Advancing from the Modern Quest for Miracles to a Post Modern Science of the Miraculous

Opening Address This paper is based on Matthew Fox’s Opening Address presented at the Seventeenth Annual ISSSEEM Conference, The Science of the Miraculous (June 21-27, 2006).

by Matthew Fox


The mechanical model of the Universe that so dominated the modern era effectively banished the deep wondrous and miraculous to a distant realm outside daily existence and experience of psyche and creation.  Modern religion responded by defining miracles as essentially “divine interventions contradicting nature’s laws.” But what if existence itself is miraculous and wondrous and our capacity for awe, reverence, gratitude and “isness” itself were the true meaning of the miraculous? Is this not what the mystics teach and what post-modern science is destined to teach us as well?

Approached with an appropriate sense of wonder, we can see the depth of the miraculous within nature and within human nature in particular. Modern science removed the fantasy that we and our earth occupy the physical center of the universe, but post-modern science has demonstrated that we do live right in the middle of the scale of things, and we have the creative powers to discover our place in the scheme of things. Reawakening awareness of the sacredness of being, the sacredness of existence, enlivens our sciences to recognize the light of the multitude of divine sparks. Awakening wonder  empowers compassion, and sparks our creativity to heal the damage we have done by believing we were masters of the world, when we are actually embedded in the web of creation.

We will explore these and other questions about the miraculous within nature in general and within human nature in particular.

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 1

We are thinking together this evening

about the topic of miracles and I

have chosen as a framework: “Advancing

from the modern quest for miracles to a

postmodern science of the miraculous.” I

want to begin with a few peoples' thoughts

about what a miracle is or isn't.

I am sure you all know Einstein's statement

that there are only two ways to live your

life. One is as if nothing is a miracle and

the other is as if everything is a miracle.

That observation is profound. In fact it will

form a kind of substrate of much of what I

have to say this evening. It is expressed, I

think, in the words of Meister Eckhart in

the Fourteenth century when he said “isness

is God.” The miracle of existence is

the substrate of any other miracles we may

encounter. Another insight comes from one

of the truly authentic saints walking on the

planet at this time, and that is our brother

Thich Nhat Hahn, our Vietnamese

Buddhist brother. He says, “Our true home

is the present moment. The miracle is not

to walk on water. The miracle is to walk

on the green Earth in the present moment.”

To me, coming from the Western tradition,

this is an exact echo of what Jesus said, when

he said, “The Kingdom and Queendom of

God is among you.” So, walking on the

green Earth and being fully present to the

moment of walking on the Earth is itself a

miracle far greater than walking on water.

Implications of this are the real profound

moral dilemmas of our time, such as the

suffering of Mother Earth and her creatures;

the implications of this are profound. We

should be careful of rushing into extraordinary

versions of the miraculous, when in

fact what we think is ordinary is already


I would like to begin with some reflections

on what is a miracle after all. The word

“miracle” etymologically comes from the

word mirari which means to wonder at and

also to smile. They go together nicely. To

wonder deeply is to smile. It is to break

into joy, gratitude, and release. I would

propose that the modern era was not real

good at smiling. It was very serious about

things like “torturing Mother Earth for her

secrets.” (Francis Bacon). Development of

our powers of smile, wonder and awe were

seriously diminished in Western civilization

in the modern era. We were about more

serious stuff as we know, serious stuff that

has culminated in nuclear bombs,

submarines to deliver them and the ability

to tear down a rain forest in a day, that it

has taken God and nature 10,000 years to

give birth to and will not occur again on

this planet and perhaps not anywhere in the

universe. Webster's dictionary says, and you

must understand, I do not live by Webster's

dictionary, but it reveals a lot, when it

defines miracle this way: “an extremely

extraordinary event manifesting divine

intervention in human affairs.” A second

definition: “an extremely outstanding or

unusual event, thing or accomplishment.”

Of course Webster's dictionary comes out of

the modern era, and the whole idea that a

miracle is some kind of Zazam effect, that

is, God intervening with nature's course is

peculiarly modern.

I think it comes from this, in the modern

age, Westerners were taught that the

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 2

Universe was a machine, which is a pretty

done thing, a finished thing. We made up

this idea that a miracle is breaking through

the machine rigidity, the absolute laws of

this Universe as we have been taught about

it. But as you move from modern to postmodern

science and modern to postmodern

consciousness and also welcome in

pre-modern consciousness, (which has the

much fuller experience of the awe of nature

and existence); as we make that move, we

shift profoundly our understanding of


What then does miracle really mean?

Here are some antonyms, the

opposite of miracle, because one of the best

ways to negotiate a spiritual concept is to

go to its opposite first. For example, if you

want to know what justice is, take in

injustice, feel the kick in your gut at what

is unjust and you will begin to taste what

justice is. Let's first go to antonyms,

opposites of miracle: mundane, dull,

ordinary, routine, everyday, commonplace,

boring, unexciting, humdrum, dreary,

monotonous, unremarkable, tedious,

mechanistic, repetitive, predictable. It all

makes you tired, doesn't it? This is stuff

that feeds the old cynics, the old goat in all

of us. It feeds cynicism. This is not what

the miraculous is about. There is a lot of

this feeling in the air today. Wherever there

is cynicism there is this wallowing in what

I call the opposite of the miraculous.

Now, let's look at what the miraculous

means. What are synonyms for miraculous?

Amazing, astounding, astonishing, incredible,

unbelievable, phenomenal, marvelous,

extraordinary, mind blowing, inextirpable,

wonderful, wondrous, remarkable,

surprising, awesome. That is what miraculous

means, to be struck by awe. How

present then is the miraculous in our daily

life, in our work, in our citizenship on this

blessed planet?

The Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti several

decades ago said, “I am waiting for a rebirth

of wonder.” This is where science comes in

today to really feed us with the authentic

meaning of miraculous. What we are

learning when we are hearing the stories of

creation, the 14 billion years that brought

all of us here, and the kinship we have with

all of the beings of this Universe as we know

it: All of this is enough to pump awe to a

whole new level, never before and perhaps

rarely experienced certainly in recent

Western history. I want to look at the

subject of awakening our studying of

miraculous nature, studying miraculous

nature. I want to begin with this observation,

it is very important for scientists and

other serious people to recall, that to study

is a form of yoga. Study is a spiritual

practice. Study is a prayer. This is the

Jewish tradition for sure, where, to study

Torah is to enter into prayer, so long as you

bring your heart into the study. It was also

part of my tradition as a Dominican. We

were taught that the hours you spent

studying are just as prayerful as the hours

you spend chanting the psalms, or any other

kind of prayer. In fact there is a classical

story of Thomas Aquinas, who was a

Dominican. He was visiting a monastery

and writing a book. A brother came up and

said, “We are chanting the offices

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 3

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 4

me that the playwright Antonin Artaud

wrote something very appropriate for this

critical moment in our history when he

said, “It is good that from time to time

cataclysms occur that compel us to return

to nature, that is, to rediscover life.”

Cataclysms occur to get us to return to the

fuller understanding of nature, which is the

rediscovery of life itself. What I am saying

then is that life is a miracle. Our being

here to study life is a miracle. I propose

that every breath you take and I take is a

miracle. The fact that the flowers over 100

million years ago fine tuned the oxygen on

our behalf and other animals' behalf is a

miracle; because the atmosphere at that time

was not appropriate for our lungs and

would have not allowed our presence on this

planet. I would say that all of these

accommodations to our presence are

wondrous, amazing, awesome and therefore


Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize after

his death for his book The Denial of Death.

He has another book and there is this

amazing sentence that speaks to what I am

talking about. He says, “Ancient people,

unlike modern people, had not yet lost their

awe of nature and of being.” He says it all

in this one sentence. The indigenous and

pre-modern people, unlike modern people,

had not yet lost their sense of awe at nature

and being. That is what we need to recover.

That sense of awe is the miraculous. Our

ancestors had this for tens of thousands of

years and we have pretty much erased it in

the last few centuries. When we recover this

sense of awe of nature and the awe of being,

we will be in a whole new place. We will

downstairs. You should come down.”

Aquinas said, “I am busy. Leave me alone.

I am studying.” Then the guy came up

again and said, “You have got to be down

here. We are praying.” Aquinas slammed

his hand on the table and said, “I am

praying! Get out of my room!” So the

whole idea is that to study is to pray, if you

bring your heart to it. That is the point.

Acertain amount of the Western quest

for knowledge has not brought its

heart to it. It has not been an interaction

with wisdom. It has just been an interaction

with knowledge and that is not

enough, because that is not human.

Knowledge by itself is raw power. Do you

remember the teaching from the Celtic

people, that says, “Never give a loaded gun

to a young man who has not first learned

to dance”? Knowledge in itself is a loaded

gun. It needs to find receptors who have

hearts. The mind is not a disembodied

reality. The mind is meant to connect to

the heart. The whole teaching then from

the Celtic people is that a person who has

not learned to dance, has not learned to first

celebrate life, is in no place to be taking life.

At this time in history, people who have

been studying nature must recover their

capacity for heart knowledge and bring that

into the project. That of course it seems

to me is what your entire organization is

about, reconnecting heart and mind.

Indeed, this reconnection is the very

struggle we face as a species today, a struggle

of whether we are even sustainable or not.

It is a struggle of how we are treating the

rest of nature, which of course will result in

our own capacity for survival. It seems to

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 5

was told that I may never walk again. At

thirteen I was able to walk again. It was

an overwhelming blessing. I said to

myself, “I will never take my legs for

granted again.” This taking for granted

is what our civilization has to get over.

David here, the gentleman who I was

eating dinner with, was telling me how he

and his wife are working as medical people

in Uganda for one month a year. I was

asking what he learned from it. One of

the points he stressed was how much we

take for granted in our lives here. The

basics, including the stress of living in

drought in Africa, in living with AIDS in

Africa and so forth, we just don't know;

we are out of touch with how miraculous

our very existence is on a daily basis.

