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Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  12,912 ratings  ·  1,318 reviews
A fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or gone down are the only ones who understand up. Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with he ...more
Hardcover, 199 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Jossey-Bass (first published February 6th 2004)
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Matthew Green In some ways, I don't feel like Rohr's two halves really match up with Erikson's stages at all. Erikson's system is descriptive of the existential que…moreIn some ways, I don't feel like Rohr's two halves really match up with Erikson's stages at all. Erikson's system is descriptive of the existential questions that arise during periods of life regardless of our willingness to wrestle with them or successfully navigate the previous stages. Rohr is, in my perspective, building off the Jungian idea of first and second halves of life (more recently adapted by transpersonal psychology). This type of schema requires that one successfully work through the first in order to begin the second. They're two different styles of developmental progression, and they don't necessarily talk to each other well.

Given the disparity, I'd suggest that the transition between Rohr's first and second half of life could occur anywhere between stages 6 and 8 in Erikson's model, though there's no definitive place for it to happen, and it may not happen at all. The only thing that does seem to fit between the two schemas would be Erikson's stage 5, which I believe must be worked through successfully or repaired later before completing Rohr's first half.

I hope this made sense and proves helpful. (less)
Kim Yes, there is a companion journal: Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life: A Companion Journal. ISBN:9781118428566 (pbk)(2013). It …moreYes, there is a companion journal: Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life: A Companion Journal. ISBN:9781118428566 (pbk)(2013). It is also available as an e-book.

The journal contains quotations for reflection, journaling questions, and experiential exercises, all of which could be used by individuals or groups wishing to dig deeper into the concepts presented in the book. (less)

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Bill Kerwin
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it

As part of my continuing exploration of spiritual books in preparation for a June retirement, I decided, on the recommendation of a trusted few, to read Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. I am glad I did.

Rohr has helped me realize that much of the impatience and frustration I have been feeling with certain trends in my profession (I am a teacher at a Catholic high school) may derive from the fact that my own path has moved beyond the institutional structure
Kasey Jueds
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading this book slowly--about a chapter every week, for the past several months--partly because I loved and wanted to savor it, partly because it's so rich that I couldn't take in too much at once. Fr. Rohr is a Franciscan priest with a particularly capacious sense of what it means to be Christian (which I'm not, but this feels like a book about Christianity that is really for everyone). He draws on Buddhism and Jungian thought as well as twelve step programs and the teachings of Jes ...more
Mar 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I was attracted to this book first by the title and then by the cover. And then I thought I have for myself a wonderful book when I read its introduction - it promises a lot of things I was looking for.

But alas it feel from the sky to the very depths of the underworld. I could not continue with it and stopped at Chapter 6 with 6 more chapters to go.

I was indeed looking forward to read about what it means to build a life in Christ. I did know from the start that Richard Rohr is a Catholic pries
Caroline Mathews
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I've finished reading "Falling Upward" by Fr. Rohr. Not only that but also, I am familiar with much of his research material. I’ve read Bourgeault’s "Centering Prayer;" Chodron’s "Start Where You Are;" rather much of the Jung, the Xavier, and Pearson’s "Six Archetypes We Live By." When you read a Kindle edition, you don’t usually find the bibliography until last. There isn’t a huge option for an early thumb-through.

The index of words, some explained and others neglected, is missing Taoism, but t
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
"God hides and is found, precisely in the depths of everything....Sin is to stay on the surface of even holy things...."

"Once you touch upon the Real, there is an inner insistence that the Real, if it is the Real, has to be forever."

This book is a guide for realizing your path, shedding your excess and becoming wiser. Its definitely not suited for most people under 40. As it states, it defines and targets the second phase of ones life; where most of the tools in your toolbox from the first phase
Jordan Shirkman
Apr 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

If you’re expecting a book about how the gospel and following Jesus lead us to maturity and into the “second half of life”, this is not the book for you. That was what I expected from a Franciscan priest. Father Richard Rohr has strayed so far from orthodoxy that anything and everything–Buddhism, Islam, Zen Masters and some out-of-context teachings of Jesus–can lead us to the second half of life. In this second half, he encourages us to to fall down and get back up through our own enlightenment

Mary Frances
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was less than impressed with this book. I did find a few nuggets of wisdom, but as with much of Rohr's writings it seems as if he thinks his readers need simplistic explanations, and as always it's very self referential. Rohr's good thoughts are too often marred in his writings by a sense that he is not sharing a journey but lecturing to poor souls who aren't able to get his profound wisdom. And since a great deal of what he says is not profound, it get annoying. The worst section was when he ...more
Glen Grunau
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was uncanny in clarifying many of the often confusing inner movements of my life in the past 5+ years. Could it be that I have been encountering a "falling upward" from a "first-half-of-life" into a "second half of life"? Although there is a newly acquired peace and softness that comes with this "falling" Rohr reminds us that we do not attain this second-half-of life simply as a factor of our chronological age. In fact, he speaks of how deeply saddened he is whenever he finds old folks ...more
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM. This book examines the arc of spiritual growth through our adult lives, using concepts from psychology and mythology to help illuminate the transitions that lead us on this spiritual journey. The sub-title, "A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life" invokes Carl Jung's idea of "two halves of life" -- the 1st where we internalize rules, discover who we are, enter a career, marriage, etc. ...more
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Be Not Afraid" to Fall Upward
I have given this book as a gift to somewhere between 40 and 50 people, which tells you how much I like it. It is one of the finest books I have read on the spiritual journey. I am considering using it in a spirituality and work class that I teach, even though the students are not at mid-life. I think the book addresses important concepts relevant to people of all ages, and all faiths.

I have read many of Richard Rohr's books, and this is amongst my favorites. While
Adam Shields
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Short second reading review: I still think that this is an overall helpful book. But I was more irritated by the platitudes this read. There are wisdom all over this book. The overall theme is a good and important one. But because you sound esoteric, does not mean you are wise. There are lots of instances where I just wish he would speak clearly without so many 'wise' quotes. Some of those quotes really are helpful.

the second full review is on my blog at

Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love Richard Rohr and feel he is one of the wisest and spiritually alive people I know. But I don't think he is a very good writer. He is abstract, goes off on tangents, and often requires multiple readings to connect his ideas and grasp his point. He even sounds a little smug at times in his wisdom. Still, if I was as wise, I am sure I would be much worse. There is a lot to take in and digest here about what is needed for the second stage of life and Richard is a wonderful guide. It is worth ...more
Tee Minn
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I didn't actually read this book, I listened to it on CDs as told by the author with my husband. Maybe the best day of the vacation was listening to six hours of tapes on my journey home ripe with the quest to explore more in-depth spiritually. We had conversations that were new to us. Finally able to ask the right questions and free enough to risk responding openly as we see it now, knowing we are incomplete, but seeking wholeness. I love Richard's incorporation of quotes from spiritual leaders ...more
Kevin Fuller
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Rohr does us all a service with this gem by applying Jungian thought and Joseph Campbell mythology to spirituality. By doing so, he has tapped into a deeper strata of the religious life and requested we all take the Hero's Quest with him.

Beginning with the plight of Odysseus, (love the homeric reference material) Rohr highlights that the quest will be fraught with danger and temptation and will always be an invitation to go even further than what the initial task requires. Home is where the
It has been a long time since I wrote in the margins of a book, or even underlined anything. I found myself pulling out a pen to highlight much of what Father Rohr had to say. I give away almost every book I read. But this one is a keeper. Rohr writes about the two halves of life, focusing on the second half--the half more neglected by society, but the wisdom of which is desperately needed. He explains what should, but often doesn't happen in that first half of life; the consequences of our perm ...more
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So I'm on a Richard Rohr kick and this one was the one that got me started. He talks here about how we need to do first life things and then move on to second life things. your first life, you follow rules and build an identity. Your second life you break it all down and figure out what rules you need to break and how you need to break with your parents and your religion. ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Summary: Richard Rohr focuses on what he sees are the key developmental tasks for each "half" of life, using the image of the container for the first half, and contents for the second.

