Yesterday we called on the wisdom of Julian of Norwich to assist us in the current debate with the Supreme Court about abortion, citing her understanding of evil as “whatever interferes with peace and love.” 

Unstoppable: Professor Maya Angelou recites her poem, “And Still I Rise,” from her volume of poetry And Still I Rise, published in 1978. Video by mohitbahi.

Today we continue to explore Julian’s wisdom that is so appropriate in this on-going debate and action that calls us to stand up to evil.

Seven hundred years ago, we could not understand Julian and the creation spirituality lineage she carries with her. Today, with a women’s movement, women active in scholarship and leadership, a Black Lives Matter movement, and an ecology and extinction rebellion movement—we can! And with matricide and misogyny and rising institutional violence against women staring us in the face, we must.

What, after all, is patriarchy if not the killing of the mother?  How many women will be killed or their lives turned to chaos (the opposite of peace) if the religious zealots on the Supreme Court have their way in dominating women’s bodies?   And roping in a punitive Father God to enlist divine sanction and approval?

“We’re waiting for a brand new day/But until then we’ll act and pray” Tamey Feltner responds to patriarchy and white supremacy.

Julian is a herald of the Return of the Mother principles of creativity and caring, compassion, justice, and strength.  Maybe Julian is to the twenty-first century what Karl Marx (and Charles Dickens) were to the nineteenth. Just as Marx, tapping into his Jewish prophetic heritage, sounded a trumpet to expose the unethical shadow lurking in the façade of economic and industrial “progress,” and just as Dickens shouted through characters suffering from the shadow side of capitalism, so, too, does Julian take on the privilege and dangers of patriarchy by deconstructing it.

Instead of a punitive Father God, she presents us with a loving, Mother God. Instead of exalting survival for the few, she declares a democracy of justice and caring. Instead of a dualism of body vs. soul, masculine vs. feminine, human vs. nature, she proclaims unity. Instead of fear, trust. Instead of leading with the reptilian brain, she thinks with the mammal, co-operative brain. Instead of raping and plundering Mother Earth, she honors the divine in nature and the “web of creation” that Hildegard wrote about.

‘How I turned my eco-anxiety into climate activism’ 22-year-old Clover Hogan shares how she founded the nonprofit ‘Force of Nature’. BBC London

Instead of human egoism and narcissism, she issues a new invitation to celebrate and to share. And instead of self-pity and self-aggrandizement, she models a healthy self-love that leads toward service to others.

Julian clearly gifts us with a paradigm shift for religion, from an ideology of original sin to a consciousness of original goodness or original blessing. From guilt to gratitude. From the question that has dominated religion from Julian’s day to our own, what the great biblical scholar Krister Stendahl described as the “neurotic question not found in the Bible”—that is, “Am I saved?”—to a question of gratitude and grace: “How do we give thanks and give back to mother earth and the cosmos and all the blessings our species has inherited?”

Rabbi Heschel teaches that a prophet’s primary task is to interfere. Julian, by calling us to interfere with patriarchy and heal the wounds that it has wracked upon human history and the human soul and the earth, beckons us from folly to wisdom. Are we listening?

Adapted from See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 41-43, 123f.

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

Banner Image: Winter Solstice Treaty Action 2021 at the gates of the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, CA
From the organizers at Idle No More SF Bay, Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty and Climate Justice Street Mural Arts Project. Photo by Peg Hunter on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you see Patriarchy deep at work in the Supreme Court’s efforts to abort the power to choose?  Are you standing with Julian in offering a saner option to Patriarchy, one that serves women, men and the Earth more deliberately?

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.

