Tracing the First Mystical Women's Movement: a Beguine Pilgrimage

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 10.02.56 PM this past May, I sent out an invitation to join the “Spirit of the Beguines” Pilgrimage and Retreat this September where I will be lecturing and enjoying visiting five different Beguinages in Belgium.  If you are thinking of joining the Pilgrimage – now is the time to sign up; Registration closes July 20.

You Are Invited......

This September I am joining Susan Coppage Evans on a Pilgrimage to Belgium to study the Beguines. Susan has an intuition that the Beguine movement, which was the women's movement of the Middle Ages, holds some promise and insight for our times too.  I think she is on to something.  This movement was all about 1) community and 2) service.  It was not about religious authority and vow-control therefore (and for this reason it was opposed by the papacy of the time and much of the status quo) but about living authentic lives of learning, service and mutual sharing.

Today lots of groups, the "new monastics" and others, are looking to life-styles that are not just market-driven but also are not religion-bound.  Places--spaces--where learning and soul-growth happens along with service toward and with others.  Do the Beguines hold some keys to this kind of movement?  Join us on the pilgrimage, learn more about them, enter their morphic field, and decide for yourself.

 In the following article, Susan explains more about the Beguines and the passion behind the pilgrimage. Retreat attendance needs to be confirmed in June and the cost increases on June 1st – so let us know son  if you are thinking about joining us!




Imagining and Creating New Communities: The Beguines did it in the Middle Ages, Can’t we now?

Our Beguine ancestors seem to say, “Yes, we did it over a thousand years ago – before all the conveniences of communication that you have today.  We found ways to live authentic, meaningful and helpful lives in community. We were not limited by our time or culture.  We made a difference and the world still needs that. Learn how you can best nourish and be nourished in community. Dream it, imagine it, and work with others to create it.”

In March of 2013, my focus was intensely on the retreat and pilgrimage to Hildegard’s Rhineland that I was leading. As the retreat came to a close, I began shifting my focus to traveling through the nearby region with my husband.  When I looked at the map and our loosely planned itinerary, which only required that we return the car in Amsterdam, I realized that our path took us right through the areas most densely populated with communities of Beguines during the Middle Ages. 

I learned about the Beguines initially through teachings by Matthew Fox and then through the writings of other spiritual writers. Something about these creative and courageous women grabbed my attention and once they had my attention they grabbed my heart.  So as my husband and I wound our way from Bingen, Germany through Belgium and up to Amsterdam, we stopped at Beguinages – many of which are now protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

beguinessewing.jpg.w300h191Women who were called Beguines began forming unique communities around 1200 AD. Prior to the formation of these communities, opportunities afforded women were to marry or to take vows to the Church. But during the time of the crusades, when many women were left to care for land, families and communities while men were off fighting, a new independence emerged. This independence coupled with the practical, compassionate spirituality practiced by newly formed groups like the Franciscans and Dominicans and the traditions of the traveling troubadour, gave women the courage and inspiration to live independently and with purpose.

 Beguine communities varied in their formation. Many were houses shared by a handful of women; others were large communities with nearly 1000 members. Beguines came from all backgrounds. Wealthier Beguines lived alone in their own homes within the community and provided support for houses that hosted numerous poorer Beguines in dormitory living. Beguine communities often included children – orphans and child prostitutes that were taken in, supported, protected and educated.  Beguines were not nuns but they lived according to their own Beguine community rules and they were free to leave and marry. At their peak, there were nearly a million Beguines and they prospered for hundreds of years, the last Beguine died in Belgium in April 2013.

 Some refer to the Beguines as the first women’s movement. Certainly, they were courageous in stepping out of traditional roles which resulted in persecution and violence. Beguine communities formed during a very fertile time in history.  As societies moved from a barter economy to a coin economy, Beguines participated in the economy. They played a significant role in the textile industry, producing lace and other materials. And as royalty realized that their wealth increased with an educated populous, Beguines were employed to teach literacy.

 The driving force behind the Beguine movement was an experiential spirituality that embodied the compassion of Christ and sought both to live in contemplation and in compassionate service.  Far from the hierarchical religion of the day, Beguines lived a spiritual life that was both humbling and empowering in its experience of unity with God. God was experienced as much as Mother as Father and as much as Mystery as Known.

 There is much to learn from the Beguines, both in their spirituality and service as well as in their courage and creativity. Personally, I am attracted to the Beguines as models of discernment and innovation. I am curious as to what forms of community need to be birthed in my time and culture. I read about and witness the dwindling of church attendance. I watch with interest as new movements develop like the New Monastics, on-line spiritual communities and “virtual monasteries”. I visit Co-Housing communities and read about New Urbanism.

 When my husband and I walked the cobblestone paths in Belgium’s Beguinages, I recognized the brick architecture from my youth. The Beguinages reminded me of the row-homes of Baltimore. Now, my imagination wanders and I imagine a community of neighbors, like the Beguines who choose to live in support of one another and of our wider community. I imagine as my husband and I enter retirement there might yet be a different type of community that sustains us and fosters (puts to work) our talents and gifts.  I imagine that sweet spot that the Beguines fostered: a community of spiritual friends that is steeped in solitude and togetherness, action and non-action, organization and freedom, study and activity.

beguine facultyclub.jpg.w300h197

 This September I am returning to the Beguinages of Belgium with colleagues including Matthew Fox and a small group of pilgrims to study the Beguines and to be like the Beguines in their “experiential” approach. We will visit the cobblestones of five Beguinages; we will immerse ourselves in the emotional, spiritual and physical environment of the Beguines and see what emerges for each participant. Just as the Beguinages were all independent and developed according those who lived amongst them, so will the retreat foster and support the percolation of individual ideas and inspirations.  It will be an interfaith, inter-denominational gathering encouraging each participant to lean into the wisdom and courage needed to support communities – new and old.

 Yes, there has been a lot of planning to bring forth this retreat but there has also been a sense of following - a “yes” to the calling forth.   There has been amazing synchronicities amongst newly met colleagues. It feels as if this pilgrimage is blessed by our Beguine ancestors who seem to say, “Yes, we did it over a thousand years ago – before all the conveniences of communication that you have today.  We found ways to live authentic, meaningful and helpful lives in community. We were not limited by our time or culture.  We made a difference and the world still needs that. Learn how you can best nourish and be nourished in community. Dream it, imagine it, and work with others to create it.”

 If you want to drink deep of the Beguine movement and have it influence your communities- those already birthed and those yet to be birthed, join us in September.   Register by the end of this month to be one of the 28 people, including teachers, on the retreat.   Registration information and a detailed itinerary can be found on my website: www.wholeheartedretreat.com

Susan Coppage Evans, D.Min Graduate of University of Creation Spirituality Founder of Creation Spirituality Communities Retreat Leader through WholeHearted, Inc.


An Evening with the Awakin Circle of Silicon Valley

In the midst of the paradoxical Silicon Valley culture, Matthew Fox was delighted to share an evening with a small, vibrant home-based Awakin circle, part of the Awakin.org movement just recently. He writes:

After speaking to the Silicon Valley circle, I was filled with gratitude to my hosts Nipun and Guri Mehta and their family for the 17 year commitment that they have made to bringing a spiritual ballast to the Silicon Valley and its creative accomplishments all those years.  (Theirs) is an important vision and I was honored to be part of it for an evening.  Blessings and continued grace on this meaningful and deeply needed work!

This was Nipun's account of the evening;

With his unique blend of stories, scholarship and spirituality, (Matthew Fox) filled our pockets to the bursting point with gems of insight.  Among much else he reminded us that study can be prayer if we bring our hearts to it, that zeal springs from a deep experience of the beauty of life, that "Nothing is so  like God as silence", and that trust is a form of courage.

He invited us on a quest for joy in the work that we do, and to fall in love with the banquet of all that is lovable in our lives. He informed us that at our core we are 'bipeds who make things', and the sacred act of creation, not consumption, is our birthright, and that without the faculty of awe we render the universe little more than a marketplace.

He urged us to honor the power of inter-generational community, to calm our 'reptilian brains' through meditation, to restore our relationship with the earth, and to reclaim the gift of true learning...he gave us through his words, his presence and his truth much to work with and return to as we travel our own paths, in this "University" called life. For that generosity we are deeply grateful.

The real record for what happened last night lies in our hearts.  We hope the evening energizes your spiritual journey in some way; surely, we feel blessed to host such conscious gatherings in our own home.

He also offered some links for more resources:

How do I engage more?  Here are some ways:

  • Join an Awakin Circle (locally in Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, South San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and of course, Santa Clara, and globally on five of the seven continents).
  • Pick up a Smile Card.
  • Stay connected to good, via DailyGood and Karmatube.
  • To get more involved, volunteer with ServiceSpace.

REBLOGGED: Dr. King's Work Continues: Forty-eight Years Later, Still "Not Welcome"

Let’s get to the heart of the matter: “inner city” is code in America for black and brown. She is making the same argument that was made in Dr King’s day: We’re not racist; we’re just afraid that the presence of black people will hurt our property values.

Matthew Fox's Christmas Letter, 2013

Dear Friend of Creation Spirituality: A blessed Holiday Season to you all! I am sure we are all deeply yearning for the kind of peace with justice that the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons are all about. I hope these kind of miracles are in the works for all and through our dedicated inner and outer work.

A few summaries of our goings on at FCS this year. I have been working on a new book on Meister Eckhart, my third, but my first in over thirty years. Called Meister Eckhart: Mystic Warrior for Our Times, it is due out from New World Library in July. I borrowed my methodology from my recent book on Hildegard when I put Eckhart in the room with twentieth (and twenty-first century) thinkers such as: Rabbi Heschel; Adrienne Rich (on the Divine Feminine); Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry (on the Cosmic Christ); Black Elk (on shamanism); Dorothy Soelle (on liberation); Carl Jung; Otto Rank; Biblical scholars Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and Bruce Chilton, Karl Marx, David Korten and Anita Roddick (on economics), Lily Yeh and M.C. Richards (on education), etc. I enjoyed doing it and I hope you will like it too—I incorporate his words from many of his sermons that were not part of my original fat book on him once called “Breakthrough” and now called Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.

