A second ecstasy familiar to us all is friendship. The mutual attraction and sharing that reaches a point of forgetfulness of self is an experience of ecstasy built into our everyday lives. The sharing of two souls is a special gift.
The ecstasies of sexual enjoyment also constitute a forgetfulness of self, an experience beyond oneself, a taste of the divine just as the Biblical book the Song of Songs teaches us. Sex finds its fullest joys as a combination of the first two kinds of ecstasy—as an experience of nature and of friendship.
Who has not lost herself, stood outside and beyond herself , while listening to a Mozart sonata? Or while delighting at people dancing? Or taking in the colors of a Matisse, the shadows of a Rembrandt? Not only as receivers of the arts but also as doers do we taste the delights we call ecstasy. Who has not forgotten self when striving to write or paint or construct cabinets or sew or make music? Michelangelo speaks from the perspective of an artist, “True art is made noble and religious by the mind producing it. For those who feel it, nothing makes the soul so religious and pure as the endeavor to create….”
Sports is another familiar ecstatic experience in our lives. Who does not forget himself, stand outside of herself, when careening down a slope on skies? When diving into water and marrying her skin to the water in swimming? In ice skating, jogging, playing tennis, surfing, horseback riding, etc. In ecstasies of sport, we experience again our communion with nature: our bodies and whole selves are once again immersed in our origins—water, sky, earth and the fire of striving for excellence.
The experience of thinking, of marrying two thoughts so that a child thought is born, is also an ecstatic experience—one where we forget ourselves, enjoy ourselves so fully that we say, “This is fun!” and want to do it again. And again.
Thinking as ecstasy: we see it among fourth and fifth graders—Does it continue in our adult years also? Tasting the joy of thinking and giving birth to ideas needs no defense as ecstasy. Says Thomas Aquinas: “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice.”
Suffering too can bring us close to union with the Divine. Not wished for suffering or masochistic suffering but the loss and grief that Life brings our way and that opens our souls up profoundly.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Whee! We, wee All the Way Home: A Guide to Sensual Prophetic Spirituality, pp. 45-51
Banner image: “Lovers” by Alejandra Quiroz, Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
When and where do you experience ecstasy?
How do you allow yourself the time and space to ground those experiences so they become a central jumping off point to feed your energy for good work and for service?
How do you/we say “Thank you” for those moments of revelation and breakthrough?
One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, this title explores the importance of ecstasy in the spiritual life. Fox considers the distinction between “natural” ecstasies (including nature, sex, friendship, music, art) and “tactical” ecstasies (like meditation, fasting, chanting); he names the spiritual journey as taking us from ecstasy (Whee!) to a community consciousness (We), to our battling forces that prefer control to pleasure shared or justice (wee).