Today we will look at “A Sensual Mysticism.” But by sensual, we don’t mean “erotic,” which implies pleasure. The Latin root for sensual is “sesualis” which means “endowed with feeling”–as our senses are. But feeling covers a wide range from pain to pleasure and everything in between. However, the most important feeling evoked in Creation Spirituality is compassion. This is what Matthew writes on the topic:

Deep feeling. Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

A sensual mysticism is clearly
the surest route to a prophetic consciousness

To deny God divine pathos and passion
is to make an abstraction of God. 


Who is Jesus if not a man with a fully developed anima side to his character—as poet, as story teller, as weeper over dead friends and live ones: a man with deep, therefore, spiritual, feeling who preached compassion, thereby revealing a profound side to the nature of God: the feminine side. 

Compassion means “passion with,”
to be in solidarity of feeling
with the joy and pain of another.
An awakened passion can lead to
a renewal of compassion,
a fuller, deeper living out
of our interdependence with all creation.

The Chipko Movement, India: Women and men of Mahila Mangal Dal village, Uttarakhand, place their bodies between logging contractors and the trees, 1973. CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

In Hebrew the word for compassion is the same as the word for womb.

Desire moves people
to commit themselves to great things;
it is not the enemy

Desire is the motive of everything

We’re not born with a soul,
we have to make it, in a sense.
In a sense, you make soul through living,
living joy and living grief,
and out of both compassion is born.

See Matthew Fox, Whee! We, Wee All the Way Home: A Guide to Sensual Prophetic Spirituality, pp. 33, 137

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice, p. 22

And Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life, p. 97

And Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 251, 270

See Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science & Spirit Meet, p. 119

And Fox and Sheldrake, Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science, p. 87 

Banner Image: A rescued manatee calf receives hydration and oxygen, 2016. Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Share a time when someone showed compassion for you.

Recommended Reading

Whee! We, Wee All the Way Home: A Guide to Sensual Prophetic Spirituality

Years ahead of its time when first published in 1976, this book is still bold and relevant today. Perfect for anyone who thinks mysticism needs to get out of the head and into the body. Matthew Fox begins the Preface to this book by stating, “This is a practical book about waking up and returning to a biblical, justice-oriented spirituality. Such a spirituality is a way of passion that leads to compassion. Such a way is necessarily one of coming to our senses in every meaning of that phrase.” One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, this title explores the importance of ecstasy in the spiritual life. Fox considers the distinction between “natural” ecstasies (including nature, sex, friendship, music, art) and “tactical” ecstasies (like meditation, fasting, chanting); he goes on to consider that a truly authentic mysticism must be sensuous in its orientation, so to cultivate the maximum amount of ecstasy for the maximum amount of people.

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science & Spirit Meet
By Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

When was the last time a scientist and a theologian discussed angels together? What are angels? Many people believe in angels, but few can define these enigmatic spirits. Now visionary theologian Matthew Fox and acclaimed biologist Rupert Sheldrake—pioneers in modern religious thinking and scientific theory—launch a groundbreaking exploration into the ancient concept of the angel and restore dignity, meaning, and joy to our time-honored belief in these heavenly beings.

Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science 
by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

Natural Grace, a 208 page inspired dialogue between theologian Matthew Fox and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, unites wisdom and knowledge from unconventional angles. Considering themselves heretics in their own fields, Matthew and Rupert engage the conversation from postmodern and post-postmodern perspectives, deconstructing both religion and science—while setting the foundation for a new emerging worldview. Having outgrown the paradigms in which they were raised, both Fox and Sheldrake see it as part of their life missions to share the natural synthesis of spirituality and science rooted in a paradigm of evolutionary cosmology.

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6 thoughts on “A Sensual Mysticism.”

  1. Avatar

    When I was 17 years old ‘my soul’ was crying out for adventure as a step of faith. That summer I hitchhiked from outside of Toronto to Vancouver Island and back. On my way back, a friend talked about a new adventure during a phone call. He wanted to know if I could be back in a few days and go on a 10-day canoeing and portaging trip in the wilderness. If I could catch a plane in Winnipeg, I could meet the time deadline but not if I continued hitchhiking.

