Encountering Creation Spirituality and Matthew Fox

In July of 1988, after college, seminary and a switch to a different denomination, I was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ. Later that fall, I heard Matthew Fox speak at a minister’s convocation at the Claremont School of Theology in Southern California.

Matthew Fox, author photo from the original edition of Original Blessing, 1983.

This event was just one month prior to Fox’s being formally silenced by the Vatican. Though the renegade Dominican priest was seen as a radical within the framework of the Catholic Church, his presentations rang true to my heart. I truly felt that his theology was the closest to my own of any I had ever heard.

Fox referred to his brand of theology as “Creation Spirituality”–a spiritual tradition which he sees as rooted in the Bible as well as in the writings of medieval Christian mystics such as: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179); St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226); Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280); Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274); Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327); Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1415); and such modern individuals as Howard Thurman (1899-1981); Thomas Merton (1915-1968); poet and potter M. C. Richards (1916-1999); and poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019); among others.

Rainbow spiral. The spiral is an ancient symbol representing birth/death, creativity/destruction, tension/release. Photo by Reid Zura on Unsplash

It is a spiritual tradition which moves upon four paths: the Via Positiva, which is the path of awe and wonder at creation; the Via Negativa, which is the path of darkness and silence, suffering and letting go; The Via Creativa, which is the path of creative expression; and the Via Transformativa, which is the path of prophetic justice, compassion and celebration.

The four paths are not walked in consecutive order, but rather our lives weave in and out through them time and time again. These four paths provide the spiritual adventurer not only with a map for finding where one is on the spiritual journey, but a framework for understanding one’s deepest held beliefs about God and the universe.

To be continued

See Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality

Also see Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post Denominational Priest.

Banner Image: “Adventure.” Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

When was the first time you read a book by Matthew Fox, or heard him speak, or met him? What was the impact of his message?

Recommended Reading

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.

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

Books: Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, and Confessions: The Making of a Post Denominational Priest.

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13 thoughts on “Encountering Creation Spirituality and Matthew Fox”

  1. Avatar

    A mental and intellectual map or framework is not a suitable substitute for experiential living. Likewise, justice is not sought out and achieved by thinking about it alone. We don’t really meet people; we meet the truth that they are living. — BB.

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    I first encountered Matthew Fox in an article read during a retreat during my first year teaching (1983). I’d had many struggles with the Catholic Church since my teens, and now found myself teaching art in a pretty conservative Catholic school. Matthew’s ideas, his words gave me so much hope. They have continued to shine light on my spiritual life- he gives me courage to face deep truths, and carry on even when hope feels faint. I am so grateful for his articulation of the via’s! And the congruence of the chakras and western spirituality… and his centering of creativity in human holiness… and his awe and fluency with scientific exploration… and his spotlighting of Hildegard and MC and Mary Oliver…and so much more! Whew- thank you for these meditations too. Such an abundant, prolific, sacred mind✨♥️

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The first book I read of Mathew’s was “Creativity”. The second book was “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.” I’ve read several since then. I hooked into the DM’s around two years ago, and I’ve been participating in this ever since, reading alot of other authors that he has referenced in his messages. I’ve watched him on U-tube as well, through various sponsored events and interviews. Unfortunately I’ve never met him in person, yet I feel like I have in a way, through these different means mentioned.

    I’ve been blessed in so many ways, to numerous to mention as a result of encountering his teachings. I’m grateful not only for the sharing he has offered in various ways, but also for this DM community. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute, through the comment section and reading others comments as well. Sending all… a spiritual hug!

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    I was in Venezuela in 1992, working with the Seminary of Caracas and a project by the world Council of Churches to extend the Seminary to the interior. The project was designed by Paulo Freire and the goal was to de-colonialize seminary education. I started reading Matthew (Perhaps “Whee, Wee, We” or “Western Spirituality”)to understand how he had created the University of Creation Spirituality. The use of Body Prayer, art as meditation, and deep ecumenism was impactful for my own spiritual formation. The more important practices for the seminary was freedom from theological accreditation, and the experiential nature of the intensives combined with one’s work at home.I also was studying Elliot Wigginton and his Foxfire school. I was amused by the connection between the Foxfire and the Fox of Creation Spirituality. In folklore and superstition, wills-o’-the-wisp are typically attributed to ghosts, fairies, or elemental spirits. Modern science has a different explanation. Soon after I finished my thesis, Matthew was silenced, Elliot was arrested, and Paulo recanted so he could return from exile. The Venezuelan Diaspora started in earnest and I landed in the USA again. I took it as an opportunity to study with Matthew.

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    I first encountered Matthew in around 1993 when I was gifted a copy of Original Blessing by the leader of my depression support group. I come from a completely non-religious background and so approached it with some caution, but I was quickly struck with the immense scope and depth of Matthew’s thinking. He put into words so many things I had felt intuitively all my life. He invented words for things that needed words. In his book I found a kind of spiritual syntax that gave me a language to think about things more organically and as a whole. But without the emotional baggage of narrowing it down to any specific religious view. This book saved my life and helped me get through tremendous grief while affirming that there is hope and love in everything.

