The Demise of Innocence & the Rise of Mystics & Prophets

I think the past year will be remembered as the year America lost its innocence–or presumed innocence, or feigned innocence, or wished-for innocence.  

“Fearless Girl Takes On NYSE” by Billie Grace Ward. The famed statue by Kristen Visbal in its new location opposite the New York Stock Exchange. Photo on Wikimedia Commons.

The slow murder of a handcuffed black man by police on the streets of Minneapolis that brought Americans of all ages and colors to protest racism around the country and other countries as well was a significant moment.  The murder of a black woman in her bed in Louisville and other slayings by police followed.  A coming to grips with the genocide of indigenous peoples in the name of colonialism also began to impact our awareness.  

The effort to spread lies about a valid election that were rejected by 61 different courts around the country and interfering with a peaceful transfer of power in the presidential sweepstakes was also a loss of innocence.  That a defeated president would refuse to admit his defeat and step aside for a new person in the white house had its profound impact.  Insurgents storming the capitol building shouting and prepared to kill a vice president and leader of the house was a loss of innocence.

From the Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman Collections, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

What is this?  Perhaps Howard Thurman said it best when he said that a  God encounter (or truth encounter), results in our being “stripped to the literal substance of ourselves before God.”  Maybe America itself is being stripped to the literal substance of itself before God.  

We are naked for all to see—our allies and foes and hopefully ourselves.  We are looking at the darkness and the shadow in our society and government.  We cannot turn our backs on the truth and run to shinier and happier places.  There is such a thing as “spiritual bypass” and passive aggressive sweet talk and “idiot compassion” that the Buddhist speak of.

We look to wake up and get up from the national traumas of the past to make a new beginning.  But we dare not forget the deep lessons that have come our way.  

”The Thief” – a story about compassion is a buddhist story that will open your eyes. Originally posted to YouTube by Dare to do. Motivation.

Julian of Norwich’s first teaching about negotiating a pandemic is to be-with the sufferings of the world, of the moment in time in which we live, therefore of the Cosmic Christ who represents the suffering of humanity at large.  Out of the via negativa and the suffering, there can emerge a deeper creativity that addresses the causes of the demise of our democracy and the hatred that permeates our social and mainstream media.  Hatred calls for our attention.

The mystics instruct us not to settle for either despair or denial—and not to run from the truth or “move on too quickly” from the lessons that suffering have to teach us. 

Of course the prophets consider it their very vocation to tell the truth, to sound the trumpet, to run naked around the walls of the city if necessary, to wake people up to injustice and all that interferes with the ongoing life of the community.  And prophets are “mystics in action,” lovers in action.  Hopefully, that is all of us.

See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic, chapter one, “Facing the Darkness,” pp. 1-19.  And Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 214.  

Banner Image: Woman meditating in nature. Photo by Oluremi Adebayo from Pexels

Do you think America is being “stripped to the literal substance of itself before God”?  What lessons do you draw from the darkness of our times that are useful for a rebirth and a new inspiration to birth anew?

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

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9 thoughts on “The Demise of Innocence & the Rise of Mystics & Prophets”

  1. Avatar
    María Catherine Irvine

    Thank you very much for these meditations. I have just recently started to receive and they are a a vitamin providing strength to the spirit.

  2. Avatar

    It seems that when we are worshipping the Golden Calf we get distracted from the bounty [manna]of the earth on which we must rely and that when we utter alternative facts we build a Tower of Babel. Jesus brought these messages forward. He claimed that it is the “truth that will set us free” from the grip/lies of false gods of our own making. Matthew offers an existential prophetic invitation to America to wake up to the fact that it is truly in a battle for its soul, a battle for all the world to see.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Well said, and the invitation is truly existential in that it shows that the choices we make affect our very existence…

  3. Avatar

    The sad truth about Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville (where I live) is that it happened on March 13, 2020. We in Louisville didn’t take notice until AFTER George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis in May 2020. Thank you for this reflection on the challenge of looking honestly at who we are as a society and a country. Let us all be prophets. Lord have mercy.

  4. Avatar

    One of the big lessons I have learned in all the turmoil we, as a country, have been going through, is that all of us, Democrats and Republicans, have to stop blaming each other and look at both sides of the picture. It’s never just one group that’s at fault, and until we dare to look across the aisle, and see the good as well as the not-so-good that is there, we cannot grow any further spiritually.

    My eyes were opened by my great-niece ( yes, a thirty-year-old, wiser than many adults three times her age) who saw that there are lies a-plenty on both sides, and until the gods of money and power are driven out of peoples’ souls, out of all the Institutions which proclaim to be of service, but are not, then things are going to keep on getting worse, until we REALLY WAKE UP! And of course, waking up has to start with every individual first.
    We are not alone, EVER, and holy Mother-Father-Jesus-God, is always at hand to give us what we each need to make the necessary changes . . . All we have to do is ASK! Are we game?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Vivian, in your comment you stress the it is time for us to “REALLY WAKE UP!” In this we are to become what the Buddha was in his time–that is, the Awakened One. And you are right. For this, “All we have to do is ASK!” + do the work…

  5. Avatar

    We have to be willing and able to give up all of our illusions and denials about the truths about our country that have now been pretty fully exposed by the blatant corruption and mendacity of a recent administration, that has always been there but less obvious. I so admire Matthew Fox in his courage to speak the truth. Jesus had his strongest words for hypocrites, as he points out. We all need to stop being hypocrites. There is blame enough to go around, but let us try to love one another and move on to make good trouble.

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