Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2004, 480pp
Reviewed by Ian Mowll
Recently, I went to an Interfaith gathering in London where representatives from different faith traditions each made a contribution. A storyteller told a Hindu story. The Christians sang. The Jews provided special bread for the time of year. The Hare Krishna devotee chanted… Together the participants joyfully wove a spiritual tapestry that provided meaning and depth to the occasion.
So I, like many others, want to ask: “Is there common ground between these religions? Are they in fact trying to do the same thing in different ways?” Matthew Fox’s answer in the book is broadly, “Yes.” He quotes Nicholas of Cusa on page 3:
“Humanity will find that it is not a diversity of creeds, but the very same creed which is everywhere proposed…Even though you are designated in terms of different religions, yet you presuppose in all this diversity one religion which you call wisdom.”
Matthew also makes the point that the great religions of the world are not competitive but complementary. From the start of the book, compassion is emphasized. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “The indispensable qualities are peace of mind and compassion. Without them it’s useless even to try.”
The book is then divided into themes and each theme is looked at through the lens of various spiritual traditions. It is heart-warming to see the first theme is ‘Relating to Creation’, which includes a sub-theme ‘Creation – All Our Relations’; this chapter will probably touch a chord with many in GreenSpirit. Following this, the writings on the themes of joy, suffering, beauty, service and compassion and spiritual warriorhood are ones that moved me the most.
My copy is full of highlighted text. Here is one of my favourites, a poem from the Sufi, Hafiz:
“I have learned so much from God
That I can no longer call myself
A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
a Buddhist, a Jew.”
As ever, Matthew Fox is up to date and relevant. He asks us to draw from science as well as from religious traditions in our search for meaning and relevance. And as Matthew suggests that we currently need to re-mythologise our species, the book ends with a set of possible myths for our time.
For anyone wanting to explore deep ecumenism, this book is highly recommended.