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11 thoughts on “Beyond Patriarchy: More Wisdom from Julian of Norwich”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today, in our Queries for Contemplation you ask us: “Do you see Patriarchy deep at work in the Supreme Court’s efforts to abort the power to choose?”
    Yes I do! Julian tells us that evil is “whatever interferes with peace and love.” They are interfering with the peace of women by taking away from them the right to their own bodies–and whether they are all male or not, the way the supreme court is handled is very patriarchal, and in the current situation–misogynistic, and racist in that statistically women of color are likely to be the women most affected. But that is not the last word! Julian teaches “instead of a punitive Father God, she presents us with a loving, Mother God…” (and read the whole paragraph above, about Julian, by our guide in meditation)! A God of Justice as both Eckhart and Julian agree
    “Are you standing with Julian in offering a saner option to Patriarchy, one that serves women, men and the Earth more deliberately?” Yes, and I have just written a book that deals with many issues that Churches are dealing with today–from sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation to abortion, contraception and celibacy. Hopefully it might help to stimulate some thought, and raise some questions, and thereby clear the way for knew ways of looking at things…

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Prayer to Our Cosmic Mother

    Holy Spirit, Cosmic Mother… we respond to Your sacred and divine essence and presence… Your invitation of unceasing conversation… through the images and symbols we see within this world, at this time. Help us to intuit… with the gifts of creativity and imagination… the unfolding, evolving and emerging wisdom of Your higher truth being revealed, amidst all that we are experiencing and encountering in these turbulent times. Through our conversations regarding all the challenging issues and concerns we are facing… help us to be carefully attentive to Your essence and presence within… in our conversations and encounters with one another. Assist us throughout these unceasing conversations… as we present our thoughts, feelings, and reflections… as to what each one is receiving, seeing and understanding… that we may respond, being present to Your essence in our midst.

    Cosmic Mother, You know full well what lies within our very hearts, minds and souls. You know that inherent goodness and the beauty of this… along with all of our weaknesses and darkness… as well as our light and our strengths. May we acknowledge and respond to Your invitation… and enter into the “Chambers of Reflection”, engaging with Your essence and presence, within. Oh Cosmic Mother, throughout these internal and external conversations, lead us through these, by helping us all, to search ourselves, to know ourselves… and to seek also to understand others as well… for You alone know the fullness of our stories… which we often cannot see. Help us to spiritually discern, what lies within our own hearts, minds and souls. Throughout both our external and internal unceasing conversations, teach us and help us to learn to follow Your leading… in seeing what we need to see… that what may unfold and emerge from the tensions of pain we are suffering… may become the birthing, the manifestation of a greater measure of love, compassion, mercy and justice, towards ourselves, and each other… a Oneing With the light, truth, life and wisdom ways of You, our Cosmic Mother. Lead us all, as Your Beloved daughters and sons, whom are loyally devoted to following in the mysteries of creation spirituality… we whom are apart of the lineage of mystics, prophets and justice seekers… that we might once again remember, awaken and understand what we already carry within ourselves.

    Oh, Cosmic Mother, teach each one of us all… helping us to become and be… a Herald of the Return of the Cosmic Mother principles… of imagination, creativity, caring, and compassion… tethered to love, strength, courage and justice… through the light, truth and wisdom of Your ways… that we may all experience a greater measure of union… the reality of our interconnections, inter-reliance and our interdependence… which honors the Sacred and Divine nature within each one and the all and the everything of creation. Oh Cosmic Mother, lead us away from all temptations that are not of the Uncondidtional Love, Divine Compassion and Infinite Mercy, of the Just God and deliver us from all evil, through the provision of understanding, courage, strength and wisdom… that we may all consciously awaken more fully, to the original blessings of that inherent goodness and the beauty of this, already there, within ourselves, each other and the all and the everything of creation… that we may begin to truly honor, respect and celebrate this reality, with expressions of gratitude and the manifestations of Your grace.


