Several years ago I received a letter from Courtney Milne who was a photographer who lived in Saskatoon, Canada. He wanted to talk and told me the following story:
One moonlit night, he was awakened from sleep and went to the window to look outdoors and heard a voice that told him he should go around the world and take photographs of sacred sites.
A voice like that, a message like that, was all new to him so he went to a bookstore to find some inkling of what had happened to him. There he picked up my book on The Coming of the Cosmic Christ (the “Cosmic Christ” is an archetype for mystical experience and I offer “21 running and workable definitions for mysticism” in chapter 2 of the book).
On reading the book, he understood that he had undergone a mystical experience. He packed his bags and set out on his journey to take pictures from around the world. He also took the book with him.
He visited 140 different sacred places and 30 countries are included in his book. Many adventures ensued, including having all his photographic equipment stolen from him when in China. He talked of the journey as a “personal pilgrimage” and defined sacred places as “awe-inspiring places.”
The result of his calling was his beautiful book, The Sacred Earth with a Foreward by his Holiness the Dalai Lama. In it, Milne offers the following commentary:
Ironically, my most profound revelations have not occurred at specific sacred sites, but rather they have surfaced as a realization of what it is I am doing….I have come to realize how you and I—anyone who enjoys making images—are responding to the mystic that lives within each of us.
This surely underscores a paradigm shift for Milne and an invitation for other artists since the modern era was essentially “anti-mystical,” as Theodore Roszak noted when he said “the Enlightenment held mysticism up for ridicule as the worst offense against science and reason.”
Milne goes on:
All joyous photographers are artists, and all artists are mystics….Knowing this gives me permission to nurture amazement, to leave the camera in my bag and fully experience a new place—to allow me to be a child again and to discover the newness of an old place or the inherent familiarly of a new place.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, p. 208.
And Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 35-74.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image; “Peace” by Courtney Milne. Published with permission from the tribute site “The Canadian Nature Photographer,” a subsidiary of Science & Art Multimedia, owned & operated by Dr. Robert Berdan.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree with Milne that “all joyous photographers are artists and all artists are mystics”? Is that true of other vocations as well? Notice the key word, joyous.
The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time
Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter
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.
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow. Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Living in Sin