Holiday 2012 News from Matthew Fox & FSC

December 8, 2012

Dear Friends of Creation Spirituality,

Happy and Blessed Holidays to you all! I would like to take this time to briefly bring you up to date on some goings-on in Creation Spirituality land as some exciting prospects are blooming.

First, as regards my own writing, I was pleased that my book on Hildegard of Bingen, Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint for Our Times: Unleashing her Power for the 21st Century, came out just in time for her canonization and being named 'Doctor of the Church' in October. That was my goal when I heard about those upcoming events last January and was fortunate enough to be able to find a publisher (Namaste in Vancouver, run by a woman who said she was “on the ceiling for three days” after reading the MS and learning about Hildegard) who did a very special thing: Got the book out in six months time. I had to hole up in a cheap motel to get it done in a rush but, having lived with Hildegard for over 30 years, was able to do so. I liked the methodology I came up with, namely putting Hildegard in the room with 20th century thinkers like Einstein, Howard Thurman, Mary Oliver, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Dorothy Soelle and more. I have been urged to write similar short and pungent books with similar methodology on Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas and I might just do that.

I am also happy to say that Adam Bucko and I (see www.thereciprocityfoundation.org) have finished our book on young adults and spirituality called Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, in which we dialog on the spirituality of young people today and incorporate the wisdom of these people we have gleaned from surveys and from filming a number of leaders from around the country. The book will come out in September, on the second anniversary of Occupy, from North Atlantic Press. We are grateful to Andrew Harvey for including our book in his new series on Sacred Activism with that press; ours will be the first book in the series actually. We just got a copy of the cover two days ago.

Also pleased that The Pope's War is in paperback now, updated by a new Preface. One person very active in ecumenical work said to me recently it is a “buzz” book among his colleagues and I do know that it is getting around sort of underground as it were. Frankly I think people should read the chapter on Opus Dei before they get too optimistic about this Supreme Court taking up gay rights.

Big news on the YELLAWE front. Last year YELLAWE linked up with another program, Art Esteem, in Oakland in a high school in Oakland's West side. But beginning in January YELLAWE will be active again on its own in two schools, Fremont and Met-West. The former is in the Fruitvale and heavily Latino district; the latter is near Laney College. Our teachers are very special. In the Fremont High School our program will feature Ernesto Olmos (Google his name) who is a remarkable artist and shaman really from the Mexican Zapotec peoples. He will be leading the high schoolers in making their own musical instruments (drums and flutes) as well as playing them while bringing in the value system of the 10 C's which are so important to YELLAWE. Ernesto's credits include exhibits of his paintings and sculptures at Oakland and de Young Museums as well as international venues. A beautiful and accomplished man to have teaching inner city youth!

With him at Fremont will be Rose Elizondo who helped establish the Restorative Justice movement in Oakland and beyond. She teaches meditation and centering prayer in San Quentin (among other venues) and is a real leader in and beyond the Latina community. I met her when she was preparing to introduce me at the Call to Action Conference in Louisville a month ago — she did a powerful job and among other things brought into the room of 2000 people our UCS graduate, Sr Dorothy Stang who died a martyr having been shot in the Amazon while defending the peasants there. It turns out a brother of Dorothy's was also in the audience. I have been informed that work is afoot to create a solid movie about Dorothy and the struggle going on in the Amazon. Rose is a great leader and I am thrilled that she is joining YELLAWE and bringing other talent with her! She is also a mother of teen-age daughters.

At the Met-West program music will be the basic art form of the YELLAWE program and our instructor will be Iamani I Ameni, a hip hop artist who has also taught mindfulness and meditation among other things at the Juvenile Center in San Francisco. He brings a big heart, lots of smarts including street smarts, and experience and love in working with street youth. Google i.Ameni. When I interviewed him for the job I asked him what the youth in Detention Center taught him and he said: Character. They have strong loyalty to their tribe but we can help them to broaden their tribe and view of the world. Indeed.

Ted Richards program, Chicago Wisdom Project, which is a daughter of the YELLAWE program of which Ted was director in Oakland, is doing well in its three incarnations in the Chicago area. Ted just finished a book on reinventing education that I was happy to endorse. Keep your eye out for it!

Our director of the Cosmic Mass, Nicole Porcaro, a graduate of UCS master's program, taught a conference course this Fall on the TCM thanks to Di Wolverton and Csource and she is doing another one this Spring. Also: She got married a year ago and just gave birth to their first child, a healthy girl! I am working here in Oakland on starting up the TCM again soon and it looks like we will be able to do it on Sundays at what was Historic Sweet’s Ballroom and is now the Tropicana.

