Matthew Fox Transcript

Matthew Fox Interview – #430 December 4, 2017 {BATGAP theme music plays}  

Rick:  Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I have done 425 of them now, over the last 8 years. And if this is new to you and you would like to check out previous ones, go to , B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the ‘Past Interviews’ menu. This whole program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. If you appreciate it and feel like supporting it in any amount, then there is a ‘PayPal button’ on every page at the site, and we really appreciate the support we do receive. My guest today is Matthew Fox. I first met Matthew a couple of years ago at the Science & Nonduality Conference (SAND) where he gave a very inspiring talk. Matthew is a spiritual theologian, an Episcopal Priest, and an activist. As a spiritual theologian, he has written 34 books that have been translated into over 60 languages, among them … well, I won’t read the titles of all the books, but I’ll link to some of them on the page. He has contributed much to the rediscovery of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas as pre-modern mystics and prophets. Matthew holds a doctorate in the history and theology of spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris. He is the founder of the University of Creation Spirituality in California, he conducts dozens of workshops each year and is a visiting scholar at the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, NM. In joining the Episcopal Church over 20 years ago – and there’s a story behind that which we will get into – Matthew has been working with young people to reinvent forms of worship by bringing elements of rave such as dance, dj, vj and more into the Western Liturgy. The Cosmic Mass has been celebrated over 100 times and in dozens of cities across the U.S. A couple of Matthew’s latest books, which I read a good deal of are: A Way to God, about Thomas Merton, and Meister Eckhart: A Mystical Warrior for Our Times, so we will be talking about Meister Eckhart and Thomas Merton in this interview, and a lot of related topics. Just want to mention finally that Matthew teaches regularly at the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality in Boulder, Colorado and lives in Vallejo, California, which I guess is part of Oakland or near Oakland, is it Matthew?

Matthew:  It’s near Oakland

Rick:  Near Oakland, okay, good. So welcome.

Matthew:  Thank you, Rick. It’s good to be with you. I’m impressed by your perseverance – 425 interviews is a lot of interviews.

Rick:  Yeah, I love doing it, it doesn’t feel like work.

Matthew:  That’s the best kind of work to have. I do have a question for you before we get started, okay?

Rick:  Yeah, sure.

Matthew:  And that is where you came up with the name for this program, about Buddha at the Gas Pump? There must be a good story behind that.

Rick:  Yeah, there kind of is. I guess I just got this bee in my bonnet – I guess that’s that British expression – to start an interview show and it wouldn’t leave me alone. And then I’d mention it to friends and they thought it was a great idea; they started bugging me to pursue it. At one point I was thinking of something trite, like “Awakenings” or something, but then I put out a call to friends like, “What should I call this thing?” And one young fellow in his 20’s – a very creative guy – just shot back about a dozen suggestions and one of them was “Buddha at the Gas Pump!” And all my friends said, “Yeah, that’s it! Call it that!” And the implication obviously, which if it is not clear is that in this day and age, you know, a lot of people are awakening, and you might be pumping gas or buying groceries or something, and there’s a Buddha next to you, doing the same. So anyway, that’s the idea.

Matthew:  Great. It’s the everyday Buddha.

Rick:  Yeah. Do you agree that there seems to be some sort of epidemic going on of people waking up in the traditional sense, but unlike the traditional notion, it’s not as exclusive and rare as it was once made out to be?

Matthew:  Yes, I certainly hope that’s the case. The late Father B Griffith, a great monk who lived over 50 years in an ashram in Southern India said to me one day, “The future of monasticism is with laypeople,” and I think that’s probably what you’re talking about. The collective wisdom we have from the monastic traditions and so forth over the years, East and West, it has to get to the streets, it has to get to ordinary folks. I think that we can’t afford the luxury, really, of kind of bifurcating and having this dualism of professional contemplatives locked up in monasteries, and then the rest of us just bumping around, making the decisions about the planet and everything else. I think everybody has to imbibe a contemplative practice and a contemplative spirit, in order to make the right decisions, and to put action that come from a deep place into history, and that isn’t just a reptilian brain response that comes from action-reaction, but one that comes from a deeper place. And I think that another way of thinking about that is … you were talking about the Age of Aquarius, and the Piscean Age that we’ve left is dualistic! And in a dualistic age you can talk about monks being professional pray-ers and the rest of us just bumping around, but in the Age of Aquarius, I think we’re all in this together. And I think that … for example, I’ve met over the years a lot of men and women that who in a previous era would have been monks or nuns, but instead, they are finding their way in the world and trying to bring contemplative values into practice and into action. So yeah, I think this is happening, I would like to see it explode on a bigger and bigger scale, and I think that’s what we’re yearning for today.

Rick:  Good. I think one of the problems is the custodians of these ancient traditions tended to be monks, and in many cases tended to intentionally exclude non-monks from that custodianship, you know? It’s like, women couldn’t be priests, and householders couldn’t be priests. And in the Hindu tradition it was a similar thing – Shankara set up his tradition but it was run by monks and there was a sort of attitude that if you’re really serious about enlightenment, you better be a monk, or otherwise just make a living and support the monks.

Matthew:  No, I think you’re absolutely right. And you know, just last week we commemorated the 500th anniversary of Luther’s on his thesis at Wittenberg, and I think that was part of the Reformation’s inspiration, if you care and if you will, that it was clearly an attack on the monastic establishment which at that time was at a particularly low point, and … So, I think in one way, the Protestant Reformation was a first in trying to bring …and then of course it was reborn out of the invention of the printing press. So, the fact that you could disseminate literature very easily now, with printing, that lay people could now read the Bible and other things and get smart. And so, all the education was not consigned to the monastic establishment. So, you know, this does have a history and part of the history is technology itself. But today, again, we’ve had this new technological explosion that we call the ‘social media,’ and the ‘internet,’ and everything else. And I think there is something parallel happening, and it’s close to your original question here: can we democratize the mystical experience and the contemplative wisdom that previously was pretty much kind of held in monastic hands? And of course, a lot of other things enter, such as women! I mean a lot of monastic traditions is celibate – East and West – and it’s very male-dominated. Even when you had nuns, it’s still under the control of the men, and I’m talking about Buddhism as much as Christianity. In fact, in some ways, for example the Benedictine order in the West, such as the one Hildegard of Bingen belonged to, was really quite independent of the men, and that was a cause for considerable friction during the centuries. So, I think that’s part of it too, that the women’s movement too, in its way is saying, “Hey, we’re here too. We can be as contemplative and as profound and as wise as the men, so you know, let’s share this wisdom.” So, I think all this is part of the energy of our time. And I do like to look at things historically, and it is a moment, and not just about humans waking up, and about religions waking up; it’s about the planet suffering so much and the planet needs human to wake up or we’re all doomed, we’re all going down together. Then planet will survive, but not with the diversity and the beauty and the wonder that it carries, if humans don’t get our act together, real soon.

Rick:  Yeah, I agree. I mean, you know, some people think that gizmos are going to save us, and obviously new gizmos are needed, in terms of better and alternative energy technologies and all that, but I think more fundamental than that is the waking up part, which will give rise to greater creativity and also diminish the lethargy or dullness that tends to suppress innovative ideas. And just to wrap up some of your other points, I interviewed a couple of Buddhists a week ago and they were saying that even in contemporary times in Buddhist transitions, the most senior nun in a Buddhist monastery was inferior to the most junior male monk, you know? And there was that pecking order, so obviously that’s got to change. And just one final point, is that in my experience of interviewing 425 people and getting to know the people I interviewed pretty well, I would say that the men don’t have any advantage over the women, in terms of degree of enlightenment or clarity of expression, or anything else I can think of. So, it’s rather absurd, I think, that there has been this patriarchal dominance over the centuries.

Matthew:  Absurd but predictable, because you find it in every other walk of life too; it’s not just the monasteries which are awash in patriarchy. Yeah, so it’s human nature I guess, but of course that’s part of the balance we’re trying to get back, I think, into our psyches, and ultimately therefore from there, into our institutions. And it’s a battle, but in our lifetime, you know, we can see, I certainly have seen it, tremendous strides in our culture – women stepping up. The men of course, we’ve had this tremendous backlash, but that too is a sign that there has been some progress because we can’t be naïve … well, you know what Gandhi said, “Those who have power do not relinquish it happily,” or easily. So, there is going to be a couple of steps forward and a step back, and all that, but because we’re dealing with profound issues. And of course, it’s not just about who’s making decisions; it’s about: what are out images of the Sacred, you know? What are our images of the Divine? And if we run merely on the masculine images, then that is feeding patriarchy, it’s feeding one-sidedness, it’s even feeding oppression of women and of children. And both boys and girls have to learn at an early age that any gender ascribed to Divinity is going to be metaphorical anyway, but we have to ascribe the masculine and the feminine together. And my Meister Eckhart says, “All the names we give to God come from our understanding of ourselves!” So, if we’re content with just a male Divinity image, that says a lot about us; much more about us than God, and we’re in trouble. So … and then there’s a question of the toxic masculinity, so I wrote a book on that, we cover the Sacred Masculine, we call it The Spirituality of Man. And it’s really important, it’s not just bringing the Divine feminine back, but it’s also that we’re cleaning up the toxic masculine, which is everywhere in our culture. I think we over identified masculinity with the reptilian brain, so then ultimately masculinity in our culture is about winning, being number one, and how often do you hear this from sports people and from politicians and the rest? You know, the mammal brain has to assert itself, and that is the brain of compassion and of kinship, and cooperation, rather than competition and dominance and I’m number one and you’re not. So that whole thing about taming the reptilian brain I think is real … is relevant for the survival of our species. And this is where meditation comes in, this is where the spiritual technologies of our traditions have a lot to offer, because I do think that the reptilian brain likes solitude. Reptiles are not good at bonding, but they’re very good at lying alone in the sun … check out your alligator or your snake. And so that’s what solitude is, that’s what solitude is! The word for ‘monk’ comes from the word ‘monos’ – it means ‘solitude.’ So, there’s a monk in every reptile. So that’s how you get to the reptilian brain, you calm it – “Nice reptile, nice reptile.” And you pet your reptilian brain by meditation, then your mammal brain can assert itself. And of course, it (your mammalian brain) is half as old as the reptilian brain, so the reptilian brain thinks it’s dominant, wants to be dominant so it has to be tamed. I like to say, the Buddha put a leash on the reptilian brain; that was his major accomplishment – emphasizing the practices that would calm that brain, then the mammal brain of compassion, it can assert itself. And it’s explicit in both Hebrew and Arabic, the word for ‘womb’ is the basis in the word for ‘compassion.’ So, the “womb people” – the mammals, kinship – that brings something special to the planet. And when I look at all the world’s spiritual traditions, whether Jesus or the Dalai Lama or Mohammed or what not, they’re all talking about compassion, they’re all talking about the mammal brain. But you know, it’s not easy getting there, especially in the patriarchal context we’ve inherited for the last 4,500 years.

Rick:  Yeah. One thing that seems to be kind of exciting is the exposes of all these people like Harvey Weinstein and others who have been behaving very strangely and incorrigibly. And it’s like all the news media pundits are kind of saying that we really seem to be at a watershed moment here, that things are never going to be the same after this and people are not going to put up with this B.S. anymore, you know? So, it is sort of a hopeful sign that a major shift is taking place in terms of what we’ve been talking about … the dominance, by misbehavior of men in the culture.

Matthew:  Well yeah, again, you know, a part of the accomplishment of the reptilian brain is that it does run our sexuality. But the problem in this case is that the sexuality can be used as a weapon, as a power trip, and that’s part of keeping sexuality at the reptilian brain level! But if you incorporate sexuality into the bigger soul that humans have, and including the mammal brain, but also our spirituality. So, the whole idea of sacred sexuality is not about dominance; it is about mutuality, it is about to love – to use a term that is often overused. But the Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible celebrates lovemaking as a theophany, as a mystical experience. And there’s a lot of that in teachings East and West, and certainly in indigenous cultures too. So, to me, yeah, what we were talking about … those revelations happening, and of course the press is so eager to jump on it, however the press has its own sexual allegations too and issues, like the head of Fox News, the number one character at Fox News, they have been convicted of these kinds of things. So again, it’s part of the reptilian brain running rile, that we have to kind of direct and tame this reptilian brain. It’s not about killing our sexuality or our desire, but it’s about steering it into the bigger capacities of love and compassion that are species is capable of. And it’s a reminder, you know, that all men and women are capable of misusing our powers, including our second chakra, our sexuality. So yeah, it could be – you sound quite optimistic to me, but it could be a moment of awakening. I do agree, I don’t think that the toothpaste is going to back in the tube on this one, I think that women – the “me too” movement – and of course the men who are coming forward too, it could be a watershed moment, yeah … to carry along the very topics of the healthy masculine and the healthy feminine, respecting each other and making good things happen.

Rick:  Yeah, I am optimistic. Not only on this point, but just in terms of how the world is going to turn out. I mean, you know, there are reputable sources now who are saying we might not have humans on the planet by the end of the century, given what’s happening with global warming. But based on what you said earlier, what we were discussing earlier, I think that theirs is sort of an upsurge of spirituality or awakening, or enlightenment or whatever we want to call it, that is kind of coming in the nick of time to counterbalance the destructive direction that humanity has gone in. and you know, it’s not a done deal, but it gives me hope. And you know, it’s not making the 6 o’clock news either, because it’s subtle and the media doesn’t understand this mechanics, but I think something is rising to meet the challenge we face and so I’m hopeful.

Matthew:  Agreed, agree. And of course, interfaith – what I call ‘ecumenism.’ And when you have leaders like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn and Pope Francis wandering the planet – good examples of what healthy religion might be, and so forth, you know, that inspires! The younger generation is not at all stuck – well, with exceptions, but I mean as an energy force, I find that the younger generation is not at all stuck in boxes of denominations and so forth. For example, I have a friend who is Thai and he is Buddhist, and he teaches mathematics in high school not far from where I live here in Vallejo. But actually, several years ago, he was 33 years old, he took the pilgrimage to St. James Compostela – a 480-kilometer walk – and his feet bled halfway through, so he had to quit. He went home, taught the next year, then he flew back and started up where he had ended, and finished the pilgrimage, and this is a Buddhist! I asked him, “How many Buddhists did you meet along the way on either trip?” – “Zero,” he said. And I asked him something you never ask a Buddhist, I said, “Why did you do it?” So, he just stared at me and said, “Buddhists don’t do things for a ‘why;’ no good mystic does.” But then I said, “What did you learn?” and he said, “Well, I learned God is in everything – everything and everybody – but of course I knew that already!” But then he just told me recently that he is thinking of going back and doing the whole thing again, with 2 or 3 Buddhist friends. So, I bring this up as an example, that it’s not just the West that is learning from the East spiritually, but the East is also curious about the West, like Christianity in China is just exploding! And of course, the government doesn’t like it and doesn’t know what to do about it, but the point is that the East is very curious about Jesus and the values that Jesus taught, after all, Gandhi said he (Gandhi) had learned to say “No” from the West. So, the whole prophetic dimension, from the Jewish tradition, which is also the basis of Jesus’ teaching, is very appealing today. So, my point is that, deep ecumenism is interweaving of Eastern and Western wisdom is a tremendous force in what you’re talking about, in the hope … in our capacity for hope today. And then of course the environmental movement, I mean, as I wrote in my Cosmic Christ book 28 years ago, there is no such thing as a Roman Catholic rainforest and a Lutheran sun and a Baptist moon and a Buddhist ocean, so once all our religions reset themselves in the context of the sacredness of creation, which is I think what the environmental survival requires, then we’re all going to get more humble about our traditions and we’re going to work together and we’re going to go deeper. So, I agree that all these are all signs of hope, in an otherwise pretty dark time, I mean, what climate change is doing is very real. I was in Jamaica a month ago – not on a vacation but called to be part of a project dealing with violence among young men, and so forth. And the number one industry there is tourism, but the seas are rising! I mean, their beaches could disappear. So, if we think third-world countries – so-called – like Jamaica, are in trouble now with their economy, wait until the seas rise, you know? So, all this should be getting us out of our couches and getting us to be active in defending mother Earth, which I think is the number one moral and spiritual issue of our time.

Rick:  Yeah, and the seas are also going to rise on Miami and New York City, and all the coastal cities in the world. I mean, hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, and it’s not going to be pretty in terms of … it’s going to make the Syrian migration look like a picnic.

Matthew:  Exactly! Exactly, and you, something the press has not told us is that the Syrian migration, a lot of it is due to climate change, because the land was drying up! There’s a lot of drought there and so the farmers are leaving the land because they couldn’t farm, swarming into the cities, and then you had, you know, no work, and you had prices for bread rising. This happened in Egypt too. A lot of the Arab Spring was due to climate change, and you know, the press doesn’t have that consciousness – did not tell us that. The same is true here, and of course immigration here. Instead of walls, building walls of Mexico, you might be looking at satellite pictures of Central America and Mexico 20 years ago when they were green – mostly it’s green – and today is turned brown! So, the same thing is happening here. People migrate when you can’t work the land anymore – duh! And so, the problem … the answer isn’t putting up walls, it’s doing something about climate change.

Rick:  Yeah, and just in case anybody listening is wondering how this is relevant to a show about spiritual awakening and enlightenment and so on, it kind of helps to have a body in order to get enlightened, you know, or to awaken spiritually, and I think the issue we’re discussing is relevant to whether bodies are going to be able to live on this planet anymore. And I also think that you know, problems such as climate change – which is one of our most severe – and many, many others are a reflection of human consciousness; obviously humans are responsible for them, they are a reflection of the general state of awareness or consciousness or mentality that humans are living in. And so, we can apply mandates in terms of trying to know mess around with carbon tax-credits and all of that, but more fundamentally, we can shift human consciousness dramatically, and if we can really do that, then all the sort of ramifications or manifestations of an obviously deficient level of development will shift automatically. Kind of like watering the root of a tree and finding that all the leaves flourish, as opposed to watering the leaves.

Matthew:  Well that’s very true, and so many other issues arise too. For example, population. And they say that when … and these are proven statistics: when women acquire more equality in a culture, the population goes down, the number of births goes down, and alternative small businesses arise. So, there’s less unemployment, there’s less poverty, and there are fewer children. And clearly the great numbers of human beings on the planet are an issue and will continue to be an issue, and especially as we lose soil, as there are more droughts, as there are more floods. I was with a group of 150 scientists this summer at a conference for a week, and they were saying that with climate changes, the warm areas are going to be hotter and there will be more drought, and the wet areas are going to be wetter, there will be more floods. And in either of those cases, whether we’re talking Houston, Puerto Rico, and Miami, or if you’re talking the Northwest here – this summer with all these forest fires, including one 20 minutes from where I live here, in Santa Rosa – this is just what … this is beginning of the trend and we have to wake up. But I want to make one point, when you said that … because you’re raising that whole issue of dualism, that we’re talking about spirituality but we’re also talking about bodies, I don’t accept that dualism. I want to say this: it’s not just our bodies that are going to suffer from climate change, our souls do too. Thomas Berry makes this point, that our souls need beauty, our souls delight at the wonder of the diversity of the animals. If elephants disappeared, tigers disappeared, polar bears and whales disappeared, and the forests and the rainforests, it’s not just that our bodies are going to be affected, but also our souls; our souls are going to be starved. And as he says, there are not a lot of poets on the moon! It is the beauty and diversity of this planet that inspires our musicians and our poets and our artists and our filmmakers, and this all of our souls. So, anyone who thinks that a program on spirituality should not be talking about climate change, doesn’t understand what spirituality really is. The human being is not a disembodied spirit; the human being is incarnated – we are a flesh-spirit, an enfleshed-spirit. And so, we have a responsibility to continue the beauty of the planet and the health – physical and mental, emotional and spiritual health – of one another; that’s what compassionate love means. To me, that’s what enlightenment means.

Rick:  Yeah, good, I concur. And speaking of species going extinct, some species goes extinct every 20 minutes these days, they say we are in the midst of the 6th great mass extinction. And again, it’s one of those things that is creeping up on us and doesn’t make the news but it’s happening, and it’s kind of an urgent situation really.

Matthew:  Exactly, exactly … irksome.

Rick:  Let’s do a … oh, go ahead, you were going to say something?

Matthew:  I was just going to say, why doesn’t it make the news? You see where our … you know, Pope Francis, in his brilliant encyclical on the environment – Laudato si – which by the way I’m happy to say was written, essentially, by one of my students – a parishon priest, Irish missionary in the Philippines, who came to our master’s program in Creation Spirituality, and went back and wrote a series of small books on ecology and spirituality Because the Philippines are very alert to ecological issues. You know, they used to have the greatest amount of coral reef in the world, and now, 95% of it is dead. It’s really sad. I remember, I went swimming one day and I went down, and I saw it, it was like a cemetery of coral reef – all grey, ashen … used to be coral. But he wrote these books and the Pope plucked him out of the Philippines, took him to Rome, and he wrote the Pope’s encyclical. So, it’s interesting, as I say, I lived under two popes who called my work for 34 years, called my work “dangerous and deviant,” now this 3rd Pope, Francis, is plagiarizing my work, for which I am very grateful. So, I’ve lived a long life, but my point is: Pope Francis used the word ‘narcissism,’ it is a strong word – the more familiar word would be anthropocentrism – but he’s right, that our species has become so self-centered, so anthropocentric and narcissistic, that we are operating out of that, and I think that our media are a good example of that. And as has been said, you know, the forest, the Redwood trees, the oceans, do not have a vote at the United Nations, much less a vote in the Senate or Congress; we have to become that vote or really include them. But they also don’t have a vote in boardrooms of the media, and so forth, you know? So, who is really representing the bigger picture? Well, this is where spirituality comes in and should come in, so this is part of our conversation, for sure.

