Excerpt from Matthew Fox’s “A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality”

matthewfoxIn 2015, preeminent theologian and bestselling author Matthew Fox was invited by the Thomas Merton Center in Louisville, KY, to give a lecture to honor the centennial year of the legendary Catholic monk and writer’s birth. In preparing for the talk, Fox re-immersed himself in Merton’s work and revisited the correspondence he had with him while he was alive. As Fox read through Merton’s journals, poetry, and religious writings, he realized that his exploration was inspiring far more than just one talk.

The result is A Way to God:Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality, a powerful book about Merton’s pioneering work in deep ecumenism and interfaith; about his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action; and about how the vision of thirteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced both Merton and Creation Spirituality, which Fox has long espoused and written about.

We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book, which explores the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality:

What are the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality and how real were they to Thomas Merton? In September 1968, he shared a circular letter that succinctly summarized the spiritual journey that the Four Paths represent: Our real journey in life is interior; it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts. Never was it more necessary for us to respond to that action.

How do we grow, deepen, and surrender to love and grace and action? That is where the Four Paths come in and assist us in naming our deepest journey.

  • Via Positiva: This is the path of wonder and awe. Or as Merton begins: “Our real journey in life is interior; it is a matter of growth, deepening.” Awe is an inner response, an opening to the beauty and wonder of life and God.
  • Via Negativa: This is the path of letting go and letting be, of solitude and silence, but also of undergoing grief and sorrow; it’s an ongoing act of radical trust in the Divine. Eckhart calls it “sinking eternally into the One,” and Merton refers to it when he mentions “an ever greater surrender.”
  • Via Creativa: This is the path of celebration and creativity, of cocreating with the work of the Holy Spirit. Or as Merton says, it’s “the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.”
  • Via Transformativa: This is the path of compassion and justice; it is the way of the prophet who calls us to action. The Holy Spirit moves us not just to contemplate Divine compassion, but to enact it in the world in order to help others. Merton voices this when he says, “Never was it more necessary for us to respond to that action.”

There can be no question that Merton lives and writes a Creation Spirituality, and he dances through the Four Paths back and forth on a regular basis. His Creation Spirituality journey began about a decade before his death. In February 1958, he summarized the new path he felt he needed to take: The frustration of the American intellectual who can’t get along without a Europe that can no longer sustain him. (Yet — he is sustained, without knowing it, by his own latent vitality.) This has been to a great extent my own frustration as a writer — from which I escaped temporarily “upward” — into spirituality — but that was not enough, because it is not a matter of escape, but of incarnation and transformation.

In this moment, Merton was on the cusp of moving away from the Augustinian and Neoplatonic “upwardness” of his early years. That same year, 1958, Pope Pius XII died and Pope John XXIII was elected, and within a few years, Pope John would call for a Second Vatican Council to redirect the church. With the help of Meister Eckhart and D.T. Suzuki, Merton learned to redefine spirituality in a way that was more ecumenical and more prophetic, more grounded and earthy. He no longer “escaped upward” away from matter, but he reimmersed himself in incarnation and transformation. He moved from a “Climbing Jacob’s ladder” mentality so basic to patriarchy to a “Dancing Sara’s Circle” mentality that was far more democratic and grounded and bodily and feminist. As a monk, Merton moved from contemplation alone to the vocation of the mystic as prophet, or the contemplative in action. Clearly, it was a Creation Spirituality journey.

 

matthewfox2Matthew Fox is the author of over 30 books including Meister Eckhart, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, Christian Mystics, and most recently A Way to God. A preeminent scholar and popularizer of Western mysticism, he became an Episcopal priest after being expelled from the Dominican Order by Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. You can visit him online at www.matthewfox.org.

Excerpted from A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creative Spirituality Journey. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Fox.


The Mouth-Body Connection by Gerald P. Curatola, DDS

| by Cheryl Shainmark

The Mouth-Body Connection is a must read – whether you are suffering from chronic disease, or just want to bring your health to a new level, the information and insights in this book can help. Dr. Curatola has brought together thirty years of dental experience along with the latest science and developed a program for oral and body health  called The Curatola Care Program.  As detailed in the book, the program consists of learning about the natural micro-biome of the mouth, the hazards of inflammation, and the role of diet, exercise and stress reduction.

Read More.
Filed Under: · ·

Loving Out Loud by Robyn Spizman

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, shy or outgoing, it’s possible to appreciate others out loud. The world needs introverts and extroverts. Consider this an invitation to notice the good in others. When you do so, your blessings will float to the top. Begin with bite-size moments of gratitude, and find ways to appreciate out loud the actions of others.

Read More.
Filed Under:

Meditation: What IS the Real You? by Dada Jyotirupananda

| by Dada Jyotirupananda

Dada Jyotirupananda (video) writes, “The book, “Meditation: Searching for the Real You” came out of my experience as a meditation teacher. Why do I meditate? I first heard about meditation in my university days and gradually understood that it could help me in various ways…

Read More.
Filed Under: ·

The Experience of Stillness by Constance Kellough

The shift in consciousness we need requires that we discover and live from the stillness within us. When we come from inner stillness, which, as already stated, is paradoxically a highly active, alert state, it opens us to experience aspects of our true Self and continues to pave the way to felt Self-realization.

Read More.
Filed Under:

The Invitation of Openness in the Midst of a World Falling Apart by Amoda Maa

When I embarked on the journey of offering my essential teaching of “the freedom of openness” in the form of this book, I had no idea the world would almost literally fall apart as the…

Read More.
Filed Under:

Winter by Marla Stone

An excerpt from The Clutter Remedy: A Guide to Getting Organized for Those Who Love Their Stuff, by Marla Stone. December is dominated by the holiday season, which often involves lots of parties, visitors, travel, and special meals. Maintaining an organized home is a particular challenge this month, given all the pressure to decorate, buy presents, host gatherings, and cook. This is when having a fine-tuned storing system will help a great deal, since it makes it much easier to find all those special-occasion holiday items.

Read More.
Filed Under:

A Conversation with Bridgit Dengal Gaspard, author of The Final 8th

No one enjoys being stuck and the misery is amplified when we have accomplished multiple steps toward a cherished goal — whether breaking a bad habit, losing weight, building a business, finding a mate, or finishing a degree — but just can’t seem to complete it. In The Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves to Accomplish Your Goals, author and therapist Bridgit Dengel Gaspard calls this demoralizing quandary when someone is so close to the finish line but just can’t seem to cross it “the final 8th” and introduces a powerful technique called voice dialogue to help readers recognize and overcome internal blocks that are preventing them from achieving their goals.   We hope you’ll enjoy this short Q and A with Bridgit about the book.

Read More.
Filed Under:

The Humming Effect by Jonathan Goldman & Andi Goldman

| by Cheryl Shainmark

For those searching for a way to improve their health without medicine, or intrusive measures, The Humming Effect really rewards the reader. This slim book covers a lot of ground showing how humming can make a difference to one’s well being. The authors build a strong case through research and anecdotal data that humming can lead to increased oxygen levels, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased nitric oxide, release of endorphins, enhanced lymphatic circulation, and more.

Read More.
Filed Under: ·

Mysterious Realities by Robert Moss

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I have enjoyed and benefited from all of Robert Moss’ books over the years, but Mysterious Realities may be my new favorite. This collection of “just so stories,” as the author calls it, is fresh, intimate, and surprisingly topical. If you’re like me and find these current times murky, dense, and difficult to navigate, you need this book.

Read More.
Filed Under: · ·