Creation Spirituality and The Quest for a New Male Spirituality; Reflections on being a Spiritual Warrior
The Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, The University of Conneticut at Storrs June 15, 2003
There is a great search going on in our society today. It is a common yearning, a deeply held one and now, an expressed need for connection to the Earth and to one another. It is a growing vital concern- not just in numbers of explorers, which is significant, but in a universal acceptance that spirituality and ecology belong to each other. In truth, there can be no complete approach to God, to humanity or the planet that does not include and affirm the dynamic and essential connection between spirituality and ethics, mysticism and justice.
Nowhere is this yearning felt more deeply than in the various liberation movements, 12 step recovery groups, and the desire for church revitalization. One approach presents itself as being able to facilitate these desires and fill these needs. It is called Creation Spirituality.
One of the main purposes of Creation Spirituality is to remedy and rectify old harmful theologies and religious beliefs that have crippled people since their childhood. As an ecumenical and interfaith movement, it offers a new interpretation of the Creation and the entire Biblical story based on its positive and life affirming, spiritual and justice-making themes, and helps us to reclaim the beauty and inspiration of The Bible, Judaism and Christianity without having to accept old theological interpretations that were used to control others by promoting grief, guilt or fear.
The second principal purpose behind the growing expansion of this movement is that is directly seeks out and promotes an ecological spirituality; a reverence for life on planet Earth, a love of the Creation; its rocks and waves, flowers and trees, its animals, cycles and seasons.
Creation is a wonder… it is nothing short of a supreme miracle called life on Earth. Yet, it is ironic that so few Western religions teach such respect and reverence as a part of their education or spiritual teachings. Instead, the models that have been passed down to us are either excessively moralistic, and/or anthropocentric, and its theology and its church outlooks do not give equal time to the dignity and worth of the person and the environment.
In short, We are all taught and admonished about Original Sin, but very little is ever said or affirmed about our Original Blessings.
Creation Spirituality is a Western theology and approach to life that emphasizes the positive values and options we have in living; it promotes creativity and compassion, the interrelationship of the arts, sciences and religion to create a better world. C.S. does not start with Adam and Eve, the Fall, and Sin, it starts with the affirmation of the mystery and miracle of God as an energy and as a presence that is alive and timelessly participating in Creation. It teaches about God as an alive Spirit that maintains a gracious, benevolent and intimate relationship with all of life. Echoing many liberal religious beliefs, it 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 to repair, restore or revitalize the Earth or one another.
As for the greatest sin… it is desecration of Mother Earth herself; our ignorant, wasteful ravaging now holds all of humanity liable, and all the world’s people are now at risk.
So while Creation Spirituality does not avoid dealing with sin, it does not wallow in sin or shame either. Instead, it encourages us to look at ourselves honestly and compassionately;
To see ourselves as caregivers, who have as their heroic task to reclaim and reaffirm the natural wonders and blessings of our world, not try to conquer or take from it.
C.S. teaches us to see and experience the beauty and love, the understanding and consolation we can find in walking the beach, watching a leaf hold a butterfly or when we hold hands with hope and find a quiet joy looking into one another’s eyes.
By affirming our positive identity as the children of God, and to live as companions to all the creatures of Earth, we can empower ourselves to heal our world. With our God-given power to bless and restore, in friendship, we can save each other and live harmoniously on the Earth.
Creation Spirituality is a move toward Oneness; it honors human dignity and worth. Its teachings and principles equalizes the sexes, and is an inclusive trans-denominational approach to spirituality and ecology. While the ideas and ideals of its teachings go far back, even before the Bible, the rediscovery of its truth is barely 30 years old. A progressive, now labeled a heretical Catholic who is now an Episcopal priest, named Matthew Fox, rediscovered these truths while doing research on the great Christian mystics. They were those inspired men and women that kept this alternative way of looking at God, Nature and life alive throughout the centuries.
From those controversial Catholic beginnings, Fox and his followers quickly understood that using ecology to inform one’s faith drew all kinds of people into its participatory themes.
