Origin of Deep Ecumenism in My Writings

The other day I was asked by a Sufi practitioner who is also a Jewish scholar: “where did you first wrote about the term “Deep Ecumenism?”  He reminded me that the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who was one of his mentors, loved my term “Deep Ecumenism” and was a pioneer in it used the term extensively.

In this early, brief, wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Mishlove, Matthew Fox speaks on the need for a shared spiritual experience rooted in living cosmology and mysticism. By ThinkingAllowedTV.

I told him how my first use of the term was in my book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, chapter 29, “The Cosmic Christ and Deep Ecumenism,” published in 1988.  The book appeared at the very time I was silenced by the Vatican for a year (it turned out to be fourteen months actually).  I relay in that chapter how I invented the term from Johanna Macy’s teaching of “Deep Ecology” which was not just ecology for politics sake but ecology with a spiritual dimension to it.

I thought I had answered his question sufficiently, but then I got to thinking:  This is my first use of the term, but it is not the first use of the consciousness of Deep Ecumenism—nor the last.  Deep Ecumenism has been following me like a shadow—or an angel—for a very long time. 

(l-r) Thomas Merton at his studies. Wikimedia Commons; Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1964. Wikimedia Commons.

For example, in 1981 I edited a book, Western Spirituality: Historical Roots Ecumenical Routes where I show how Creation Spirituality has a long history in the West beginning with the Hebrew Bible and its teachings on “kingship” and “royal person” and more. 

While the first part of the book treats “Historical Roots,” the second part offers essays on “Ecumenical Routes.” 

I dedicate the book “to Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a rabbinic prophet, two persons with the courage to explore their roots and worldwide routes.  May we never forget them or their courage.”  To be continued


See Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 228-242. 

And Matthew Fox, Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Faiths of the World by TomTom.” Photo by Chris Christian on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

How do you practice Deep Ecumenism?  Will humanity survive, will the planet as we know it survive, without Deep Ecumenism?


Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God


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.

Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes

In this book, Fox gathers scholars from various cultures and traditions such as Helen Kenik, Jon Sobrino, Nicolas Berdyaev, Rosemary Ruether, M. D. Chenu, Mary Jose Hobday, Ronald Miller, Monika Hellwig, James Kenney, Justin O’Brien and others to approach creation spirituality from many traditions and many angles. 
“An exciting and important book…a pleasant alternative to the oppressive burden of the fall/redemption tradition.” ~ New Review of Books and Religion 


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12 thoughts on “Origin of Deep Ecumenism in My Writings”

  1. Avatar

    I’ve always been inspired by Matthew’s work and approach on Deep Ecumenism.
    To me going deep into all our traditions we reach the same well.
    Whilst we are at the tip of our fingers as Bede Griffiths would say we can,t really Connect but as we go down into the palm we can explore our own roots and go deep and see how all wisdom traditions are connected.
    What an opportunity we have now in these times to explore those roots and how they might help and guide us – as whatever species we are, we now all face the same climate crisis.
    By exploring deep Ecumenism we turn that phrase ,as Brian Eno would say, into a Climate Opportunity.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Steve, well said. “Going deep into all our traditions we reach the same well.” I personally have “gone deep” into a number of traditions, but I see my base as being the Creation Spirituality tradition, where going deep (i.e deep ecumenism) is a very important part of this tradition. Thank you for your comment, Steve!

  2. Avatar

    I’ve been practicing deep ecumenisism for a long time, however I didn’t necessarily call it as such. I used the term Twisted Hairs, in which I was braiding together different cultural and spiritual wisdom traditions together as one strand of living and being.

    The most challenging aspect of practicing deep ecumenisism has been integration of the diverse strands weaved together as one whole, within my own heart, mind, soul and life. The process of this integration challenges you to expand your perceptions, your understanding, your experiences, your relationships, your sense of knowing, which at times creates contradictional and paradoxical tensions… rigid limitations that break you. This process of integration oddly enough at first appears like fragmentation… yet it is really the transformational process of being broken open into Wholeness and living into Oneness. When I gaze upon Jesus on the Cross, this is what I see.

    I am grateful to people like Mathew Fox, Steven Charelston, and many others, giving voice to the pathway of deep ecumenisism and for creating communities for all those whom are being and living in this way. For myself personally, in the beginning it was quite lonely. In the beginning I often doubted this pathway that Spirit was leading me on… however once I began hearing the voices of others and connecting with these others, it not only validated my own journey, but it more importantly has helped me to trust more deeply in my connection with the Great Mystery that Spirit is drawing me deeper into living and being in the Oneness and Wholeness of, and the reality of this expansive inclusiveness.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I like the image of you “braiding together different cultural and spiritual wisdom traditions together as one strand of living and being.” I know that it may feel that doing deep ecumenism is challenging, in the sense that it creates paradoxical tension that seem as though they could break you. I find as long as I am anchored in the Creation Spirituality tradition, it embraces and includes all the “wells” that are drawing water from the great river of Wisdom and mysticism. At that level the paradoxes fall away, because one sees that this is the nature of the “wells”–Not the river…

  3. Avatar

    Do you see a connection between the Hebrew Scriptures and Samuel “giving” the people a king and the evolving authoritarian development of Christianity’s hierarchy in the church as well as on the political political scene?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Lois, Yes, that is where hierarchy and authoritarianism first made their appearance among the people of the biblical tradition–and yes, it continued to evolve until it evolved into the hierarchical structure of the Christian Church, as well as on the political scene…

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patrick, I have a t-shirt that lists names of the many heretics of the Catholic Church through the ages. Matthew Fox is among them. But the shirt also says, “Heretics: In Good Company.”

  4. Avatar

    God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Truth~Creativity~Beauty~Joy~Suffering~Justice~Compassion has always been within and among us in our diversity and Oneness, and especially as we become more aware/conscious of our evolving personal and communal Souls on our Loving Eternal Cosmic Journeys….

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