There is great wisdom in our species and in Western spiritual traditions, but much that is there needs a new birth and a fresh beginning. As a Westerner I must begin where I stand within my own culture and its traditions. We in the West must take these insights into our hearts on a regular basis, allow them to play in the heart, and then take them into our work and citizenship and family and community. This is how all healthy and deep awakenings happen; they begin with the heart and flow out from there.
The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions — including our religious ones — and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring what is creative to religion itself.”
Jesus was a mystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British empire; and Martin Luther King Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.
Deep down, each one of us is a mystic. When we tap into that energy we become alive again and we give birth. From the creativity that we release is born the prophetic vision and work that we all aspire to realize as our gift to the world. Getting in touch with the mystic inside is the beginning of our deep service.
It is for this reason that we have been examining and meditating on a Return to the Source which includes Creation and what Thomas Aquinas calls “the Source without a source,” that is Divinity in recent meditations. We have listened to Aboriginal voices, African and African American and Native American voices, to Jewish mystics and Buddhist teachers, to Sufi and Christian teachers.
It is striking how much they share in common in urging us to return to the depth of our selves, to the true self which is so much deeper and more creative than is our false self which we structure to please others and whereby we escape from our deepest and truest selves.
Recovering the mystics among our ancestors and within ourselves is a post-modern thing to do. The modern era, as we saw yesterday, was hostile to mysticism. The pre-modern era was not–it sought an experience of one-ness with the universe—consider not only indigenous peoples everywhere but also the great genius Thomas Aquinas of the thirteenth century who said: “The greatest thing about the human is that we are capable of the universe.” We can one with the universe; and one with the divine—and that is mysticism.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 2f.
See also: Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, chapter four.
Banner Image: Lotus blossoms. The lotus must be rooted in the mud at the bottom of the water to send up its breathtaking blossoms. Photo by Hayden Scott on Unsplash.
Queries for Contemplation
Are you at home with calling yourself a “mystic”? Why? Or why not? Do you sense an “inner self” as well as a “true self” within your self that is other than an “outer self” or “false self?”
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times
A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book! Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
Conversations On Aquinas: Caroline Myss
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 Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Why People Don’t Heal And How They Can, discuss one of the greatest mystics and prophetic scientists of all time: What does Thomas Aquinas have to say to us today?