‘Original Blessing’ by Matthew Fox

Tarcher, 2000, 364pp

ISBN, 9781585420674

Reviewed by Ian Mowll                                                                                                        ___________________________________________________________

 “Drugs and Sex and Rock and Roll”

“We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table……and there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders”.

And so, dutifully, I spoke these words, week after week at the Evangelical Anglican Church of my youth. “Is this a joke?” I sometimes wondered. Maybe it was a part of a Monty Python sketch. Was John Cleese going to jump out behind the pulpit and say “yes, we’ve got that filmed, you can all go home now”?

But no, it was all true. This sanitised religion, for me, creaked of formality, duty and dullness.

My twin brother once provided a reality check by saying “If you can go into your place of work on Monday morning and talk with pride and excitement about your spiritual experience on Sunday – then your religion is alive and real”.

Not that the Christianity was all bad. Jesus has some great parables to tell and the Beatitudes were spot on. But there were no ‘drugs, sex or rock and roll’, metaphorically speaking, to be found at church of my youth. I yearned for a spirituality that was holistic and provided signposts on my journey through life. It seemed that the devil had all the good music and I was missing out.

So, perhaps it was not surprising that I moved on from my Christian roots and explored several other forms of spirituality. I moved on to the New Age. There were Earth Goddesses, Chakras, Meditations, interesting Eastern insights, acceptance of the body and creativity. Not bad. But it lacked coherence. It was too eclectic and I felt my spiritual energy was dissipated through all sorts of unconnected ideas and experiences.

As one writer has said: “Often people need greater clarity before they can act decisively and with full commitment; once they see clearly their heart’s intent, their focus becomes like a laser – a powerful, coherent beam, as opposed to an incandescent, incoherent light”.

So, was I to stick with sanitised Christianity, compassionate but dull and boring? Or go to the exciting, challenging and intrepid parts of the New Age movement but feel my energy dissipate through lack of coherence?

Enter Matthew Fox and Original Blessing……

The book is in four parts, the Positive, the Negative, the Creative and the Transformative.

The Positive

Matthew points out that people don’t have to be miserable offenders in Christianity. The form of fall/redemption Christianity was introduced by St Augustine and was layered over earlier forms of Christianity. We can see ourselves as good, as blessed. And if we look at nature and the unfolding universe with the awe it deserves, we can have spiritual experiences that replace the drug culture of our spiritually deadened society.

So, we have the drugs……

 

The Negative

This was the mind blowing bit. I had been taught that a good Christian never gets depressed and always overcomes anger. Well, that put me a long way back on the road to redemption. But it did not feel right.

Matthew Fox talks about befriending the darkness; about entering into those areas we fear. I was later to read Jung and understand a lot more about the shadow. It seemed to me that areas that were difficult to deal with – including instincts – were loaded, by the cultural Christianity of my youth, onto the devil and then jettisoned. A holistic approach of befriending the darkness, including our instincts can make us more whole, according to Fox. Matthew conveys, for instance, a much more open and positive attitude to the body and sexuality.

So, now we have the drugs and the sex. Things are looking up…..


The Creative

Creativity is seen as an important part of our spiritual experience. I tried creative writing where I expressed the things that you are not, in polite society, supposed to express. I tried shamanic dancing where I energetically threw off the straight-jacket of my past. And I tried art, drawing from the subconscious and connecting more deeply with myself.

Even better, I learnt that the experience of dancing to heavy rock music is a form of trance-dance which is used by many spiritual cultures.

Bliss! We have the drugs, the sex and the rock and roll. Monday morning at the office is going to be a breeze!

 

The Transformative

As another reality check, my twin brother joked “how does all of this spirituality stuff you talk about change the way you walk to the shops?” What is different?

A lot is different.

Now, I don’t drive to the shops because I don’t have a car. I receive an organic vegetable box every week. I often walk with my GreenSpirit carrier bag (made of recycled materials) to the local shop and I try, where possible, to buy local goods. My spirituality has transformed my life style so it is alive and real to me.

 

Epilogue

For me, spirituality has to be exciting, awesome, fantastic, dangerous, creative and on the edge of madness; and paradoxically peaceful, serene, nurturing, flowing and gentle. I needed a holistic form of spirituality that held all of this together.

Original Blessing was part of a paradigm shift – seeing the world with new eyes. It provided a doorway into an inclusive, coherent spirituality relevant for our time. It’s a spirituality that welcomes Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Pagans, Agnostics, Atheists, Zog from the planet Arkwon, Trees, Plants, Fish, Bacteria, Mountains, Rivers and all others. And the bread-crumb gatherers are welcome too!

 

 

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