In our book Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, Adam Bucko and I discussed how a spirituality is contemplative and experience based.
It starts from life rather than concepts. Nonetheless, concepts are celebrated as tools to connect the dots and deepen the experience. So this new spirituality is lived in a constant dialogue between experience and concepts, where one informs the other, thus to subtler and subtler understandings.
And, of course–you mention it often–Thomas Aquinas said that to teach spirituality, experience is not enough, you also need the concepts. I think this new generation really understands that.
Some of the older spiritualities and more traditional paths started from concepts. An idea of enlightenment or grace, or whatever, was introduced, and then one was given a path that one had to follow for five, ten, twenty years to get to that experience.
The problem with that approach, as I experienced in my own life, is that it convinced me that God and the experience of God needs to happen outside of my life. This created a certain kind of detachment from my life in the world around me.
In contrast, this new approach goes back to that God of Life–it’s about starting from what we are already experiencing, acknowledging the sacredness of it, and then using practices and other things to deepen that experience and sustain it.
I think when it comes to concepts, that the four paths of creation spirituality are really helpful. The four paths are conceptual, but they’re thoroughly grounded in experience, and they return to experience.
The Four Paths form the backbone of the creation spirituality. They address the question, ‘Where do we experience the Divine in our life?’ And respond: ‘The Divine will be found in our experiences of the via positiva, negativa, creativa and transformativa.’
Each of the paths is valuable in itself. But also, any one of the paths done on its own could be seductive. For example, when I asked one of my students why she came to our program, she said, ‘I am a cause junkie.’ One can become a cause junkie—we can become addicted to anything–even our activism. But the prophet is the mystic in action, so we must make room for the mystic in us even for the sake of our prophetic callings.
To be continued.
Adapted from Charles Burack, ed., Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, pp. 198f.
And Adam Buck and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, pp. 20-25.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Meditate for Climate on the steps of the Victorian Parliament. Part of the 2019 Spring Rebellion by Extinction Rebellion in Melbourne. Photo by John Englart on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
How do you see the tension between concepts and experience/contemplation playing out in the deepening of your spirituality including your activism?
Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality
Selected with an Introduction by Charles Burack
To encapsulate the life and work of Matthew Fox would be a daunting task for any save his colleague Dr. Charles Burack, who had the full cooperation of his subject. Fox has devoted 50 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship. His more than 40 books, translated into 78 languages, are inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and have awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. Essential Writings begins by exploring the influences on Fox’s life and spirituality, then presents selections from all Fox’s major works in 10 sections.
“The critical insights, the creative connections, the centrality of Matthew Fox’s writings and teaching are second to none for the radical renewal of Christianity.” ~~ Richard Rohr, OFM.
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