In our previous two meditations we have considered Thomas Aquinas’s teaching that we resurrect when we become mystics again.
On Easter Sunday I invoked the teaching of Jewish cultural historian and psychologist, Otto Rank, who taught that the resurrection, as taught by Jesus and Paul, was the “most revolutionary idea in human history” because it democratized immortality and addressed the number one preoccupation of our species, one that detours our living our lives fully, namely the fear of death.
The immortality projects that preoccupy us and addict us and appeal to our insecurities prevent us from living fully. And the promise of resurrection cuts through these fears and allow us to live fuller lives.
Rank, who being Jewish did not believe in original sin, does talk however about an “original wound” with which we are all born, that wound being the experience of separation from our mother after nine at-home months in the womb.
He believes that most if not all of our neuroses derive from that trauma of separation at birth and that the bell of that separation is rung every time we go through a difficult time in our lives—separation is the key to our anxiety.
This might prove to be especially useful information at a time of distancing and separation that the coronavirus has forced on us all.
What, to Rank, is the cure for this separation syndrome? In his words, the unio mystica, the mystical union we have with the cosmos itself and through “love and art.” Premodern and ancient peoples saw physics (i.e. nature and macrocosm) and psychology (human nature and microcosm) as one.
All of life was a celebration of this union of psyche and cosmos. This was a source of great wonder and admiration for Rank who believes people still seek “an identity with the cosmic process” and waking up to cosmology will provide the surest healing for our deepest woes of our separation from the cosmos.
This unio mystica, our “being one with the All” and our being “in tune with” the cosmos, the earliest humans knew intimately. Says Rank: “This identification is the echo of an original identity, not merely of child and mother, but of everything living—witness the reverence of the [indigenous peoples] for animals.
In man, identification aims at re-establishing a lost identity with the cosmic process, which has to be surrendered and continuously re-established in the course of self-development.” Are we capable of recovering this same reverence?
It is our powers of will and choosing, our ethics and our creativity, which make us truly human and bring meaning to life.
Rank invokes our capacity for the unio mystica as the ultimate healer for our souls. We will be exploring in greater depth some of the teachings of the great mystics in subsequent Daily Meditations.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Otto Rank as Mystic and Prophet in the Creation Spirituality Tradition“
Banner Image: “Michaels Light.” Photo by Paean Ng on Flickr
Queries for Contemplation
Do you experience this “lost identity with the cosmic process” that rank is talking about? Do you see this loss in our culture also? How so? What can we do about it?
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow. Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Living in Sin
Conversations on Aquinas: Andrew Harvey
As Matthew Fox’s travels have been curtailed due to the Coronavirus, he is sharing a series of conversations with revolutionary thinkers and spiritual teachers on the topics explored in his latest book, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times. In this video, he and Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guidebook to Sacred Activism and Turn Me to Gold, discuss one of the greatest theological minds of all time: What does Thomas Aquinas have to say to us today?