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Life Is Probably Round

The Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh observed, “life is probably round.” His most famous painting, Starry Night (1889), is thought to have expressed his fading religious feelings. Life is spherical. There is wisdom in his observation that is radically counter-cultural. Western culture tends to think in straight lines, not in curves or circles. This is just another way in which we are alienated from reality.

Neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist reminds us “No straight lines are to be found in the natural world. Everything that really exists follows a series of curved shapes to which the logical products of the human mind can only ever approach tangentially—flow, once again reduced to a series of points.” Even space is curved.

The basic shape of connection, wholeness, and even God is a circle—hence the Celtic cross. To align with reality is to embrace the circle. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang, describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. It is both/and thinking in contrast to either/or binaries. There is a growing convergence in New Copernican spirituality to forms of non-dualistic mysticism.

Richard Rohr asks, “What is the shape of God?” At one level it’s an absurd question because God is not a being but being itself. But what is also true is that we all have a mental image of God... even when a non-believing atheist. Usually its variations of someone or something that is static, imperial, and monarchial—“The Man.” We sing of God “almighty,” but rarely of God “all vulnerable.” And yet the relational self-giving love among the three persons of the Trinity is finding a strong resurgence in New Copernicans thinking about God. This neglected aspect of the Christian vision upends dualistic thinking: the number one is imperial, two is oppositional, but three is dynamic. The God of Celtic spirituality is a Trinity as in the leaves of the shamrock.

Those with eyes to see can look at any aspect of nature and see the contours of a larger spiritual world. The atom is composed of neutrons, protons, and electrons—a trinity. For almost three hundred years, the West has adopted a picture of reality that blinds us to holistic ways of seeing. The renaissance of right-brained seeing is one of the most important contributions of millennial New Copernicans. What they acknowledge whether through the body, spirit, or art is that all are vehicles of love.

I was blessed to meet one of these New Copernican seers this week at Starbucks. Her name was .O. In studying the sperm and the egg, she has developed a wealth of spiritual insight. In the basic movements of our nascent life, like the atom, it is all there. She is in the “womb ministry,” retelling the story of our beginning in a manner that draws us into the circle of love and connection. Is it a surprise that the Hebrew word for “compassion,” racham, is also the word for “womb”? There are some who use the spiritual metaphor of being “born again” as a club—a demarcation of insiders and outsiders—to .O it is an invitation to a dance.

The West approaches spiritual seeing as if it were putting LEGO®s together piece by piece in a sequence. New Copernican spirituality differs. Here things simply come into focus as a whole. Everything is understood within the context of all the significances that encircle it. The invitation is to the circle dance. The invitation is to see reality anew.

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