St. Francis from my childhood backyard garden still looks over my plants and encourages the birds. He looks sadder than I recall his gaze from the past.

“In Franciscan (and true Christian) mysticism, there is no distinction between sacred and profane. All of the world is sacred for those who know how to see.”

I saw this quote in one of  Richard Rohr‘s “daily meditations.” It is taken from his book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote,  “The world is in truth a holy place.”  He is a writer I initially investigated when I was in high school just because he was quoted in a John Updike novel.  I think “holy” is a more “loaded” word than sacred, but the philosophy is very similar.

Teilhard’s was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who was trained as a paleontologist and geologist. That intrigued me. He and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. I loved that mix of science and religion – two areas that more often argue and disagree.

He conceived the idea of the Omega Point. It is simply described (though it is not so simple) as the maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which [he believed] the universe was evolving. He also helped develop Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of Noosphere. (I wrote earlier about the Omega Point and Noosphere.)

Teilhard’s writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin, but attitudes have changed somewhat and he has been praised by Pope Benedict XVI.

Is there a way to follow a “religionless Christianity” or is that an oxymoron? If you see a division between the sacred and the profane (terrible term for it) worlds, then it is not possible.

The early religions focused on identifying sacred places, sacred time and even sacred actions. That leaves most of life “unsacred.”

Where you find God in most religions are the places and events that are largely controlled by the clergy. As Rohr say, this is probably partially related to “job security” – organized religion needs people to survive.


St. Francis of Assisi: Sermon to the Birds (fresco detail), 1297-99, Giotto di Bondone

Another area of religion that interested me as a young person was mysticism, including Franciscan mysticism. My mother had a book in our house on the life of Saint Francis and I read it one summer. He saw no distinction between sacred and profane. I was immediately taken with the notion that the universe and all events are sacred. They all might be doorways to the divine, if you know how to see. This was not something the priests and nuns were telling me in religious classes.

I know that all of this still doesn’t work for religious people who don’t accept being “spiritual” as a way of life (even though a growing number of Americans report that as their religious affiliation).

It was a Lutheran mystic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in the mid-2oth century who called this “religionless Christianity” as he saw people moving beyond the framework of religion to what they saw as a deeper but still Christian experience.

I would say that I see people moving even farther to a “religionless spirituality” that is unattached to any formal religion and may or may not be connected to any formal conception of God.