Why Webb Telescope is Much More than “Pretty Pictures”

Rumi tells us that “the spark of the soul is not easily lit.”  When one hears scientists express ecstasy and cry tears of joy and wonder, when one listens to the new creation story which is universal becoming more real and visible on our computers and in our living rooms, there is a chance that a spark is being lit in many souls around the world.  Not unlike what humanity’s first steps on the moon produced: A collective experience of awe and awakening of sparks.

“Light of Inside.” Photo by Manouchehr Hejazi on Unsplash

To seek to stifle those sparks is a sin against the first chakra for the first chakra is about relating to the whole and moving beyond our tribal worlds to connect to vibrations everywhere, therefore to the cosmos itself since every atom in the universe is vibrating.  The “misdirected love” (Aquinas) against the first chakra is acedia, the “lack of energy to begin new things,” as Aquinas defines it.

If Webb Telescope’s findings can assist us to begin new things—such as “reinventing the human” (Thomas Berry) and therefore all our institutions from education to religion to diet and ways we do energy to politics to economics to media to art to business—then Webb is ushering in a very important moment indeed.

“Apathy.” Photo by Parker Whitson on Unsplash

Those who refuse to see this and choose denial instead are opening the door of the first chakra to evil spirits such as acedia and cynicism that accompanies acedia.  Cynicism, we recall, comes from two Greek words, not caring and sour.  There is a not-caring aspect to dismissing the work of Webb Telescope put together by 20,000 thousand scientists from 29 countries over decades in order to learn more about the origins of our universe, which is to say, our home. 

Just today NASA reports that Webb has discovered the two oldest galaxies in the universe that date from just 300 million years from the big bang.

A non-caring aspect to acedia results in a lack of passion and therefore an attitude of sourness or cynicism toward life.  It is said that acedia “consists in loving a great good with less intensity than it deserves; it is ‘slow love.”  This is Dante’s definition for acedia.  A ‘slow love’ is presumably one that fails to connect to the cosmic love.  The cosmos deserves our gratitude.

“Jacob put back his frowns and sighed and walked/Back down the hill….” Judy Collins sings “Nightingale,” from “Whales and Nightingales, 1970” NightingaleLark

When healthy, the first chakra takes in the sounds of the universe and therefore it is about cosmology and ecology.  It is about listening to the vibrations and music of all that is, to all that is holy.  

Its color is red—the color of blood and excitement and eros.  Hildegard: “O human, why do you live without passion, why do you live without blood?”

New truths about the universe can light the spark of our souls and, with all the darkness facing humanity today, we do need our souls lit.  And fast.  

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 189f.

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

Banner Image: “Through it all, somehow…” Photo by Taylor Wright on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Rumi that the spark of the soul is not easily lit?  Do you feel your soul lit up when you invite the cosmos inside?  Does that grow and stretch your soul?

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16 thoughts on “Why Webb Telescope is Much More than “Pretty Pictures””

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Thank you for our Queries for Contemplation today! The first is: “Do you agree with Rumi that the spark of the soul is not easily lit?” When one listens to the new creation story, which is universal and becoming more real, there is a chance that the spark is being lit in many souls around the world. And you, Matthew compare this to when the world watched the first steps on the moon. This too produced a collective experience of awe and awakening of sparks. Thomas Aquinas, in speaking of “acedia” (one of the seven deadly sins) defines it as a “lack of energy to begin new things.” And I believe that the Webb Telescope can help us begin new things. As the Copernican revolution changed everything in terms of how the world (and especially the Church) looked at our place in the cosmos, so I believe that what the Webb Telescope sends us will change how we look at the universe and its beginning. It is my hope (as yours) that these changes will bleed over into every area of our life in the world. You show us how the word, “Cynicism” comes from two Greek words, not caring and sour. There is a not-caring aspect to dismissing the work of Webb Telescope put together by 20,000 thousand scientists from 29 countries over decades in order to learn more about the origins of our universe, which is to say, our home. And just today NASA reports that Webb has discovered the two oldest galaxies in the universe that date from just 300 million years from the big bang.
    “Do you feel your soul lit up when you invite the cosmos inside? Does that grow and stretch your soul?” Yes, my soul is lit up when I invite the cosmos inside, and it grows and stretches my soul. And the first chakra is at the sacral the “holy bone” from which I take in the vibrations of the universe. Its color is red—the color of blood and excitement and eros. Hildegard says: “O human, why do you live without passion, why do you live without blood?”

