Matthew Fox, Priest, theologian, and popular writer on Creation Spirituality (July 17, 2012)
I thank you for this article. I like it a lot; it is a fine summary of "3 options" as you say and contains your usual clarity of thought and ability to communicate. You are dealing with important issues. I offer a couple of areas for possible consideration and improvement since you asked my opinion.
- You call #2 the position of science but I would say "modern" or "modern and materialist science" since the scientific community seems to me to be dividing up these days under the influence of post-modern science, quanta theory, etc. I find some scientists learning some humility that this generic language does not give them credit for. See for example Rupert Sheldrake's most recent (and brilliant) book, "The Science Delusion," and the work of Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, and Brian Swimme's work.
- You allude to the Integral Spirit option as including "religious mystics" but we NEVER hear from them again. You celebrate Einstein's invocation of the "intuitive mind" but you ignore the mystics who are pioneers and champions of the intuitive mind and indeed of consciousness. While I lean toward SOME of Spinoza and Einstein's "impersonal God" (Bede Griffith rightly says we can learn some of this from the East and I agree), I don't think we have to throw out the baby with the bath. The divine consciousness can be both personal and impersonal it seems to me (just as our minds can be and even more so at both ends of the spectrum). Why throw the whole personal overboard with no reference to those traditions or experiences that relate personal experiences, i.e. the mystics?
Awe matters. Encounters matter. Figures like Jesus and other prophets and mystics matter. You might refer to the "Cosmic Christ" (which IS the archetype of the personal and impersonal divinity) or/and the Buddha Nature but you don't. It's like you are afraid to bring in the mystical but that isn't fair. You can't give Spinoza the whole stage. Mysticism happens as deep people of faith traditions-- indigenous, Jewish, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Xstian, etc.etc., attest to. And as Bede points out ALL our religions began with mysticism experience and then wandered into concepts, dogmas, etc. to try to spread and explain the experience and then wander FROM the experience. You are enabling that wandering away from the experiential.
Thomas Berry too, continually refers to the numinosity and sense of awe as the starting point of the sacred. In this sense I find your analysis overly male and even patriarchal--it leaves out the dimension of experience which is the path of the mystic (AND there is a mystic in all of us). You talk about "spiritual intelligence" but this is only half the story-- consciousness includes LOVE also, heart as well as mind. Is there intelligence anywhere without heart, i.e, desire and love? Look at my "Christian Mystics" book but also my new book on Hildegard of Bingen, especially chapter 2 on the cosmic christ and ch 3 on her and Einstein and today's science for more on the mystics. It comes out in Sept.
In short and to the point: I think you should invest more of your wonderful intelligence and clarity of mind in getting to know the mystics. They have a right to be heard and they are in many ways missing in the analysis which otherwise is spot on.
You say about the divine consciousness "it is unlikely [how do you know? what proof is there of unlikely? if there is a 'divine consciousness' surely it is something beyond ours just as ours is beyond that of the cell, right?] it has any more awareness of my individual self than I have of the individual cells of my body." [Isn't this VERY anthropocentric? How can we jump and extrapolate from our experience of cells of our body to God's? A dog hears LOTS more sounds than I do. Wouldn't God be in the dog's world rather than ours?]
I LOVE the analogy of the body and its cells that you employ BUT it is only an analogy and you seem to forget that and to be taking it literally when you extrapolate to the Divine.
In short, Divine consciousness to me can be both personal AND impersonal and I agree that the Distant Patriarch has overly personalized it and invited untold projections (plus the psychologizing of religion and religion as comfort of recent times). But what is cosmic can sometimes be VERY intimate at the same time—that is what a mystical experience is all about! (cf. Gaston Bachelard on the intensity, intimacy and immensity of experiences). Those experiences seem to me to be missing from your analysis though they are not missing from human experiences all over the globe. This is what drives many to art and to solitude after all.
You say there is no "institutional" support for the Integral Spirit Cosmology. Well, maybe not, cuz it's kind of a young bush and surely not a complete forest of trees yet and it threatens the establishment like crazy but that is what my life's work has been--to name the "Creation spirituality tradition" for what it is—a tradition that has LOTS of ancestors. I am very shy of "institutionalizing" but small communities are important. We have had some support but lots of opposition so we have created our own, more portable, institutions. It's more of a movement than an institution but it is also an umbrella under which many movements can gather. We have offered ways to reinvent pedagogy and education for example so it is not just about religion. But process theology, Wilbur's integral movement, Berry's work, liberation theology and base communities, etc. etc. are all signs of this consciousness spreading and with multiple variations.
The idea that the human is the only image of God is of course anthropocentric. Even Aquinas saw that when he says the universe is a more perfect image of God than humans. Again "cosmic Christ" is a language for recognizing that. (Powers that be that dominate our religious institutions want to limit "Christ" to "Jesus"; but creation spirituality sees Christ in all beings, the light in every photon, but also the whole universe as a single being and its name does not have to be "Cosmic Christ" but that is one possible name).
Again, thank you for your work—this and more—I love it. And thanks for the invite to respond to this latest piece.