Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
by Richard Rohr
Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif. 198 pages.
This book of observations is woven from developmental psychology, Jungian analysis, Franciscan piety and ecumenical theology of the late 20th century. Rohr is a master at pulling all these strands together into a guidebook that is much richer and more insightful than the common variety self-help book. One might even describe this simply as commentary on Erik Erickson’s stages of development with a theological twist that presses further than “stages of faith.” Rohr’s premise, borrowing from Erickson, is that we have two halves of life with specific purposes and tasks in each. The earlier is to develop a structure of morality (law) that “contains” the skills to enter into the second half of life that necessarily involves suffering, ambiguity and loss. The goal is to “fall upward” into this latter stage by way of humility (and humiliation) and acceptance of the vast unknowing. By “falling” Rohr argues we arrive at a disposition that is merciful, compassionate and kind toward others and oneself. Not coincidentally this disposition is akin to that of Jesus, which is the goal of the Christian life. Even John Calvin might agree with Rohr’s use of Lady Julian of Norwich: “First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!”