As a non-profit ProgressiveChristianity.org relies heavily on the good will of donors to continue bringing individuals and churches – FREE OF COST – the resources and tools needed to further the vision of progressive Christians. If you are in a position to contribute we would be grateful for your donation.   Please Donate Now.

The Biblical tradition has something solid to give the East and to New Age.

 

Question & Answer

 
Q: By A Reader
 
I embrace today’s “new age spirituality” where Mind, Body and Spirit are aligned under a new paradigm of oneness with all –  that no longer supports the dogma of traditional religious institutions. My question is whether there is still room for my bible from which I have found so much comfort and wisdom? 
 
A: By Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox
 
Dear Reader,

Of course there is room for the Bible, properly treated and understood, in a more “new age” philosophy—after all there is plenty in the Bible, especially the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible that nurtured the historical Jesus and the mystical meanings of the Cosmic Christ in the New Testament; and that supports the sense of “the all” (a term used by Paul) and the holiness of all things. (Consider my and Bishop Marc Andrus book on The Stations of the Cosmic Christ to see the mysticism behind all the great events recorded in the life of Jesus and the “I am” sayings of the Christ.)

In addition, much of the prophetic tradition recorded in the Bible offers a needed balance to “new age” which often suffers from too much basking in the “Light” and not enough acknowledging of darkness and suffering—a “Cosmic Christ” that is all light and no wounds.  A weakness of new age is that it can  sometimes withdraw from acting for justice – the prophets of Israel, Jesus included, did, stood up to injustice and distorted power of their day. 

Remember what Gandhi said: “I learned to say No from the West.,” meaning, from Jesus and the prophets of Israel.  “No” is what prophets do, they “interfere” as Rabbi Heschel puts it.  So the prophetic tradition of the Bible is very important.  So too is the Wisdom tradition important at this time in history, because the wisdom tradition is about finding the sacred in nature.  It is understood to be the spiritual lineage of the historical Jesus.  “Taste and see that God is good,” as the psalmist sings.

At this time of climate emergency (climate change has provided the incubator for the coronavirus and many other viruses that will be coming), of racial reckoning and Black Lives Matter, of the demise of Mother Earth and the untold extinction spasms of millions of species, of misogyny and matricide (the killing of Mother Earth), clearly a prophetic lineage is necessary to go along with the mystical (which new age is more at home with).  A mature dialectic between the two, the mystical and prophetic, makes for a truly spiritual gifting to the world.  The Biblical tradition has something solid to give the East and to New Age.  “The prophet is the mystic in action,” said American philosopher William Hocking early in the twentieth century.

Much of “new age” appeal has been, as you point out, moving beyond dogmas and stale doctrines from another era and worldview.  And its willingness to be open more to the body, to science, and to mysticism than has mainline religion of late.  It is also open to wisdom teachings from an interfaith or deep ecumenical perspective.  To begin with the experience of awe, wonder and goodness (the via positiva of the mystics) is a necessary counterweight to so much of western religion that begins with anthropocentric sin and redemption, guilt, shame, patriarchal pessimism and “fatalistic self-hatred,” to use Adrienne Rich’s strong words. 

Addressing the via negativa, including the dark night of our souls and the dark night of our species and the suffering of so many beings on earth today, is very important.  Hopefully, the new age movement can mature and face the shadow and address it.  The Biblical tradition, with its insistence on standing up to injustice and developing warrior energy along with mysticism, can assist in that process. 

~ Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

About the Author
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox holds a doctorate in spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has authored 35 books on spirituality and contemporary culture that have been translated into 74 languages. Fox has devoted 45 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship (called The Cosmic Mass). His work is inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and has awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. He has helped to rediscover Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas. Among his books are A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality JourneyMeister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our TimesHildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our TimesStations of the Cosmic Christ; Order of the Sacred EarthThe Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times; and Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – And Beyond. To encourage a passionate response to the news of climate change advancing so rapidly, Fox started Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox – See Welcome from Matthew Fox.

 

*** This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

Review & Commentary