How Julian of Norwich Can Help Heal the Doctrine of Discovery

We are meditating on Pope Francis’s visit to the first peoples of Canada this week to apologize for so much abuse and trauma toward the young created by Christian churches (and the government of Canada) in their various school systems that ripped children away from families and tribes and traditions.

Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s “evil” abuse of generations of Indigenous peoples in Canada. CBS News‘ Tanya Rivero and Nikki Battiste discuss with Washington Post Rome bureau chief Chico Harlan.

What if, instead of demanding redemption of non-Christian peoples in Africa and the Americas, the European explorers had put creation and the goodness of creation at the forefront of their spirituality? 

I wonder how different would history have been if Julian’s creation-centered religious vision had been out front when the encounters between Europe and indigenous peoples took place the world over? 

Consider these teachings from Julian’s teachings:

“The first good thing is the goodness of nature.”

“God is the same thing as nature,” and God is “the very essence of nature.”

“The goodness in nature is God.”

God is “unending goodness” and an “endless goodness.”

We are all born into a “birthright of never-ending joy.”

Everything that we encounter in creation is “everything that God loves” also.

“To behold God in all things is to live in complete joy.”

“The Breathtaking Beauty of Nature: A video to honor the beautiful world we live in.” Eredus

The first duty of the soul is “to reverently marvel.” A “reverent awe is the proper response to the supreme beauty of the divine.”

“This is the holiest prayer—the loving prayer of thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving leads to actions. “Charged with the quality of reverence and loving awe, we turn ourselves with all our might toward the actions” to which we are guided.

“Nature and Grace are in harmony with each other. . . . Neither works without the other.”

“God is the Ground, the Substance, the same thing as Naturehood.”

“God is the true Father and Mother of Nature.”

“Everything that is created has being because of God’s love.”  The entire universe is kept together by love.

“God never began to love us…we have been loved from without beginning.”

Praying contemplative body prayer from the Order of St. Julian, based on the teachings of Julian: Await, Allow, Accept, Attend. The Plural Guild

Faith is trusting that “we are in God and God whom we do not see is in us.”

All nature is interdependent, and this is why “the sky and the earth failed at the time of Christ’s dying because he too was part of nature.”

We share the pain of Christ due to “a great oneing between Christ and us because when he was in pain, we were in pain.”

There exists a “true oneing between the divine and the human.”

Trust your body, for “God is in our sensuality.”

“God has forged a glorious union between the soul and the body.”

“Be at home with your body, for “God willed that we have a twofold nature: sensual and spiritual.”

We were created “luminous and noble” and we were “known and loved from without beginning.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic…and Beyond, pp. 101-105.

See also

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

Banner Image: “Alone in the unspoilt wilderness: Ciucaș Peak, Romania” Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you see deep resonances between Julian’s teachings as listed here and indigenous wisdom?  Between creation spirituality therefore and indigenous teachings?  Do you ponder how history might have been different if creation spirituality was integral to the hearts and minds of European explorers who first came upon indigenous peoples?

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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21 thoughts on “How Julian of Norwich Can Help Heal the Doctrine of Discovery”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today in continuing on from yesterday’s meditation, you raise a very good question when you ask:
    “What if, instead of demanding redemption of non-Christian peoples in Africa and the Americas, the European explorers had put creation and the goodness of creation at the forefront of their spirituality?” It would all be so different.” First, I feel that we may have treated their culture and religion with respect rather than trying to force them to be “saved” or “redeemed.” In Creation Spirituality we believe in Deep Ecumenism which would recognize the Native American “wells” that all draw from the same underground river. I remember when I worked in the archives of university research center, I saw a file of early missionary photos. It had African natives dressed in clothes “like civilized people” and not as “savages.” And they sat in rows of chairs –not in a circle on the ground. It looked both imperialistic and absurd at the same time. And now for our Queries for Contemplation, and our first is: “Do you see deep resonances between Julian’s teachings as listed here and indigenous wisdom? Between creation spirituality therefore and indigenous teachings?” It’s so easy to see when you list her quotations the way you have: “The first good thing is the goodness of nature.” “God is the same thing as nature,” and God is “the very essence of nature.” “The goodness in nature is God.” Everything that we encounter in creation is “everything that God loves” also. “To behold God in all things is to live in complete joy.” “God is the Ground, the Substance, the same thing as Naturehood.” “God is the true Father and Mother of Nature.” In deed, these quotes sound in the same spirit as the Native Americans.
    “Do you ponder how history might have been different if creation spirituality was integral to the hearts and minds of European explorers who first came upon indigenous peoples?” If Creation Spirituality was integral to our hearts, the world would truly be a difference place. Instead of forcing Native American children to conform to the “white man’s” standards; if we would have been willing to learn from each other, and coexist, the world would be a different place–a very different place.

