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Matthew Fox

spirituality. We should be teaching every thirteen year old meditation including sexual practices that are ways into mysticism and also ways into safe sex.

The human species can’t deal with it’s moods and resentments. Look at Bosnia, it’s all about resentment. We did a summer program in New York and a fellow showed up from Croatia; he’d just received an award from the United Nations for his non-violent work. He said, “I don’t have anything against the Serbians or the Muslims, the problem is our politicians who are building on the resentments. It’s their war, not our war.”

I think a lot of the Reagan years were about building on resentment – on a backlash against women and against black people. Religion ought to be assisting the human heart to cleanse itself of resentments and hatreds. Unfortunately it’s so often used to make things worse.

Rebecca: Why has the Christian Church historically expressed so much fear of nature religions and thus of nature herself?

Matthew: I think the best answer to that comes from Frederick Turner in his book Beyond Geography, where he says when the European Christians came over here they had suppressed the wilderness inside – sexuality and sensuality, and when they saw it being lived by the native people, it came up as something unconscious and violent towards them.

The issue is wilderness. The church in Europe ordered the destruction of the Irish woods to try and get rid of the Celtic spirits. And this whole thing is about domesticating the wilderness, but of course it’s also about the wild animals in us – the rage, the anger, the desire and the lust. The idea was that you had to wipe these out. Meister Eckhart says, “Put on your passions as a bridle of love.” It’s so non-dualistic. You embrace your passions and embrace the wilderness, and steer where you need to go. But it’s not about stomping out the wilderness.

Rebecca: Is this fear of the wilderness partly the reason why the Church hasn’t come out against the crimes of biocide and geocide?

Matthew: Well, that’s the third objection I make to religion as it is usually practiced. And it doesn’t address these areas because religion is preoccupied with the human.

David: Why do you think that the Church condemned sexuality and eroticism?

Matthew: It goes back to the patriarchy overtaking the Western church in about the fourth century when it inherited the empire. There’s a statement by one of these ascetic philosophers, Philo. “We must keep down our passions just as we keep down the lower classes.” That gives you some insight into history, doesn’t it? Passion and compassion are related. A passionate response to injustice is what gives you energy to do something about it. If you can keep that energy down, then those who are running things are safe.

In our culture, television and consumerism are the opium of the people. They keep people from getting in touch with their deep passions. People keep getting fed more and more TV and more and more things to shop for so that they don’t ask the deeper questions.

David: And Creation Spirituality approaches eroticism and sexuality in what way?

Matthew: Well, as a gift of the Universe. There’s a story and a history to sexuality. We’ve been told that it happened about 1.3 billion years ago. It was an increase in the possibilities of evolution and creativity. I think if you want to understand sexuality, you go back to it’s source. It’s really an invitation to be even more creative than we are.

The Song of Songs, a book in the Bible, celebrates love-making as a theophony, as an experience of the Divine. This is something that we should be bringing back in ritual, in our churches and synagogues, and we should be honoring it. The first lesson in sexuality is to honor the power within yourself and to respect that. Then find out how many different expressions of it there are besides genital expression which is pretty obvious.

How does it feed into or out of our relations with the earth? Can we be erotic towards the earth? We can be erotic baking bread, making love or vacuuming the living-room. Eros is the love and a passion for life that we bring to whatever we do. So I talk about taking Eros back from the pornographers. I think that religion and other elements of our culture have ganged up to repress Eros, which is really a sacred experience.

Rebecca: Is the repression of sexuality largely about the fear of surrendering control, do you think?

Matthew: St Augustine in the fourth century was the one who set it all up. He himself said that he didn’t want to `lose control.’ And again notice how sexual politics links to imperial politics. His whole world view was seized by the church and the empire which married it. But since that time there have been people objecting.

Augustine said, “Spirit is about whatever is not matter.” Now just think about that. That’s the most dualistic statement you could imagine. That means there’s no spirit in bushes or trees or dogs or the water, so you can do whatever you like with them. Thomas Aquinas’ Divine spirit is present in everything, in all of matter.

David: Timothy Leary said that anything we can define as spiritual, is just something that we haven’t developed the technology to measure yet.

Matthew: Oooh! (laughter) I don’t like that. I’ve explored mystery a lot and mystery is not something you’re ever going to solve, it’s something you live! The Jewish word for spirit means `to live’. There’s that line in the Book of Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible which says, “This is wisdom, to love life.” That’s Eros.

David: What about Paganism and Shamanism? What role do they play in Creation Spirituality?

Matthew: These represent the forgotten, shadow side of our own traditions. When Christianity was healthy, it didn’t stomp on paganism, it embraced it. A good example is Chartres Cathedral which is built right on top of the cathedral to the Goddess of Grain. At that time the church was not stomping on other religions, it was embracing them and bringing them in like a welcoming mother. Pagan comes from the word `paganis’ with means a person who lives in the country. A heathen is a person who lives on the heath.

The church has put so much venom into stamping out paganism and it’s all about a hatred of ourselves, of our own earthiness. The word humility comes from the Latin `humus’ which means earth. Real humility means acknowledging our relation to the earth and what we have to learn from the native peoples. Of course, they also have things to learn from us. But their forms of prayer; sweat lodges and sundances and so forth, are powerful ways to pray. And they’re powerful because they’re not anthropocentric, they’re cosmological.

They do things in circles, it’s about microcosm and macrocosm. And it’s not about reading books – it’s not boring to sit in a sweat lodge – it might take you close to death! It’s an adventure, and it wakes you up! So we have a lot to learn about ritual from native people and we have a lot to learn about forgotten aspects of our own spiritual capacities. In our culture, they lock you up if you go into a trance. In those cultures every member of the tribe is regarded as mystical. They think something’s wrong if you can’t go into a trance. (laughter)

David: Most if not all world religions are very sexist. What value do you see in the reclaiming the Goddess-oriented traditions?

Matthew: I think that the return of the Goddess is one of the most important movements of today’s hope. The last time the Goddess returned was in the twelfth century and something really happened. That’s when they invented universities which were not like they are now. They were venues where you went to find your place in the universe – it wasn’t about the job market and bureaucracies. It wasn’t expensive either. The student paid his professor directly and if you didn’t like what you were learning, you didn’t pay!

So the Goddess represents the Divine creativity in everybody and that’s why she’s often depicted as a pregnant female. What we know about that 25,000 year period when the Goddess reigned in Europe, is that there were no artifacts of war anyplace. I think there’s an incredible insight here. If you pay attention to creativity itself, you might be able to do something about the war impulse. If you can keep busy enough giving birth, you’re too busy to make war. As Eckhart says, “All the images we have for God come from images of ourselves.”

So if we have just a male image of God, that legitimizes the other patriarchal privileges and oppression – including men towards men – that goes on in the culture. So obviously we need gender justice in our divinities.

In the West we have a couple of names for the Goddess besides the Goddess. One is the Cosmic Christ, which I think is a euphemism for the Goddess because it is about cosmic wisdom, and wisdom is Sophia. The first name given to Jesus in the New Testament is Sophia – lady wisdom. This shook up the male establishment so much that the second generation came along and brought in Logos to put the brakes on all this woman stuff.

The other name for the feminine side of God is the Godhead. You don’t hear much about the Godhead in Western theology, but all the mystics write about it. Godhead is not a very adequate word, it really means God-essence. What it’s about is the mystery that is the divinity. You hear a lot about the God who creates and redeems and so on, but the Godhead doesn’t do anything, it’s about non-action. It’s like a great big

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