Review by M.C. Richards, Creation Spirituality Magazine, November/December, 1988, 51, 52.
Matthew Fox has written a bold book. He confronts the Christian church, the Earth polluters, the bias against the anawim (the poor, the depressed, the deviant). The dream that ignited the book said to Fox, “Your mother is dying.” What he heard was “Our Mother is dying! Our mother church is dying! The planet is dying because we do not see our place among the stars.” His impassioned critique is the more stirring as we keep in mind that he is a Catholic priest of the Dominican Order and hat he has won his ground through genuine human commitment.
All that he pleads for in this book is mirrored in the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality, which he founded and directed as a graduate program at Holy Names College, Oakland, California. Fox has been testing his ground and writing books for many years, practicing what he preaches and welcoming the new ecumenical community. When he suggests that a Native American sweatlodge be built on every seminary and university campus, we feel the heat of his seriousness.
Fox reaches for a religious experience that is non-sectarian – what he calls “deep ecumenism,” a meeting of all persons of all faiths (or lack of) at a mystical level that is not divisive. We can do it, he is sure, if we are willing and inspired to let go our prejudices, fears, and habits, and let rise in our imaginations and our bodies “the pattern that connects.” The Cosmic Christ is “the pattern that connects.” We come to this deep ecumenism, this deep connecting through our hearts’ true knowledge beyond cultural models. It is a bold leap, and Fox supports each step with quotations from the mystics of East and West and wisdom literature worldwide. One feels as one reads this book that it is being written not only by Fox but by his friends: Meister Eckhart, Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Nicholas of Cusa, the Muslim poet Kabir, and the Sufi Rumi – and the Native Americans with whom he strongly connects, and poets like Adrienne Rich. Other familiar voices add to the chorus,: Dorothee Soelle, Joanna Macy, Nicholas Berdyaev, Gregory Bateson.
He treats boldly and unselfconsciously the themes of sexuality, homosexuality, celibacy – honoring the mysticism of each.
If the word “Christ” is an obstacle to one’s progress towards Fox’s vision, he suggests that “wisdom” be substituted for it: The Coming of Cosmic Wisdom. The Cosmic Christ is the sacred isness of each created thing: each a child of divinity, each a point of bliss in the cosmic radiance of the whole – joy, laughter, fun, pain, tears, rage!
This is a book full of risk and promise. No book should be so long, except this one! For it takes time to wheedle our minds out of their grooves and turn them gradually and steadily toward the new truth of our time. Fox is not the first to call for a metanoia: a change of heart. St. Paul did it; the poet Rilke and the scientist Einstein. The different aspects of our contemporary lives call from different perspectives: from science, art, religion, those institutions that tend to model our culture. Prophetic voices now call for a healing of Mother Earth and an experience of cosmic unity. From Native American wisdom to Japanese Taoism to Hebrew mysticism to Jesus’ gospel of love – all speak from the source of “deep ecumenism.”
It is a book thorough in specifics, for example with practical steps to inspire the body in its new way of praying: body prayer, he calls the early morning worship out of doors, stretching and skipping and singing out. And art as meditation, a significant re-thinking of creativity and its power to lead us into awe and participation mystique. His direction is always toward healing one’s life, experiencing the pain and wounds as well as the joys – preparing the way always toward compassion and social justice. And above all reawakening the feminine among the angelic hosts, awakening Mother Earth to a resurrection and all her children to be “anointed.” Mother Earth is the Cosmic Christ of our time, crucified anew by thoughtless devastation and subtle poisoning. “Anointed” means “well oiled,’ making possible the most sensitive and intricate movements without abrasion. Fox says it all, or tries to.