North Atlantic Books; Rev Updated edition (November 10, 2015)
Reviewed by Ian Mowll
This is Matthew Fox’s autobiography – revised and updated in 2015. It describes his life’s journey; born in Wisconsin, USA and being bought up in a Catholic family, through his time in the Dominican Order, his blossoming as a theologian and teacher, his dismissal from the Dominican Order and how he joined the Episcopalian Church (the Anglican Church in the USA).
Whilst Matthew is often known as a writer and speaker, this book gives his account of his time founding and running the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality (ICCS) and the University of Creation Spirituality (UCS). These ventures drew in many skilled and able people from around the world, both to teach the courses and as students. The training provided by these programmes is still felt today as I meet people who have benefited from his unique style of training which was both left-brained (academic) and right-brained (experiential).
He describes the many books he has written and if you want an overview of his ideas, this book is a great introduction. Here are just a few examples, all of which have had an impact on me. Original Blessing is perhaps his classic – it gives a radical re-interpretation of traditional Christianity where everyone is seen as born whole and good rather than through fall/redemption theology. One River, Many Wells is about the similarities (as well as differences) of the main spiritual traditions and how we can see ourselves on a shared journey with everyone walking the spiritual path. The Hidden Spirituality of Men is an unabashed view of male spirituality and sexuality – this gives a voice to men in this rapidly changing world. Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for our Times is a wonderful summary of Meister Eckhart’s life that relates his ideas to the modern world. In The Coming of the Cosmic Christ Matthew Fox sees the Christ in all things so that Christianity is expanded into a spirituality that can connect with everyone and everything. And these are just some of the many books he has written or co-written.
In his writing, he faces contemporary issues head-on, whether that is about the marginalised, the environmental crisis, sexuality or the need for the church to renew itself. With clarity and insight, he faces questions that are difficult and are so easily brushed under the carpet because they seem insurmountable.
Matthew Fox goes through his battles with the Catholic Church and the Vatican in particular. His anger at his dismissal from the Dominican Order is very strong and heart-felt. You can’t put this kind of anger that fuels his passion it into a nice neat spiritual box and place it on an altar. It has a life and energy of its own and, like life, it is messy.
And finally, there is a whole chapter on Cosmic Masses. These were born from the Nine O’clock Service in Sheffield, England in the 1980s – a kind of youth rave in a church context. Matthew’s experience of these services had a profound impact on him and from this was born the Creation Masses which are still going on in the USA today. Indeed Matthew put his own money into supporting them and, at one time, was made bankrupt through the process. However difficult the journey, I have to admire Matthew’s commitment to make his ideas real in the world and not be an ivory tower thinker.
Matthew Fox was the original inspiration for GreenSpirit (in its former name “The Association for Creation Spirituality”) and so it has been helpful to get a much deeper sense of Matthew Fox as a person, his work and in particular the Creation Spirituality movement; its history, roots and how it is being expressed today. Matthew Fox is helping to point the way towards a spirituality that is both relevant and meaningful in today’s world.