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    In John’s gospel (6:60-71) Jesus clearly explains why some souls follow him, and some do not, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” And in a parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man (Dives), Jesus explains the great divide that’s fixed (irreversibly) in eternity between those he sovereignly calls to himself, and those who remain spiritually obtuse and comatose to the sacred within and all around them. The revelation indicates that both grace and iniquity are mysteries. Just who responds to the former, and remains hardened in the latter, and why, are sovereignly known, arranged and determined. Why, for example, two brothers growing up in the same household are of radically different dispositions (like Cain and Abel), one serving evil, the other good, one a murderer, the other righteous, each with different eternal fates awaiting them, is a mystery. Nothing is said of chakras, or acedia, the latter condition a likely byproduct of the widespread human tendency to be blind and insensate to spiritual things. Therefore, though neither is named as such in Scripture using these exact words, both “original sin” (human depravity) and “original blessing” (God’s grace) do co-exist, are sovereignty assigned, and should be equally acknowledged. Out of the former, our nation was founded via the slave trade, and genocide of its native people’s. In the parable of Lazarus (grace) and Dives (depravity), the former eternally assigned to God’s presence, the latter to eternal torment in hell, Dives begs Jesus to warn his 5 surviving brothers, equally spiritually obtuse as he, of the reality and torments of hellthat they might repent so as not to suffer his eternal fate. Quoting Abraham, Jesus responds, “if they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even though someone rises from the dead” (Lk. 16:31). And today, surely, he might add, “even if they looked at the glorious firmament through telescopes.” Recall, Galileo invited the spiritually depraved clerics to look thru his telescope and they would not. Even if they did so, they would likely have looked with depraved indifference to same. Not sure why in the daily DM’s that the words and teachings of Jesus are conspicuously absent, selectively inattended to in favor of the likes of Aquinas and others who had far less knowledge of God than his own son.

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      Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful words. I understand what you are saying, but I don’t see things in the same light, and I could be wrong. Predestination is a depressing concept, though I agree that obtuse and stubborn blindness is alive and well in the world. The Biblical writers had their points of view and messages, many of them in conflict. Perhaps we are called to see and hear them differently.

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        Thanks, Sue, though I speak not of predestination. Rather, of election. Those aren’t my words as recorded in the Gospels, and folk don’t have to like or agree with them. I prefer not to put myself at odds with the recorded words of Jesus, and apostolic doctrine, written not only by those who witnessed same first hand, but later died a martyrs death for standing by what they saw and heard. I don’t like many fine works of art in the Metropolitan Museum. But truth be told, as fine art they stand in judgement of me, not the other way around, every last one. My opinion doesn’t matter one whit, nor does it change that fact or diminish their value. That’s the problem when u get to arbitrarily pick and choose which words of Jesus you like, and which you don’t, as if the gospel words are a theological buffet. Matthew writes brilliantly on ‘original blessing,’ which I and others are so grateful for. But he ignores notions of sin (or natural human depravity) as if it doesn’t exist, as if it wasn’t something Christ came to redeem us from. What? Are we to ignore that too? In correcting legalistic and far right views, one can swing too far left, tossing the baby with the bath water. Jesus is far beyond political notions of left and right, condemning human judicial systems, praising the latest astrological technology, chiding secular laws and lawmakers, and the findings of those who are experts on the heavens billions of years out, but can’t see the sacred that lies within and before them. As for predestination, it also is entirely consistent with Scripture, defined as, “God has foreknowledge, but I choose.” Foreknowledge and choice can both be true. Jesus knew who his betrayer was in advance, but Judas made the choice. He didn’t have to, but he did, and thus sealed his fate. Ditto us, and all who have gone before us. That God such in advance is entirely consistent with freedom of choice. — unless, that is, you are a dualistic, either/or thinker.

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          Again, I respect your views, and I thank you for your wisdom. Scripture to me is not graven in stone, but I do agree that we need to see the whole picture in both the Hebrew writings and the Christian writings as a record of faithful men as they were able to express their experiences. Because women were not included, I take it all with a grain of salt, as I do not think that only men were “inspired” to write, but only their points of view happen to be recorded.

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joe, Because of the length of your comments I can only point out one thing that I feel needs to be addressed.
      You write: “though neither is named as such in Scripture using these exact words, both ‘original sin’ (human depravity) and ‘original blessing’ (God’s grace) do co-exist, are sovereignty assigned, and should be equally acknowledged.” I think in order for you to say what you have you first need to work with one section in Matthews book, ORIGINAL BLESSING: it is Appendix B: “Fall/Redemption and Creation-Centered Spiritualities Compared at a Glance.” I t is important to understand this if you are going to discuss Creation Spirituality in contrast to Fall/Redemption theology which is based on “Original Sin.”

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        Thanks, Richard. I recall reading that some years ago, and may be worth reviewing. However, the main theme in most of my comments pertain to the challenge that, in my view, needs to be faced regarding a comprehensive (catholic, small ‘c’) understanding of not only the whole of the Scripture message, but that of reality itself. Creation Spirituality has its place, for sure, but the whole can’t be defined in terms of it. There must be room to look through other lenses of merit in a given situation, no two of which are alike. To beat the drum for one to the exclusion of others does not reflect clarity of vision or unitive consciousness. That deficiency, in my view, often happens in the DM’s, however cogent their distinctive points.

