Creation Spirituality: A Brief History

Carolyn E Million, DMin, MD

Creation Spirituality is a term applied to the Spirit inherent in all Creation. The term was first coined by Pere M.D. Chenu and Matthew Fox in 1968. Fox’s mentor, Chenu (Institute Catholique de Paris), was notably the grandfather of the Liberation Theology as well and an important, progressive voice in Vatican II.  Matthew Fox went on to describe four paths that reflect our journey through Creation. He first thought of the Via Positive and Via Negativa, paths of Awe and Silence respectively. These seem obvious at first glance. In order to retrieve the last two paths, Matt looked inside himself and at his own experience. He then coined the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa (reference Hollyhock Conference, July, 2020).

In reading about Creation Spirituality, I find many persons speak to the fact the idea was always there and that it predates Fox’s paradigm. Given that the term is reflective of spirituality throughout Creation, it has of course been present throughout Creation. It seems therefore intuitively obvious to us. However, it is important to remember that many discoveries are leaps that seem obvious in retrospect. It still takes that creative act of birthing it and naming it: Matthew Fox has done that for us. It is important to acknowledge that, just because the European West was not clued in, doesn’t mean others weren’t! Hence, it really has been there all along…., but not named in these four paths.

The inherent attraction of this path is reflected in its ready adoption by other

thinkers. One such thinker is Joanna Macy.  Whereas Matt describes Creation

Spirituality and the Four Paths in 1968, Joanna describes her own four paths

in later books (post 2000). She and Matt spoke at many conferences together

in the 1990’s (Hollyhock). She later admitted to him that she took them from

him.  She has successfully modeled and taught her four paths which are English

adaptations of Fox’s Latin terminology.

An essential component of the Four Paths is the concept of spiraling. This is

something Fox speaks to and Macy integrates into her visual of the four paths

with a spiraling branch with leaves shooting off. Our lives consist of this

spiraling deeper and deeper as we exert our will, experiencing times of joy, of

sadness, creative fervor, of the satisfaction of making a difference. These

experiences serve to revitalize and inspire us to greater heights and deeper

depths into the Divine.

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