06/14/15 Dr. Matthew Fox
The Future of Religion
Ancient as the home is the temple… as the workbench is the altar… Older than written language is spoken prayer; older than painting is the thought of a nameless one… diverse symbols represent that which stands beyond and within. Yet…heart communicates with heart. —“An Eternal Verity” by Waldemar Argow
The question of our time is where are we going with religion? Since the Age of Enlightenment, effectiveness is the measure of everything. But even Einstein said there are 2 powers of the human mind—intellect and intuition, and not to overvalue the intellectual.
Howard Thurman, a great mystic and the genius behind the Civil Rights movement, wrote, “man builds his little shelters …his little altars, and worships his little gods.” But ultimately, each is a human soul stripped to its substance before God.
Are our altars too little? The altar is an archetype; it’s a focusing device. What altar are we taught to worship at today? Wall Street rather than Main street? The altar of human anthropocentrism? In California we are rediscovering how sacred water is. Let us learn how not to take water for granted. Maybe there is only one sin—“taking for granted”. Do we worship at the altar of the divine feminine/sacred masculine or at the altar of the toxic masculine? Rigid sexual roles or of sexual preference?
Rene Descartes, the father of Western philosophy, threw out the philosophy of aesthetics and beauty, of art, music. Our societies are controlled by our reptilian brain. The reptilian brain is win/lose and power trips. But when you wrestle with an alligator, there’s only one winner.
Thomas Aquinas said the reason for the universe was joy—God’s and ours. —That the noblest aesthetic is joy. Do you worship at the altar of joy? Or at the altar of addiction? Society is very good at selling addiction—drugs, sex, shopping. The alternative is the god of freedom. Aquinas said that God is the artist of artists. Every artist loves his painting, every singer her song. How could God, artist of everything, hate anything?
Do you worship the god of comfort and couch-potato-itis? I don’t believe Jesus ever said, “Blessed are the comfortable.” Act on your moral outrage, turn your passion into compassion; into a fire within. Aquinas said nothing great was ever done without anger, but we’re told to sit on our anger and eat potato chips ’til we burst. Meister Eckhart spoke of the “spark of the soul”, the manger inside of us where the Christ is born. It is yourself, your work, everything you do.
I’ve boiled the prophetic work of our time down to what I call the four E’s. First is Ecumenism. Unity has always been open to it. Ecology is an obvious E; for not so obvious reasons Economics is too. It is time we have an economy that works, not just for the 1%, but for all the two legged people, and all the four legged, and all that fly in the sky or swim in the sea. We are capable of an altar that large!
The fourth E is Education. Bring the intuitive brain back! Art, celebration, the joy of life and of creativity.
The new monasticism is to step from old religions and secular cynicism. We can all be contemplative, active spiritual warriors. Howard Thurman says we can move to a God as big as the universe and invite our hearts to grow as big as the universe, too. “God is delighted to watch your souls enlarge,” says Meister Eckhart.