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    Jeanette Metler

    I do agree with Rumi, “that the spark of the soul is not easily lit.” I also perceive, like the mystics, that it is equally, not easy to keep kindling this spark of the soul… into a flame. Acedia, defined as Mathew has stated in today’s DM… that being “a sour cyncisim, a spiritual sadness of depression and despair, a psychic exhaustion, and a numbness in the soul… which leads to indifference and neglect,” is an apt description of this subtle demon that tempts everyone… which is so very evident in our world today.

    The image that comes to mind, is a sculpture of St. Genevieve, in which she is depicted carrying a lit taper in her heart. On one side of her is a demon angel, whom keeps blowing his breath of stench, that extinguishes the flame. However, on the other side of her is an angel of light, whom keeps relighting the flame of the little taper she holds in her heart. Another mystic comes to mind, Synclatica, one of the Dessert Mothers, whom teaches the importance of kindling this spark, this flame within one’s soul… through daily practice.

    So how does one practice kindling the spark, keeping the flame of one’s soul lit ? Mathew speaks of this too, within today’s DM, “through the spirit of joy, which is the fruit of love.” This joy comes from “making hope happen.” How does one make this hope happen? One makes this hope happen through the cosmology of conscious love… lived… in, with and through being in right relationship with all existence… which is a gift of new wine given us to drink in daily.

    Personally, I have found the images from the cosmos that the Webb telescope has captured, inspiring to my soul. They have sparked my imagination in meditative, contemplative and creative ways… in which intuitively I drink in the wine of wisdom… that unfolds, evolves and emerges from within… through engaging in relationship with something so much larger than myself… which I am mysteriously apart of… in ways that I may never fully comprehend. Yet the deep sense of connection and communion I experience, does indeed give me a sense of joy and hope in this wondrous conscious love… which is forever expanding… that alerts me to the beautiful preciousness and sacredness of all existence… which includes myself.

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    Yes Matthew, we need to awaken the Spark of Divine Love~Wisdom within and among us in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment in our daily human lives with one another and all ongoing Beautiful Creation~Evolution in our compassionate Being and actions guided/nourished by this Spirit of Diverse and Creative Loving Oneness, Immanent and Transcendent… God is All in All… Beloved Cosmic Christ Consciousness….

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    The JWST — for such a time as this

    If there is a design, then there must be a designer. —anon

    The JWST (Webb telescope) is allowing astrophysicists to look deeper than ever into space. It’s unique infrared capability looks “through” and beyond like no other instrument, save maybe the Ferme (Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_Gamma-ray_Space_Telescope) which “looks beyond” by studying our own Milky Way galaxy in a very different way.

    Our planet, unique in its design even among billions of galaxies (though sharing some aspects of others), is estimated to be about half way through its cosmic lifespan. Our species is designed and positioned like no other for this time in the life of the Universe as we know it, and are discovering with the JWST. The fundamental laws of physics are being “bent” in the light of JWST.

    And even biologists (exobiology) are excited for the data that JWST is providing. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrobiology. The question about “life on other planets” has been given a boost by the Webb instrumentation. And yes, our particular species is near perfectly suited for such study in this time (dare I say “Kairos”) in the life of an astonishingly expanding Universe.

    Scientists have already been “blown away” by images and data from the JWST. We’ve brilliant astrophysicists brought to tears and/or giddy as little children with the images and what it all means. The passion and excitement of our own astrophysicist son, Dr. Kyle Watters, is clearly evident as he hosts shows in our local university’s state of the art planetarium. Explaining the Webb images and welcoming more of the same, he is practicing both his science and his faith beyond his wildest imagination. From NASA collaborator to college professor and planetarium director he is fulfilling his life’s purpose well. And his brother, biology professor Cody Watters, adds his own unique perspective to the discussion. Listening to these two talk about the data dump from JWST is both exciting for this old ecologist/ecotheologist and mind-boggling too!

    Want to hear/read more? https://www.google.com/search?q=what+scientists+are+saying+about+JWST&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari#ip=1

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    Thank you Mathew for showing us the side of Cosmic Inspiration.
    My belief is this: The Divine Spark of our Souls brought us into existence and is indistinguishable from us. Our challenge is to realize this and then act accordingly.
    Every thing has its own Spark proper to its Nature. The Spark is critical to existence and connects everything to the Web of Life.
    Both Hubble and Webb show us a tiny part of the Cosmos in process of working itself out as we are in process of doing here together with all of its beauty and violence.
    My passion is to help build my own awareness and join friends and family
    In building our corporate awareness in the context of Planet Earth ? and our own surrounds.

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    In answer to your question, Matthew, Yes! Today’s meditation touches me on a very deep level. Your words encourage me to let the light be lit within me by the magnificent visions of the JWST. Such needed medicine in otherwise dark times. In the shadow of our political situation (especially that being brought about by the kangaroo court), I have been fighting depression. Your focus on the JWST is helping me come alive again. It is “giving me the energy to begin new things.” Bless you.

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    Thank you for once again reminding us that hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up. It is not a passive waiting for good things to happen, which in my opinion is as bad as cynicism. But this is a tired old world, as it has always been, and it takes effort, intention, and practice to keep the spark going in myself and to light up others.

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