Week of 4/8-14/2024: The Way of the Mystic as an Antidote to Despair

April 8, 2024: Can the Best of Humanity Please Show Up?
In an op-ed article in the New York Times, Jose Andres, founder of World Central Kitchen, condemned Netanyahu for the intentional attacks of workers delivering food aid to Gaza. He said, “It is time for the best of Israel to show up.” Matthew suggests that we broaden the question and ask that the best of humanity show up. May human beings step forward to help this planet divest itself from war; demand change in the use and promotion of fossil fuels; find and insist on solutions to climate change; advocate for the teaching of wisdom in our schools; and commit to a renewed sense of ecumenical spirituality.

“Youth for Climate Action. Breaking barriers | Youth and Climate Change.” UN Climate Change: Learn

April 9, 2024: The Mystic in Us: The “Best in Humanity”?
In our reflections on the question of “What is best in humanity?” we recall the words of Carl Jung who said, “It is to the mystics that we owe what is best in humanity.” Matthew’s most succinct definition of a mystic is this: “the lover in us.” Lover of self, God, Earth, LIfe, the Universe. The mystic is one who does not take the miracle of life for granted; the mystic is curious and inspired. A mystic falls in love at least three times a day. Mystics talk about goodness and blessings.

April 10, 2024: Can a Solar Eclipse Assist in Making Mystics & Lovers of Us All?
This recent solar eclipse was called “the most viewed astronomical event in history.” Many went out of their way to see this rare phenomenon. People said they were “wowed,” “moved deeply,” and that it was an “unforgettable experience.” Clearly, it was a mystical experience for many. Such a cosmological wonder touches on all three I’s evident in a mystical experience: Immensity; Intensity; and Intimacy. The mystics offer their own one-word definitions of a mystical experience:  Thomas Aquinas — Ecstasy; Meister Eckhart — Breakthrough; Julian of Norwich — Oneing; Rabbi Heschel — Radical Amazement.  If a mystic is a lover, then we need to fall in love all over again with Mother Earth, and that includes defending her…from ourselves!

The eclipse brought together gatherings all across North Texas and other communities along its path on Monday afternoon. WFAA

April 11, 2024: The Mystic, the Best in Us, Tackles Despair, the Worst in Us
Mystics offer an antidote for the despair that permeates our culture. That despair is one reason for the rise of fascism and authoritarianism. And somehow sinking into despair and hopelessness is easier than the kind of arduous inner journey of wisdom that the mystics encourage us to take. Aquinas warns that despair is the “most dangerous” of all sins. (Not the worst, that would be injustice.) But the mystics remind us that “existence is a miracle” (Rilke) and that “just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy.” (Rabbi Heschel)

April 12, 2024: From Despair to Cosmic Beauty, Awe, Celebration & Gratitude 
Many politicians today are preaching despair. Aquinas warns that “the worst thing a person can do is to teach despair.” He also tells us that evil people are afraid of goodness. “A tyrant is more afraid of good people than of evil people,” he observes. Times of despair require an immense dose of the Via Positiva—an awakening and reawakening to the beauty of things, the beauty of existence, and how God is “Beauty Itself” and the “Source of all beauty,” as Aquinas puts it. As Thomas Berry says: In the end the universe can only be explained in terms of celebration.  It is all an exuberant expression of existence itself. 

“Solar eclipse, New Zealnad, 2012.” By Monday’s Socks on Flickr.

April 13, 2024: The Mystics Reinforcing the Via Positiva
If mystics are lovers of the world, the Earth, the Universe, as Matthew says, how can we love the world more? Teilhard de Chardin says that we used to say “God is love” but that we should also learn to say “the world is love.” Meanwhile, Meister Eckhart said “God is delighted to watch our souls enlarge” and Aquinas reminds us that “Joy expands the heart.” Ernesto Cardenal said: We can argue about the reason for the universe, and we can argue about the purpose of the universe, but we cannot argue about the beauty of the universe. Mystics like Julian of Norwich remind us: “Everything has being because of God’s love.”

Banner image: From within the cave, a blessing of Light. Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Recommended Reading

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.

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

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

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4 thoughts on “Week of 4/8-14/2024: The Way of the Mystic as an Antidote to Despair”

  1. Avatar

    As Dr Fox was quoted several times, was the author(s) of the reflections from 4/8-4/13/24 someone else? I’d like to properly attribute some quotations I’d like to use in a Unitarian Universalist service I am leading.
    I loved the reflections this week!

    1. Phila Hoopes

      Thank you, Daniel! Where someone else’s words were used, the quote is attributed. Everything else is condensed from Matthew’s writing. Enjoy!
      Phila Hoopes
      Blog Manager

  2. Avatar

    * We all reside in a mystical, mysterious existence. What we do with that experiential invitation is ours to choose. When we say ‘Yes’, there is always ‘the Way’ to guide us. Does the best ‘to come’ not happen until we allow the best of humanity and divinity to ‘collide’ in cataclysmic glory? — BB 04 09 2024.
    * Our ‘radical resilience’ builds as our ‘radical faith’ deepens and intensifies with our humble devotion. A ‘radial faith’ reveals and gives us ‘the roadmap’ in the moment. ‘Do not worry. I will be with you until the end of time.’ And ‘so be it’ is our full and ‘radical acceptance’ of Jesus’ promise to us, as it is. … ‘So be it’ becomes our ‘radical’ 24/7 acceptance, obedience and devotion to communion with our loving Partner. — BB 04 11 24.
    * Separation from God mindedness and ‘indifference’ to the suffering of others is the most dangerous ‘sin’. Someone in ‘noticeable despair’ can at least be seen and helped by others. Despair seen in others, is no different (other than in amount and intensity) of the despair that we experience in ourselves. Despair is a cause for ‘lament’, and that is our reaching out to a greater power, where we believe ourselves to be powerless. – BB 04 12 24.
    * Sifting through and embracing what we consider to be the good and the bad, and find that God & Life, the ‘one truth’, emerges out of the messiness of our lives. — BB 04 13 24.

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