My Dear Far-Nearness by Robert A. Jonas

My Dear Far-Nearness, final cover, front
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These are some of the Christian Mystics who have inspired this book.

The Mystics

What People Are Saying…

I am doubly thrilled and inspired to read My Dear Far-Nearness. Jonas explores themes that are central to my heart, and so important for contemplative Christians who wonder how to access the Triune Mystery in their spiritual practices.
Ruben Habito, professor at Southern Methodist University, author of Be Still and Know: Zen and the Bible, and Healing Breath: Zen for Christians and Buddhists in a Wounded World
My Dear Near-Farness is a wide-ranging, warm work that fruitfully explores the nature of the Christian Trinity from a novel perspective: immanent as well as transcendent, in kataphatic and apophatic terms… Read more…
Mark Unno, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Oregon, Vice President, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies

…my encounter with Robert A. Jonas’ book, My Dear Far-Nearness has brought me to think more deeply about the Trinity as his insights have creatively transformed my own. Read more…

Paul O. Ingram, professor, Pacific Lutheran University, author of Buddhist Christian Dialogue in an Age of Science, and Wrestling with the Ox: A Theology of Religious Experience
This is a good book. Read it. Practice it. Learn its moves, beyond dogmatic formulas, and explore the transformative consciousness that upwells within each present moment. Read more…
John Keenan, author of The Gospel of Mark: A Mahayana Reading, and The Wisdom of James: Parallels with Mahayana Buddhism
This book is a precious gift to the contemplative community, especially Christians yearning for a more interior, immediate, and immanent connection with their own awareness, the sacred meeting place of Unity. Read more…
Daniel Berlin, clinical psychologist and Jewish spiritual guide
In bringing the three divine Persons of the Holy Trinity—Creator, Incarnate One, and Holy Spirit—right into the eternal present moment of our daily lives, Jonas artfully shows us how we can awaken to the Holy Trinity within ourselves and experience extraordinary holiness in the midst of the ordinary. Read more…
Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt, Founding Minister of the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple and author of Call of the Mourning Dove: How Sacred Sound Awakens Mystical Unity
Robert Jonas’s fresh, provocative take on the Holy Trinity is an eye-opener—certainly for Christians but also for non-Christians, most of whom view the Trinitarian doctrine as an article of faith rarely contemplated by the faithful themselves… Read more…
Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West and cohost of Spirit Matters podcast

My Dear Far-Nearness is a one-of-a-kind book from a one-of-a-kind author. It distills a lifetime of spiritual practice and analytical reflection. Read more…

S. Mark Heim, is the Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology at Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, and the author of The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends and Crucified Wisdom: Christ and the Bodhisattva in Theological Reflection

Introduction

My Dear Far-Nearness is a ground-breaking exploration of the Holy Trinity–not as dogma, doctrine, or belief, but rather as three dimensions of spiritual awareness. The book’s title is a name for God used by the 14th century mystic, Marguerite Porete.

Echoing the theories of perception outlined by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Jonas shows that as we come to know each “Person” of the Trinity, we access a particular aspect of our awareness, and come to know ourselves from within what St. Paul called “the mind of Christ.” Gospel stories offer glimpses about Jesus’ sayings and behaviors, but more and more people wonder about Jesus’ awareness. What spiritual practices might help us to experience the same consciousness that Jesus likely experienced? Each day we are inundated with information about the terrible problems we face–environmentally, politically, culturally, racially, economically, medically, and technologically. We are at a crossroad now, where we might say that more information will not save us. We need transformation as much as information, a transformation of how we perceive ourselves, others and nature. We need a revolution of our awareness, one that leads to radically inclusive kindness, empathy, love, and justice. This book unpacks the Christian Holy Trinity as a transformational path that challenges us to discipline our conscious lives, and to align our awareness in the direction of truth, goodness and beauty–in the quiet of solitude, and in the dancing dynamics of relationships and community.

My Dear Far-Nearness will appeal to anyone drawn to mindfulness meditation and contemplation, especially to Christians (and former Christians) who have discovered the value of silence, and Eastern spiritual paths such as Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The book is not only theological and philosophical – it is also immensely practical, providing a wealth of practices to help us open our awareness to the reality we call “God,” who is always right where we are, and never somewhere else.

