When Faith & Panentheism Are Actions, Not Just Beliefs or Dogmas

In yesterday’s DM, we reflected on a detour taken by Christianity in the fourth century when an emperor converted to Christianity called an Ecumenical Council that resulted in the Nicene Creed. 

Council of Nicaea, 325 CE Fresco in Salone Sistino, Vatican, by Giovanni Guerra, Cesare Nebbia, and others. Wikimedia Commons

And how that creed, while offering some basic common beliefs that helped bring warring Christian factions together, left out the teachings of Jesus!  It focused exclusively on Christ and the doctrines and dogmas that surround him. 

In this regard, our recent DM’s on playing with dogmas (as opposed to using them as theological cudgels) seems like a very ripe idea. 

Faith is meant to be about action, not just beliefs or dogmas or creeds.  Maybe we need a creed about behavior.  For example: 

Love others as you love yourself.

Love yourself!  That is the best and maybe only cure for fascism and projecting your power onto others.  Erich Fromm, a profound psychologist and thinker, tells us that fascism is born of self-hatred after all.

Justice and compassion: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink joins Elliot Kaye and World Central Kitchen in distributing food to shellshocked residents of Kyiv, Jul 26, 2022. Photo by U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine on Flickr.

Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Do justice and compassion for they are the imitation of God.

Fall in love at least three times a day. Fall in love with creation and with life.

“Behold the lilies of the field.”  And other beauties of life and nature that we can easily take for granted.

Learn to behold!

Behold the wonders of the ocean and its fishes!

Behold the gift of good soil from which healthy goods derive.

Behold clean air!

Behold the wonders of water (and the dangers of droughts).

Behold the blue sky (and the poison wildfires and smog spill into the sky).

Wildlife Messengers discover it is crucial not only to protect critically endangered regent honeyeater birds of southeastern Australia, but also to preserve and teach them their species song, enabling them to find mates and breed in the wild.

Behold the beauty of the animals (and the extinction going on of so many).

Behold the songs of the birds!

Can we learn to behold and not to take for granted?  Not to take for granted the health or the beauty of this world in which we live, move and have our being? 

And how this world includes Spirit or God or goddess everywhere, inside us and us inside him/her/it?  Panentheism therefore.

Is this why beguine Mechtild of Magdeburg said in the 13th century, “the day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things”?

And a century later, Julian of Norwich defined faith this way: Faith is trusting that “we are in God and God whom we do not see is in us.”

See Matthew Fox, “The Four Paths as Four Commandments,” in Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 18—26.

And Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 102.

And Fox, “Panentheism,” in Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 88-92.

Banner Image: Law enforcement officials bring down an activist after crew from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza manned the anchor chain of the tanker Gran Couva for 24 hours, blocking the ship from delivering 27,000 metric tonnes of crude palm oil from the Kampar Peninsula’s peatland forest to Rotterdam. Photo by Esperanza a Greenpeace Ship on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Is your coming to your spiritual awakening like that of Mechtild’s?  Your seeing God in all things and all things in God?  Your moving from theism to panentheism?  Your learning to behold?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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.

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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5 thoughts on “When Faith & Panentheism Are Actions, Not Just Beliefs or Dogmas”

  1. Avatar

    If we hold, embrace and experience the Holy Spirit both within and without, do we really need to label it or intellectualize it, and covet our interpretation of it?

    Other than being taught that we would be in communion with both the Father and the Son at the same time, what else is there to know that the experience does not already provide? All we need to know and aspire to is that we can move into a deeper relationship and communion with the Mystery of the Trinity. Debate does not lead us there. — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Jeanette Metler

      In April my Mom passed and now I am once again this month going through the same process of befriending death with my Father-in-law. This journey of befriending Lady Death is revealing to me how to behold the transforming power of love, compassion and mercy in the many ways spoken of in today’s DM.

      This may sound strange to some, but there is alot of beauty and many blessings that unfold when one befriends Lady Death. These sacred moments shared, offer not only much healing of old wounds that often arise to the surface for all, but they also awaken you to a kind of mysterious new rebirth about living in a deeper communion of relationship with… with one’s soul sense of self, the living essence and presence of the Spirit of God within self, others, and the all and the everything of creation.

      I’m finding that one becomes deeply present to the holiness and wholeness of everything and everyone being held in the mystery of a harmonizing and unifying love that somehow lifts us up yet at the same time takes us deeper as well as expands us in ways we never could have imagined. “For some, faith may wane, hope may be lost, but this living essence and presence of universal, cosmic, eternal unconditional love remains, moving within, for and through all… in life and death.

  2. Avatar

    Yes, my spiritual awakening has been a lifetime ongoing process since young adulthood to the present day. It has been influenced by my intuitive attraction to and studies of the lives, experiences, and teachings of the mystics from all of human history’s mystical traditions, especially that of the indigenous peoples and Shamans, with their living relationships to Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth Gaia, Her creatures, and the COSMOS… My own spiritual Faith/awareness/consciousness of the Sacredness and DIVERSE ONENESS of the DIVINE LOVING FLOW of the PRESENT MOMENT in CREATION continues to guide and transform my Soul on my Eternal Spiritual Journey towards COSMIC CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS…

  3. Avatar
    Rosemary Marusak

    You are so right, MF. I see Augustine as taking a deep dive, discovering his self-hatred, and crying out for help. What does the CC do? They embrace his self-hatred and make it their platform. Did Jesus ever once teach that? Even on the cross he implored those who crucified him to stop their self-hatred as even he, God, loves them. Loving self as God loves self – seen with the beautiful birds outside: adult sparrows sharing a worm not just with juveniles, but with each other. Witness God’s Love Energy/Spirit play out in all creation.

  4. Avatar

    As I’ve chronicled on this forum for over 2 years, my journey into “panentheism” began with its lived, direct proof: an accidental/clueless/unlabeled, extremely condensed personal Immersion/(“Path”) and Mystical Revelation, and later discovery of its “name” and all the teachings about it (“Neo-Platonism”) in its various iterations in multiple religions. My Mystical Experience was actually a quintessential expression of Mysticism.

    Things I’ve discovered:
    1) “Panentheism” IS NEOPLATONISM — a theology derived SPECIFICALLY from this distinctive Revelation.
    2) (Neo)platonism is the name of a much older, secretive mysticism/Path. “Temple mysticism” is another term used for its pre-deuteronomic biblical form (prior to Plato).
    3) It is a radically UNITIVE, NON-dualistic Mystical Revelation, but mystics were NOT allowed to say that openly (secrecy, death penalty…)
    4) It is NOT PRIMARILY/solely based on/derived from intellectual conceptualizing/logical deduction, but USES them as essential tools in its framing and process.
    5) It WAS ORIGINALLY UNDERSTOOD as absolutely ESSENTIAL that the Path/teachings (implied by citing its Neoplatonic theology) must be IMMERSIVE/LIVED.
    6) It is a teaching/Path of LOVE/EGALITARIAN (and WOMEN are EQUAL).
    7) It IS THE PRIMARY CHRISTIAN CORE THEOLOGY, and has been from the start (from Judaism)
    8) It is also SACRED and a core theological Revelation in the other monotheistic religions — that’s WHY they’re monotheistic.

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