July 4th, 2022 and the Spark of the Soul in Medieval Jewish Mysticism

This year’s 4th of July Celebration feels more like Hong Kong’s 50th anniversary remembrance this weekend than it does like previous fourth of July celebrations over the years.  And for essentially the same reason. 

Holding out the light. Photo by Clément M. on Unsplash.

In China it is the communist party’s lust for power and in America it is 50 years of the Koch brothers’ lust for power along with that of the fanatical wings of Evangelical and Roman Catholic ideology with Opus Dei at the helm.  Such lust for power from the Supreme Court has thrust upon our nation an egregious theocratic agenda that tells all women (regardless of faith tradition) what they can and cannot do with their bodies, blurs the lines between church and state, and disempowers the EPA, thus spreading climate change and endangering every being on our planet.

The Koch brothers, who have made their billions on fossil fuels and spent heavily on killing environmental legislation by establishing their own version of jurisprudence for fifty years are now at the top of their game with this Supreme Court that they, along with Opus Dei, fashioned.

July 4th is often celebrated with “sparklers” as well as sky-filled fireworks.  Many cities are cutting back on their celebrations because fireworks are in short supply due to China’s shutdown, etc. and many Americans are not in the mood for celebrating this particular July fourth thanks to the unprecedented threats from the once “supreme” court of the land. 

It may be a time this season therefore for pausing to look inwards a bit for what Eckhart and other mystics call the “spark of the soul,” that fire of God inside us all, a fire that establishes our center as an image of God but also ignites our moral outrage in the face of injustice. [See DMs for June 9th, 10th, 11th]

Daniel Matt discussing Adam, Eve and Zohar. Originally posted to YouTube by Kabbalah Me Documentary.

Eckhart invokes the expression “spark of the soul” on many occasions.  It is central to the medieval Jewish tradition as well and is found in the Kabbalah and the Zohar.  The word zohar actually means “radiance, splendor, brilliance” and designates “the hidden power of emanation,” according to Jewish mystical scholar Daniel Matt. 

Matt says, “The spark of emanation flashes again and Keter, the aura, transmits the impulse to Hokhmah, the point of Wisdom.”  Does the spark of the soul awareness lead us to Wisdom and therefore to the divine feminine?

The sparks touch and even ignite Wisdom herself who accompanies creation, and so the sparks play a role in the unfolding of creation—might we even recognize them in the “original fireball”?  Sparks play a role in the creation of all things, including the elements of the universe–fire, air, water, and earth, “from which evolved the states of mineral, vegetable, animal, and human,” Matt writes.  The sparks precede the cosmic forces and feed them.  To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Times, pp. 193f.

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

Banner Image: Crowd gathered to enjoy fireworks show. Photo by Arthur Chauvineau on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you sense that now is a time for a deepening and an igniting of the “spark of the soul” experience in people of all religious faith?  And the ushering in of Wisdom that accompanies it?  An increase of the “image of God” awareness in us all that stands up to the  idolatry of money and power? 

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

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17 thoughts on “July 4th, 2022 and the Spark of the Soul in Medieval Jewish Mysticism”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you give us a few Queries for Contemplation, but what I first want to say is, what we have now is a Supreme Court with such lust for power that it has thrust upon our nation an egregious theocratic agenda that tells all women (regardless of faith tradition) what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Despite claims of determinism, we still make choices which define who we are and what we stand for. In fact, the whole story of the Fall in Eden, that supposedly was the cause of the world being in this state, is from choice. Take away a person’s choice and you have totalitarianism.
    “Do you sense that now is a time for a deepening and an igniting of the ‘spark of the soul’ experience in people of all religious faith? And the ushering in of Wisdom that accompanies it?” I sure hope so ! But even though Pope Francis can state publicly that religious freedom is guaranteed to all of those who live within the Vatican state, they cannot extend the same grace to their own members. No freedom of thought, no deviation from the patriarchal meat grinder. The Church might not be still burning heretics, but they sure are condemning them to burn in Hell.
    Finally you ask about “An increase of the ‘image of God’ awareness in us all that stands up to the idolatry of money and power?” A realization of what it means to be made in “the image of God,” or “the Cosmic Christ” can help us to make our spiritual selves conform to the image of God.

