I return from a forty day journey to the desert. I was guided there by one of the most profoundly significant voices of our time, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox. The desert is the metaphorical one–not that one just north of my childhood home in Sub-Sahara Africa. On this journey to the desert with Matthew Fox and his newly published book on the great mystic Meister Eckhart, I leave behind a culture that is always busy going somewhere. For forty days, I choose instead the inward journey to the “nameless and unknown” place (p. 40) where the voices of mystics and prophets still speak divine wisdom when we are respectful enough to shut up and listen.
The outer world I leave behind for my inner journey has “too much God talk” (p. 47). With utter arrogance and great subversion of spiritual wisdom traditions, fundamentalism of all stripes and colors has created a mercenary culture. In the very desert places where mystics have sought divine presence throughout the ages, there is now a bloody battle between the western pseudo-Christian ‘religion’ of domination and oppression and the pseudo-Islamic ‘faith’ that will cruelly execute and kill in the name of Allah. Reverence has been replaced by exploitation. Holy imagination is lost in the face of the dualistic discourse of a self-centered world that categorizes human beings as winners vs. losers, us vs. them and terrorism vs. counterterrorism. The holy temple where God is the unspoken presence accessible to all, has been turned into a den of thieves pawning cheap merchandise disguised as competing religions and world-views.
The good news is that in our conflicted world, there is a deeper truth “living in the human soul” (p. 138). Deeper than the din and clatter of warring religions, there lies a “convergence of complimentary spiritual paths” (p. 218). There could be no finer guide than Matthew Fox to this place of interspirituality and “sharing of one another’s riches” (p. 162). Matthew Fox is an extraordinary facilitator of this desert journey.
Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for our Times is an invitation to all earth travelers weary of “business as usual…politics or economics as usual, and religion as usual” (p. 222). Matthew Fox issues a compelling invitation to “wake up and see and find the images and wisdom we carry inside us” (p. 272). In our culture, it is a revolutionary call to “overthrow the merchant mentality” (p. 279), to re-awaken the “experience of awe, reverence, and gratitude” (p. 276). The venue for this desert transformation is “the cave of the heart” (p. 273).
In the place of the heart we are never alone. The messenger changes throughout the ages and across the spiritual traditions, but The Message is eternal. With exquisite beauty and keen insight, Matthew Fox weaves together an extraordinary conversation that engages mystics and prophets from across the ages. I know of no modern day prophetic voice more qualified than that of Matthew Fox to be a convener of such a conversation. With great humbleness, he notes that “one who is out of touch with the mystic inside ought not to be translating the mystics or telling us about them” (p. 103).
Matthew Fox is deeply in touch with the mystic inside. He lives and breathes the prophetic voices that have echoed a message of hope across civilizations and cultures. Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for our Times is an indictment of religion gone wrong and a culture that has lost its way. At the same time, it is a message of great hope. The great gift of Matthew Fox’s work on Meister Eckhart is the reminder that we are not alone. “The ancestors, the communion of saints are with us, urging us on and offering their support” (p. 282). Matthew Fox acknowledges Meister Eckhart as his inspiration and dear brother. Indeed, Meister Eckhart “looms within our midst” (p. 282) thanks to Matthew Fox.
The work of Matthew Fox speaks to anyone troubled by the way we have defiled the sacredness of our relationships with both the earth and each other. Matthew Fox joins Meister Eckhart in calling us to “resacralize our existence on the earth” (p. 218). With the mystics and great teachers and prophets from across the ages, Matthew Fox calls us to choose life. What is life? For Meister Eckhart “God’s being is my life.” Matthew Fox dispels any illusion we may have that choosing life is simply about religiosity. Matthew Fox enjoins in the conversation Adrienne Rich, Carl Jung, Thomas Berry, Rumi, Hafiz, and the indigenous wisdom of Black Elk and a host of others who have spoken with deep wisdom and compelling voice.
My desert journey with Matthew Fox into wisdom literature has been life changing. As one who is a lover of words, Meister Eckhart challenges me to live from the place of being wordless and simply listening with reverence and awe to the divine presence that ever speaks from the sacred silence. As the rhetoric of religion grows silent, the still small voice still whispers peace.
Our culture, institutions, political, economic and religious structures desperately need this journey from self-righteousness and surety to nothingness. If we are to survive on this ever more fragile planet we must abandon the language of domination for the language of oneness. Matthew Fox articulates well the simple and profound truth that “hierarchy is untenable” (p. 83). Duality is equally untenable.
If we are Charlie Hebdo, we are equally the creators of the ghettos and the contexts that birth violent extremism. We are the dark shadow of ourselves that roams the desert in the form of ISIS. If we are now witnessing the cutting off of heads in the desert sands, it is surely, in part, because we have been too absent from the sacred desert cave of the heart. We must return to the empty cavernous spaces that are sacred places, whether it is the cave where the Prophet Mohamed received the revelation of the Holy Koran or the empty tomb that promises resurrection and life in the Christian faith, or the sacred womb of the divine feminine where life itself is birthed.
The Gospel of Matthew declares: “My house is meant to be a house of prayer and you have turned it into a den of thieves.” To rediscover that which is sacred, we must abandon a failed merchant mentality and create a world “where not only does justice matter but it is the norm” (p. 279). Let us join Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart and the deep wisdom of every major faith tradition in co-creating compassion instead of self-centeredness as the new social and spiritual paradigm. Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for our Times is a clarion call to do just that.
Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for our Times (New World Library, 2014) can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/Meister-Eckhart-Mystic-Warrior-Our-Times/dp/160868265X.