Week of 3/18-23/2024: Celebrating the Feminism and Deep Ecumenism of Thomas Aquinas

March 18, 2024: Honoring Thomas Aquinas’s Non-Dualism & Proto-Feminism
A woman devoted to women’s rights asked Matthew to make the case for attending our summer workshop on Aquinas in Orvieto, Italy. Matthew calls Aquinas a proto-feminist. He tells us that the late Catholic feminist theologian Dr. Rosemary Ruether has written how the foundation of patriarchy is dualism: the dualism of matter vs. spirit. Aquinas  spent his entire adult life putting distance between himself and such dualism, insisting that “we ought to cherish the body” and “celebrate the wonderful communion of body and soul.” Aquinas rejected Augustine’s understanding of spirit as “whatever is not matter,” and instead defined spirit as “the vitality in everything.” Science has progressed since Augustine’s time. It has proven that matter and light are one and the same.

William Blake, a painter and printmaker as well as a poet, depicted dualism in this watercolor of “The Good and Evil Angels” painted in 1795, now in the Tate Gallery. Photo from the William Blake Archive. Wikimedia Commons.

March 19, 2024: Aquinas, Ruether, Misogyny & the November Election
Rosemary Ruether, who blames much of the oppression of women on a philosophy of dualism found in the “fathers” of the Christian church, says:  Although women were no more bodily and sexual than men, the male perspective tended to equate the dualism of soul or mind over body with the dualism of male over female. Women came to be regarded as closer to the flesh than men. She continues: The negative view of sex and the body is assimilated into a negative view of women as spiritually inferior to men and more identified with the carnal instincts. This creates a fearful view of sex and a fanatical misogyny toward women…. She criticizes this anti-sexual attitude as being unbiblical because it is not in keeping with the much more positive view of sexuality espoused by Judaism. This misogyny and fear of sex is very much in the news these days. Even in the 21st century, the SCOTUS position backed by many right-wing politicians declares that they have the right to control women’s bodies. The upcoming election provides an opportunity to regain control over politics gone awry.

Theologian Rosemary Ruether. 1974. Wikipedia.

March 20, 2024: Aquinas, Feminism, Deep Ecumenism
Matthew’s passion for Thomas Aquinas and his teachings began when he was 15 years old and went to his priest to ask for material so he could engage in philosophical discussions with his Protestant and agnostic friends. The priest gave Matthew G. K. Chesterton’s book on Thomas Aquinas, and Matthew ate it up. When he later trained to be a Dominican, one philosophy professor was Father Weisheipl, who wrote a major book on Aquinas. Then when Matthew attended the Institut Catholique in Paris for his doctoral studies in spirituality, his mentor, Dominican historian Père Chenu was the greatest scholar of Aquinas ever. Matthew continues this legacy of being an Aquinas scholar. Without question, Aquinas is one of the greatest minds and hearts of Western civilization, and because this year is the 800th anniversary of his birth and 750th anniversary of his death, the decision was made to host a week-long workshop on his life and teachings this summer in Orvieto, Italy. Orvieto is an artists’ town where Aquinas both taught and wrote.

Talk by Matthew Fox: “Thomas Aquinas, Champion of Deep Ecumenism” by Matthew Fox.

March 21, 2024: More Feminism and Deep Ecumenism and Science from Aquinas
Further evidence of the proto-feminism of Thomas Aquinas includes his reminders that the word “Spirit” in Hebrew is feminine (ruah). He also says, Christ is “like a mother,” which undoubtedly imfluenced Julian of Norwich’s teachings. Aquinas also insisted that compassion is central to Christian faith, as when he said “compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth.” Aquinas had an immense impact on Mechtild of Magdeburg, a contemporary of his, who was a Beguine or member of the women’s movement of the Middle Ages. Aquinas was a deep ecumenist. He studied and interacted with “pagan” Aristotle, as well as the great Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides, and Muslim philosophers such as Averroes and Avicenna. Said he: “Truth—whoever utters it—comes from the Holy Spirit.”

March 22, 2024: Cosmology, Science & A Spirituality of Matter in Aquinas
Aquinas was a proto-feminist, a practitioner of Deep Ecumenism, and a lover of creation and cosmology. He honored science, and his embrace of Aristotle scandalized many. Aquinas wrote an elaborate commentary on the cosmology of Aristotle’s day, where he both explains and critiques in detail the theories of Eudoxus, Callipus, Plato, Aristotle, and others on planetary movements. One can imagine how fully Aquinas would be throwing himself into today’s science. In a world that was so dualistic, so divided between matter and spirit, Aquinas honored the reality and sacredness of matter, which is derived from the Latin mater, or mother. Aquinas was a major influence on both Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme. Matthew says that he has probably heard Berry lecture 25 times, and not once did he fail to cite Aquinas.

A 1661 chart illustrating the heliocentric model of the planets, which overturned previous belief that the Earth was the center of the cosmos. Chart by Andreas Cellarius. Wikimedia Commons.

March 23, 2024: Aquinas, Chenu, Feminism, Sheldrake on Nature as Revelation
Aquinas’s respect for matter, nature and science is evident in this one teaching from him: ”Revelation comes in two volumes: Nature and the Bible.” In the Forward to his book Sheer Joy, Matthew cites British scientist Rupert Sheldrake who praises Aquinas for being “a holistic thinker” who “went much further than most modern holists in recognizing the all-pervasive influence of the spiritual realm.” Aquinas compares the pervasive nature of the soul with that of God: ‘The whole human soul is in the whole body and also in every part of the body, just as God is present to the entire universe.’  Sheldrake observes that in Aquinas’s teachings on angels, if you substitute the word “quantum”  for angel you have today’s quantum mechanics. Clearly, Aquinas was quite ahead of his time.

To find out more information and register for this week-long retreat in Italy, click HERE.

Banner image: Panoramic view of Orvieto, Italy, where Thomas Aquinas taught and wrote. Wikimedia Commons.

Recommended Reading

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

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

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

1 thought on “Week of 3/18-23/2024: Celebrating the Feminism and Deep Ecumenism of Thomas Aquinas”

  1. Avatar

    May God’s Spirit of LOVE, Wisdom, Peace, Justice, Healing, Strength, Transformation, Creativity, Beauty, Joy, Compassion, Loving Diverse ONENESS continue growing in the hearts/lives/Souls of All our sisters & brothers around our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth…
    — Amen

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: