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Using the word “God” and balancing tradition and wisdom


Question & Answer

An Italian Philosopher from Italy, writes:


1. You are a theologian, and more precisely a scholar of spirituality who has reintroduced to Western audiences the major insights of Medieval mystics, insisting on their practicability today. Yet in this book you do not use the word “God” even once? Why?


2. I was especially struck, in this book, by your deep yet free relation with the tradition, with the wisdom of the past. What are the difficulties that people have, in your opinion, for understanding this balance? How much do you think this vision is advancing in the world today?

Answer: By Matthew Fox

These questions were put to me by an Italian philosopher on the occasion of the publication of my book on education, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, into Italian. I felt they were deserving of sharing with an American audience as well.

1. Well, not all medieval theologians were obsessed with God language either after all. Meister Eckhart said, “I pray God to rid me of God” and Thomas Aquinas says every creature in the universe is another name for God—and no creature is. And Francis of Assisi’s great poem on Brother Earth and Sister Moon never mentions God or Jesus’ name once! The mystical path includes not knowing and unknowing and letting God be God in whatever form he/she is rising to present the Godself.

Furthermore I wrote this book with public school educators in mind and in the US God talk is not encouraged in our public schools. As a spiritual theologian I am more interested in our experiences of God than our invoking that name as such (didn’t Jesus say not all who invoke the words “lord, lord” will enter the kingdom?).

I think the experiences of living out the values inherent in the 10 C’s presented in this book constitute our experience of the Divine and our putting our spirituality into practice. (The 10 C’s that lie at the heart of my agenda for reinventing education are the following: Cosmology/Ecology; Contemplation; Chaos; Creativity; Community; Compassion; Critical Thinking; Character Development; Courage; Ceremony, Celebration, Ritual.)

And that is the point. To do compassion and justice, not to talk about them. The term “awe” summarizes nicely our deepest experiences of the Divine, as Rabbi Heschel taught. Awe is the door for Wisdom and Wisdom is one (of many) names for the Divine, isn’t it? And education needs to move beyond mere knowledge to wisdom if humans are to survive and the planet as we know it is to survive.

2. I think the biggest obstacle is ignorance. If for example people do not know that there is and has been a creation spirituality tradition that is rich and foundational in our Western consciousness, a tradition of Original Blessing as distinct from Original Sin and guilt, then we are set up for pessimism and lack of creativity. We fall into Patriarchy and what feminist poet Adrienne Rich calls its “fatalistic self-hatred.” If we don’t know this tradition we lack a hermeneutic for interpreting our greatest thinkers and artists. Education becomes education for a society based on a secular version of original sin which we now call consumer capitalism. In such a scenario competition and greed triumph rather than joy and truth-seeking. Beauty loses its rightful place as an inherited, original, blessing, into which we are all born.

I think the desperation of our times is calling forth wisdom from the young and from many who recognize that our current, modern way of looking at the world, our lack of a sense of the sacred, is not working and is not sustainable. Education needs a thorough reinventing.

~ 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.

About the Author

Matthew Fox holds a doctorate in spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has authored 32 books on spirituality and contemporary culture that have been translated into 60 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. 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 Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the FleshTransforming Evil in Soul and Society, The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved and Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest

A new school, adopting the pedagogy Fox created and practiced for over 35 years, is opening in Boulder, Colorado this September.  Called the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality it is being run by graduates of his doctoral program and will offer MA, D Min and Doctor of Spirituality degrees.  See

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