Cosmology/Ecology: Recovering our Humanhood, continued

We are discussing how recovering a sense of our place in the universe is part and parcel of recovering what it is to be human.  Cosmology tells the story of the unfolding of the universe to which we belong.  Thomas Aquinas reminds us that “the most excellent thing in the universe is not the human, the most excellent thing in the universe is the universe itself” and that all creatures are here to serve the universe. 

Our Beautiful Universe. Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

The universe is our primary mother and father—it conceived us and birthed us and provided the nurture we need to survive—the sun and moon, the oceans and land, the tides and the seasons that furnish our food, water, heat and sunshine, all the beauty and wonder of the many animals, birds, fishes, whales, forests, grasses, with whom we share the Earth.  “Ecology is functional cosmology,” teaches Thomas Berry.  To awaken to the cosmos is to awaken to the Earth and vice versa; and to work for the earth is the Great Work of loving the cosmos.

The modern age instructed us for knowledge and knowledge skills, and that is no mean accomplishment.  We can erect bridges, build airplanes, launch rockets that take us to the moon, explore Mars, even send objects beyond our solar system. And those are wonderful accomplishments!

Sunrise over Planet Earth. Photo by Arek Socha on Pixabay

But the pre-modern world was far better at meaning than is the modern world.  Its education was geared toward meaning because it did not begin with the human, but began with the universe itself.  Even the story in Genesis begins not with the human but with light; and then all the other beings; and lastly humans.  And it was called as a whole, “very good.”  A blessing.  An original blessing.  Or in Thomas Aquinas’s words, a “primal goodness” or “original goodness.”  

“Icon of Divine Wisdom (София Премудрость Божия) from St George Church in Vologda (16th century)” Artist: unknown. On Wikimedia Commons.

The deepest human response to encountering the universe is wonder and awe.  As Rabbi Heschel puts it, “The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.  What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder.”  And he reminds us that “awe is the beginning of wisdom” (as distinct from knowledge alone).  When we lose awe, we lose wisdom. 

There is something feminine about wisdom (her name in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and most other languages is feminine, not masculine).  When patriarchy banishes wisdom (for example, from education), it banishes awe and wonder.  One more reason we need to recover the Divine Feminine is not to erase the Masculine but to balance it and thereby purify and detoxify it. 

Ernest Becker reminds us that humans “need nothing less than a full world picture; and ancient man—unlike modern man—had not yet lost his awe of nature and being.”  Yes, our pre-modern ancestors, indigenous peoples everywhere, as well as medieval thinkers like Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas, began their explorations with the Universe wherein lies the sacred.  We can too.

Adapted from:
Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 38f. 

Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 76-80, 158f.

Banner image: Our beautiful blue planet, floating in space. Photo by SUMITKUMAR SAHARE on Pixabay

Do you find the pre-modern consciousness of indigenous peoples and also the medieval mystics like Hildegard, Francis, Aquinas, Eckhart more empowering because they don’t dwell on the human but lead with the universe itself?  What follows from that?

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.

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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4 thoughts on “Cosmology/Ecology: Recovering our Humanhood, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for drawing attention to the need for the divine feminine and how that brings balance. Things seem very out of balance. It seems the feminine aspect has been suppressed over the ages and that has contributed to what we are now experiencing. Even as I type this, I fear someone will jump on me and tell me this is not so. Thank you for honoring this.

    1. Carol Kilby

      Dear Karen. I’m so glad you have found Matt’s writing. Read any of his books and you will find he expands on how the divine feminine is essential and, how the divine feminine has been lost. Read any of his books, including The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, and you will be excited to find that Matthew has reclaimed the lost tradition of Creation Spirituality which keeps in balance the masculine and feminine natures of divinity. I am part of a Creation Spirituality Community. We would totally support and lift up your deep wisdom, that is your knowing the divine feminine is needed and speaking through you.
      For Daily Meditations, Carol Kilby, M.Div., D.Min.

  2. Avatar

    Dear Matthew,
    This morning I went for a walk on the board walk near the water in Charlottetown. It was a meditation in beauty. Then I came home and read your meditation for the day and it tied everything together. You quoted Heshel “Life without wonder is not worth living”, and how sad it makes me feels when I read in the Bible that “to fear God is the beginning of wisdom”. The word “fear” must be taken out and “awe” put in. I loved how you said that Genesis begins with the creation of light and not of the human. I believe that our role is to be one of awe and wonder as you so well put it, and that we are not the primary creation but one with all. We are the universe and so are the trees, the air, the water, the moon, the sun, etc. etc. Thank you for your sharing everyday. I always had a dream that I would meet you someday. Well perhaps I will not meet you in person but this way is great. Many thanks

  3. Avatar
    Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer

    “Even the story in Genesis begins not with the human but with light; and then all the other beings; and lastly humans. And it was called as a whole, ‘very good’.” The Bible say that “the earth is firmly fixed on foundations and shall never be moved.” The earth is actually moving very fast around the sun, oops.

    St. Symeon wrote: “Neither Eve nor Paradise were yet created, but the whole world had been brought into being by God as one thing, as a kind of paradise [It was “kind of a paradise” for billions of years before Eve?]
    , at once incorruptible yet material and perceptible.”

    St. John of Damascus wrote: “The creation of all things is due to God, but corruption came in afterwards due to our wickedness…For God did not make death, neither does He take delight in the destruction of living things” (Wisdom 1:13). But death is the work rather of man, that is, its origin is in Adam’s transgression.” [No death for animals, until the first human (Adam) transgressed (sinned),
    “very good.”]

    St. Ignatius Brianchaninov wrote: “Plants were not subjected either to decay or to diseases; both decay and diseases and the weeds themselves, appeared after the alteration of the earth following the fall of man.” [For billions of years of evolution plants were not subject to decay nor diseases; and neither were there any weeds, until Adam sinned, “very good.”]

    St. Basil the Great wrote: “…it is customary for vultures to feed on corpses, but since there were not yet [before Adam’s sin] corpses, nor yet their stench, so there was not yet [before Adam’s sin] such food for vultures. But all [animals] followed the diet of swans and all grazed the meadows…[none of] the beasts were carnivores…such was the first creation, and such will be the restoration after this.” [For hundreds of millions of years before the first humans (“Adam and Eve”) came forth on earth (and before Adam sinned) all of the animals were vegetarian and immortal (did not die,) “very good.”]

    Genesis 1:30 reads: “…and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food;” and it was so…” The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says: “Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins” (CCC, n. 2336). A Bible scripture states that “the creation itself,” will be “delivered from its bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:21). Isaiah 65:25 says: The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox,…”

    U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote: “The whole Bible is spanned by the narrative of the first creation (Gn 1:3) [which was “very good,” because all of the animals were vegetarian and immortal, until Adam sinned. ] and the vision of a restored creation at the end of history” (RV. 21:1-4) [When all of the animals will be death free and vegetarian again.]”

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