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.

"Catholic Boy Blues" - A Breakout Book

CatholicBoyBlues Just last month, Greystone Press released an eloquent testament to the shattering impact of childhood sexual abuse, and the power of truth-speaking in the healing process, in Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing by Norbert Krapf, past Indiana Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize nominee, emeritus prof. of English at Long Island University, and author of twenty-five critically acclaimed books. In his Introduction, Matthew Fox speaks to the depth of Krapf's message:

"The late poet Derrick Walcott, in accepting the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1992, declared that “the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.” This powerful statement reminds us of the darkness that so much history contains—the wars, the injustices, the mistakes, the crimes, the malfeasance, the lies. History tempts us to give up on life. Poetry (and other art forms) are that gift from the gods that allows us to endure, to heal and to thrive in spite of history.

Lately, first in the Roman Catholic Church, and now in the football hierarchy of Penn State University, one shadow side of history, the rape and abuse of children and the cover up by powers that be, has been making headlines and telling us things about ourselves and our institutions that we prefer not to hear. Denial reigns. Adultism rules when institutional ego and reputation take precedence over the safety of children whether that institution is a university or a church. In this book, from an acclaimed poet laureate, we hear the truth that burns through denial and we pray once again that the truth will.

After armies of lawyers and (somewhat) contrite bishops and football coaches and in-denial popes there cometh the poet. A poet-victim to tell the truth, sing the truth, speak the truth, gather the truth with facts and heart and the only weapons victims have ever possessed—the truth-telling that alone leads toredemption, prevention, healing and ultimately compassion and forgiveness.

These poems tell what a steep price the soul pays for childhood abuse. How many years (over fifty in the present poet’s life) of keeping the secret; how much damage was done in his and other families, he keeps asking. What a price a community pays as well. A close-knit German Catholic community no less. Former Pope Benedict XVI would do well to take a retreat immediately with these poems in hand and read and pray these poems and then tell the world why his all-powerful office of the Holy Inquisition, responsible for wayward clergy, did not end child abuse by priests, some of whom, such as the infamous Father Maciel, were so highly favored by his boss, Pope John Paul II, who is getting canonized. And, while he is at it, let Cardinal Ratzinger (retired Pope Benedict XVI) tell the world why his office kept the lights on late at night to beat upon holy and hard-working theologians but kept mum on perverse pedophile priests.

In these poems the poet speaks the truth not just about the facts but also about the feelings. The stories. The broken lives. The betrayals. The many others also abused. The hypocrisy. The religious hypocrisy. The spiritual hypocrisy. The losses. The anger. The sadness. The grief. The distance traveled from religion, from church, from oneself.

The probing here of the depth of passion and loss (what the mystics call the “Via Negativa”) is profound. And universal. All grief speaks this way. All grief is angry and wild, sad and sorry, mute and silent, even secret. But not for ever. Breakthrough is so needed. Breakout is so important. This book is a breakout book. The truth must be spoken (not just adjudicated, not just financially reimbursed through fines in civil court). This is why Walt Whitman can say “the true Son of God comes singing his song.” The Jesus story reminds all men and women that the truer we be sons and daughters of God, the surer we will be crucified. Innocent boys, like the innocent Christ, wanted only to love life and explore it fully and, with an overly naïve and trusting parish community and sister and parents, were befuddled by the adult lies, the religious lies going on. They are, sadly, still going on. The church is not reforming or even trying to reform itself. Quite the opposite, it has slid (and even rushed) backward into a defensive mode again of superiority “beyond which there is no salvation,” a mode of authoritarianism that condemns the whistle blower, the prophet, the thinker as trouble-maker. The church is what it is, unfortunately.

But the poems live. They are organic and truthful. They speak the truth more loudly than sermons and rituals and papal bulls; more appropriately than fancy colored vestments and rote readings from holy books. They reach to the soul, to the heart, to the Spirit. They bear the mark of authentic preaching of salvation and of a living Christ of compassion...."

See the full introduction, and experience the depth of Norbert Krapf's passionate poetry, in Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing. See the growing number of rave reviews here.

Lorna Byrne and Unemployed Angels

Matthew Fox writes of his experience celebrating a Cosmic Mass of the Angels and later conversing with angelologist Lorna Byrne.... An Encounter with a Very Special Woman

Lately I have been reading, or better re-reading, the classic work The Psychology of Consciousness by Robert Ornstein and his more recent study The Evolution of Consciousness. Also Peter Russell's book, From Science to God: A Physicist's Journey into the Mystery of Consciousness. I have been doing this in prep for a sit-down with Rupert Sheldrake, the brilliant though heretical (among science's priestly establishment) British biologist as we are working on a book together on Spirituality and Consciousness.

But also I had the privilege the past week to spend several hours with Lorna Byrne, some in private conversation, some in the public setting of the Celebration of a Cosmic Mass of the Angels held at Sofia University in Palo Alto, and several rich hours interviewing Lorna before a very attentive and diverse gathering of many hundreds of persons at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. That interview was filmed and will shortly be made available on a DVD from my non-profit, Friends of Creation Spirituality.

Lorna Byrne challenges all of us who seek a saving and expanded consciousness to grow our minds and hearts and souls.

Lorna, for those who do not know her, is a person who any scientist serious about studying our potential as a species should be studying. Lorna is an Irish peasant woman, a woman of the sod who with her now deceased husband Joe raised four children on a very poor plot of land in rural Ireland. Lorna is illiterate having been dyslexic her entire life and pretty much shunned by the ordinary educational establishment during her growing up years. She is a grandmother and a widow, her beloved husband having died about six years ago. Her sense of humor, her grace, her normalcy, her struggles as a mother (her family was so poor they often had neither gifts nor food for Christmas) and wife (Joe was frequently ill and unable to work), all point to an every-day woman with feet very much on the earth. She talks of foraging for carrots and potatoes in the Irish sod to feed her children on a regular basis.

Lorna also has been visited by angels since she was a child. Her very first memory dates to the age of two when she was looking up to see her parents and she saw their guardian angels behind them. She regularly sees guardian angels and many other angels and wonders how strange it is that so few others do not have these experiences. Since she was given permission six years ago by the angels to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and to come out of the closet with her angel visitations she has dictated three books which have become best sellers and been translated into twenty-six languages, including Angels in My Hair; Stairways to Heaven; and A Message of Hope from the Angels.

At our Cosmic Mass Lorna informed me as we were preparing to open the doors for the attendees to arrive that the place was already packed with angels. At the Grace Cathedral interview I began by asking her if she observed angels in the place: “Oh, yes,” she said. There were multitudes of them, many still streaming in through the doors and one taller than the main door at the entrance (which must be at least thirty feet high in the vast Gothic Cathedral where we gathered after an introduction from Episcopal Bishop Mark Andrus).

She described what many of them were wearing and she talked of “many unemployed angels.” “What is an unemployed angel?” I asked, “I know many persons who are unemployed today, but angels?” She replied: “God is pouring lots and lots of angels onto earth these days to assist us humans but many are unemployed—people are ignoring them and not asking them for help.”

Lorna not only asks angels for help on a regular basis and by offering personal blessings to people who come to hear her speak or be interviewed but the angels apparently ask her for help as well. When she was ten years old angel Michael told her she would one day write a famous book. She simply laughed since she could neither read nor write nor imagine being a writer. But Michael was right. She is spreading the word from the angels.

And what is that word? It is to “wake up” she tells us. To get over religious rivalries and wars and nonsense about “ours is the only way to God.” She has visited mosques and seen angels there accompanying Mosque attendees in their prayer and worship and the guardian angels of Muslims with them; she has attended synagogues and seen angels with the attendees there; Buddhists; Hindus; Christians and, indigenous peoples and Yes! Atheists too. Angels precede all the faith traditions. They are bound to none. We should move beyond denominationalism just as they do. Respect the traditions but also move beyond them.

Lorna and the angels are well aware of the danger our species is in today from war and violence and hatred and envy and of course how we are endangering the beauty and health of the planet as we know it for generations to come. This is why her message is about Waking Up. She tells us that while not judging us, since angels' love is “unconditional,” angels nevertheless are disappointed that humans have not evolved further and faster than we have. Our spirituality and our wisdom falls far short of our needs. While conscious of evil and able to name it (she does use the term “Satan” but on her own terms and is open to other language about evil), she does not like to speak about it because she feels evil already steals the headlines and it getting so much of the attention of the press—which is what it seeks before all else. What better way to depress humanity so that it does not stand up for its own beauty and God-like-ness than to give evil all the attention?

Lorna sees souls of persons and the image she encounters for the human soul is that of a spark. “Our soul is like a piece of thread in my skirt,” she says, “a thread of God.” The soul is an alive and wondrous spark. I could not help to make the connection with the great fourteenth century mystic, Meister Eckhart, who talks often about the “spark of the soul” (ancilla animae) that is the “uncreated” apex of the soul where we birth God and where the Holy Spirit is at work. Eckhart credits the Muslim philosopher Avicenna many times for this naming of the spark and the soul. Rumi and other Sufi poets celebrate the soul as spark as does the Jewish mystical work, the Kaballah.

But Lorna has not read Eckhart or Rumi or Avicenna or the Kaballah. She has simply been opening her eyes and found the same phenomenon. This spark she assures us “is eternal”, it does not go out (Eckhart said the same). We do live forever and its beauty she tells us is beyond words. Also, angels do not have souls—they are pure spirits. Only humans have this wondrous likeness to God that shines incessantly.

Psychologists stumble over the term “soul” (even though the etymological meaning of their science is the study of the soul) and Lorna's image and naming may assist them. Look for the spark. Dust it off. Let it flourish and burn fully.

Lorna often sees the energy fields, the colors, the heat and waves emitted from flowers and trees as well as rocks—when I asked her about this she pointed to the large pillars in the Gothic Cathedral where we gathered—“I see now the colors and heat emanating from these,” she said. It is one thing for scientists to tell us this is what is happening; it is still another to know that some of us are already seeing it on a daily basis.

Lorna teaches a familiar teaching that the primary work of our guardian angels is to “take us home” at death and she has been present for a number of such journeys from this world to another.

Lorna speaks of the Angel of America and that America, while falling short of its pronounced values in so many ways, has a unique and important role to play in the new spirituality. This because Americans are a creative people and because in America there is more interfaith and interspirituality going on than in any nation on earth.