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    I commend Pope Francis for beginning the retribution process with his heart-felt apology in words…but..As the Gospel of John so brings to us:  “The word (Love) became flesh and dwelt among us”  All the words of apology and intent of retribution for me must be carried out and implemented in actions or they fade into nothingness.
    The money that the Catholic Church bureaucracy/hierarchy set aside for implementing retribution towards the Native peoples so abused who lost much of their relationship to their own self identity as Native people and lost identity with the rigid culture that abused them because of the sexual, identity and physical abuse they endured, has gone instead to lawyers to defend the Catholic Church in abuse suites and to build another Church building.  This weakens the much needed apology in its lack of action in retribution.  All the insights, admissions, and acknowledgment verbally is incomplete until “right retribution in actions” is given.  The identity need to be lost is among the hierarchy of the Catholic Church itself. When will they ever learn? Apologies must also be implemented in actions of concrete nurturing/healing wounds in retribution as Jesus & Mahatma Gandhi  lived and taught.  Gandhi said:  I know a way out of hell.  Well the Catholic Church’s dominating hierarchy seems to still be in it with their inaction and clinging to power rather than love.  As Carl Jung and Rollo May explained, Power and Love are the antithesis of each other. Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea’s Contributing Comment

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Dr. Pokea, I beg to differ with you on one point: You say, “All the insights, admissions, and acknowledgment verbally is incomplete until “right retribution in actions” is given.” You must be using the word “retribution” in another form then most would use it because “retribution” connotates “revenge,” and that is certainly NOT the approach that was taken by Jesus or Gandhi. The word that I would use instead of “retribution” is “restitution”…

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    Julian and the mystics offer the kind of unitive conscious that sees things in wholes, and is therefore healing and holy. Consonant with indigenous wisdom, at best mystics are ‘clean,’ without guile, and unspotted from the dirty world of political power, domination and control. Worthy of emulation, they and their kind are in the minority, last in this world, first in the next. As Matthew underscores daily, its crucial to consult their wisdom and works, and identify with their cause(s). Lest we forget, it is both God’s cause and God consciousness in them. Likewise, in indigenous spirituality. Pope Francis is a sincere, decent figure in a historically corrupt system trying to save said system’s face along more political lines. Such will render his public display in Canada ring hollow, a far cry from the mystical McCoy in depth and genuineness. In offering a “penitential” gesture (token), he and the system he speaks for are, shamefully, a day late and a dollar short. Even if he burns symbolic documents in public. Note, the word ‘penance’ is a Catholic term that has little significant relationship to ‘repentance,’ the biblical term and keynote word that began Christ’s public mystery. Penance is a religious ritual having little or no relationship to redemption, holiness or sanctification whatsoever. To say nothing of the new birth, for which repentance is a pre-condition. As for spiritual magnitude, penance stands in relationship to repentance as a lighted match to the brilliance of the sun itself. While indeed religious, its no hallmark of either conviction for past sin, or genuine spiritual conversion. The difference between the two states (terms), penance and repentance, is the difference between token outer (political) and genuine inner (heart) moral conditions. Francis penitential public display may be sincere, but sincerity isn’t repentance, nor is it remorse. It’s a species of conviction altogether different, not in degree, but in kind. The sacred writings, not the mystics or the Catholic church, have much to say about the difference between true and false repentance, and true and counterfeit religion. Knowing their differences, and other biblical a-b-c’s, may help with clarity of perspective on the upcoming papal visit to Canada. On closer review, seems this papal gesture bears little difference along authentic spiritual lines than the BIA’s (Bureau of Indian Affairs) occasional political posturing before our native peoples. More officialdom. As for truth telling and responsibility bearing, both institutions long ago forfeited their credibility and relevancy along integral lines. Best put your faith and focus elsewhere.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joe, I believe that Pope Francis is doing the best job of any pope I have know of since Pope Joh XXIII who began Vatican II. You say: “Pope Francis is a sincere, decent figure in a historically corrupt system trying to save said system’s face along more political lines.” Its just your judgement that Pope Francis is just acting sincere when in fact he’s really just trying to help the Church “save face.” To me that doesn’t sound sincere, it sounds two-faced and I don’t believe he is! He has been saying and doing things that are at odds with many in the Church, but he seems to try to do what is right, for no other reason than it should be made right…