Andrew Harvey and I did two of our Christ Path Seminars this past year, one in Oakland with Joanna Macy and another in Pittsburgh at the Methodist church with Bruce Chilton. They were very rich and we filmed all the sessions. Unfortunately the financial results were less than break-even so we had to cut back on doing more for the time being. We do have those two weekends available in dvd form, however, and at a very reasonable price ($60 for about 12 hours of dialog and practices).

The YELLAWE Program has flourished this year in Fremont High School in Oakland and our teacher and director, Rose Elizondo, also took it to Oaxaca in Mexico and to Mexico City where she taught youth living in the streets. Newspaper articles appeared in both cities about the program which included using paints that the students made themselves from cactus (a practice Rose learned from her grandmother) and the use of moss so that the murals the students created are literally growing pieces. In both programs local artists, some of them quite famous, joined to instruct the young people. Also a very accomplished artist in the Bay Area, Francisco Franco, joined Rose at FHS to lead the students in painting a mural together at the school. Students also created “cosmic shoes” by painting stars and more on tennis shoes that the program furnished.

We were part of the annual Sounds True Conference in the Rocky Mountains this summer where we were invited to put on a Cosmic Mass for about 1000 participants. Celtic singer Noirin ni Rian and her two sons, also musicians and in their twenties, were part of the Mass. Nicole Porcaro did a fine job directing it with much assistance from the ST staff. It was highly ecumenical and very well received. I share the following quote from Thich Naht Hanh who, I think, truly gets the Cosmic Christ and the Mass: "Take, my friends, 'this is my flesh, this is my blood.' Can there be any more drastic language in order to wake you up? What could Jesus have said better than that?....This piece of bread is the whole cosmos. If Christ is the body of God, which he is, then the bread he offers is also the body of the cosmos. Look deeply and you notice the sunshine in the bread, the blue sky in the bread, the cloud and the great Earth in the bread. Can you tell me what is not in that piece of bread? You eat in such a way that you come alive, truly alive."

A number of people were deeply affected, including a woman who told me she had “hated religion for 22 years,” and wounded Catholics (know a few?) and others. Rabbi Rami Shapiro joined us for table prayers and Shiva Rea led dance during the DJ dance time.

On December 1 we began anew the TCM in Oakland at a club in Jack London Square named “Kimballs.” It too was very well received and I am pleased that over twenty people signed up to volunteer for future Masses in Oakland. The theme was “Celebration of the Body” and our prayer included Lakota drumming and singing, a Jewish cantor playing a Mongolian drum and song with words set to it from the Kabbalah, Pancho's spoken word, Joanna Macy teaching, Rabbi Michael Ziegler and Aeeshah Clottey at the table prayers and more. Sister Dorothy Stang's brother Tom and his wife were in attendance as well. And some great altars and entrance 'tent' overseen by Rose Elizondo! I am pleased to announce that we have a new director for the TCM, Skylar Wilson, who represents a new generation (he is 29 years old) leading things. For more on the recent Oakland TCM including pics you can go to www.matthewfox.org. We created a Kickstarter campaign that assisted with raising funds and getting the word out as well. The next TCM is scheduled for February 16 in Oakland.

On Thanksgiving Day the Italians released an Italian translation of my Letters to Pope Francis and several Italian papers have run reviews of it. Also, TIKKUN magazine ran a substantive article I wrote on Pope Francis that can be found at www.matthewfox.org In that series of letters I urge the new pope to be true to his namesake; I feel he is doing a pretty good job. When a pope gets Rush Limbaugh so mad at you that he calls your teaching “pure Marxism,” you must be doing something right! It will be something to watch the right wing Catholic politicians and supreme court justices squirm under the teachings of Pope Francis on behalf of the poor. I recommend that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together announcing the “Revolution in Values” that our species needs to survive.

Spread the word: The publisher of Letters to Pope Francis is running a special all week beginning Monday 11:00am ET with the e-book available from amazon.com for only 99 cents until Tuesday, 12/20 at 3:59 p.m. PST. There is a special price every day, so spread the word.

I appeared on Democracy Now! again a few weeks ago regarding the Pope's recent comments. You can watch the video or read the full transcript HERE. I was also interviewed on the Real News Network again this past week and that video will be published Monday.

Some other news…..We may have an announcement early in the next year about a reincarnation of our D Min program in creation spirituality and work as a fully accredited degree. My assistant Dennis Edwards goes in for surgery on his hip on Feb. 4, and I recommend your prayers for his rapid healing. He expects to be out of commission only a few days however.

So, much going on. Prayers to you all. If you want to reach into your pocket to help make our work sustainable either by donation or purchase of product, please don't resist the temptation.

Peace to you all,

Matthew Fox

Highly Recommended: National Grieving Day

We don’t deal well with grief in our culture. We are expected to move on quickly after our losses. But when we don't take the time to acknowledge and deal with our grief, that grief builds up, anger builds up, joy and love are lost, creativity is stifled, and despair enters in. And who cannot be grieving today about what’s happening to the earth and to the beings of the earth?

So I think grief work - practices and rituals for grieving within a supportive community - is a critically necessary for these days. Mystics in all traditions bear witness: the depth of nothingness is directly related to the experience of everythingness. We learn we are cosmic beings not only in our joy and ecstasy, but also in our pain and sorrow.

And I believe that Grieving Day, which was initiated in Ireland and is now a global event taking place tomorrow, December 3, is a key step toward healing individually and in community: while grief is most often suffered alone, in isolation, this event offers the possibility of grieving together, in compassionate community.

I invite you to connect with the leadership of International Grieving Day at nationalgrievingday@gmail.com, to explore events that may be taking place in your area, and to consider offering an event of your own.

At our recent Cosmic Mass in Oakland on Dec. 1, we did, as we always do, a grief practice.

Grief practices invite the participants to enter the third chakra and go where we hold our anger and our sorrow and let the sounds out. This can be done privately by wailing with a drum or collectively by getting on "all fours" (actually all sixes) and putting one's forehead to the ground (all "sevens") and letting the sounds out of the third chakra; first listening to one's own sounds; then, while still emitting the sounds, listening to one's own sounds.


From the National Grieving Day announcement on Facebook:

National Grieving Day initiated in Ireland and happening around the world on Tuesday, 3rd of December is a day set aside to honour and acknowledge grief in all its forms. Recent times have brought many losses – personal debt, communities losing jobs, businesses closing, young people feeling disempowered, losing a loved one, environmental disasters, personal dreams being dashed or national expectations and identity having to radically change course.

The day will include a series of events giving people an opportunity to reflect,dignify their loss and offer the release of what is felt at an individual and social level, awakening hope for the future. The events are gentle, non-intrusive and open to all.

Contemporary culture often does not allow time or space in our lives, in our world, for celebrating what's been lost and the grief around it. This day is an invitation to meet that need, to offer events and places for those who want to take time to reflect and grieve their losses, small or big, old or more recent.

The National Grieving Day events will allow us to navigate discomfort and uncertainty and restore hope. The day itself is one of the darkest days of the year, on a night without even moonlight, which encourages us to embrace the dark in the knowledge that there that the light of new beginnings are born.

The spirit of people has arisen time and time again and it will do so once more. Let's comfort ourselves, recognise what power we hold within and renew our strength and resilience through our individual and collective release.

If you don't feel like joining a group setting, perhaps you'd like to light a candle on your own on the day to honour the grief you feel and say a prayer or meditate.

How people are getting involved...

  •   Join the group on FB (national and international pages)
  •   Celebrate individually with a candle, prayer, meditation
  •   Organizations can mark it with something aligned with their culture
  •   Come along to one of the grieving events
  •   Share details of the Day with your community and networks
  •   Suggest introductions for us to connect or talk with
  •   Host an event yourself

EVENTS: This is a decentralized, co-created day. There will be events all around Ireland, the UK, France, Netherlands and Australia with the list growing every day as people tune in and arrange programmes: see the global map for events. These include Remembrance Walks, Musical Mourning, Speeches, Ceremonial Fires, Sean Nós, Labyrinth Walks, Grief Circles, Keening, Ecstatic Grief, Poetry. The list is growing steadily!

CREATE AN EVENT: if you would like to run something in your community on Tuesday 3rd of December, please drop us a line at nationalgrievingday@gmail.com and we can provide you with resources, suggestions and outlines for events if you wish.

YOUR SUGGESTIONS: if you have suggestions or connections for us to make, please drop us a line.

EMAIL: keep in touch with us through this page or drop us a line at nationalgrievingday@gmail.com

Dear Pope Francis:An Impassioned Plea to Rebuild the Church

(Excerpts from Matthew Fox's newest book, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion - now available on Amazon) "Surely your choosing his name reveals your own preference for this vision of brotherhoods and sisterhoods, of bands and circles of people, rather than hierarchical ladder climbing. The implications of this choice for church reform are immense, as you well know. I take this to be the primary reason you dared to choose the name ‘Francis’ at this time of the dark night of the church. And dare you did!" page 10

"Because, quite simply, in Catholic theology a Council trumps a Pope but a Pope does not trump a Council. This was the case in the fourteenth century when the Council of Constance, fed up with three popes vying for power over a forty-two year period, fired all three and hired a new one. Beginning with the reign of Pope John Paul II we have had two papacies mired in schism because they have been undoing the reforms and teachings of Vatican II, centralizing everything in the Curia, and thereby turning their back on a valid Council. Two papacies in schism." page 14

"Just as General Motors can’t run without engineers, neither can a religious tradition operate without theologians studying and debating. A professor of my alma mater, the Institut Catholique de Paris, which traces its roots to the first University in Paris where Aquinas and Eckhart both taught, said to me several years ago when she heard me in dialogue with a scientist in the city of Chicago, “The Pope (John Paul II) and Cardinal Ratzinger have killed all theology in Europe. Theology is dead there. Nothing like what you did tonight could be happening in Europe.” Maybe this is a principal reason why the European churches are as empty as they are—no thought allowed." pp. 15-16

"St. John Henry Newman also famously remarked that if forced to choose between the pope and his conscience he would drink to conscience every time. Moreover, he observed, the church would look funny indeed without the laity. The laity are the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful. What they think and intuit matters, as the great Council affirmed. So let us once again have a church that listens and hears them out." page 16

