Celebrating Our Original Blessings:
An Introduction to the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
There is a great search going on in our society today. It is a common yearning, a deeply held one and now; Often this inquiry is an expressed need for connection to the Earth and to one another.
From the dawn of civilization, humankind has sought out ways to define relationships to the greater world around them. To be fully human, is to search for meaning; we are not just social animals, political or economic beings, we are a seeking, curious, creative and wondering animals- homo sacralis- We are humans that seek what is holy, meaningful, what is divine within us and what is divine all around us.
Religion can be defined by any activity, which by its practice and understanding, that helps us to feel more connected; unified; together, (from Latin, religiare) and by any activity that assists us in transcending the intellect and the ego- spirituality facilitates our ability to going beyond our superfical social selves, and to look both beyond and within for our deepest, most true answers.
Today, the old, traditional ways of religion and being together, no longer fit the demands of new approaches to planetary science, or the complexities of our social existence. Religious outlooks and teachings have not kept up to the demands of modern living…
A compelling concern has now presented itself to all of us: that humans everywhere have to come together to create a new cosmology- in new, inclusive and inspiring ways that include the holistic or interdependent linking of science, art, service, and mysticism. These outlooks synergistically combine in a simple and yet profound universal acceptance that spirituality and ecology, art and justice, all belong together and all are deeply connected to each other.
This yearning, this search has had some leading edges…. Nowhere is this yearning felt more deeply than in the various liberation movements, 12 step recovery groups, and the worldwide desire for church revitalization or the increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo in society, economy, relationships, etc. As a consequence of a search that is becoming critical and apparent, there is also a need for a common religious and metaphoric language that unites religious ideals to the frontiers of science, the depths of art, and the expanse of culture. One approach that boldly and enthusiastically presents itself as being able to facilitate these desires, and fulfill these wide ranging and inclusive needs. It is called Creation Spirituality.
Right away, let me declare that this approach has nothing to do with Creationism! In fact, its openness to science and mystery function as the direct opposite!
One of the main purposes of Creation Spirituality is to remedy and rectify the old harmful theologies and those toxic and demeaning religious beliefs that have crippled people since their childhood…
As an interfaith movement, it offers a new interpretation of the Creation and the entire Biblical story based on its positive themes. As a uniting philosophy or framework, Creation Spirituality helps us to reclaim the beauty and inspiration of The Western religious traditions without having to accept any of the old control centered, static, severe, dour, necrophilic, irrational and pious theology!
Those interpretations of Scripture and human nature that are so often used to promote grief, guilt, shame or fear. Creation Spirituality teaches that our salvation is not based on believing some speculative man-made creed. If we are to be saved; that is, if we are to be whole, loving, and free, we cannot divorce our personal concerns from those of our planet Earth, or from our sisters and brothers around the world.
CS is an outlook and a conviction that says that if we, as humankind, and we, as a civilization and as a planet are going to survive, then we will have to actively acknowledge our common origins, our shared human experience, and actively affirm the worth, the sanctity, the mystery and the divinity of Earth itself.
Creation is a wonder… Yet, it is ironic that so few of the Western churches teach such respect and reverence as a part of their religious education programs or life span teachings.
Instead, the models that have been passed down to us are either excessively moralistic, or do not give equal time to the dignity and worth of the person and the environment. Many of us have been sternly taught and often admonished about Original Sin, but very little is ever said or affirmed about our Original Blessings. It starts with the affirmation of the mystery and miracle of God as Spirit, presence, as compassionate energy that is inherent, interwoven, alive and timelessly participating in Creation. It teaches about God as an alive Spirit that maintains a gracious benevolence and that God has a sustaining intimate relationship with all life!
Creation Spirituality states that Heaven and Hell are not places, but states of mind and heart that confirm that we need a more positive view of ourselves, and our world, if we are ever expect to repair, restore, or revitalize the Earth or be a healing presence for one another. As for the greatest sin…
It is not found in eating an apple- it is the wholesale desecration of Mother Earth herself! It has been our ignorant, wasteful ravaging that now holds all of humanity liable, and holds the world’s people at risk.
