Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 15 May 03 09:26
Joining us today is the renowned Matthew Fox. Fox, a postmodern theologian, has been an ordained priest since 1967. He holds Masters Degrees in philosophy and theology from Aquinas Institute and a Doctorate in spirituality, summa cum laude, from the Institut Catholique de Paris. Fox is president of the University of Creation Spirituality and Co-director of the Naropa Oakland MLA in Oakland, California. Fox is author of 26 books, including the best-selling "Original Blessing;" "One River, Many Wells;" and his latest work, "Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet." Fox's work has brought him numerous awards, including the 1994 New York Open Center Tenth Anniversary Award for Achievement in Creative Spirituality, a Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey of Sherborn, Mass., and the Tikkun National Ethics Award. He's twice earned the Body Mind Spirit Award of Excellence for outstanding books in print. He can be heard live on his weekly radio program, "Spirit in Action," every Thursday morning on KEST AM 1450 in San Francisco. Leading the conversation is Rik Elswit. Elswit is a professional musican, music consultant, teacher, and writer who has been involved in musical arts for 40 years. He was seduced away from academia during the Summer of Love, moved to San Francisco, and has played rock, country, blues, and jazz in a variety of contexts. He has 7 Gold records for his work with Dr. Hook, and is currently playing improvised music, using digital looping systems. Raised in a religiously mixed marriage, he was indoctrinated in both Judaism and Methodism, and had decided by age 16 that he couldn't buy into either. This did leave him with an interest in the phenomenon of religion, and though he has yet to find that perfect fit, it has made for fascinating reading. He hosts the <religion.> conference on The WELL.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 15 May 03 09:27
Welcome, Matthew and Rik. We're delighted to have you join us in inkwell.vue.
Rik Elswit (rik) Thu 15 May 03 10:12
Welcome to the Well, Matthew. There is a very high percentage of professional creators online here, and we are a constant conversation around what we do and how we do it. There are entire conferences on various arts and sciences, where people share their experiences, commiserate about failures, boast of victories, and pass on tips on breaking though blocks. And, in my opinion, the Well itself is a creative work of art. Before we get in to the particulars I'd like to begin by asking you about Creation Spirituality, the theology that is the subject of several or your earlier books, and how this new one, "Creativity" expands on those.
typos 'r' us (rik) Thu 15 May 03 16:19
"...several OF your earlier books..."
Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Fri 16 May 03 11:14
Hello Rik and Cynthia. I am delighted to be here. Creation Spirituality is that tradition in the West (both Jewish and Christian) that is NOT patriarchal, not anthropocentric, not guilt-ridden or shame-driven, i.e. not original sin based but is Original Blessing based. Strange to tell, it is the oldest tradition in the Bible (J source) and it is that of Wisdom literature and much of the prophets. Because it is wisdom literature it is that of the historical Jesus (who never HEARD of Original Sin--no Jew has). Scholarship today agrees that the historical Jesus was thoroughly steeped in the wisdom tradition, i.e. creation spirituality tradition. This tradition teaches that all of nature is a revelation of the Divine and is graced ("nature is grace" says Meister Eckhart). The Cosmos is a great blessing, our origin and source. CS looks to science to tell us of the grace of nature (Aquinas: "A mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.") So CS dialogs with scientists. It is feminist, as wisdom is feminine not only in the West but the world over depicts wisdom as female. It is passionate about eco, social, gender, racial and economic justice. AND about creativity. CS sees the spiritual journey in four paths: Via Positiva (delight, joy, awe); Via Negativa (silence, letting go, suffering, grief); Via Creativa (Creativity); Via Transformativa (Compassion including celebration and justice-making). Then spiraling back to VP, etc. again. The great medieval mystics, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Nicolas of Cusa were creation centered as well as radical Protestants like George Fox. And almost any artist you can name. Try Blake for one. This new book of mine takes the 3rd path, Creativity, and goes deep (I hope)....
Gerry Feeney (gerry) Fri 16 May 03 14:19
Welcome, Matthew. I'm Gerry and I host the Christianity conference here on The WELL. Your book has been a real eye-opener for me - refreshing and inspirational. I wonder if you would mind discussing some of your background before discussing the book itself. I'm curious to know about your journey. What were your major influences?