"What has been the result of all this Centralization? Corruption. Staggering, overwhelming corruption. Pope Benedict XVI received a report about call-boys blackmailing Curial hierarchy and all the facts will someday come to the light. Such a report is a natural outcome in an environment that fosters corruption, promoting the appointment of so-called leaders on the basis of their proclivity to act as Yes-men rather than being purveyors of conscience and justice. The appointment of these Yes-men has everything to do with the pedophile crisis and its horrendous cover-up to preserve the institution at all costs, even at the immeasurable cost to children. This corruption is further enabled by the dumbing down of the Church that stifles serious theological research and discussion, and infected with financial malfeasance of every kind that has given rise to fundraising sects of dubious moral standing such as Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation and the Legion of Christ, to places of prominence and power and decision-making in the Church worldwide." pp. 24-25

"You have your hands full, Pope Francis, and I and many others wish you well. But clearly your task begins at home with a deep housecleaning in the Curia itself. Your rather rapid move in appointing an eight-person team chosen from many countries is indeed a promising first step in trying to restore this deformed institution. This has gone far beyond a matter of bringing law-breakers to true justice; it requires a re-education of a whole privileged caste of errant, arrogant, theologically-challenged souls who have put their own advancement ahead of the spirit of ministry." page 27

"Obey, obey, obey. That is the only “theology” I see in studying the sects that have been pushed so hard by the Vatican of late: Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Legion of Christ (which boasted a special vow of never speaking badly about the founder who turned out to be a pervert beyond measure). Obey, obey, obey—that is the very definition of fascism. Its patriarchal message of control and domination is all that matters, its image of God as a punitive father is perverse and it in turn gives legitimacy to punitive attitudes of “superiors”—all that plus sexism is found wherever fascism reigns. An ideology of obedience and authority is no substitute for theology. And it is miles from anything Jesus taught or lived. Such ideology is the polar opposite of compassion..." pp. 39-40

"With all my heart I hope your papacy is one of compassion in its fullest and richest meanings and an example to other institutions of our world that compassion matters. And justice matters. You have said so yourself in the following words: “In the fact of grave forms of social and economic injustice, of political corruption, of ethnic cleansing, of demographic extermination, and destruction of the environment...surges the need for a radical personal and social renewal that is capable of ensuring justice, solidarity, honesty, and transparency."" page 41

"Our divine-like creativity needs to seek out the beauty we can make, the communities we can build, the healing we can effect, the joy we can generate, the celebrations we can birth, the remembering we can invoke, the rituals we can share, the work by which we can employ others, the gardens we can grow, the food we can harvest, the forgiveness we can bring about." page 45

"I am impressed as I write this that you are being so slow to move into the palaces of the Vatican. You seem sensitive to what I am writing about. Yes, perhaps more may be at stake in your obvious reluctance to take up residence in one of the last palaces on earth and to do so in Jesus’ name. Good for you! Francis and Jesus would both resist as you are resisting. Surely there is a simpler place to bear a more authentic witness to Jesus’ name and work than the Vatican palaces in their current state. The medicine for a religion of control, projection, fear and enfeeblement is to return to experience..." page 50

"Today’s youth are not waiting for marching orders from priests, bishops, or popes. They are putting their consciences to work with great imagination. What might happen if you, in the spirit of your namesake Francis, would acknowledge their work, listen deeply and support their adventure by engaging it? In short, I would love to see the Church hierarchy start acting like responsible elders and learn to listen again and support the Spirit speaking and acting through the young." page 58

"It is not enough to talk about “evangelization.” The content of evangelization is crucial. After all most of the advertising industry today is built on “evangelization,” i.e., promises that buying one’s product will offer salvation or healing or beauty or power. The content of true evangelization today needs to be—as it was in Francis’ revolution—the Gospel values themselves, values of joy and of letting go, of creativity and responsibility, of compassion and justice." page 80

"Pope Francis, all over the world people are feeling embarrassed to call themselves Catholic. The anti- intellectual sects that are masquerading as lay movements that I referred to earlier have been, for the past thirty five years, receiving the Vatican’s utmost promotion. Furthermore, it is from their ranks that countless bishops and cardinals of the Church have been appointed during the past two papacies. This will not do. They are not trained in a Gospel spirituality. Isn’t it an embarrassment to you, as a Jesuit, to know that the Church is being run by anti-intellectuals, or what one Brazilian bishop called “neurotics for orthodoxy”? Being a Jesuit you belong to a proud intellectual tradition—isn’t it time that a respect for theologians and what they do be returned to the Church? Isn’t it time to end the Inquisition just as the Second Vatican Council ended the Index of Forbidden Books? Isn’t it time to support, rather than interfere with, those theological movements that are returning us to the basic message of the Gospels? Isn’t this what Francis was all about?" pp. 83-84

"Perhaps we can now move beyond the rhetoric that has piled up around terms like “Marxism,” “base communities,” “Liberation Theology” and go back to the gospel message of liberation. As you once put it, “the option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And you said that if you preached sermons from the first fathers of the church about the needs of the poor you would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyite.” Besides, you have spent much of your ministry working in slums. Beyond rhetoric and politics lies the powerful Sacrament of Liberation, a sacrament that rose up in your continent as a living witness to the ever-present need to interfere with the injustice that obstructs the flow of grace that Life and God want all to experience." page 119

"We can and need to move beyond politics alone to a sacramental approach to supporting human liberation around the world, honoring the poor, the under-employed, and those abused by abhorrent working conditions. It is clear you are already fighting on their behalf and including them in your public statements and prayers. I appreciate your perspective when you say: “Human rights are not just violated by terrorism, repression and murder…but also by the existence of extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that create huge inequalities.”" page 125

"I have just learned that you are planning an encyclical on Global Poverty. That is good news. You will have lots of support for that and I trust you will include the work of forward-thinking economists who are part of the growing majority who sense a need for an economics that works for everyone. Like your namesake, you are truly speaking to the needs and the hopes of the poor. Let us recommit to the Biblical meaning of love, which includes justice and compassion. There can be no love without justice. We are all here to love and learn about love and to inculcate these values into economic and political structures that make them more possible. In such a context as this, a truly universal and therefore catholic church would emerge again." page 127

"Very early after your election you cited the phrase, “Repair my church in ruins.” Those are strong words, a “church in ruins.” You seem to have a sense of our times and how you have come along at a remarkable crossroads of time and history, not just church history, but more importantly planetary and human history. I beg you to keep that in mind in all of your decision-making. Remember you are not in this alone. I have sought to make some connections between your choice of St. Francis as your namesake and the deep needs of our present moment. We are in this together. No pope can save the Church alone, or should imagine he or she can do so. The people, who are the church, are already busy trying to. But it would be a great blessing if the Church’s hierarchy, beginning with a refreshingly humble Bishop of Rome, would begin to assist rather than flagrantly obstruct these efforts." page 129"

Statement In Support of Grand Elder Raymond Robinson and Idle No More

Grand Elder Raymond Robinson of the Cross Lake Nation in Manitoba, Canada, is now in his fourth day of hunger- and thirst-strike protesting the Harper administration's massive removal of Canadian environmental protections and Indigenous treaty rights, opening up the transcontinental boreal forest to unlimited Tar Sands devastation. Matthew Fox responds to the protest:

I join with thousands of others in prayer to support Elder Robinson and Chief Theresa Spence and others for their generous witness in standing for justice for Mother Earth and all her creatures. We share solidarity with them and the First Nations peoples who have always known that care for the Earth precedes the misbegotten money schemes that only seek to engender greed and separation in individuals and communities. All people are diminished when profit takes precedence over the health and beauty of our waters and soil and our four-legged brothers and sisters. It is our children especially who will suffer from such greed and rapaciousness for their lives will be less beautiful and less healthy. Future generations will ask us: Where were you when they came to destroy Mother Earth in the name of corporate profits? Let us all stand up and be heard and be Idle No More.

Rev. Matthew Fox author of "Original Blessing"

_______________________________________________________ (Anonymous background article reposted from the Occupy Canada and other Facebook pages)

April 5th, 2013, at 9:30, Grand Elder Raymond Robinson has been without food or water for 63 hours. The most that a person can survive without water is maximum 4 days, which is 96 hours. This means with each passing minute, Elder Robinson is closer to death. Earlier this year, he broke a 44 day fast after fasting to support Chief Theresa Spence and everything she stood for, which was to bring attention to the plight of First Nation Peoples.

This time Elder Robinson is on a hunger strike in protest to the passing of bills (government policies), which will bring about horrific damage to the environment. Because the pipe lines need to pass through our reserves or the camps need to be located on the reserves, Elder Robinson stated, ‘First Nations are being blackmailed into signing their rights away. These changes have been implemented without any consultation... They are asking us to give up our waters our lands our resources and even our Inherent Aboriginal Treaty Rights’. To his word, he has been on a hunger strike; the food is not the biggest concern because for the human body, water is essential for life.

Elder Robinson from Cross Lake Nation in Manitoba, asks that the government recognize that the First Nations peoples have a right to clean water, hydro education, proper health care, the right to have a voice on what takes place within their territories, among other basic human rights that others members of society are privileged to have and take for granted. He states that the passing of the bills will deny these basic rights to First Nations peoples, which was Chief Spence’s message during her fast. Sadly, the response months later from the federal government was to have this new bill quietly passed without consultation of the First Nation leadership. Elder Robinson is asking for the repeal of the bills and that the Prime Minister, follow through with his January 11th, 2012 promise to meet face-to-face with the First Nations Chiefs.

On April 3rd, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s spokesperson, Jason MacDonald had this to say about the Elder Robinson’s hunger strike, ‘Like all reasonable people we encourage, Raymond Robinson to continue to consume food and water.’ However, Aboriginal Affairs supports the bills that deprive children of clean water and fundamental basics as reasonable. Today, Aboriginal Affairs Minster Bernard Valcourt met with Elder Robinson and said, ‘I’ll make you deal, if you quit your hunger strike and I’ll visit your reserve.’ Elder Robinson said, ‘I said to him (Aboriginal Affairs Minster Bernard Valcourt), ask the prime minister to meet with our nation leaders. To which he said, ‘that is not going to happen,’ and then he laughed.’