It spoke to our common need to celebrate and be responsible for how each generation can live, share and cooperate with the Creation. Today, I will focus on how this new spiritual approach helps to validate the particular hunger that men in our world are experiencing.
On Becoming Spiritual (Peaceful) Warrior
While feminism has had its proponents, and victories, we have seen its reluctant message become more mainstream, men of all ages are finally summoning their courage to look at the shadow side of our masculinity found in war, greed, selfishness, and hostile competition. Men from many of the developed countries are actively questioning social, economic, and political assumptions concerning roles and responsibilities. Men are also calling into serious question the images of masculinity in our music and films that promote violence and depersonalization of both men and women. In the 1970’s, liberation movements for men consisted of drum circles and the Iron Man Wild John ideas that frankly, became comic and largely ineffectual when it came to transforming Pentagon priorities or Wall Street abuses.
Now this quest, for initiation and radical change, for empathy and understanding, for dignity, and for finding the lost dimensions of our souls while letting our spirits grow and be free, is, under political, economic and family duress, arriving at a level of depth and maturity rarely realized in earlier decades.
Along with political and economic reform, this striving for a new definition of what it means to be a man is what being a peaceful and spiritual warrior is all about.
(now before the women in this gathering recoil or rebel…
Of course, women can be warriors… But that often centers on reclaiming or recapturing the masculine energies in themselves, and that integration is a worthwhile goal… But as a man, I cannot fully speak to that… But it is clear that such necessary alchemy and growth towards individuation is the right path as such transformation or wholeness is a universal human need.)
The principal reason I emphasize the need of men to awaken to the depth of their character and to the greater sense of meaning and purpose in their struggle to be alive, strong, compassionate, and at peace, is because our whole world, maybe its very survival, depends on men learning these lessons of how to possess a vigilance for peace, for upholding human rights, dignity, and self worth in their days and in their ways that neither an illustrious sense of title, worldly power, or a bank account can truly give them. There is no equation that states happiness is
equated with money or power… Happiness comes to men when a man feels useful and when he is able to express his positive emotions when and where it matters most!
As one of my “Socrates” or as one of my mentors, Matthew Fox puts it there may be no greater need that adopting a warrior mentality. A warrior is different from being a solider…
“[A solider follows external orders, usually to accomplish some external goal, whereas a warrior finds his or her strength and purpose in following their hearts…]” Fox is the principal modern exponent of Creation Spirituality- an inclusive, earth centered approach that honors science, the world religions, the arts, and what can be called the best of the human spirit. He puts it this way:
As men of all ages are questioning social, economic and political assumptions concerning roles and responsibilities, they are also calling into serious question the images of masculinity that promote violence and depersonalization of both men and women. This quest, for initiation and radical change, for empathy and understanding, for dignity, and for finding the lost dimensions of our souls speaks to men, while letting our spirits grow and be free, is what spiritual warriorship is all about.
To become a spiritual warrior encourages us by challenging us to risk- to go beyond social expectations and the ordinary ways of perceiving and relating. It asks us to look within and to acknowledge the wonder and the reverence that can be found in oneself, life, and in all of our sacred relationships. It is being willing to risk the unknown for what is yet to be. Here the essential masculine task is to learn what serves growth and goodness, and then to obey one’s inner wisdom directives so that he can practice only what will not harm him or live in ways that will not robs anyone else of their dignity, freedom, and respect.]”
o be a warrior then, in the understanding of Creation Spirituality, requires the journey of a lifetime. It is a sacred, intimate, yet all inclusive quest, that seeks out and tries to find what is authentic, real, and nurturing to oneself and affirmative towards others. How? It is having the inner awareness, insight and confidence to face down negativity and evil in all its disguises. When one gains that courage, that strength of will, that is when the real or the deep work begins; the work to see what it is possible to heal and restore, to truly know deeply what the world and what life requires of you.
Creation Spirituality urges you to engage in life’s promises and pitfalls, with an open and willing heart. For the way of the true warriors are full of growth and change. As we intentionally create and transform who and what we are, for who and what we can become, we serve our world needs and promote by our example what a more enlightened rlationship, family, or society can become.
