Leading With the Good: Julian, Hildegard, and Eckhart

The creation-centered mystics are all about immersing ourselves in the goodness of creation, the blessing of existence, thus immersing ourselves in the Via Positiva. 

For example, Hildegard of Bingen writes: “God is the good. And all things that proceed from God are good.”

“Global Village Freiwilligenprogramm” Habitat for Humanity Deutschland via Wikimedia Commons

Meister Eckhart says: “Whenever we talk about God the Creator we are talking about goodness.”  And when asked how you can know who is a good person he responds: “A good person praises good people.”

And Julian of Norwich writes: “I know well that heaven and earth and all creation are great, generous and beautiful and good….God’s goodness fills all his creatures and all his blessed works full, and endlessly overflows in them.”

Julian adapts Meister Eckhart’s teaching that “isness is God” when she writes: “God is everything which is good, as I see it, and the goodness which everything has is God.”

“Untitled” Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

To say that “goodness is God” is to reestablish the nondualistic relationship of Creator and creation, an “erotic bond between Creator and creation” as Thomas Berry puts while commenting on Hildegard’s theology.

To lead with goodness is also to reestablish a veritable theology of blessing. For blessing is the theological word for goodness. As Professor Sigmund Mowinckel* put it in his major study on blessing in Israeli theology, “first and foremost, blessing is life, health, and fertility for the people, their cattle, their fields….Blessing is the basic power of life itself.”

For Julian the blessing that our lives are goes back a very long way. “I saw that God never began to love us. For just as we will be in everlasting joy (all God’s creation is destined for this), so also we have always been in God’s foreknowledge, known and loved from without beginning.” Julian is celebrating the original blessing that our existences are.

“Sunrise from Space” Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Science today can vouch for the accuracy of Julian’s theology: Had the super nova not exploded five billion years ago, had the earth not maintained a certain temperature so that water would flow and life emerge, had the ozone not processed out certain levels of radiation, had the original fireball lasted just a few seconds longer or shorter than it did over 750,000 years or maintained a temperature just one degree hotter or colder over that period of time, we humans would not exist. Thus we were indeed loved by the cosmos “from before the beginning.”

Isn’t this awesome?

*Cited in Claus Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 20.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Wrestling With The Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life, pp. 80-82
Banner Image: “The Happiness of the poor children.” Taken in Chupah district, Gialai province Vietnam. Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

For Deeper Contemplation

Meditate on the goodness of creation and God.  An animal?  A leaf?  A flower?  A mountain?  A blue sky?  Healthy waters?  A child laughing?

Read anew Genesis 1:1-2:4.  Swim in its affirmation of the goodness of creation AND the “very goodness” of creation that comes with humanity’s arrival.  Be with that goodness and very goodness.

Apply Eckhart’s test of a human being’s goodness: Do you praise good people?  Doesn’t that imply that you are looking for goodness in others?  How can you be a hunter-gatherer after goodness?

Recommended Reading

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages in substantive discussions with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets on today’s social and spiritual issues on such challenging topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interspirituality, and more.

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview.  In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.

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13 thoughts on “Leading With the Good: Julian, Hildegard, and Eckhart”

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear John,
      Welcome! And thank you for your question. The most apparent difference between creation theology and creation spirituality is that theology is a thought process, pursued through discourse and in depth study of the dynamics between human, creation, and its Creator. Usually, a theology assumes some separation between the three aspects of life. Humans, God, and all other beings are separate entities whose relationship can be intellectually explored. A spirituality is experiential. It involves interaction withing a shared divinity that shapes a person’s soul. It is about direct connection to God and, in Creation Spirituality, a direct connection to the entirety of Creation as part of oneself. This includes what has happened along the evolutionary track from the big bang to the present and what is evolving in this moment – which affects us and is affected by us – into the future.
      There is a theology of Creationism, to which you may be referring. It is a belief that the actual timing and process of the creation of the world is as it is written in the English translation of the Bible. In this theology, God is the actor and we are acted upon. We are given dominion over all of creation to use it for our own needs – resulting in the the ecological crisis we have today. In comparison, Creation Spirituality supports a shared sense of evolution in which humans are conscious and powerful, but called to care for the Earth and to use our intelligence to cultivate goodness for all life forms.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  1. Avatar
    Mary Beth Barnett

    Yes, “God is the good,” for who would argue with Hildegard of Bingen? And, I don’t know how to parse this, so I am asking for help. To me, God is also in the “bad.” He is in the joy and in the suffering. He is in the “good” person and in the “bad” person. He is in the sunrise and in the earthquake. It takes death to make life; to me God is in all of it. Is the small preposition “in” the differential? Thank you in advance for any advice. Mary Beth