Iwill put out some questions. These are

for you to answer more than me. You

people have more scientific degrees than I

do. I ask: Is light a miracle? Is enfleshed

light or matter, what David Bohm calls

“frozen light,” a miracle? It's one in a

billion form of light. Is water a miracle?

Is breath a miracle? And the lungs with

which we process breath? Is the human

brain a miracle? Is the eye a miracle? It's

all wondrous. It's all amazing. We make

a huge mistake if we wait until our

deathbed to say thank you for it. As

Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer

you say in your whole life is thank you,

that will suffice.” But he didn't say, “And

wait until your last breath to say it.”

Are rainforests miracles? Are elephant's

miracles? Whales? Dogs? Polar bears?

How surrounded are we by miracles? What

no longer be beating up on nature,

including our own, and we will no longer

be neglecting the gift and the preciousness

of existence. We will not be taking

existence for granted.

One of the exciting people here this

evening, and you are all exciting, but

I ran into one fellow I haven't seen in years,

Courtney Milne sitting over here. He is a

photographer and a mystic who has done

some brilliant photographic books on the

wonders of the world. He has traveled all

over the world to get photos on the sacred

sites of the world, from Ayers Rock to

Machu Picchu and others. He had tremendous

mystical and other kinds of experiences

all around the world including having

his camera stolen in one sacred place. He

just came up to me before dinner and told

me this amazing story. He said, “I did all

of these books about these sacred spaces,

places all over the world. For the last seven

years I have been taking photographs of one

place--my back yard, the pond in my back

yard. I have 35,000 photographs if you

want to see them. Each one is more

revealing of the beauty, depths and sacredness

of this one place, which rivals Ayers

Rock and Machu Picchu.”

That, my friends, is exactly what I am

talking about. It is what Thich Nhat Hahn

was talking about. We are walking on

miracles everyday. You don't have to get on

a jet plane and fly to Machu Picchu to

know those things. Mother Earth is

blessing us everyday. If you have feet to

walk, that alone is a miracle. I know that

because when I was twelve I got polio and

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 6

Baudelaire was saying. It is a story about

the yearning of the rest of creation to see

our hearts and a reminder that we are kin

with the rest of creation. To really grasp

the depths of this we have to rediscover this

sense that Einstein talked about that the

miraculous is a daily event. We must not

take life for granted.

As Rabbi Hessel says, “Life without wonder

is not worth living. What we lack is not a

will to believe, but a will to wonder.” The

will to wonder, the will to be open to awe,

that is the miraculous that can come alive

in our time and it must, because it is in

that context that we become warriors on

behalf of health and well-being of the other

creatures on this planet.

Let me give you one example of where

I find today's science reminding us of

how miraculous our lives are. We all know

the story about how Moses went to the top

of the mountain and found God in a

burning bush, took his shoes off out of

reverence and so forth. Mt. Sinai. You can

spend several thousand dollars and make

that pigrimage yourself to Mt. Sinai if you

care to. However, given today's physics, the

truth is that every bush, we now know, is

a burning bush. Protons and light waves

are in every atom in the universe. And

those beings that are green, who have taught

the rest of us how to eat, because they have

learned how to eat the sun with photosynthesis,

these beings are especially burning.

You don't have to take a trip to Mt. Sinai.

You can step right outside this hall, pick up

a leaf and you are encountering a burning


are we doing about it? How are we allowing

this wonder and this awe to seep into our

souls, our minds, our bodies and our

educational systems? Our political systems?

Our economic systems? Our worship

systems? Have we created armored suits so

that none of this is really received by us at

the depth at which it is coming at us?

There is a beautiful statement by

Baudelaire, the nineteenth century French

poet and art critic. He says, “We walk

through forests of physical things which are

also spiritual things that look on us with

affectionate looks. “We are continuously

being blessed by the beings of the world.

But are we preoccupied with our agendas so

strongly that we are not receiving?”

There is a beautiful story that happened last

year near where I live in San Francisco on

the ocean outside of San Francisco Bay. A

whale got stuck tied up in ropes. She had

a rope right through her mouth and she was

thrashing around and getting tighter,

beginning to drown. Five men went out in

rubber suits with machetes to try to release

her. It was a very dangerous task. One flip

of her tail and they would have been done

for, but she remained very still for the hour

and a half of this operation. One of them

was working on the rope in her mouth, eye

to eye with her for over an hour. They

succeeded and undid the ropes. This is

what happened then. The whale took three

laps, three circles. You would do that too

if you had just been liberated from prison.

Then she went up to each of the five men

and nudged them. A thank you. For me

that is a profound story. It is just as

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 7

ago. It is all wondrous. It is all amazing.

It is all, therefore, miraculous. It was

Aquinas who said, “Revelation comes in two

volumes, nature and the bible.” This is what

religion in the West has been missing for

centuries. It has put all its eggs into the bible

basket. The bible is only 2,500 years old.

