inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #0 of 188: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 15 May 03 09:26

Joining us today is the renowned Matthew Fox.

Fox, a postmodern theologian, has been an ordained priest since 1967. He
holds Masters Degrees in philosophy and theology from Aquinas Institute and
a Doctorate in spirituality, summa cum laude, from the Institut Catholique
de Paris.

Fox is president of the University of Creation Spirituality and Co-director
of the Naropa Oakland MLA in Oakland, California. Fox is author of 26 books,
including the best-selling "Original Blessing;" "One River, Many Wells;" and
his latest work, "Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet."

Fox's work has brought him numerous awards, including the 1994 New York Open
Center Tenth Anniversary Award for Achievement in Creative Spirituality, a
Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey of Sherborn, Mass., and the
Tikkun National Ethics Award. He's twice earned the Body Mind Spirit Award
of Excellence for outstanding books in print.

He can be heard live on his weekly radio program, "Spirit in Action," every
Thursday morning on KEST AM 1450 in San Francisco.

Leading the conversation is Rik Elswit. Elswit is a professional musican,
music consultant, teacher, and writer who has been involved in musical arts
for 40 years. He was seduced away from academia during the Summer of Love,
moved to San Francisco, and has played rock, country, blues, and jazz in a
variety of contexts. He has 7 Gold records for his work with Dr. Hook, and
is currently playing improvised music, using digital looping systems.

Raised in a religiously mixed marriage, he was indoctrinated in both Judaism
and Methodism, and had decided by age 16 that he couldn't buy into either.
This did leave him with an interest in the phenomenon of religion, and
though he has yet to find that perfect fit, it has made for fascinating
reading. He hosts the <religion.> conference on The WELL.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #1 of 188: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 15 May 03 09:27
Welcome, Matthew and Rik. We're delighted to have you join us in
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #2 of 188: Rik Elswit (rik) Thu 15 May 03 10:12
Welcome to the Well, Matthew.  There is a very high percentage of
 professional creators online here, and we are a constant conversation
 around what we do and how we do it.  There are entire conferences on
 various arts and sciences, where people share their experiences,
 commiserate about failures, boast of victories, and pass on tips on
 breaking though blocks.   And, in my opinion, the Well itself is a
 creative work of art.

 Before we get in to the particulars  I'd like to begin by asking you about
Creation Spirituality, the theology that is the subject of several or your
earlier books, and how this new one, "Creativity" expands on those.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #3 of 188: typos 'r' us (rik) Thu 15 May 03 16:19
"...several OF your earlier books..."
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #4 of 188: Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Fri 16 May 03 11:14
Hello Rik and Cynthia.  I am delighted to be here.

Creation Spirituality is that tradition in the West (both Jewish and
Christian) that is NOT patriarchal, not anthropocentric, not
guilt-ridden or shame-driven, i.e. not original sin based but is
Original Blessing based. Strange to tell, it is the oldest tradition in
the Bible (J source) and it is that of Wisdom literature and much of
the prophets.  Because it is wisdom literature it is that of the
historical Jesus (who never HEARD of Original Sin--no Jew has). 
Scholarship today agrees that the historical Jesus was thoroughly
steeped in the wisdom tradition, i.e. creation spirituality tradition.

This tradition teaches that all of nature is a revelation of the
Divine and is graced ("nature is grace" says Meister Eckhart).  The
Cosmos is a great blessing, our origin and source.  CS looks to science
to tell us of the grace of nature (Aquinas: "A mistake about creation
results in a mistake about God.")  So CS dialogs with scientists.  It
is feminist, as wisdom is feminine not only in the West but the world
over depicts wisdom as female. It is passionate about eco, social,
gender, racial and economic justice. AND about creativity. CS sees the
spiritual journey in four paths: Via Positiva (delight, joy, awe); Via
Negativa (silence, letting go, suffering, grief); Via Creativa
(Creativity); Via Transformativa (Compassion including celebration and
justice-making). Then spiraling back to VP, etc. again.

The great medieval mystics, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi,
Thomas Aquinas, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Meister Eckhart, Julian of
Norwich, Nicolas of Cusa were creation centered as well as radical
Protestants like George Fox.  And almost any artist you can name.  Try
Blake for one. This new book of mine takes the 3rd path, Creativity,
and goes deep (I hope)....
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #5 of 188: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Fri 16 May 03 14:19
Welcome, Matthew.  I'm Gerry and I host the Christianity conference
here on The WELL.  Your book has been a real eye-opener for me -
refreshing and inspirational.

I wonder if you would mind discussing some of your background before
discussing the book itself.  I'm curious to know about your journey. 
What were your major influences?
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #6 of 188: Rik Elswit (rik) Fri 16 May 03 15:20
That's a good idea.  The more I read of "Creativity", the more I wanted to
know about your background.   A theology that emphasizes the heart over the
head appeals to me deeply.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #7 of 188: Rik Elswit (rik) Fri 16 May 03 15:57
To clarify, was this a sudden epiphany, the result of long thought, or
perhaps a combination of the two?
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #8 of 188: Barrett Brassfield (sunhillow) Fri 16 May 03 17:45
I am curious about this too. I first read Original Blessing in 1989
and thought it a breath of fresh theology. How far back had you been
shaping the work that would become Original Blessing?
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #9 of 188: Teleologically dyslexic (ceder) Sat 17 May 03 09:10
Greetings Matthew Fox!  I've been looking at an extensive list of
books you have authored over your career.  We are so fortunate to have
you here.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #10 of 188: Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Sun 18 May 03 15:46
About my background.  (I did write it up in a full length
autobiography called "Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, the 4th of 7 children in a practicing
Roman Catholic household.  Went to public high school and joined the
Dominican Order (a 13th century order founded by St. Dominic.  Thomas
Aquinas and Meister Eckhart were Dominicans).  Did philosophy and
theology degrees at their house of studies in the Midwest and then a
doctorate in the history and theology of spirituality at the Institut
Catholique de Paris.  There my mentor, Pere Chenu, a French Dominican,
named the Creation Spiritual Tradition for me and mining that has been
my life word for it shows another side to Christianity.  I did my
studies in France from '67-'70 and those were turbulent times
everywhere.  My number one issue was the integration of Spirituality
and Mysticism with Social Justice (now including eco and gender justice
too).  These themes play through all my 25 books.
My "Original Blessing" came from teaching in my Institute of Culture
and Creation Spirituality (ICCS) at Mundelein College in Chicago for
six years.  I think it was about my fifth book or so.
After 7 years there I moved the institute to Holy Names College in
Oakland and after 12 years there I started our own University of
Creation Spirituality (UCS) in Oakland and linked the master's program
to Naropa University of Boulder four years ago.  UCS runs the Doctoral
program (D. Min in bringing work and spirituality together.)  The
pedagogy for our graduate degrees 
includes heart work and art work and ritual work as well as head work.
 Always has.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #11 of 188: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sun 18 May 03 17:35
Well, Matthew, that's a lot of mileage.  Thank you for the mention of
your autobiography.  I'll be looking for it soon.  In fact, I'm ashamed
to admit that I'd never read any of your works before _Creativity_.  

In the meanwhile, I'd like to ask what drew you to the priesthood, and
to the Domincan Order in particular.  Did you feel a genuine calling,
or was there any nudging from family, teachers, or mentors?  
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #12 of 188: LoRayne Apo-Joynt (lorayne-apo) Sun 18 May 03 18:47
Yes, thanks for the brief bio, Matthew, it stimulated a couple of
questions.  I've been a fan of your work; I've cited "The Reinvention
of Work" innumerable times, both in the course of obtaining an
education and in the workplace.  (I am still working on reading
"Creativity; forgive me while I play catch-up to the rest of Well

I've been puzzled about two things:
-- How is it you were able to concentrate on the spiritual without
impediment by religion?  Many of us raised in the Catholic faith do not
"see" much of the spiritual; we're confronted weekly with the do's and
don'ts, the demands of tithing and praying for causes, all the things
that gather us in the flesh.  But we don't hear our pastors *exploring*
the spiritual.  Perhaps this is only my experience and I'm projecting,
but I know I share this with other "recovering" Catholics who are
seeking other paths outside the Church in search of the spiritual.

-- To my mind, much of your work is resonant with Jungian psychology,
and yet you do not cite Jung overmuch.  Is there any part of Jung's
work which does not work for you, in regards to our work and our
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #13 of 188: Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 08:00
Welcome, Matthew.  I was pleased when WELL Conferencing announced you
had been invited to Inkwell.  I go by the handle of <maya> in these

> it shows another side to Christianity

Such a statement belies the multifaceted character of the Christian
faith, something I have come to believe requires stressing at a time
when singular definitions of the faith hold dominion over others, if
not a downright stranglehold.  Thank you for reminding us that the
richness of faith entails the examination of its various trajectories. 
Some worship Christ as the resurrected savior.  Others respect Jesus
as one of history's most influential sages.  And both have their
valence and their setting at the table.

> My number one issue was the integration of Spirituality
> and Mysticism with Social Justice (now including eco and gender
> justice too).

As a self-identified gay male and a somewhat-identified queer, I
further thank you for tackling the heteosexist presumptions that pose
as the burning sword at the entrance to the garden.  You are less
strident than I am with regard to these issues and, consequently, more
effective.  I sometimes have to remind myself that each of us has a
burning sword barring them from the garden, imposed either from without
or within, and sometimes from both, and that a certain parity needs to
be recognized in everyone's specific struggle towards social justice.

Without question, your work has had much appeal for me precisely
because it disfavors the metaphor of exclusion and suggests that
blessing is more the message of Jesus than guilt.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #14 of 188: Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Mon 19 May 03 10:31
Dear Gerry,
No, there was no push from my family.  In fact my mom resisted but
said "whatever makes you happy."  The Pull (not push) was both
intellectual and aesthetic.  Intellectual because I had a lot of
philosophical debates with my Protestant, Jewish and agnostic high
school class mates and found some intellectual 'meat' from my Dominican
parish priests who had me reading Aquinas and Chesterton and others. 
I felt the intellectual tradition of Catholicism as something very
rich.  (Unfortunately the present Papacy has deep-sixed the
intellectual tradition in favor of ideology--but that is another
Aesthetically, I visited the Dominican house of studies for a retreat
my senior year of high school and loved the chanting of the office in
Latin by the Dominicans and the sense of community.  It spoke to my
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #15 of 188: Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Mon 19 May 03 10:36
Dear Lorayne:
You have hit it on the head--the difference between religion and
spirituality.  In my training as a Dominican I went to my bosses and
said:" My generation is going to be interested in spirituality and
spiritual experience more than in religion and we have no one trained
in spirituality."  We had not a single course on the mystics for
example.  "I'll be glad to study spirituality" I said.  And they sent
me on.  (And regretted it later I guess.)
One Indian teacher says: "Spirituality is the banana and religion is
the banana peel."  Well said I think.
The church is out of touch with its spiritual tradition, too busy
creating religious ego instead.  My work has been to mine that
tradition with special appreciation for Hildegard, Aquinas (as mystic
and prophet), Eckhart, and Jesus too.  And how it relates to the
mystics of other cultures.  AND to us.  Our mysticism.  It's in all of
us even if organized religion avoids it.  One issue is seminary
education which usually aborts the mystic in the student.  Our
university has developed a pedagogy whereby folks can truly bring their
mystic alive.
As for Jung, I respect him a lot though I only trust Jungians who have
a social consciousness (many Jungians get trapped in the via creativa
and never get to the via transformativa).  BUT I consider the greatest
spiritual psychologist of the 20th century to have been Otto Rank.  He,
unlike Jung, has a superb record regarding social justice issues and
psychology (Read "Beyond Psychology" for example).
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #16 of 188: Matthew Fox (matthew-fox) Mon 19 May 03 10:37
Dear Maya,
Thank you for your wise comments.  Remember that ancient traditions
recognized that homosexuals carry special spiritual power for the
community--the great chiefs among Native American tribes had
homosexuals as
their spiritual directors I am told.  Also, among the Celts and the
in Africa.  A culture/religion that his homophobic is destroying its
spiritual base....We now know at least 71 other species that have
population such as cranes, dolphins, and many others.  Therefore, the
traditional argument that homosexuality is "unnatural" is simply
scientifically wrong.  To expect 100% of a population to be
THAT is unnatural and wrong.  The majority does not have a right to
to the minority either internally or externally.  Once having
internal oppression (self-hatred), gays and lesbians need spiritual
and vision (just like every one else) to give their gift to the
Creation Spirituality offers much in that regard precisely because it
creation as "original blessing"--including our varied, diverse, and
wonderful sexuality.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #17 of 188: David Gans (tnf) Mon 19 May 03 10:48

> "Spirituality is the banana and religion is the banana peel."

inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #18 of 188: Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 19 May 03 11:00
Beautiful refutation of homophobia, Matthew.  I feel the same way on the 
subject, that is, as Buddha put it, "The Earth is my witness."
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #19 of 188: Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 11:10
Matthew, thank you for your respectful attention to our individual
questions.  Specifically, I appreciate your affirmation.  Creation
Spirituality speaks to me precisely because of its belief in "original
blessing" so perhaps you should speak some about that to those who
might not be aware of it.  I have long felt, even before I discovered
your work, that the concept of original sin was fundamentally incorrect
and destructive.  That this concept has woven itself into the
infrastructure of the Catholic church and, in fact, into our language
to such an extent that, rather than to be argued against, it simply
needs to be left behind and new language created, ever aware however
that the strength of original sin is precisely corrosive and intent
upon negating and disempowering new language.

I think it was Confucius who said that in order to change a culture
you needed to change the language.  I see much of this effort in your
work.  To convert "original sin" into "original blessing" was a
brilliant insight.

I am aware of the "history" of queer presence.  My peers have been
individuals such as Arthur Evans, Will Roscoe and Randy Conner, among
others, who have reminded me that the revisioning of history is a
vigilant task and that queers must look between the lines, to all that
has not been recorded, to intuit and evoke what such absence and
silence reveal.  In fact, while reading _Creativity_, I was struck by
your definition of Hell as concealment.  Coupled to images from Greek
myth that provide a cloak of invisibility to Hades, and that populated
the underworld with shades, I realized that one of the main reasons
fundamentalist Christians banish queerfolk to Hell is precisely in
hopes that they will not be seen or heard.  And the queer political
strategy to be visible and out is crucial.

And you are exactly right about the need for Queer folk to find a way
to access not only the truth of their individual spirits but to find
community in their quest for Divine Spirit.  So many of them, myself
included, have felt so shut off from this access because of religious
condemnation that, out of anger and bitterness, we forsake our
birthright to divine access.  I'm glad that Creation Spirituality is
not only welcoming queers to the table but offering them the best of
the banquet.

Which leads me to a more pointed question.  Somehow as you set
Creation Spirituality apart in its enthusiastic embrace of life, I feel
it is being made distinct from Christianity.  Is that true?  Do you
consider yourself a Christian movement?
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #20 of 188: Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 11:19
With regard to Lorayne's inquiry and your response, for 20 years I was
a full scholar with the C.G. Jung Institute here in San Francisco. 
The opportunity was a rich one, it allowed me the chance to learn (in
contrast to being taught by) many psychologists, artists and
theologians.  Gilles Quispel and Elaine Pagels in particular did much
to inspire a return to the Christian faith, primarily to learn how to
refute the assertions of original sin through the very wisdom
traditions inherent within Christianity.  I remember Pagels saying that
organized Christianity was one of the few religions that purposely has
attempted to wipe out its esoteric wisdom tradition.

Your critique of the Jungians -- that they become "trapped in the via
creativa and never get to the via transformativa" -- is astute and
well-recognized among the Jungians themselves.  I remember several
professional seminars wherein this very subject was approached and
tossed about; but, ultimately, I have to agree that very few Jungians
compel their energies towards sociopolitical change.  As James Hillman
has made clear, the bias towards the individual seems innate to the
psychoanalytic process.  It is perhaps one of the most misunderstood
principles of our time that social engagement will help you know about
yourself as well as hours brooding in analysis.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #21 of 188: Your Humble Serpent (maya) Mon 19 May 03 11:34
Finally (and then I will sign off to allow others the chance to
speak), I commend your revitalization of Otto Rank and his work.  He
came to me by way of the diaries of Anais Nin.  She was his "assistant"
for a while and her synopsis of his work inspired me to read _Art and
the Artist_ which had a strong influence.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #22 of 188: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 19 May 03 13:38
Matthew, a question about the new book specifically:

In the preface, you more or less answer the question, "Why this book
now?" (because the world is in crisis and needs creative answers), but
I wonder: Why this book? Do you think our culture misses the spiritual
value of creativity? 

Up above, <rik> posts:

>>>A theology that emphasizes the heart over the head appeals to me

I've been thinking about this statement since I first read it, and,
well, since long before that, too. At this point in my life, I think I
believe the opposite. A theology emphasizing the head over the heart
appeals to me, because, in history, when emotionalism has trumped
rationalism very bad events have often followed. Yet faith, while not
strictly emotional, is hardly rational; faith seems to occupy a kind of
limbo between the two. Perhaps the wellspring of creativity shares the
same space?  
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #23 of 188: one man's astrolabe is another man's sextant (airman) Mon 19 May 03 14:46
I'm a bit puzzled by the spirituality aspect. While the banana metaphor
sounds appealing at first, there is a larger issue at work here.

Religion was suppose to be the worship of the Creator, not the creation.
The way you have defined spirituality it would seem that the creation is
more important than the creator and the creator is in fact outside the

TO use the banana metaphor, is the Creator the peel or the banana

Also, could you clarify "original blessing". The way I read Genesis 12
is that "blessed to be a blessing" was to extend to the whole world.
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #24 of 188: Barrett Brassfield (sunhillow) Mon 19 May 03 18:01

I'm hoping you can also say a little more about your understanding of
sin in the context of original blessing. I'm an Epicopalian who has
been a practicing Zen Buddhist for the past 10 years or so and have, in
these past months, felt a desire to return to my own tradition. In the
course of doing so I've been looking again at The Coming of the Cosmic
Christ, a book of yours that had a great influence on my own
understanding of original blessing. Additionally, and I hope not to far
off topic, I've been recently examining transubstantiation. Did your
understanding of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist change as you
transitioned from the Roman Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church? 
inkwell.vue.183 : Matthew Fox, "Creativity"
permalink #25 of 188: Daniel (dfowlkes) Mon 19 May 03 19:08
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>


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