February 16, 2022

Your Mother is Dying. {Book Excerpt} ~ Matthew Fox

In around 1985, I had a dream that I realized was an important one. A “big dream’’ that was meant not just for myself as an individual, but for the whole community.

The climax of my dream contained this refrain: “Your mother is dying.” But my literal mother was not dying; she was healthy and kicking.

So I asked the question: is our mother dying?

The first meaning of the warning “your mother is dying” can be taken in reference to Mother Earth.

That the earth, our mother, is a deeply held truth among the native people of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Is our Mother Earth dying? Consider Bhopal; Chernobyl; Love Canal; Times Beach, Missouri; the Rhine River, where 1,000 tons of chemicals— including eight tons of pure mercury—were spilled. The river where Hildegard of Bingen and Meister Eckhart, the two greatest creation mystics of Western Europe, lived and preached their message of compassion and interconnectivity with creation.

And today, of course, it entails climate change with all that it means including the Coronavirus, droughts, floods, hurricanes, wild fires, the extinction of millions of species, and more.

Yes, our mother is dying.

A second meaning to the dream is that the mystical brain is dying.

A crucial dimension of the imbalance in the West is the stunted growth of our mystical awareness and the underdevelopment of the mystical brain. The right lobe of the brain accomplishes the synthetic, sensual, intuitive, and mystical tasks. Western civilization, which dominates the globe today, has invested almost exclusively in left lobe education, which accomplishes rational and analytic verbal processes in politics, economics, religion. Even many seminaries ignore the intuitive brain—the home of mysticism.

A third meaning of the dream is that creativity is dying.

Carl Jung said that creativity emerges “from the realm of the Mothers.” The maternal is the place of new birth, of new wombs, of new stories, of new beginnings, and of new possibilities.

A fourth meaning is that wisdom is dying.

Wisdom appears universally in cultures and religions as a feminine, maternal figure. Wisdom requires the right brain as well as the left, for it is born of both analysis and synthesis. Wisdom requires imagination to nurture it.

A fifth meaning is that the youth are dying.

“Mother” is a word that defines a relationship after all—a mother does not stand alone. She is, by definition, in relationship to a child. We have increasing evidence of youth dying as we learn more about the numbers of suicidal youth, drugged and alcoholic youth, depressed and apathetic youth, unemployed and apparently unemployable youth, youth who have been victims of physical, sexual, educational, and religious abuse, and youth who are murdering others—often in mass shootings. Think Sandy Hooks and Columbine and Parkland.

A sixth meaning to our mother dying is that native peoples—their religions and cultures—are dying.

Theirs are the oldest religions on earth whether in the Americas, Africa, ancient Europe, Australia, Polynesia, or Asia. In these religions, one finds deep memories of what the essayist Frederick Turner calls “aboriginal mother love.” These religions arose in cultural periods that were often matrifocal. The extermination and devastation caused by colonialism and imperialism brought about immense trauma that is still with these peoples to this day. A holocaust of ineffable proportions occurred.

A seventh meaning is that mother church is dying.

Mother church is deeply entangled in the lethal embraces of matricidal patriarchy.

Fundamentalism is a planetary phenomenon in religions today. Worshipping a punitive father God, such fundamentalism is built on a deep-seated fear triggered by the breakup of cultural patterns.

Religious fundamentalism is patriarchy gone berserk and that kills the mother principle.

An eighth meaning is that mother love (compassion) is dying.

The Hebrew word for compassion is derived from the word for womb. Womb love, mother love, creative love are all part of the power we know as compassion. The ancient tradition of God as mother and the goddess in every person is lost. And the sense of nature as sacred is lost when nature is dying.

The dream said “your mother is dying,” but it did not say “your mother is dead.”

There is still hope, there is still something we can do to turn things around. I believe the answer lies in a deep mystical awakening that is truly planetary—that draws out the wisdom and the mystic, the contemplative and the justice-maker from the ancient traditions of all religions and cultures.

This dream became the first part of my book on The Coming of the Cosmic Christ because that book names the sacredness imbedded in all creation and how we can recover an awareness of that sacredness.

Adapted from Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality (Orbis Books, March 2022). Reprinted with permission.


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