Learning about Christian Mystics

The folks over at New World Library were nice enough to send me a copy of “Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations” by Matthew Fox. Now to show you how out of touch I am with authors of spiritual texts, let me share this with you. “Matthew Fox is an internationally acclaimed theologian who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years. He holds a doctorate, summa cum laude, in the History and Theology of Spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris. Matthew Fox is author of 29 books that have been translated into 42 languages,” from www.matthewfox.org. In other words, this guy has game. However, to an under informed pop culture junkie like myself, I saw the author was Matthew Fox and immediately thought, isn’t he that actor from the television show “Lost”? I continue to bring nothing but honor to my clan. Sigh…..

So now that we’ve established that I’m a dunce, what does Fox have to say with “Christian Mystics”? Quite a bit it seems. Much the way I interpreted Julie Loar’s “Goddesses for Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom & Power of the Divine Feminine Around the World” as having a rebellious spirit, with Loar being on a mission to not let another girl grow up without knowing the power and importance of the sacred feminine, (Another book published by New World Library I might add.), Matthew Fox’s “Christian Mystics” also strikes a rebellious chord with me.

“In the West the modern age – meaning the sixteenth to mid-twentieth century – was not only ignorant of but actually hostile to mysticism. As Theodore Roszak has put it, ‘The Enlightenment held mysticism up for ridicule as the worst offense against science and reason.’ Still today, both education and religion are often hostile to mysticism. Fundamentalism by definition is antimystical or distorts mysticism, and much of liberal theology and religion is so academic and left-brain that it numbs and ignores the right brain, which is our mystical brain. Seminaries teach few practices to access our mysticism. This is why so many find religion so boring – it lacks the adventure and inner exploration that our souls yearn for.”, from the introduction to “Christian Mystics”.

Fox is on a mission to shake religious thought free of “Western religious dogma, guilt trips, and institutional churchiness” by attempting to feed the soul words of 25 different individuals he feels are some of Christianity’s greatest mystics from the last two thousand years. Readers will find quotes from Thomas Aquinas, Marcus Borg, M.D. Chenu, Hildegard of Bingen, Dorothee Soelle, Nana Veary, Martin Luther King Jr., and more. 18 more to precise. Each day is a new quote along with some of the Fox’s thoughts about it. Again, like the before mentioned “Goddesses for Every Day”, this book is meant to be a daily tool for thought and reflection. But as we already established in that review, I’m an asshole, and so just like with that book I immediately looked at day 149 which is May 29th, my birthday (again, send gifts!).

Readers today think exclusively of Jesus when they hear the words the “Son of God”. But the phrase had a life of its own before it was applied to Jesus…referring to angels (Genesis 6:2), the whole people called Israel (Hosea 11:1), and the king in David’s line (Psalm 2:7). Direct revelation extends God’s favor to people and angels; each is “the Son,” the beloved,” as Jesus became in his vision at his baptism (Mark 1:11).

Baptism, in fact, was when, according to Paul, God sends the Spirit of his Son into every believer, who cries to God, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). The believer becomes a Son, just as Jesus called upon his father; as Paul says in the same sentence, God sends his Spirit “because you are Sons.” The moment of baptism; the supreme moment of faith, was when one discovered oneself as a Son of God, because Jesus as God’s Son was disclosed in one’s heart.

– Bruce Chilton

Fox goes on to share this note following the quote:

I once met a Rabbi who said to me, “In my tradition, anyone who truly lives a life of wisdom can be called a ‘Son of God.’ For that reason I have no problem calling Jesus a Son of God.” When Christians, often in the name of proselytizing or building up empires, emphasize too much the divinity of Jesus, much is lost. We are all God’s sons and daughters, and this was the teaching of Jesus and even of Paul. But often we have missed that basic message in the Christian faith. Mystics call us back to the truth.

I feel “Christian Mystics” has much to offer a follower of the Christian faith, but also to those of us who are looking to learn more about the actual spirituality of Christianity, not just the political and academic arms of the faith that seem to dominate the mainstream conversation. Matthew Fox has offered up an interesting and engaging way to find a new perspective on Christianity.