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    Oneness is having chaste (pure in heart) contact with that which is the same in all things. It’s the fire (Spirit) that lies behind the shadow and disguise of everything that is. This divine fire is the substance of their form, God “appearing as” mineral A, vegetable B, animal C, human D. Beneath their molecular crust all things are not only chaste (untouched by human hands and thought), but plastic. That is, they’re putty in the off-world fire that both created, wrought, and maintains them as 3-dimensional images and expressions of itself on earth. By this invisible mystery the Light of the World (Christ) fires/inspires every electron that ensouls and embodies all things in the created order. It’s what makes them “mint” at their core, like a newly struck coin untouched and untouchable by human hands. Such renders all things whole, holy and sacred. This eternal fire is the Source of all earthly fires. In the world without being of it renders this 4th dimensional fire (Shekinah) chaste and virginal, Merton’s “le point vierge” (virgin point). Before it’s manifest appearance in the burning bush Moses reverently removed his shoes, Jesus cleansed dusty feet, three disciples fell prostrate at the Transfiguration, and Paul fell dumbstruck, knocked speechless from his horse. And so must we render reverent homage and service to all that is.

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    martina nicholson

    Dear Matthew,
    I wanted to share with you a video made by Rachel Remen, MD, which touches on the story of the spark of the divine, and the use of it, in our medical world. It is very inspiring. With love, martina

    Dear Ones,
    A few months ago I was contacted by a synagogue in Reno and invited to make some opening remarks at the celebration of their anniversary. Over the years sometimes there has been a Rabbi and sometimes not but the congregation has gathered to celebrate every shabbat together for a hundred years. I no longer travel so I invited them to my garden to make a tape. I am sending it to you. Its about 20 minutes long. Just some thoughts for the present time……
    With love from Rachel


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      Thank you, Martin. Rachel is a wonderfully wise resource, drawing from her years of living and teaching wholeness in a profession and world sorely in need of same.

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      Jeanette Metler


      Thank you so very much for including the YouTube link in your comment today. It was such an insightfully beautiful message, which touched my soul… kindling the Divine spark within.


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      Thank you so much for this extraordinarily touching video. It brought me back to innocence and the abundance of simplicity…a reminder to pare back to only that which is relevant.

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    I am sorry Matthew, but you have to know abortion is a sin against God’s creation. I have no idea why you are kowtowing to the aethistic party line. It is unbelievable for a Man of God. Your current attempts at explanation have been unbelievable at best and unsupportable to say the least. Why don’t you talk to those that were the result of rape and not aborted.

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      There are people of faith who come down firmly on both sides of many issues, Peter, and abortion is perhaps the one over which there are the strongest disagreements. Many viewpoints on both sides typically create more heat than light. Reconciling the tension between personal freedom and personal responsibility in such matters is no small task, one that calls for careful nuancing and wise discernment. Not every pro-life person is fascist in their defense of responsibility, morality, and ethics. And not every pro-choice person is atheistic, or a flaming liberal in sincere defense of personal freedom and civil liberties, as you seem to suggest. Whether Matthew’s viewpoints come off that way, and/or to what degree, is perhaps something for him and those who uncritically follow his DM’s to carefully consider. Of course, the radical extremes do exist it there, but my guess is that most cluster on either side hovering near the middle, without rancor, motivated by heartfelt goodness. They make no circus for CNN. There is error, Peter, in everyone’s opinion somewhere — yours included — they just don’t know where it is. Unless, of course, either or both of you smugly deign to claim total perfection and integral clarity of vision on the subject, tellingly diagnostic in themselves. Along more balanced lines, as apparent contraries both sides reflect competing partial truths that haven’t yet been fully reconciled. Certainly not by the courts. That the contraries are politicized, muddies and muddles resolution even further. In that your voice, Peter, and those of other pro-lifers have not found their way to comment boldly on Matthew’s unopposed characterizations, as you have here, is perhaps something worthy of his consideration, and assuming they exist, those of his critique-reticent readers. And I would ask of nothing less of you, Peter, as to what precludes your position from drifting onto the slippery slopes of dogmatism and self-righteousness? What’s sauce for the goose, after all, must likewise be sauce for the gander.