So while Creation Spirituality does not avoid dealing with personal sin, it does not wallow in guilt or shame either. Instead, it encourages us to look at ourselves compassionately; it encourages us to educate ourselves out of any lingering beliefs, willful ignorance, or any passive acceptance of religiously imposed inadequacies.
Students of Creation Spirituality see one another as caregivers, who have to reclaim the natural wonders and blessings of our world. C.S. teaches us to see and experience the beauty and love, understanding and consolation we can find in walking the beach, watching a leaf hold a butterfly or when we hold hands across our cultural ways to give another person hope; when we find a quiet joy looking into one another’s eyes, or the sanctuary felt when we are in another’s arms.
Creation Spirituality does not start with Adam and Eve- It begins by affirming our positive identity as the children of God, made in the image and likeness of the Divine… From that sacred basis, we find our working and royal identity when we live as companions to all the creatures of Earth, when we stand up for justice, and to act in ways that heal our world.
At its core, in its essence, Creation Spirituality is a movement toward Oneness and Wholeness; towards Unity and Divinity.
It teaches principles that dignify and equalizes the sexes, and provides research into how best to affirm an inclusive trans-denominational approach to world spirituality and to the needs to have a world ecology.
While the ideas and ideals of Creation Spirituality reach back into the origins of our human sacred stories go far back, even before the Bible, the rediscovery of its truth is only 40 years old. Its new expression comes to us from the mind and heart of a progressive, once labeled a heretical Catholic radical, (now finding a tentative safe haven as an Episcopal priest), named Matthew Fox. He rediscovered these truths while doing research on the great Christian or Creation mystics. They were those dissenting men and inspiring women that kept this alternative way of looking at God, Nature, and life alive throughout the centuries; not bowing down to the coercion or control, or the patriarchal and dehumanizing teachings that have so effectively “de-souled” us…
Those de-humanizing ways of institutional power and moral control have condemned churchgoers to rehearsing only those reinforced feelings of failure, robbing us of health, happiness, creativity, justice and joy.
From those controversial Catholic beginnings, Fox and his followers quickly understood that using ecology to inform one’s faith drew all kinds of people, many world faiths and different spiritual expressions into
into a larger and broader unity community- ways to share and affirm together!
This inclusive practices and interactive theology, can be divided into four interdependent, complementary ways that can be known, understood and embodied as part of every person’s search for truth and meaning.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these four ways or paths, I will give you a quick synopsis of each path, and archetype. Then I will ask how each way or path can be personally understood in practical terms.
First, from Path One or the Via Positiva, the task is to emphasize our Original Blessings, the wonder and promise of life and majesty of the Creation. Fox suggests that we have to learn to find beauty- all around us. It focus is on how we see and experience, How we feel and understand the meaning and the magic found in everyday life.
Fox states that: “we have become afraid of our own divinity,” that we are the sons and daughters of God.
With this divinity comes the identity of each of us as a royal and wonder-filled human being; a marvelous new way of perceiving who and what we are… yet, with this grand truth, there is also ongoing responsibility.
One of the principal reasons the old, fearful forms of religion endure is that it is easier for us to accept being passive, being afraid, being childish…
In fact, some people find it easier to stay fearful or even guilty, than it is to accept our adult and ongoing responsibility as co-creaters of our world.
Here, in the first of the four paths, the one that is most ignored by church teachings is called The Via Positiva. Here we are taught that we need “to taste and see that life is good.” Because of this, each of us has to uphold beauty, truth, and those virtues of a sustaining strength and a firm resolve that brings to all men and all women into their innate abilities to celebrate all the ideals they truly believe in or that they sincerely trust. This is the path of the mystic.
The Mystic’s main task in life is affirmation, and closely connected to it, is to maintain the outlook of gratitude. (approx. Thanksgiving to Epiphany)
So, now I will ask each of you: What can you affirm in your life? What makes you thankful? How does your community connections promote affirmation and your sense of gratitude?
Path Two is called The Via Negativa, or the emptying way. Here is where the spiritual warrior battles for their mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity; He or she accepts their own need to let go- to empty oneself of false beliefs, negative feelings, social roles.
