Those who dismiss Webb Telescope as “pretty pictures” ought to explore its meaning more deeply.
First, they should consider what Thomas Aquinas says about nature and religion when he tells us that “Revelation comes in two volumes: Nature and the Bible.” This means of course that we must enter deeply and spiritually into what nature is telling us. And:
One meditates on creation in order to view and marvel at divine wisdom….Indeed, divine wisdom first appears in the creation of things.
Of course he had no idea that the universe was two trillion galaxies big with hundreds of billions of stars in each galaxy–and expanding! Nor that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. Nor that humans can now bring the light from the original generation of stars and galaxies into our homes and computers.
But we do and we can. And Aquinas would be beside himself with this reality—and of course be hanging on every discovery that scientists will be making about the nature of nature, the history of the universe, the story of how we—earth, sun, moon, and humans sharing the earth with so many amazing creatures—got here.
For this is, in his words, revelation, just as the Bible is revelation. Not more and not less.
Hildegard too would be over the moon to be learning more about the universe which God made and to which we belong. She said “all science comes from God” and listened to scientists when her first book appeared (at the age of 52) who told her the universe was egg shaped—so she painted that. Then, in her last book, scientists had changed their mind so she offered three pictures of the universe as a circle.
There is much “revelation” that comes along with cosmology. Thomas Berry certainly believes so. His commitment to the ‘Great Work’ is a commitment to implementing the values that derive from an awareness of the sanctity of the universe as a whole and from how the universe works including how all beings form a communion of subjects (not objects).
And, since “ecology is functional cosmology,” one can work for a deeper and more broad recognition of the sacredness of this planet, our home, put denial about climate change aside, and commit to rendering our planet sustainable again.
So an awakening to cosmology such as Webb can contribute to can hopefully inspire and nurture those committed to seeing our earth and all living creatures on it thrive.
In this regard, Pope Francis too should be consulted for his encyclical on “Our Common Home,” called “Laudato Si,” which means to Praise the Earth is very much in this same creation spirituality tradition.
Those who reduce the Webb Telescope to giving us “pretty pictures” have some homework to do—inner work around wonder and awe and gratitude, the Via Positiva; and about the suffering of Mother Earth, the Via Negativa; and outer work about working toward a sustainable future for the planet (Via Creativa and Transformativa).
Compassion and eco-justice are calling us all. And Webb is part of that call.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 17-21, 11f., 19f.
And Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 48-70.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: This side-by-side comparison of photos from from NASA’s Webb Telescope shows the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light (NIRCAM), at left, and mid-infrared light (MIRI), at right. Notice a dying white dwarf star to the lower left of the bright, central star in the NIRCAM image: the same star appears – but brighter, larger, and redder, cloaked in thick layers of dust – in the MIRI image. Today, the white dwarf is heating up the gas in the inner regions – which appear blue at left and red at right. Both stars are lighting up the outer regions, shown in orange and blue, respectively. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STSc
Queries for Contemplation
Do you meditate on creation in order to view and marvel at divine wisdom? Will meditation on the findings of the Webb Telescope assist you in that marveling?
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
Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen
An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition. At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them.
“If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.” – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.