Original Blessing: A Cosmic, not just a Human, Condition

This morning I was struck by a well-meaning and very bright person who wrote this about my work and the resistance aroused in some lofty religious places: “His mistake was reviving Creation Spirituality, which decries original sin (the doctrine that we’re all born sinners) in favor of ‘Everyone born is a Blessing (seeing all creation as divine).’”

Matthew Fox talks about his falling out with the Catholic Church and his thoughts on ‘Original Sin.’ Video by
Climate One.

I wrote her in response to emphasize that “Original Blessing,” while it does apply to humans, also very much applies to the 13.8 billion years of the universe’s work that preceded the human.  The universe has been an original blessing from the get-go.  That is what Genesis one is saying in its cosmology story, telling us repeatedly that various moments and beings are “good” (or “beautiful”, the Hebrew word can mean either), and, when humans arrive, “very good” (or “very beautiful”).

How some theologians and church leaders miss this point—and dive into the Adam and Eve story as if that were the first story in the Bible baffles me.  That is, until one asks some political questions about the compulsion to control and to feed guilt and shame as a device to control and to more successfully carry on empire building married to religion.  

“Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill”: a partnership of militant religious nationalism against Western liberalism. Photo by the Press Service of the President of the Russian Federation. CC BY 4.0.

The bottom line is that the Bible begins with cosmology; and most believers begin with the human.  Eckhart: “Whenever we talk about God the Creator we are talking about goodness.” 

Aquinas says that the essence of religion is “supreme thankfulness or gratitude.”  Surely that is easy to grasp when one considers that 13.8 billion years of the universe have made our earth amazingly beautiful and wonderfully diverse—are there giraffes, elephants, rainforests, whales, horses, dogs and cats anywhere else in our vast universe than right here in our earth home?  Or humans who offer exquisite gifts like the musician and dancer blessed us with in yesterday’s DM in what they called the “Sacred Earth dance”?

So much beauty, so much goodness, everywhere we turn.  How can we succumb to taking for granted our healthy earth and sky, air and waters, animals, birds, fishes, our bodies and our communities?  How can one not be “supremely thankful and grateful” and not commit oneself to drinking deeply at the well of original blessing? 

GRATEFUL: A Love Song to the World| nimo featuring daniel nahmod. Video by emptyhandsmusic

How can humans continue to indulge in war-making and war-profiteering and reptilian brain efforts to prove “I win and you lose” where there is so much to be thankful for?  Do we teach gratitude in our schools (including law and business and seminaries)?  If not, why not?  We really ought to, before it is too late.  Gratitude 101; 202; 303.

Let humanity gather to 1) give gratitude and 2) save the planet from…ourselves.  Let us put all the money and talent and imagination that we put into making war against each other into “Defense Departments” that all nations contribute to defend Mother Earth from…ourselves.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 41-52. 

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

Banner Image: Sunset with a rainbow in a field of poppies in El Suspiro del Moro. Villa de Otura, Granada – Spain. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

How would you teach courses on Gratitude 101, 202, 303 in med schools, business schools, law schools, seminaries?  What might follow from that?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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17 thoughts on “Original Blessing: A Cosmic, not just a Human, Condition”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Your questions for us in our Queries for Contemplation are: “How would you teach courses on Gratitude 101, 202, 303 in med schools, business schools, law schools, seminaries?” Before I speak about how I would teach courses on Gratitude, I must quote what you said about Aquinas, “Aquinas says that the essence of religion is ‘supreme thankfulness or gratitude.’ Surely that is easy to grasp when one considers that 13.8 billion years of the universe have made our earth amazingly beautiful and wonderfully diverse…” My own thoughts are that I would teach courses the way you did at your schools–with academic classes, art-as-meditation classes, and process groups at the end of the day. At least at the University of Creation Spirituality you were doing this so that people, whatever their masters were in, could get doctoral degrees in Creation Spirituality for the express purpose of bringing spirituality into the workplace–and thus bring gratitude with us !!!
    “What might follow from that?” People, like the graduates from your schools who are committed to doing the things you call for, and for living out the implications of Creation Spirituality.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you,Matthew. It reminds me that as a soldier stationed in Aberdeen, MD in 1958, I and others were on a break one morning on KP. We looked across a field and saw an albino deer. We were struck with awe – gratitude and although we were trained killers, no one would have killed that deer.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    How I would teach gratitude to people in med schools, lawyer schools and seminaries, is first get them out of their concrete structures and into the beauty of nature… completely off grid with no books, and no cell phones… on a wilderness canoe portaging trip… so they could really connect with the all and the everything of creation. Then for another week I’d take them to areas of the earth, which are truly suffering due to the destructive forces of humanity… along with another week in areas in which people are living in utter poverty. Then I’d take them for another week to engage with all the grass roots, movers and shakers… whom are addressing the many crisises we are facing… and the difference they are making. Then I’d send them on a vision quest to really reflect upon what they learnt and what they are going to do differently in response to this. Nothing wakes you up more… than walking in another’s shoes… or walking gently upon the Earth… gratitude would naturally arise from within. All this sounds to me, like a sacred ceremony based on the fourfold path of Creation Spirituality.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You have quite a program going there for re-training and re-programing people who have been estranged from the earth and the suffering peoples of the earth!

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    I feel that teaching gratitude has to begin with seeing/experiencing the Sacred/ the Spark of the Divine within us as exemplified and taught to us by our spiritual mystical/contemplative and Indigenous spirituality traditions. This transformational realization leads to deeper awareness and compassionate being/action with others, Mother Earth and all Her creatures, and the Universe~Cosmos because of our deepest interconnection/interdependence, Loving Diverse Oneness, with-in the All of God’s ongoing co-Creation in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Now….

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    Blessed be All…and maybe someone has already noted this and I missed it…but I wish that the phrase “reptilian brain” would go away…I am the owner of a very peaceful quiet and amazingly attractive reptile…this phrase, like so many others, just perpetuates negative beliefs about our four-legged scaly(and others) – utterly awesome – partners on this Earth…maybe that’s the “corroded” part of our brain…lots of adjectives available!

  6. Avatar

    Creator, Great Mystery, Divine LOVE never intended it to be this way. But LOVE does not insist or coerce, it subtly draws hearts toward itself. Free will can choose to turn toward or turn away. }:- a.m.

  7. Avatar

    Wow- advanced courses in Gratitude would turn the whole ship around! What a thought! What a challenge! Some of the responses above remind me of “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmer- highly recommended!

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      She’s the first person I thought of too Theresa, and I second the recommendation of her book—one of the most profound I have ever read (and I’m sure those in this community read LOTS of books!).

  8. Avatar

    Obviously this question is a good one. I’d assign waking up early enough for several days in a row early enough to watch the sunrise. A view from a high floor like mine, the 22nd would be a good one to see lots of sky, a canopy of trees and even Lake Ontario with varying shades of blue, grey and green depending on the sky reflected.

  9. Avatar
    Sister Julie Grote

    I too think many have been taught the wrong things about Baptism and original sin. What makes sense to me is that Baptism brings a person into a community that will help that person lead a good life and “original sin” could very well be the inclination and temptations in the world toward evil, so the Christian community into which you are enrolled by Baptism helps you to follow the laws of God and to do good.

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