Lorna says she no longer identifies as “Roman Catholic” but simply as “Catholic” but that even that is within the wide scope of the spirit trying to break through in all the world's religions and in atheism also. In her book, Angels in My Hair, she writes: “When a prayer comes from the depths of our being it is incredibly powerful, and a person's religion or creed doesn't come into it: God hears the prayers of all this children equally.” (156) She also pointed that prayer is extremely powerful and we never pray alone—angels are always there.

I asked her about worship and the presence of angels and she told of seeing during our Cosmic Mass what was like “an upside down waterfall” carrying energy up and down from the altar. I remarked how like Hildegard this was who spoke of seeing a “golden river” flowing up and down from the altar (she also painted a picture about it) and Lorna was excited to hear that “golden river” language from Hildegard. Lorna pointed out that many angels were genuflecting about us as we sat together at the altar sanctuary at Grace Cathedral.

Lorna has seen visions of our possible future as a species. Most of them are very positive such as the day coming when all parents will see the guardian angels of their children (might that help to still child abuse of many kinds?) and teachers seeing the guardian angels of their students (might that make for an awakened classroom?). But she has also seen images of an apocalypse which is also possible if humans refuse to wake up.

Robert Ornstein, in his book on The Evolution of Consciousness, makes the point that our brains have evolved over the eons in order that our minds can “mesh with the world.” But that his ancestral arrangement of adaptations works when the world is stable. But today “the world we adapted to is now gone” with the result that “our ancestral adaptations conflict with the needs of the modern world.” We find ourselves “overprepared” for such needs as the sexual, but “we have no basis for understanding a world of billions of people” and how our actions are causing holes in the ozone and climate change. We have undergone biological and neural and cultural evolutions but now we “need to begin a process of conscious evolution. We find unexpected allies in this arena, in modern spirituality and modern science.” (pp. 11f) Yes, and in persons like Lorna Byrne who is speaking in her way of our future evolution and undertaking it with angels at our side.

It is one thing to have written about angels as Rupert Sheldrake and I have in our book, The Physics of Angels, in which we drew on the teachings of three masters, Dennis the Aereapogyite, Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas. It is another thing to have experienced angels (which I and many people I know have done)--but to experience them on a regular basis as Lorna does? This is a phenomenon worthy of our attention.

I told Lorna near the end of our interview at Grace Cathedral that I was going to go “out on a limb” and say what I was being prompted to say: That just as a simple woman of the sod of Israel, Mary or Miriam, who was also illiterate, heard from an angel about 2000 years ago that she was to conceive a special son, so too Laura has come in our time to announce good tidings that our species needs to hear: That is that our powers of consciousness and expansion and intuition our being woefully underutilized—we are capable of working with the angels and it is surely time.

Thomas Aquinas teaches that angels learn only through intuition. It follows that when we give the intuition its due once again we may find ourselves on a highway of hitchhiking and possibly unemployed angels who are eager for a ride. A ride where humans can take the drive of their lives—not into folly but into joy and justice, celebration and compassion. A journey into wisdom. Is that too much to ask? Ask the angels.

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

Pope Francis: A Breath of Fresh Air?

The following article was written by Matthew Fox for TIKKUN Magazine and published there, December 8, 2013. I recently wrote a book on Pope Francis, or better a book to him, entitled Letters to Pope Francis. The book was released in Italian on Thanksgiving Day. In it I challenge him to live up to his purposefully chosen namesake and warned that people would hold his feet to the fire because no other pope had ever taken up that name, icon that it is, and that most people do know what St Francis of Assisi stood for: Ecology and non-chauvinistic relationships to the plant and animal worlds; a preferential option for the poor; and (this may be slightly less acknowledged) an admirable and almost startling balance of gender justice and consciousness. In his celebrated poem, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” he moves back and forth, back and forth, between masculine and feminine names for the sacred.

People who care about such matters recognize fresh consciousness in the pope's refusal to move into the palatial headquarters known as the papal apartments; in his refusal to drive in limousines and his call for bishops and cardinals to follow suit; his trips to embrace embattled refugees on islands off southern Italy; his visits to favelas or slums in Rio de Janeiro as well as his work in the same in Argentina over the years.

These actions, plus his strong words denouncing the “idols” and “gods” of the marketplace together seem to be framing a story of a different kind of pope and papacy from anything we have had since Pope John Paul I, who was (most probably) murdered after thirty-one days in the office some thirty-four years ago. It raises hopes in the minds and hearts of activists and progressive Catholics, many of whom have left the church behind but still recognize its potential power as a source for good in many parts of the world.

Theologically, Pope Francis is speaking the radical language of Vatican II abandoned by his two predecessors: that the church is NOT the hierarchy but “the people” whose “sensus fidelium” actually matters. The effort to poll parishioners about such subjects as birth control, abortion, women's rights and homosexual unions is a first, though quite lame effort, as the survey was unprofessionally done, asking for essay answers and not direct answers. In many cases it has been ignored by the bishops, who are simply filling in the blanks according to their own theological whims.

One sign that Pope Francis is being heard is the steam emerging from people who do not want to hear about justice, economic equality or church as people of God. (Rush Limbaugh, for example, had lots to complain about and did so loudly regarding the pope's recent take on Wall Street, calling the pope's words “pure Marxism.”)

But right-wing Catholic nay-sayers are caught in something of a trap. It will be interesting to see how they emerge and this includes stalwart power brokers like the four right wing Catholics on the Supreme Court, all of whom voted for “Citizens United”--Scalia, Thomas, Alioto and John Roberts. Throw in Kennedy, another Catholic though not so extreme right (for his scandalous vote in favor of Citizens United). Then there is Newt Gingrich, a new convert to Catholicism (under pope Ratzinger); aspiring presidential candidate Paul Ryan (whose philosophy owes much more to atheist Ayn Rand than to the Gospels or papal pronouncements but who still claims to be a stalwart Catholic); Rick Santorum; John Boehmer.

How these politicians dance around this pope's pronouncements on economic justice will be a spectacle that deserves watching. Recall how the Catholic bishops under Pope John Paul II were instructed not to give communion to Catholic politicians who advocate for the right to abortion and how this cost Kerry the election in 2004. Will the same threats obtain for Catholic politicians who deny rights of the poor? And who are shills for the interests of the “deified market” (the pope's words) and “a “new tyranny” (the pope's words) of current day capitalism? Stay tuned.

The pope has essentially told the shrill right wing Catholics who received such support under the previous two popes, to chill out and to cease reducing theology to “a condom” or a set of rules, and to get moving on social and economic justice. There are currently Catholic writers who have made a living denouncing social justice such as George Weigel and it will be interesting to watch them squirm also with this new pope. Weigel is famous for complaining about Catholics who take some of the teachings of the church and leave others out. He did the same with: 1) the war in Iraq --he was and is a committed neocon who has never apologized for getting us into Iraq, despite both of the popes he so admires being against it; and 2) economic alternatives to Wall Street rape of Main Street, i.e, consumer capitalism.

Yet he constantly trumps his version of Catholicism, which is really papalism, as the only way. “The truth of what is taught by the pope and the college of bishops is not a matter for debate” he tells us in his most recent (and scariest) book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church (page 61). Will he continue to invoke papalism after reading what this pope is preaching?

How is it then that Weigel supported the invasion of Iraq when two popes opposed it? Why did he run from papal teachings on distributive justice? And from their teachings on the death penalty? When it comes to seminary training, Weigel says it should begin with the Catechism and only then move into Biblical studies which “should build upon this solid foundation so that each candidate has a deep understanding of what the Church teaches—and why.” He says this is the way one learns to think “with the Church” as if the Church is the maker of catechisms—not the people of the world or the carrier of Sacred Scripture. (By the way, the great idea for a catechism came from none other than the pedophile champion, Cardinal Law, as I make clear in my book, The Pope's War.) Yes, we will soon learn what really constitutes the theology of our hard right Catholic propagandists, and I suspect that for many if not all of them Wall Street will trump the Vatican.

But beyond the Catholics squirming in and out of political office, there are the larger issues that the pope is addressing to the capitalistic system itself at this time of history.

Being the first pope from what we call “the third world,” Pope Francis can be expected to understand the tides of history and of economic oppression differently from being the recipient of years of abuse than from being the source of it. I end my letters to the pope suggesting that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together, hitting most continents to speak to the “Revolution in Values” that our times call for. This is not because change comes primarily from the top down, but because a few at the top (whom the media will be almost required to report about) can, by speaking out together, put wind in the sails of those millions and indeed billions who pray for and/or work for a saner world. Together they could speak to the obvious and real moral issues of our day:

  • economic inequality based on a system of avarice not only at the top but in the consumer bottom and middle;
  • gender injustice (something the Catholic Church has to address internally as well);
  • ecological destruction;
  • unemployment, especially among the young;
  • the pressing need for religious and spiritual interfaith or deep ecumenism;
  • the necessary and desired marriage of science and spirituality (as opposed to silly fundamentalism either by religion or by science).

The young could be deeply inspired by such a road show and I have no doubt that the two principals would themselves learn from one another. This pope has displayed a refreshing humility and eagerness to learn from other religious leaders as in his book of dialogs with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina (who is also a PhD in science). It is a fine book and they got together over a two year period to produce it.

Teachings of Pope Francis that stand out include some of the following.

1. A walking of his talk of simpler lifestyle. Pope Francis was well known in Argentina for taking public transportation to work and refusing any limousine-like service, which so many prelates take for granted. He has done the same in his new position as pope, where he chooses not to live in the papal apartments but in a far more modest guest house or hotel in the Vatican (might he give over the apartments to Rome's homeless?). He drives a Ford Focus in Vatican city. He has also drawn some press recently for sneaking out at night from the Vatican in the simple priestly garb of black suit and color and hanging out with homeless in the streets of Rome. One senses he is trying to walk the talk and follow his own preaching about simplification. And he is putting pressure on other prelates to do the same.

2. As for his talk, he tends to mince no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today. He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist...it is not human. In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.” (Fox, Letters to Pope Francis, 24; subsequent citations are from the same) Is globalization enslaving the nations? Serious words worthy of a serious discussion.

3. He says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor” and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.”

4. He praises St Francis because “he brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”

5. He takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” How important is that? To equate economic structures with terrorism? Yes, Wall Street terrorizes. Ask any Main Street citizen.

6. He denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth. He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good.

