A non-dualistic attitude toward matter and body results in a non-dualistic attitude toward the body politic. Democracy or an effort at fairness and justice, a spirituality of “dancing Sara’s circle” vs. a spirituality of “climbing Jacob’s ladder,” results from a consciousness of incorporating matter, spirit and history in the body politic.
One example of that is Aquinas’ insistence that the common good is more divine (divinius est) than personal liberties. So important was this insight to Martin Luther King Jr. that he cites Aquinas in his iconic Letter from Birmingham Jail. Laws contrary to the common good need not be obeyed but should in fact be protested.
There are laws that supersede those made by men. Laws like justice and fairness and compassion and treating one another with decency—laws that do not always make it into human-made law books, especially in the South during Jim Crow days.
Chenu emphasize how “some mystical traditions within and without Christianity consider multiplicity and diversity to be a radical weakness.” History is considered something negative. For Neoplatonists life on earth is an exile. We merely ‘put in our time’ on earth much as a prisoner puts in his time. We are ‘doing time’ one might say. Time becomes a wound through which our life pours out.
Aquinas thinks the opposite—that history and multiplicity are “a work of wisdom.” Diversity is a blessing and history is an invitation to co-create and it is because God’s goodness cannot be represented effectively in one single creature that he created multiple and diverse things in such a way that whatever is lacking in one creature in representing the divine goodness may be made up for by another. (Aquinas)
Humanity is not the most excellent thing in the universe—the universe is. “It is the entire universe which shares perfectly the goodness of God and represents it more than any one creature by itself.” (Aquinas) And “humanity is a partner of God in the continuing building up of the world….Humanity, the co-creator, is unthinkable apart from history and it is through humanity that the universe receives a historic dimension.” (Chenu)
Evolution is not a stumbling block but an invitation to construct a world of justice and peace. “But to do takes body (justice) and spirit (love) working in mutual harmony as body and soul do.” (Chenu)
Adapted from M. D. Chenu, “Body and Body Politic in the Creation Spirituality of Thomas Aquinas,” in Matthew Fox, ed., Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes, pp. 200-212.
And Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 325, 332.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Is the non-dualism of body and soul, justice and love, what is meant by Jesus’ advice that we “love one another as you love yourself?” Is this what constitutes MLK’s invitation to build a “beloved community—that we co-create a new history instead of flee from history?
In this book, Fox gathers scholars from various cultures and traditions such as Helen Kenik, Jon Sobrino, Nicolas Berdyaev, Rosemary Ruether, M. D. Chenu, Mary Jose Hobday, Ronald Miller, Monika Hellwig, James Kenney, Justin O’Brien and others to approach creation spirituality from many traditions and many angles.
“An exciting and important book…a pleasant alternative to the oppressive burden of the fall/redemption tradition.” ~ New Review of Books and Religion
Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations
As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice. This revolutionary book does just that. Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations. Study and practice these teachings. Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.