Photo: lars hammar
During Lent this year StillPoint – a project I co-run aimed at nurturing spiritual practice from within the Christian mystical and contemplative tradition but also engaging with other spiritual traditions and the arts – ran an experiential course in Creation Spirituality, a theology that can be helpful to understand and explore when responding to environmental issues.
Creation Spirituality is a phrase originally coined by Matthew Fox (but now in popular usage) to denote a form of spirituality that is based on an understanding of, a relationship with, and an immersion in, creation. Fox – formerly a Dominican monk until silenced by the Vatican and now an American Episcopalian – developed his ideas in his infamous book ‘Original Blessing’.
His basic premise is that much of the western Christian tradition has been based on what he calls a ‘fall-redemption’ paradigm. This has resulted in a hugely under-developed theology of creation, an obsession with guilt and sin, an anthropocentric cosmology, and countless other problems. So instead of Genesis 3 as a starting point for our meaning-making, Fox asserts that we need instead to begin with Genesis 1, with what he calls ‘original blessing’ (as opposed to ‘original sin’). This is the understanding that at it’s heart all of life is good and sacred. The universe is fundamentally benevolent and to be trusted. This is the essence of the first of the 4 pathways that make up Creation Spirituality – the Via Positiva. But this doesn’t mean that Fox doesn’t acknowledge darkness and broken-ness. The second pathway – the Via Negativa – deals with these themes but also opens up the great apophatic tradition (which finds its roots in the Orthodox tradition) – that God is also to be found in darkness as well as light. The third pathway – the Via Creativa – flows from the second. From this place of trusting in the darkness great creativity emerges in the same way that a seed grows in the darkness before bearing it’s fruit. Fox encourages us to believe that we are all artists. Art is so often thought of in elitist terms. Fox calls instead for its democratization. Lest this be seen to be too self indulgent, the fourth pathway in Fox’s model is the Via Transformitiva – where our creative energy is put to work to address injustice and see change come to our world.
If you’d like to explore Creation Spiritulaity, and the work of Matthew Fox in this area, further you can hear audio recordings and download course notes from the 5 sessions I led in during Lent at the Resources page on the StillPoint website (www.thestillpoint.org.uk). The course will run again at some point so to be kept informed of when that might be sign up for the StillPoint monthly newsletter.
Matt Rees is a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Oxford, a leader of a small spiritual community called ‘Home‘, one of the founding Directors of ‘StillPoint‘ – a project aimed at nurturing spiritual practice, and a member of the Diocesan Fresh Expressions Oversight Group.