The universe is over thirteen billion, and this

contains the sacred writings of divinity. It is

in all of our bodies. Our bodies are much

older than the bible. Our bodies are cosmic

bodies. We must be paying more attention

to the revelation of nature.

For that task, we of course call upon the

sacred vocation of the scientist, because the

scientist unpacks, unveils, therefore helps

reveal the grace that nature is, the presence

of the divine that nature is, the sacred

throne on which the Goddess sits. Again,

Aquinas said this in the thirteenth century

and of course his whole effort was to bring

science into Christianity and he paid a price

for it. He was condemned three times

before they canonized him as a Saint. Keep

that in mind. He said, “A mistake about

creation results in a mistake about God.”

That ennobles the scientific quest as much

as any one sentence can ennoble it. Turn

it around and it means this: an insight into

creation is a revelation of God. It adds to

our understanding of God. To take the

example of the photographer who has spent

so much serious time taking pictures of just

his backyard pond, as he tells me he is going

deeper and deeper into the wonder, the

miracle of that one place. This is true of

you people who spend hours and hours,

years and years, months and months in your

sacred study, which is your prayer, in your

Today's physics has democratized the

theophany that was the launching pad of

the entire Western spiritual tradition. Be

with that for a minute folks. This is

stunning. That is just one tiny example.

Take another example in the Christian

tradition. John's gospel says, “Christ is the

light in all things.” We now know there is

light; there are photons in every atom in the

universe. This means that the Christ

presence is in every atom in the universe,

which parallels exactly the Buddhist

teaching that the Buddha nature is present

in all beings in the universe. All of this is

about awakening our awareness of the

sacredness of being, the sacredness of

existence. It is becoming simpler for us to

realize these things. We don't need all of

the paraphernalia of organized religions and

churches to get to the heart of the matter.

As a species we have to travel much lighter

at this time. We need a deeper spirituality,

but not necessarily more religious institutions.

Meister Eckhart put it this way in the

Fourteenth century. He said, “Every creature

is a word of God and a book about God.”

In other words, every creature is a bible. He

said, “If I spend enough time with a

caterpillar, I will never have to prepare a

sermon, because one caterpillar is so full of

the divine.” What we know from science is

that every caterpillar has a fourteen billion

year history, as do every one of us. The

caterpillar carries the carbon, nitrogen and

magnesium from the supernova explosions

from five and one half billion years ago, but

also the hydrogen and the helium from the

original fireball of thirteen plus billion years

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 8

hunting/gathering exercise and it takes the

same spiritual warrior-hood that any other

spiritual practice takes. It takes strength. It

takes integrity. And it takes caring. Many

of you have invested many years into this

kind of hunting and I want to acknowledge

that. Let's now turn to one of the most remarkable

sentences about miracles that I have

ever read. This comes from my brother

Thomas Aquinas. He says, “The greatest

miracle of all is a virtuous life.” The greatest

miracle of all is a life lived virtuously. Now

we are talking about the miracle in the

human. I alluded to the miracle of the

burning bush, the miracle of the light in all

things and the miracles of the fourteen

billion years that got us here. Now let's look

at human nature. This is an astounding

statement that blows me away, that human

virtue is the greatest miracle we have got

going for us. Think about it. Is what

Gandhi did a miracle? Taking on the British

Empire, not firing a shot, and winning? Is

what Martin Luther King did a miracle?

Filling the jails and bringing about some

basic civil rights legislation and turning

segregation, at least at many levels, around.

Is what Malcolm X did a miracle? Including

his own conversion in Mecca where he got

over his own reverse racism and accepted

every human being as a child of God? Is

what Oscar Romero did--standing up to the

military in El Salvador, and to his own

church, because the Vatican was attacking

him for standing up to the military in El

Salvador--a miracle? Is what Dorothy Day

did--working and living among the poorest

of the poor in urban areas and starting houses

laboratories or at your computer examining

the miraculous that is the wonder and awe,

whether it is in the microcosm or the

macrocosm or in between in this sacred

place we call nature.

I am doing a book currently on the recovery

of the sacred masculine because it is obvious

that the divine feminine is back, the

Goddess is back. She's pissed, but she is

back. The Black Madonna is back and she

is whipping things up. The sacred

masculine has to step up to the plate. The

divine feminine needs a partner. I am keen

on that. One of the archetypes I am trying

to arouse for men to get going again is the

archetype of the hunter/gatherer. Certainly

for 95% of our species we were

hunting/gathering. I am asking now, how

have we taken this energy of

hunting/gathering? Which was certainly a

survival mechanism among other things.

How have we translated that into our world

today? I look around and I say, “Oh, it's

hunting for a shopping deal, a sale.” Is that

hunting/gathering in today's version?

