Learning Journey 8: The Rohr Institute’s Living School for Action and Contemplation

This is a project of Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, offering a new two-year certificate program.

PSR Trustee Lynne Hinton attended an event in Albuquerque designed to introduce people to this new program; more than 1,000 people paid to hear about it.  Apparently the first class is already fully enrolled.

The basics:

This is a two year hybrid program, with on-site and on-line sessions. Students are required to attend on-site sessions, i.e. to complete the program, students must commit to the on-site component as well as the online segments. The website notes that the Rohr Institute might offer on-line classes to the general public (not for a certificate) in the future.

Underlying traditions:

  • Franciscan Alternative Orthodoxy:  “Alternative orthodoxy” is a phrase that the Franciscan tradition has applied to itself. At its core, the alternative orthodoxy is an “orthopraxy” believing that lifestyle and practice are much more important than mere verbal orthodoxy.
  • The Perennial Tradition encompasses the recurring themes in all of the world’s religions and philosophies that continue to say:
    • There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things,
    • There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality, and
    • The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.

Cost: Total tuition for the certificate:  $3,600. (The website notes that this is not the total cost to the school; the program is subsidized by the Rohr Institute and donations).  This covers the cost of the core 6 units, the symposia, and the intensive small group session, some on-site meals, not lodging.

The Curriculum/Program

Symposium I Dates: September 4 – 8, 2013 (subject to change)

Symposium II Dates: September/October, 2014 (subject to change)

Symposium III Dates: September/October, 2015 (subject to change)

On-site  Program: Students must attend three one-week symposiums in two years, and one on-site small group intensive (it’s not clear how long this is…maybe a week). Sessions will be taught by Rohr and master teachers.

Online: Students can expect to spend an average of 35 hours a month completing the required educational disciplines.  The website does not say what number of classes students will take, but it refers to the 6 units at the bottom of this document. It seems that each six month period will have a different focus, and that webcasts, practice, reading, service leadership etc will be integrated during each segment.

Online segments include webcasts with both Rohr and Master teachers, as well as:

  • Experiential practice: Participants are required to engage in practices that engage their whole being. Each student will commit to a daily contemplative practice. In each course individuals will partake in experiential practices that will challenge and inspire their present way of life (orthopraxy).
  • Reading and Guided discussion: The required reading for each course is intended to deepen a student’s awareness of Divine Reality. Students will have an opportunity to discuss the implications and applications of the reading for daily life. In addition to the required reading, students will receive a recommended reading list.
  • Servant Leadership: Students are encouraged to be positive and compassionate participants in the world. One way that students will do this is by committing to on-going service in their local community throughout their tenure at the Living School.
  • Reflective Learning: Members of the Living School’s learning community will enrich one another through online discussions and reflections on their experience with the educational disciplines. This interactive forum will have multimedia capabilities, enabling various venues for student engagement.
  • Final Integration Project: Each student will complete a final integration project that will bridge their experience in the Living School and their intentions for active engagement in the wider world. This project will be showcased at the final symposium.

Accreditation: The school will not be accredited, so no degrees. Graduates earn a certificate and can get continuing education credits. (Rohr refers to this as an “underground seminary”.)

Attendance: The Living School will admit 150 students in fall 2013, and 150 additional students each successive fall through 2015. By 2015, they will have a total maximum enrolment of 450 students active in various stages of the program—150 first-year students, 150 second-year students, and 150 students who conclude the program with a presentation of their final integration projects at the fall 2015 symposium. Both the small-group intensive at the Rohr Institute (organized into cohorts of 25 students each) and the annual symposia provide students with opportunities to learn in person with Fr. Richard, other core faculty, invited master teachers, Rohr Institute staff, and fellow students.  


  • Richard Rohr is a Franciscan of the New Mexico Province and the Founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The CAC is the home of the Rohr Institute, and Fr. Richard serves as Academic Dean of its Living School for Action and Contemplation. An internationally recognized author and spiritual teacher, Fr. Richard teaches primarily on Incarnational Mysticism, non-dual consciousness and contemplation. He is the author of numerous books, including The Naked Now, Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, and the upcoming Immortal Diamond (December 2012).
  • Cynthia Bourgeault is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader. Cynthia divides her time between solitude at her seaside hermitage in Maine and global teaching to spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and wisdom path. She is the founding Director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School. She is the author of seven books: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, The Wisdom Jesus, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Mystical Hope, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Chanting the Psalms, and Love is Stronger Than Death.
  • James Finley lived as a monk at the cloistered Trappist monastery of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where the world-renowned monk and author, Thomas Merton, was his spiritual director. He leads retreats and workshops throughout the United States and Canada, attracting men and women from all religious traditions who seek to live a contemplative way of life in the midst of today’s busy world. He is also a clinical psychologist in private practice with his wife in Santa Monica, California. He is the author of Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, The Contemplative Heart and Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God.

Master Teachers (whose guest participation has not yet been confirmed)

  • Rob Bell
  • Marcus Borg
  • Walter Brueggemann
  • Paula D’Arcy
  • Ilia Delio
  • Martin Laird
  • Ruth Patterson
  • Robert Sardello

6 Core Units:

The curriculum of the Living School is comprised of 6 units, with each unit consisting of courses exploring particular themes of the Franciscan Alternative Orthodoxy and Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition.


  1. Foundations: Integration of Tradition, Scripture, and Experience
  2. Contemplative/Non-Dual Consciousness
  3. Cosmic Incarnation
  4. Human Incarnation
  5. The Mystical Traditions
  6. Prophecy and Justice

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