Rick:  Yeah, and at some point soon I want to get into a little bit of your history, but … we’ll get to it. So, since we’re on this point, as I understand the whole notion of the Cosmic Christ, it’s that which Christ actually was, wasn’t actually just a body that got crucified 2,000 years ago; what Christ was, from His inner perspective, I presume, is that Cosmic Intelligence which pervades everything, including us and which we essentially are. And you know, Christ said things such as, “Whatsoever you do even unto the least of these, you do unto Me,” and that would include all the things you just mentioned – oceans and forests and various kinds of animals. You know, we are, if we’re inflicting harm on those, we’re not only inflicting harm on what Christ essentially was, but we essentially are. In other words, we’re harming ourselves – “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Matthew:  Exactly, and as Jesus said, “Love others as you love yourself …”

Rick:  Because they are yourself.

Matthew:  Right, and of course, if we’re destroying our own air … I just heard in the news yesterday that in New Delhi – the biggest city, the capital city of India – that air they’re breathing there every day is equivalent to 44 cigarettes! Imagine that!

Rick:  Yep, I just …

Matthew:  Imagine babies, children, adolescents, and the adults – 44 cigarettes for every citizen in New Delhi. I mean, how much dumber do we have to get to, you know, kick some habits?

Rick:  Yeah. I just emailed a friend this morning who lives in New Delhi, he said he sent his children out of town to some relatives in the country because he doesn’t want them breathing it, but he has to stay and run his business, you know?

Matthew:  There you go, can’t breathe anymore! And that’s pretty basic … that’s why I talk about earth, air, fire, and water – it’s all in trouble today, you know? The air, there you go, it’s a perfect example; you can’t take it for granted anymore! And the water, of course, we have all these … you know, the pollution of water, the killing of .. I heard the other day from one scientist that by the year 2050 – that’s not that far away – there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Rick:  Mm-hmm, I’ve heard that.

Matthew:  Oh my God! That’s just unheard … blew the top of my head off. So, we can’t take water for granted, we can’t take fish for granted, and of course the whole issue is around fire, you know, how will we harness energy? We’ve been harnessing it, obviously, through fossil fuels, and it’s clear to anybody, except maybe our president, that this is a dangerous place to go. Now every country in the world, even Syria in the midst of a civil war, is on board for the climate change commitments of the Paris Agreement, but not our country. But actually, I think good things come out of that: so many grassroots groups and so many … over 3,000 cities and states are taking strong stands, standing with the Paris Accord, even though our Federal Government is now standing against it. But all this is about waking people up, and this is how you began this program. Yeah, spirituality is about waking up, and it’s waking up to the beauty and the health that we can easily take for granted, on the one hand, but it’s also waking up to our responsibility – to change our ways, to learn to let go, to learn to sacrifice, if you want to use that word, and to tap into the creativity that we are capable of as a species. And to do it out of love, not out of fear, not of stress, not out of demand, but out of the deepest capacity we have for communing with our ancestors, and with our descendants – those not yet born, and with one another, no matter what our race, ethnicity, tradition, religion or ideology. I mean, all that is on the horizon, I think, at this moment in human and planetary history. So, it’s a very great moment to be alive; everyone has to get on board.

Rick:  Relevant to the comment you just made, I want to say that I enjoyed an interview of you and Adam Bucko did together with someone, and Adam has been on this show. And Adam was saying how these days, kind of spiritual people are becoming activists, and vice versa, and that he felt that balance or integration is really needed in this day and age so that we don’t just … Well, it’s sort of what we were saying earlier about spirituality being something that’s infused into the culture and among the laypeople, not just something for the monks. It’s for people who are active in the world and actually … and worth making a general point, I think, that spirituality doesn’t just have “other worldly” benefits; it’s something that actually enhances your life and should make you more creative, more intelligent, more energetic, you know, more happy, and all sorts of things which are useful in raising families and running businesses, and whatever else you do.

Matthew:  I couldn’t agree more. Yes, I’m glad you had Adam Bucko on your program, he’s a wonderful …

Rick:  Yeah, he’s great.

Matthew:  Wonderful young man, great soul, and it gives me hope to meet a lot of young people like that, who are really feeling called today. As I said earlier, it’s like a new meaning of ‘vocation,’ and he’s a good example. As you know, he worked for15 years on the streets in New York with homeless young adults there and he did such wonderful work. And it’s very demanding, but he learned a lot from it. And yeah, he’s a good example of someone who knows what he’s talking about, and that whole idea that the contemplatives have to become active and the active have to become contemplative, that’s, I think, the moment in which we are living.

Rick:  Yeah. So, we still want to talk about Meister Eckhart and Thomas Merton, but I want to talk about you a little bit more first, so let’s switch gears and do that. One thing I read is that you, for some reason, reading War and Peace was a major impetus in your spiritual awakening – you may be the only person on the planet who can say that, I don’t know. But what was it about War and Peace that was such a kick in the pants for you?

Matthew:  Well I was between my junior and senior year of high school, and I remember telling a friend that it blew my soul wide open, and I didn’t know what had happened to me. Now today I would say that it was a mystical experience, but I didn’t have that language. But I wanted to pursue what happened to me, because I felt it was important to have had my soul blown wide open. So that had quite a lot to do with my vocation, and also earlier, when I was 12 years old I had polio and losing my legs, they couldn’t tell me if I would walk again – so for about a year I didn’t know if I would ever walk again, and that was interesting. And that also, I think was … sowed some seeds for my calling, because my father actually had been a football coach in Wisconsin and my older brothers were all State football players, and I figured that’s what I was going to be, and then all of a sudden, I couldn’t walk. So, it was learning not to take for granted. And I remember when I got my legs back, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to the Universe and I said, “I’ll not take my legs for granted again.” And for me, that’s my definition of mysticism: not to take for granted. Like we were talking about earlier, not to take air and water for granted, and the beauty of the planet and our health. So those are two quite notable moments in my childhood, if you will. But regarding Tolstoy, you know Gandhi, he … he got to Jesus through Tolstoy, yeah. So that’s … so Tolstoy has had effect on people, but you know, there’s a great book done on him years ago and there’s a great line in that book that says – about his book War and Peace, which is the book that I had read – and the commentator said, “If like could speak thus, life would speak.” So, in other words War and Peace… and that’s what I felt: it gathered all of life, it was all in there. That’s what a novelist does, you know, they tell us what … they shed light on life, which is something we could take for granted too! Because it happens to us every day and piecemeal, so we don’t get the big picture, whereas I felt, I think, at that age – I was what about 15 – that I was getting the big picture about what life was all about.

Rick:  Nice.

Matthew:  And of course, since then, of course in the work I’ve done on the mystics and so forth and examining my own experience, like in my first book was a book on prayer; what is Prayer? And I define it as a radical response to life. But I’ve also found that many mystics have talked about ‘God as life’ – Howard Thurman talks about ‘God as life,’ Thomas Aquinas says, “God is life”, Hildegard of Bingen says, “God is life.” So that’s one of the synonyms, one of the names that we ascribe to God – to Divinity – and I think it still carries a punch.

Rick:  So, then you became a priest, and you were a Dominican priest for what, 30 years, or some long time?

Matthew:  I was a Dominican … I joined the Dominican Order and this because I attended a public high school and my friends were either Jewish or Gnostic or Protestant – we often had these philosophical debates. And I’d go to my parish priest who was a Dominican and he’d feed me books by G.K. Chesterton and Aquinas and stuff, so I liked that intellectual side to the tradition … to the Dominican tradition. That’s one reason why I tried the Dominicans. So, I was with them for 34 years, and then I was silenced for a year about my thirty first years as a Dominican – silenced for a year by Cardinal Ratzinger, the head of the organization under Pope John II. And then a few years later he expelled me from the Dominican Order, and yeah. And then as you mentioned, I met up with these young Anglicans from England actually, who were doing rave masses, and I really thought that was important. I asked them how I could help, and they said, “If you became an Episcopal priest, you could run interference, because most people don’t get what we’re doing but you do.” So, I thought about it, and since the Pope had fired me I figured, well… So, I went to the Episcopal Bishop of San Francisco and said, “Here’s what I want to do, I want to become an Episcopal priest, but only to work with the young people to reinvent forms of worship.” And he gave me the green light – that was Bishop Swing. And so, I became an Episcopal priest and into that. And to remain within a Christian community; I did not want to be isolated and I wanted to continue my work as a theologian. And so that seemed like … well, they offered me “religious asylum,” as I put it, and I took it, so I’m grateful to the Episcopal Church for that.

Rick:  Yeah. It’s interesting the reasons you got kicked out, and I have them here if you want me to read them quickly … that you were accused of being a feminist theologian, you called God “Mother,” you called God “Child,” you preferred “original blessing” to “original sin,” you did not condemn homosexuals, you preferred the four paths to the traditional three paths – purgation, elimination, and union – and perhaps we can touch upon what the four paths are. And, horror of horrors, you worked too closely with Native Americans!

Irene: [in the background] … sounds like a great guy!  

Rick:  My wife says, “Sounds like a great guy.”

Matthew:  Well I think it’s kind of a Rorschach test about where the Vatican was at 34 years ago. It doesn’t say anything about Divinity, but it says a lot about the Vatican, under those two previous Popes.

Rick:  Yeah, and all this comes back to something that I think might tie us into the discussion of creation and spirituality, and that to me is this whole notion of placing such emphasis on what a person thinks and believes, as opposed to what they actually experience. And it seems to me that if we were to talk to Jesus or sit in on one of His things – sermons – the emphasis would not be, “Hey, believe what I say;” it would be, “I would like you to experience what I’m experiencing.” I don’t know if we can find any passages in which He puts it that way, but I bet you that was His intention and it probably got distorted through various translations.

Matthew:  Yeah, absolutely.

Rick:  Yeah, what difference does it make if you believe what they believe? It doesn’t’ do you any good unless you actually experience what they were experiencing.

