Nuggets From Matthew Fox's Call
Posted by Preeta Bansal on Jan 26, 2021
Last November, Matthew Fox had a riveting (and too brief) Awakin Call with us on the topic of "Fidelity vs Faith: Bowing to the Heart Over Authority." Matthew is a scholar of mystic spirituality whose theology was systematically singled out and denounced by two successive Popes, only to see a third Pope incorporate it into Church doctrine. Now he returns for a deeper exploration of his powerful views on the divine feminine. His most recent book, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic--and Beyond, is about a female medieval mystic who lived through the plague of the Black Death, drawing out timeless wisdom relevant to our modern COVID-19 era. "A theologian way ahead of her time," he writes, "Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness."
Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me
About the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol, which took place on the Epiphany: "So on this holy day of the Epiphany, there is this other epiphany that occurred, and that is the shadow side of American culture, which, I would say, is the reptilian brain out of control. ... It was not just that six innocent people died and that our representatives had to literally run for cover. There's great trauma in that. I think they are going to be traumatized for a very long time. Many of them are old, and of course, some have gotten sick from the coronavirus because they were packed together and a certain political party doesn't suggest that it's a good idea to wear a mask during the coronavirus. So the lies pile up. I wrote a haiku this week in response to all this:
a pile of lies
lady justice cries
That's my summary of January 6th, 2021, in Washington, DC."
On Toxic Masculinity and the Divine Feminine:
- I think that we're up against a lot of lies that have infiltrated our souls, our culture – for example, about what it means to be a male, what masculinity is.
- As Thomas Aquinas, who you quoted already, says, the proper objects of the heart are truth and justice, and truth and justice are kin. They're brother and sister. They go together. If you don't have truth, you don't have justice.
- Is that part of patriarchal education, that we've thrown out wisdom? There's no question. We’ve thrown out wisdom. Have we also thrown out justice and have we also thrown out love? When is this taught in law school? When is it taught in business schools?
- I intuited early, and I was in my early thirties then, that you can't teach spirituality in the Western model of education because that model leaves the heart out and it leaves the body out and it leaves the right hemisphere of the brain out, where Einstein says values come from, and intuition.
- Patriarchy is a philosophy. It's a way of looking at the world and interpreting it. And because you're a male doesn't mean you're patriarchal, that you're part of patriarchy. If you choose that philosophy, then you’re part of patriarchy.
- There are many men when they hear the word patriarchy, they think they're being condemned. Only if you choose to be part of that philosophy, which is a philosophy of dualism, of us versus them. And of the spirit versus matter, and body versus soul, and we're saved and you aren't saved, and masculine versus feminine, and all of those dualisms -- that's part of patriarchy. And the reptilian brain is part of patriarchy: the reptilian brain, which is our oldest brain, 420 million years old, wants to dominate. It thinks it must be in charge, and the reptilian brain is about being number one. You fight to the death if you’re a crocodile. There's no compromise. So you have to calm the reptilian brain with meditation. That's what meditation accomplishes. And there are other ways to do it too.
- Now comes the mammal brain, and here's where we talk about the feminine. The mammal brain, half as old as the reptilian brain, is the brain of compassion and kinship and family. The word for “compassion” in both Hebrew and Arabic comes from the word for womb. So the womb people. Mammals, and especially women mammals, deliver the power of compassion to society and to the world.
- The divine feminine is about compassion. It's about wisdom, and wisdom in the Jewish scriptures is very cosmic. She's all about the whole universe. She's about the whole, not just about parts.
- Meister Eckhart, who proceeded her and was a male, says that the soul loves the body. The soul is not at war with it. The soul loves the body. And before him Aquinas said that spirit is the elan, the vitality in anything. So he totally breaks with Augustine’s spirit versus matter. Spirit is the elan in the grass out in my yard here, in the tree, in the horse, everywhere. And so there's not this dualism. So that's feminism -- to look for what is alive and vital. And you don't do that by separating matter from spirit or running from matter. And of course the word mater in Latin -- and even in English, there's a link -- has to do with mother, doesn't it? Mater in Latin means “mother” and materia is the word for matter.
- Julian of Norwich invented the word “oneing” in English. Oneing is a beautiful naming of the mystical experience, where you experience your oneness with the whole universe, your oneness with the divine, your oneness with those who suffer.
- The goddess is not just in women; the goddess is in men too, but men have to pay attention and you have to have stories told in your culture, not just about being number one and winning … but about being the spiritual warrior -- that men are here to defend Mother Earth and to defend the beauty and the health of one another.
- This is part of feminism -- that we're to be at home with the earth. We're not here to run from our sensuality. … Julian of Norwich says that God created a glorious being of soul and body, of sensuality and substance.
- The Black Madonna is a marvelous archetype, and she's returning today. I’ve met lots of people who've had dreams of the Black Madonna that have changed their entire life. So she's returning in many people's dreams. … She represents the suffering of the world. Sometimes she's pictured with tears. But she also represents joy and celebration of life.
- Some people say they know me because I took on the Vatican. I didn't take on the Vatican. I just tried to speak the truth of our spiritual tradition and the Vatican took on me.
- Art as meditation, as psychologists have written, is the way of the prophets. Prophets are all artists.
- I think of intuition sometimes as a muscle that needs exercising. And if you don't exercise it, it's going to go flaccid.
- The mystic is a lover, and the mystic is broken open by awe and wonder. Deep rivers flow through us and gather steam in us when you pay attention to the beautiful, to awe and wonder, and to the good.
- Julian of Norwich lived through the greatest pandemic in the West, the bubonic plague. It hit when she was seven years old and it kept coming throughout her entire life, and she lived into her eighties. So she really has something to tell us today about living through a pandemic. And her first lesson is don't run from it. Don't go into denial. … There’s something to learn here. And her second lesson is go to the goodness of things.
- We've lost the sense of the sacredness of things, including, of course, the sacredness of Mother Earth. And the coronavirus is a result of that, because our ignoring of climate change and our continuing to expand our species into other species’ habitats is the cause of these viruses. Coronavirus is just one. There are going to be many more.
- Julian of Norwich says joy is our birthright. We're not here to control ourselves or others or the earth. We're here to enjoy, in the real sense of that word, in the context of compassion.
- I love John of the Cross when he says, “Launch out into the deep.” In other words, don't stand on the seashore, looking around. Get in it. Go into the deep, the depths of the human capacity to know, and to love, yes, and to suffer and to get up again and to create and to make justice happen.
- Within the depths of our minds and curiosity and hearts, there is this capacity for the whole; we yearn for this connection. And of course, that connection is the unio mystica, the mystical union, and it's available to all of us. That's been my pitch from the beginning. We're all mystics. Sometimes it's been sat on or forgotten, or we don't have words for it, but we all have these powerful oneing experiences. And they happen in times of beauty and joy and awe, but they also happen in times of grief and suffering and breakdown and bottoming out. So we want to be alert to it all the time, because this is what life is about.
- Meister Eckhart says, for someone who is awake, breakthrough does not happen once a year, once a month, once a week, but many times every day.
- The mystics don't take even a breath for granted. That's why to meditate on your breath is such a holy act. It centers you. We can't do much without our breath for very long. And so the holiness, the sacredness, of breath cannot be taken for granted.
- We so underestimate celebration. Humans have survived because of ritual. Ritual is not this extra thing that religious people do.