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About Neo de Caussade

“The Ultimate Path is without difficulty; just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words spoken, ‘this is picking and choosing, this is clarity.’ This old monk does not abide within clarity; do you still preserve anything or not?” – Blue Cliff Record, Case 2

My name is Chris Ottenbreit. I chose a pseudonym rather than use my actual name. Why is not important. I will instead offer a little background to help readers better understand the posts.

From 2008 to 2015 the posts on the blog come from a deconstructive phase of my spiritual faith development. Posts on this blog in 2016 and later come from a period of faith and spiritual reconstruction.

In my faith formation I began as a cradle Roman Catholic who came from a very traditional Catholic background. I am well versed in Mass in the Extraordinary Form (low and high), Code of Canon Law (CIC), Purgatorial Society, etc.

In 1988 I received a certification as a religious education teacher, from the Archdiocese of Detroit. I have also taught scripture basics within the Catholic Church for both youth and adult formation over a nine year period. I was married in the Catholic Church in 1985 and raised 3 daughters through the Catholic School System.

I started this blog in 2008 to lend a voice to the deconstruction of my faith. It was a bitter and divisive time in my life. I was definitely not on the ultimate path in those dark times.

I continue this blog in support of the reconstruction of my faith, with the help of mystics like Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

God still speaks today as he spoke to our forefathers in days gone by, before there were either spiritual directors or methods of direction. The spiritual life was then a matter of immediate communication with God. It had not been reduced to a fine art nor was lofty and detailed guidance to it provided with a wealth of rules, instructions and maxims… All they knew was each moment brought its appointed task, faithfully to be accomplished. That was enough for the spiritually-minded of those days… This is the spirituality of all ages and all conditions… Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

I added some faith deconstruction topics here. Think of these topics as a good place to recognize what underlies the blog posts from 2008 to 2015.

  • The collection of writings that comprise the New Testament Cannon are not history books. The authors of the four Gospels were not historians and did not intend people to read the Gospels as an actual history of the life of Jesus. The writings are not to be understood literally. What we have in our Bibles are not even completely accurate to the original author’s original work. To be clear; the Bible cannot be read literally and does not document the history of Jesus.
  • For those who are familiar the literary tradition of the “combat myth” this information will not be news to you. Angels are literary devices and have no substance in reality other than their use in literature. It needs to be noted that this includes Satan. To be absolutely clear; there is no such thing as Satan. No Michael the Archangel, no Gabriel, no Satan, and no battle of good and evil. The 1 Enoch story of the fallen angels that led to the creation of what traditionally is attributed to Satan is nothing more than a Judean combat myth.

I added some faith reconstruction topics here. Think of these topics as the launch point for a mature faith.

  • In the contemplative state knowledge can be understood as moving from naive realism, to the recognition of the emptiness of words, and finally to the realization of multiplicity and oneness. “Before enlightenment, a mountain is a mountain. During enlightenment, a mountain is not a mountain [because words are forgotten]. After enlightenment, a mountain is a mountain [because now I see the mountain before me, as it is, rather than merely my idea of it. I see it as spontaneously unfolding, intimate and inseparable from me].”
  • In Catholic contemplative terms we can consider the knowledge of the Eucharist this way: Before enlightenment, bread is bread and wine is wine. During enlightenment, bread is not bread and wine is not wine. After enlightenment, bread is bread and wine is wine. The Eucharist spontaneously unfolds, becomes intimate and inseparable from me.

Thank you.


26 responses »

  1. You are confused, if I dare say so!

    • I am afraid I must agree. His doctrine is unsound at best.

      • Thank you for taking the time to leave a message.

      • You’re welcome. I am sorry that I am unable to, or incapable of, accepting your doctrine concerning the historical value of the Bible. The last verse of the Bible states explicitly “neither add to nor take away from this book (i.e. Bible)(paraphrased)……

        If the Bible is not the Word of God and God breathed; nor the New Testament the teachings of Christ, then what do we, as Christians, have to believe in? I merely posit a question for anyone to respond….. Faith is of the essence here.

        God bless you too, my friend.

  2. Dear Andrea,

    You would not be the first person to say these words to me. Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I always like to receive messages.

  3. Your understanding of the New Testament is rather interesting. Can’t say that I fully agree with it nor fully disagree. You have given me much to ponder. Thank you.

  4. I understand your trepidation. I never expect people to believe what I believe. I am sincerely happy that you were polite. My type of Catholicism is not for everybody. Some have even accused me of being Protestant. The Holy Spirit troubles everybody’s soul. Regardless how your pondering turns out, listen to the Holy Spirit. God bless.

    • Neo, I agree we should listen to, and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, however, I see no comparison between your philosophy on Christianity nor your being equated to Protestantism.

      May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you, and yours, always.

  5. Thanks for subbing me
    In Christ

  6. Ohm Guru…seek ye first the kingdom! Prayer & meditation is the key to the lock of human existence. Much Aloha to all Kahunas!