7. Pope Francis has said: “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And he remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the church on the needs of the poor, he would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyte.” (119)

8. He critiques clericalism as a “distortion of religion” and says priests should not declare “I am the boss here” but listen to the community. “The Catholic Church is the entire people of God,” he declares, a la Vatican II—not words the previous two popes were at all home with. (85)

9. “Human rights are violated by...unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” (71)

10. On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of young people in jail, including the feet of some women, one of them being Muslim. It is a custom to do this ritual after the memory of Jesus who also did it—but the Catholic right wing is up in arms about his daring to wash women's feet, and those of a Muslim woman!

11. He endorses the concept of small communities over what he calls “hierarchical mega-institutions” because these better “nurture their own spirituality” and after all the “origin of Christianity was 'parochial and later organized into small communities.” (94)

12. “Repair my church in ruins” he said on taking over the office of the papacy. He seems to get it. The schismatic church of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) has left a Catholicism which the young have abandoned en masse. They left a church in ruins run by fascist leaning Opus Dei cardinals and bishops all over the world. One Catholic paper in India declared “there is a civil war in the church.” I for one do not believe this pope or any pope could return Catholicism to its previous state—or should. As I concluded in my book, The Pope's War, I see in the destruction of the Catholic Church as we know it the work of the Holy Spirit. It is time to simplify the message and the presence of those who follow a Christ path. It is time to travel with backpacks on our backs, not basilicas. The pope's work will not bring Catholics “back to the church” but hopefully it will inspire Christians and non-Christians alike to consider the basic teachings of Jesus around compassion and justice and start acting accordingly.

13. Says Pope Francis: “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.” We need, he says, a “balanced social order that is more humane” and that resists consumerism. “Money has to serve and not rule.” It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.

14. Says the pope: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Structures can “give us a false sense of security” and “rules makes us harsh judges...while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “give them something to eat.'” He wants to decentralize the church for “excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

15. Unfettered capitalism is a “new tyranny” “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which 'King Money' is at the center.” This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people.....A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.” A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry (125f) and interestingly he chose a parallel phrase, the “Joy of the Gospel” for the title of his most recent pronouncement.

In his recent document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly as all the prophet do. He says No—as all the prophets do. He denounces “trickle-down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power....Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” Following are some of his No's presented in his own words:

1. “No to an economy of exclusion....An economy of exclusion and inequality kills....Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

2. “No to the new idolatry of money....While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.....Self-serving tax evasion has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits....Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.”

3. “No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person....Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.”

4. “No to the inequality which spawns violence. [Violence happens not]simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded form the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear.....Evil crystallized in unjust social structures...cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.”

Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.” And he defines injustice as “evil.” He has invited liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican and the word is out that he will canonize Archbishop Romero.

A different kind of papacy? Surely from the past two popes; much more like Pope John XXIII. Does that mean we go back to papalolatry? Absolutely not. But it does mean that it is good that a person in the public eye is keeping his sights on values that matter and speaking up for the kind of people of conscience who read and act on the values that Tikkun represents.

When it comes to issues of women, Pope Francis has much to learn (including how women were leaders in the early church). But I think he is capable of learning. On homosexuality, he has uttered a telling line, “Who am I to judge?” that certainly distances him from the previous two popes. On issues of abortion, at least he has spoken to the need to care about the women involved. Pope Francis is not perfect—none of us is—but he is an ally to all those seeking a world of justice and therefore peace.

The Cosmic Mass Returns to Oakland, Its Birthplace

Sunday, December 1, was a big day for the Cosmic Mass (TCM) — it was our first Mass in Oakland  in several years.

Due to a shrinking of staff and resources from the economic downturn and our forced abandonment of Historic Sweets Ballroom, FCS put its energy into training others for the TCM rather than hosting it in Oakland, its birthplace, over the past several years.

But Dec 1 was a whole new beginning with a new leader—Skylar Wilson--and a new generation taking charge, with the support of Nicole Porcaro and Matthew Fox.  The theme was “The Celebration of the Body.”

The location was Kimball's, a club in downtown Oakland in the Jack London Square district and the club manager and the club owner were both impressed with the event.  A great entrance field and four fine altars were put together by volunteer teams organized by Rose Elizondo, who also directs the Yellawe Program in Oakland.

One altar was a stunning mandala of flowers and branches; another an interactive black light space where people were invited to write messages to their bodies.  Tom Stang (brother to Sister Dorothy Stang who was martyred in the Amazon for defending the peasants and rainforest there), was in attendance with his wife Darnel... Sister Dorothy, a graduate of the University of Creation Spirituality, had often attended the TCM during her days in the school.

Mural Artists Ernesto Olmos and Francisco Franco brought beautiful pieces to display: Ernesto brought his painting of “Madre Tonantzin,” and Francisco actually painted portions of his mural of “The Unveiling—the Birth of Creation” while people were entering.

Native American drumming and songs opened the night as people arrived and also opened the directions and the closing of the directions at the end.  Matt Fox offered a welcome and introduction and Joanna Macy offered the teaching. VJ Dragonfly had all dancing and sweating their prayers.  A flautist and a bass accompanied us at times, and Richard Kaplan, a cantor in a local synagogue, sang a moving Mongolian song with a Mongolian drum and words from the Kabbalah.  VJ Carol Luna sang a Hildegard song during communion to the accompaniment of Tibetan singing bowls.

The spoken word was shared by Pancho Ramos-Stierle, who is a leader in Occupy Oakland: he believes it is time for “spiritual people to become activists and activists to become spiritual."  Rabbi Michael Ziegler prayed at the table prayers for an expansion of human and religious outreach.

Responses?  One young man who drove down from Portland, Oregon said he had never danced so hard or so fully in his life, he felt the spirit taking him over.  It was striking how many young men were there—something one rarely sees in church or in spirituality workshops.  Clearly the language of dj and vj and rap is their kind of language!

One woman told me she was too moved to talk.  Another person commented how special it was to see young people in positions of leadership.  Another person said he “was in heaven.”  A number of people came forward to volunteer for the next TCM.

All told, it was a night to remember and we look forward to our next Oakland TCM coming up in February!

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

Beyond Gun Control: Other Issues Raised by the Unspeakable Events at Newtown

Like everyone else, the president included, the Unspeakable, that is to say, evil acts of murdering twenty children and six of their defenders has left me speechless. Evil does that. Awe does that. As poet Adrianne Rich put it, "Language cannot do everything--chalk it on the walls where the dead poets lie in their mausoleums." But we do communicate in words, and after the shock wears down a bit, one struggles for understanding and for learning from this horrible event. Politicians are beginning to talk again about gun regulation vs NRA and especially regarding automatic weapons, which are the weapons the killer used on his mother and all the kids. And that conversation is long overdue.

But I want to talk about something else. If you look at all the perpetrators of this kind of violence, whether in Aurora or Happy Valley or Virginia Tech or Tucson or Newtown, what they all have in common is this: They were all young men. What is it about young men that makes them so prone to such violence?

I recall once being at a gathering and sitting with Malidoma Some, the spiritual teacher from West Africa, when a young man got up and started raving and ranting at everyone in the room. Malidoma leaned over and said to me: "See what happens when young men do not have rites of passage."

Malidoma should know, for if you are familiar with his story, in a nutshell it is this: He was kidnapped as a boy from his tribal village and taken many miles away to a Jesuit seminary where other boys who had also been kidnapped were being taught. He received a fine education but at the age of sixteen he threw one of the Jesuits out a second story window. Conclusion? He didn't have a "vocation" to be a Jesuit. He left and walked home, a very long hike through jungles.

When he arrived he was very angry--not just at the Jesuits but at his tribe, who never came to rescue him. Two years of anger and hostility in the tribe passed and finally the elders came to him and said: "You are impossible to live with. You are full of rage. This year you will take the rite of passage you missed with the thirteen year olds." So, at the belated age of 18, he took that rite of passage which was quite severe; of the sixty-five youths who went into the jungle with five elders, four or five did not survive it.

But Malidoma did survive it, and it not only made him a man who could deal with his rage, but also gave him his vocation, how he was to be an active and contributing member of his community or tribe. Much of Malidoma's teaching is about the value of a rite of passage, especially for boys. And what happens when rites of passage are absent.

Part of a rite of passage is leaving one's home, one's mother and one's father, as it presages becoming a mother or father one day. It also includes incorporating one's own capacity for motherhood internally, instead of projecting it on to women in one's life.

It is of significance, I believe, that Adam Lanza shot his mother first. This woman who did so much for him, who even home schooled him as a sophomore, who taught him how to use weapons (in what seems like a clumsy but well-meaning way to appeal to his 'masculinity') was the first to receive his full frontal rage. All the adults whom he shot at the school were women--the principal, the psychologist, the teachers. And they all bravely stood up to him to defend the children.

Education has become very womanly in our culture. In California today, 84% of teachers are women. Where are the men? Men are less and less drawn to teaching because the pay is so modest, but also because as youngsters they rarely see men as teachers and educators (see The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre).

The effort to define educational success by exams serves girls better than boys, who more often than not learn by doing and by bodily action rather than by sitting in desks seven hours a day and, if fidgety, being diagnosed with a "disease" and often given drugs for it.

Boys are two times more likely to be "diagnosed" with so-called "attention deficit disorder" than are girls. And four and a half times more likely to be expelled from school. Fifty-eight percent of college graduates in America last year were women and only 42% were men, and the gap keeps growing. Four times more teenage boys commit suicide than teen-age girls.

There is an underlying issue to consider here. The late and great E.F. Schumacher wrote that the number one purpose of education, the bottom line so to speak, is about values. How comfortable is our education system with talking about Values? If we are not talking about values, then we are presupposing that the consumer-driven, "get to the top" value system of our culture is reasonable and sustainable and healthy and indeed what life is all about.

Many people complain that in a pluralistic society and education you cannot talk about values because religious differences (or the difference of having no religion) arise. But I have laid out a value system in my book called The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, that I have tested in public schools and that has been appreciated by Muslims and Christians, Jews and atheists. I call it the "10 C's" and I think it takes us beyond religious differences and into a deep conversation about shared values.

I offer the list here: Cosmology (and ecology); Creativity; Contemplation (calming the reptilian brain); Compassion; Chaos; Critical thinking; Courage; Community; Ceremony and celebration; Character development.

Among the questions we need to talk about are these:

  • What constitutes healthy manhood?
  • When is a boy a man?
  • What is the meaning and meanings of being a man?
  • Is carrying a gun manliness?
  • Is power over others manliness?
  • Is being number one manliness?
  • Is angry revenge manliness?