Matthew:  Exactly, and I think the key of this may be the word ‘trust.’ In the Gospels, we mistranslated the word for ‘trust’ often as ‘faith.’ So, on numerous occasions Jesus heals someone and He says, “Go, your ‘blank’ has saved you … has healed you,” and the ‘blank,’ we’ve translated as faith, but the real meaning of the word is, trust. And trust is not something that is done vicariously, you know, you learn to trust. It’s like the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that God is good,” but you can’t taste for me, I can’t taste for you. I can bring you to the beauty and say, “Taste,” but I can’t make you do it for you; you have got to do the tasting, and we’ve got to do the trusting. So, you’re absolutely right, we built this mountain of faith doctrines, and substituted that, and then we built a religion around it – we substituted that for the experience! Jesus obviously was experiencing things, and notice, His avenue of teaching was telling parables. What is a parable? You know, it’s a story that invites people in, like any story invites people in. and it’s not about rules, it doesn’t set up a moral list of commandments around the stories; He just tells you a story and walks away, and you’re left with figuring it out and putting yourself into the story! And that’s utterly participatory, which is what you’re talking about: experience. So that to me is the difference between spirituality and religion: spirituality begins with the experience – taste and see that God is good, whereas religion, so often, begins with doctrines, and dogmas, and building, and titles, and hierarchy, and all the rest. And that is why it can so easily topple over or go corrupt, and it has to be continually renewed – semper reformanda – always reformed. And you know, Buddha was trying to renew the Hindu movement of his day, Jesus was trying to renew the Judaism of His day, Martin Luther was trying to renew the Christianity of his day, and they all ended up leaving their religions, at least those who followed them did. Again, to use Jesus’s image, they couldn’t fit the new wine into the old wineskin. But in fact, a lot of the new wine is ancient wine, that is to say, it’s human wisdom to put compassion forward instead of just revenge, and getting even, and reptilian brain dominance, for example. So really, I think that yeah, we have to do the experiencing; that is how you renew religion. This is why Cark Jung says, that only the mystics bring what is creative to religion itself! So, mysticism is about experience, it’s about tasting. And whether it’s tasting the beauty of life, the joy and the wonder, but also the grief, the loss, the darkness … going into the dark, the dark night of the soul, which I think we’re in as a collective today, as a species – the dark night of our species – what we’ve been talking about. Global warming and all the rest, that’s dark stuff, because you don’t know how it’s going to end. But this is what the mystics teach East and West, that in this time of darkness you just stick around because there’s something to learn from this. Hafiz, the great Sufi mystic says, “Sometimes God wants to do us a great favor, turn us upside down and shake all the nonsense out. But most everyone I know, when they find God is in such a playful, drunken mood,” he says, “quickly pack their bags and hightail it out of town.” So, the first response to struggle and darkness is to get out of town, but the mystic, the warrior in us sticks around to learn what’s for real, and what we’re going to learn from this shake-up. So, I think that’s where we’re at as a species today.

Rick:  Yeah. This whole trust … or faith versus experience thing, an analogy or a metaphor I often use is that, you can starve to death standing on the sidewalk reading a restaurant menu. And you can believe in it, you can think it sounds great, and all that kind of stuff, but you’re starve unless you go in the restaurant and eat. And maybe trust helps here because if you’re trusting, you may say, “Well, I think this sounds like a good restaurant. I think I’ll go in and actually eat,” then the menu has value. But otherwise, if it’s just something you’re going to believe in, it’s not worth much.

Matthew:  Well that’s good, and that metaphor you give, that’s right down that other line about “taste and see.” You gotta taste the food too and check it out, yeah.

Rick:  So, tell us, what is “Creation Spirituality?” That seems to be central to your whole thing.

Matthew:  Well it is, and it is the exact mirror opposite of fundamentalism. The Creation Tradition first of all, it begins not with sin, because sin is a human thing. So, sin is about 150,000 years old, but Creation is 13.8 billion years old, so why wouldn’t we want to begin at the beginning? And it’s a blessing. It begins there as an original blessing, not an original sin. And of course, ‘blessing’ is a theological word for ‘goodness.’ And we can see goodness in the 13.8 billion years of the universe, that among other accomplishments has given birth to our solar system, our galaxy, our home –the earth, and all this beauty on the earth, and even ourselves and all the other beings. They are all blessings, it’s a good thing to be here, I think; it’s a special thing. And so, the Creation Tradition begins with original blessing, not original sin, it is the oldest tradition in the Bible. The first author in the Bible – Genesis – is the J Source, and that source is about how the earth is good, and very good. The story about Adam and Eve and all that, which by the way is not about original sin but about the fall, but not about original sin. No Jew believes in original sin, no Jew ever has. Jesus never heard of original sin, no Jew has ever heard of original sin! I think Wiesel said, “The idea of original sin is alien to Jewish thinking! Not only is it not in the Jewish Bible, it is alien to Jewish thinking! Duh!! And Jesus was a Jew, so what is this? Fourth Century A.D., St. Augustine is the first one to use the term “original sin,” and that was at the time when Christianity inherited the Roman Empire. And if you’re going to run an empire, original sin is a great idea because it gets everybody in line, and it gets everybody to sign up for killing people in the name of the Empire, but it is not Christianity, it’s not what Christ was about. The Creation Spiritual Tradition comes from the prophetic tradition, but also from the wisdom tradition. And all scholars today agree that Jesus, historical Jesus, comes from the wisdom tradition of Israel. The wisdom tradition is not book-based, it’s nature-based. There are many scholars who say that in His time, Jesus was considered illegitimate in His village, so He was not allowed in the synagogue on the Sabbath, so while others went to the synagogue to pray on the Sabbath, Jesus went into nature to pray. And you see it in all of His teachings; all of His parables are about how nature works. So obviously He spent a lot of time in nature, and that was before His adolescence, when He spent time in the desert with the wild man, John the Baptist, and He lived among the lions, which there were plenty of lions in the Israeli desert at that time. But Jesus grew up in Galilee, which is the … I like to say, “the Wisconsin,” or we can say “the Iowa of Israel, because it’s the green part; it is the farming part. And so, He had this very close relationship to nature, and the whole wisdom tradition is about that: finding Divinity and wisdom in nature itself. But this tradition is feminist because feminism is – Sophia: wisdom, hek-mah – is feminine, and wisdom looks at the big picture. So, in the Wisdom Books of the Bible, we’re told that Wisdom was with God before the creation of the world but delighted to be with the sons and daughters of the human race. So, there’s a sense of delight, awe, wonder, creativity, and even Eros, in the Biblical picture of Wisdom that Jesus imbibed. And then historically, our greatest mystics – Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Nicholas of Cusa – all these people … and Francis of Assisi, clearly were creation-centered in their spirituality. That is to say, they were not anthropocentric; they found God in all of nature. Aquinas says, “Revelation comes in two volumes: The Bible and Nature.” And that is why Aquinas was so interested in Aristotle, because in the 13th Century, when Aquinas lived, Aristotle was just being translated by [AUDIO CUTS at 54;45 for 45 seconds] … because a big explosion in science … a part of Christianity because he said, “A mistake about creation is also a mistake about God.” So, we have to listen to science. And scientists and that truth is just as alive today, more alive today maybe than it was in the 13th Century. And the opposition, the fundamentalists, not only of religion but of politics, are uttering the same shibboleth in our time. So, Creation Spirituality is feminist and seeks a balance of the masculine and feminine, as we’ve talked about already, and it’s about creativity. That it’s not just that Creation is continually being born, but also, humans are invited to be co-creators. We are part of the work of the Holy Spirit of creation, like Aquinas says, “The same Spirit that hovered over creation at the beginning, hovers over the mind of the artist at work.” That’s a beautiful, beautiful thought, that the Artist of the universe itself is still at work, and through us! We are part of that co-creation and part of the work – that’s the work of us in alignment with Holy Spirit. So, this tradition is prophetic, this is why we haven’t heard about it. When Christianity was running the Empire, as I said, that’s when fall of redemption or dualistic fundamentalist religion took over. And you had these movements that tried to break through – the Celtic tradition, for example. And Hildegard, though she was German, comes out of a Celtic monastery in Germany, and she very much imbibed that sense of the sacredness of creation; the Cosmic Christ of creation, not just the Christ in the historical Jesus. There’s a Christ in all beings, this is the basis of Cosmic Christ teaching: that all beings are other Christs. And this is not heresy, this is not New Age 20th Century thought; this is found in the earliest sources of Christianity. It’s found in the Epistles of Paul, who is the first writer in the Christian Bible, and in the Gospel of Thomas, which is earlier than any of the Four Gospels are. The Cosmic Christ. In the Gospel of Thomas, it says, “Split a log and I am there, lift up a rock and I am there.” Those “I AM” sayings are the Cosmic Christ sayings. It is the Divinity in all things. So, this in a nutshell is what Creation Spirituality is about, and these great mystics have tried to live it, and many of them were condemned or on the fringes, because it does not fit well into a well-organized system of Church polity.

Rick:  So, does it say – I presume you just quoted the Gnostic Bibles when you mentioned Thomas, and perhaps even – whatever you call them, the “official Gospels – does it say someplace that God is omnipresent? Is that what we mean by the “Cosmic Christ?” Because if so, then how could sin be our core or our essence, because God has got to be our core or essence, if He is really omnipresent?

Matthew:  Well exactly! Sin is not our core or essence. Sin is choices that we make. Sin is choices that we make.

Rick:  Yeah, missing the mark.

Matthew:  But the Cosmic Christ is present in all the Gospels, for example, the book you have up there about the Stations of the Cosmic Christ – all the great stories … there you go … In the Christian tradition, for example, in John 1 it says the “Christ is a light in all things,” well now science tells us that there are photons in every atom in the universe. Well, a photon is a light wave, so there you have it – that’s the Christ in all things. And it’s a blessing, it’s a good thing to have light in all things. But also, for example, the Birth narratives – the Nativity – this is set in a Cosmic context, because you have the stories of the star that the Maggi followed – that’s cosmic, or the animals that were present at the manger – that’s cosmic … the four-legged ones were there. The shepherds who were there and were the first to hear the news from the angels, and of course the angels are cosmic beings. It’s just filled, it’s flooded with cosmic imagery. And then you go to the Baptism, which the opening of Mark’s Gospel – which is the oldest of the Four Gospels – Mark 1, where we’re told that the sky opened up when Jesus was baptized, and a voice said, “Here My Beloved.” And then the Transfiguration experience, where Jesus took three Disciples to the top of the mountain and they experienced the radiance that was in Him and is in all of us! So, you can go through all the great events: The Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost – all is set in a Cosmic context. But our narcissism, our anthropocentrism of religion, have reduced this to, “Oh, I am saved, and of course you aren’t,” and “I am a sinner,” and all this – is just totally missed the point! Totally missed the point of the revelation, the insight that Jesus was really trying to unleash. And you already quoted it, and that was fabulous – Matthew 25: “If you do it to the least, you do it to Me.” Now that’s an interesting passage, because that is historical Jesus telling a story about the Cosmic Christ, which is rare. The Cosmic Christ really came to the fore after Jesus died, and they started writing up what had happened to them as a result of His presence and teaching. But here we have the historical Jesus saying, “I’m not just Jesus! Neither are you, just you. We are one in other. We are especially one in other when we meet people who are suffering. So, the hungry – you do it to Me, the naked – you clothe Me, the prisoner – you visit Me, and so forth. That’s the essence of Jesus’s teaching – Matthew 25 – and it is Cosmic Christ teaching, that we all are the Christ. And that means that we not only carry the light and the awesome beauty of Divinity in us, but also, we carry the wounds; the Christ is wounded. The Christ is not only full of light, but it also has wounds. And that’s an important contribution I think, of the Christian story, that Divinity gets wounded when It enters history, too. And so, we share one another’s wounds and we share one another’s glory, and it is that combination that is the Cosmic Christ.