In the Via Negativa, we have to face up to our inner pain, our hurts, and whatever we feel that we lack in ourselves, or what we have failed to accomplish in our lives. Here, the path urges the spiritual warrior in each of us to develop fortitude, bravery, persistence, and the courage to go beyond the familiar, and to welcome the unknown; THEN, to expect the good, and to be open to grace, despite life’s wounds.
Fox says this: “[we have to learn to let go- Letting go of comforts, security, of past images of oneself, or all that we have reinforced or rehearsed about past ways of relationships- all those ways that keep us stuck or dissatisfied with our lives… Here the task is to learn what serves our growth and goodness, and practice only what will not harm or will not rob anyone else of dignity and respect.]”
This is the path of the prophet.(January to Lent)
The main task of the prophet is to interfere with the status quo in ways that promote equality and justice, and build a strong, resilient courageous self.
I ask: In what ways are you willing to interfere with the status quo? When is it that you stand up for others? What does your congregation interfere with regularly?
The Third Path or way is called The Via Creativa or the way of creativity and resourcefulness. Here is where we learn about giving birth to newness and hope, and how to experience a rebirth of who and what we are or can become. You know, it takes a lot of faith, and a sincere degree of flexibility to be creative; to bring compassion into being that fosters a new way of looking at the world, of defining and refining yourself.
As Fox puts it, “in Path Three, we stand up and offer our gifts to the community. Creativity arises from a depth of awareness that states that…
IF we do not give back our unique gifts, talents, and skills, and IF we do not give expression to life’s mysteries or give witness to life’s truth, THEN no one will stand up, or no one will care or give or do it for us.” If we do not give back, whatever gifts or talents, we have will atrophy or go stale… This is the path of the artist. (Approx. Easter to August)
I ask: How do you express your creativity? How do you share your gifts? How does this church or community give of itself to the larger community?
The last way or Fourth Path is called The Via Transformativa, the transformative way. But as Fox emphasizes, “transformation does not come easily.
We are acutely aware of politcs and economics in our world. That powerful people and entrenched institutions do not relinquish control and privilege cheerfully or willingly. Paradigm shifts in religion, politics or economics are often resisted vigorously. Through empathy, we learn to celebrate the common human struggle, and we can find the strength, the willingness to stand up for justice, equality, freedom, and truth as belonging to everyone…
Path Four shows us the right way of being together in community, as how best to live on and for the Earth. This is the path of the Healer. (Approx. August to Thanksgiving)
I ask: How do you find healing for yourselves? How do you offer it to others? How do you work together as a group to offer or provide healing?
The best teachings given on creation and mysticism today ironically, are being given by scientists. … Scientists, not monks, and certainly not most typical theologians! Today, mystics are coming out of their religious closets all over the world, and are trying to find a home in every community, church, or meeting house. They are not finding room or an easy welcome!
They are artists and engineers, parents, householders, lawyers, health care workers, and yes, you might even find a priest or a minister or two who really wants our society to change!
Carl Jung said that the mystic brings out what is creative to religion… But you will never get a full definition of mysticism or spirituality. Why? Because definitions are all left brain, and living creatively and celebrating the mysteries of life is right brain- we are never going to define or control it!
(Emerson- We dare not fence the Spirit!)
Today, we need as much heart knowledge as we have head knowledge. We need experience awe, wonder, fascination, and inspiration, and teach these mysteries to our children so they will really know what life is about…
For me, and for the others who have embraced CS as their theological guide, It is simply about how we humans can grow our souls to realize more of the beauty of the earth, and how best to cooperate with our humanity, our creativity, our divinity, and experience the holiness of universe itself.
I recommend Creation Spirituality to you… as an inspiring way to understanding, and as an excellent complement to the ideals and principles of Unity… Truly a marriage made in heaven… or if you prefer, two inspiring ways that will lead you to your freedom, dignity, and self worth… So that you can confidently and courageously claim your own wholeness and holiness every day of your lives!
AMEN. SO BE IT!