The Principle of Likeness

To have a spiritual life is to recognize early on that there is always a similarity and coherence between the seer and the seen, the seekers and what they are capable of finding.  You will seek only what you have partially already discovered and seen within yourself as desirable.  Spiritual cognition is invariably re-cognition.

Call it the “Principle of Likeness,” if you will.  The enormous breakthrough is that when you honor and accept the divine image within yourself, you cannot help but see it in everybody else, too, and you know it is just as undeserved and unmerited as it is in you.  That is why you stop judging, and that is how you start loving unconditionally and without asking whether someone is worthy or not.  The breakthrough occurs at once, although the realization deepens and takes on greater conviction over time.

…[N]ondual people will see things in their wholeness and call forth the same unity in others, simply by being who they are.  Wholeness (head, heart, and body, all present and positive) can see and call forth wholeness in others.  This is why it is so pleasant to be around whole and holy people.

Dualistic or divided people, however, live in a split and fragmented world.  They cannot accept or forgive certain parts of themselves.  They cannot accept that God objectively dwells within them, as 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 states.  This lack of forgiveness takes the forms of a tortured mind, a closed heart, or an inability to live calmly and proudly inside your own body.  The fragmented mind sees parts, not wholes, in itself and others, and invariably it creates antagonism, reaction, fear, and resistance-“push-back”-from other people.

What you see is what you get. What you seek is also what you get.

We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.

This truth may sound like the Law of Attraction that is so widely discussed today, and often called the “Secret,” but there is one major difference.  Perhaps, like many people, you use the Law of Attraction to draw to yourself the good things you want in life-love, a successful relationship, stability.  This is fine as far as it goes.  The true contemplative mind, however, does not deny the utter “facticity” of the outer world.  In fact, much of its suffering comes from seeing and accepting things exactly as they are.  The Secret seems to be saying that your mind creates the outer world.  I am saying that you do create your response to it, and that response, for all practical purposes, is your reality.

The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved. Used with permission of The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York.

January 01, 2009 by Richard Rohr
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.