How Our Creativity, Morality, & Divinity Flow Side by Side

We are considering Meister Eckhart’s powerful sermon on emptying (the Via Negativa) and creating (the Via Creativa) about a “rapid river that divinizes us” in light of the gifting that Sister Dorothy Stang and Alexei Navalny bestowed on us by their martyrdoms.

Followers of Alexei Navalny reflect on his legacy, the succession of his widow Yulia, and next steps in opposition to Putin. Reuters.

Every moral decision we make belongs in the Via Creativa section of our spiritual journey—Sr. Dorothy, Navalny, MLK Jr. and Jesus bear testimony to this.  As does the image from yesterday’s DM of being carried along a rapid river sans oars and not being in charge. 

Leonard Bernstein speaks of creativity that way and he touched me many years ago when I was writing the chapter on “Creativity” in my book A Spirituality Named Compassion.  Says Lenny: 

I can sit long nights all by myself and don’t have a thought in my head.  I’m dry.  I’m blocked, or so it seems…The mind, where all this creativity takes place, is an immensely complicated circuit of electronic threads….but every once in a while, there is something like a short circuit; two of them will cross, touch and set off something called an idea.

This is the most exciting moment that can happen in an artist’s life.  And every time it happens…I say ‘Gratias agimus tibi…’ …Eventually those two strands will come together, a spark will fly, and I’ll be off, sailing: my ego gone. I won’t know my name.  I won’t know what time it is.  Then, I’m a composer.

“Leonard Bernstein at the Piano, Making Annotations to Musical Score.” Photo by Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer. Library of Congress, New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.

Meister Eckhart instructs us that to ignore our capacity to give birth, to run from our responsibility to create, is to run from goodness itself: If human beings have something that they do not bestow on othersthey are not good.  To choose to create is to choose to tap into our divine likeness, it is to participate in our god-like powers and our divinization.

Thomas Aquinas says that although a created being tends to the divine likeness in many ways, this one whereby it seeks the divine likeness by being the cause of others takes the ultimate place.  Hence Dionysius says, that ‘of all things, it is more divine to become a co-worker with God’ in accord with the statement of the Apostle: ‘We are God’s co-workers’ (1 Cor. 3:9).

Creativity bespeaks the Divinity within us. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Spirituality named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice, p.129.

And from Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, p. 245.

And Fox, “Sermon 26: The Holy Spirit, Like a Rapid River, Divinizes Us,” in Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 363-379.

See also: Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

Banner Image: Rafting the Davao River rapids, Bukidnon Province, Northern Mindanao Davao Region, Philippines. Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

Do you resonate with Bernstein’s description of the most exciting moment that can happen in an artist’s life?  And with Aquinas and St. Paul saying we are “God’s co-workers” and therefore godlike?  And with Eckhart’s teaching that to be good is to bestow our goodness on others?

Recommended Reading

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

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.”  — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.  

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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5 thoughts on “How Our Creativity, Morality, & Divinity Flow Side by Side”

  1. Avatar

    Yes, I relate with Bernstein’s description of that artistic sacred moment that slowly unfolds, evolves and emerges as I converge with the gift of creativity. I experience this in painting, losing myself and all sense of time, flowing in harmony with the movements of the inks. All preconceived notions of what you wanted to create are let go of, as you surrender to the the fluidity of the commingling of the inks, the alcohol and the paper. It’s like a kind of dance really, in which something or someone else is leading.

    For myself, I liken these artistic sacred moments, to one’s relationship with Spirit. If one surrenders and allows the Spirit to lead, the creative gifts we have been given begin to flow on the canvas of our lives, taking us into experiences and encounters we never would have imagined. This dance can become rather joyful, once you get the hang of letting go and trusting in the Spirit whom at the beginning leads.

    This organic relationship with Spirit isn’t stagnant, for after awhile Spirit then dances beside you side by side, then behind you supporting you; encouraging you to trust in yourself as well; in intuitively using all the beautiful and good gifts given you, to share as a blessing with others.

  2. Avatar

    CREATIVITY~BEAUTY~JOY~COMPASSION~DIVERSE ONENESS… Is Eternally Alive Flowing PRESENT within All of Our Hearts~SOULS, each of Us in Our Unique Sacred Way with one another, with Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth and all Her creatures/abundance, and with All Spiritual Beings in Our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse LOVING Evolving Co-Creative COSMOS….

  3. Avatar

    I do agree with Bernstein’s description of the most exciting moment that can happen in an artist’s life; in fact, that happened this very morning. My play “La Posada” begins with an inebriated Navajo man who shows three main characters to the back door of the famous derelict hotel they will restore. A Latino director friend praised the play, but was saddened that it began by playing into a stereotype. It’s an important scene. The Navajo turns his life around and becomes the hotel’s front desk manager. For six months, I couldn’t figure out how to fix the problem (which I agreed was a problem) until this morning, in prayer, the answer came to me. I’m delighted and wrote my friend to thank him for raising the issue. Another time, in my play “Medea’s Ghost” I awoke with (and wrote) the entire personal history of a new character for the play. I took out a key character who wasn’t working and replaced her with the new one and within a few months the play was produced. God is in these revelations. I am simply God’s co-writer. May we all be so blessed. The whole point of my writing is to share God’s ideas with the world–to hopefully move hearts and minds.

  4. Avatar

    Getting out of the way, allowing the ego/intellect to go offline while staying wide open for whatever-may-be, including potential inspiration, is a part of the “Path” of both artist and mystic. People who are strongly intuitive do this almost instinctively, but it can also be learned by analytically-inclined people. This is ONE of the elements of mystical training.
    “Creativity,” in both art (including writing) and the mystical Path, usually involves the prior training and integration of technical/hands-on lessons to a level of confident proficiency — building up to an ease or comfort with the medium of art/activity — and then flowing with it, confident enough to step aside and sit happily in emptiness/openness, in the perfection of that timeless moment. There are no needs in that space, no lack, no wanting, just “is”-ing and then happily acting-or-not acting/flowing into the next moment, whether it be emptiness, the next brushstroke, the next written flash of inspiration, or into Mystical Union.
    But on the mystical Path there are also essential lessons/ideas. The sacred Mystical teachings deeply incorporated by the student and then expressed in actions are the MOST important.
    “Being or flowing in the moment” is just one element out of several others that vary in the degrees to which they are essential/very important/helpful along the Mystical Path.

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