Sheldrake & Fox on Ritual and Science, continued

We continue our meditation on the conversation between biologist Rupert Sheldrake and myself, in our book Natural Grace.

Fox: One question I have is this: Can computers, multimedia, techno-art call in the echoes and the voices of our ancestors and the angels in our time?  How do they do it, or how do they not do it?  Can the Christ who calls himself the light in all things arrive on beams of light, because in this century we have learned to harness beams of light?  Can we take them back from the corporate makers of television? 

VJs (visual jockeys) project sacred geometry at the Cosmic Mass.

To me it comes down to a basic question—how do we tap into the morphic fields?  How does ritual allow us to do this, and have new means been discovered in our time?  The theology of light is so rich that when you tap into the technology of light in our generation, you are not just conserving but connecting to and bringing forward a powerful revolution.

In our Cosmic Masses VJs make use of art forms that lassoo light and offer dancing images and fractals creating an ambiance in which people can dance in their presence, taking in the story they tell of a common theme.  The results have proven to be very powerful. 

Anthropologist/author Jason Hickel asks if economic growth really makes our lives better. Uploaded to YouTube by BBC Newsnight

Then there is the ecological crisis.  The failure of our eco-systems is obviously due to habits—you know, this is part of morphic resonance that we don’t talk enough about–not only do good habits get easier, but bad habits do too. 

Consumerism is a habit much more advanced today than it was one hundred years ago.  So is what we take for granted—you’ve got to have a refrigerator, a car, air-conditioning, and many other things that our grandparents would never have thought were necessary for surviving on this planet.

Your theory of morphic resonance is extremely important for shedding light on addiction and bad habits, and hopefully moving beyond them.

Sheldrake: As you point out, morphic resonance would sustain bad habits as well as good ones; it would also help them to spread.  I’m saying that habits are part of the nature of Nature, the nature of society and of human nature.

Investing creativity in ritual: volunteers craft a heart of flower petals in preparing an altar for a Cosmic Mass.

Bad habits can be a problem in religion as in everything else.  Any habit, even a good habit, tends to unconsciousness.  When rituals become entirely habitual, they become boring, lulling people into a kind of stupor, their minds wandering.  But at the creative moments in religion, the habits are not yet established and do not have this dulling effect.  The creative principle by definition is extremely strong at those originating moments.

The use of ritual in a proper way can enable people to resonate with those original creative moments and therefore connect with that original time of insight, making it present so that there can be a continual renewal of that creative potential.  That is their aim, I suppose.  The trouble is that the ritual forms can be cloned, but not the openness and inspiration.  This is probably true in many other contexts and institutions, not just in religion.

Adapted from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science, pp. 171, 182f. 

For more on the Cosmic Mass, see Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, pp. 363-370, 390, 448.

Banner Image: A visual jockey’s conception of an angel, projected during a Cosmic Mass.

Do you recognize bad habits as well as positive ones that get enhanced with repetition?  How do we cleanse ourselves of those?

Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science 
by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

Natural Grace, a 208 page inspired dialogue between theologian Matthew Fox and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, unites wisdom and knowledge from unconventional angles. Considering themselves heretics in their own fields, Matthew and Rupert engage the conversation from postmodern and post-postmodern perspectives, deconstructing both religion and science—while setting the foundation for a new emerging worldview. Having outgrown the paradigms in which they were raised, both Fox and Sheldrake see it as part of their life missions to share the natural synthesis of spirituality and science rooted in a paradigm of evolutionary cosmology.

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2 thoughts on “Sheldrake & Fox on Ritual and Science, continued”

  1. Avatar

    In healthy spiritual hands – I believe they can and I believe they must in the next ten years both inspire and awaken us to the incredible and magnificent beauty of our universe ( via positiva) and also to challenge us with our shadow sides as a species (via negativa) .In turn the other two paths via creativa and via transformativa flow out of this work and then these themes weave in and out of each other.
    In today’s times surely the call of the artist is to be authentic, not superficial. To break away from a consumerist approach to creativity that sees dollars rather than breakthrough as the ultimate result. We can just turn on the TV, our phones, our laptops, our music streaming platforms, and our social media to witness this.
    Yes, it can be incredibly creative but if we were to measure it in terms of celebrating Eros, Biophilia or a love of life then I feel it is only superficial at best.
    Real Eros would include all of creation and not exclude. Real Eros would celebrate diversity not individualism. Real Eros would embrace the Divine Feminine and Masculine not Patriarchy. Real Eros would highlight injustice not hide from it. Real Eros would honour all not the few.
    So, I feel ritual and the many forms it can take (especially with the 4 paths as a guide) can give us a much-needed sense of all our interdependence, connectivity, and place in this Universe.
    -If artists respect and honour the echoes of our ancestors, mystics, and prophets – recalling their spirit and energy into our work (rather than ruling them our as yesterday’s news or old fashioned)
    -If artists build upon that wisdom and view it as a continuation or lineage of the greater bigger work (in much the same way as Hildegard, Julian of Norwich ,St John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Merton ,Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox do)
    – If artists do not make art for art’s sake but rather for celebrating, letting go, meditation or justice making to name a few examples
    – If artists use technology to create good healthy shared communal experience and not for destruction, self-interest or for inflating their ego or wallet

    Then with the above to me we have a level ground – a place where all are included and can participate.

    On a final note I saw this great example of honouring the ancestors with dance /ritual which as we know is still carried on today
    The Sufi whirling dervish
    “While whirling, the dervish’s arms are open with his right hand directed to the sky, representing his readiness to receive God’s beneficence. The dervish’s left hand is turning toward the earth, representing his willingness to convey God’s spiritual gift to those witnessing the Sema. It is also believed that while revolving from right to left around his own heart, the dervish embraces all humanity with love, since Sufis believe that the human being was created with love in order to love. A quote by Rumi states that, ‘All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know.’ ”
    (Feride Yalav-Heckeroth)

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