Elder Robinson asks, ‘are my people a laughing matter?’ No. It is time for the Prime Minister to start respecting the First peoples of Canada as well as the land base we live upon. The general public is being told that the chiefs do not want the bill to be passed because they would have to report their earnings. This is a distraction to what is really being opposed and that the government is making decision on the First Nations behalf. So what exactly are the laws that Elder Robinson are opposing through his hunger strike? They are the Omnibus Bills C38 and C45, which contain changes to over 90 Federal Laws. The laws include: changes that affect the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act - developers are no longer be responsible for fixing the environment and habitat damage they cause. The First Nations peoples stand to be at the greatest risk of environmental exploitation, because the law is designed to provide for quick development access to resource extraction industries of which most occur on First Nations' Land. Other Acts include Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which decreases opportunity for First Nations' involvement in Environmental Assessments as well as ending environmental assessments. The National Energy Board Act, which limits the ability to challenge decisions of the Federal Cabinet with regards to project approvals. Other changes that will affect the omnibus bills are Canada Grain Act, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Indian Act and Public Sector pensions.

And, so why should these change be so scary for us. We need only what occurred during the recent oil spill in Arkansas, where Exxon was off the hook for paying into the federal oil spill fund responsible for cleaning up the spill in Arkansas, because tar sands because isn't classified as oil under the law. Is this what Elder Robinson sees for our future? Oil companies destroying the land and then afterward using loopholes in the law to leave our lands destroyed for the next generations. Which means that the already disadvantages peoples would be a greater disadvantage as the land is destroyed around them.

Instead what do some members of society focus on? Sadly, they believe the lies that Elder Robinson is upset that band leadership will have to report their income. Do the people who make these kinds of statements really think that the traditional stewards of the land care about currency? First, I think most people would be shocked at the low income of some of the nations chief and councilors; however, it is not what Elder Robinson is slowly dying because of (mere money); rather he is hoping the Creator will intervene and Mother Earth will be left to continue nourish her children for generations to come.

Elder Robinson has told us that he is willing to suffer on behalf of his people and he is doing that. The simple fact is that with each hour, his body shuts down just a little bit more. My relatives please join my prayer for Elder Robinson. Please spend a moment sending light and love towards this beautiful and love filled warrior. (ejh)

Matthew Fox Endorses "Alfredo's Fire"

(from the Alfredo's Fire website)  In 1998 a gay Italian writer shocked the world by setting himself on fire in St. Peter’s Square to protest the Vatican’s ban on homosexuaity. Years later, his gesture faded into obscurity. What is the flame he ignited and how deep are its shadows? By unraveling this tragic story, ALFREDO’S FIRE highlights the issue of religious intolerance, which burns as strong and deadly as ever at the crossroads of faith and sexuality.


Matthew Fox endorses the film, and urges support for the Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign to complete the funding of its production:

This is a moving and powerful story, and the story of this truth teller to power--the homophobic power of the Vatican--needs to be told.  The pope and other homophobes are as wrong about homosexuality as they were about the sun moving around the earth in Galileo's day--and for the same reason.  They TOTALLY ignore science to further their prejudice.

Science has spoken: 8 to 10% of human population is gay or lesbian.  Over 464 other species also have gay populations,  Therefore, homosexuality is not "against the natural law" but utterly natural for a minority of humans.

Let the sacrifice of this Italian martyr not be in vain.  Give to this movie.  I surely intend to.


Red Flags Round Pope Francis

Like everyone else on earth, I wish the new Pope well and I hope he truly emulates some of Francis of Assisi's priorities:

  • Defending Mother Earth who is in so much peril; living simply (how one does that in a palace like the Vatican, surrounded by an obsequious court, is another question);
  • Speaking out on behalf of the poor and impoverished, the sick and neglected;
  • Speaking out on those social and economic structures that institutionalize injustice.

I also hope he cleans up the rat's nest of corruption, pedophile cover-up, ego mania and power-addicted prelates who run the curia that in turn runs the Vatican. Good Luck and God's Blessing!

One looks at the new Pope's simple lifestyle while cardinal in Argentina, rejecting the bishop's palace, living in an apartment, rejecting a limousine and taking the bus to work, cooking his own meals, speaking off the cuff since being made Pope. Very nice. It gives one hope (again, not sure how it translates to a world of pope-mobiles and court hangers-on in the last monarchy of the Western world, the Vatican). But Good Luck there also.

But red flags do emerge as we learn more of this man who is heralded as the first non-European Pope in 1400 years, first South American, citizen of the "third world" and more. One has to be a bit careful here of the hagiographic hype that gushed upon us from CNN and elsewhere the day he was elected. These starry-eyed journalists wallowing in pious sentimentalism for a few days have not done their homework about the recent papacy (or past papacies). I have. That is why I wrote The Pope's War: How Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved.

Here are some areas to watch out for:

1. Opposition to Liberation Theology

This new Pope opposed liberation theology and base communities in Latin America: those being the grassroots Church that took seriously the teaching of Vatican II that the Church is "the people," not the hierarchy. Many heroes of that movement were killed and tortured throughout Latin America, Oscar Romero being the most visible. Bergoglio was nowhere to be seen standing with them. Quite the opposite; he fought liberation theology tooth and nail as head of the bishops' conference, and he was an effective instigator of papal attitudes in this regard (supported by the CIA under Reagan, which linked up with Pope John Paul II to kill liberation theology, as I prove in The Pope's War.)

Can he change as Pope? One prays. But don't bet the farm on it. One tends to "dance with the ones who brung ya"-- even to the top of the clerical elite.

2. Involvement in Communion and Liberation

This Pope's allegiance is not to the principles of justice enunciated by Vatican II (or those of freedom of conscience, or of empowerment of laity, or of the independence of national bishops' conferences, or of sensus fidelium. etc.), but to Communion and Liberation. (See Chapter 7 of The Pope's War.)

C&L is a neo-fascist movement supported strongly by the past two Popes (the women who will cook and wash clothes for Ratzinger as pope emeritus are C&L people). It is all about obedience, all about hierarchy, all about centralizing power in the Pope, and all about pronouncing on "sins of the flesh" (i.e. homosexuality, birth control, abortion) and repressing women's and LGBT rights. C&L is much like Opus Dei, though less secretive and Italian based rather than Spanish based. Very powerful and very rich, and in fact larger and more influential today than Opus Dei (though not as embedded in the American media or Supreme Court or CIA and FBI).

Ratzinger was a champion of C&L, as is Cardinal Law, as is Cardinal Cordes, a very influential German bishop who actually invokes Pope Gregory VII as an example for our times. That Pope said "the Pope may be judged by no one" and the Roman Catholic Church "has never erred, nor never shall err to all eternity." Yikes! 3. Response to Argentinian Dictatorship Serious questions persist about this new Pope's refusal to stand up to the military junta's torture programs during the years of dictatorship in Argentina. Photos exist of Bergoglio giving communion to the notorious dictator, General Jorge Videla, who was convicted in 1985 of murders, torture and "disappearances." Two of his fellow Jesuit priests were tortured, along with 30,000 other Argentinians who were murdered, and he was silent (some even say that he was complicit, but not enough facts have been uncovered to be sure).

An Argentine historian who was in the country during the "dirty war" writes that "while the upper echelons of the Church were supportive of the military Junta, the grassroots of the Church was firmly opposed to the imposition of military rule" (see http://www.globalresearch.ca/washingtons-pope-who-is-francis-i-cardinal-jorge-mario-bergoglio-and-argentine-dirty-war/5326675).

This reminds one of Nazi times in Germany, when some, but not many, bishops stood up to be heard. Bergoglio dismissed two Jesuit priests committed to liberation theology. The result? They were kidnapped and tortured for six months and six parishioners of theirs were "disappeared." One of the priests, Fr. Orlando Yorio, "accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over [including six other people] to the death squads." The second priest has spent his life since in seclusion in a German monastery.

Communion & Liberation is fiercely opposed to liberation theology.

Can this pope confess and move on? One hopes so. 4. Links to Church's Right-Wing German Faction

Bergoglio's connection to the right-wing faction of the German Church is very clear. When an Argentinian autobiographer says that "he is not a third-world priest," he is noting that he has resisted the call for the systemic justice of liberation theology. What is he then, since he lived in the third world most of his life? Very late in life, in his late sixties, Bergoglio traveled to Germany to get a doctorate in theology. I think one can conclude that he was also receiving a deep marination in the kind of right-wing German thinking that Ratzinger and his cronies represent. That, plus more link-ups with C&L and Cardinal Cordes, cheerleader of C&L. The German bishops are the most influential in the Church; Germany gives more money to the Vatican than any other group because lay people are taxed whether they go to church or not. Pope Francis represents them far more than he does the 'third world,' unfortunately.

Can he change? One does believe in and pray for miracles--in this case that he exits the cage of C&L in favor of a Catholic Church that is far larger and diverse than tribal sects.

5. Position on Gender/Gender Preference Justice

Bergoglio called the gay rights movement a work of "the Father of Lies" (though he says one should be nice to gay people). The president of his country called his opposition to gay marriage "medieval" and smacking of the Inquisition in its tone. I see no evidence that he even considers women's rights to be a valid issue. Do not expect any theological depth or breadth here beyond what we have been witnessing for 42 years, years of schism in my opinion, from two (now three?) popes who have scuttled the reforms of Vatican II.

In short, the new Pope is presented as a pastoral person. His visiting AIDS victims and his walking in the slums and riding buses to work attest to this. His charm and spontaneity with the press and people since becoming bishop of Rome attest to the same. But the papal job is much more than one on one pastoral actions. Love is not just about charity; it is also about justice. Is he up to that? Will he take on power structures of economic injustice and support those who do? We shall see.

A key to his job today is cleaning up the Church itself, which is mired in pedophile scandals and their cover-ups, financial scandals, and blatant hypocrisy around such issues as homosexuality, with rings of gay prostitutes blackmailing curia officials, and the Cardinal of Scotland having to recuse himself from the papal conclave because three priests accused him of sexual misconduct with them...and that cardinal was a ranting anti-gay voice in Scotland. How many others in the curia and elsewhere are preaching that "homosexuality is evil" while having gay sex on the side (by the way, do they use condoms? - they say that would be another sin). What hypocrisy!

Of course the on-going Inquisition which was brought back by the two previous Popes (I was only one of 105 of their victims, who are listed in my book) -- will the new Pope address that? As a Jesuit, one would hope he has some intellectual awareness that goes beyond C&L's theology of "Obey the Pope." As a Jesuit, one would hope that he would have been exposed to the vast depth and width of the Catholic intellectual tradition, no matter what the neo-fascist and anti-intellectual sects tell us (that the Pope is the only teacher, a heresy in itself). Maybe he was playing a game all along with the German wing to get elected, and now will let the Spirit open things up and dispense with his right wing handlers. One can hope. One would expect a Jesuit pope to have some respect for Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, Anthony de Mello and other Jesuits whom the fierce right wing castigates.

