Creation Spirituality

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Creation Spirituality

Creation Spirituality (CS) is a theological movement that gained recognition and momentum in the 1980s and 1990s. Associated most widely with the work of former Dominican priest Matthew Fox, CS seeks to shift the emphasis of Christian life, belief, and practice from a focus on redemption to a focus on creation. In The Coming of the Cosmic Christ (1989) and Creation Spirituality (1990), Fox posits CS as a synthesis of wisdom drawn from indigenous cultures, mystical traditions of the West, world religions, scientific cosmological explanations of the universe, and the artist's creative ethos. CS also draws inspiration from movements in social justice, feminism, environmentalism, and process thought.

Often called a spirituality of earth and cosmos, CS views creation as primary revelation that is perpetually emerging. Fox asserts that this creation-centered consciousness can be sought and found in the oldest traditions of the Hebrew Bible and especially in the reflections of medieval Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart (c. 1260–1327), Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), Julian of Norwich (1342–c. 1415), and Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210–1280).

CS is also associated with the work of Passionist priest and cultural historian Thomas Berry. In both The Dream of the Earth (1988) and The Universe Story (1992), the latter work written with cosmological physicist Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry identifies contemporary environmental destruction as symptomatic of a culture that has ceased to have a "functional cosmology." A disciple of French Jesuit paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Berry contends that the Western philosophical split between (1) religion, (2) science and humanity, and (3) creation must be mended by recognizing the profound spiritual dimension of the fifteen-billion-year epic of cosmic evolution, or the "universe story." The Genesis story of Jewish and Christian traditions, argues Berry, has failed to provide modern humanity with a sense of communion and kinship with a universe that is alive, intrinsically sacred, intelligent, and still in the process of creation. On the other hand, he finds that Western science's evolutionary narrative, when told in a context detached from spirituality, fails to capture the intrinsic "mystery" and sacredness of the cosmic evolutionary process. Berry speaks of the need for a common creation story that understands the human not only as an intimate part of a sacred, evolving universe, but also as the being in whom the universe has become conscious of itself.

CS has inspired several outlets for spiritual practice and community that celebrate creation both in specialized ceremony and in everyday life. New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, also called the "Green Cathedral," has made creation-centered liturgies and worship a priority in its programming. In 1985 Dean James Parks Morton commissioned Grammy Award– winning "earth musician" Paul Winter to perform his first Earth Mass or Missa Gaia at the cathedral. Featuring a unique blend of musical styles including the voices of tundra wolves, whales, eagles, and harp seals, Winter's hymns include "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Return to Gaia." The cathedral's St. Francis Day Animal Blessing, ecological meditation trail, and living "earth shrine" also honor and celebrate creation.

In 1996 Matthew Fox founded the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California, where students pursuing their doctorates of ministry can use a ritual laboratory equipped with Internet and CDROM capabilities to produce "techno-masses" aimed at using technology in sacred ways that further bridge the rift between religion and science. CS publications include Creation Spirituality magazine and the Original Blessing Newsletter, both offshoots of Fox's Creation Spirituality Network (CSN). CSN also provides nationwide networking for those who wish to form discussion groups or promote the celebration of creation spirituality within local communities.

The Epic of Evolution Society, formed in 1997, similarly provides networking and support for discussion of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme's work and its translation into ritual expressions and everyday practice. One of Berry's primary disciples has been "earth activist" Dominican sister Miriam Therese MacGillis, who founded Genesis Farm, an organic farm and retreat center devoted to "living the universe story." MacGillis was the first to develop the practice of "Walking the Cosmic Path," a ritual in which individuals mystically go back in time to the "flaring forth" of the universe by walking through a spiral marked with major cosmic evolutionary events. Centers such as Genesis Farm, which actively integrate Berry's principles into spiritual life, proliferated in the late twentieth century and include Spiritearth in New York's Hudson River Valley, Crystal Spring in Massachusetts, Michaela Farm in Indiana, and a variety of ecological learning centers across the United State that are sponsored by Catholic nuns.


See alsoEcofeminism; Ecospirituality; Feminist Theology; Process Theology.

Bibliography

Bard, Sharon. "The New Story: An Interview with Miriam MacGillis." Creation Spirituality (Autumn 1994): 15–23.

Berry, Thomas. Befriending the Earth: A Theology of Reconciliation Between Humans and the Earth. 1991.

Berry, Thomas. Riverdale Papers, Riverdale Center for Religious Research, Riverdale, N.Y. 1974–1983.

Conlon, James. Earth Story, Sacred Story. 1994.

Fox, Matthew. Original Blessing. 1981.

Fox, Matthew. Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life. 1995.

Leciejewski, Mary Ellen. "Common Ground: Women Religious Healing the Earth" (video recording). 1995.

Swimme, Brian. The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story. 1985.

Sarah McFarland Taylor

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