My spiritual practice is to awaken daily to the inescapability of God, the reality* wherein I and all others “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and articulating this awakening, as I’m doing right now, is an integral part of my spiritual practice.

Because I awaken to this reality as inescapably here, I don’t have to come up with arguments to justify using the word “reality.” I can produce arguments, but they are no more persuasive than the awakening itself.**

Is this reality a “who” or a “what”?


This all-inclusive, inescapable reality seemingly exceeds the personal/impersonal, subject/object binary.

I speak of this reality in the singular. Some sort of “oneness” does seem to be involved here. But I hasten to emphasize that this “one” seemingly exceeds the unity/diversity binary also. (That is after all what proponents of the doctrine of the Trinity have always struggled to say, however inadequately: God’s oneness is boundlessly self-othering communion.)

As an odd sort of process theist, I am, after all, prone to say that reality is relationally diversifying in such ways that nothing is ever totally disentangled from, or subordinate to, anything else, which amounts to a disconcertingly de-centering communion.

God is the version of this relational diversifying “than which a greater cannot be thought,” as St. Anselm famously said. All others, including you and me, are versions of this relational diversifying than which a greater can be thought. So there is a mutually entangling likeness/unlikeness among God and everything else. (Catherine Keller calls it apophatic entanglement: “a full ontological relationalism [wherein] uncertainty, the apophatic, the unknowable [is] built into the elemental fabric of the universe.”)

I don’t see this practice as exclusively premodern, modern, or postmodern. I can readily see it at work in deeply reflective folk from ancient times down to today. I can’t simply repeat them, but their practices nourish mine.

Example: “When I first came to know you, you raised me up to make me see that what I ‘saw’ is Being, and that I who saw am not yet Being. And you gave a shock to the weakness of my sight by the strong radiance of your rays, and I trembled with love and awe.”—St. Augustine, Confessions 7.10.16 (written around 400 CE). Simply reading Augustine’s words starts to awaken me to God, the reality wherein I and all others “live and move and have our being” (as does reading that oft-quoted phrase from Acts). (Here are more examples.) As a process thinker, I would speak of Augustine’s “Being” as the all-inclusive way of newly interacting. John Caputo would speak instead of “the event that happens to us in and under” such names as “God” or “Being.” There have always been numerous ways to speak, however haltingly, of the reality wherein we and all others live and move and have our being. I welcome and celebrate all such attempts with the awakenings they provoke.

—Fr. Charles

*I am not using “reality” in any specialized sense other than what turns out to involve us, like it or not, noticed or not. That’s how we often use the word in everyday parlance, and that’s enough to justify its usage here. This is close to the definition of reality given by pragmatist William James (which he in turn stole from non-pragmatist A. E. Taylor): “anything is real of which we find ourselves obliged to take account in any way”—William James, Some Problems of Philosophy (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1996 [1911]), p. 101. Again, my usage is close, but not identical. How this usage squares or doesn’t square with more exotically provocative usages, like Lacan’s and Zizek’s “the Real,” is a matter better left for another conversation.

**I live here by a “principle of sufficiency” formalized by Immanuel Kant: “the variety of entities should not be rashly diminished.” Or as I would phrase it more empirically (i.e., experientially), don’t deny what’s experienced as real without a compelling reason. It’s the flip-side of William of Ockham’s “principle of parsimony” (“Occam’s Razor”): “entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” The two principles, parsimony and sufficiency, are actually compatible (more here). So we can combine them into one principle: the variety of entities should neither be diminished nor multiplied beyond necessity.