Walking the Christ Path in Transformation: Fierce Compassion

Matthew Fox spreads his arms in prayer at the first Christ Path Seminar

So we’ve looked at the four paths of Creation Spirituality – the awe-inspiring, wonderful cosmic oneness of the Via Positiva; the grief, loss, and letting-go of the Via Negativa; the visionary, creative birthing and problem-solving of the Via Creativa; and the fierce, inspired action of the Via Transformativa. So how do we apply these to our actions in the world?

As Rabbi Heschel wrote: “There lies in the recesses of every one of us a prophet”–and of course a mystic. Charles Hocking, early philosopher of the twentieth century in America, said that the prophet is a mystic in action. The prophet is a mystic in action. Of course! When you’re in love—ask a mama bear—when you’re in love, you defend what you cherish. Is that right or not? Well then, notice the necessary connection between being a deep mystic, a lover, and being a prophet, a defender.

Eckhart on compassion: “Whatever happens to another, whether it be a joy or a sorrow, happens to me.” That’s as fine a one-sentence definition of compassion as I’ve ever heard. What happens to another happens to me.

And what is that happening? It may be joy, it may be sorrow. It may be the Via Positiva, the white wine; and it may be the Via Negativa, the red wine. In either case we’re in this together. That’s what compassion is, a realization and an action that flows from it that we are involved in one another’s joy and sorrow.

And that’s why celebration must not be neglected. Justice and celebration work together to form the Via Transformativa. Compassion is about both, “compassion is where peace and justice kiss” according to Eckhart.

The whole effort at reinventing forms of worship that are truly celebrative, that truly invite the whole body in, as we’ve been doing with the Cosmic Mass, bringing in these marvelous practices from rave and so forth, without the drugs, is to truly get you into the beauty of being a human being, into the mode of gratitude and of thank you and of hallelujah. That’s what all celebration really should be about.

And it’s so regenerative. We’ve had many healings, physical healings as well as spiritual and religious healings, in our Cosmic Masses. I mean physical healings—people come up and say, “I’ve had this thing in my stomach for three years. It’s gone now because of this Mass.”

And regarding the religious connection – one fellow, a journalist at the San Jose newspaper at the time, attended the very first Cosmic Mass. He came up to me afterwards and said, “I haven’t been to church in twenty-five years, but taking communion in this setting was so wonderful, I went back for seconds.” I don’t know what the Pope would say about that, but frankly I don’t give a damn. I think it’s great. He went back for seconds to connect to the erotic and intimate experience of the Cosmic Christ in the Eucharist.

That is what the Eucharist is really about, that you are dining on molecules from the farthest galaxy in the universe: it is holy, a part of the great Mystery, the Christ of the Cosmos. That’s part of the thunder and the lightning of the treasure we inherit in this Christ path tradition. Once you recast it in the setting of new cosmology, it takes on all new power.

So the question is – how can that experience of the Cosmic Christ shape your Via Transformativa, your action in the world?  And I’d like to point to Hildegard of Bingen’s tremendous contribution around the subject of the Via Transformativa, around transformation.

She took on the powers of her day. She took on papal powers, and they were very strong in the twelfth century—really stronger than today, because today you can quit and become a Unitarian or a Unity person or spiritual but not religious, but there weren’t a lot of options other than this Catholic thing in the twelfth century. So she wrote to the pope, “[T]he Catholic chair of Peter will be shaken through erroneous teaching. The Vineyard of the Lord smolders with sorrow. Times are coming that are stronger than those which have gone before. The justice of God will raise itself up somewhat, and the injustice of the clergy and religious will be recognized as thoroughly despicable. And yet no one will dare to raise a sharp and insistent call for repentance.”

Well, this whole pedophile priest thing and its cover-up could hardly be more, what should I say, more relevant to her warnings. Jesus was absolutely explicit about the abuse of children. He says it’s better to put a millstone around your neck and jump into the lake. I think we should create some millstones out of paper and mail them to some of these cardinals who have been passing pedophile priests from diocese to diocese and parish to parish, covering it up, and the retired Pope included,, because this cannot go unnoticed.