Hunting for a parking place, is that

hunting/gathering? When I get into the

depth of it the first thing that comes to my

mind is the scientist. What is the other side

of Mars? What is at the extreme of these

expanding galaxies? Everyday in the paper

there is evidence that scientists are hunting

and gathering. It is a beautiful thing that

we converted that energy into something so

powerful and significant as learning the

story of how we got here. The story of

where here is, therefore, hopefully of where

we might be going and how we can get

there. The quest for truth is a

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 9

to say we are half way through the life of

the Earth. At 8-10 billion years the sun is

going to gobble the Earth up. It's going to

go away. So we are in the middle. If we

had come a lot sooner or if we had come

a lot later, we would not be in a position

to be examining, to be studying the kind

of holy lessons, holy beings that we are

living with and studying today.

Furthermore they say that in terms of the

history of the universe, being fourteen

billion years old nevertheless, that we are

here at this time, we are still able to pick

up the receding galaxies, and that before too

long future generations are not going to be

able to pick up the receding galaxies. And

we are able to pick up the sound of the

original fireball and the radiation and light

from the original fireball, and that too will

not be so visible in future time. We are at

the right place to be here. Like Goldilocks

and the Three Bears, this mattress is too

soft, this one is too hard, this one is just

right. We are at a miraculous place, just

like where Goldilocks found herself to be.

Furthermore they say the size of our bodies

is so interesting. They believe, having done

the counting on this, that if you look at all

the beings in the universe, the macrocosmic

beings, the big ones and the microcosmic,

humans lie right in the middle. And they

say that our bodies are the right size to be

studying the universe because if we were

much larger, if our heads were larger our

brain would have to put all its energy into

processing our body and not into looking

through telescopes or whatnot to the rest of

the universe. This is stunning and

astounding and therefore miraculous

of hospitality in the poorest places and

bringing a lot of young people into that arena

of service, a base community that stood up

to the dictatorial rulers in Latin America for

decades, even amidst great persecution--is

that a miracle? Is what Mozart accomplished

a miracle? And Mother Theresa? And

Hildegard of Bingen?

Our admiration, that is what miraculous is

about, admiration for the greatness of

human courage and integrity, what we

honor and those we honor the most and

praise the most. This supports Aquinas's

thesis that to live a virtuous life is

profoundly miraculous and admirable. It

comes home to all of us because every one

of us is called to live a life of integrity and

courage that is wondrous.

Every one of us is unique and every one

of us is in a unique place today. Also,

all of us are living at a very unique time in

planetary history, human history and even

cosmic history. In their recent book, View

from the Center of the Universe, two very

fine cosmological thinkers, Joel Primack (a

very active NASA astrophysicist) and his

wife Nancy Abrams have put together this

wonderful book essentially on what we have

learned in the last five years from the

Hubble telescope about our universe and

our place in it. They have come to some

amazing conclusions. Of course we are not

the center of the universe like pre-

Copernican thought. There is something

peculiar going on with us and here are some

of their findings. First of all, the Earth is

going to live 8-10 billion years and we are

at the 4.5 billion year mark, which means

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 10

archeologist's interest has focused on art

work, such as the paintings in caves 40,000

years ago. That is when they have found

our immediate ancestors. Just recently,

archeologists found human tools and beads

from the beaches of Morocco, in cave strata

that have been dated to 82,000 years ago.

These are the oldest ancestors we have

found to this moment. We know they are

our ancestors because they were busy

making beads for artistic ornamentation. If

for the anthropologist the working definition

of a human being is a biped who makes

artistic things, I don't know why our

education systems don't catch on.

Where is creativity in, “no child left

behind?” This is why the most creative

youngsters in our country, which are inner

city kids, are dropping out like flies, because

there is absolutely no acknowledgement of

their humanness, i.e. their creativity, in the

classroom. It is not just the young who are

dropping out. I was in Napa a few months

ago and a woman said, “I am a teacher. I'm

a great teacher. I love teaching and I'm

quitting. Every good teacher I know around

here is quitting. We never felt it was our

job to give an infinite amount of exams to

kids. We think it is our job to educe from

the kids their curiosity, their creativity and

their mindfulness. This is no longer the

agenda in education in this country.” I've

been working lately with an African

American, a thirty-two year old poet, rapper

and filmmaker. We are trying to reinvent

education from the inner city out.

Beginning with an after school program

from 3:00 to 6:00. It is built around several

elements; one is a spiritual practice with the

information. This is why they talk about

the view from the center of the universe.

We are not centered as they thought before

Copernicus, but there is something going

on. We are in the middle of something.

We have the chops to relate to it. We have

the intelligence. We have the creativity.

And we have the hearts, if we put ourselves

to the task. What this underscores is, on

the one hand, our dignity as a species, and

also our responsibility, and those go

together. What Eckhart called our nobility

is also our responsibility.

What are some of these virtues that are

calling us today to our miraculous

life of being virtuous human beings? One

of them that does not get nearly the press

that it deserves is curiosity. Curiosity is one

of the most holy enticers and forces of

allurement in the entire universe.

Unfortunately I have never had a class in

Curiosity 101 or much less Curiosity 303.

I wonder if we shouldn't be teaching

curiosity or at least encouraging it and

awakening it much more fully than we do

in the processes we call education. We

should be rewarding curiosity because

without it we truly withdraw, take for

granted, grow stale and freeze--truly freeze.

Another virtue that I think is appropriate

for our time is the virtue of creativity.

Remember the word virtue, virtus in Latin,

means power. We are talking about our

powers. Our species is precisely defined by

our creativity. When anthropologists go out

looking for our ancestors, they just don't

look for biped's bones, they look for biped

bones with artifacts next to them. Some tool

makers are considered to be pre-human, so

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 11

They will be the viruses to change education;

we won't have to work through school

boards. Life is too short for that. As an

example of what these kids can do, Professor

Pitt has made a four minute DVD, a video

about the subject and spirit of meditation.

What is refreshing for me about this is several

things, one is you can see that Pitt is

presenting a spiritual practice he has been

doing since he was ten, for over twenty years,

this is serious teaching here. He's teaching

it with the new art forms of rap and video

making. What I find when I see this is a

great load off my shoulders. The new generation

can step up to the plate. They are ready

to step up to the plate. They have whole

new languages, whole new art forms to tell

the important stories today. They do need

us elders for content. Pitt has told me he

has been waiting twenty years for me to show

up because he knew he needed the content.

Meanwhile, he has been preparing. He has

become a crafts person, a filmmaker and he's

done his inner work. Now he's ready to do

his warrior work. In this four minute video,

you can get a feel for the new languages of

creativity that are at the finger tips of our

young people today.

Does that give you hope like it gives me

hope? There is a whole new thing

happening. I spoke on Fathers' Day at

Howard Thurman's church in San

Francisco, and afterwards this young

African American man came up to me. He

said, “You're the first adult I've heard who

understands my generation.” This is exactly

where we are at, we know that we have new

tools, we know we are powerful. But we

don't feel that our parents know it; we don't

body. That is to say he will be teaching you

Kung Fu or the marriage of heaven and

earth, which are things he learned when he

was ten years old in the ghetto in the inner

city and it literally saved his life. We are

both convinced that it is this awareness of

our power through our bodies and creating

boundaries with our bodies that is so

essential for young people to hold for

themselves. He has taught these same

practices in juvenile detention homes with

profound results. For the first time in these

kid's lives they have learned to calm the

reptilian brain and to get in touch with their

own powers of silence and self-inner

discipline. A big part of our program is also

a thirty minute teaching each day, which will

be about the new cosmology, the wonders

of our body, the genius of Howard

Thurman, or some other worth while topic.

Then the last hour and a half of their

afternoon is going to be spent making

movies, making rap, poetry, theater about

these topics, the new cosmology, the

wonders of our body, Howard Thurman's

spiritual philosophy of community, or some

other worthwhile topic. We are very excited

about this. We see a way here--without

arguing about it, without going to school

boards and all the politics--of just bringing

it forward. The kids will be viruses because

they go to school the next morning, they are

going to go to school and say hey this

learning thing can be fun. We are making

movies, making rap about our place in the


We have learned that the universe has

set it up for us for fourteen billion

years. No one is teaching us this in school.

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 12

break loose, can finally emerge. This is what

the Buddha calls for, what Isaiah called for,

what Mohammad called for and what Jesus

called for. Our capacity for compassion,

where has it been? It has been swamped

lately with the reptilian brain. We can find

a way to quiet that reptilian brain. This is

what meditation does. Because reptiles like

solitude, to lie in the sun alone, they are

monks. You befriend your reptile brain by

taking care of the solitude needs that are in

you. Then the mammal brain can flourish.

No other virtue is as all-important,

according to every spiritual teacher that has

ever walked this earth or worked it.

Compassion can finally begin to happen.

The middle brain, the mammal brain can

finally emerge. Remember that the reptilian

brain is four hundred and twenty million

years old. The mammals compassionate

brain is two hundred ten million years old-

-half as old--but it does not get the

attention, especially in the modern era, that

it clearly deserves. Then igniting creativity

and putting it to the service of compassion

is where it's at today regarding our virtuous

work on this planet. This is service; all of

us are called to participate in the healing of

this planet in some way.

It is so clear that our creativity is our way

out of problems, i.e., clean fuel, clean energy

and so forth. Recently there was this article

in the paper, something I've never thought

about before, about scientists hunting,

gathering for some problem solving.

Scientists are eyeing the jet stream, an

energy source that rages night and day, 365

days a year, just a few miles above our heads.

feel that the school system knows it. We

know Dick Cheney and George Bush don't

know it. The media doesn't know it.

Mother earth in her suffering today is not

passive, she's active and she is awakening a

lot of young people, and a lot of creativity

everywhere. That is why the virtue, the

power of creativity needs to be tapped into

everywhere. These young people need

intergenerational wisdom. They need elders

who can help them with the content. They

need what scientists and explorers of human

nature and more can help them with. Not

because you want to make some kind of

esoteric fancy, get out-of-your-body experiences.

No, we like to stay in our bodies,

on this healthy body of mother earth.