Where does he stand on the New Inquisition fostered by then-Cardinal Ratzinger and his minions? We shall soon know. Is he able to throw off the narrow shackles of the C&L and Opus Dei sects and serve the whole Church? We shall soon know. Can he overcome the sin of sexism so rife in ecclesial boyz club circles? We shall soon know. Can he end the unconscionable cover up of priestly pedophiles by the hierarchy and fire all of the perpetrators and put "millstones around their necks" (figuratively at least) as Jesus proposed for all those who endanger children? We shall soon know.

The key to the work of this Pope is the person he appoints as secretary of state. That is the person who must clean up the curia. Will he appoint someone who can take on that heavy task? Or will he appoint someone who is content to keep the power games and cover-ups and hypocrisy going on there essentially as they have been for 42 years? Someone of the 115 who got him elected in order to keep things as they are? Stay tuned.

It is false thinking to look up to the papacy to represent Jesus' teaching at this time in history. Look to yourself and the base communities of many stripes that put justice and love ahead of power games and sentimental pomp and papalolotry. One program I am developing in collaboration with Andrew Harvey is the Christ Path Seminar (www.christpathseminar.com) which is an effort to resurrect the real story and teaching of Jesus and the Cosmic Christ tradition.

The Holy Spirit may be doing a very great thing in ending the papacy as we know it and starting Jesus' message over again through the people, not the ecclesial potentates. Surely we all pray that Pope Francis will join that work and be part of the rebirth of the Christ message.

Already some good things have resulted from Bergoglio's election as Pope. The press (usually the non-mainstream press, the new press created by the Internet that bypasses the ruling financial, political and religious elite) is finally taking a critical look at the history of the American government in Latin America (its role in the military coups of Argentina and Chile, to name a few). And the new press is finally taking a critical look at the dark and fascist side of recent Church history -- a side I lay out in detail in The Pope's War, which has been studiously ignored by the mainline press -- the far-right sects of Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation and other coddled children of the past two schismatic papacies. To shed light on these dark sects, as the non-mainline press is finally doing, is already a positive result of the papacy of Pope Francis. Will he and it be able to tolerate the light? Stay tuned.

In closing, let us call on the recently canonized saint and Doctor of the Church, the twelfth-century reformer Hildegard of Bingen. Her words to the Pope of her day follow:

"O man, the eye of your discernment weakens.....You are neglecting Justice, the King's daughter, the heavenly bride, the woman who was entrusted to you. Her crown and jeweled raiments are torn to pieces through the moral crudeness of men who bark like dogs and make stupid sounds like chickens which sometimes begin to cackle in the middle of the night. They are hypocrites. With their words they make a show of illusory peace, but within, in their hearts, they grind their teeth like a dog who wags its tail at a recognized friend but bites with its sharp teeth an experienced warrior who fights for the King's house. Why do you tolerate the evil ways of people who in the darkness of foolishness draw everything harmful to themselves? They are like hens who make noise during the night and terrify themselves."

It is difficult to find a more apt naming of the curia today than these words of Hildegard, who also said:

"The Catholic chair of Peter will be shaken through erroneous teaching...The vineyard of the Lord smolders with sorrow...The injustice of the clergy will be recognized as thoroughly despicable. And yet no on will dare to raise a sharp and insistent call for repentance." (Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint for Our Times, pp. 102ff, 129).

Hildegard raised such a call. One hopes that Pope Francis will do so also.

A Bold Experiment in the Emerging Gift Economy

Dear Friends of Creation Spirituality: Some VERY exciting news! As announced earlier Andrew Harvey and myself are teaming up to try to resurrect Christianity in a series of weekend seminars/initiations called the Christ Path. This series is now offered at an unprecedented gift economy price of $50 registration per workshop, whether offered onsite or online!

Our first weekend is with Joanna Macy presenting "Cosmic Christ as Doorway into Deep Time.” The March 8-10, 2013 seminar is called Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity and will be in Oakland, CA on 2141 Broadway at the former UCS location.

We, like all of you, recognize what a sorry state our species finds itself in these days, from endless war games (we are spending $39,000 per second on war) to playing the usual fiddles while the planet burns and goes mad with increased storms and the plague of consumer gluttony eating up souls and defining our very economic system through an addiction called consumeritis. Just this morning I received a letter from an active Christian who tells me her young adult children are far more at home calling themselves “atheist” than believers since religion has sold out so boldly to fascism, sexism and more.

Andrew and I feel that a healthy Cosmic Christ spirituality—one that fuses action and contemplation, mysticism and prophecy, masculine and feminine, science and consciousness—can make all the difference. That the revolution unleashed by Jesus might still happen even with time running out, indeed especially with time running out.

Just as the Jesus seminar discovered much that was valuable and useful for those who know and want to know the Jesus story, so too the Christ Path Initiation will offer an awakening that is both substantial and practical to reinvent religion and Christianity. The discovery of the Cosmic Christ tradition helps us to do that. Here is how we describe our audience:

For spiritual seekers who want a comprehensive and living vision of Christian mysticism.

For mystics in the church who yearn for authentic mystical teaching and practice.

For those who have left the Christian church and yet long for a deep, direct connection with Jesus and the message.

For those within the church who are deeply disturbed by the narrowness of church doctrine and church corruption.

We will be conducting four events per year for three years. We meet Friday evenings to Sunday, 1PM. Most events will include a visiting lecturer who will speak Saturday night and interact with myself and Andrew Sunday mornings. Guest Speakers the first year include the following: Joanna Macy; Bruce Chilton; Adam Bucko; Brian Swimme. Second year: David Korten; Caroline Myss (and more).

Andrew sees this series as an opportunity to “distill” our work in the context of providing a spiritual substructure to the social movements of our time. Between us we have written over 60 books on spirituality and culture. Our weekends will give considerable attention to spiritual practices new and ancient, and “distilled” for our times as well as intellectual heft. People can participate in person or by teleconferencing —or some of both.

Please Spread the Word! And come yourselves!

Details are found in the website: www.christpathseminar.org.

Here's to a Birth of the Cosmic Christ in our time,

Matt Fox


Why Such a Low Registration Fee for the Christ Path Seminar? – A Bold Experiment in the Emerging Gift Economy

A Note from Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey

Dear friends,

We have received your feedback and taken it to heart. We have decided to shift our consciousness around payment options for “Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity.” We want these teachings to be accessible to everyone.

So we are experimenting with a bold approach from the principles of a Gift Economy: we ask that all participants contribute a minimal registration fee of $50 (whether they are attending in person or on line). Beyond that, we intend to experiment in the spirit of the growing “gift economy” consciousness: we will be offering the seminar as a gift.

Rather than assuming people want to maximize self-interest, our starting place is that people want to behave selflessly–with a consciousness of abundance as shown by the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes.

What would it look like if we shared our resources so that everyone’s needs were met? How can a gift economy move us toward this end? What would our lives be like if money were a factor, but not a barrier? We find this opens up huge possibilities for creative co-responsibility and transformative action that is in alignment with the Cosmic Christ consciousness.

As we are doing this within the current economy, and are not seeking any external sources of revenue, we would also like each participant to come mindful of some of the practical aspects of such a strategy.

The seminar is not free. Rather we believe that it is priceless, because how can we possibly measure in money gifts of wisdom, of insight, of prayer, of an engaged learning community, of shared responsibility, of personal and collective transformation?

It’s important for us to have a sense of confidence that when people say they plan to attend, they really mean it. The on-site seminar will be limited to 100 participants. The usual way of getting this kind of commitment is to ask for a non-refundable deposit. If you are willing to demonstrate your clear intention to join us in this way, then please make a payment of $50. If this is an obstacle to your participation, please send us an email so we can engage with you around other options.

If you are moved to make a financial contribution in advance of the seminar, it will be gratefully received and contribute to our current costs.

At the end of the event, we will together look at questions such as: how will we be able to cover the costs of live streaming, facility rental, publicity, travel, as well as stipends to sustain the three teachers?

We will connect in gratitude for all that we have received and then invite each participant either to make a voluntary financial contribution to the real expenses of the seminar, or to move the gift forward through some other way of their choosing.

We view this as an experiment that reflects the new model of workshop we are co-creating with you: an ongoing, creative process of dialogue and transformation.

Blessings, Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey

“Unlike a modern money transaction, which is closed and leaves no obligation, a gift transaction is open-ended, creating an ongoing tie between the participants. Another way of looking at it is that the gift partakes of the giver, and that when we give a gift, we give something of ourselves. This is the opposite of a modern commodity transaction, in which goods sold are mere property, separate from the one who sells them. We all can feel the difference.”

–Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics

101 Reasons for not Canonizing Pope John Paul II

Pope Benedict XVI is in a big hurry to canonize his former boss Pope John Paul II, who hired him as Director of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition) in 1981 and stood by him for 23 years as he brought back the Inquisition contrary to the letter and spirit of Vatican II. Following are 101 reasons not to rush.

1. The very tradition of canonization was seriously compromised under JPII when the office of devil’s advocate was done away with.  An immediate pay off was the unprecedently swift canonization of Fr. Jose Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. A woman who worked closely with Escriva for 13 years and wrote a book that detailed his fits of anger, pique, sexist attacks and more was denied any appearance at the proceedings.  As were those who heard him say he admired Hitler.

2. Special privileges were bestowed directly from JPII to Fr. Maciel, notorious for having on the one hand raised more money than anyone in church history but on the other having sexually abused over 20 of his seminarians. Even after these facts were made public, Pope JPII supported the man and his organization, the Legion of Christ, ordaining dozens of Maciel’s priests in large public events in St Peter’s square. As it turned out, he had two wives on the side and sexually abused his four children (three boys and a girl).  Maciel was a fierce supporter of Chilean dictator Pinochet who murdered over 700 priests, nuns and lay leaders.  Numerous other covering-up of pedophile clergy around the world occurred on Pope JPII’s watch as continued news articles make clear.

3. Pope JPII, with Ratzinger leading the attack, dismantled and emasculated what was probably the most Christ-like movement in the past 500 years of church history, namely the base community movement and liberation theology movements of Latin America.  Instead of supporting the poor and those standing with them in Jesus’ name, JPII replaced the brave and justice-committed church leaders (such as Oscar Romero) with those committed to the fortunes of the rich and powerful.