Dr. Jonas writes as a Christian who seeks holiness and wisdom wherever he is led on the contemplative journey. As a psychotherapist, spiritual director, musician, and lay theologian who founded The Empty Bell, a sanctuary for contemplative practice, this book is the fruit of a lifetime of study, practice, and prayer.

The book has been warmly received by seminary professors, retreat leaders, and spiritual directors from a range of religious traditions.

To supplement the book, this website also introduces several Christian mystics whose experience of God gave them deep insights into the Persons of the Trinity. The teachings of these mystics have guided Dr. Jonas’ exploration of trinitarian consciousness. Each mystic was particularly drawn to one of the Persons of the Trinity, even while experiencing each of the Persons as a microcosm of the others. What follows on this website are glimpses of these mystics. They will be explored more extensively in a future book by Dr. Jonas.

Dr. Jonas continues to host Christian and interfaith gatherings at The Empty Bell. Since 1994, the Empty Bell has been a center for contemplative practice and learning, offering the intimacy, candor, and safety of a small group setting as participants share their spiritual paths.

The Holy Trinity

Spiritual Practices

The Holy Trinity is not merely an abstract doctrine – it is a living experience that we can learn to practice in solitude, relationships, and community. My Dear Far-Nearness explores the three “Persons” of the Christian Trinity as a mirror in which we cultivate three corresponding aspects of our awareness. We learn that what we see is what we are. Like the First Person we can know ourselves, God, and others as Mystery. Like the Second Person we can know ourselves, God and others in the interpersonal dimension of I-thou awareness. And like the Third Person, we can know ourselves, God, and others from within the “we” Spirit of interbeing in community: “wego” instead of ego.

My Dear Far-Nearness presents a wealth of spiritual practices that help us attune our awareness to the Divine Mystery and to grow in wisdom and love with others. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity assumes that each Person of the Trinity circulates in the other two. Each Person, and each dimension of our awareness is a fractal of the others. But generally, we won’t experience this unless we take up certain spiritual practices. Diligent, purposeful practices awaken us to each dimension of awareness. As we mature in these practices, they will begin to happen on their own. Sometimes we will dwell in mystery and unknowing; sometimes in the vibrancy of I-thou relationships; and sometimes in the “we-ness” of community participation. Each aspect of our awareness can be experienced as divine. Here is a sampling of practices for each Person.

Practicing the First Person

Practicing the First Person in solitude

The First Person of the Holy Trinity is the Creator, the ultimate, and limitless Source of the entire cosmos. This holy Godhead can’t be grasped and known by our senses, intellect, or ideas. The First Person is ultimately unknowable and yet can be glimpsed when we surrender everyday ways of knowing, and touch into the mystery that we are.

The most effective way to experience the First Person is in solitude and stillness as we learn to be present, letting the swirl of thinking, worrying, remembering and planning pass through the limitless open space of our awareness. In the Presence of the First Person we are fully present, continually witnessing and detaching from the objects of our awareness. When we dwell in awareness itself, rather than on the objects of awareness, we are in the domain of the First Person. This open awareness is a gift of the Creator, and the ambiance of this awareness is love.

This practice of inner witnessing can be adapted for use in relationships and in community.

  1. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and bring awareness to your breath. There’s no need to control your breathing; simply notice each breath as it arises and falls away. You might imagine that God is breathing you.
  2. When you get drawn into thinking or noticing sounds or bodily sensations, return your focus to the breath. Continue to notice what’s going on within and outside you, but be aware that you are riding the breath of God who is experiencing what you are experiencing.
  3. If your mind is unsettled and you are lost in fantasy, daydreaming, analyzing, or other distractions, anchor your awareness to the present moment by counting each breath. Count each exhalation and see if you can be present for ten breaths in a row. If you lose track, start again at number one. If you do get to ten, don’t consider it an accomplishment: the point is, are you present to what is happening now?
  4. As you breathe, notice that you can witness your thinking and remembering without attaching to any thoughts or images passing thr