Rik Elswit (rik) Fri 16 May 03 15:20
That's a good idea. The more I read of "Creativity", the more I wanted to know about your background. A theology that emphasizes the heart over the head appeals to me deeply.
Rik Elswit (rik) Fri 16 May 03 15:57
To clarify, was this a sudden epiphany, the result of long thought, or perhaps a combination of the two?
Barrett Brassfield (sunhillow) Fri 16 May 03 17:45
I am curious about this too. I first read Original Blessing in 1989 and thought it a breath of fresh theology. How far back had you been shaping the work that would become Original Blessing?
Teleologically dyslexic (ceder) Sat 17 May 03 09:10
Greetings Matthew Fox! I've been looking at an extensive list of books you have authored over your career. We are so fortunate to have you here.
Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Sun 18 May 03 15:46
About my background. (I did write it up in a full length autobiography called "Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest".) I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, the 4th of 7 children in a practicing Roman Catholic household. Went to public high school and joined the Dominican Order (a 13th century order founded by St. Dominic. Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart were Dominicans). Did philosophy and theology degrees at their house of studies in the Midwest and then a doctorate in the history and theology of spirituality at the Institut Catholique de Paris. There my mentor, Pere Chenu, a French Dominican, named the Creation Spiritual Tradition for me and mining that has been my life word for it shows another side to Christianity. I did my studies in France from '67-'70 and those were turbulent times everywhere. My number one issue was the integration of Spirituality and Mysticism with Social Justice (now including eco and gender justice too). These themes play through all my 25 books. My "Original Blessing" came from teaching in my Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality (ICCS) at Mundelein College in Chicago for six years. I think it was about my fifth book or so. After 7 years there I moved the institute to Holy Names College in Oakland and after 12 years there I started our own University of Creation Spirituality (UCS) in Oakland and linked the master's program to Naropa University of Boulder four years ago. UCS runs the Doctoral program (D. Min in bringing work and spirituality together.) The pedagogy for our graduate degrees includes heart work and art work and ritual work as well as head work. Always has.
Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sun 18 May 03 17:35
Well, Matthew, that's a lot of mileage. Thank you for the mention of your autobiography. I'll be looking for it soon. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that I'd never read any of your works before _Creativity_. In the meanwhile, I'd like to ask what drew you to the priesthood, and to the Domincan Order in particular. Did you feel a genuine calling, or was there any nudging from family, teachers, or mentors?
LoRayne Apo-Joynt (lorayne-apo) Sun 18 May 03 18:47
Yes, thanks for the brief bio, Matthew, it stimulated a couple of questions. I've been a fan of your work; I've cited "The Reinvention of Work" innumerable times, both in the course of obtaining an education and in the workplace. (I am still working on reading "Creativity; forgive me while I play catch-up to the rest of Well members.) I've been puzzled about two things: -- How is it you were able to concentrate on the spiritual without impediment by religion? Many of us raised in the Catholic faith do not "see" much of the spiritual; we're confronted weekly with the do's and don'ts, the demands of tithing and praying for causes, all the things that gather us in the flesh. But we don't hear our pastors *exploring* the spiritual. Perhaps this is only my experience and I'm projecting, but I know I share this with other "recovering" Catholics who are seeking other paths outside the Church in search of the spiritual. -- To my mind, much of your work is resonant with Jungian psychology, and yet you do not cite Jung overmuch. Is there any part of Jung's work which does not work for you, in regards to our work and our creativity?
Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 08:00
Welcome, Matthew. I was pleased when WELL Conferencing announced you had been invited to Inkwell. I go by the handle of <maya> in these parts. > it shows another side to Christianity Such a statement belies the multifaceted character of the Christian faith, something I have come to believe requires stressing at a time when singular definitions of the faith hold dominion over others, if not a downright stranglehold. Thank you for reminding us that the richness of faith entails the examination of its various trajectories. Some worship Christ as the resurrected savior. Others respect Jesus as one of history's most influential sages. And both have their valence and their setting at the table. > My number one issue was the integration of Spirituality > and Mysticism with Social Justice (now including eco and gender > justice too). As a self-identified gay male and a somewhat-identified queer, I further thank you for tackling the heteosexist presumptions that pose as the burning sword at the entrance to the garden. You are less strident than I am with regard to these issues and, consequently, more effective. I sometimes have to remind myself that each of us has a burning sword barring them from the garden, imposed either from without or within, and sometimes from both, and that a certain parity needs to be recognized in everyone's specific struggle towards social justice. Without question, your work has had much appeal for me precisely because it disfavors the metaphor of exclusion and suggests that blessing is more the message of Jesus than guilt.
Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Mon 19 May 03 10:31
Dear Gerry, No, there was no push from my family. In fact my mom resisted but said "whatever makes you happy." The Pull (not push) was both intellectual and aesthetic. Intellectual because I had a lot of philosophical debates with my Protestant, Jewish and agnostic high school class mates and found some intellectual 'meat' from my Dominican parish priests who had me reading Aquinas and Chesterton and others. I felt the intellectual tradition of Catholicism as something very rich. (Unfortunately the present Papacy has deep-sixed the intellectual tradition in favor of ideology--but that is another story.) Aesthetically, I visited the Dominican house of studies for a retreat my senior year of high school and loved the chanting of the office in Latin by the Dominicans and the sense of community. It spoke to my heart....
Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Mon 19 May 03 10:36
Dear Lorayne: You have hit it on the head--the difference between religion and spirituality. In my training as a Dominican I went to my bosses and said:" My generation is going to be interested in spirituality and spiritual experience more than in religion and we have no one trained in spirituality." We had not a single course on the mystics for example. "I'll be glad to study spirituality" I said. And they sent me on. (And regretted it later I guess.) One Indian teacher says: "Spirituality is the banana and religion is the banana peel." Well said I think. The church is out of touch with its spiritual tradition, too busy creating religious ego instead. My work has been to mine that tradition with special appreciation for Hildegard, Aquinas (as mystic and prophet), Eckhart, and Jesus too. And how it relates to the mystics of other cultures. AND to us. Our mysticism. It's in all of us even if organized religion avoids it. One issue is seminary education which usually aborts the mystic in the student. Our university has developed a pedagogy whereby folks can truly bring their mystic alive. As for Jung, I respect him a lot though I only trust Jungians who have a social consciousness (many Jungians get trapped in the via creativa and never get to the via transformativa). BUT I consider the greatest spiritual psychologist of the 20th century to have been Otto Rank. He, unlike Jung, has a superb record regarding social justice issues and psychology (Read "Beyond Psychology" for example).
Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Mon 19 May 03 10:37
Dear Maya, Thank you for your wise comments. Remember that ancient traditions recognized that homosexuals carry special spiritual power for the community--the great chiefs among Native American tribes had homosexuals as their spiritual directors I am told. Also, among the Celts and the pygmies in Africa. A culture/religion that his homophobic is destroying its spiritual base....We now know at least 71 other species that have homosexual population such as cranes, dolphins, and many others. Therefore, the traditional argument that homosexuality is "unnatural" is simply scientifically wrong. To expect 100% of a population to be heterosexual, THAT is unnatural and wrong. The majority does not have a right to dictate to the minority either internally or externally. Once having overthrown internal oppression (self-hatred), gays and lesbians need spiritual practice and vision (just like every one else) to give their gift to the community. Creation Spirituality offers much in that regard precisely because it honors creation as "original blessing"--including our varied, diverse, and wonderful sexuality.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 19 May 03 10:48
> "Spirituality is the banana and religion is the banana peel." Excellent.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 19 May 03 11:00
Beautiful refutation of homophobia, Matthew. I feel the same way on the subject, that is, as Buddha put it, "The Earth is my witness."
Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 11:10
Matthew, thank you for your respectful attention to our individual questions. Specifically, I appreciate your affirmation. Creation Spirituality speaks to me precisely because of its belief in "original blessing" so perhaps you should speak some about that to those who might not be aware of it. I have long felt, even before I discovered your work, that the concept of original sin was fundamentally incorrect and destructive. That this concept has woven itself into the infrastructure of the Catholic church and, in fact, into our language to such an extent that, rather than to be argued against, it simply needs to be left behind and new language created, ever aware however that the strength of original sin is precisely corrosive and intent upon negating and disempowering new language. I think it was Confucius who said that in order to change a culture you needed to change the language. I see much of this effort in your work. To convert "original sin" into "original blessing" was a brilliant insight. I am aware of the "history" of queer presence. My peers have been individuals such as Arthur Evans, Will Roscoe and Randy Conner, among others, who have reminded me that the revisioning of history is a vigilant task and that queers must look between the lines, to all that has not been recorded, to intuit and evoke what such absence and silence reveal. In fact, while reading _Creativity_, I was struck by your definition of Hell as concealment. Coupled to images from Greek myth that provide a cloak of invisibility to Hades, and that populated the underworld with shades, I realized that one of the main reasons fundamentalist Christians banish queerfolk to Hell is precisely in hopes that they will not be seen or heard. And the queer political strategy to be visible and out is crucial. And you are exactly right about the need for Queer folk to find a way to access not only the truth of their individual spirits but to find community in their quest for Divine Spirit. So many of them, myself included, have felt so shut off from this access because of religious condemnation that, out of anger and bitterness, we forsake our birthright to divine access. I'm glad that Creation Spirituality is not only welcoming queers to the table but offering them the best of the banquet. Which leads me to a more pointed question. Somehow as you set Creation Spirituality apart in its enthusiastic embrace of life, I feel it is being made distinct from Christianity. Is that true? Do you consider yourself a Christian movement?
Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 11:19
With regard to Lorayne's inquiry and your response, for 20 years I was a full scholar with the C.G. Jung Institute here in San Francisco. The opportunity was a rich one, it allowed me the chance to learn (in contrast to being taught by) many psychologists, artists and theologians. Gilles Quispel and Elaine Pagels in particular did much to inspire a return to the Christian faith, primarily to learn how to refute the assertions of original sin through the very wisdom traditions inherent within Christianity. I remember Pagels saying that organized Christianity was one of the few religions that purposely has attempted to wipe out its esoteric wisdom tradition. Your critique of the Jungians -- that they become "trapped in the via creativa and never get to the via transformativa" -- is astute and well-recognized among the Jungians themselves. I remember several professional seminars wherein this very subject was approached and tossed about; but, ultimately, I have to agree that very few Jungians compel their energies towards sociopolitical change. As James Hillman has made clear, the bias towards the individual seems innate to the psychoanalytic process. It is perhaps one of the most misunderstood principles of our time that social engagement will help you know about yourself as well as hours brooding in analysis.
Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 11:34
Finally (and then I will sign off to allow others the chance to speak), I commend your revitalization of Otto Rank and his work. He came to me by way of the diaries of Anais Nin. She was his "assistant" for a while and her synopsis of his work inspired me to read _Art and the Artist_ which had a strong influence.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 19 May 03 13:38
Matthew, a question about the new book specifically: In the preface, you more or less answer the question, "Why this book now?" (because the world is in crisis and needs creative answers), but I wonder: Why this book? Do you think our culture misses the spiritual value of creativity? Up above, <rik> posts: >>>A theology that emphasizes the heart over the head appeals to me deeply.<<< I've been thinking about this statement since I first read it, and, well, since long before that, too. At this point in my life, I think I believe the opposite. A theology emphasizing the head over the heart appeals to me, because, in history, when emotionalism has trumped rationalism very bad events have often followed. Yet faith, while not strictly emotional, is hardly rational; faith seems to occupy a kind of limbo between the two. Perhaps the wellspring of creativity shares the same space?
one man's astrolabe is another man's sextant (airman) Mon 19 May 03 14:46
I'm a bit puzzled by the spirituality aspect. While the banana metaphor sounds appealing at first, there is a larger issue at work here. Religion was suppose to be the worship of the Creator, not the creation. The way you have defined spirituality it would seem that the creation is more important than the creator and the creator is in fact outside the creation. TO use the banana metaphor, is the Creator the peel or the banana inside. Also, could you clarify "original blessing". The way I read Genesis 12 is that "blessed to be a blessing" was to extend to the whole world.
Barrett Brassfield (sunhillow) Mon 19 May 03 18:01
Matthew, I'm hoping you can also say a little more about your understanding of sin in the context of original blessing. I'm an Epicopalian who has been a practicing Zen Buddhist for the past 10 years or so and have, in these past months, felt a desire to return to my own tradition. In the course of doing so I've been looking again at The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, a book of yours that had a great influence on my own understanding of original blessing. Additionally, and I hope not to far off topic, I've been recently examining transubstantiation. Did your understanding of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist change as you transitioned from the Roman Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church?
Daniel (dfowlkes) Mon 19 May 03 19:08
<scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
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