The Holiness of Spirit, Matter, Sexuality and Our Bodies

Ernesto Cardenal says: All sexual love is a symbol of divine love…. As a matter Marriage has such enchantment and is something divine for us because it is an image of the divine espousal.

“Just Married.” Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

All love “is a form and type of divine love.” Whether we are speaking of lovemaking between humans, of expressions of love in the arts of song or poetry, or of any type of procreation within nature, it is all an expression of divine love at work in the universe.  Marriage is profound because it too images “the divine espousal” and the future of human and divine intercourse.

Cardenal continues:

All our bodily acts are of the nature of prayer. Our body performs a perfect physiological act of thanksgiving when, thirsting, it receives into itself a glass of water. Or, when on a hot day we bathe in a cool river, our skin sings a hymn of thanksgiving in praise of the Creator, even though this kind of prayer may be non-rational, unconscious and at times involuntary. However we are able to transform everything we do into prayer. Work and labor are forms of existential prayer.

If all bodily acts “are of the nature of prayer,” the dualism between body and soul, matter and spirit, is transcended. 

Rev. Chelsea MacMillan being arrested during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in New York City. Photo Credit: William Farrington

Lovemaking is prayer; eating, laughter, fighting for justice, going to prison for justice are all prayer. This is why I define prayer as our “radical response to life.” Whether awe or grief, creativity or acts of compassion, all can be our prayer.

Teilhard speaks to the end of the war between matter and spirit when he writes:

Matter and Spirit: These were no longer two things but two states or two aspects of one and the same cosmic Stuff, according to whether it was looked at or carried further in the direction in which it is becoming itself or in the direction in which it is disintegrating. Matter is the Matrix of Spirit. Spirit is the higher state of Matter.**

Dualism of spirit vs. matter is the foundation of patriarchal thinking (rooted in Plato)–what Augustine called the “war” between matter and spirit, body and soul. Like Eckhart who said “the soul loves the body” and Aquinas who taught that soul is the “élan” in matter, Teilhard celebrates the “wonderful communion” (Aquinas) of matter and spirit. They are no longer “two things” but “two states or two aspects of one and the same cosmic Stuff.”

“Ocean Swimmer” Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

A marriage has occurred! Matter and Spirit feed one another. Incarnation is not to be ignored. “Matter is the Matrix of Spirit” and “Spirit is a higher state of Matter.”  Julian of Norwich puts it this way: “God is in our sensuality.” 

Cardenal celebrates this same communion when he writes:

All the appetites and anxieties of man, his eating habits, his sexuality, his friendships, are one single appetite and one single anxiety to achieve union with one another and with the cosmos.*

This too is the unio mystica, the mystical union.

*Ernesto Cardenal, To Live Is to Love: Meditations on Love and Spirituality, pp. 80f., 34.

**Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter, pp. 26f.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, # 340, 346, 222.

And from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 71-87.

Banner Image: “Yoga Sunrise” Photo by Dave Contreras on Unsplash

Do you sense deep consequences in moving from dualism to non-dualism, from patriarchy to a more gentle relationship between spirit and matter?  What are some of the changes that follow regarding our relationship to the earth, to our bodies, to sexuality, to the All?

Recommended Reading

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.


Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
August 13-14, 2021 (Fri-Sat)
Shamanism in Buddhism and Christianity
Session 1: Friday, August 13 at 4pm-6pm PT
Session 2: Saturday, August 14 at 9am-12pm PT
Session 3: Saturday, August 14 at 12:30pm-2:30pm PT

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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6 thoughts on “The Holiness of Spirit, Matter, Sexuality and Our Bodies”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you so much!
    Thank you for your work of a lifetime to understand where philosophy and religion went wrong.
    Thanks for your work to give alternatives that actually were available in the form of ancient wisdom, indigenous wisdom, and shamanic wisdom before we went down Trauma Road.
    Thank you for celebrating those who saw the truth and dare speak/write/draw/sing/dance it during our long dark years of patriarchy, separation from Mother Earth, extreme ideas of independence, dualism, and punishment, wrong views of freedom, and exploitation of humans-animals-plants-resources.
    Thank you for breaking it down into bite-size pieces that I receive in my inbox every day. Every day!
    Thanks for spreading love, light, gentleness, and peace.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Carmen, thank you so much for your comment. It is not only a “Thank you!” to Matthew, but a mini journal which tells where you have been with him–in a world of ancient, indigenous, and shamanic wisdom, and where separation from Mother Earth, extreme independence, dualism and exploitation can no longer thrive!

  2. Avatar

    I have read several of Teilhard’s books starting with The Phenomenon of Man. But I don’t recall reading about his cosmic insight about human sexuality. Thank you Matthew.

  3. Avatar

    “All our bodily acts are of the nature of prayer.” Wow! Our bodies do naturally and unconsciously what we don’t even think about, express gratitude and thanksgiving, so that our natural bodily selves are way ahead of our reasoning self and show us the way to stop splitting the material and spiritual.

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