Andrew Harvey and myself, with the strong support of Susan Coppage Evans and Di Wolverton, are planning a 12-week series of weekend “Initiations” into a Cosmic Christ-based Christianity, the Christianity of the future. We call it The Christ Path and are just nailing down the venue, one which many of you will recognize, 2131 Broadway—yes the Old UCS space (the main gathering Hall only as the other rooms are offices for various community organizations now). Good vibes? Good Morphic Resonance? We expect so! Most of the weekends will have another guest lecturer to speak on Saturday nights and be in a conversation with Andrew and myself on Sunday mornings. The weekends will run Friday night; all day Saturday (afternoon will be entirely devoted to Practices!); and through Sunday afternoon. The first four we have scheduled are these: March 8-10 (with Joanna Macy), June 28-30 (with Bruce Chilton), October 11-13 (with Adam Bucko), 2013, and January 10-14, 2014 (with Brian Swimme).

Just as the “Jesus Seminars” helped to reinvent our understanding of the historical Jesus, so we intend these gatherings, with both intellectual content and ecumenical and postmodern practices, to assist a rebirth of Christianity by deepening our understanding of the Cosmic Christ. Teilhard de Chardin once complained that he couldn’t find anyone—lay person OR theologian—interested in discussing not Jesus or Christ but the Cosmic Christ. Well, we think the time is ripe. If you agree, mark your calendars and come to these initiations. OR participate by live streaming which will also be available. OR do some of both! More details will be posted on a special web page, etc. within a month.

Speaking of the Cosmic Christ, Bishop Marc Andrus and myself (he being the Episcopal bishop of California at Grace Cathedral) led a weekend retreat this Fall on the theme and together we are preparing to launch a practice of The Stations of the Cosmic Christ to balance the stations of the cross that so dominate Christian churches. The Stations we hope to hang in Grace Cathedral include M C Richard's “I am” clay tablets that hung at UCS for years and that she left me when she died along with 8 more tablets created by a contemporary artist around Cosmic Christ events in the Gospels such as Nativity, Transfiguration, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Matthew 25 and more. We hope said practice will go out from Grace Cathedral around the world just as the Labyrinth practice has.

I remain deeply indebted to the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with whom I am a "visiting scholar" and who support my work and that of YELLAWE in so many ways as they do their wonderful work reinventing education with art and creativity and more. Check out: www.academyfortheloveoflearning.com.

So there you have it. Just some of the goings-on occurring at FCS in the Bay Area. Of course there is much else going on, check out the CSC website for example. And our website at www.matthewfox.org. And I hope you are working in your own communities yourselves and feeling connected to it all.

If you can dig into your pocket and assist us with a tax-free donation we will be grateful and guarantee that it goes to the work itself, not to anything extraneous.

Peace, blessing and thanks to you all,

Matthew Fox President, FCS

Some Thoughts on Occupy and Creation Spirituality

I have visited Occupy Boston, Oakland, New York, Ashville, San Francisco.  There is much to like about the people I have met there ranging from 20-somethings to sixty-somethings.  A 58 year old in Boston told me he was camping out because he had been unemployed for over two years; a 30 something in New York told me he was there “because of Jesus who teaches him that the poor get to heaven, not the rich.”  On Wall Street this past weekend I watched two lines of exuberant young adults playing “Rover, red rover” literally in the middle of Wall Street while police cordoned off the entrance to the street.  Nice to see some fun enacted in the name of social change.  I very much appreciated two very large canvases on a side of a building at Occupy Boston: One was entitled, “What is Good about America” and the second was entitled: “What is bad about America.”  Everyone was invited to write on the pages. I read all the entries and they were moving and thoughtful.  I liked the balance that was invited forth to everyone to express their opinions.  In Oakland one day of protests brought out about 7000 people of all ages and ethnicities, mothers with babies in strollers, a flash mob dance of about 80 people well appreciated by hundreds of observers, a band playing as we marched through the city center streets.  My favorite sign?  “I will believe corporations are people when the state of Texas executes one.” Results have already been significant.  The language of the economic debate in America has shifted from “the deficit is everything” to the matter of justice and injustice—rare words to enter American political discourse the past two decades (though Obama shies away from the words and prefers “fairness”).  A New York Occupy person told me “already Governor Cuomo has learned something and is seeking $2 billion in new taxes from the richest among us.”

More important than immediate “results” and even a change of language and perception is the bearing of witness that is going on.  The bearing of witness against Wall Street’s greed and arrogance, its willingness to borrow trillions of dollars from Main Street but offer nothing in return but more foreclosures, more bankruptcies, more excess, more CEO privileges and more greed.  I have written about greed quite extensively in my book on evil, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Lessons for Transforming Soul and Society. Returning to that book recently, I have to say I was pleased with the teachings that are there.  Greed corresponds to the fifth or throat chakra (“gluttony” comes from the Latin word for “throat”).  Greed interferes with self-expression, stuffing excess things down the throat instead of eliciting wisdom from the inside with the throat as the birth canal.  The fact that 70% of the American economy runs on consumerism is proof positive that consuming is the newest form of gluttony and such gluttony feeds greed and vice versa.  As Aquinas warned, “avarice tends to infinity”—there is no end to a consciousness of greed or its ally, consumerism.  Henry Ford was once asked: “When do you have enough money?”  His response: “When you always have a little bit more.”  So with consumerism.  It never ends.  It is infinite.  Ask Donald Trump.