  6. Avatar

    Welcome Rick,
    Thanks for today’s offering….. giving us further clarity and insight into Creation Spirituality.
    And very good luck to you whilst you sit in the ‘hot seat’ in Matthew’s absence.
    Rather like you I think, that when I encountered Matthew’s teachings I breathed a huge sigh of relief….
    here was something that embraced the whole concept of what it means to try to live a spiritual life, giving us the breadth & depth of information to support the process.
    Jan Ellan Bows

  7. Avatar

    I don’t remember the first book but my appreciation for the depth and w(h)olistic spirituality of Creation Spirituality has grown the last few years, especially with the DMs keeping it current and relevant. It has deepened my spiritual journey by increasing my spiritual awareness/understanding of the universal message and importance of the Spirit of DIVINE LOVE~WISDOM Livingly and Lovingly PRESENT in our unique human daily lives within (True Heart Self~Eternal Sacred Soul~Cosmic Consciousness), through, among… — Us, Beautiful Sacred Mother Nature/Earth, and All our physical and non-physical Sacred multi-dimensional-multiverse co-Evolving Diverse DIVINE ONENESS COSMOS….

  8. Avatar
    Sharon Neufer Emswiler

    I first met Matthew Fox in the early 70’s when my husband invited him to speak at the campus ministry we were both serving at the time. We were so happy to introduce the students to him and his ideas. (He even slept on the sofa bed in our living room! Sorry about that.) The first book that I recall reading was Original Blessing. What I especially remember about that book is that it spoke so profoundly to me that it constantly gave me goose bumps as I read it.

  9. Avatar

    I was introduced to Matthew by a mutual friend at a meeting/lecture in Santa Barbara, CA about 20 years ago. I wanted to share with Matthew a cosmic teaching that I had encountered in England in the 1980s that had a profound effect upon my Christian and spiritual understanding. It is called The Twelve Blessings and can be found at http://www.12blessings.org should you be interested in learning more.

  10. Avatar

    Between bible study at my home UCC church and a spiritual autobiography group of women, in the mi-1980’s, I was introduced to “Original Blessing”, along with the works of Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg and the Jesus Seminar. I loved the book from the start and have returned to its wisdom over the years. While my Congregational/UCC tradition did not get too dramatic about original sin or spend much time teaching it, still it was such a relief to read what I sensed to be true. Matthew is a gifted and articulate teacher in all venues. I would have loved to meet him. The DM’s are part of my daily practice. Thank you, Richard for helping out.

  11. Avatar

    Learning of Christian mysticism in the 1990s, I must have first read Christian Mystics or Original Blessings, and Matthew has been my mentor ever since. Sometime after moving to the Bay Area, I heard of UCS and wanted to enroll. Sadly, on the verge of divorce, I knew my husband wouldn’t help take care of the kids so I could attend. Eventually divorced, I moved with my daughter to Arizona. So that was that—or so I thought. I kept reading Matthew’s books. In 2017, after a retreat on Scotland’s Holy Isle, I was ready to go deeper, and applied to Richard Rohr’s CAC, but was turned down. I asked myself, “I wonder what Matthew Fox is doing now?” and learned of his institute in Boulder, CO. I enrolled and was accepted! So the first time I met Matthew in person was there, studying Thomas Merton. After that, I followed Matthew to Germany where we studied Meister Eckhart. I was signed up to study Aquinas in Italy when the pandemic hit. It’s been a story of fits and starts, and I so wish I’d been able to spend more time studying with him. But all along I keep reading everything he writes and feel eternally blessed.

  12. Avatar

    Back in the 90’s I read Original Blessing, and was so taken by this new ( to me) viewpoint I wanted to learn more from Matthew Fox. I read several of his other books and was fortunate to attend a week long workshop with him at Omega institute. His Daily Meditations are such a gift ????.

  13. Avatar
    Joan Brichacek, OP

    Before I met Matt, I taught his brother and sister in high school in Madison WI. That was in the early 1970s.
    At that time I taught Physics and Math. It was also when our first humans landed on the moon, so I developed
    a course in Astronomy. The students came at night so we could do some observing with a new telescope. Their
    shouts of joy while looking at more of the universe also began my personal transformation. God filled the
    universe with beauty and love. In 1981 I was lucky to be given a year to join Matt’s “Creation Spirituality” program,
    then at Mundelein College, Chicago. My transformation continued. We studied his newer books, took courses
    that would give us a deeper understanding of God’s love for all and the beauty we should seek in all created
    beings. I am still happy to be a Dominican, but do my best to follow Matt’s example, transforming all I encounter
    through love.

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