Rick:  One thing I find very helpful is that if you just think about what science has told us about the way things work … anything, pick anything. I mean, pick a single cell, it’s more complex than the city of Tokyo, and we really don’t understand a heck of a lot about it … we understand a lot, but boy, we know less than … you know what I’m saying? And we have a 100 trillion of them in our bodies. And they’re all perfectly orchestrated and coordinated with one another, and that’s just our body. Take another example, in a single gram of hydrogen, if you took all the atoms and made them to size of uncooked popcorn kernels, they would bury the continental United States 9 miles deep. And every single one of those little atoms is a perfectly orchestrated little thing, and completely coordinated with all the other ones in that gram of hydrogen. And on and on, you can take this out to any extent you want, throughout the entire universe. So, there’s this immense, vast, incomprehensible intelligence functioning in every little iota of creation. That, to me, is like God hiding in plain sight. I mean … so talk about Cosmic Christ, I mean, it’s just … and I think “awe” is one of the first step in a four-step process, that you’ll probably talk about in a minute. That to me is awe-inspiring, just the … and I can’t forget it as I walk down the street, or do anything, I’m thinking, “Well, what am I actually looking at here?” and the sort of immensity of intelligence that is in every little particle in so-called “ordinary, everyday” reality.

Matthew:  Well, that’s just beautiful what you offered there, and those examples are stunning and absolutely real. It’s good science and it’s good poetry, you know? And again, it’s learning not to take for granted, isn’t it, that this is the kind of world we’re living in. And it’s all marvelous, you know, Einstein was once pushed by a fundamentalist preacher … “You don’t believe in miracles! You don’t believe in miracles,” and Einstein said, “I beg your pardon,” he said, “I believe in marvels every day. I believe in the marvels that Leibniz and Spinoza have uncovered,” and he went on and on. But he brought the real meaning of ‘miracle’ back, and that is: to marvel. And you’ve brought that forward, see, that we can marvel at the wonders of our bodies, and the wonders of this earth, and the wonders … and now, of course, we know the universe is 2 trillion galaxies big, which is, well, marvelous. It’s astonishing, it takes your breath away to know that. You know, one scientist said is, “What that means is that because each universe contains hundreds of billions of stars …”

Rick:  Each galaxy.

Matthew:  He said, “It means that there are more stars in the universe now, that we know, then there are sands of grain on all the beaches on the planet!” And a star is a really big thing, a star is like our sun, after all.

Rick:  It is.

Matthew:  So, you know, that too is pretty darn marvelous. So, you can go from the microcosm, as you did – talking about the cell, to the macrocosm, and everything … it’s all interconnected. And of course, that’s the basis of what compassion means, compassion is simply responding to interconnectivity. When Jesus says, “I am not just Me, I’m you – I am you suffering, I am you naked, I am you hungry,” that’s interconnectivity. So that’s … physics will now give me optimism. Physics has now returned to the mystical awareness of the interconnectivity of all things, so you got those two things together, science and mysticism, and clearly, this is a basis for compassion. So, we could – it’s not at all clear that we will – but we could move into this new path, which is the path of compassion. And that’s a heart, like the Dalai Lama says, “We can do away with all religion, but we can’t do away with compassion. Compassion is my religion” – he says. Well Jesus in Luke 6 says, “Be compassionate like your Creator in Heaven is compassionate,” so all the traditions are calling us to compassion. Compassion in the Jewish tradition is the “secret” name for God, and Jesus let the secret out of the bag. And then in the Quran, by far, the most common adjective applied to Allah is, “Allah the compassionate One.” So here, this is grounds for optimism, or at least for hope, that science and healthy religion can agree on interdependence, therefore our behavior mirroring that, as compassion – “Do it to the least, you do it to Me.” And that would be a whole new ethic for our species to live by. Unfortunately, it is still new.

Rick:  Yeah. Speaking of ethic, I just gave a talk at the SAND Conference this year about Ethics of Enlightenment, and one point I brought up is that compassion and you know, altruistic behavior should, it seems to me, be natural consequences of genuine spiritual attainment. And if one is seeing behavior to the contrary, then we might question the attainment of the person who is behaving that way. I don’t know, do you have any comments on that before we go on?

Matthew:  Well I certainly do, and of course, I always push my Buddhist friends to define ‘enlightenment’ for me, because I define it as compassion, and some of them do…

Rick:  Well that’s a symptom of it, at least, hopefully.

Matthew:  Well, maybe a symptom, but I kind of think that’s really what it means, because compassion is the way of seeing the world and being in the world, and also seeing Divinity and being in the presence of Divinity, but it is also an action. And so, I like to push people on that. I think it’s an important question: is enlightenment and compassion really the same thing? And for the very reason you just gave … and it’s like Jesus, who said, “You’ll know them by their fruits!” So, it’s not to go around saying, “I’m enlightened, I’m enlightened,” well, what are the fruits of this? For example, a lot of these gurus who have had their breakthroughs and their satoris and they think they’re enlightened, but you know, what do they do with the money they make? I think that’s a very valid question. Driving in around in Rolls Royce’s or something, are you kidding me?! To me that’s not compassion. And then of course we’ve heard there’s been plenty of revelations of sexual predatory behavior in religious groups – not just your pedophile priest scandals, but also in a lot of these ashrams as well. And so, you know, I think it’s always good to put humility first and to realize that whatever we are, or are not, we are just a channel for Grace bigger than ourselves. But the evidence of Grace being present is, I think, our compassion.

Rick:  Yeah. When you speak of compassion though, what comes to my mind is kind of a cart and horse situation where for instance, when Christ was being nailed to the Cross He said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do,” so what He was saying is, “These guys can’t help it because they don’t have the capacity to be compassionate, they haven’t been given the opportunity to develop that.” And it seems to me that, you know, getting into the sort of mystical experience of oneness that we’ve been talking about, will provide the foundation for the appreciation of the unity of all things, in which case you couldn’t possibly nail nails into somebody’s wrist because you would be nailing them into your own, or you couldn’t possibly spoil the environment because you’d be polluting your own body, and so on. So, it’s kind of like, again, cart and horse – you can’t just cajole somebody into being compassionate; you have to give them the opportunity to develop some inner capacity, based upon which compassion will be a spontaneous flow, don’t you think?

Matthew:  Well I agree, and even that’s compassionate – to instruct people and to help them out of their ignorance, to assist them out of their ignorance. And you know, I think it’s the Hindu tradition that says, “Really, all sin is born of ignorance.”

Rick:  Yeah.

Matthew:  But ignorance, you know, sometimes we choose ignorance, that’s what denial is, and we have to be careful. All ignorance is not innocent, and I’ll give you a story about that because we were talking about climate change. A year and a half ago, it was January of 2016 – it was during the presidential primaries – I was invited to be part of the Conference on Climate Change and Seas Rising in Florida! And it was a weekend thing and it began with a scientist who got up and showed slides of Florida today, slides of Florida ten years from today – chop, twenty years from today – chop, chop, thirty years from today – chop, chop, chop. You know, the lesson I received was: don’t by land in Florida.

Rick:  Yeah, really.

Matthew:  Or invest in dinghies or rubber boots. But anyway, at that time, there were three major politicians in Florida: two senators … one senator, an ex-governor running for president, and a sitting governor, all three of whom were in denial about climate change.

Rick:  Right, Rubio and Scott, as I recall.

Matthew:  Exactly, Scott and Marco Rubio, and Bush. And I visited South Miami and there were six inches of water on the sidewalks! So, and then this Conference where the scientist is telling us what’s happening to Florida because of climate change. So, the power of denial – that’s willful ignorance. Thomas Aquinas has something very powerful to say about that, he says, “People who choose to be ignorant about something that’s important are committing a mortal sin,” meaning, there is something deadly – it’s a deadly virus for their own souls and for others. And so, we can’t just let ignorance off the hook. Sometimes it’s involuntary, but sometimes it’s voluntary. People choose denial. And then Meister Eckhart says, “God is the denial of denial,” and I really like that.

Rick:  Acceptance then … it means acceptance.

Matthew:  Well Divinity is absent because there’s no truth!

Rick:  Right.

Matthew:  And Divinity, by any standard, is about truth. So, on the one hand, we can forgive one another for ignorance, but on the other hand, we have to challenge one another: is our ignorance purposeful? Is it deliberate? And I think a lot of denial is deliberate ignorance, and that’s happening on a big scale in our time today and it has to be addressed.

Rick:  Well I think a lot of these guys actually know that there’s a problem, but the guys who give them money to run for office and so on, want them to say a certain thing, so they say it because they want to be in office.

Matthew:  Exactly, exactly. So, what’s that? Isn’t that selling your soul?

Rick:  It really is. It’s also condemning … it’s “Committing,” as Michael Dowd likes to say, “intergenerational genocide,” because you’re condemning untold numbers of people to death, essentially, by your actions.

Matthew:  Exactly. Well that’s right, and equal side, is killing mother earth, which is the Cosmic Christ. You see, to me, it is crucifying the Christ all over again, because if the Christ is in all things, then that means tearing down a rainforest is crucifying the Christ or destroying – as you started earlier when we began – the species extinction. Christ is the elephants, Christ is the tigers that are disappearing, the polar bears that are disappearing. So, it’s the crucifixion all over again, in the name of the Empire again – not the Roman Empire, but a new Empire. As you say, the decision-makers and the big corporations and what not, that are choosing to be ignorant, even though when we find their documents, for example, Exxon, we learned, was talking about climate change like what, 30 years ago!

Rick:  Yeah, back in the 80s.

Matthew:  Back in the 80s, and yet all their public positions were, like a lot of politicians still, “What? Me worry? Me worry?” So, you know … the human race is a piece of work. You know, we’re so brilliant, that we can convince ourselves after a while, and certainly go out and try to convince others, of our chosen ignorance.

Rick:  Okay, now you’ve alluded to Meister Eckhart a few times and we want to keep talking about him, bringing him into the conversation. You’ve also … well, you haven’t really alluded much to Matthew … no, you’re Matthew Fox! … to Thomas Merton, but I think we want to talk about him a little bit too. I guess he was one of … he got on the Creation Spirituality bandwagon. In your book you talk about the “four paths of Creation Spirituality,” which you will articulate better than I, so maybe you could … would you like to talk about that now? Would that be a useful thing?

Matthew:  Sure.

Rick:  Okay.

