Thomas Aquinas and Emily Dickinson as Resurrected Shamans

We have been discussing how shamans like David Paladin and also Emily Dickinson undergo a rupture or a breakdown/breakthrough experience, most often directed to their vocation that allow them to journey deeply into other layers of existence and return with wisdom and healing for others.  

Matthew Fox was recently a guest on the podcast, What If Project, where he spoke his book on Thomas Aquinas and the two resurrections.

We have also raised the question whether this is what Paul had in mind in telling us of his experience of resurrection and many other early followers of Jesus.  AND, whether this is meant to be the real meaning of Baptism, a death and resurrection initiation.

Steven Herrmann, in his important book, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times, puts her death/resurrection experience in the context of her powerful poem that “the Brain is wider than the Sky…” and says:

The expansion of consciousness is the aim of human life, a consciousness…that is Aware.  This is the realization she puts forth as a central article of her faith, an experiential sense of knowing the ultimate meaning of life, which is to be Resurrected—like Christ—in body, soul, and spirit.…This is the knowledge of immortality born of the experience of having died and been resurrected while still living.  This is not the conventional view of Christianity that was being disseminated at Mount Holyoke in the “bride-of-Christ” tradition. 

Emily in fact came to call herself the “Wife” of the Cosmos.  

Is this also the teaching of Thomas Aquinas who tells us that there is a “double resurrection” and the first is waking up in this lifetime?  When Aquinas teaches that there are two resurrections, he implies that if we do this correctly, we need not worry about the second. 

Painting by Benozzo Gozzoli of Thomas Aquinas. Current held as part of the collections in the Department of Paintings of Louvre Museum

Aquinas explains the “first resurrection” this way:

First, let us try to rise spiritually from the soul’s death, brought on by our sins, to that life of justice obtained through penitence: ‘Rise, you who sleep, and rise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten you’ (Eph 5:14). This is the first resurrection: ‘blessed and holy is one who has part in the first resurrection’ (John 20:6).’

Being asleep is a kind of death from which we need to rise up and resurrect. The first resurrection is about Waking Up. He cites Paul’s letter to the Romans:

As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also must walk in newness of life’ (Rom 6:4). The new life is the life of justice renewing the soul and leading it to the life of glory.  

Aquinas invokes the apostle Paul with an image found in Isaiah 60:1:

Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem; for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. ‘Rise from a neglect of good works, you who sleep. ‘How long will you sleep, O sluggard?’ (Prov. 6:9). ‘Shall he that sleep rise again no more?’ (Ps 41:9).

The “good works” we awaken to are the living out of our vocations to bring compassion, justice and healing to the world.

*Steven Herrmann, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times, pp. 18f. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 167.

See also, Sheer Joy, pg 359ff

Banner Image: Rising up with the sun. Photo by David Monje on Unsplash

Do you find yourself waking up ever more to your vocation to bring compassion, justice and healing to the world?

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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2 thoughts on “Thomas Aquinas and Emily Dickinson as Resurrected Shamans”

  1. Avatar
    Michael Mulhall

    Your citation “Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection,” is not from John 20:6, but from Revelations 20:6 – which is quite a different citation! I am intrigued by seeing Emily Dickinson, not merely as a mystic, but as a shaman. But the biblical citations need to be used carefully. Revelations presents a far more complex, even troublesome background than does John’s Gospel.

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