  3. Avatar

    I agree with how Julian clarifies about being compassionate with the self first and then with others. It is the same with humility. It is said that all virtues are one way of “being” like the way the commandments run together for the formation of a good person. I have found in the union with humanity aspect of my own Self-Realization, which is a compassionate awakening to our “interconnectedness”, that the virtue of humility also needs to be clarified and I will explain this in my upcoming book because understanding humility is essential for achieving Self-Realization or enlightenment or whatever you want to call higher mysticism. A mystic obviously looks at humanity as an evolving entity so through this lens the mystic helps the Whole. In humility, like compassion, a person first has to be vulnerable to themself and then to others. If you can’t be vulnerable to yourself you will not be able to be vulnerable to others. People like Maya Angelou, Jesus, John of the Cross, Nelsen Mandella, and others were not afraid to be vulnerable to others as they fought to clarify the essentials for the Whole. Not worrying about how you appear or come off is the essence of humility and this has been greatly misunderstood and these people were misinterpreted, abused, and attacked. Pride can be on the side of misinterpretations not wanting to be wrong. Pride is the opposite of humility. Lately, I have been “misinterpreted” for using emotional appeals to point out the unfairness of one-way internet communication which is far from natural. My intention was to help the Whole when I was accused of being not nice to intellectuals who show their Idealized Images of tobacco smokers. A compassionate Self-Realized person would never contaminate the Whole with a smoker’s image because the realized compassionate person is aware that others could take up the delusional Self-Image that a smoker is suffering with by starting to smoke and it does not lead existing smokers to the maturity for ceasing their drug addiction. I have also been accused of bragging when I had the motive of using myself as an example to teach others about the farther reaches of human nature. In real life, not internet life, a humble person does not defend themself in most cases. They remain silent. A good salesperson has guts and they are persistent. Mystics work for the good of the whole. Hi Rabbi Heschel!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gary, You write today of “People like Maya Angelou, Jesus, John of the Cross, Nelsen Mandella, and others…” Yesterday I came across this quote by Nelson Mandella which I think it is important to keep in mind: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

  4. Avatar

    Matthews poetic thoughts expressed poetically…


    Let’s cease to peddle patriarchy
    and all that it has wrought,
    the wounds that it’s inflicted far and wide.
    It’s time to set down folly
    and let wisdom take its place
    while we still have time to turn the tide.
    In our souls, we know
    we could have peace instead of this…

    Instead of a punitive father God, a loving mother God
    Instead of power and wealth for a few, democratic justice for all.
    Instead of raping mother Earth, honoring the Divine in nature.
    Instead of ideology, creativity.
    Instead of egoism, altruism.
    Instead of guilt, gratitude.
    Instead of fear, trust.

    We could end collective pain
    if we’d just rewire our brain
    from reptilian to mammalian.
    How many fights would that finish?
    us versus them
    masculine versus feminine
    humanity versus nature
    body versus soul

    and then…
    Instead of dualism, unity.
    Instead of self pity, self love.
    Original sin not forgiven, just forgotten.
    Original blessing embraced.

    We could have this,
    we could have peace.

  5. Avatar
    Damian Maureira

    Patriarchy with its’ masculine toxicity and destructive values and actions has been around so long in human history (Matthew, you once said at least eight thousand years), that it is easy to despair because of the human suffering and earthly destruction it continues to cause. Somehow we have to maintain our faith and hope that the Loving, Wise, Just, Creative, Compassionate Divine Feminine~Sacred Masculine Spirit continues to be alive within and among us (like in many of our past spiritual and good ancestors, especially the Indigenous peoples) — “And Still We Rise…”. Faith~Hope~Love~Wisdom~ Peace~Justice~Creativity~Compassion within God and among us as co-Creators in the evolution of our eternal souls and And All Creation~Evolution….

  6. Avatar

    Patriarchy, which sadly includes too many women, condemns girls and women to be simply vessels to carry babies. In my opinion, it is outrageous to cloak this drive for power over others in “religious” words, which have no place as the basis for public policy in a secular state. I respect those who sincerely hold beliefs that life and the soul begin at conception, but I expect my views that are also sincerely held beliefs from my faith to be respected as well. I would not force abortion on anyone. The choice is a private one for the woman or girl, her health care team, and her God.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, I agree with you wholeheartedly that “it is outrageous to cloak this drive for power over others in “religious” words, which have no place as the basis for public policy in a secular state.” But the fact of the matter is that it is happening right in the Supreme Court among the Catholic Justices. What needs to happen, is if it can be proved that the Justices are acting on their religious beliefs rather than solely on the constitution, then they are in violation of separation of Church and State…

      1. Avatar

        I wish that there were a way to do that. The separation of Church and State was vital to the Founders I think because their time was not that far away from the vicious religious wars and the concept of the divine right of kings.

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