If Occupy accomplished this alone it would be revolutionary: To educate Americans and others that an economy that runs 70% on consumption and on greed has to reinvent itself.  It is not spiritually or materially sustainable.  We can do better than consumer capitalism.

In the matter of reinventing economics, I never tire of recommending David Korten who I feel is the most profound and most relevant teacher of an “economics that works for everyone”—not just for 1% of the people but for all the earth’s people including the more than two legged ones.  Korten has done his homework about ecology and cosmology as well as about economics and ethics.  He knows of what he speaks when he shows the way to our reinventing economics so that it serves the earth and all her creatures and therefore future generations as well.  Go to Yes magazine web site to see his many articles on the current economic crisis as well as to his books.

Another aspect of the Occupy movement that moves me is its bearing witness to moral bankruptcy.  The banks are very willing to condemn plenty of us to financial bankruptcy at this time of high unemployment and intransigence in refinancing home loans and business loans, for example.  But they are the carriers of a Moral Bankruptcy that needs calling out.  Speaking truth to power (the economic power elites who brought the economy crashing down on us all) is what prophets do.  Occupy is prophetic.  They are daring to interfere with the economic status quo.

There is courage involved in Occupy as there is in all those movements in the Middle East that we attribute to the Arab Spring.  It takes courage and endurance to sleep in the parks and even on the concrete as so many Occupiers have done (including the 68 year old woman I met in Boston!) and to face police harassment.  Courage is, in my opinion, the number one sign of Spirit.  Without courage there is no Spirit.  There is Spirit afoot in Occupy.

There is hope also because of Occupy.  David Orr says, “hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up” and those in Occupy are doing something.  How important is that?  Doing something, bearing witness, instead of just getting depressed or angry and sitting on it while addicting oneself to more TV or eating or whatever.  Putting one’s moral outrage to action, tapping into anger as an energy source.  All good.  Tea partiers great success has derived from the anger they tapped into.  While I find their solutions short sighted, their energy has made a difference and Occupy’s can do the same—with much sounder solutions.

Part of Occupy’s success has been its appeal to television.  In this post-modern time television is the primary medium for reaching peoples’ heart and minds and the very act of sleeping outdoors has attracted the cameras that have in turned allowed fresh stories to be passed around.  Stories about values.  Social media is part of this post-modern political movement obviously also.  And the effort to reinvent community through democratic means of listening to all and not just the powerful and ego-driven ones.

Now of course Occupiers are not allowed to encamp or sleep out in most cities but that only means that the means of expression are morphing.  More and more Occupy is focusing on foreclosed houses and trying to raise consciousness about that.  In New York I was told that $400,000 still remains in the kitty they have raised and that all of that is going toward housing for the poor and bringing attention to the plight of the unemployed.  The movement is evolving and morphing as anything living does. In Oakland evicted persons are occupying boarded up and foreclosed homes putting them to use.

Occupy is raising consciousness about the big banks, the “too big to fail” profiteers.  Many are the people moving their money to credit unions (I am one of them and I am happy I did that).

When I preached recently in a Unity church in New York City a woman came up afterwards and started to cry.  She said: “I have been supporting Occupy in every way I can bringing food and warm clothes and more but so few of my friends get the point.  They are just living their lives as if this doesn’t matter.  And where are the clergy?  I hardly see them at all.  But to me this movement is about everything Jesus taught us about loving our neighbor.  There are so many people suffering today.  Your talk inspired me to keep going.”

Recently I wrote a book on The Pope’s War which lays bare much of the sickness within the Roman Catholic Church at this time in history, a sickness that panders to sexual abusers as well as to dictators like Pinochet who tortured and murdered thousands and to fascist movements like Opus Dei, Legion of Christ and Communion and Liberation, a sickness that has silenced or expelled over 100 theologians while supporting the movements just mentioned that between them produce armies of canon lawyers and not a single theologian.  The emasculation of Liberation Theology and base communities was a program enacted by the present and previous popes.

Of course not all priests who work in the Roman Catholic church are child molesters nor are all hierarchy busy hiding and protecting them.  So too not all bankers and all financiers who work with Wall Street are crooks.  But both systems are practicing moral nothingness and condoning it so staying in the system and not critiquing carries with it the risk of being an accomplice, however distant, to the system.  Leaving it makes more obvious moral sense but if one chooses to stay you must stay as a critic and with one’s conscience in tact and operating to change the system.  One stays not as a cheerleader to the system and not to profit from it while taking no moral position.  There is no room in a moral crisis whether of economics or of sexual predation for putting one’s conscience on a shelf and hiding either in the pew or in the boardroom.  It is time to stand up and be counted and support those who are so doing.  It is a time for moral courage.  Thank God for Occupy!