Because currently it's not healthy--it's

unhealthy--because humans have been

taking a lot of weird trips lately. It is very

important, our invitation from the young,

though they may not articulate it always

very clearly. They want us in on the

picture. It's going to be a joint project, the

marriage of elderly wisdom with youth

wisdom. With these new art forms there is

no telling what can happen. I presented

Dr. Pitt's video at one place, and an older

gentlemen came up to me and said, “I can't

imagine any young person seeing that and

not being curious about meditation.” Isn't

it about time that we are curious about

meditation? What makes meditation so

important today? It can calm the reptilian

brain. When you can calm the reptilian brain

then that mammal brain, which is

our capacity for compassion, can finally

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 13

compassion is the whole ballgame, the whole

law. Compassion being the most used name

for God in the Koran by far. Is God the

compassionate one? We have a wonderful

marriage here of science and its teaching

interdependence and our spiritual traditions

and our capacity for compassion. So

compassion then becomes a virtue that will

be the hallmark of our generation. We are

talking about the next evolutionary step of

our species. We don't have 500 years for it

or even 100 years. This has to happen

swiftly, time is running out on us. Time is

running out, and also we are adversely

affecting the other species.

Compassion is not about sentimentally,

feeling sorry or pity for one another. This

again is Webster's dictionary mistake.

Webster's dictionary says the idea that

compassion is about a relationship between

equals is obsolete. In fact, I propose that

Webster's dictionary is obsolete. “Passion

means justice,” says Meister Eckhart, calling

from the Jewish tradition. Justice is about

finding the balance. David was telling me

that one thing he's learned from being in

Africa is how unbalanced our world is. In

terms of accessibility to basic health care,

accessibility to basic healthy water, and so

forth. We have to hunt and gather the forces

of justice. The forces of balance again.

Because that is what compassion is about.

Compassion is not something sentimental

sweet or mushy. Compassion is about finding

the dance in the world between ourselves and

others and within all the communities of

which we are a part. This of course means

the human community as well.

If they can tap into these fierce winds the

worlds entire electrical needs would be met,

they say. The trick is figuring out how to

harness the energy. But the jet stream blows

from west to east six to nine miles over the

northern hemisphere with speeds up to 310

miles per hour twenty-four hours a day.

This is a very interesting concept. I never

thought of that. This, plus solar energy,

plus wind energy on the earth, plus so many

other ways to go. Again, we're living in a

moment of the unleashing of our creativity.

This is really the strong point of our species-

-our creativity and our capacity for compassion.

Here again is where today's science

really serves compassion. Science has

rediscovered an ancient mystical awareness

of interdependence. Interdependence is

now obviously one of the primary principals

of today's physics. Interdependence is

the basis of all compassion. Thomas

Merton, a Catholic monk who died perhaps

of assassination a number of years ago, two

hours before he died, gave a talk on compassion.

He said, “Compassion is keen

awareness of an interdependence of all living

things that are all part of one another.”

Science had confirmed this. You and I are

literally living with the atoms of the stars,

the galaxies, and indeed the molecules in

our lungs are those that Buddha breathed,

that Jesus breathed, that others have been

breathing. We are living interconnected

lives in every sense of the word.

What we have now is a new basis for

human behavior and it matches

ancient teachings: Jesus saying, “be you

compassionate as your creator in heaven is

compassionate,” and the Buddha taught that

Think right now of the sacredness of

water, because that's the real issue

around the world and it's going to become

more of an issue. Who is going to own the

water? Thomas Merton one day wrote in

his journal, “It's raining outside my

hermitage. I'm going to take my hat off and

walk in the rain, because some day they will

be selling us the rain.” That day is here

already. I was taught by a Native American

teacher, a Lakota man named Buck Ghost

Horse several years ago. He said: “you want

to know how holy water is, how miraculous

water is? Go without water for three days.”

It's simple, it doesn't take a sermon, doesn't

even take scientific investigation. Just go

without it for three days and you will know

what a miracle that first sip of water is. The

truth is people all around this globe are

going without water on a regular basis, and

without healthy water. These are some of

the lessons I wanted to share with you

around this topic of our daily experience of

the miraculous.

One more virtue that needs special

attention today is the virtue of

generosity. Sometimes we forget how

generous nature is. Are we aware for

example that the entire earth system runs

on one billionth of the sun's energy

everyday? The sun is giving away all this

energy all we need is one billionth. Are we

thanking the sun? There is a beautiful

poem from Hafiz, the fourteen century Sufi

mystic, that says, “Even after all this time

the sun never says to the earth, 'you owe

me.' Look what happens with a love like

that, it lights up the whole sky.” There's a

give away going on, there's a give away

going on in nature all over the place and

we are invited to the table. Not just to

receive but to deliver. That is, we have to

grow up as a species. We have been taking,

especially western civilization, from mother

earth and her children, her creatures for so

long. Now mother earth is asking of us,

“Isn't it time that you act like grown ups

and give as well as take?” That act of giving

is what we mean by generosity. I found the

word generosity so primal to the miracle,

the miracle of being human. When you

can tap into your generosity, our being fully

human, the miracle of your power, of your

virtue is shining. What I find about this

word generosity is terribly interesting. I

find it to be one of the richest words in our


Behind the word generosity is a Latin word

genero, to beget, to produce, to create, to

cause to exist, to bring to life. So it's the

basis of our word generate, to be generative.

