Making Room in One’s Heart for the Universe

In my recent class on Thomas Aquinas, dedicated to the question: “What does it mean to be human?”, I introduced the class with this teaching from an ancient meso-American lineage:  “To be human, one must make room in one’s heart for the universe.”  This surely echoes Aquinas’s view of the world who says, “The greatness of the human person consists in this: That we are capable of the universe.” 

Ram Dass, late great spiritual master, sharing what it means to be human in California, 1985.

A sense of the universe in our heart expands our horizons and puts our work and business, our politics and economics, and our religion in a larger context than mere human identity.  It puts things in the context of creation itself, that magical inter-relationship of all things that are all part of one another.  “All our relations,” the Lakota pray.

Photograph was taken in Thailand, Koh Lipe which is full of corals. Photo by Milos Prelevic on Unsplash.

This truth is common to many mystics and mystical tradition around the world.  It is also common to much of post-modern science—the recovery of the ancient mystical teachings about our interdependence.  Consider Kabir from 15th century India who teaches that inside the human soul are “all seven oceans; and hundreds of millions of stars; and the one who judges jewels.  O, Kabir, the God whom you love is inside.”  This consciousness is a realization that “our soul is the world,” as Meister Eckhart puts it.  Our souls are not in our bodies, but our bodies are in our souls—and our souls are as vast as the universe, as large as our consciousness carries us in order to stretch and to know and to love.    

Professor Pitt (aka Phillip T. Colas) headshot taken from Prof. Pitt’s Facebook Page.

Consider also these teachings on interdependence from the Christian mystical tradition.  Hildegard of Bingen teaches, “Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.”  Meister Eckhart says, “What happens to another, whether it be a joy or a sorrow, happens to me” and again, “all creatures are interdependent.”   

In preparing for my class on this ultimate question—“What does it mean to be human” I realized that in many ways I had written my own answer to that question about ten years previously when I left the University I founded, the University of Creation Spirituality, and began a pilot project to take our proven pedagogy that brings the mystic alive in adults, to inner city teen-agers.  With a local rapper and video artist, Professor Pitt, we began a pilot project to see if an education that incorporated intuition and creativity at its core might excite young learners.  The results were real. 

Malidoma Some on having a sense of “home” by opening up our hearts to the world around us.

While 64% of black teenagers at that time were dropping out of high school, 100% of our students said they wanted to stay in school after passing through our program.  Why?  Because they discovered the joy of learning, which joy comes with creativity.  We had them making movies and poetry and rap on whatever topic interested them, BUT they had to draw on a few of the “10 C’s” to create their projects.  What are the 10 C’s?  to be continued

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, p. 96.

Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

Banner Image: Night sky view from Moena, Italy. Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

How is your soul “in the world?” 

How is the universe inside you?  What difference does that make?

Recommended Reading

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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5 thoughts on “Making Room in One’s Heart for the Universe”

  1. Avatar

    What beautiful thoughts this morning, Matthew. We lose humanity when we lose community, when we forget that we are all connected. Sometimes I find hope in what my pastor friend Stan Smith once told me: “When we are looking for the link between the ape and the human, maybe we are it.”

  2. Avatar

    The universe is inside me because I am composed of stardust and that is so exciting and inspiring because so is everything else on this earth. And our DNA even with plants shares so much. If only we could all feel this intimate connection–we could never hate or harm our relatives, including the earth.

  3. Avatar

    A few other quotations of mystics on the Universe:

    “The real world is beyond our thoughts and ideas; we see it through the net of our desires; divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do; the net is full of holes.” Nisargadatta H

    “To the enlightened man, whose consciousness embraces the universe, the universe becomes his ‘body’, while his physical body becomes a manifestation of the Universal Mind, his inner vision an expression of the highest reality, his speech an expression of eternal truth…” Lama Govinda B

    “God is unified oneness-one without two; inestimable. Genuine divine existence engenders the existence of all creation. The sublime, inner essences secretly constitute a chain linking everything from the highest to the lowest to the edge of the universe.” Moses de Leon J

    “The universe is the outward visible expression of the Real, and the Real is the inner unseen Reality of the universe.” Jami I

    “God continually showers the fullness of his grace on every being in the universe, but we consent to receive it to a greater or lesser extent.” Simone Weil J/C

  4. Avatar

    Good morning to everyone and thank you Matthew & to all your comments I’ll check them all out
    I read this a few years ago in Bede Griffiths book a new vision of reality
    “It is said that it is possible to go behind birth consciousness and conception to an animal consciousness in such away as to become aware of the animal life within.
    Further back still an awareness of plant life can be attained and finally it is possible to get back,in principle, at least to the original explosion of matter
    The explosion of matter in the universe fifteen billion years ago is present to all of us.
    Each one of us is part of the effect of that one original explosion such that ,in our consciousness, we are linked up with the very beginning of the universe ,And with the matter of the universe from the earliest stages of it that sense the universe is within us .we habitually think of the universe as being outside and apart from us but that is because we have become accustomed to projecting it outside “
    Aristotle said that the human mind in a certain sense is all things ,because we are capable of receiving the forms of the whole universe into ourself.
    We are this little universe ,a microcosm ,in whom the macrocosm is present as in a hologram
    I’ve experienced this
    As I’m sure many others have
    Stay safe

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