Matthew:  Basically, the real skeleton or structure behind Creation Spirituality would be asking the question: what is the spiritual journey that we all make? And we name it this way: the via positiva, which is the path of awe and wonder, joy and delight. We talked about that earlier -taste and see that life is good. The via negativa has two aspects to it: one is silence, letting go of images, meditation – it’s to make the Buddhist element, although contemplation is found in all traditions – the Jewish tradition says, “Be still and learn that I am God.” (Psalm 46:1) – so it is about that stillness, that emptying. But the via negativa is also about suffering, and how we deal with suffering and loss and grief. And we talked earlier about the dark night of the soul, for example, when you come to a place where you can only feel the darkness around you. I think our culture does a very bad job here. I think, for example, we presume that all depression is psychological, and a pill will handle things, or all pain even can be handled by a pill, that’s where a lot of this opioid epidemic is happening, and so forth. But the truth is that all spiritual traditions talk about the need to enter suffering – to enter it, not to just cut it off, but there’s something to be learned there. And I think that we clearly oversell external cures for what often is – not always, but often – is in fact a spiritual plummeting that we’re going into. The via negativa is about learning to let go, to let be. Then the via creative comes next. That’s about creativity, and we’ve alluded to that; how the Holy Spirit Itself co-creates with us. You have to go through the emptying process of the via negativa before you really give birth, and that’s what the via creativa is about – it’s about birthing, and you develop it through art as meditation. The via negativa brings in meditation as an emptying process, but the via creativa is about meditation as a birthing process. And we could be approaching art and creativity from the point of view of meditation, not just from the point of view of producing an object. Then the fourth path is the via transformativa, that’s the path of justice and healing, of compassion – that we’ve talked about – and also celebration. This is a culmination of the other paths. In a way, we’re here to learn compassion, as you said, and think these four paths help us to learn compassion. First you have to fall in love with life – that’s the via positiva, then you have to learn to let go and let be – that’s the via negativa, then you learn to give birth … but to give birth to what? Because creativity in itself can be for good or evil! Coming up with gas ovens for the Holocaust, that took creativity, but it needed to be guided by the value of justice and compassion, which of course it was not. So, I think these four paths are very archetypal. I think they round out the fullness of our spiritual journey. But we’re always moving, so even the via transformativa is not the last word, because what you want to do is you lead more people, because of justice and healing, you lead more people into the via positiva – into the joy and the wonder, the awe and the gratitude for living. So, the whole cycle starts over again. So that’s how Creation Spirituality names the journey, and I think it’s … what can I say? I was in a dialogue with Robert Thurman the other day, the Buddhist scholar, and he said, “You know, I want to talk another time about how your four paths hold up to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism,” so I’m looking forward to that next dialogue we’re going to have on that subject.

Rick:  Hmm. In my most recent interview with him is the one I most recently put up on page – he and Isa Gucciardi.

Matthew:  Oh yes! You’re right! I was with both of them that day at a public event, at her Buddhist center in Berkley.

Rick:  Good. One thing that strikes me when I hear you describe these four paths, is that they might develop sequentially, or they might develop independent of one another and become out of balance, like you were saying, it took creativity to make the gas chambers. But ideally, and in my experience for the most part over the decades, they have sort of developed in sync, simultaneously. So, it’s not like these are separate paths that one would choose one or another according to one’s temperament; these are like four components of a holistic spiritual development.

Matthew:  Exactly, exactly, you put it very well. And for example, if you had a healthy parenting, as a child, and a healthy family, it’s very likely because they’re going to develop exactly in that order. But, if you’ve abused or something, then it may be the via negativa that comes forward first in your life. For example, too, with addicts for example, Father B. Griffith, the monk from India, used to say that some people do not experience spirit until they experience despair, that despair is a yoga. And you see that, I think, in a lot of AA people or other people involved in issues of addiction, that their bottoming out happens and then they begin to get their life together, or if you will, to experience Spirit or God or what have you, for the first time.

Rick:  Yeah, that happened to me actually. I mean, I was dropped out of high school, and I was getting arrested and doing drugs, and even heroin and stuff. And then finally, I was sitting reading a Zen book one day while on LSD and I thought, “You know, I’m really going nowhere” – and these guys that I was reading about were pretty serious “I think I better like take a hint and get on a more positive track.” So, I learned to meditate and so on, but anyway … and I have also interviewed people who say that for them, suffering was a huge awakening tool which they wouldn’t have signed for, but which came upon them and kind of put them through a catharsis that resulted in a major shift.

Matthew:  Sure, it woke them up. And also, when that’s your path, you become the wounded healer then, you know; compassion really rises because you’ve been there.

Rick:  Right, you can relate to every person.

Matthew:  And you know what the other person is going through. For example, in AA, where members support one another, well that’s really a big part of the journey, a big part of the healing. So that’s a beautiful story, that you share that with us. And of course, a lot of saints have had that kind of their experience, where they had their breakdown and with that a breakthrough experience. But again, I think it doesn’t hurt to put the … what can I say … the “healthier version” out there, so we can see one day what we were missing, what drives people into dark areas and so forth. But even it comes back to that, I mean, you obviously have found a lot of joy in the work you’re doing now, and in the work, you did in meditation and all the rest. So, you’ve tasted the via positiva too, but as you say, perhaps the cycle was a little bit … a little bit out of tune for a while.

Rick:  Yeah, I think different people have different karma, obviously, and …

Matthew:  Absolutely!

Rick:  And different things you have to go through, so, you know. And most people don’t have an easy ride, you know? I mean, you are a little unusual in that you were rather precocious, reading War & Peace at the age of 15 or something.

Matthew:  Well, I had parents who …

Rick:  Yeah, you probably grew up in a healthy environment.

Matthew:  And a unique family. But also, I lost my legs at 12, so that really was the first step … that was a loss. And in some ways, I separated from my father at 12 too, and I was looking for other versions of manhood. And I met this Dominican brother actually, he would visit me in the hospital. He was the opposite of my father – he was very contemplative. He was from New Orleans and spoke with this accent I’d never heard before in my life, very slowly. And it turned out he ended up becoming a Trappist monk. But he kind of introduced me, when I was in this rather vulnerable situation of losing my legs, to the contemplative world! And I was just fascinated and thought, “Ooh, there’s another way of being a man!” And so that was a part of my story too, but like you’re saying, none of us gets through life without wounds, and the question is what the wounds have to teach us.

Rick:  Right, and as Leonard Cohen said, “That’s where the light gets in, to prepare us a bit.”

Matthew:  Exactly. I like Lenny Cohen too.

Rick:  Yeah. Let’s talk about Merton a bit. You’ve written a couple of books about him, why is he so important to you that you’ve written a couple of books about him?

Matthew:  Well um, personally speaking, I did read him when I was a teenager – his Seven Story Mountain – his autobiography, and it influenced me. But what I liked most about it was the contemplative side that was just awakening in me, and of course this fellow had become a monk after being very much a playboy and a worldly kind of guy, as a young man, and he joined the monastery and he tells us that story there. But, in the early 60s I went to my Dominican Superiors – I was still in training then – and I said, “My generation is going to be less interested in religion and more interested in spirituality.” And I said, “You don’t have anyone teaching spirituality here, so you should send someone out for a doctorate in spirituality, and I’m happy to volunteer.” So, they came to me a while later and said, “Well good news, you can go to Europe to get a doctorate in spirituality.” And I said, “Great, well, where do I go?” They said, “Go to Spain.” I said, “Spain? We don’t need more 16th Century spirituality.” “Well,” they said, “go to Rome.” “Rome,” I said, “for spirituality? Are you kidding me?” “Well wise guy,” they said, “where do you think you should go?” I said, “I don’t know. Let me write Thomas Merton.” They thought I was crazy. So, I wrote Merton, and four days later I got a full-page letter saying, “Go to Paris.” So, I brought it to them and they said, “We never sent anyone to France who came home again, so you can’t go to Paris.” And I said, “But I have to! Merton says …” “No, no …” So, for three months we battled, I hit them over the head with Merton’s letter and finally they relented and said, “Okay, go to Paris. “And that’s when I went to the Institut Catholique and I met my mentor there, Pere Chenu, a wonderful 75-year-old French Dominican, who named the Creation Spiritual tradition for me, so it was really an important event for me, among other things that I learned there. And so, I thank Merton for it, as I say, all the trouble I’ve gotten in is because of Thomas Merton, because he sent me there. Merton was born in France, his parents were American – his American mother, and his New Zealand father, but they met at the Art Institute in Paris. They were both artists, fell in love, and he was born in South of France. And Merton really was an amazing figure. For me, he really was very intelligent and well-read, and come from this artist background he was very gifted in writing, and in many other art forms as well. But his conversion happened in 1958 and he joined the monastery in 1940. But he was a dualistic monk and writer until 1958, then he encountered Meister Eckhart through Suzuki, the great Zen Buddhist, who brought Zen to North America. Suzuki told Merton, “You should be reading the one Zen thinker in the West, which is Eckhart,” and Merton said, “But Eckhart has been condemned by the Church.” And Suzuki said, “Well I can’t help that.” So, to make a long story short, Merton started reading Eckhart and it utterly converted him. The last ten years of his life – 1958 to 1968 – Merton became a very prophetic Christian. He … it’s just what we were talking about earlier in this conversation … he moved from contemplation, which is kind of an isolated activity, into the world at large. And so, his last book was on two basic topics: one was inter-faith, so he was a real pioneer in Deep Ecumenism, or inter-faith. So, he was writing about Buddhism and Daoism and Sufism, and all that. And of course, his last journey was to Asia, where he met the Dalai Lama, among others, who was 33 at the time, and they really fell in love and appreciated each other profoundly. But the other aspect of Merton’s development and maturity was his stance on political and ecological issues. So, for example, when Rachel Carson’s book came out, Silent Spring, which people recognize as a launch into the environmental movement, she was immediately castigated by scientists. They said, “Oh, this is a crazy woman, she’s in love with trees and bunnies and birds, and she’s not a real scientist,” blah, blah, blah. In contrast, Merton immediately read it and wrote her a 4-page letter thanking her, saying that she explains why the birds have disappeared on the Monastery farm, and they are going to stop doing DDT because of her book and everything like that. So, he was right on the environmental movement like that. He was a complete cheerleader for Rachel Carson and the movement. And … so he was writing books against the Vietnam War, he was the first religious figure to come out against this, his friend Dr. King followed him. And by the way, when King was murdered in Memphis, originally, he was scheduled that weekend to do a retreat with Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh – the three of them together. And he called up Merton … King called Merton a few days before and said, “I’m sorry, I have to cancel. Can we do a raincheck? I have to march in Memphis.” And Merton comments on that, after the fact of course, and says, “How history might have changed if we had done our retreat instead of King had been murdered then.” But the truth is, I’ve come to a conclusion that Merton himself was murdered because of his stand on peace, in Bangkok, where he gave a talk to about 200 monks and nuns on Karl Marx and Monasticism, and three hours later he was dead. And I’ve talked to 3 CIA agents who were in South Asia at the time, over the last 30 years, and they’ve confirmed for me that he was murdered by our government.

Rick:  Yeah, and we’ve all heard the story about how he got electrocuted by a faulty fan … stepping out of the shower wet or something and touching a fan. But you are suggesting … I mean, how would that exactly happen? Would they have made the fan … rig the fan so that it would electrocute him?

Matthew:  Yes, the fan was definitely rigged because after they found his body, one person was shocked by touching the corpse. But you have to ask: first of all, he had arrived the day before, did he not turn on the fan that night, or in the morning, or even …?

Rick:  Maybe he wasn’t wet before, or something, I don’t know.