  7. I love your site and what you are doing here.
    What exactly do you mean by “quester” and “seeker?”

    • Dear D.E. Cantor
      These terms relate to my orientation under the sociological religious survey similar to the Myers-Briggs personality survey. I like to think it also speaks to the Socratic learning method. Thank you for your kind words.

  8. Well, personally, I believe that angels are real, Satan is real, and the gospels, taken together with Acts of the Apostles, is historical, can be corroborated with Josephus. I don’t know that you have to believe either premise (that angels are real or that the Gospels + Acts is history) to be a Catholic. I woud say that the NT is episodic, not chronologic, except for Acts.

    None of this means your not Catholic, friend. I’ll watch your blog and see what happens…God Bless.

  9. This is not the Catholic faith I know… and I fail to see how it is in any way conservative. The declarations against Modernism would not allow the same appeal to the mythic that is sometimes applied to the Old Testament to target the Gospels. Similarly, the devil and hell speak to the theme of divine justice. The angels are an element in the hierarchy of being that every young seminarian learns about in college philosophy. The Church also does not use words in the same way as anthropology. Mythic does not mean unreal. If you undermine what we know about the life of Christ and his identity, you risk becoming unsuitable to teach Catholicism at all. Those who dissent speak less about Catholicism and more about the hybrid religion of their own devising, albeit a variation of the Protestant. My old professor, the feminist theologian Sister Beth Johnson got in trouble with the bishops with her overuse of empty metaphor over the more informative application of analogies. She would also throw things to the wayside in her analysis. Sorry for rambling… just making a quick visit since you dropped by my blog earlier today. Peace!

    • Dear Father Joe,
      Thank you for leaving comments.By the way I love Sr. Elizabeth Johnson. She has many accolades in the theological community. I actually wrote a blog post once in defense of her theology against Cardinal Wuerl’s insistence upon catechism.

      By the way, I hold conservative Catholic values. The folks I work with think I am a bit stodgy with my encouragement of marriage and family. The fact that I hold a non-traditional view of the Nine Choirs of Angels does not make me any less conservative, or Catholic.

      The Catholicism I profess is not the Catholicism of my youth. I have matured over time and as I have learned to balance my knowing and not knowing I have moved beyond the need for certitude. Karl Rahner explained that there are those who want certitude and those who want understanding. As we grow in faith it is a natural progression to move from certitude to understanding. I don’t expect those Catholics who need certitude to accept my understanding, but I felt it important to let people know what to expect from me.

      God bless,

  10. Hi Neo,

    I saw the comment you left on the Harsh Reality blog, of all places! I liked your recent post about the parable of the workers. It struck a chord with me as I have been dealing with those issues lately. I am intrigued that you don’t believe that Satan or the angels exist. How can there be a heaven and a hell if that is the case. Where does right and wrong fit in and why and what then do we all need to be saved from? I don’t think I can agree with you there but I will continue reading your posts and I like your use of quotes too.

    • Wow! Thank you for the comment. You have a ton of questions. They get deep quickly. It is impossible to answer in this response format, but what if I give you one thing to think about? Ancient people only understood their world from observing the nature. With their limited science they developed theories that made sense based on their scientific observation. The three tier universe was one of those theories. With astronomy and geology we know what is above us and below us. The three tier universe of heaven, earth, and hell must be replaced with something else. This is what I try to discuss. I hope this helps.

  11. I was where you are. I lived for many years seeking Universal Truths. I did not see Jesus of the Bible as a true historical figure. Christianity was one of many Myths through which we can come to understand and personally encounter the Divine in our human lives.
    But, my relentless quest for truth would not allow me to stop there. I dared to follow my questions and my deep searching brought me to a place where I never thought I would be: a true believer of Catholic Christianity.
    In one of your responses here on this page, you said that some seek certitude and some seek understanding. I hope and pray that your questing will not stop on certitudes that what the Bible professes as truth CAN’T be factually, actually true. The Bible is rich with symbolism and mysticism – but it is no less rich with history. We have a greater understanding, through science, of the physical structure of the universe – and so, yes, the words we Catholics use for Heaven and Hell must adapt to modern language. But Heaven and Hell don’t need to have a geographic or cosmic location in order to exist. Only the limitations of our minds lead us to think that way – only our desire for certitude.
    May God bless us all on our journeys as we continue to learn and grow in our relationships with God and one another, in truth and love.
    Pax Christi
    Christina Chase

    • Dear Christina Chase,
      Wow. Thank you for the comment. Indeed, the Bible is rich in symbolism. It is also rich in history. I hope you continue to grow in faith and understanding. God bless,

  12. As one believing I was a Christian for 54 years, I am here to tell you that the Bible is absolute truth in every respect. By God’s grace and longsuffering with me, He finally opened my eyes to the truth of my sins…and through understanding and obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, God graced me with salvation.

    The Bible is absolutely a history book, and Satan has absolutely blinded you to the truth God wants you to see and understand… But until God draws you in (John 6:44), and opens your eyes…you will never understand God’s grace…

    Here is a link for you to spend some time on, when you feel the urge to learn more about being born again, as a new child of God…

    Blessings in Christ, bruce


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