Notice how Penn State responded to their pedophile crisis. Once they got through denial and they saw it, within two years they had torn down the statue of their icon, and people are going to jail. The Vatican, this thing has been blowing in the media for twelve years; no one up at the top has gone to jail; and they’re trying to canonize John Paul II and make more statues of the man who allowed this to happen on his watch.

So you know, this itself becomes a test of Christians who call themselves Catholic: Are you going to wallow in denial, or are you going to kick some ass like Hildegard did? Now, I consider one of the great ironies of our time that Pope Benedict XVI canonized and made Doctor of the Church—there are only three other women Doctors of the Church—this woman, Hildegard, because she was writing to Popes, telling them they were surrounded by evil men and that the Curia “cackle like hens.” Yes, she said that! They cackle like hens and “keep themselves up at night, they’re so afraid.” She wrote these things to the Pope. Nothing could be more relevant to today’s situation, where you have a lot of these cardinals doing the same thing they were doing way back then.

So we have a champion in Hildegard, and the fact that she’s been canonized a saint, named  Doctor of the Church by one of the most, what should I say, antifeminist moments of Roman Catholic hierarchical history, this is the irony of it. She is a Trojan horse. And now she’s in the Vatican, and all kinds of good things can happen if we pick up some of her energy from her moral outrage.

Hopefully the new pope, Pope Francis, to whom I have just written a series of letters in a short book called Letters to Pope Francis will do what I suggest and heed “the signs of the times” including the emergence of women as equal partners everywhere (including religious traditions where their contributions have often been erased and conveniently forgotten).

Remember, it’s part of the conspiracy of the master to tell the slave that anger is a mortal sin. But the truth is that that’s not the case. Anger is not a sin. Violence, when anger goes so far as to go to violence, then you’ve got some trouble brewing. But in fact, Aquinas says nothing great happens without anger. Anger is that energy, that passion in you—we’re back to passion again—that sustains the struggle. It’s all about perseverance.

You’ve got to get in touch with your third chakra, where we carry our anger—because that is where compassion happens, too. The word in Greek used often in the New Testament and the Gospels about Jesus when it says he had compassion, that word compassion in Greek means “his bowels turned over.” That’s where compassion is held, in the bowels, the third chakra.

We’ve got to reconnect with that deep compassion, that passion, down at third-chakra level again. This is why dancing is so important for undoing this head trip of rationality that we’ve been on as a culture for so long.

Let me close with an observation by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Heschel walked his talk. He wrote the greatest, most encyclopedic volume ever done on the prophets. But then he stepped out of the privileges of academia to march with King in the front row. And he got all kinds of hate mail—his daughter told me this—from Jews. They said, “You know, we have enough problems—what are you doing marching with the black people and all their problems too?” And he just ignored all that hate mail. He learned to do that early in his career. His daughter told me—she’s a feminist theologian now—she was ten years old when he returned from Selma, and she asked him, “What did it feel like, Daddy?” And he said, “I felt my feet were praying.”

“I felt my feet were praying.” That’s first chakra stuff, folks. Our feet have to start praying, our knees have to start praying, our second chakra, our third chakra. We’ve got to start praying down there.

Here’s Heschel:

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion—its message becomes meaningless.”

This Christ Path program aims to stir up the deepest meaning of religion, the deepest energy. And that has everything to do with these four paths. Our task is to nurture the mystic and nurture the prophet. That’s the distillation of what healthy religion and living spirituality is about. And I hope that our weekends together, and these posts, will bear fruit and witness to that.

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To register for the “Cosmic Christ and Youth: The Occupy Generation,” the Christ Path Seminar weekend taking place online and on-site in Burlingame, CA,  10/11-13, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/ai1ec_event/cosmic-christ-and-youth-the-occupy-generation/?instance_id=99

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

Be sure to sign up on the Christ Path Seminar mailing list to receive word when the DVDs from the second weekend, “Cosmic Christ and the Historical Jesus,” are released!

 

 

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.


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