4. Pope JPII emasculated the most alive liturgical movements in Europe, namely those of the Dutch Catholic Church and forbade Bishop Casigalida to offer an Afro-Brazilian liturgy he  had created with Brazilian artists.

5. Pope JPII dumbed down the leadership of the church by appointing bishops whose sole qualification was that they were sure to be obedient Yes men.  This had everything to do with the priestly pedophilia scandal not being dealt with appropriately.

6. Pope JPII put the Virgin Mary on a pedestal but allowed women no responsibilities in the church, forbidding priests to use the feminine pronoun for God (as if the Divine Feminine is not just as important as the Divine Masculine) and even forbidding girls to be altar girls.

7. When he removed the condemnation of Galileo after 450 years, JPII commented that religion should learn from science.  Yet he fully concurred with Cardinal Ratzinger’s two documents that condemn homosexuals mercilessly and without any scientific backing (science having demonstrated that 8-10% of any given human population is going to be homosexual and 464 other species with homosexual populations have been revealed).

8. Pope JPII, contrary to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, eliminated the principle of collegiality along with theological diversity and freedom of conscience and lay leadership and substituted for it a Vatican dictatorship that claims all rights to appoint bishops and to teach as the only “magisterium” of the church.  He “killed all theology in Europe” according to a professor at the Institut catholique de Paris.  He confused “infallibility” with totalitarianism and ruled with an iron fist that would make Ghadaffy look proud.  A Vatican insider in JP II’s reign told me that “in front of the cameras he was very forgiving (as to his attempted assassin), but within the Vatican anyone who disagreed with anything was gone in 24 hours.”

9. Return of Simony.  Not only was the Maciel scandal awash in cash, but the pope’s private secretary, a Polish priest (now a cardinal), was charging $50,000 to attend private Masses with the Pope as reported by Jason Berry in the National Catholic Reporter.

10-101. Ninety-one theologians and activists from many countries were condemned under JPII’s pontificate, a good number of whom lost their livelihoods as well as their ministries, some suffered nervous breakdowns or died of heart attacks under the pressure imposed on them by Rome and rabid right wing attackers buttressed by the Vatican. To see the full list, visit this site's Wailing Wall.

Some thoughts on Thomas Berry’s Contributions to the Western Spiritual Tradition

Some thoughts on Thomas Berry’s Contributions to the Western Spiritual Tradition Matthew Fox

Caribbean poet and nobel prizewinner Derek Wallcott says: “For every poet it is always morning in the world; history a forgotten, insomniac night.  The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.”

I believe Walcott names an accomplishment of Thomas’ poetic and mystical side—Thomas calls all of us to fall in love with the world in spite of the folly of human history. It is a major challenge and Thomas creates a context when he says “ecology is functional cosmology”--a context in which we can recover the zeal that comes from falling in love with the world once again.  He puts our own personal and collective histories into context and he puts the context into a sacred context by reminding us that the primary sacrament is the universe itself.  Every other sacrament, being and action is derivative of that holy sacrament.

Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry

When I think of Thomas I am reminded of the great mentor relationships of western history.  I think of Teilhard de Chardin’s influence on Thomas Berry in the same light that I think of Plato’s influence on Aristotle and Albert the Great’s influence on Thomas Aquinas for example.  Thomas had a mentor and all studies show that when young men have mentors they go into deeper paths and new spirals of achievement.

Let us consider some of the influence of Teilhard on Thomas’ thought as we remember that Thomas was a founder and president of the Friends of Teilhard Society in New York.  Teilhard, we recall, was too radioactive in his philosophical works to be allowed by the church to be published in his lifetime, but rather than allow his life’s work to be forgotten altogether bequeathed it not to his Jesuit Order but to a lay woman who published it after his death.

One of the basic issues Teilhard dealt with was the dismal dualism that has so haunted Christian thought at least from St. Augustine onwards (and that was derived from Platonism).  Augustine, recall, declared that “spirit is whatever is not matter.”  Aquinas and Eckhart both disagreed with this dualism but so does Teilhard in a very big way.  He writes: “Matter and Spirit: These were no longer two things but two states or two aspects of one and the same cosmic Stuff, according to whether it was looked at or carried further in the direction in which it is becoming itself or in the direction in which it is disintegrating.  Matter is the Matrix of Spirit.  Spirit is the higher state of Matter.”[1]

We find this non-dualism and this flow of matter to spirit and spirit to matter taken for granted and running through all of Berry’s work.  It shows in his sensitivity and passion for beauty and for the “numinosity” that he so often recognizes in the habits of nature whether microcosmic or macrocosmic.  Berry puts poetry and substance into the new direction of a non-dualistic consciousness.  One that Teilhard struggled to lay out and that Aquinas and Eckhart before him also paid a price for preaching.  (Aquinas taught that spirit is the “élan” in everything including matter and that spirit was also our capacity for knowing all things and that body and soul were “con-substantial.”)

Another area where Teilhard and Berry connect is their passion for their work, their passion for announcing and defending the earth.  Teilhard writes that “to understand the world knowledge is not enough.  You must see it, touch it, live in its presence and drink the vital heat of existence in the very heart of reality.”[2] Seeing, touching, living, drinking the vital heat—those are metaphors for his own passionate love of the earth.   Anyone who knew Thomas or heard him speak also felt the passion in his work.  His was not an abstract or detached attitude of knowledge about.  It was a love affair, a passion, a vital heat rose in the room when he spoke.  This was wisdom, not just knowledge.  Thomas was a wisdom teacher not a knowledge teacher.  Wisdom includes both knowledge and heart, mind and passion.  And of course a call to creativity because wisdom is always present in creativity.  “A completely new type of creativity is needed,” Berry said.  “This creativity must have as its primary concern the survival of the earth in its functional integrity.”  Berry was a warrior on behalf of Mother Earth.  He was a Green Man in the fullest sense of that word

Teilhard does not dwell on the story of entropy in matter but waxes joyful about nature’s youthfulness and constant newness.  He writes: “Till the very end of time matter will always remain young, exuberant, sparkling, newborn for those who are willing.”[3] Here he calls on the attitude of the observer.  If you approach nature tired and cynical and pessimistic you may very well project that pessimism onto nature.  But “for those who are willing,” nature offers ample evidence of a bias in favor of youth, exuberance, sparkle and newness.  Those of us who knew Thomas Berry or heard him speak or read his works know which choice he made.  He was one “of the willing.”  His spirit, while never naïve, and always critical, was also profoundly hopeful.  He was renewed by his studies of nature.  Nature itself gave him a perspective on resiliency.  I once heard him respond to a student’s question of despair about the Bush presidency and Thomas responded: “Bush will not be president for ever.”  A perspective that kept his hope alive no doubt.  Anthropocentrism can be very debilitating.  It can suck life out of one’s spirit.  Attunement to nature’s ways often reignites life and renews it.  It did that for Teilhard and for Berry.

Thomas, like Teilhard, was very attuned to beauty.  The language of beauty permeates his work and his commitment to an aesthetic (not effete) awareness was visible to all who read his books or heard him speak.  He had a poetic flare in the very language he spoke or wrote in.  This parallels Teilhard’s teaching that “purity is not a debilitating separation from all created reality, but an impulse carrying one through all forms of created beauty.”[4] From that perspective, Berry sported the kind of purity that Teilhard championed—not a purity of distance and separation but a purity that awakened curiosity and interest and study of “all forms of created beauty.”  Berry had that sense of love of beauty; his hungry curiosity and undying search for beauty burned in his heart and mind.

Teilhard champions a “cosmic sense” when he says that “the cosmic sense must have been born as soon as humanity found itself facing the frost, the sea and the stars.  And since then we find evidence of it in all our experience of the great and unbounded: in art, in poetry, and in religion.”[5] Thomas’ life work, we might say, was to rekindle that cosmic sense that ought to be in art, poetry and religion.  Yes, and in education too.  The modern age cut us off from a cosmic sense when it declared the universe was a machine and when it set man up as the final arbiter of existence.  The beauty and aesthetic was drained from the universe and the earth itself by that world view.  No animals or plants housed souls according to Descartes.  But Berry, in the tradition of Teilhard but also in the tradition of Saint Paul (of whom a recent scholar has written that he held a “metacosmic” sense of the Christ[6]) and of Aquinas insisted that the cosmos itself needs to be accepted as “the primordial sacred community, the macrophase mode of every religious tradition, the context in which the divine reality is revealed to itself in that diversity which in a special manner is ‘the perfection of the universe.’”[7] To recover a sense of the sacred one recovers a sense of the cosmos, of a whole that we all serve.

Thomas is explicit in placing his vision in the lineage of the Cosmic Christ written of in John’s Gospel (Christ as the “light in all things”) and Paul and of Aquinas and Teilhard when he writes: “If Saint John and Saint Paul could think of the Christ form of the universe, if Aquinas could say that the whole universe together participates in the divine goodness more perfectly and represents it better than any single creature whatever, and if Teilhard could insist that the human gives to the entire cosmos its most sublime mode of being, then it should not be difficult to accept the universe itself as the primordial sacred community.”[8]

Of course our sense of the cosmos has been profoundly deepened by our awareness of evolution both on earth and in the universe.  Teilhard was explicit about the wonder and awe he underwent on studying evolution (what a far cry this is from silly fundamentalists who, because they do not value awe but stick to literalism miss the sacred dimensions of the evolution story).  Teilhard writes: “That magic word ‘evolution’ which haunted my thoughts like a tune: which was to me like unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered.”[9] Evolution became a vocation, a calling, for Teilhard.  A magical calling.  It was the same for Berry whose work is not an argument about evolution either for or against but a journey with evolution and its profound and meaningful gifts to our sense of the whole and our sense of the sacred.

Indeed, Berry goes further.  He believes that it will take a “shamanic personality, a type that is emerging once again in our society,” to bring about this deeper sense of the sacred.  Not philosophers, not priests, not prophets but shamans are needed.  “This intimacy with our genetic endowment and through this endowment with the larger cosmic process, is not primarily the role of the philosopher, priest, prophet or professor.  It is the role of the shamanic personality.”[10] Berry used to say that the two biggest failures of the twentieth century were education and religion.  Here he seems to be naming why they so failed.  Lacking a sense of intimacy with the cosmic process, neither priest nor professor is offering what the young need today.  The young need something greater than “our own rational contrivances.”  We need to become “sensitized to the spontaneities” of the “ultimate powers of the universe” and this “intimacy with our genetic endowment” is the work of shamans.  Maybe if we had shaman schools (instead of what Berry labeled present education-- “barbaric academia”) neither education nor religion would be failing us so profoundly.