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Mary Beth,
      Yes, you have laid out the mystery of God as both good and bad, joy and suffering, peaceful lake and disorienting earthquake. The bad is a source of goodness, because it holds the potential for holy transformation within it. Suffering opens our hearts to the real in powerful ways. And there is a bond between those who suffer together that may be stronger than the bond love creates. What Matt is saying, I believe, is that when you experience goodness, you are experiencing the divine. This is not exclusive. The destruction of an earthquake is also an experience of the power and evolutionary creativity of God. In the shadows of a culture that teaches us that we are born in Original Sin, we have been discouraged from seeing the beautiful, the awesome, the good as something around us and in us – of which we are a part. Goodness has been taught to us as a list of behaviors rather than an connection to Creation. In the book Matthew was quoting contains 89 “wonderful and useful” names of God, none of them exclusive. To counterbalance the effect of Original Sin, he is asking us to first notice the good before moving on to pain and destruction.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

      1. Avatar
        Mary Beth Barnett

        Thank you, Gail. In response to my question, you provided a helpful context and some insightful statements. I appreciate your thoughts. Mary Beth

    2. Avatar

      I once heard Matt say that the hardest thing for modern folks to understand about CS is the Via Positiva. To me there is no mature spirituality without a Via Negativa. That is certainly present in this teaching and way of life. My own read is that Matt throughout his teaching career has celibrated the Via Positiva exuberantly and unabashedly, and in today’s world, and especially in today’s spirituality, that is atypical. And I can only speak personally, as someone whose own spiritual life has been shaped by the Via Negativa more than Positiva:. twenty five years of living in darkness has taught me one thing above else: I prefer the light. The dignity of life, of the Via Positiva, is also experienced at the bottom of the night, or lat least it can be. No truer words in Jewish and Christians Scriptures were ever spoken than these: God is very near to the brokenhearted. God’s peace.

      1. Gail Ransom

        Dear Josh,
        Your comment and this series on the Via Positiva has given me new appreciation for Matt’s concept of Original Blessing. Most of us have been brought up in a culture of Original Sin (protestant work ethic, Jewish guilt) and our lives have been consumed with transforming that negativity into something good. We were not taught to understand ourselves as beloved and blessed to our core. That was something we were supposed to earn by curing us of our sinful nature. This negativity colors everything we do, everyone we regard, and our relationship to Creation. I believe this is why Matthew focuses so much on the Via Positiva. We need to hear it, see it, read it, and touch it over and over again so we can live in Original Blessing.
        Gail Sofia Ransom
        For the Daily Meditation, Team

  2. Avatar

    My experience has led me to believe that God is everywhere and in everything. Different people have very different ideas about what is “good” and who are the “good people”. This God in the “good” does not seem consistent with most of what I read in your creation spirituality. It seems to promote a smaller God relevant to fewer people than I am used to hearing you talk about. It seems to me that Hod helps most when available in the hard stuff, the violence, the tornado as well as the tulips. Help me understand, please.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you for writing. I believe you have answered your own question. The goodness of God is in the larger struggles as well as the every day experience of warmth, beauty, and good fortune. We are on the first of the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality. These paths outline a process that is the journey of our individual ideas, our spiritual lives, and the constant transformation of the universe. What is awe-some gives way, as it must, to decay and loss. This decay becomes the humus for the implantation of new life and creativity, which then transforms everything around it. Without this constant evolutionary process, life would be static, circular rather than spiral, and each atom and person would be locked into one lifeless form. To be alive, to move forward, supernova have to die and be reborn as baby stars, tornadoes have to rip up trees by the roots so that new trees can grow, and people have to break open their hearts and find love where they thought none existed. All of this, in the macro sense, needs to be perceived as redemptive, restorative, life-giving, and good.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

    2. Avatar

      This is my rumination about the Creator that is LOVE. God IS love and God is the one and only creator. Therefore all of creation, even those parts we call “bad” were created and sustained by God who IS love. I keep thinking that that love is so awesome we cannot understand it. All of the things we call “bad”, people that we see full of evil, e.g. serial killers, are all sustained in love. That kind of love is far beyond my puny mind to encompass, but it is real. That is the best I can do for now. It is working toward the problem of evil.

      1. Gail Ransom

        Thank you, Roberta, for writing this. It has spoken to me deeply as I consider the goodness of God and the presence of Evil.
        Gail Sophia Ransom
        For the Daily Meditations Team

  3. Avatar

    I like what the Christian mystics have to say. One thing mystics don’t do is put names to what they say, such as Via Positiva, etc. I wish Matthew Fox did not have this penchant for naming things so awkwardly. What’s wrong with The Positive Way? Or, what’s wrong with NOT attaching names to mystics’ thoughts at all? Let the thoughts speak/name themselves.
    Clifford Hill

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Clifford,
      Thank you for writing and lifing up this problem of naming. Sure enough, as soon as we give something a name, we take some of the magic out of it. There is an actual sonic beginning, middle, and end to the experience we are attempting to describe. And we know that mystical experiences don’t have beginnings and endings that can be capture with words made from brain and our breath. In the experience of the Positiva, there is only the middle, the immersion into the experience. And yet, without words, it is difficult to describe or share these profound experiences for each others’ edification. And so we limp along with inadequate words for indescribable experiences, trying to communicate what cannot be expressed with words. So many of us have come up with alternate names for the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality. They defy summation. Their shear number is proof that they are as engaging as they are elusive. Welcome to the family!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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