Matthew:  And would you step out of a shower soaking wet and plug a fan into the wall, in a third world country? Even though it was a brand-new building – it was a solid building – it makes no sense, because Merton was not an abstract fusser type-person – oh … he was very grounded and earthy. And his monks back at the ranch in the Monastery, when they hear that he died suddenly they said, “Oh, he was murdered,” because they knew he was getting threatening mail from the FBI. And they said that they were also listening to his phone conversations, which was against the law, even then, just like they were to King, at the time. So, it all adds up …

Rick:  It’s not a far-fetched notion, I mean, considering all the things the CIA

Matthew:  It’s not far-fetched, and especially since I’ve spoken to 3 agents! And I said to the first one, “Did you guys kill Merton?” and he said, “Well, I’ll neither affirm it nor deny it.” I said, “Well could you have?” and he said, “Piece of cake, there was no security at the retreat center.” The second one said – this is years later, and this is actually one of my students – and he said, “Well, at that time, we in the CIA were flooded with cash in Southeast Asia, with absolutely no accountability whatsoever. Any CI agent, one agent, who felt Merton was a threat to the country, could have had him done in with no questions asked.” And the third agent – ex-agent – I spoke to, was right after the book came out, a year ago. I said, “Did you guys kill Merton?” he said, “Yes. The last 40 years of my life,” he said, “I’ve been spending cleansing my soul from what I did as a young man working for the CIA in Southeast Asia, in the late 60s.”

Rick:  Wow … interesting.

Matthew:  Yeah. But Merton – to get back to the better picture, we were talking about mysticism, the Cosmic Christ – here is a great story about Merton: one day he had this mystical experience at noon in downtown Louisville – Louisville is a city that’s nearest his Monastery. And everyone was out for lunch, you know, a busy downtown. And he saw everyone … the light in everyone. And he wrote about it the next day in his journal and he said, “How is it possible to tell everyone they are all walking around shining like the sun?” That’s just a powerful statement about the Cosmic Christ. That’s exactly the transfiguration experience that is recorded with Jesus and His three friends at the top of the Mountain, but they saw Him, the light in Him coming out. Well Merton saw it coming out of everybody! Ordinary folks at noontime in downtown Louisville, of all places! So that’s a fine example of a Cosmic Christ experience recalled and written about by a bonafide mystic and prophet, namely, that was Merton.

Rick:  Sure, and I know people who have … who tend to see the world that way all the time; it’s not just a flashy experience on a street corner, but it’s their normal, everyday reality.

Matthew:  A-ha! Well, that’s the heart of the Cosmic Christ experience.

Rick:  I’m sure someone like Christ saw the world like that all the time too, yeah.

Matthew:  Yeah! And of course, the Buddhists have another name for it: the “Buddha nature.” I was lecturing in South Korea a couple of years ago and a Buddhist monk came up afterwards and said, “I never heard this term ‘Cosmic Christ.’ I really like it.” He said, “I’m going to go around now preaching about the ‘Cosmic Buddha.'”

Rick:  Good.

Matthew:  And now there’s been a major study by a Jewish Rabbi, David Snyderman, on the Image of God – ‘Salam,’ in Hebrew. And his question, it’s a real scholarly work, he goes through all the Jewish tradition, the Bible, the Midrash, the rabbinic teachings, those of Maimonides, Hasidism, all the way up to today asking one question: does the Image of God in Judaism apply only to the human, or does it apply to all beings? And he concludes: It applies to all beings. And this gives him, he says, a Jewish basis for an ecological theology, an eco-theology. But I pointed out to him that exactly what he talks about – “the pattern that connects” – well that’s exactly one of the phrases that Paul uses of the Cosmic Christ. So here we have three major traditions: Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, talking about the same reality, just a little bit different language. But you also have it, of course, in Hinduism – we’re the “primordial man, and you have it of course in indigenous theology too. So really, this is an archetypal way of seeing the world that we have to get back to. You know Einstein, I quote him in my Stations book – it’s just an amazing passage. He says, “We’re now entering the third phase of religion. The third phase of religion is a cosmic religion. We have to move religion beyond nationalism” – and of course he is speaking out of the Holocaust experience and the Second World War, which of course he was very disappointed by how little the churches stood up to Hitler, or how some individuals did in the churches, but as institutions, they didn’t do enough. And he says, “This cosmic religion must become the basis of all religion today, and this should become the basis of world peace.” He goes on and on, it’s just a brilliant piece, an amazing piece, but it’s really what we’re talking about – the sense of the Cosmic Christ, or the Buddha nature, or the Image of God that’s in all beings, as individuals, but also in the whole picture, in the macrocosm of the universe as well.

Rick:  Here’s something you’ll find amusing. I was emailing with my friend Dana Sawyer the other day – I don’t know if you know Dana … he’s a professor of Comparative Religions at Maine College of Art and he’s been on BATGAP, he helped me interview Robert Thurman a couple of years ago. And in any case, he says, “In two weeks I’ll be speaking at the American Academy of Religion Conference in Boston, defending the views of Huston Smith against his detractors, as scholars assess his legacy. This will mostly be a fight over whether or not the Academy will allow theories of reality that include metaphysical elements, so it will be a heated debate.” And the reason I find that amusing is that … gees, I mean, how can one actually comprehend reality without incorporating the metaphysical dimension, you know, because reality is not just what we see on the surface … even physics tells us that if you really want to know reality, go deep. So, the fact that the American Academy of Religion would have a problem with that seems like … I don’t know … strange to me.

Matthew:  It’s scary. But let me ask you, how would you define ‘metaphysics,’ or ‘metaphysical reality?’

Rick:  Well, I’ll do my best … maybe I would evoke physics itself and say that, you know, physics tells us that that what which appears physical is not. And so, to go beyond the perception of things as merely physical is to get into metaphysics, and to realize, more fundamentally, that the apparently physical universe is nonphysical, and it gets down to the level of it being consciousness. That if you want to really get to the ultimate substratum, consciousness itself is the foundation. And not only the foundation, but the actual substance of everything, it just appears … consciousness takes the form of apparent, physical, concrete reality, but it’s just nothing but consciousness, if you appreciate it properly. That’s my definition.

Matthew:  I like that, we could have a long conversation on that.

Rick:  We can do that right now. It doesn’t have to be long, but we can …

Matthew:  Well I think another dimension to that – just some more language for it – is about being, being and relationship. And I think of Lakota people when they pray [saying], “All our relations,” and then what we’re learning about “being,” about things, is ultimately their relationships more than things. And this, to me, is at the heart of metaphysics or the deeper meaning of physics, as you say. And, and then of course as you say, how relationships involve consciousness. Like Hildegard of Bingham in the 12th Century said, “There is no being that lacks an inner life.” What she means is very parallel to what you just said about consciousness. And Meister Eckhart in the 14th Century said, “Relation is the essence of everything, everything in the universe.” Now to me, this is 21st Century physics, but it’s also mystical intuition or awareness from not only his experience in the 14th Century, but from traditions around the world, including indigenous traditions. So, it’s really scary and appalling to hear that the American Academy of Religion is so afraid of going beyond religion as defined by sociological or institutional or doctrinal categories, and unwilling to go into the deeper metaphysic, if you will, or the deeper level of relationship of consciousness … of being itself. And this is what I love about the mystics, this is why I wanted to study them and be with them so much, my last 50 years of my life, because I found they are people who are willing to take that adventure, to explore what that … what those relationships are, what those experiences are – to use your earlier word. And then to see the science is kind of circling this, itself, today, is just wonderful! And to think that an academy like AAR is afraid of this, I don’t know, it just shows you where the Academy is at. I think education is part of the problem, to me, and not part of the solution, I really do, in great part. It’s stuck, I think, in modern consciousness, and the rest of us are trying to move into post-modern awareness.

Rick:  And on this note of relationships, coming back to consciousness, both in the Vedic tradition and I’ve heard, kind of a parallel explanation of this from quantum physicists, if consciousness – and physics wouldn’t use that term, but to speak in the more Eastern terms – if consciousness is the ultimate reality and the actual totality of what is, then what has it got to relate with other than itself? And so, on a sort of primordial level, consciousness self-interacts, and the self-interaction of consciousness sets up the sort of conditions where apparent diversity arises. And the whole universe is a sort of expression of the dynamism at the most fundamental level of creation that results from the continuous one and three interaction of consciousness with itself – the three being observer, observed, and the process of observation, which actually can’t exist if there’s really only one, but arise from the interaction of consciousness with itself. And there’s sort of an infinite frequency back and forth between this one and three, and one and three, and one and three, and this kind of gives rise to the whole explosion of creativity that we see as the universe.

Matthew:  Well, I like that. Now Thomas Aquinas uses interesting language for this and I like it. He says, “God is supremely conscious and therefore supremely joyful.”

Rick:  Hmm, nice.

Matthew:  And I just like that – the relationship between joy and consciousness. And then he says, “Sheer joy is God’s, and this demands companionship.” So, this is his way of talking about the purpose of the universe! The purpose of the universe is joy.

Rick:  Yes.

Matthew:  Joy of all beings. And he talks about all beings being joyful, and being friends to one another, and so on and so forth. And I just think it’s very fresh language, at least to most Westerners it is, but I do think it’s imperative that we bring joy and consciousness again into our conversation about reality, you know? I mean, duh! You know, this is what the modern age did, it just so narrowed the questions. And it hasn’t been a total loss, obviously we’ve learned a lot from modern consciousness and the modern science, but in this post-modern time we’ve got to open our minds again and bring in some of this pre-modern wisdom again. You see, Aquinas was a pre-modern thinker and so he thought in terms of the universe. For example, he says, “The most excellent thing in the universe is not the human; the most excellent thing in the universe is the universe itself.” And this comes very close to what you’re saying too, that consciousness is bouncing around the entire universe and we are a part of that, for sure. But again, that the joy is at the heart of things and at the heart of consciousness itself, and this is the context in which we find ourselves, or ought to find ourselves. And of course, that means we need to redo all of our work worlds, our professions, including education, to bring joy back, and with the consciousness. And so, you know, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, I think.

Rick:  Yeah. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to be fond of saying, “The expansion of happiness is the purpose of creation.”

Matthew:  Ho-ho, well that’s real close to …

Rick:  … Just what you were saying, or what Aquinas was saying.

Matthew:  Exactly.

Rick:  And of course, in the Eastern traditions they talk about “Ananda” or “bliss,” and sat-chit-ananda, or the existence-consciousness-bliss, being the sort of essential constituents of ultimate reality.

Matthew:  Exactly.

Rick:  Yeah, go ahead.

Matthew:  And Eckhart was really big on that. On being he says, “When it comes to being, we are equal to all the other creatures; we are not superior,” that we all have “being” in common. And I just like that pre-modern awareness, that we have to get back to being. And he also says that we should act out of our being – “Action should follow on being,” and you know, that’s just such good advice.

Rick:  Yeah, you know, the Bhagavad Gita actually says, “Established in being, perform action.”