The Call to Shamanhood

Shamanhood was an important category to Thomas Berry.  (He once told me that he considered me more of a shaman than a teacher or priest and only lately have I begun to explore the message he was transmitting to me by that observation.)  In a recent book of interviews and commentaries with the late poet William Everson, author Steven Herrmann talks at length about “The Shaman’s Call.”  In hearing his reflections I hear very much the echoes of Thomas Berry’s at-easeness with Shamanhood, his call for more shamanhood, and his recognition of the rise of shamanhood in our time.  Everson was a beat poet who became a Dorothy Day Catholic and a Dominican brother and later exited the order to “recover his aboriginal roots.”[11] He says he “took the figure of the shaman as the most direct route to a ‘recovery of nature.” Berry was always on the lookout for routes to a recovery of nature.

Part of the journey of the shaman as Everson understood it is through animism, “back into the instinctual, which is the basis of the archetypal.”[12] Berry too continually calls us back to our instincts.  Beyond the rational.  Writes Berry: “None of our existing cultures can deal with this situation out of its own resources.  We must invent, or reinvent, a sustainable human culture by a descent into our prerational, our instinctive, resources.  Our cultural resources have lost their integrity.  They cannot be trusted.”[13]

Shamanism was Everson’s path back to the unus mundus, or what Jung called the “one world” of unitary consciousness.  Trance-like techniques are employed by shamans through drumming and dancing and by poet-shamans through writing or speaking a poem aloud.  Trance is invoked.

The shaman often carries a wound but often this wound is that of the larger community itself.  “Shamans are, nevertheless, highly susceptible to psychic infections from their communities, because their wounds remain ‘open, susceptible to impression from the outside.”  Was not much of Berry’s strength shamanistic insofar as he was both carrying and then articulating the profound wound of the community—anthropocentrism, our being cut off from the earth and our deepest animal instincts, from the universe and the community with all beings?  This is the work of the shaman who “descends in trance, through wounds in the collective psychic structure, like a diving bird, to awaken images of healing for the race.”[14] Berry named the collective psychosis of our race: Our split from the rest of nature.

The shaman’s wound “is also the source of the poet’s greatest creativity, powers, ego-strength, and gift to the community.”[15] How much of Berry’s strength and perseverance in study and in telling his insight to the world was inspired by his wound which was also our wound?   Jung proposed that “the earth and psyche are not two, separate realities, but one ‘unitary world’ which he called the unus mundus.”  Surely this is Thomas Berry’s passion also—to move us all to a sense of the unus mundus, a new (and ancient?) marriage of earth and psyche that the modern consciousness in particular devastated to the point that, in Berry’s words, we are all “autistic” in our relationship to nature.  A shaman heals the community.  Berry did that.  He was more than a priest and more than a professor.  Eliade wrote that the shaman “is the great master of ecstasy.”  Berry did not just write of gloom and doom; he also indulged in memories of ecstasy.  He did not preach guilt so much as beauty, harmony and health.  He motivated others through a spirituality of blessing more than guilt.

I believe we might safely argue that Thomas Berry, not unlike Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Everson, was himself a shaman calling us to our collective shamanhood, that is to re-experience the ecstatic trance, the “numinous” relationship with the cosmos, that is our birthright and is also our way back to our own healing, our own instincts, our own ground precisely as Meister Eckhart uses that term to denote the Godhead, the “Source without a source” (Aquinas), the Mystery without a name that will never be given a name.

Thomas Berry, Moses and Hildegard

Speaking in general terms and using a biblical metaphor, I think Thomas stands up as a kind of new Moses leading all religious people, people of religious sensibilities and certainly Christians, out of a bondage of a land of anthropocentrism to a land of cosmology and ecology, a land flowing with milk and honey.  A land that promises to respond to the great needs of the great human heart.  He leads us out of the land of “autism” (his word) into a land of renewed communication with other beings and other species who are in fact very eager to communicate, to reveal themselves to us.  He leads us out of the land of “academic barbarism” (his words—which I love) to a land of educational responsibility where the power of knowledge is subsumed to the greater common good.  Where PhD’s instead of destroying the earth (his observation) are employing wisdom to save the earth and her beauty.  He leads us out of a land of psychologism where disenchantment, cynicism, trivia, inertia, violence, commercialism and what Thomas calls the “illusory world of advertising” reign, into a land of enchantment, beauty, wonder, intimacy become are our values—a place where caring matters.

He leads us out of the land of domestication to revelry of the sacred which always has something in common with the wild.  For example, he writes: “Wildness we might consider as the root of the authentic spontaneities of any being.  It is that wellspring of creativity whence comes the instinctive activates that enable all living beings to obtain their food, to find shelter, to bring forth their young: to sing and dance and fly through the air and swim through the depths of the sea.  This is the same inner tendency that evokes the insight of the poet, the skill of the artist and the power of the shaman.”  How beautifully Thomas marries the wild energy, the sacred energy of the more than human world with human creativity in that powerful passage.  Such a reminder that we are capable as a species of domesticating even Divinity Itself, making Divinity into our tidy images.  Thomas leads us out of the land of boredom to a sense of awe and with awe comes gratitude and with awe comes reverence--what Thomas calls a “sense of the numinous.”  In this way he is setting faith in the premodern context of the sacredness of all creation, of cosmology, of the more than human.

If a “new Moses” is too strong a term for some to name Thomas’ contribution, then surely we could settle on another term, “prophet.”  The primary work of the prophet as Rabbi Heschel teaches, is to “interfere.”  And Thomas is nothing if not a great interferer.  He is so subtle about it they haven’t caught up with him yet.  Prophets wake a sleeping people and Thomas does that.  Prophets cry in the wilderness and Thomas does that.  Prophets call people who are wallowing in injustice and neglect back to justice and Thomas does that.  He calls us to Eco-Justice which is the necessary context for all other justice struggles be they economic, racial, gender or class.  He calls us as the prophets of old did to the Great Work and thus to leave trivial work behind.  He calls us to reach for the Ecozoic Age and indeed, in his thoroughly challenging phrase, to “reinvent our species.”

In trying to assess Thomas’ contribution to western spirituality, I believe we are assisted by his own work.  In a brief essay on Hildegard of Bingen he wrote this about western spirituality: “Thus far Christians have been so concerned with redemption out of this world, so attached to their spiritual life development or their social mission of reconciliation that they have had little time for their serious attention to the earth.  Nor do Christians seem to be aware of the futility of social transformations proceeding on an historical-industrial rather than on a comprehensive ecological basis….We find relatively few Christian guides in the past to enlighten or to inspire us to a more functional relationship between the human and the natural worlds.”[16] But then Thomas offers three examples of the past:  Benedict offered an agrarian model, he being the father of course of western monasticism; Francis of Assisi offered a model based on the universal community of creatures; Hildegard is a third model with her sense of the earth as “a region of delight, we might almost say of pagan delight” which she has found from within her own experience and in a “unique model of Christian communion.” Hildegard writes: “The entire world has been embraced by this kiss [of God and creation].” Thomas adds: “Because of this erotic bond, the earth becomes luxuriant in its every aspect.”[17] I propose that Thomas enfolds Benedict’s agrarian model, Francis’ community model and Hildegard’s erotic model into his work.

Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Berry

I see in Thomas Berry’s work a fourth model which I would call the cosmic scientific model and I think the precursor of this model is in fact Thomas’ own namesake whom he quotes so often, St. Thomas Aquinas of the 13th century who was condemned three times by the church before they canonized him a saint.  Like Thomas Berry, Aquinas had the imagination, the scientific curiosity and the courage to propose a whole new direction for Christian theology in his day and the direction was that of incorporating science and of course the breakthrough science of Aquinas' day was Aristotle, a pagan, who came to Europe by way of Islam.  Aristotle came double-tainted into Christianity and this is why Aquinas was condemned three times because he was working overtime with those who were more than Christian.

Some of Aquinas' observations follow. “Faith comes in two volumes: Nature and the Bible.”[18] We all know Thomas Berry’s notorious remark that he has repeated more than once—that we should “put the Bible on a shelf for twenty years.”  This is simply a logical conclusion that we have been overdoing the book-bit in the name of revelation at least since the invention of the printing press.  Why is it that by now EVERY seminary, every school that pretends to be training spiritual leaders, does not have scientists on its faculty telling us the revelation of nature, its mysticism and the ethics to be derived from that as well as biblical theologians?  We must find the balance anew between the revelation of nature and the revelation of the Bible.

In fact in the Bible there is a whole tradition, the wisdom tradition, scholars now agree was the tradition of the historic Jesus which is total nature mysticism.  One prevalent teaching of scholars today is that Jesus as a child, being considered illegitimate, was excluded from the synagogue so he went out and played in nature while others were meeting to pray indoors and that radicalized him.  It comes through in all of his parables and all of his teaching which are all nature based.  Wisdom literature is not based on reading books.  Jesus was illiterate like most of his country people.

Another connection between Aquinas and Berry—Berry is of course carrying this in all new directions-- is Aquinas' observation that “every human person is capax universi (capable of the universe).”  That’s who we are as a species.  That’s how big we are and neither our souls nor our hearts nor our minds will be satisfied and therefore relieved of temptations to greed and power until they are reset in the context of cosmology and the universe itself.  In this regard the exciting teachings of the universe story in our time that emerges from the work of Thomas and Brian Swimme in recovering a universe story fulfills Aquinas’ observation.

Consider for example the great Otto Rank, the father of humanistic psychology who broke with Freud over many issues.  Rank came to the conclusion that the number one problem for human beings is the feeling of separation that begins with leaving the womb which was our universe for nine months and the rest of life is about trying to find a reunion with the cosmos.  He says: “We surrender ourselves in art or love to a potential restoration with the union of the cosmos which once existed and was then lost.”  He talks about “original wound” (much better than “original sin”) that haunts our species.  This is that wound: That we feel separated from the cosmos.  He says the only solution is the Unio Mystica, being one with the all, in tune with the cosmos.  And indigenous people all know about this.  Rank said: “This identification is an echo of an original identity not only merely of child and mother but of everything living.  Witness the reverence of the primitives for animals.  In humans identification aims at reestablishing a lost identity with the cosmic process that has to be surrendered and continuously reestablished in the course of self-development.”[19] Thomas Berry's work is a profound work of human healing because it restores that lost identify and relationship and passion between the human and the cosmos.