Our culture and its promotional industries offer their answers to these questions, but I have tried to address the deeper and more archetypal meanings of masculinity in my book, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors for Awakening the Sacred Masculine.

We need to be teaching such matters in our so-called school system. We are rarely doing so.

I am not just talking about teachers when I talk about education. I once sat at the headquarters of WASC, the body that accredits all the schools including universities of Western United States, and listened to the head honcho tell me: "If you had $5,000,000, your new school would be on a fast track for accreditation. We just did that for a fundamentalist college that had five million in cash."

I said to myself, "So if Hitler walked in the room with five million dollars in his pocket his school would be accredited on the spot?" No values whatsoever. None but the values of the "market place," of consumer capitalism. Shame, shame, shame.

Education needs reinventing from the inside out. Who accredits our so-called accrediting bodies? And what values are discussed and/or taken for granted there? Are any of the "10 C's" in the mix? And if not, why not? I was struck at that meeting that the head honcho never asked a single question about the content of our education, that is, about values.

And so, while reflection on this horrible event continues, I recommend not only a discussion about gun regulations but one much deeper. Our schools are failing us in so many ways. Our families and religions (whose rites of passage have become quite wimpy) are failing us also.

We need to consider the multiple ways in which youngsters learn, especially boys, and quit cutting money for the arts and sports. We need to address:

  • Rites of passage
  • Creativity as being at least as important as exam preparation and testing
  • Values, including the values our educational system itself is committed to (is the Great Unspoken Value to make us all Consumers in a consumer-driven economic system?)
  • What manhood (and womanhood) means.

To do these things is not only to create violence prevention; it is also to create a new society. One that puts community before competition and values of justice and sustainability before those of materialism and its very narrow version of success. One that honors stillness and our capacity for contemplation and not just racing to the top in competition. One that values Creativity over memorizing answers to tests.

Holiday 2012 News from Matthew Fox & FSC

December 8, 2012

Dear Friends of Creation Spirituality,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace, blessing and thanks to you all,

Matthew Fox President, FCS

A Response from a Woman in Germany to "The Pope's War."

This very moving response to my book holds, I believe, many lessons for others about what bad religion does to the soul.  With the poet's kind permission I reprint it here because I believe it also holds truths that can heal many others.  Feel free to respond with comments of your own to this moving and heart-felt piece.  It came to me by way of Joanna Macy who is a friend both of the author and of myself (thus the references to "Joanna").
Thank you.

Matthew Fox

___________________________________________________________

April 2012

Coming from Gratitude

My heart is so over flowingly full that I don’t know where to start, Joanna. And I should actually write this letter to Matthew Fox, to this courageous, truly Christian “whistle-blower”. He would rejoice to have freed once again another human child with his book about Ratzinger. May God protect him and bless him every day!

What immeasurable suffering in the name of God does he impeach! I bow to all the humans on the earth – and especially in South America – that since the Second Vatican Council have been abused, ridiculed, betrayed, condemned, persecuted, tormented, killed for their integrity and mercifulness, for their compassion and sense of justice by the church and politics. They believed in the good in humanity and in the creation.
This is closeness to God, true closeness to God!

Honoring my Pain for the Child

Compared to this, my suffering is small. But it is the suffering of an entire life. And although I very consciously tried to protect my children from this, I still passed it unconsciously and unwillingly on to them. I can perceive i when I see their efforts to be worthy of love and respect.

Ratzinger, the High Inquisitor …

I find him: in my father, -who denounced me even before I could say “I”; -who beat my bottom as a child until black and blue with a wooden spoon; -who determined the length of my skirts, when other girls where wearing miniskirts; -who let someone examine my virginity and sent a detective after me; -who let me feel day after day, that I am the wrong daughter – lazy, dishonest and rotten to my very core. Ratzinger, the High Inquisitor …

I find him: in my mother, -who never protected me, -who never rejoiced over me or with me, -who never inquired after Tomas, my children or my work, -who condemned my life relentlessly -who disinherited me and lied to me about it nine years long.

Ratzinger, the High Inquisitor …

I find him: in my brother, -who fought the “antichrist” in me, -who found me guilty of depravity and conspiracy against his church, -who used the inheritance of our parents to punish me for my impiety, -who promised “to force me on to a park bench as broken vagrant in my old age”.

Well, my father died early. But my mother and my brother became fervent followers of Pope Wojtyla. And then of Ratzinger, whose books were their bibles which gave them arguments and judgments whose subtlety and cynicism I could never understand.

But, Joanna, it’s not as if it was only after the influence of Wojtyla and Ratzinger that my family became so fundamentalist, self-righteous and callous. My parents had been like this before. Now I believe, |that they had retained all of that from the times of National Socialism and into the post-war era: their zombielike obedience to higher authorities, their intolerance of dissidents, their habit of looking for the enemy outside themselves and to propagate their worldview as the only one that’s valid.

And in God’s representatives on earth, Wojtyla and Ratzinger, my mother and my brother finally found divine confirmation of their narrow-mindedness and heartlessness.

Seeing with New Eyes

None of this is new. New is the insight of how deep in my being, in the way I am these convictions are grounded: That I am the wrong daughter. That deep in myself I am so evil and guilty, that not even my father and my mother could love me. That I never do enough. That I never try hard enough. That I don’t listen enough to others. That I only think about myself. That my compassion is nothing but silly sentiment. That I don’t understand enough and don’t love enough. That I deserve to be ostracized and punished.

I look back on my life and see clearer than ever how these convictions have contaminated my whole life, my feelings and actions. Have I ever done anything that was good and beautiful enough? Have I ever sung full-throatedly? Have I ever danced without watching myself critically? Have I ever loved without feeling guilty of not loving enough? Have I ever trusted someone so much, that I wasn’t waiting for the next attack? Have I ever allowed myself to become convinced that I am loveable? Did I believe myself when I was happy? Did I believe myself when I was in deep pain Have I ever rejoiced in being born as the person Marliese? Have I ever celebrated myself? Have I ever known the simple and unclouded joy of being?

This person Ratzinger hasn’t come unto me from the outside. I have cut my teeth on him. And through fatherly violence he became manifest. I couldn’t perceive him because he was part of my perception. Perhaps you can compare it to a canvas screen On to which my whole life is projected like a movie. It is not and never has been my life which was stained and overshadowed. It was the canvas screen itself … All my shame, my self-doubts and self-contempt, my self-condemnation and self-aggression are the shadow of the catholic God on the canvas screen of my life. How many years of my life have been shaped by the futile attempt to realize and understand all of this!

With his analysis of Ratzinger Matthew has opened my eyes. He has returned to me a part of my life. He has bestowed my lost liveliness back on me. This is one of the happiest moments of my life! It’s a redemption!

Going Forth

But there is and always has been a memory in my life, Very hazy and fleeting, buried under pangs of conscience and feelings of guilt. It’s the memory of how it felt to wake up on a beautiful summer morning with an unfounded thrill of anticipation and in the trust of being God’s beloved and protected child. Even now, when I try to describe this memory, it seems to fade away with each word. Perhaps it comes from a time where I didn’t have words for it. It’s the memory of the moment of simple grace. Moments of the divine child, “the one up there” or the universe rejoices over. The moments, Johanna, that I was allowed to spend with you during the last 26 years come very close to that. But as consistent moments that belong to my awareness of life I thought to have lost them forever. But are they really lost, Signora Pavacini?

When I watch the movie of my life with keen eyes now it seems to have always been torn between: the God of my family: the controlling and relentless and punishing God and the God of my spiritual longing: the curious and smiling and unconditionally loving God. But the God of my spiritual longing has never left me. He guided me to the Lake Neusiedl and into the puszta, to the gypsies and their music, to the Beatles, to Francois Villon, to Jack Kerouac, Bertrand Russell, John Lilly, Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, to Castaneda, to Tomas and Nina and Sarah, to Lama Govinda and Ernest Callenbach, to the sufis and the Advaita Vedanta, to Ghandi, to Ramana Maharshi and Krishnamurti, to the Indians of North America, to the shamans of Africa, to the soil in my garden, to the nightingale, to the people of Tibet, to deep ecology, to the castors in Gorleben, to the shaft Konrad and to the Asse, to Kathleen, to Joanna at so many places where people meet.

What wild abundance have I received to celebrate the diversity of the world and of humans! Yet there is something very important missing: the way into the ugly center of power of the Catholicism of my origins, the way into the netherworld of a Josef Ratzinger. Not even the Tibetans could offer me refuge from that. I’ve always run away from that.

So perhaps it was the loving God of my spiritual longing who has sent me now to you, Joanna, and like you fulfilled my desires in so many years – even those you didn’t know about – even those I didn’t know about – you fulfilled my desire for healing with your presence and finally with this book from Matthew Fox.

I can only thank you, Joanna, and Matthew Fox than in preserving and sharing the light that has risen in my heart day by day.

Rupert Sheldrake's The Science Delusion:The Most Important Book of the Decade?

Rupert Sheldrake's most recent book, The Science Delusion in England and Science Set Free in the United States, may well prove to be the most important book of the decade, surely one of the most important books. Why? Because everyone knows that Science is the “good housekeeping” approval for most any intellectual effort in the West and Sheldrake has both the smarts and the balls to dare to challenge—not its hegemony—but its premises. And by “its” I mean the unexamined “dogmas” (Sheldrake's word) of modern science that we still have with us like haze after a fire or pollution after a coal train has sped by even though we imagine we have outgrown 19th century thought. Sheldrake makes clear that he is writing his book for scientists; he is critiquing science by its own terms; after all he is a well established though controversial scientist (graduate of Cambridge and all that) and he shows great courage in daring to stand up to his own discipline and scientific super egos. Yet Sheldrake writes in so lucid a style that his arguments are for the most part easily understood even by non-scientists like myself. Nor does he just throw firebombs at the “unscientific” suppositions (ten of them) that comprise the ten chapters of the book—he offers calm (and sometimes humorous) alternatives to the stuck ideologies of modern (as distinct from post-modern) science that still rules and haunts the halls of academia and the media and the fund granters. Sheldrake has spent years creating scientific experiments on low budgets that in fact support many of his criticisms of dogmas, experiments such as those with dogs that know when their masters are returning home and with people who know when they are being stared at—findings that deconstruct some dearly held scientific shibboleths.