Matthew Fox offers a further more complete spiritual and theological understanding of men’s issues and the masculine tasks found within the spiritual and ethical life. He witnesses, in the four paths of in Creation Spirituality, new ways and meanings for life’s quest.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these four ways or paths, I will give you a quick synopsis of each path, and then outline how each way or approach can be an asset for male, and of course, for female or humanity’s freedom to become more centered, attuned, responsible and compassionate. Using the metaphor of being or becoming a spiritual warrior, Fox gives us these insights:
First, from Path One or the Via Positiva, the task is to emphasize our Original Blessings, the wonder and promise of life and the Creation. He suggests that men learn to hunt for beauty, for how they can best see and experience, 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 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 truth, there is also responsibility.
The reason the old, fearful forms of religion endure is that it is easier for us to accept being passive, afraid, even guilty, than it is to accept our responsibility as co-creaters of our own world. Here, in the first of the four paths, called The Via Positiva, we are taught that we need “to taste and see that life, that the world is good.” Because of this, the spiritual warrior within us has to uphold beauty, truth and virtue with strength and a resolve that brings to all men and women the ability to celebrate all the ideals they believe in or trust.
The Path Two is called the Via Negativa, or the emptying way. Here is where the warrior accepts his or her own need to let go- to empty oneself of false beliefs, negative feelings, rehearsed 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 have failed to accomplish in our lives. Here, the path urges the spiritual warrior to develop fortitude, persistence, and the courage to go beyond the familiar to welcome the unknown; to expect the good, to be open to grace, despite life’s wounds. Fox says this: “a spiritual warrior learns to let go- Letting go of comforts, security, of past images of oneself, or past ways of relationships. Here the task is to learn what serves growth and goodness, and practice only what will not harm him or robs anyone else of dignity and respect.”
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. It takes a lot of faith, and flexibility to be creative; to bring into being a new way of looking at the world, of defining and refining yourself.
We also find in this creative path the creativity that uproots or refashions. Here is the prophetic urge when we dare to disturb the status quo, and develop our view of the future, one we want to share with our friends and prepare for our children. As Fox puts it, “in Path Three, the spiritual warrior stands up and offers his or her gifts to the community. Here the fight is engaged, and the demons exorcised….” Creativity arises from a depth of awareness that states that… if we do not give back what is our unique gifts, talents and skills, and give expression to life’s mysteries and give witness to life’s truth, no one will stand up, or give or do it for us.”
Here is where we learn to befriend the various parts of ourselves, and use them as teachers and to see ourselves as artists giving birth or expression to ourselves as new beings.
The last way or Fourth Path is called the Via Transformativa, the transformative way. But as Fox emphasizes, “transformation does not come easily. People and institutions do not relinquish power and privilege cheerfully. Paradigm shifts are resisted.
Yet, the spiritual warrior… has learned compassion for him or herself and for their world. “Through empathy, these warriors learn to celebrate the common struggle and can find the strength, the willingness to stand up for justice, equality and truth as belonging to everyone, as being the right way of in community , as living on and for the Earth.
To be a warrior then, in the understanding of Creation Spirituality, requires the journey of a lifetime. It is a sacred, intimate yet all inclusive quest, that seeks out and tries to find what is authentic, real and nurturing to oneself and others. It is having the confidence to face down negativity and evil in all its disguises. Then the real or the deep work begins; the work to see what it is possible to heal and restore, what the world and what life requires of you.
As a spiritual warrior you will be asked to face the greatest enemy- oneself; and you will be enlisted to support such challenge and change in others for the sake of the world, for all biological life, and for the future of all the children on the planet.
Creation Spirituality urges you and all men and women to take up your shield and spear, to engage in life’s promises and pitfalls, with an open and willing heart. For the way of the true warriors are full of growth and change; we create and transform who and what we are, for who and what we, and our world needs and can become. Today, I invite you to learn more about this approach and consider incorporating the insights and ideas into your own spiritual life and the activities of this community-
Let it be an opportunity for you to express more of who you are, and how you can participate more fully in spirituality and in the original blessings that have been given to us by God. AMEN/AMET