Gaston Bachelard, the late twentieth century French philosopher, comments on what happens when cosmos and psyche reconnect.  In the Poetics of Space he talks of the holy trinity of Immensity, Intensity and Intimacy.  When you have an experience of Immensity—in Thomas’ words, an experience of the cosmos, or relationship to it, it is an intense experience.  All awe is both an intense and intimate experience.  Humans cannot separate the immense, intense and intimate experience and Thomas Berry by leading us into a cosmic awareness again, an awareness as important for our hearts as for our minds, is bathing us anew in Immensity, Intensity and Intimacy far beyond any mere anthropocentric relationship could ever do for us.

Bachelard declares that “grandeur progresses in the world in proportion to the deepening of intimacy…a primal value.” We have to take back immensity as a primal intimate value where “we are no longer shut up in the weight of the prison of our own beings.”  The new cosmology helps us to do this and so do solitude and meditation.  I honor Thomas and Aquinas and others who are helping us to name the vastness of our souls.  Ernest Holmes put it this way:  “Spirituality is a word that is often misused.”  (He said this 100 years ago!)  “From our viewpoint, spirituality is one’s recognition of the universe as a living presence of the good, truth, beauty, peace, power and love.”  Holmes recognizes that spirituality is not spirituality if it is psychologized—if it is not about the universe.  Holmes was right and Thomas Berry is right.

Thomas Berry carries us into diversity as well.  Many western philosophers have fought over the issue of the one vs. the many but neither Aquinas nor Thomas Berry is the least bit in doubt about the resolution.  Many times I’ve heard Berry quote Aquinas on exactly this issue of the wealth of diversity.  Berry calls the universe the primary artist.  “In every phase of our imaginative, aesthetic, and emotional lives we are profoundly dependent on this larger context of the surrounding world.” The tragedy of the ecological crisis is a soul crisis because we have been gifted with so much.  Aquinas says: “Because the divine goodness could not be adequately expressed by one creature alone, God has produced many and diverse creatures so what is wanting in one in the representation of divine goodness might be supplied by another. Thus the whole universe together participates in the divine goodness ….”[20] So the celebration of diversity is honored in both Aquinas and Berry’s thinking.

The sense of cosmology, looking at the whole and not the part, is intrinsic to all post-modern thinking but also to all premodern thinking including Aquinas and indigenous people   This is how Aquinas put it: “Divinity is better represented by the whole universe than by any single thing….Not only are individual creatures images of God but so too is the whole cosmos.”[21] How many theologians or preachers have you ever heard say that—that the cosmos is an image of God?  Thomas Berry says it.  Berry talks about the “grand liturgy of the universe”—an image of the universe itself as a ritual—and he calls us to participate in this cosmic ritual.[22]

Aquinas says that “there is beauty in the very diversity”[23] that we find in the cosmos.  In addition, he sees the universe itself as a mirror of Divinity when he observes: “God has produced a work in which the divine likeness is clearly reflected: I mean by this the world itself.”[24] The world itself is a mirror of the Sacred, a mirror of Divinity, a face of God, a Christ, a Buddha, Shekinah, the Goddess—call it what you will—all that is renamed in Thomas Berry’s contribution and in his celebration of beauty and diversity.

Another dimension to Berry’s work that is pushed in Aquinas is that of asking the question: What is the human’s role in all this?  Why are we here?  Aquinas says: “God wills that humans exist for the sake of the perfection of the universe.”  By ‘perfection’ he means bringing to completion the tasks of the universe.  Like Thomas Berry he is setting us in an ethical context of carrying on the Universe’s work.  As Aquinas very bluntly puts it: “It is false to say that humanity is the most excellent being in the universe.  The most excellent being in the universe is the universe itself.”  And he says “we bless God by recognizing the divine goodness.”[25] If I were to pick one line for Thomas Berry’s epitaph it would be that.  Thomas taught us to see with new eyes (old new eyes?) the divine goodness, to see the beauty within all systems—eco, cosmic, fireball, relationship of microcosm (atoms) to macrocosm.  He reseeds the goodness or blessing that is inherent in all of being.  He calls us to our “Great Work.”

It’s interesting that many traditions of the world propose that the consequence of seeing the world cosmically and seeing it in a context of goodness is right behavior.  Without this consciousness we are short on right behavior.  For example, Black Elk says: “The human heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye. This is the Eye of the Great Spirit….”  Thus  our cosmology becomes our ethics.  Black Elk continues: “The first peace—which is the most important peace—is that which comes in the souls of people when they realize their oneness with all its powers….”  Thomas Berry draws us to this very teaching, that at the center of all hearts lies the center of the universe and Wanka Tanka the Holy One.  If Black Elk is correct, then Thomas is an ethical teacher showing us the way to recover our peacefulness and ways of reconnecting to the powers of the universe itself.

Still another dimension to Thomas Berry’s work is intimacy, a common word throughout his work.  Aquinas put intimacy this way: “God is in all things in the most intimate way.  Insofar as a thing has existence it is like God.”[26] This is what Black Elk is saying: Wankan Tanka is within all things; Hildegard said “no creature lacks an intimate life.”  So our questing for intimacy is responded to by the yearning for intimacy from other beings of the universe and this planet.  We have a right to intimacy and things are set up biased in favor of intimacy.  An anthropocentric consciousness is not capable of providing intimacy and this is why television is run over with soap operas—an infinite amount, unending number, of pseudo-love shows that are destined not to satisfy.  Intimacy is found in a more than human context and we are invited to participate.

Another dimension to Berry’s work that carries us to the next century is his profound study of deep ecumenism which embraces the wisdom of all our religious traditions and of science itself.  He brings together what has been rent asunder in the 17th century, science’s wisdom and the potential wisdom of religion.  We see in Thomas the yoga of study itself.  By his life style Thomas reminds us of something that our educational system has practically forgotten and that is that learning itself is prayer.  Learning itself can be a spiritual practice. The pursuit of truth is a spiritual act, a meditation.  The rabbis of old knew this—studying Torah is prayer.  Aquinas knew that—his study was his prayer.  Our secularization of education has sucked out of us the joy and commitment and thrill and yoga that study is.  The excitement and spiritual experience of learning is so often left behind.  Whether you study languages, mathematics, science, if you bring your heart to it, it is a spiritual discipline.  We thank Thomas for that as well as Aquinas.

And finally, Thomas Berry is a true elder to the young—so important in our time.  The young are yearning for elders and there are so few.  What can you say of the captains of industry, the Enrons, the Andersons, the Talibans, the World Coms, the Vaticans in this moment of history? They all suffer from a terminal disease called Patriarchal Excess and from Adultism.  They want to use the youth but are not there to awaken the stories of the youth.  And Thomas Berry has been inspiring youth for years.  The real work of the elder is to pass on stories that motivate the young to be generous and alive and use their god-given gifts to effect history so that history will not be the nightmare that Walcott named it but will be closer to that “love of the world” that it can become.  Thomas Berry has done this for so many individuals.  Recently I received a letter from a 22 year old Jesuit novice who told me this story: He read my work and found Thomas Berry that way and decided to take a Greyhound bus down to North Carolina to spend a day with Thomas.  “Now I know what I have to do with the rest of my life and what my generation has to do,” he wrote me.  That is eldership.  That is the kind of effect Thomas’ being and work have had on countless people and will have.  I visited Earth Haven in North Carolina, an off the grid community, drawing very bright people to commit their lives to what is sustainable.  This is the monastery of the twenty first century.  To get to the 22nd century there will be people this generous and this alive to truly alter our ways of living on this earth.  They are beholden to Thomas Berry and his work and Tom has visited them.

These are just two examples of Thomas Berry as elder.  In effecting the relationship of young and old he is challenging everyone to grow into our role as elders and to reject our culture’s heresy of ‘retirement’ as finding the nearest golf course and squatting there until they bury you.  Instead, start investing your time, wisdom, imagination and excess money if you have some into those movements that can make us sustainable and carry our species into a 22nd century that will be more honorable.

If human history survives and our species survives into the 22nd century, I believe that history will record that among us a certain prophet rose in the latter part of the 20th century imbued with the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, the intellect of Aquinas, the eros of Hildegard, the humility of Francis, the science of Einstein, and the courage and imagination of Jesus.  His name was Thomas Berry.  We will remember him by carrying on his vision, by building institutions and movements and infiltrating all of our professions from education to politics to business to worship with his many and sustainable visions.

[1] Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), 26f.

[2] Ibid., 71.

[3] Ibid..

[4] A letter written in 1920.  See Robert Speaight, The Life of Teilhard de Chardin (NY: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 109.

[5] Teilhard de Chardin, “Sketch of a Personalistic Universe,” (1936), p. 82.

[6] Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography, (NY: Doubleday, 2004), p. 249.

[7] Thomas Berry, “The Earth: A New Context for Religious Unity,” in Anne Lonergan and Caroline Richards, ed., Thomas Berry and the New Cosmology, (Mystic, Ct: Twenty-Third Publications, 1987), 38.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter,p. 25.

[10] Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988), 211.

[11] Steven Herrmann, William Everson: The Shaman’s Call: Interviews, Introduction, and Commentaries (NY: Eloquent Books, 2009), 150.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Berry, Dream of the Earth, 207f.

[14] Herrmann,, William Everson: The Shaman’s Call., 162f.

[15] Ibid., 155.

[16] Thomas Berry, “Foreward,” in Gabriele Uhlein, Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen (Santa Fe: Bear & Co., 1983), 14.

[17] Ibid.

[18] See Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality (NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2003), 57.

[19] See Matthew Fox, “Otto Rank as Mystic and Prophet in the Creation Spirituality Tradition,” in www.matthewfox.com, “recent articles.”

[20] Fox, Sheer Joy., 97.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Berry, The Dream of the Earth, 215.

[23] Fox, Sheer Joy., 97.

[24] Ibid., 89.

[25] Ibid., 95.

[26] Ibid., 87.