Adam Bucko and I conclude our book on Occupy Spirituality with a chapter entitled “Occupy Generation and the Practice of Spiritual Democracy.” I excerpt a portion below…
In discussing the exciting topic of spiritual democracy, we want to give credit to a spiritual ancestor, Walt Whitman. Whitman used this phrase on many occasions, as when he said:
I say to you that all forms of religion, without excepting one, any age, any land, are but mediums, temporary yet necessary, fitted to the lower mass-ranges of perception of the race—part of its infant school—and that the developed soul passes through one or all of them, to the clear homogeneous atmosphere above them. There all meet—previous distinctions are lost—Jew meets Hindu, and Persian Greek and Asiatic and European and American are joined—and any one religion is just as good as another.
This is a very important quote, because essentially it describes the climate that many young people find themselves in today. It’s this climate that Brother Wayne Teasedale called our “interspiritual age,” or what Matthew has called “deep ecumenism.”
More and more people (and especially the young) are realizing that essentially, while they drink from traditions or a specific tradition, in the end the teaching–even though sometimes it comes through the tradition–is really about going beyond the tradition itself, going into that space that is beyond all religions.
The late Catholic monk Thomas Merton talked about the need to
…discover an older unity. My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. So what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.
When Adam was growing up in Poland felt he was born into a specific tradition, but now he knows that he has been nurtured by a variety of traditions with mentors from several different traditions.
Even though I tend to identify as a Christian, I realize that most of my teachings actually come from life directly, and then I relate it to Christianity because this way it gives me context. But the transmission itself comes from life, so to speak.
This seems to parallel nicely Matthew’s definition of prayer as a radical response to Life.
Prayer is a radical, that is to say, root response to Life, the good in it and the suffering in it. A Yes to Life and a No to forces, within and without, that want to kill it. The mystic in us speaks Yes. The prophet in us says: No. These constitute our human roots, our Yes and our No.
Adapted from Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, pp. 207f.
See also Matthew Fox, Prayer: A Radical Response to Life, pp. 60-116, 154.
See also Adam Bucko, Let Your Heartbreak Be Your Guide: Lessons in Engaged Contemplation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2022)
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Altar, Occupy Wall Street November 5 2011, Zuccotti Park. Photo by David Shankbone on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you experience prayer as a root or radical response to Life, your Yes and your No?
Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation
Authors Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox encourage us to use our talents in service of compassion and justice and to move beyond our broken systems–economic, political, educational, and religious–discovering a spirituality that not only helps us to get along, but also encourages us to reevaluate our traditions, transforming them and in the process building a more sacred and just world. Incorporating the words of young activist leaders culled from interviews and surveys, the book provides a framework that is deliberately interfaith and speaks to our profound yearning for a life with spiritual purpose and for a better world.
“Occupy Spirituality is a powerful, inspiring, and vital call to embodied awareness and enlightened actions.”
~~ Julia Butterfly Hill, environmental activist and author of The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods
Prayer: A Radical Response to Life
How do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? Fox defines prayer as a radical response to life that includes our “Yes” to life (mysticism) and our “No” to forces that combat life (prophecy). How do we define adult prayer? And how—if at all—do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, originally published under the title On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American Style, Prayer introduces a mystical/prophetic spirituality and a mature conception of how to pray. Called a “classic” when it first appeared, it lays out the difference between the creation spirituality tradition and the fall/redemption tradition that has so dominated Western theology since Augustine. A practical and theoretical book, it lays the groundwork for Fox’s later works.
“One of the finest books I have read on contemporary spirituality.” – Rabbi Sholom A. Singer