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        Thanks, Richard. If he’s going to do what’s right, he’ll put the indigenous abuse issue in the context of the Entire dark-side Vatican history as persecutorial, repressive and abusive. The Vatican has never confessed that, and speaking ex-cathedra on behalf of the Vatican, no pope has ever confessed that. And while Canadian government officials have, the US government has not, nor has its corrupt agency, the BIA. Which, Richard, is to my point(s): namely, (1) a partial confession is no confession at all, especial from a Vatican figurehead, Christ’s so-called ‘Vicar on Earth’ (2) penitence and/or penance is not the same as repentance (FULL ownership, conviction and godly sorrow over a U.S. I’ve wrongdoing, ALL OF IT— I won’t print the 3 letter ‘S’ word u prefer to deny even exists, and (4) if decide to one day study “forgiveness and redemption 101” in the sacred texts, you might learn that there is no conviction for S * * without repentance, and no repentance from S * * without confession, and no forgiveness for S * * without all of the above. Only then can the restorative and healing process begin for ANY transgressor facing God, and facing the offended/injured one(s). You guys must have skipped your religious Ed classes, as this is basic stuff, Richard. The Pope is to be an EXEMPLARY of same

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    I remember reading in Barry Lopez’s wonderful book “Arctic Dreams” how the Elizabethan explorer John Davis in his attempt to reach the Northwest Passage encountered Inuits. The natives, no doubt stunned and memorized by the sight of this ship and alien people, began to dance on the shoreline and play their rudimentary musical instruments. In response, Davis instructed his own fiddlers and musicians to “strike up the band”, and the Morris dancers on board began to dance. What a wonderful and splendid way for complete strangers from different continents, not even knowing each other to exist, to celebrate this meeting of humans with fellow humans.

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    Blessing on you dear father – would indeed that we approached one another believing that God is in all. Thank you for your continued reminder of our shared humanity. Bishop Stephen, OCCA

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    Regarding the “goodness of nature,” let us not forget that European explorers/invaders brought diseases that wiped out a huge percentage of the peoples they came in contact with. That would have been true even if they had not tried to change or exploit native peoples. Perhaps when we look at the motivation/justification behind the global exploration, it would have been more wise, loving and respectful to just stay home or at least refrain from contact with other peoples. Even without having designs on them, curiosity is not moral justification for putting others at risk.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Arden, What is interesting in what you say: “let us not forget that European explorers/invaders” in light of what we have been doing earlier in our meditations. Earlier we had been focusing on the Webb Telescope which is our greatest attempt to be “Explorers” of our new fronter, as the Europeans were explorers of the new frontier for them, which was the new world. We did a terrible job then as you point out. I hope we will learn from that, and if we ever get into space, rather than just a Telescope, I hope we don’t bring more chaos and destruction like we did before…

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        Richard, thanks for being my foil again, giving me so many opportunities to make counterpoints. Truth, a ‘tweener,’ can often only be derived that way, lying somewhere in-between or among reconciled viewpoints. Recall basic text, Richard, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). As such, calling outer-space the “new frontier” is another egregious misnomer. You know, like the word“ penitence.” Humanity has yet to master the realities of its INNER SPACE frontier, overcoming the dark and perplexing mysteries within his own soul, so toxic and destructive to self and others. Now, it wants to act them out elsewhere in the galaxy like the galactic colonialists, dragging an assortment of toxic organic and behavioral pathogens in tow. Young Johnny doesn’t get to go out and play until he first finishes his homework and straightens out his room. First things first. Work before exploratory play. Ditto space dalliances, expensive techno playthings to putter with when there are more important, down-to-earth fish to fry, and so many misaligned ducks to get in a row.