Matthew:  There you go, right. And the Upanishads say, “There is joy in creating, and there is creating in joy.” So, the via creativa you see, that path is a path of joy, and our creativity is this great bliss, this great satisfaction and union and communion in our creativity. And we are all creative. This isn’t about artists that we put on pedestals, but there’s this creative passion in all of us. M.C. Richards, a potter who wrote the marvelous book Centering, which I think is really the Bible of artists’ meditation, she says, “There’s a creative being inside all of us and we must get out of its way, because it will give us no peace until we do.” I just love that. You know, the via creativa is about getting out of the way of the creative Spirit, so It can do Its thing with us, and there’s great joy in that, and there’s great peace in that. And the word you used … we’re part of a “dynamic,” a dynamic world of creativity. And if there is anything that distinguishes the post-Einsteinian universe from the modern consciousness, it is creativity – that this universe is still expanding and still giving birth, and recycling the death, all over the place, and we’re part of it! Lo and behold! And we as a species are very blessed with powers of creativity, but of course we have to choose them wisely and our education should be set up, I think, to put creativity first. This is my pedagogue that I have used over the decades now with adults, in my various programs in universities, but also, I used it with inner-city teenagers, because you know, that’s where the real crisis in education is showing. 64% of black boys in America are not graduating from high school today. Why is that? Well I’ve learned, it’s because they’re bored! Because they’re not being asked to be creative; they’re just having these exams dumped on them. And so, we have to get back to education itself as an incubation of bringing forward the wisdom that’s inside all the young people. Bring that out, and then you relate it to the adult accomplishments. You don’t begin with the adult accomplishments, you want to begin where the kids are.

Rick:  Yeah. You know, all this talk of joy and creativity and so on, when I consider this, I can’t help but think about what we were talking about earlier – the opioid epidemic, and not only that, but what you just said about education, how it’s so boring for kids, and then consider how many tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people who are on various kinds of tranquilizers and things that are supposed to sort of numb them down. And it seems like such a shame because – and of course I attempted to do that myself in my teens – but it seems like such a shame, because I think as you and I and many people listening have discovered, there is an inexhaustible reservoir of joy and happiness within us, and it’s just a matter of tapping that! And so many people who are on these drugs and so on, it’s like they are millionaires who are living – literally – living on the streets, – who have forgotten that they have this great bank account that they could access. I’m talking of course about the bank account of inner joy. And then we’re all wringing our hands about, “What are we going to do about the opioid epidemic,” and there just needs to be a sort of some kind of education means whereby the masses can be turned on to this inner reservoir, and then all these problems will be a thing of the past … it seems to me.

Matthew:  Well, there’s a lot to be said about that, for sure. I did this pilot project for two years with inner-city teenagers who were dropping out of school, and what we had them doing was making movies and murals, and math and poetry and dance. And 100%, at the end, said they wanted to stay in school now, and it’s because they experienced the joy of creativity, duh! And one day, an 18-year-old boy, senior, he turned to me and said, “It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been asked to express myself creatively in school.” First time in his life, after 4 years of high school …or in the middle of his fourth year in high school. So yeah, I think we’re dumbing down, on the one hand, our children, which is boring for them, but also, we’re not even asking them to come forward with what’s in them, with the wisdom that’s in them. And you know, ‘education’ comes from the Latin word ‘edu-tre’ – to lead out. So, it’s not about stuffing, it’s about leading out. Yates, the poet, Irish poet, said that, “Education is not about filling a pail, it’s about lighting a fire.” So, I think we need schools to light fires, and I call these “wisdom schools” instead of “knowledge factories.” Because you light the fire of learning, and first of all, people are happy, but also, they spend the rest of their lives learning then; the fire doesn’t go out, because you are happy! Truth, Aquinas says, “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice.” I just love that, that the heart yearns for truth, and the heart yearns for justice, so it shouldn’t be that hard lighting a fire because we’ve all got a heart. But you know, it’s like bad religion that piles up doctrine upon doctrine, and so we pile on stuff on stuff on stuff in education. It gets more and more expensive and everyone is unhappy. It’s not only the kids that are unhappy, the teachers are unhappy, the staff is unhappy, you know, it’s an unhappy place to be. Where’s the joy? So, you know, we could just be doing this so much more properly, but we do have to deal with the inner self and the kids. And so, there are different things like yoga and meditation practices, and so forth, and that’s very essential, you know, for clearing out some of the stuff … the residue that people come with and the stuff back home, and all that. We have to bring in what I call the “inner technologies from spiritual practices and traditions. And all this is doable and it’s doable in a very modest … at a very modest cost. Because we have these practices in our repertoire as human beings, but they’ve been, I think, excluded because we’ve been defining education in so rational a way for 100 or 150 years, that we have to bring that balance back too – what I call the “right brain and left-brain balance,” and what Einstein Himself called “intuition,” versus rationality. He said, “Do not over trust the intellect, it does not give you values. Values,” he said, “come from intuition.” He said, “The intellect will give you methods, but not values.” So, he said, “We need both, and they need to serve each other. The rational needs to serve the intuition.” So that’s what I opt for in the programs that I’ve designed, the pedagogue over the years, this is what we’ve done. And in our new school, The Fox Center for Creative Spirituality, out of Boulder, we’re doing this again, with a new leadership and everything, another generation is doing it, but um … I see results, and it’s amazing.

Rick:  Is that a high school or a college? What’s the age group of that school?

Matthew:  Well, it’s young adults and older, because they’re offering Master’s degrees, or Doctor of Ministry or Doctor of Spirituality degrees. Yeah, just opened this month … last month.

Rick:  Well good, great. Yeah, there are a number of initiatives like that. There was a woman named Cavalry Morgan at the SAND Conference, that presented this whole program that she’s doing in Portland, teaching mindfulness to kids in schools, and they’re getting marvelous results. You know, the kids are just flourishing and …

Matthew:  What age kids is she giving it to?

Rick:  High school.

Matthew:  High school, yep, great.

Rick:  I mean, you know, it’s preventing suicides, it’s keeping kids in school, and it’s growing like wild fire because it’s doing so well. And you know, there’s a bunch of programs like this. I just had lunch the other day with a couple of women who have an educational program in townships in South Africa and are having great results bringing kids off the street. Obviously, Adam Bucko has been dedicating himself to doing that kind of thing. So, you know, it’s not like we don’t have solutions, it’s just that we haven’t been applying them.

Matthew:  Exactly, exactly.

Rick:  And then when they want to cut budgets what do they cut? They start cutting the art, the music, the dance – all the creative stuff, you know, and it makes it even worse.

Matthew:  All the stuff that feeds the soul and heals the soul. Yeah, it’s crazy. But there you have politics and education linking up and coming up with bad results.

Rick:  Yeah. Well, so you and I can probably go on all day. I mean, I’ve got like 4 pages of notes here and every single point is something we could have a discussion, but I think we’ve given people a pretty good taste.

Matthew:  I think so, I’ve enjoyed it, a good vibe.

Rick:  Yeah, is there anything important that I haven’t thought to ask you or that you would like to say that just hasn’t come up, or anything?

Matthew:  Well, one project I’m involved in now, we just launched it this month, is a new order, a spiritual order, we’re calling it The Order of the Sacred Earth. And the directors – one is a woman, 28, and a man who is 33, so I work with these young people. But it is meant to be intergenerational, we just came out with a book called Order of the Sacred Earth: Intergenerational Love in Action, I think it’s called. And … but it is about to bring together all the spiritual traditions, so you don’t have to belong to any, or you could belong through a particular one and you don’t have to leave it. But the one vow that binds us together is that: I promise to be the best lover of mother earth, and the best defender of mother earth that I can be – and it’s the one vow. You can be from any lifestyle or any tradition, as I say, and Atheists are invited too. And it’s going to be self-organizing, like most of nature is. So, we’ll see how it develops, but we’re hoping to have different chapters or pods, as someone calls it, in different areas of the country and in the world. Our first ceremony is going to be Solstice, December 21st. Some of us are going to make vows and it will be livestreamed. And we’re going to do it in Berkley, actually at a Buddhist Center, the Buddhist Center from Ira, the woman that you interviewed with Robert Thurman.

Rick:  Isa, Isa Gucciardi.

Matthew:  Isa, yeah, yeah. And we hope there will be other groups around the country that are doing it in their locals as well. But my idea is this: when I look at religious history, religion often has a downturn. But every time there’s been a big downturn, there’s been an order that pops up, because orders are much swifter to respond than religions are, or churches. And so, we don’t have time today for a new religion or a new church, no. And some people left religion, organized religion, a lot of people have, but some people are still in. We can bring them together in this way too. So, an order that puts the sacredness of mother earth at the center, I think has a lot of potential. For example, a 26 people who heard about it, she said to me, “Oh my God,” she said, “my generation really needs this. We’re so dispersed by social media. We need a focus, we need a focus, and this would be perfect.” Well that’s what a vow is, it’s a focus, it’s a focusing device. So, I think that there is great potential in this, and I’m looking forward to see it happen, to see what happens with it. So, we have a webpage, , and I say, this book has just come out, although it’s not coming out publicly till the spring. It’s kind of out by private distribution at this time …

Rick:  Yeah, I’ve got it on the shelf back here.

Matthew:  What’s that?

Rick:  I said, I have it on the shelf behind me here if we can … there we go.

Matthew:  Oh, do you really? You’ve got a copy already! Wow.

Rick:  Get a sneak peek.

Matthew:  Thank you. Order of the Sacred Earth, good. So, they could go to my webpage, I guess, and find out more about this, or go to the webpage there. But that’s something I thought might be worth to throw in, it seems to fit a lot of what we’re talking about.

Rick:  Great!

Matthew:  And I think these new forms of education, forms of religion, that just travel much lighter, but in a more interfaith and ecumenical, and include science and action, and let’s give it a shot and see what we can do with it.

Rick:  Absolutely. Well I’ll link to these books and these websites and anything else you want me to link to from your page on , so if somebody happens to be listening to this while they’re driving or something, don’t have a wreck trying to jot down notes. Go to the website and you’ll find the links. Yeah, so thank you very much Matthew …

Matthew:  Thank you, Rick, for your time and your wisdom and this program. I think it’s a wonderful form by which to get important ideas out there, and I’m glad to be part of it.

Rick:  Well I love what you’re doing with your life and have been doing, and I love people who think outside the box and just … there’s an old Bengali saying which is that, “If no one comes on your call, then go ahead alone.” So, it seems like you’ve kind of guided your own destiny by that principle, in the sense that, “You know, whatever seems to be the best, that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t care what Cardinal Ratzinger thinks, or anybody else!” -you know? And you’ve produced a lot through that approach.

Matthew:  Well, thank you.

Rick:  Yeah. So, let me just make a couple of quick wrap-up points to those who have been listening or watching. This is, as you probably know, this is an ongoing series. And if you’d like to watch other ones, if you’d like to be notified of other ones, go to and sign up for the little email that we send out every time a new one gets posted. There’s an audio Podcast, as I just mentioned. You can listen while you’re commuting, or whatever. There’s a link for that on , and a number of other things, if you just explore the menus. So, thanks again Matthew, and hope to run into you again one of these days, at a SAND Conference, or someplace.

Matthew:  Thank you, thank you Rick, enjoyed it.

Rick:  Alright.

Matthew:  Bye.

Rick:  Bye now. {BATGAP theme music plays}