I originally wrote this review back in 2013, but have updated it a little to reflect the recent resurgence of Rohr’s popularity, in books such as ‘The Divine Dance’ and ‘The Universal Christ’. At the time, I got a review copy from SPCK for free, and subsequently (not linked!) worked for them for two years, so it has been interesting reflecting on this.
This review is of a book I didn’t expect to enjoy, but in fact came away somewhat refreshed by. I’ve read about Rohr a lot – and so when the opportunity came by to review this book I was excited to do so. For those who don’t know him/of him, Richard Rohr is an Author, Speaker and Franciscan Priest. Falling Upward is self-described as “A spirituality for the two halves of life”. Throughout, Rohr works on the idea that our lives are in two halves; working out who and what we are, and then working out what to do with ourselves. His explanation of that is rather more interesting, and it is worth reading the book for a good explanation of that idea, even if, like me, you ultimately disagree.
I read this book as a determined Evangelical. The simple fact is, Rohr is not one, and so those looking for an Evangelical spirituality will not be pleased. That said, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with about 80% of what Rohr had to say, worrying about 15%, and being profoundly challenged/concerned by the remaining 5%. This is a book that deserves a good sit down – I broke in my new reading space with it – and bears careful reading. It is a book that has a good overall theme and direction as well as having plenty of golden moment one-liners.
Rohr’s starting point is in a powerful (if potentially heretical, by provocatively describing ‘our own ‘immaculate conception”) declaration of what it means to be human:
“I believe that God gives us our soul, our deepest identity, our True Self, our unique blueprint, at our own “immaculate conception”. Our unique little bit of heaven is install by the Manufacturer within the product at the beginning! We are given a span of years to discover it, to choose it, and to live our own destiny to the full”
This book contains reflections on many things, informed by an engagement with and appreciation of, a variety of religious perspectives. It is driven by a Christian intent – albeit one more open than I might be comfortable with. But there is much to commend in this book. With chapters such as “The Tragic Sense of Life”, “Necessary Suffering”, “The Shadowlands” and “Falling Upward”, it is a book vitally engaged with it really, truly means to be human in the modern age.
I’d cautiously recommend this book to people looking for something, though I’m not entirely sure what that ‘something’ is. It won’t necessarily provide the answers, and it doesn’t lead directly to Jesus, but it has the tools for starting a search. I’d also recommend this book to those feeling burnt out and in need of nourishment. If you are discerning enough to be aware that this is not remotely 100% perfect, there is real grace to be found in these pages. Rohr’s passion for Jesus is clear, and there are many inspiring and thought-provoking ideas and quotes. Those looking for serious theology will be disappointed, but those who want a provocative and psychology-ish spirituality might find something useful.