To be generous is to be creative. The word

generosity incorporates our creativity. In

addition, behind the word generosity is the

word genes or origin, birth, descent, father,

family, nation, offspring, race, ancestors.

All of these include the word generous. It

is our ancestors too. There is this

cosmological meaning to generosity too.

You're bringing in fourteen billion years of

ancestors when you're tapping in to your

powers of generosity. That is a miracle. In

addition the word generous comes from the

same source as the word generosity. Your

genius is the showing off of your generosity,

the display of your generosity. This is not

about building your ego up. It's about

participating in the generosity of the rest of

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 14

nature. The miraculous, wondrous, stupendous

generosity of the universe. Which has

dared to bring our species aboard; a species

very exaggerated in our intellectual capacities,

and very feeble in our capacity for heart

and compassionate steering of the intelligence.

We've been proving the last few

centuries the deep danger of knowledge,

naked knowledge. Our species has to shift

and now, to the hunting and gathering of

wisdom. To draw the wisdom from all the

spiritual traditions of the world, including

science. To draw from our own hearts from

that of our children and from the warnings

that science is giving us. Part of the hope

of our time is the despair. I look at human

history and see nothing moves humans like

necessity. The truth is that we are living in

a moment of immense necessity. This is

one way we draw on our capacity for

generosity and creativity. One story I was

told by a scientist a few years ago that really

stuck with me is this: when our ancestors

discovered fire they left Africa. I would say

it was especially curiosity that had us leaving

Africa and we went on our ways. A bunch

of our ancestors landed in Euro-Asia and

the ice age hit. They just left the hot

savannas of Africa and now they're in an ice

age. I bet they spent a thousand years

blaming one another. Who turned off the

heat? What did you do? What bad dreams

did you have? Meanwhile they got to work,

they started killing mammoths, learned how

to sew them. They learned how to live in

caves and tell stories at night (instead of

watching television, watching other people's

stories at night). They developed all kinds

of survival mechanisms. But the point is

they survived. We come from tough stock.

Now we have self-pity that always goes

along with patriarchy. Patriarchy by

definition feels sorry for itself, because it

banished the mother capacity of compassion

within itself, so it has to look for mother

outside. It falls into to self-pity. One

concrete example would be the Vatican in

our time; It is overwhelmed with self-pity.

Because it destroyed the mother principal

within itself, that's called karma. We have

all kinds of whining and cynical media

people and politicians telling us, “Woe,

woe, woe! We can't do it. We don't have

the creativity. We don't have the energy,

don't have the time. We don't have the

money.” All self-pity. Every one of us

comes from very strong stock. Our

ancestors made it from the heat of Africa

through the ice age. Don't tell me we can't

make it today from this precipice of global

warming to a new way of living on this

planet. Every one of you in your work as

healers, searchers, investigators, scientists--

every one of you, every one of us and

everyone of the community that we

represent has a profound role to play in this

gathering of wisdom. This gathering of

wisdom and hunting for wisdom will be the

hallmark of our generation. These are some

thoughts I brought to share with you. We

might learn something from Gregory

Bateson when he says “the hardest teaching

in the Christian gospels is Saint Paul when

he says God is not mocked.” Gregory

Bateson says, “This saying should be

applied to the relationship between

humanity and ecology, the processes of

ecology are not mocked.” In other words

there has been a ledger that has been kept,

not by a God in the sky but by what

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 15

Hildegard called the “web of creation”. She

says humans are a part of the web of

creation. There is give and take as there is

in a web. She says if humans ignore the

justice that keeps the web together then

God, she says, will allow creation to punish

humanity. It's not God seeking vengeance.

It's the web of creation that's going to put

us in our place.

That is the moment at which we gather

today, that is the reason we are asking

questions about where is the miraculous and

how is our grasp of the miraculous shifted in

this post-modern time? You people have the

stuff that we all have within us, the chops.

To stand with the strength of the spiritual

warrior. The strength of the green man, the

strength of the goddess and of the Black

Madonna. At this time in history to reopen

the human agenda and the human perspective

to the basic truth that the miraculous

happens with every breath we take. If you've

ever been present for a birth of a baby you

know how stupendous and sacred that first

breath is. If you've been present at the last

breath as a person dies you know how special

that breath is. There is no reason then for

us to take every breath in between for

granted, quite the opposite. Every breath in

between can be the energy that brings out of

us our Divine-like generosity, compassion,

joy and creativity. That would be miraculous.

Don't you agree?

• • •

1. This paper is based on Matthew Fox’s Opening

Address presented at the Seventeenth Annual

ISSSEEMConference, The Science of theMiraculous

(June 21-27, 2006).

∞ ∞ ∞

Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine • Volume 18 • Number 1 • Page 16