The Necessity of Reverence

David Bohm often talks about necessity vs. contingency as a lens through which we can view and perhaps understand thought. Necessity is non-negotiable: I am a self, this is my body, Jesus loves me and so forth. These are usually hard to find and subject to rigid defense, especially if we want to raise them into the light of understanding and forgiveness. Contingencies are in the vein of “it’s nice but I can live without it.” We don’t believe that life itself grinds to a halt in their absence.

Lately I am considering that reverence is a necessity – that without it, we cannot wake up to Oneness. Reverence comes from the Latin Reveri meaning roughly “to stand in awe of.” In the Old English it was related to awareness, perhaps touched with caution. To be reverent was to be in the presence of something greater and to know it as greater.

In myself, I notice that reverence is helpful in the sense that it tends to quiet the mind a little and create some openness. It seems to be related to willingness in this sense. It is hard to talk about, of course – once you are using language to describe feelings, you are really far away from the feeling. But willingness has that capacity to be open, submitting to something that it doesn’t yet know or really understand. It has faith or trust. And in my experience, reverence does too.

Traditionally, reverence is directed at something – that greater thing, as I said earlier. But I wonder what happens when reverence is not focused on an object or an idea but simply exists? What if I am reverent waking up and making pancakes and walking the dog and mowing the lawn and eating lunch and on and on? So I am not revering Jesus or Buddha, not making an idol out of it all, but just . . . feeling reverent?

I notice that when I am reverent I move slower and am quieter and that sooner or later, gratitude enters in. When I was a kid and for a long time after we went to church every Sunday – almost until I was forty I did this. And always in the service and in the church and with the priests and others, there was some degree of reverence. It didn’t feel forced so much but it did fade.

It is confusing to try and understand this with our tiny and limited brains but God is not anywhere. Nor is God everywhere. We can’t really get at it that way. But at the same time, this nowhereness – that is the word I want – means that we need to be reverent everywhere. I am saying that we should pretend to see God in a gourd plant and a dead moth and Venus on the horizon – although it is fine if we do – but that we are really sort of opening up a little to what we don’t know. Maybe that is what reverence is – and where it connects to willingness – , this idea that we are receptive and aware before what cannot be known by our long-standing and familiar means.

There is something helpful then about being reverent in an open-ended, non-directed way. Whatever enters our perception receives the benediction of reverence.

If you read and practice the workbook to A Course in Miracles, you see that very often the daily lesson asks that you return to it hourly or even more frequently. There is a recognition that the change of mind the course contemplates requires some attentiveness and diligence. When I am reverent, I remember this. I am less confused about what life is for – it is for awakening. I am here to remember God with and for you, as you are for me, regardless of what form our remembering (and its practice) takes.

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  • Wendy September 23, 2012, 11:57 am

    For the past several weeks, I have been experiencing moments of deep reverence. They are exquisite, and humbling. I was walking up a sidewalk into a covered parking garage a few weeks ago, and found myself noticing how beautiful the stains on the concrete were, the beauty in the design of the manhole cover. I sat in a restaurant and watched sunlight bouncing off the cars that drove by, the dance of leaves in a small breeze, the burst of flavor from a leaf of basil in my mouth. Awareness of such aching perfection it has brought tears to my eyes more than once. I feel like I am falling deeper and deeper in love with everything and everyone, including myself. It’s grand.

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