teachings, underlying everything he says and does.
In his book The Naked Now, Rohr points to Jesus as well as the Buddha and Mohammed as nondualists and states that their followers resorted to dualism because it allowed more control over the masses. He writes:
Western Judeo-Christians are often uncomfortable with the word “nonduality.” They often associate it (negatively) with Eastern religions. I am convinced, however, that Jesus was the first nondual religious teacher of the West, and one reason we have failed to understand so much of his teaching, much less follow it, is because we tried to understand it with a dualistic mind.
Rohr writes that “nonpolarity thinking” [the nondual] is at the core of three of the world’s greatest religions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism…” He continues:
I have often wondered how we could have lost such vast wisdom from the ages. I expect no more from the systems of power, which need to be dualistic in order to survive. But unfortunately, organized religion today too often offers easy and false dichotomies to its own mass membership.
Rohr then goes on to say the world’s religions elders are “strongly invested in either-or-thinking” for it gives them “a sense of certitude, clear authority, and control over” their memberships. And this coming from a Franciscan priest!
Rohr, Marion and Bourgeault seem united in the idea that Jesus’ referring to the “kingdom of heaven” over 2,000 years ago could now be called nondual or unity consciousness.
These three Christian contemplatives seem very aligned with the Hindu philosophy of Advaita, which means “not two” in Sanskrit. Call it Advaita, nondual, oneness or unity consciousness it seems to be our natural state until we allow the finite mind to start its mischief and pretend we are separate.
*”Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation,” Center for Action and Contemplation, January 15, 2019
**Jim Marion, Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality (Hampton Roads Publishing Company: 2000; 2nd ed., 2011)