Birthing and Struggling to Birth Post-Modern Values

We are discussing the birthing of light and values in a time of solstice.

We often hear talk of how we are living between two worlds, the modern and the post-modern (Carl Jung talked about our leaving the Piscean era and entering the Age of Aquarius.) 

As in all birth, there are plenty of struggles and labor pains involved in this transition. 

A peace activist confronts fundamentalist Christians on the Mall the day before the Inauguration of President-Elect Obama. Photo by Bill Peters on Flickr.

It is manifesting itself in the pain of the political systems we constructed in the modern era that are now failing to fully respond to today’s needs. 

It also manifests in religious upheavals today where some respond to changes by wanting to build thicker walls, deeper moats, and the more rarified orthodoxies we call fundamentalism. 

It is everywhere.

“Cultivating the Cosmic Tree” – a celebration of the Divine spark in all life, by Hildegard of Bingen.

It may be useful to look at some of the “values” that distinguish post-modern from modern thinking to understand better where we find ourselves today. 

Often I have suggested in these meditations that a post-modern consciousness has more in common with a pre-modern consciousness than with a modern consciousness. 

Especially when it comes to values—good examples would be the themes of Beauty; and Community; and the Whole that we have discussed in our two most recent essays.  These values are important to pre-modern peoples.  Much less so in the modern era.

Matthew Fox pounding his 95 Theses at the Wittenberg Cathedral door. Portrait by UCS professor Jennifer Hereth, personally gifted to Matthew Fox.

When I pounded 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg at Pentecost time in 2005 to protest the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to be Pope Benedict, I was re-enacting an act by Martin Luther in the sixteenth century in protesting Vatican corruption in his day.  I end my short book on that event with a list of the new 95 theses but also a chapter listing the contrasts between modern and post-modern values. 

I reproduce some of those contrasts here and in tomorrow’s meditation for I believe they are important as we let go of some values and seek for new ones in this post-modern time. 

Docent Peter Small demonstrating the use of the Gutenberg press at the International Printing Museum. Photo by vlasta2 on Wikimedia Commons.

Here I will abbreviate Modern Consciousness as M, and Postmodern Consciousness as P.

M: Began with the invention of the printing press. 
P: Began with the invention of electronic media.

M: Emphasizes text therefore. 
P: Emphasizes context.  (Thus cosmology and ecology become especially important values to seek out.)

M: Emphasizes words. 
P: Emphasizes images.

Oglala Lakota Chief Frank Fools Crow, ceremonial leader, healer, educator, and activist/ambassador. Photographer unknown; from “Military Games” by Andrey Veter on Lakota-Indians.Narod.Ru

M: Throws out the past (assaulted indigenous peoples and their cultures around the world, for example). 
P: Conserves some aspects of the past and lets go of others.  For example, it recognizes wisdom in pre-modern peoples including medieval thinkers who, like indigenous people everywhere, begin with the cosmos and not with the human.

If Incarnation means becoming part of today’s history—which it does—then much needs to be reinterpreted in light of today’s history.  We will continue this meditation on birthing pains in tomorrow’s essay.

See Matthew Fox, A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity, p. 112.

Banner Image: Moving from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age: woodcut illustrations of the zodiac signs Pisces and Aquarius, by Alexander and Samuel Weissenhorn of Ingolstadt. From a 16th-century manuscript in the Penn Library, call #GC55 N1700 566p, uploaded to Flickr by the Provenance Online Project.

Queries for Contemplation

There are many contrasts in values named here.  Which ones speak most deeply to the way you have struggled to understand the world?  Which ones come to you most organically?  How do you see them reflected in your children or grandchildren?  In the news? In the evolution of church or synagogue or mosque?

Recommended Reading

A modern-day theologian’s call for the radical transformation of Christianity that will allow us to move once again from the hollow trappings of organized religion to genuine spirituality. A New Reformation echoes the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and offers a new vision of Christianity that values the Earth, honors the feminine, and respects science and deep ecumenism.

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2 thoughts on “Birthing and Struggling to Birth Post-Modern Values”

  1. Avatar

    Beautiful framework of the evolution of wisdom/consciousness from pre-modern, modern, to post -modern. Reminds me of a spiral progression from pre-modern to post-modern wisdom. It not a return of post-modern values to a pristine and innocent pre-modern consciousness. It is the evolutionary spiralling back of symbolic consciousness through what Cynthia Bourgeault calls the process of enroulemont–symbolic consciousness forced to windingly reflect back on itself and develop diverse complex forms in order to survive as it destroys the initial conditions on Earth that created human symbolic consciousness.

  2. Avatar

    Extravagance, interconnectivity, beauty, and all the others–thank you, Matthew, for expounding on these as spiritual values. I think I will choose one of these values each week for several weeks and use that value (along with your exposition on it) as a focus for my meditation each morning for the week. (That might take me just about to Lent!) And what a lovely portrait of you by Jennifer Hereth. I wonder if it would be possible to have prints made of it and offer it to people as a means of raising funds for your continued work. I’d certainly be interested.

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