Speaking personally, I have to say that this book was most timely for me for at least two reasons. First, I read Stephen Hawking's latest book that was intended to shed light on the universe for all of us but I was so frustrated and frankly angry when I finished it that I wanted to throw it across the room. Here is a man who is elevated as an icon by the media (as are so many atheists these days, a number of whom such as Richard Dawkins are raking in even more money than silly television preachers), whom we all are supposed to listen silently to, but who in telling us the story of the universe never even mentions consciousness once. What? As if consciousness is not part of the universe? Or important in it? What about his own consciousness? I admire Hawking not only for his brilliant intellect but also for the amazing battle he has had to wage with his torn body to do his work and live his life. Does that struggle alone not give evidence of a deep consciousness and determination? One silver lining in Hawking's book was that he was honest enough to come out of the closet as a materialist—that is his ideology, that is his belief system, that is the setting in which he plants all his other seeds.

That is what makes Sheldrake's book so important. He establishes first of all that the dominant scientific paradigm today is still that of materialistic determinism a la Dawkins and Hawking and that, practically speaking, these are the ones and this is the ideological bent that gets the lion's share of grants for investigative research. (The English title of Sheldrake's book plays on Dawkins' book title, The God Delusion.) So we are talking about what questions are asked and what questions are funded for research and, of course, what questions are not asked, never allowed to be asked, and never funded research-wise.

I said my first reason for the timeliness of this book was my experience with Hawking (and of course picking up on Dawkin's noise and so many other very vocal and very well-connected-to-the-media-megaphone atheists). My second event this year that rendered this book so timely was reading an amazing book on the spiritual perspective of Albert Einstein put together by an old friend from German days who, like Einstein, escaped Germany to come to America in the thirties. This book, Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man, by William Hermanns gives first hand accounts of Einstein's philosophy which was not at all that of scientific materialism but was beholden to Spinoza. In it Einstein talks about our need today for a “cosmic religion” that goes beyond all religions and all nationalities and political tribalism and that houses a “church of conscience.” I do not find in Hawkins work or in Dawkins much discussion of conscience. I suppose if you throw consciousness out the window, conscience goes out with it. The baby with the bathwater of course.

But this lacuna in contemporary materialism is precisely one thing that renders Sheldrake's work so refreshing. If he is right—that ten dogmas are holding science back from doing its deeper work today—then exploring these ten shadows of contemporary culture could unleash tremendous vitality and possibility—even moral possibilities. It was Einstein who said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and our rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” To which I say: Amen. Amen. Amen. Think of all the creative advertising we see on our televisions—that is intuition serving the rational gods of consumerism. Consider the numbers being posted on Wall Street. Whom are they serving? The gods of rationality and casino capitalism.

Sheldrake, with courage and finesse, with scientific brilliance and a sharp wit, dares to take on the unexamined dogmas of today's (outmoded) scientific ideologies. He proves that, alas!, the Stephen Hawkins of the world are to science what the Cardinal Ratzingers are to religion: They are dinosaurs and they are holding us back.

Following are the ten “dogmas” of modern science that Sheldrake names and takes apart in ten chapters, each dogma with its own chapter dedicated to it. He presents the chapter titles as questions.

1. Is Nature Mechanical? 2. Is the Total Amount of Matter and Energy Always the Same? 3. Are the Laws of Nature Fixed? 4. Is Matter Unconscious? 5. Is Nature Purposeless? 6. Is All Biological Inheritance Material? 7. Are Memories Stored as Material Traces? 8. Are Minds Confined to Brains? 9. Are Psychic Phenomena Illusory? 10. Is Mechanistic Medicine the Only Kind that Really Works?

He closes the book with chapters on “Illusions of Objectivity” and “Scientific Futures.” His vision is laid out in the final chapter like this: “The sciences are entering a new phase. The materialist ideology that has ruled them since the nineteenth century is out of date. All ten of its essential doctrines have been superseded. The authoritarian structure of the sciences, the illusions of objectivity and the fantasies of omniscience have all outlived their usefulness.” (p. 318) He also adds another and significant observation: Science is now global and materialistic ideology is uniquely European deriving from religious wars of the seventeenth century. “But these preoccupations are alien to cultures and traditions in many other parts of the world.” Just this one point makes clear how important this book is. The deconstruction of the ideologies behind science is an important part of keeping science itself relevant and alive on a global scale. Science needs to be ecumenical with various cultures (and religious world views) the world-over.

Though I am a christian I am by no means a fundamentalist who wants to make war with science or use the Bible as proof texts about creation. I want to use science to better understand creation whether we are talking about the universality of homosexuality among human tribes and among non-human species, or whether we are facing global warming and humanity's moral implications in contributing to the same, or whether we are talking about life on mars or intelligent life elsewhere in the universe—for all these great questions I expect science to inform me. I come from the tradition of Thomas Aquinas who fought the fundamentalists of his day (has much changed in seven centuries since?) and brought in the “pagan” scientist Aristotle to do so. Aquinas says, “a mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.” Science therefore is integral to my theology and worldview and always will be and I am not only curious but eager to learn about creation from science; and therefore more about God. I am as anti-fundamentalist as any angry atheist. I am very critical of my own discipline as a theologian. Can not scientists be equally critical of their own discipline? Should they not be?

Let me make my position clear. Atheism has its place. I do not begrudge atheists their philosophy or worldview and indeed all theists should be listening to and be in dialog with atheists for, among other gifts, they assist the cleansing of hypocrisy and they also challenge the overuse and misuse and projected use of the Divine Name, the Mystery without a name that “has no name and will never be given a name” that Meister Eckhart talks of. There are many kinds of atheism just as there are many kinds of theologies. Some atheists are anti-theists (I am anti-theist also, my God is a panentheistic God, not a theist God). Some atheists are anti-organized religion (a pretty easy sell these days when so-called religious leaders countenance pedophilia and saddle up with dictators). Some atheists are anti-fundamentalists who are anti-intellectual. I share common ground there also, for I believe what Hildegard of Bingen said: “All science comes from God.” The left brain is a gift as are our right (or mystical, intuitive) brains.

Meister Eckhart offers the following prayer: “I pray God to rid me of God,” a challenge that deserves to be flung before every churchgoer and theist whether by a mystic like Eckhart or an atheist of conscience (of which there are plenty). Sheldrake is not arguing for theism; he is just making clear that an entire world view of materialistic science is reductionistic and rests on unproven assumptions. Why believe the unbelievable and/or at least the unproven? Why teach that the mind is limited to what goes on in the cranium? Why make that the basis of education and the basis of grant-giving and the basis of culture itself? Especially when that culture is so often revealing a less than dignified direction and preaches despair and pessimism so readily? For the record, I do not consider myself a theist but a panentheist. They are not the same thing. All mystics are panentheists.

One bone I have to pick with scientific materialists is the lack of admiration and praise many of them offer for the great and generous souls who, whether they be Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, Buddha or Jesus, Mohammad or Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero or Hildegard of Bingen, were driven to the summits of moral generosity by their spiritual beliefs. These people are moral heroes in anybody's book. But they all come out of some kind of sense of the Sacred, God, the holy Universe, the Church (King and Romero for example), etc. That is where they derived their courage. That fed them in their darkest times. Such nourishment deserve to be acknowledged. And even praised. These people were not fools. They represent the best among us, the best within us. As Eckhart said: “Who is a good person? A good person praises good people.” Why are materialists so often short on praise? Not just of good people but of the goodness of the earth and of the universe and of our existence from which we all derive?

Years ago, with Sheldrake's first book, a scientific journal embarrassed itself by declaring that “this book more than any other in the last ten years deserves to be burned.” Goodness! Modern science borrowing a page from religion's dark side (or politics' dark side? Smells a bit like Nazi times also). The response so far to this latest book from Sheldrake has been overwhelmingly positive in the press in England. BUT not a single scientific journal has had the balls to review it. Isn't that telling? Here is a scientist talking to scientists about their unconscious and unexamined and shadow side—and not ONE scientific journal has the guts to discuss it. Isn't science supposed to be curious? Are dogmas so frozen that questions cannot be examined? My, my. It makes the Vatican and its unexamined dogmas almost standard. I cannot think of a greater accolade for this book than to say: It scares the bejesus out of scientists. And out of academicians.

When I wrote my book on The Reinvention of Work some twenty years ago, I called on all of us to take a more critical view at our professions and to find the values and the mysticism and prophetic possibilities that were there—and to offer alternatives, to carry the good fight into our work worlds because that is how history gets altered. I have tried to do that in my work both as an educator and as a theologian over the years. Rupert Sheldrake carries on that good and prophetic fight of reinventing his profession in this book where he dares to take on the scientific establishment---not out of rancor or hubris—but out of love for his vocation and vocations of future scientists. As he says, “This book is pro-science. I want the sciences to be less dogmatic and more scientific. I believe that the sciences will be regenerated when they are liberated from the dogmas that constrict them.” (p. 7) Is anyone listening? Are any scientists listening? Are any scientific journals listening?

Rupert, like any prophet, dares to speak truth to power and science is powerful. “Its influence is greater than that of any other system of thought in all of human history.” (p. 13) He wishes to rid science of “centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The sciences would be better off without them: freer, more interesting, and more fun.” (p. 6) Sadly, Sheldrake notes that “many scientists are unaware that materialism is an assumption: they simply think of it as science, or the scientific view of reality, or the scientific worldview.” (p. 8) This book is rich with the history of science and philosophy telling important stories of movements and persons and ideas that have shaped our scientific world often in conflict with our religious beliefs.

In its studied and quiet and gentle and sometimes humorous way this book pulls the rug out from under an entire culture, one that is already on the down-slide as neither education nor science nor economics nor politics nor religion nor media are doing their job today. They are not feeding the souls and spirits of the Earth or its peoples. They deny us a future. We can do better. Sheldrake lights the way.

What Would Hildegard Do?

