Walking the Christ Path in Joy and Sorrow

Matthew Fox responds to a question in the first Christ Path Seminar.

As we prepare to enter the second Christ Path weekend, I‘d like to begin looking at experience of  walking the four paths of Creation Spirituality as they relate to the Christ path. These four paths are very personal to me and to those who have understood them and taken them on, if you will. I believe these four paths are archetypal; I’ve seen many instances of people gaining deep insights by applying them to their unique spiritual journeys.

We begin with the Via Positiva…this part of the Christ path is about our falling in love, our falling in love with Being, our falling in love with creation, our falling in love with the awe that we see in everything, from the stars and the story of the universe to the white lions and kittens and puppies and dogs and babies and music and poets… There’s a banquet we’ve been presented as a species, to fall in love with.

And this Life also has its bumps along the way, it has its betrayals, it has its disappointments, it has its Losses with a capital L. Do we have the strength of heart, the stamina, the faith, the love inside us to see us through?

Rabbi Heschel says—and this may be the most important line I utter—he says, “Praise precedes faith.” Let me say it again: Praise precedes faith. That’s the Via Positiva, praise.

Can we keep the Via Positiva alive? Is your falling in love with life sustainable in the midst of all the struggle and all the obstacles and all the powerful forces that we are up against? That’s the question. If you’re going to be a warrior, this is the question.

Now, warrior, I believe, is another word for prophet—or to put it differently, the biblical word for warrior is prophet.  Even though the word warrior is used in the Bible, of course, the word prophet is used far more often, but it’s the same thing. The warrior is he or she who struggles for justice, for healing, for compassion.

There’s a time in your life when you see it all and it’s glorious and it’s ecstatic. The Cosmic Christ can be eminently intimate and personal. But never forget, it can also be very impersonal, very impersonal.

The universe is both personal and impersonal. We eat the sun every time we eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. That’s something very personal, very intimate. That is the sun, that’s the universe coming home. But we also experience a Hurricane Sandy, or we experience a sudden car accident, or loss of a loved one, and so forth. And at that time things are very impersonal. And why did you survive and not someone else? We call it chance.

Love does not always have a happy ending. Have you noticed? Love does not always have a happy ending. And yet the memory is there. Love is love, even if it ends badly. And we should not write that out, we should not forget to say thank you for those moments of grace. And forgiveness goes a long way.

The two thousand years in which we’ve been expressing, attempting to express the Jesus message of the Jesus story, has been littered with failure and illusion and deception, on the one hand. But also there have been breakthroughs for sure in many ordinary and extraordinary people’s existence —if by extraordinary you mean people whose names we remember, such as Hildegard of Bingen or Meister Eckhart or Francis of Assisi or Dr. Martin King or Thurman or Dorothy Day and many, many others.

I love this passage from Mechtild of Magdeburg where she says we are given in life two wines to drink: the red wine of suffering and grief and the white wine of joy. Until you have drunk deeply of both—of both—you have not entered the kingdom. So that’s another way of talking about the Via Positiva and the Via Negativa.

So you go into this darkness, you go into the chaos, you go into the suffering and the pain and the grief. But you come out at the other end clean and seeing the light. And so that is the Via Creativa. That is where the encounter with the creative spirit, our anointment as co-creators, takes place.

But the Via Negativa involves standing still, shutting up, letting go, learning the path of silence. Not only is beauty a road to the heart but so, too, is silence. And beauty talks to us, the Christ talks to us, all kind of beings talk to us.

Beaudelaire said in the nineteenth century: “We walk through forests of physical things that are also spiritual things that look on us with affectionate looks.” We are being loved by the Cosmic Christ in all these beings. And that doesn’t mean they want to give away their territory to us, or give away their wildness to us.

But there is a love thing going on here. And we humans are particularly prepared for this kind of love. We are particularly yearning for this kind of love, and we are needy for it, because frankly a lot of people today are better at receiving love from the four-legged ones than from the two-legged ones.

In To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori says: “If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying….

“[H]is intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which one’s mind is centered. The stars, the earth, stones, life of all kinds, from a whole in relation with each other, and so close is this relation that we cannot understand a stone without some understanding of the great sun!”

So, you know, these intimations of the importance of falling in love with the universe have been here for a long time. There have been people who have broken out of the anthropocentric box, such as Maria Montessori, and have realized how primal it is for us to fall in love with the Christ that is the universe, the Cosmic Christ of the macrocosm and the microcosm, as well as the personal Christ.

Speaking of the Via Negativa, here is Brian Swimme speaking in a recent interview in EnlightenNext magazine. He was asked, “What do you feel is the most pressing crisis facing humanity today?”

He said, “I think the fastest way to wake up to what is happening on the planet is to think in terms of mass extinction. Every now and then, the earth goes through a die-off of the diversity of life. Over the last half-billion years, there have been five moments like this.” And what we are discovering now is that we are going through such a moment.

“So now we’re just discovering that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction. We happen to be in that moment when the worst thing that’s happened to the earth in sixty-five million years is happening now. That’s number one. Number two, we are causing it. Number three, we’re not aware of it. There’s only a little splinter of humanity that’s aware of it…. At the minimum, twenty-five thousand species are going extinct every year.”

See, that is the crucifixion of the Cosmic Christ. And you begin to realize these concepts, this language about Christ, the Cosmic Christ, and all the rest, it’s so applicable to today. I’m not sure there is comparable language. Buddha nature is a very parallel concept. But again, the crucifixion of Jesus—Buddha died a very, what should I say, peaceful death. Jesus did not.

He more represents this archetype of chaos and extinction and murder that is the sign of our times. And all this piddly talk about who’s going to be Pope and all the silly stuff that we call religion—you know, let’s put our energy where it counts, and let’s bring this Christ archetype into reality again.

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To register for the  Christ Path Seminar weekend taking place online and on-site in Pittsburgh, PA,  this weekend, 6/28-30, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/ai1ec_event/cosmic-christ-and-the-historical-jesus/?instance_id=123

To order the complete 12-DVD set of recordings from the first Christ Path Seminar weekend – including Dr. Fox’s delivery of the Saturday afternoon lecture from which this post is clipped, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/participate-by-dvd/

About Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox – author, educator, activist, and spiritual pioneer – has spent the past 40 years doing the culture-changing work to lay the foundation for the values of a new generation. As today’s leading voice of the ancient mystical Christian tradition of creation spirituality, he has helped to midwife the birth of a movement that celebrates embodied spiritual practice, oneness with creation, personal awareness, educational empowerment, and social, environmental, and gender justice.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Awe, in my opinion, is synonymous with “in love.” Why do Biblical scholars continue to speak of “fear” of God, rather than awe or “in love?”

  • Jerry Lynch

    I think of awe as a welcoming fear, of letting the incomprehensible and unknown come into our heart despite such overwhelming magnitude and aching beauty, beyond our control and out of safety zone. Wonder charms the shyness out of God, and that draws us down these paths with a willing heart.
    Matthew, I read a number of your books back in the mid-80s and they were very freeing for me. Thank you. And it is good to have you back.


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