I'll be honest. This is not a book I can wholeheartedly recommend. While I found a number of useful insights, I thought the "spirituality" on which Rohr grounded these more reflective of a "blend" of Eastern and Western spirituality rather than the Catholic Christianity with which Father Rohr is most closely identi
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rohr's message about the two halves of life ("young" and "old") is that essentially one has to fail or descend in some way before one can rise and ascend. On an obvious level, as one ages, one begins to lose strength, health, and finally life itself. Some people never recover from the experience and spend all of their time lamenting their decline and fall. I remember my mother, ordinarily a upbeat person, during her late 80's saying, "getting old is hell."
What can Rohr find about old age, the
Paul Dubuc
Being well into my second half of life and having read several other books on human development and spirituality, I was interested in reading this one also because some good friends recommended it. The book is well worth reading and thinking about. Fr. Rohr has many good things to say. But I found it less helpful to me than other books like it.

Many of his most helpful and thoughtful sayings are mixed with what read like simplistic put-downs of people living according to what he describes as the
B.J. Richardson
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
What to expect in the second half of life.

That line above is my one-sentence summary of this book. Honestly, this one isn't for everyone. If you are in your teens, twenties, or thirties, this is a book you need to pass by. You aren't ready for it. No offense, you are just still in what Rohr calls the first half of life. Honestly, at forty, I feel that I am still far more in that first half than second and that is OK. A book like this is a good help for being more intentional as over the next dec
Craig Bergland
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Easily the most important book I have read for understanding my own spiritual journey since Thomas Merton's "Seven Storey Mountain." More importantly, Fr. Rohr's descriptions of the two halves of life explain precisely why the Church lacks mentors - so many Church leaders across traditions over the last one hundred years never transitioned from the first half of life to the second, never moved from being completely fixated on building something to a more mature spirituality that would have allow ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After reading Father Richard's e-mail meditations for several years, this is the first book of his I've read. This is an amazing book. It is both challenging and encouraging at the same time! It gives a glimpse into where we have been, and who we are to become as we move into the second half of our lives. It is helping me make sense out of the course my life has taken, and shed light into where my life is headed. It is encouraging to see that changes in life that seem crazy from the first half p ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, 48, spirituality
I am 48, and for the past few years, I have wondered where the Church I grew up loving had gone. After reading this thought provoking book by Fr. Rohr, I realized that loud-mouthed members of the Church just haven't been growing up as I have been, sometimes because they can't and not because they won't. It reminded me that the nuns in middle school had warned me that I and my "discerning heart" would face great difficulties as I grew older, but that I was to persevere and stay true to my gift. F ...more
Brian Eshleman
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author has a gift for the deft phrase that tickles going in and then blows up upon penetration. He forces a lot of thought and self-examination all with an even tone and fatherly gentleness. Any thoughtful reader will find immature patterns in his own thought and life and be forced to face them. I was disappointed that this attitude of mature openness was also open to challenging the literal Heaven and Hell that are so clear in Scripture, but I would still recommend reading it. I am reminded ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
Mar 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
I found this book by Richard Rohr to be stimulating intellectually and spiritually. It pushes us to move beyond the boxes we create in the first half of life -- necessary boxes -- to living our faith in the world outside the boxes. It is a call to those of spiritual maturity to be mentors and guides to those who are newer to the journey. Rohr is a Franciscan with Emergent tendencies!
Cindy Rollins
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: suffering
This book was incredibly helpful as I come face to face with some of the mistakes of the passions of the first half of my life. It brought me much comfort.

Caveat: After chapter 7 it was much more wishy-washy theologically than I am comfortable with. But that aside, I found the book encouraging.
Jonathan Hiskes
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Rohr tries to sketch a Christian vision of enlightenment, which tends to happen in the second half of life, if at all. At the same time, he acknowledges that this transformation can't be understood until it happens to you. Which raises the question of why to write a book about it. ...more
Chris Priestley
Aug 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
A smug autobiographical justification of one man's tragic abandonment of the gospel for pluralism. ...more
David A.
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have never not been preoccupied by aging and death. My friends have observed that about me and exploit it for comedic effect; my younger friends like to tell me what grade they or their parents were in when I passed through some key rite of passage; my older friends like to remind me that I haven't been a kid for a long time and that there is a fiber-rich diet in my future. They laugh when they see me stress out over such comments, but I'll get the last laugh, I think: the younger ones will ev ...more
Ampie Niehaus
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-for-2019
Wow, yes this was the right book at the right time for me. Will have to read it again before I can attempt to write any comments that will make sense.
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Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard's teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplat ...more

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