Some Thoughts on the Latest Attack from the Vatican, This on American Sisters My first response on being invited to write an article on the Silencing of Sisters in the Roman Catholic Church was: “Why? They are fully capable of defending themselves.” Yet I also know, from my own personal experience in my years of being silenced and then expelled by then Cardinal Ratzinger from my religious order in which I was “in good standing” for 34 years (and then lied about), that solidarity matters. It matters not just to an individual in the midst of an ordeal but also to others who stand under the gun and wonder if their taking stands of conscience will isolate them or bring on support and solidarity. (Interestingly, feminist theologian Dorothy Soelle says solidarity is the opposite of servile obedience.) So I have squelched my inhibitions about letting the sisters go it alone to jump into the fray and offer whatever support I can to my sisters.[br] The same weekend that I was invited to write this article I met a woman in her sixties who told me she had been a Catholic sister for a number of years in the Order of Saint Joseph and her response to the attacks on Catholic sisters was this: “Now they will be called to stand up and be counted like so many of us over the years who had to make decisions of conscience on our own. Just like you and many theologians also had to do. No more denial.” It is not only sister orders who can no longer deny the darkness that has taken over the Catholic Church at this time in history. Lay people too who support and rely on the sisters whether in fields of education or pastoral ministry or as examplars of Christians trying to live out the values of Vatican II about justice and solidarity with the poor — all have to move beyond denial and stand up and be counted with the sisters now under siege from the Vatican. Meister Eckhart tells us: “God is the denial of denial.”[br] I have laid out the stakes of this struggle in the Catholic Church in my recent book,The Pope's War: How Ratzinger's Crusade has Imperiled the Church and What Can Be Saved. There I try to present the last forty years of Catholic Church history and make the case that the Vatican and its bureaucrats are in fact in schism since they have abandoned the values and principles of Vatican II across the board (from national bishops' conferences, to lay leadership, to freedom of conscience, to openness with theologians, to deep ecumenism and more). This is schism, since in the church's tradition a Council trumps popes and not the other way around. What this means practically is that all the cardinals, bishops and priests anointed in the past forty years are invalid and not to be believed or followed. The door is open for a LOT of creativity and work of the Holy Spirit to flow anew into Christian history. [br] The case for schism is not just about the abandonment of Vatican II and its saintly movements and individuals such as Oscar Romero, Bishop Casigalida, Bishop Arns, thousands of church workers tortured and killed in Brazil, Peru and more but also the 101 theologians silenced and often expelled from their teaching vocations. It is also about the perverse persons and ideologies embraced by the past two papacies include Fr Maciel, so close to Pope John Paul II that he accompanied him on plane rides to Latin America, who raised more money than anyone in church history but who also sexually abused over twenty of his seminarians and had two common law wives on the side by whom he fathered four children whom he also sexually abused (3 boys and a girl). This man and his order, eagerly supportive of the dictator Pinochet and other far-right movements, was protected and highlighted by the past two papacies (only under pressure did Pope Benedict XVI, having neglected to investigate him when it was his job to do so at the Congregation of Fatih, finally order a full investigation and call for an examination of his order). There is also the scary Opus Dei movement, given full support and ecclesial carte blanche under these two schismatic papacies who rushed the founder, fascist priest and admirer of Hitler, Fr. Escriva, into canonization on a fast track never before equalled. The greatest spy in American history who now sits in jail for getting more American spies murdered than any one before him, was a devout Opus Dei member who went undetected in his post at the FBI for over twenty years. How many members of today's Supreme Court are Opus Dei? It is hard to know since they are nothing if not secretive but the general guess is 3 or 4. Citizens United decision correctly names their philosophy of marriage of government and corporations (Mussolini's very definition of fascism).[br] This is all to lay out the context of the sisters' condemnation. One must realize that we are suffering through the most corrupt papacies since the Borgias. To the sisters now under fire, I say “Congratulations! You are in good company. Welcome to the club of thinking and caring Catholics trying to apply the principles and values of our faith who have also been attacked for doing so by so-called leaders of the church.” When I was expelled by the Dominicans I received a letter from poet Bill Everson (former Dominican Brother Antoninus) that said: “Congratulations for this culmination of your vocation.” He was right to put the ordeal in the context of vocation. Vocation is our original calling, that which invited us to take a path less traveled. To have followed that path in spite of history's detours is a noble act. To all the sisters affected by this Vatican attack, I say: “Congratulations! Your vocation is calling you still.”[br]

Some questions I put to the sisters are these:[br]

  1. What kind of support do you expect or can you expect from male religious orders? Will they have the courage to stand by you in solidarity? Or will they slink away in a fit of self-preservation to hide and not be heard from? Will they continue in their denial? Or will they finally stand up and be counted and stand by you?[br][br]
  2. What options are you considering? Are you going to “let the dead bury the dead” and move on, continuing your works of service outside any technical connection with Rome? Will you join the Ecumenical Catholic Church? Have you hired good lawyers to help you with property issues?[br][br]
  3. Do you think it is worth the trouble and bother and time and energy drain to fight to stay in the Roman Catholic Church as it is now constittued at the top and to try to get “permission” to continue your vocation from the sick and schismatic hierarchy of today?[br][br]
  4. Do you think Hildegard of Bingen (scheduled to be declared a saint and doctor of the church in October) speaks for you when she writes to the pope of her day: “O man, the eye of your discernment weakens. You are becoming weary, too tired to restrain the arrogant boastfulness of people to whom you have entrusted your heart. Why do you not call these shipwrecked people back? 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.... People who act like this aren’t rooted in goodness.” What a marvelous picture of the curia in the 21st century![br] She goes on: “You should be doing battle with evil, but that is precisely what you aren’t doing, when you don’t dig out by the root that evil which suffocates the good. And why not? Because of your fear of the evil men who lay snares in nocturnal ambush and love the gold of death more than the beautiful King’s daughter, Justice.”[br] "O man, you who sit on the papal throne, you despise God when you don’t hurl from yourself the evil, but even worse, embrace it and kiss it by silently tolerating corrupt men. The whole earth is in confusion on account of the ever-recurring false teaching whereby human beings love what God has brought, to nothing. And you, O Rome, are like one in the throes of death.”[br] “You will be so shaken that the strength of your feet, the feet on which you now stand, will disappear. For you don’t love the King’s daughter, Justice....but as in delirium of sleep, so that you push her away from you. That is why she will flee from you, unless you call her back. And you, O man, who have been placed as a visible shepherd, rise up and hasten quickly to Justice, so that you will not be criticized by the great Doctor for not having cleansed your flock from dirt, for not having anointed them with oil.”[br] In a letter to Abbot Hellinger she writes: “Now listen and learn, so that you blush with shame when you taste in your soul what I now say. Sometimes you have the style of a bear, who often grumbles to itself in secret. Sometimes you have the style of an ass, for you aren’t solicitous in your duties but are glum and in many ways bungling as well.” He’s glum and bungling! “To such behavior the heavenly Father gives an answer: ‘Your heart grumbles over my Justice. You don’t seek the right answer in her, but you harbor in yourself a certain grumbling like that of the bear.’” [These citations are from her letters and found in Matthew Fox, ed., Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works with Letters and Songs, Bear & Co., 1987.][br][br]
  5. How is all this internal struggle strengthening your true vocation?[br][br]
  6. How are you feeling about the Vatican at this time in history?[br][br]
  7. Two proposals do come to my mind. Since it is not you who have been accused of pedophilia or of covering up pedophilia, are you considering undertaking your own investgation of hierarchy both in Rome and in the United States who have stood by while countencing priestly pedophilia? And who now are publicly attacking SNAP which exists to defend the victims of such childhood horrors and which is directed by former victims of priestly pedophilia?[br][br]
  8. And while you are at it, why not demand that the Vatican define “radical feminism” since Cardinal Ratzinger has been getting away with such scurilous and sloppy language for decades (in fact, he accused me of the identical offense without defining his terms when he expelled me).[br]

I would be happy to invite any Catholic sister who wishes to write me their answers to these questions—I promise COMPLETE anonymity—and I will try to publish them in a follow-up to this article.[br]

Finally, I have just one sentence of advice: Wear this badge of honor, this joining the 101 theologians and church activists who have also been denounced by radical right wing groups who hide in the Vatican canonizing one another, with humility. I am sure you will. I offer you as a gift the following poem:[br] It is not enough that Opus Dei occupies three to four seats in the US Supreme Court,

It is not enough that one (or two) of its admirers ran for president on the Republican ticket,

It is not enough that one (Bishop Finn) engaged in sexual cover up of a priest after pledging not to,

It is not enough that one occupies the largest diocese in North America (Los Angeles),

It is not enough that denial of contraception and other proof of wars against women and their bodies is countenced by schismatic popes,

It is not enough that pedophile priests and bishops are covered up for by hierarchy,

It is not enough that GBLT persons are bullied by schismatic popes and their sycophant bishops,

It is not enough that ecumenism is dead in the water,

It is not enough that yoga is condemned and that Thich Naht Hahn has been declared an “anti-Christ” by the Vatican,

It is not enough that women are excluded from priesthood and from leadership in the church,

It is not enough that 101 theologians have been silenced, abused, expelled for doing their job in service of the People,

It is not enough that theology is dead in the water and the only teacher left is the “magisterium,” i.e. the bureaucrats in the Vatican,

It is not enough that fear grips all theologians and priests,

It is not enough that the Vatican is in bed with dictators and with CIA, FBI, Pentegon and more,

Now cometh the latest trumpet call from the guardians of stale orthodoxy and sinful papalolotry: An attack on American religious sisters, those who have lived and led with the values of Vatican II.[br]

May you all be blessed and thanked for your work, your generosity and your faithfulness to Gospel values. May your consciences take the lead in the creative responses you are sure to be invoking.[br}

Gratefully and in the Spirit of Hildegard,

Your brother,

Matthew Fox, oops (Once of the Order of Preachers)

Become a Beacon of Peace in the world – Join Matthew Fox for the Summer of Peace

Dear Friend of Creation Spirituality, One of the world's most beloved creation-centered medieval mystics, Francis of Assisi, offered the prayer that untold numbers have echoed -

Make me an instrument of Thy peace.

But how do you do that? How do you become an instrument of peace?

Gandhi opened a doorway to the big picture in his urging to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

But in addition to this encouragement, we also need the practical steps and actions we each can take to create peace within ourselves and in the world. So what are those steps?

No one can say what those steps and actions are for you. Only you can know that. But if you want to learn hundreds of insights, ideas, possibilities and practices that can help you create more peace in your life and in the world, I invite you to join me for the Summer of Peace 2012.

I’m a featured speaker in this free 3-month series of live and online events that will empower you (and thousands of others in this growing, global movement!) to create peace from the inside out.

Get all the details here: http://summit.summerofpeace.net

I will be joining  inspiring peace leaders including Arun Gandhi, Alice Walker, Jack Kornfield, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, James O’Dea, Belvie Rooks,  international peace activist Azim Khamisa, Civil Rights activist Bernard Lafayette and many others.

