In yesterday’s DM we considered how the darkness of our times may provide a kind of shamanistic rupture or breakthrough that can lead to a new beginning for many of our institutions, both political and religious.
Thomas Berry, author of The Great Work and The Dream of the Earth, describes shamanism this way. (I hesitate at first to share this with my name attached but I choose to do so to be true to Berry’s words and because of the bigger lessons to learn, lessons that are far greater than myself or my story. Berry chose to contextualize his reflections on the occasion of my 60th birthday in a volume published privately at that time.*)
In identifying the over-all context of his work, Matt is sometimes considered to be fulfilling a prophetic role and this designation does indicate an aspect of the work of Matt. Indeed he has critiqued the church in the light of its own most relevant intellectual, spiritual and social exponents in the past.
Yet there is, I believe, a more critical role that Matt is fulfilling within the Christian community, the role of Shaman. While both Prophet and Shaman have special roles in their relation to the human community, the Shaman is more comprehensive in his field of consciousness. The prophet speaks somewhat directly in the name of God, the prophet is a message bearer, the prophet is interpreter of historical situations and the prophet critiques the ruling powers.
The Shaman functions in a less personal relationship with the divine. He is more cosmological, more primordial, personally more inventive in the source of his insight and his power. Matt speaks of his teaching as Creation Spirituality, it seems to me, because he feels the need to understand the deep experience of the human soul within the sacred dimension of the universe itself.
That Matt has consistently used the word ‘Creation’ in identifying his work indicates the cosmic orientation of his thinking. By the term ‘creation spirituality’ he turns the western mind away from its exclusive redemption fixation to the more primordial experience available for the Western soul in the universe itself.
There is much to unpack here. First, that the shaman is “more comprehensive” in one’s field of consciousness than is the prophet and operates “in a less personal relationship with the divine.” My understanding of prayer as a “radical response to life” somewhat fills out what Berry is saying. And the archetype of the “cosmic Christ” does the same. The Christ is not so much a friend or companion as a sacred presence all around and through us. The shaman is “cosmological, primordial, personal and inventive in the source of his/her insight and his power.” Creativity valued.
Berry interprets the term “creation spirituality” as indicating a “cosmic orientation” (which it surely does) that can lift us beyond the preoccupation with redemption (so much a result of the 14th century bubonic plague) to a “more primordial experience” of the soul meeting the universe. Of awe therefore.
*Mary Ford Grabowsky, ed., The Unfolding of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty, pp. 70f., 68
See Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth; and Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.
Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ.
Banner Image: Cosmic Mass participants dancing in spiral dance.
Queries for Contemplation
Meditations: What dimensions of shamanism as described by Thomas Berry do you consider most important at this time in history? Do you sense a return of shamanism and with it a potential renewal of religion and politics?
Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth
Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.
The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance
In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.
Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.
This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit