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A Conversation with Matthew Fox: ‘Eco-Spirituality’ Activist to Lead Retreat at La Casa de Maria

By La Casa de Maria |

La Casa de Maria, an interfaith retreat and conference center in Santa Barbara, is featuring “Our Emergence Into Christ Consciousness” with Matthew Fox, Ph.D. The highly-anticipated retreat will take place Friday through Sunday in Santa Barbara.

Matthew Fox
Matthew Fox

Fox is a prophetic author, educator, theologian and contemporary scholar/activist for a creation-centered spirituality. He has written more than 30 books, including the Cosmic Christ and a new work on Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for Our Time.

Focusing on the presence of the Christ Consciousness that is continually incarnated in all of creation, Fox will discuss his ideas surrounding the Creation Spiritualty Movement. With the notion that we move through this time of great peril to our planet, awakening to a dynamic and viable Christ Consciousness can provide for us deep wisdom and calling with which we can incarnate into our ways of living and being.

La Casa de Maria caught up with Fox by phone this week in San Francisco, just back from leading workshops throughout Australia.

La Casa de Maria: How did you become interested in the dynamic between religion, spirituality and the environment?

Matthew Fox: I guess I’ve been involved in this kind of work in one way or another for over 40 years. I came of age in the ‘60s during the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, which was also a time of new concern for the environment. Ecology was very important to me because the creationist spiritual tradition is what I was committed to recovering. That tradition was named for me by my mentor, the French Dominican Père Chenu, as “eco-theology.”

So I’ve been involved in "eco-theology," if you will, for many, many years. My books bear testimony to that, and the rediscovery that these mystics like Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas and others have of theology of the Cosmic Christ. It is an understanding that all beings are sacred and our relationship to them is sacred and should be protected. My experience with Native American traditions, through Ghosthorse, my Lakota teacher, just reinforces the steps of the sacredness of creation. All of their rituals are about reconnecting the human psyche and the universe, and that is how you recover, in a sense, the sacred.

La Casa: You use the phrases “deep ecology” and “deep ecumenism.” What do these mean to you? How should we understand these concepts?

... deep ecology is that which motivates ecological work along with a deep sense of the sacred …

Fox: It was Joanna Macy, the Buddhist teacher, who introduced me to that phrase some decades ago. My understanding is that deep ecology is that which motivates ecological work along with a deep sense of the sacred, and brings in a spirituality of ecology and not just the politics of it. That’s what makes it “deep.” I think deep is another word for spiritual. In my book I wrote some 25 years ago now, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, I talk about deep ecology and deep ecumenism.

Ecumenism is the wisdom of our otherworld spiritual traditions coming together — these days, called “interfaith.” My point of calling it “deep ecumenism” is to say that it’s not enough to read theological position papers at each other; we have to come together at the level of spirituality at the level of practice, and at the level of protest — the level of trying to transform culture and transform the way humans are relating to the Earth; whether through economics or politics, business or religion. I think all of it can become more green, more ecologically aware.

We need to realize this is the number one, two and three moral issues of our time: The survival of the planet as a healthy place, not just for our species but for all the other species that are, many of them, rapidly disappearing on our watch, you might say due to humans and the degree of indifference and denial.

La Casa: What do you want people to come away with from the retreat you’ll be leading at La Casa de Maria?

Fox: To deepen whatever relationship they have with God, and to relate it to their calling, their vocation, their work, their relationships, their “citizenship.” I hope that it will both bring more joy and more energy, and inspiration to be leaders in this awakening that has to happen, because we have to wake up from our sleep and our denial and ignorance to what we’re really capable of as a species.

One example is the issues of education and economics. We could be developing a system of economics that works for everyone on the planet — not just every two-legged one, but all species on the planet, in the oceans, the whales, and all the rest. If we can get beyond our infatuation with Wall Street and realize that the system we have is not serving future generations — it’s not even serving most people today — we can do much better.

David Korten has been developing an economics that would work for everyone and not just the few. We can’t underestimate our capacity for creativity and for creating systems — economic, educational — that could really contribute to the sustainability of the planet as we know it and the survival of our species.

We’re not going to have a Noah’s Ark [laughs], but I think it’s important to bring all of the beings into the discussion.

That dialectic between being lover, mystic, and warrior or prophet, that is, to me, what a really spiritual life is about.

Primarily it’s about falling in love. Falling in love more deeply with the earth and with all the creatures on it. Once you really care deeply about something, then you’re willing to stand up and defend it. So, falling in love is the mystic in you, and the warrior in you will defend what you cherish. That dialectic between being lover, mystic, and warrior or prophet, that is, to me, what a really spiritual life is about.

That’s a pretty good place to begin. Being a warrior means your heart is expanded and there is courage there. Also hanging out with courageous people and learning what it takes to build the trust that is at the heart of courage.

Fear is always knocking on the door — and in our time, fear is pounding on the door, with a barrage of fearful headlines in the news — it’s important that one does not cave to the fear or a pessimistic ideology. That’s where creativity comes in. Creativity empowers. Otto Rank [pioneer in the field of humanistic psychology] says that “pessimism comes from repressed creativity.” We have to awaken the creativity, because that’s what’s going to give us the tools and the intelligent alternatives to do something about the way we’re acting.

La Casa: Is there something practical people can do to spark their own creativity?

Fox: We can rediscover how we are all artists. David Paladin, a Native American artist says, "If you can talk, you’re an artist." And it’s true. The dominant culture often reserves the words "art" and "artist" for people who are professionals. But in fact, we’re all creative — every day we make creative decisions, whether it’s about making our food, or growing it, or paying for it, or the rooms we live in, how we decorate them, how we raise our children. Creativity is everywhere.

La Casa: What do you do to awaken your creativity on a daily basis?

Fox: My work is creative — research and reading and writing. But, simply, I like to walk and hang out in nature.

Join Fox for “Our Emergence Into Christ Consciousness,” a retreat at La Casa de Maria, from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 1 p.m. Sunday. La Casa de Maria is located at 800 El Bosque Road in Santa Barbara. The residential fee is $400, and the commuter fee is $300 (partial scholarship available).

Click here to register online. For more information, click here, email [email protected] or call 805.969.5031.


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