I invite you to join with me, and these remarkable peace pioneers,  in midwifing the birth of a new human consciousness rooted in the principles of peace, compassion, and equality for all.

The Summer of Peace is a must-have experience, if you want to…

  • Experience inner peace and the physical, emotional and spiritual ease that blossoms from that harmony.
  • Create harmonious relationships with your family, friends, coworkers and community members.
  • Discover new ways of communicating that create deeper trust, love and intimacy in all your relationships.
  • Learn how to forgive people who have harmed you in the past.
  • Learn how to forgive yourself for harm you have inflicted on others.
  • Heal painful wounds within yourself, family, community and nation.
  • Make a commitment to peace and to become a beacon of peace in the world.
  • ...And so much more!

Featuring more than 80 of the world’s leading peacemakers, the Summer of Peace is your opportunity to  discover the actions that YOU will take to be the change you wish to see in the world.

You can listen to the Summer of Peace calls from the comfort of your home or office, and the live calls are completely free.

Please join me. Make a commitment to a world of peace and sign up for the Summer of Peace now: http://summit.summerofpeace.net

Yours truly,

Matthew Fox

P.S. During the Summer of Peace, you’ll also find out about community actions and local projects you can get involved in. Together, we’re birthing a new human consciousness--rooted in peace, justice and equality for all living beings!

Join me here: http://summit.summerofpeace.net

A Foreword to Welcome Mark Townsend's New Book, Jesus Through Pagan Eyes

This month marks the publication of a most welcome volume by English theologian and author Mark Townsend et al, Jesus Through Pagan Eyes (now available on Amazon).

I was delighted to contribute the following foreword welcoming this book and its honoring of the earth-based spiritual traditions, which have too long been stigmatized and sidelined. In a time when the planet is being systematically pillaged, fundamentalist sects are dividing the peoples of the earth through fear, and our only hope for survival lies in deeply listening to the wisdom of all faiths, this is a much-needed and long-overdue voice for a deep ecumenism that includes - to quote Thomas Aquinas - not only the Peoples of the Book, but the Peoples of the Book of Nature. Highly recommended!

 

Foreword: Welcoming this Book

 

I very much welcome this volume by Mark Townsend and his friends that celebrates the wisdom and the practice of so-called “pagan” ancestors.  I say “so-called” because paganphobia has dominated for so long in the West and those who identify with earth-based or pre-Biblical religions have endured the opprobrium of the dominant religious culture for so long that they may well find the term “pagan” suspect insofar as it is more a title given by the dominator culture.  Indeed, the very invective that so often accompanies  the term “pagan” belies the hatred of all things earthly that goes with it since, as we all know, paganus simply means rural person.  Why are those close to the land so threatening to those who no longer are?

Ernest Becker observed that “ancient man—unlike modern man—had not yet lost his awe of nature and being.”  There lies the depth of the gift of pagani, those close to the earth.  Awe is as good a synonym for “mysticism” that I know of.  In our times of a shrinking globe and a rapid communication network world-wide and the rise of interfaith or what I call “Deep Ecumenism” it is more important than ever that we listen to each other’s religious journeys and hear from various religious lineages including especially those who have not lost the awe of nature and of being.  Our very survival as a species depends on deep listening and learning. As the Second Vatican Council put it in the sixties, the Holy Spirit has worked through all cultures and all religions through the human epoch.  Instead of making war in the name of our gods or God or goddesses, it is wise to catch one’s breath, breath deep (in the Bible and many other languages around the world the word for “breath” and “spirit” are identical) and learn rather than judge.  It is often scandalous how “ecumenism” for some religious types means only sitting down with persons of the Book and ignores sitting down with persons of the Book of Nature.

One thing we are learning is how much Jesus had in common with earth-based religions.  Scholars now agree that the historical Jesus came from the wisdom tradition of Israel but this tradition is not book-based but nature-based.  He grew up in Galilee, the green belt and farming area of Israel and his closeness to nature and her animals and her seasons and lessons is everywhere manifest in his parables and teachings.  Wisdom is feminine and she is cosmic and all about generativity and creativity in the Hebrew Scriptures.  She is also a “friend of the prophets” and the prophetic tradition also spawned the historical Jesus who dared to take on religious hypocrisy and privilege in his day.

But Jesus’ relationship to earth-based religions runs even deeper than that.  No less a Biblical scholar than Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus and Rabbi Paul and Mary Magdalene: A Biography makes the point that Jesus can rightly be understood as a shaman.  Like shamans everywhere, Jesus withdrew periodically into the wilderness where, we are told in Mark, the oldest of the Gospels, he wrestled with spirits and the wild beasts came to succor him. (Mark 1:12, 13)  His mentor, John the Baptist, with whom he probably spent his formative years as an adolescent, was very much a man of the wilderness.

Nor is Chilton alone in this assessment of Jesus as shaman.  The late poet and ex-Dominican, William Everson, (also known as “Brother Antoninus”), thought deeply about shamanism and he felt that Jesus “was perhaps the greatest of all shamans….Forty days in the desert, the carrying of the cross as a Sun Dance” and more.(1)  He goes on: “The link would seem to be the Animal Powers. Christ would relate to the animal Powers that preceded our more sophisticated religious impulses….Now when you press back, beyond this point, and try to bring those forces—the Animal Powers—into focus, it seems like it’s whittling down even more on the Divinity of Christ, except that the infra-rational has its own Divinity, and it is by maintaining that continuity that the problem can be solved, I feel..  In the arts, it will come in largely through the imagery.”(2)  Everson observes that the shaman descends into the “primordial wound,” to recover a redeeming spirit.

It is interesting that Otto Rank talks about humans all being born with an “original wound” (as distinct from an “original sin”) and if Rank is right, then we see a powerful link between the very meaning of redemption and the work of the shaman. Rank also perceptively identifies our “original wound” as the separation from the womb that we all undergo and that is triggered again whenever other profound separations touch us.  Wisely does Rank prescribe the medicine for this original wound as the “unio mystica”, the mystical union that love and art restore.(3)

Everson talks of “the wounded buck” in one of his poems but of course the psalms also offer similar imagery.  The animals in their wild habitat easily “become a part of the religious persona because it invests us with a sense of the sacred.”  Shamans heal.  They heal this visible world and the invisible one, they heal “the breach between sacred and profane, between divine and mortal, between eternal and contingent.”(4)  They heal because they have journeyed into their and society’s wounds.  David Paladin, a Navajo artists and healer, was tortured for years as a captured soldier in World War II to the point that when found he was comatose and a paraplegic.  Years later his elders told him that this suffering was his initiation into shamanhood and he exclaimed: “Shamans know that those wounds are not theirs but the world’s.  Those pains are not theirs but Mother Earth’s. You can gift the world as shaman because you’re a wounded warrior.  A wounded healer and a wounded warrior are one.”  The warrior-shaman rises above his own dead body and says, “I have died, too.  Now let’s dance.  We’re free.  The spirit is ours because we have died.  Now we are resurrected from the ashes.”(5)

Paladin’s wife explained to me that on more than one occasion dead artists would come to her husband in the middle of the night and request he paint something in their name.  She showed me for example a painting signed Paul Klee that looked exactly like a Klee painting—“I remember the night he came to him,” she told me.  Yes, shamans live in several worlds at once.

One of the techniques shamans use to heal is the beat of the drum and the beat and rhythm of chant.  Much of the shaman’s work is to put people into a trance state.  “The idea of trance [is] the basic psychological function of the shaman,” notes Everson.(6)   Silence also leads us into trance.  The shaman we might say takes us deeper than language (left brain) into that area of the unconscious that is closer to animal communication, into what Eckhart calls “the soil, the ground, the source of the Godhead.”  Into the Godhead, not just into God.  Into the lower chakras, where so many Westerners in the name of false religion and false education are afraid to journey.  The first chakra is about our link to the earth after all; all animals have feet that connect them to the earth.  The second chakra is about our sexuality which we share with all animals.  And the third chakra includes our anger and moral outrage—it is there that we are grounded in the groundless Divinity and it is there that compassion takes root.  This is what shamanism evokes in us.

It is not only Everson who saw this but also the great nineteenth century prophet, Walt Whitman.  Whitman reinvented poetry by taking it out of the classic European models of rhythm and rhyme and opening it up to the beat and to every day language again (no compulsion to rhyme).  He himself was aware that he was doing with language a shamanistic thing.  He called his breakthrough the “breaking up of the crystalline structure of the classic mould.”(7)  His verse-technique was a method that liberated poetry itself.  A telling story is told of how, when he was ten years old, Whitman heard a Quaker preacher named Elias Hicks who was half black and half Native American.  His words and cadence put Whitman into ecstasy.  I am convinced that his shamanistic vocation began at that time and notice—it did not come from books but from masters of oral traditions, an indigenous and black preacher.  To this day and in its latest reincarnation as rap, the black religious impulse, like the Native American drum, beats its message which is as much about sound and vibration as it is about content.  It appeals to the lower chakras, not just the rarefied atmosphere of heady rationality.

Whitman scholar and Jungian therapist Steven Herrmann says that for Whitman “the drum-beat works for him as a transport to the Divine.”  Whitman’s journey is a journey of ecstasy, “an embodied sense of Ecstasy,….he also sinks down into the bodily regions of soul, where body and soul cannot be distinguished: where soul is the body and body is the soul, and he speaks out of this oneness of the soul’s body—out of the language of the body which is the soul-language.”(8)  Back into the lower chakras.  (This is also what makes rave so enticing to the younger generation.  It brings the first chakra into play.  Our Cosmic Mass has demonstrated the power of this return to the body for worship, to dance as prayer.)   Whitman, in a pre-modern way of seeing the world, celebrates how “everything without exception has an eternal soul!  The trees have, rooted in the ground!  The weeds of the sea have!  The animals!”(9)

Whitman also celebrates the second chakra, our sexuality, for he sees sexuality “as the root impulse underlying all creation.  He saw it ultimately as the means to spiritual development and union with the Self.  It was from the animal heat generated during such a summer morning [of love making] that he became a bridge between the known and the Unknown, the ordinary experience of ecstasy and the shamanic state of Ecstasy, which cannot be symbolized.”(10)

Whitman also sings of the sacred dance and how it leads to sacred trance: “I am a dance…Play up there!  The fit is whirling me fast.”  He tells us he beats his “serpent-skin drum” and again, “I hear the dance music of all nations…bathing me in bliss.” (11)  He is deeply ecumenical in his appreciation of putting the lower and sacred chakras to work when he calls explicitly on the music “of all nations.”  Herrmann summarizes Whitman’s contribution this way: “Whitman’s methods of vocalism and free verse are patterned on a shamanic technique of ecstasy that is archaic; its archaic function is to lead the reader to non-ordinary states whereby inflections from the Divine can be made imminent, and where the origin of all poems can be experienced.  His religious vision is an outgrowth of shamanism; yet it cannot be limited to shamanism, or any established religions, for it is essentially contemporary, post-scientific and new.”(12)

Whitman called for a “spiritual democracy” that would culminate a political and economic democracy.  In his way he was calling for “deep ecumenism” or the gathering of all religious tribes, none greater than the other.  He also called for recognition of sexual diversity and indeed of homosexual marriage, an archetype now awakening all over the globe.  In his appreciation of the mystical role of sexuality as well as spiritual democracy he was standing in opposition to “the Puritan myth [which] was based upon an unconscious projection of evil onto indigenous peoples, the lifeways of the two-spirits, and a bi-erotic image of the soul’s wholeness.”(13) His call for a New Religion and a New Bible seems more real today than ever before.