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        Well, Richard, Julian talked about the goodness of nature. My point is that nature includes viruses and bacteria that European exploration brought that wiped out a huge percentage of the population of indigenous peoples on this continent. We can’t idealize nature. Nor do I want to idealize human exploration or telescopes to advance human knowledge. On earth, human exploration always seems to be at the expense of other living things or parts of nature. Some amazing telescopes have bespoiled a sacred mountain in Hawaii. We have explorer junk on Mt. Everest, and now on the moon and on Mars. In contrast, I am taken by the spirituality and wisdom of people who have lived contentedly in one place, generation after generation, with no need of a frontier to explore. There may be something to that as well.

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    Thank you Matthew and your team for today’s beautiful meditation, the words of Julian of Norwich, and indigenous sisters and brothers around the world, their ancestors, their spiritual heritage, and Mother Earth and all living creatures, including humanity… Our Mother~Father Source Creator is truly within All our evolving co-Creation~Cosmos in Loving Diverse Oneness… our Beloved Cosmic Christ Consciousness….

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      Tom Cain (Bompa)

      During Papal visit to Canada
      Damian Maureira thanks for …pointing at Julian’s summary of ” Our Mother~Father Source Creator is truly within”

      You and Matthew would find the input of Si Pih Ko, a cree woman, truly courageous. She sang unscripted a poignant rebuke to pope in her native language re pope keeping his skull cap on underneath his Headdress…which she found quite disrespectful …
      Our creator, keep our sacred land, Canada. Our land here, Canada. Our Sacred Land.”
      She understood so deeply what Julian was saying about the sacred inside !

      Matthew Thanks for your bold thoughts about Doctine of Discovery

      I remember your leadership when you lived in Toronto Canada…hence you know of cbc….they have been doing some very honest coverage of the pope’s visit. 
      See the attached link

      Tom   aka Bompa
      84 year old grandfather …following your daily meditations… learning so much from you and your mystical friends …trying to find moments to share some basic ideas with my grandkids about the inside  and their experience of awe in their own way. Keep your insights coming! 

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    Thank-you so much for your daily meditations and all your books, they are joy and support in these difficult times.

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    I am so joyfull to start opening venues into which Mathew Fox leads us to meditate on panentheism and goes back to Julian of Norwich, far back into lucidity in a sense of Oneness. Perhaps this ought to lead us into reviewing and meditating on the ways that have been conceived and work at fault in patriarchy and its norm to centralize power and subject others under this manner of organization. Clericalism in the Church has contributed to this and perhaps the notion underlying the Church s structure which favor a role of administrators giving their backs to spiritual wisdom and mystic concerns.

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    As I encounter, once again, as I have all my life, terrible things in our history, I am perplexed once again.
    What do I do with all this? The more I know about what my ancestors did, I cannot avoid some sense of responsibility—even though I am told I cannot undo what was done.

    We who are alive at the moment are, with things as they are.

    So here I am,, among the living, now.
    How do I live my short life on earth, now?
    What do I do?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Kenneth, You ask: “So here I am, among the living, now. How do I live my short life on earth, now? What do I do?” I say, (for what its worth) live with integrity, sincerity and justly–and in all things love and respect others…

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    The spirituality of creation is the Tree of Life, we chose not to participate in. The knowledge of the good we can get from evil acts, for us, is far more attractive. It gives us self importance, power over others and wealth in money and possessions. We all participate in this system of universal injustice, the sin of the world. To change our direction towards justice for all, we must embark on a journey, by participating less and less in unjust acts. We can apply the practical needs of grown food for everyone and unconditional forgiveness for everyone. These two physical and spiritual needs will direct us to seek out the wealth of the fullness of the Life, we all love and share and is with us always.

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    The Doctrine of Discovery, yes, it must be understood as a Blindspot, an original sin. This, is my question. if this cornerstone ‘belief that has become dogma/doctrine and blindspot were to be renounced by the Vatican, what other dogma/doctrine would naturally follow? The doctrine of faith? the doctrine of salvation?

    Matthew, MORE versed in Roman Catholic theology than this Protestant clergy , can you comment on how this one doctrine would inevitably lead to the erosion of others, and thus the collapse of institutional Christianty as we know it, please.

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