    I had enough money for the ticket, but there was an undisclosed ‘Student fee’ of $25. I was very upset, had no more money. I left the terminal and went to the administrative office to plead my case. The airline was adamant that the ‘rules are the rules’ whether they disclose them or not. A woman who worked for the airline was seated behind the counter heard the entire discussion. She offered to pay for my $25 fee with her own money. Compassion spoke to her and asked her to intervene. I could not thank her enough. After my canoeing adventure, a new ‘first time’ life experience for me, I was even more grateful for this kind woman’s compassion. Halfway through the 10-day trip and 5 days away from civilization, we ran out of food, so we had to catch fish and eat berries. We did ‘faith-up’ and ‘skinny up’ as we burned more calories than we took in while paddling and portaging for the next 5 days. Compassion from another brings us new experiences that we would not otherwise obtain on our own. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    These beautiful words of wisdom by Matthew about Compassion remind me of the beauty, paradox, and grace of Divine Love:

    “Compassion means “passion with,” to be in solidarity of feeling with the ‘joy and pain’ of another. An awakened passion can lead to a renewal of compassion, a fuller, deeper living out of our interdependence with All Creation.”

    “We’re not born with a soul, we have, we have to make it, in a sense. In a sense, you make a soul through living, ‘living joy and living grief’, and out of both Compassion is born.”

    The LOVE and LIVES of our ancestral mystics and saints, and living ones, have given me the Compassion, Faith, meaning and inspiration on my spiritual journey in Life within myself, my sisters and brothers, with beautiful Sacred Mother Nature and all her living creatures, and All of our Beloved Co-Creator~Source’s ongoing, evolving, LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS….

  3. Avatar

    Being aware of our interdependence with all creation begins with being aware and conscious of all our senses… visual, auditory, smell, touch, taste and perhaps others not fully known. Concentrating on these mystical sensations as one studies the presence of creation heightens one’s compassion, understanding, and appreciation for the wonders and awesomeness of all creation in the universe. This type of meditation and deep awareness of each of my senses as they perceive the creative subjects all around me has helped me form a deeper relationship with my fellow passengers on Earth.

  4. Avatar

    I receive compassion daily, through the living Spirit that embodies all of creation, not just humans. This Mothering essence and presence offers me comfort, consolation and wisdom counsel. She communes with me in so many ways… through the awesome beauty of nature… through sounds heard in nature or through music… through color painted across the sky or on a canvas… through words written, sung or spoken… through the random acts of kindness and compassion from others.

    Through many ways, She Who Is, by her Spirit dwelling within all, She eases my anxieties and fears, inspiring and empowering me to awaken and see new things unfolding, evolving and emerging from within myself and my life journey. She helps me to let go of things I need to release and She encourages me to rediscover and reclaim what I need to remember or thought I may have lost. She Who Is, is my constant companion, whom continously reveals Herself to me, in so many surprisingly synchronistic moments… sharing the essence of Her presence of unconditional love, compassion and mercy; and the wisdom of these ways… giving of Herself, through Her many manifestations.

    Before we even invoke Her, through Her many names… or the silent prayers of the heart… She is, was and ever shall be present in Her essence… welcoming and accepting all, offering to lead and guide each one home… unto ourselves.

  5. Avatar

    Forgive me, but i believe that God who is Love is also erotically sensuous! I find pleasure in God– the God who indwells us, “in whom we live, move and have our being,” who also finds pleasure in me as i express Gods love as compassion for others. I also know God is erotically sensuous when present in our love making. God, afterall, is love and we are love as divine image.

  6. Avatar

    The intuitive imagination is complete when it includes the sensible imagination. My dear wife of 65 years presently whose senses are her primary psychological function and me with my intuition as my primary psychological function, can appreciate our connections. We once were climbing a small hill in the Canadian Rockies. I was looking up at the mountains and exclaimed What Beauty. And she was behind me on her knees staring at the wildflowers and said I know. This emphases the expression “You can’t see farther than the end of your nose. Whose reply is you can’t see up to the end of your nose”. We need both.

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