Ecstasy, Inebriation, the Universe and Our Work

In yesterday’s DM, we cited Hildegard on her vision that linked our work to the altar and a temple, therefore to the universe and to cosmogenesis.  For the universe is God’s temple and a temple is meant to stand for the center of the universe in the Jewish tradition. 

Spinning, starry, ancient dance: Spiral Galaxy NGC4254 with clearly defined arms and center with possible old star clusters and supermassive black holes. Photo by James Webb Telescope; credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Aquinas comments on the psalmist’s song “They shall be drunk with the beauty of the house,” by saying, “that is, the Universe.”  The psalmist invites us to ecstasy and inebriation at the beauty of God’s house.  But Aquinas explains the origin of our spiritual intoxication with one word—the universe.  Yes, the universe exists to get us drunk.  To make us joyful beyond measure.

It has brought us into existence and continues to hold and nurture us.  It invites us to inebriation. Rabbi Heschel declares that the universe does not just exist, but “shocks us into amazement,” indeed, a radical amazement.  The universe engenders awe and wonder: “Wonder is an act in which the mind confronts the universe.”

Intimations of the divine: a small boy meets a monarch butterfly. Photo by Ryan Hagerty, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Aquinas derives his language of drunkenness from the Song of Songs in the Bible, a poem of human love and lovers.  He writes, Intoxication is a kind of excess, as the Song of Songs says, ‘my beloved, you are drunk with love.’

Love of the universe renders us drunk.  And those who are drunk, are not inside of themselves but outside of themselves.

Our work is only possible because the universe has birthed us and empowers us and calls us to our work.  Our inner work begins with awe—awe at the universe and its accomplishments.  Says Rabbi Heschel, awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine…What we cannot comprehend by analysis we become aware of in awe.

Sacred work: a teacher with her students, Klaten, Kabupatén Klatén, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia. Photo by Husniati Salma on Unsplash.

It follows that “awe is the beginning of wisdom.”

Is our work awesome too? Sacred like the work of the universe is sacred?  What work is so sacred? We might ask. 

All good work, that is all work that serves the greater good. 

Work is the gift we leave behind and when people die, it is their work we most remember.  Including the inner work we undergo in fashioning ourselves and our values.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 8-15.

And Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for Our Times, pp. 15ff.

And Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Times, pp. 296ff.

Banner Image: “Mail Transportation” — San Pedro Post Office, San Pedro, California, 1935. Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

Are you “drunk with love” for the universe and your existence in it? Does the universe and its new story of cosmogenesis “shock you into amazement”?  Do you see your work—inner and outer–in the context of the work of the universe?  How so? 

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

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4 thoughts on “Ecstasy, Inebriation, the Universe and Our Work”

  1. Avatar

    If we can live, die and resurrect ‘blisssfully’ then we are complete. We become residents in the ‘new heaven’ and ‘new earth’ as foretold. All else, our work and egoic legacies included, will fall away and we will be ok with that. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for reminding us again of the universal mystical wisdom tradition that GOD’S SPIRIT of LOVE~WISDOM~TRUTH~PEACE~JUSTICE~HEALING~TRANSFORMATION

  3. Avatar

    Do you see your work—inner and outer–in the context of the work of the universe?

    Great question!!

    How so?
    -Difficult to easily answer!

  4. Avatar

    We are born for awe.
    Awe is a jubilant, terrifying knowledge hidden in our soulsight, carried deeply within us.
    Instinct propels us to search for it, yearn for it with all our being, in church, in the vast reaches of space, in the gaze of an infant, in moments of stunning beauty, but we confront it also in the specter of unfathomable shocks that defy conceptualization and rouse us from our mindless monotony.
    We are children of the universe’s awe, born to take part in the astonishment of living and purposeful creating. We do not simply ride in the cosmic winds — we bring forth our own God-gifted energy and join in directing it, for good or for destruction, for love or for hate, for healing or for inflicting pain.

    We sit in the imminent tension of the boundless universe, its energy and potential in our gaze, and we quiver in awe.

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