The papers of Matthew Fox, a progressive theologian whose Creation Spirituality movement gained recognition in the 1980s and has flourished to this day, will become part of the archival collections of the University Libraries’ Rare and Distinctive Collections (RaD).
Fox began his career in the Catholic Church, graduating from the Aquinas Institute of Philosophy and Theology, and later, the Institut Catholique de Paris.
He was expelled from the Dominican order of the Catholic Church in 1993 for developing a theology that promotes “original blessing” in preference to the doctrine of original sin, advocates for the divine feminine along with a sacred masculine, accepts diverse forms of sexuality and gender identities, and promotes the sacredness of the Earth. Fox identifies his theology as a “postmodern paradigm shift” away from the theme of “fall/redemption” to a holistic “Creation Spirituality.”
His 41 books have been translated into 79 languages and initiated a recovery of great Western mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart and Julian of Norwich. He co-authored two books on science and spirituality with British biologist Rupert Sheldrake and one with cosmologist Brian Swimme. He coined the term “deep ecumenism” to name how religions can relate to one another through sharing common spirituality and wisdom especially to save the earth.
“This new addition to RaD’s archival collections expands our materials that document religious practitioners who incorporate mysticism and rituals and emphasize being in community with people of different backgrounds and faiths,’’ said Megan Friedel, RaD’s assistant faculty director of Collections Management & Stewardship and lead archivist of the University Libraries’ archives.
Creative, ecstatic and relational, the Matthew Fox collection represents trends in Catholic mysticism, deep ecumenism and pre-modern ritual. Creation Spirituality shares many of the core values of the Jewish Renewal movement. The addition of Fox’s papers serves to enrich the materials found in the , also held by RaD. Reverend Father Fox and Rabbi Schacter-Shalomi were close friends who shared a common goal to invigorate their faiths.
Born Timothy James Fox in 1940, Fox was given the religious name “Matthew” upon his entrance into the Dominican Order in 1960. Later, Fox taught at Catholic institutions like Barat College, Loyola University, Mundelein College and Holy Names University as well as at Stanford University, Vancouver School of Theology and Schumacher College. He has lectured extensively in Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea.
Beginning in the 1980s, Fox came under scrutiny from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (then led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI). This scrutiny led to Fox’s eventual expulsion from the Dominican Order in 1993. Subsequently, Fox became a priest within the Episcopal Church and founded the University of Creation Spirituality, the Youth and Elder Learning Laboratory for Ancestral Wisdom Education, and the Order of the Sacred Earth.
Fox developed a ritual known as “The Cosmic Mass,” in which the traditional form of worship from Western Christianity, known as the Eucharist, is celebrated with dance, grief work, and post-modern art forms like video, disc jockeying, and rapping. The Cosmic Mass invites the leadership of young people bringing new art forms in breathing life into archaic liturgy and to reframe the relationship between priest and worshiper as one of equals (rather than a priest acting as a middleman to God.)
“We look forward to use of this collection by researchers interested in religious activism, social justice, environmentalism, theology and LGBTQ+ studies, as Matthew Fox’s ecumenical work has touched on all of these areas,” said project archivist Kami McDaniel, who is processing the 50-box archival collection to make it discoverable for researchers.
An event to celebrate the new collection is being planned for the fall.