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Matthew Fox

let’s get some worship that lives up to this theology!

Rebecca: But you are using some of Christianity’s framework. For example, in Original Blessing you pick out some very lovely quotes from the Bible; but the Bible is also full of rape, pillage, sexism, racism and other forms of violence which a large proportion of Christians accept as the definitive spiritual truth.

Matthew: Thomas Aquinas says, “Revelation comes in two volumes; the Bible and Nature.” We’ve ignored nature as a revelation of Christianity for centuries, which includes our human nature and the nature of the universe. It’s just as important as the Bible.

What I like about Catholicism is that it’s never said that religion is only about the Bible, it’s always used the word `tradition.’ The Bible is only three thousand years old – the universe is 15 billion, let’s not starve ourselves! You’re right, the book has it’s good days and bad days. But this is what theologians have always done and at certain times in history, certain passages become more relevant than other passages, and why shouldn’t we pick and choose?

I like what Rabbi Heschel says, `the Bible is not a book, it’s a drama.’ It’s a story! It’s life!

Rebecca: Buddhism doesn’t have this passion to convert as Christianity has. Why is it, do you think, that Christians have such a strong desire to `gather souls’ that they have thoughout history defied the first commandment?

Matthew: I think that’s the shadow side of the prophetic tradition, like the crusades for example. When Jesus is reported to have said, go preach this to all the world, your zealous empire builders took this as an opportunity to create dominion over people. It’s similar to other crusades like capitalism, democracy or communism. A spiritual person could never think that way.

The key is in converting yourself, and that is a lifetime’s task. Now, there is another thing. If you love your world view or your faith you might well want to hand it out as a gift to other people – to your children, for example. But offering a gift means that the other person can say, no thank you! (laughter)

Rebecca: Conversion by example can be very powerful.

Matthew: Exactly. I suspect it’s when people unconsciously realize that they can’t convert by example, that they begin trying to convert by force!

Rebecca: You claim that the earliest Christians had a very different view of Christianity. Could you describe this view and what is the evidence for this?

Matthew: The first generation of Christians were mostly women, slaves and generally non-privileged people. Jesus’ message really appealed to such people who were very badly treated at that time. Then of course Paul, who was educated, took it into the Greek-speaking world and into the empire itself, making it middle-class in a way. Early Christianity wasn’t very well organized. You had every city saying, `we’re the Church’, there was no central headquarters.

Rebecca: Like in the movie, Life of Brian, with the followers of the Holy Gourd and the followers of the Holy Shoe.(laughter)

Matthew: In a way, they were right. The base Church has to get back to that, that it’s not a denomination, it’s all different people interpreting the universe through their cultural DNA and experience.

Rebecca: Do you think early Christianity was more connected to the ancient Goddess religions?

Matthew: Otto Rank, who I consider one of the greatest prophets of the twentieth century, says that Christianity was a Mother Goddess religion from the start and that this is the reason for the Virgin Birth story. In other Goddess religions, the Mother Goddess gives birth to a Divine son who had intercourse with her. The Christians changed that. They insisted on Mary being a virgin because their Divine son went out into the world and didn’t create incest in a closed circle like you get with Isis, but went into the prophetic dimension of changing society in a linear direction. I think that this is a very brilliant insight and it’s also interesting that it came from a Jew.

Rebecca: What have you learned about the role of women in the early Church?

Matthew: I was asked to review a manuscript about the early church of the second century. They have frescoes on some of these churches in ancient Rome and there’s one called Episcopa Theodora which means Bishop Theodora – a woman. You can see how someone tried to change the name from Theodora to Theodorus which is the male ending. (laughter) The fact is that there were no priests for two hundred years so it’s difficult to determine mythology from fact.

I want to stress that your generation is post-denominational – you’re post-Piscean. Pisces was the age of dualism, of two fish swimming in the opposite direction. I don’t think that your generation was born with the same dualisms in your psyche. Christianity is a very young religion and it’s only existed within the period of Pisces. Now it’s moving out, so there’s all this confusion and bedlam and boredom. Denomination is not that important. What I want to see is some really interesting worship.

A few weeks ago I was doing a program in Seattle and four punk Londoners from England came in who had started, using my theology, a community of thirty artists designing a worship service in Sheffield which they call Virtual Worship. (laughter) About four young people go to an Anglican mass in Sheffield – this group has 600 hundred people coming to every service. It’s dark as a cave and they have video screens showing DNA and so on, and people dance. It’s ritualistic.

It’s really the next stage to some of these rock concerts which are also ritualistic but which aren’t quite plugging it in to the spiritual tradition. This group has been kicked out of the Church, but the Bishop, lo and behold, is actually supporting them, so they have autonomy. It sounds like this might be the most important thing happening in white worship in the world.

Otto Rank points out that the pagan soul is in all of us, and you have to pay attention to it to get your energy going. But I also think that tradition is very important, because once you start evoking mystical power, you can go really crazy with it, just look at some of the Rajneesh people. It’s just another power. To give it direction you need mentors and elders and tradition.

Rebecca: It seemed that science and religion were once very much entwined but that there was a divergence somewhere along the line. What do you think were the reasons for this split?

Matthew: I think the key was the breakdown of the medieval cosmology in the fifteenth century and then the religious wars of the sixteenth century which scared the hell out of scientists. And what happened in 1600? The Church burned Giordano Bruno at the stake. He was a scientist and a Dominican, like I was.

In the seventeenth century they arranged a truce. Scientists said we’ll take the universe and you Christians can have the soul. So the soul became more and more introspective and punier, unconnected to the universe. And science went out to find the power of the universe – atomic energy – without a conscience. They sold themselves to warmongers, politicians and nation-state ideology, and the Church became more and more trivial and silly.

David: Do you think that Descartes played a role in that?

Matthew: Absolutely. He said that the soul was the pineal gland! (laughter) In contrast, these cosmological medieval mystics all said that the soul is not in the body, the body is in the soul! So that means the soul is vast, not trivial. But now that science and mysticism are coming together – that’s really exciting.

David: Science is based on repeatable experiments and religion is based upon subjective experience and faith. How do you see these areas becoming reconciled?

Matthew: I’m not really at home with the word, `subjective’. There are better words such as inter-communal or even trans-personal. Eckhart says, “What happens to another, whether it be a joy or a sorrow, happens to me.” Compassion is all about inter-dependence. So there is no such thing as a subjective experience.

David: I understand what you’re saying, but a scientific experiment is repeatable and you always get the same result if you follow the exact same steps. I don’t know if you can do the same with spirituality.

Matthew: I would say that spirituality is much more interesting than science because it’s always new. The fact is, awe happens. It happens all the time, not just to individuals but to groups of people and especially, to children.

I would think, however, that even today’s scientists would say that no event in the universe is repeatable. You try to rule out extraneous factors, but there’s always chaos and chance.

David: And science makes this incredibly audacious assumption that the universe is governed by fixed mathematical laws that never change.

Matthew: Right. Our generation has been taught to think in terms of the evolution of the universe, but the fact is that physics didn’t get into evolution until the 1960’s – it was just this biology thing. Then we learned how the universe is evolving. Now we’re going a step further and understanding that even the laws that govern the universe are evolving!

David: For many Westerners, myself included, their first mystical experience occurred when they ingested a psychedelic substance. More than a few people think that some world religions were actually founded on an individual’s experience with

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