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        Thank you for your reasoned response. I will build on the mention of dogmatism and self-righteousness, because we can all get stuck there. It is well to look honestly into why a particular viewpoint is held, what religious beliefs/doctrine have helped to form it, what personal experiences are related. My faith is grounded in love and compassion, and I also have personal experience of my own rejection of the choice to abort, while agonizing with a dear friend when she made the painful decision to abort after being exposed to rubella and having a previous stillbirth at 5 months. There is just too much judging without any experience or compassion, from what I can see. There is an excellent article in a recent Christian Science Monitor on the history of abortion in this country, which has differed over time. The Roman Catholic church historically has held differing views at different times. One can justify any view from selected Bible verses. One recent brief reminder by a minister was to read Genesis and remember how God began human life, by breathing into it, suggesting that breathing was the beginning of life. I think a touch of humility in all of us regarding our dearly held beliefs would be nice. In conclusion, the decision must be with the potential mother, her health care people, and God. Sadly, politics and religious powers have gotten involved.

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      Dear Peter,
      I do not think you have read my teachings on abortion. Please go to Conscience magazine, vol. XLI, No. 2, 2020 for an extended article by me on the subject. I will summarize some points here.
      First, I am against abortion in principle because we should be conservative about all forms of life and we are ignorant of many things such as when a fetus becomes a human. But I am not against people who have abortions because my experience is that it is always a difficult decision and there are occasions for abortion including rape, incest, danger to the mother’s health and to the family’s health. But I am even more against the government lording over women’s bodies and telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Furthermore, there is a BIG distinction between good law and good morality. You cannot legislate all morality. And there is pluralism among religions on this subject and so in a pluralistic society, one religion represented more on the Supreme Court has no right to dictate to millions of others from other traditions about the morality of abortion. And within religions there is a plurality of understanding as well–for example some righteous Christians today seem to know exactly when the fetus becomes a human, telling us it is at conception. That is NOT the tradition in Christianity. Thomas Aquinas, doctor of the church, wrestled with this question for example and concluded that first the fetus has a vegetable soul, then an animal soul, and then a human soul (around 6 or 8 weeks maybe). Many in the Jewish tradition (which Jesus belonged to and Jesus never said a word about abortion that we know of) teach that the fetus is not a human until it leaves the womb and breathes its first breath on its own.
      It follows that one can be in principle against abortion but FOR roe/wade for all these reasons, the most important being that there is a history of men and patriarchy controlling women’s bodies–the 17th century jurist and witch burner actually cited approvingly by Alito and all who signed the Dobbs decision–is a prime example of that. Even in his day in the 17th century, he was mocked by people for his extremism. Women have a right to make decisions about their bodies based on their own consciences and the consulting they make with partners and medical personnel. That is the bottom line: That is a moral red line we dare not cross.
      Finally, Roe/Wade does not tell anyone they much get an abortion. It only says that if there are going to be abortions, let us make it as safe as possible. And there will be abortions. Let us not turn women’s bodies and consciences over to creepy judges or creepy politicians or creepy ecclesiastics.

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    In this spiritual time/shift of darkness of the soul/society/earth, I do feel we are all being called to awaken the Divine Spark of God’s Love~Wisdom deep within our eternal Souls among us to help heal, develop, transform, co-Create and evolve our humanity, Mother Earth, and the Cosmos… God’s Loving Wisdom Spirit is calling all of us, even through our multidimensional spirit guides, saints, and Angels, during this important phase of our earthly spiritual journeys, towards deeper Diverse Loving Compassionate Oneness with one another, Mother Earth and All Her beautiful abundance/creatures, and our multiverse Cosmos… Beloved Cosmic Christ Consciousness….

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    So much goodness to digest here in this post, comments and video excerpts. Thank you so much. In response Matthew, yes, I absolutely do feel that now is the time to ignite the soul spark in people of all religions and none. I am grateful for the introduction to Daniel Matt and to remember the impact of even the smallest, shortest of words…I am in awe of the simplicity of life and our human capacity to create endless complexities out of no thing. Most of all, I am reminded of the power of tending our own inner light as we keep on keeping on. With love, deep gratitude and blessings, always.

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