Thomas Berry talks this way about the Shaman while comparing prophet and shaman.  “While both Prophet and Shaman have special roles in their relation to the human community, the Shaman is more comprehensive in his field of consciousness.  The prophet speaks somewhat directly in the name of God, the prophet is a message bearer, the prophet is interpreter of historical situations, and the prophet critiques the ruling powers.  The Shaman functions in a less personal relationship with the divine.  He is more cosmological, more primordial, personally more inventive in the source of his insight and his power.”(14)

To bring earth back to religion and spirituality is to bring the body back and vice versa.  It is also to bring sexuality back with its intimations of mystical encounter, the theophany of human love reconnected to divine love and the body.  It is to take sexuality beyond the realm of mere moralizing into the kingdom of God-experience.  Jesus would recognize this movement; it is the teaching of the “Song of Songs” in the Hebrew Bible.  It is at the heart of a wisdom-based spirituality.  Call it pagan if you must.  The Creator and those who claim to worship the Creator have no need to apologize for the ecstasies of creation, the re-emergence in the sacred wilderness that is ours to remember, ours to celebrate, ours to share.  Those who do not dare to make the journey into their own depths or into the collective depths of the unconscious are today, as yesterday, standing on the sidelines shouting and throwing stones.  But such fundamentalism has never been the religion of the future.  It is a crutch for the fearful and Gandhi warned us that a religion based on fear is no religion at all.

Part of the gift that indigenous peoples and the hunting-gathering religious genius brings to current spirituality is a profound sense of sacred ceremony.  As Barbara Ehrenreich points out in her study, Dancing in the Streets, the ancient rituals brought a “kind of spiritual merger with the group” that both healed and awakened joy.  The dancing and the masks, the marking of the seasons and uniting with cosmos via the equinox and solstice, the painting of the body and the wearing of costumes inspired by the animal spirits all brought alive the human challenge and condition.  It also brought defense insofar as many rituals were enacted to strengthen the hunters before they went out to risk life and limb on behalf of gathering food for the community.(15)  Ritual was not just theater or piety—it was a survival mechanism.  The great work of building a Stonehenge was motivated by the ancient realization of our necessary interdependence with the cycles of the cosmos.  Macrocosm becomes microcosm and microcosm macrocosm in valiant rituals.  While early Christianity saw itself in cosmic terms, the Christian church gradually lost that cosmic sense which indigenous ceremonies to this day still reenact and bring alive.

Speaking as a Christian who has been deeply blessed by undergoing indigenous rituals such as sweat lodges, sun dances, vision quests and more, I know what these ceremonies bring to a psyche and a culture that is too cut off from the earth’s ways and sounds.(16)  The spirits of the animals are crying loudly today on behalf of mother earth with all her citizens in such peril.  We need our shamans.  We need our earth spirits.  We need a vital exchange between those who honor the God of the Book and those who honor the God of the Book of Nature.  There need be no split.  Union and communion are beckoning us and this volume is part of that invitation and calling.

A profound invitation to reconnect with Nature in our spiritual practices has everything to do with honoring the Divine Feminine.  The goddess, as Marija Gimbutas reminds us, “in all her manifestations was a symbol of the unity of all life in Nature.”(17)  Native American religion has been called “aboriginal mother Love.”  Again, Wisdom, who is feminine, is speaking loudly today.  Gaia is the new Christ being crucified by excessive Yang forces (consider BP’s assault on the Gulf waters this past summer) of empire and corporate rape.  The goddess is rising up in resistance and part of that resistance is incorporating (or re-incorporating) the Divine Feminine in all of our God talk and God action, including worship and education worthy of the name.  The Divine Feminine deserves a worthy consort, however, and for that reason I believe the Sacred Masculine must also return—cleaned up and detoxicated.  Only thus can we entertain again the Sacred Marriage of Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine.(18)

It is not enough that we merely return to the past however to renew the relationship of self to nature and to the Universe.  For our understanding of the universe has altered profoundly thanks to contemporary science.  As Thomas Berry puts it, “the small self of the individual reaches its completion in the Great Self of the universe” but we are not there yet.  None of our religions are there yet.  “To move from this abiding spatial context of personal identity to a sense of identity with an emergent universe is a transition that has, even now, not been accomplished in any comprehensive manner by any of the world’s spiritual traditions.”#  Our work is cut out for us.  This is why all traditions, earth based and book based, must work together and with science to forge an effective spiritual practice and rituals if are species is to become sustainable.  Ceremonies that truly inspire and transform, that lead us from greed to community and from ravishing the planet to celebrating and healing it are required.  Can these fit into current ecclesial wine skins?  I doubt it.

For this awakening to take root and for the Divine to truly become flesh again, we welcome earth-based and ancient ways of wisdom.  We—that is our species--need all the help we can get.

As a person who has been received from my original Christian faith tradition by a welcoming Episcopal (Anglican) Church that offered me religious asylum when forces in Rome were hounding me, and now after sixteen years as an Episcopalian I would like to offer a couple of observations apropos of the present volume.  First, I became Episcopalian to work with young people (originally of the Planetary Mass in Sheffield but after their sad and untimely demise exclusively in the United States) to reinvent forms of western worship.  Those forms, borrowed from rave, were also taken from pre-modern or indigenous, earth-based traditions for they are primarily about dance and the beat of the “urban drum” that lead us into our lower chakras.  We have sponsored over 90 of these “Cosmic Masses” as we now call them in various cities in North America from Vancouver to New York, from Houston to Boulder, from Kansas City to Portland and especially in Oakland, California.  We have learned much from this pilot project and it is all positive—healings of a physical, religious and psychic nature have occurred during these Masses which were appreciated not only by the young but by people of all ages.  One 18 year old said to me: “I have been attending raves every weekend for five years and I found here what I have been looking for: deep prayer and community and a heterogeneous community (rave is all one generation).”  An 84 year old woman said to me while dancing away: “I have been waiting 82 years for someone to connect my love of prayer with my love of dance.”  We have proven that when you connect the genius of rave to a liturgical tradition one does not need drugs to get high.  Artists galore tumble out of the woodwork from vj’s to dj’s, from people on stilts to altar builders and rappers. We have also learned that people of all faiths including pagan traditions feel at home worshipping together in such a form of worship.  So I praise the Anglican Church for welcoming this connection between earth-based and liturgically based rituals.  I would like to see much more of it happening.

I also praise the Episcopal Church for standing up for women priests, women bishops and gay priests and bishops and for fighting these battles for justice in the open and not behind closed doors.

But something else has transpired recently that should contribute to the Anglican Church taking on special leadership at this time in history.  The Roman Catholic church, having abandoned so many principles of the Second Vatican Council under the past two papacies and so weighed down by the world-wide priestly pedophile scandal and above all its cover-up at the highest places of the all-boys club in the Vatican, is now purposely and deliberately raiding the Anglican church in search of all homophobic and misogynist clergy to take them on board, married or not, into their for-men-only priesthood.  What a blessing and a lightening of the load for the Anglican Church!  Like a vacuum cleaner, the Vatican is sucking in all the sexist and gay-hating clerics of the Anglican Communion.  A blessing indeed.  And one wishes them well.

But with every blessing comes responsibility and the Anglican church, I believe, should heed the lessons in this book.  Now that it need not entertain sexist and homophobic clergy, and not pander to a Vatican that has turned very dark at this moment in history, it can and should turn itself with ever more vigor  to the bigger issues of eco-justice, eco-spirituality, sexual mysticism along with sexual morality and deep ecumenism shared with those earth-based traditions that were so badly treated in the past.  A new relationship with indigenous and pagan peoples is near.  From this new and deeper alliance and from science  whose sacred task it is to explore nature ever more deeply, much needed wisdom can arise.

These are just a few of the reasons I rejoice at the arrival of this book.

______________________________________

(1) Steven Herrmann, William Everson: The Shaman’s Call, Interviews, Introduction, and Commentaries (New York: Eloquent Books, 2009), 94. (2) Ibid., 95. (3) See Matthew Fox, “Otto Rank as Mystic and Prophet in the Creation Spirituality Tradition” (4) Herrmann, 100. (5) I tell the story in Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2002), 173. See also: Lynda Paladin, Painting the Dream: The Visionary Art of Navajo Painter David Chethlahe Paladin (Rochester, Vt: Part Street Press, 1992). (6) Herrmann, 105. (7) Steven B. Herrmann, Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy and the World Soul (New York: Eloquent Books, 2010), 255. (8) Ibid., 255, 256. Italics his. (9) Ibid., 256. (10) Ibid., 42. (11) Ibid., ix. (12) Ibid., 258. (13) Ibid., 287, 288. (14) Mary Ford-Grabowsky, The Unfolding of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at 60 (Berkeley, 2000), 70, 71. (15) Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 21, 22, 28, 29. (16) I have described some of these experiences in Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996) and I have treated some of the intellectual gifts I have received from earth based spiritual teachings in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets (New York: Jeremy Tarcher, 2003), chapters 6, 7, 8. So much of pre-modern Christian mysticism was creation-centered and earth based as well, thus Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas among others carry deeper similarities to earth-based religions than to heady modern anthropocentric theologists. (17) Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2000), 119. (18) I treat this subject at some length in Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine (Novato, Ca: New World Library, 2010). (19) Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999), 190.