By What Authority Do You Say These Things?
In many ways, it is tragic that Matthew Fox’s religious perspective is so radical. The planet would be a much healthier and happier place if the ancient tradition of creation spirituality, which Matt champions and articulates so clearly and persuasively here at the beginning of the new millennium, were simply the basic, foundational bench-mark of obvious religious and philosophical good sense that, by all historical rights, it should be.
After all, is it really so very radical to advocate that all beings should be granted the same fundamental respect? What is actually so challenging about seeing human gender equality and global ecological harmony as important spiritual concerns as well as political and economic issues? How can it be so heretical just to say plainly that all human beings are equal in our innate ability to experience deeper relationships with the Divine? …
Sadly, for vast numbers of people gripped by fear, and the institutions that pander to, and prey upon them, these simple truths do not seem to be at all clear. These seemingly elementary and self-obvious propositions of human understanding and spiritual clarity that Matt promotes and celebrates have always been, and alas continue to be, at the very edge, and in many cases even well beyond the boundaries of conventional, institutional religious dogma and collective practice. Even now, at the close of twenty centuries of supposedly enlightened Christian preachment and missionizing, the resistance to these basic, fundamental spiritual ideas and principles is so fierce that we are all still called upon to put our lives and livelihoods at risk when we advocate them publicly. For me, it is impossible not to call up an Old Testament parallel: “Joseph had a dream, and his brothers hated him for it.”
Throughout his active priestly life, Matt has always made his public and personal witness precisely at this boundary between obvious spiritual truth and prematurely closed conventional wisdom. Over the years of joyous celebration and prophetic affirmation, Matt has drawn hundreds of thousands of people around the world toward fuller and more satisfying spiritual experience, and nurtured resurgence and creative blossoming of creation spirituality in the post-modern world….In some ways Western Spirituality impressed me even more than Original Blessing because the evidence presented in that anthology made it inescapably clear that the “creation spirituality” was not just the invention of a single brilliant mind, but rather a great underground river that had been feeding and nurturing the best religious thought in any number of different religious traditions for centuries, if not millennia…
Another one of Matt’s great gifts is his ability to entice extremely independent and self-motivated people to join and work together in expanding the frontiers of creation spiritual thought and praxis. Matt had gathered a truly extraordinary group of people to teach at ICCS….
The years at ICCS and Holy Names were not easy, but they were immensely exciting, transforming, rich, joyful, and profoundly moving, and I wouldn’t trade them (or live them over again) for anything. During those years, Cardinal Ratzinger, in his watch-dog/Grand Inquisitor role, harassed Matt and ICCS unmercifully. He demanded that the Dominican Order examine Matt and his works for heresy (again). When they exonerated him on this charge (again), the Cardinal continued to send out letters and public statements denouncing Matt’s theology, and saying that our program was tainted by heretical faculty, particularly “the witch, Starhawk,” the only one of us besides Matt whom he mentioned by name….
Eventually, the President an Dean of Holy Names (aided and abetted by the turn-coat Administrative Director of ICCS), told Matt that he could no longer serve as Director of the very program he had founded; he said that ICCS would go essentially into ‘receivership’…Not too surprisingly, all but three of the ICCS faculty team found these new conditions of further employment at Holy Names completely unacceptable….The College of Holy Names changed the locks on all the doors, appropriated our donor mailing lists and lists of previous graduates (refusing even to give us copies). They even tried to steal the name “Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality.” Eventually they were persuaded by threats of legal action to relinquish all claims to the ICCS name.
That Fall, without dropping a beat, Matt inaugurated the new University of Creation Spirituality, and once again we were off and running, this time re-claiming the inner city as a vital venue for expanding spiritual life, and ‘taking back the night’ in the middle of downtown Oakland.
Now, the new millennium has dawned, and it is even clearer that the trans-denominational, trans-cultural tradition of creation spirituality has an immense amount to offer the whole world as we continue to seek reconciliation and make peace across barriers of old enmities, heal the traumatized planetary ecosystem, and reclaim a more balanced relationship with the Divine in both its feminine and masculine aspects. Matt’s promotion of creation spirituality continues to be visionary and inspired, and always grounded in actual, practical experience and practice….
Those of us who are privileged and honored by working with him, and the dedicated creative people he has drawn around him to promote the common goals and insights of creation spirituality, are regularly blessed by his fierce courage, his uncompromising commitment, and his playful wit.
All this by way of saying “Thank you, Matt!” Thank you for all of it—even the parts that drive me crazy! Know that you are one of the great spiritual leaders of this or any age, and then let it go…It’s part of what you have taught me, part of what you teach every one.
Jeremy Taylor is co-founder and past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and teaches courses on dream interpretation around the country. He is author of Where People Fly and Water Runs Up Hill and The Living Labyrinth
Excerpted from The Making of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty, Mary Ford-Grabowsky, editor, copyright (c) Mary Ford-Grabowsky 2000