One River, Many Wells


Matthew Fox's One River, Many Wells does more than simply show common themes among the world's religious traditions. It is also more than a book of cross-referenced scriptural passages. One River, Many Wells is a significant contribution to the ecumenical movement because it bonds together different faith traditions to achieve a global experience in spirituality. Fox, now an Episcopalian priest, was a former Dominican priest who was officially silenced by the Vatican and eventually kicked out of the Dominican order due to his open views on religion.

Fox advocates for Deep Ecumenism, the idea that although our religions are distinct and independent on the top, they all have a common source. He used the metaphor of a common river with many different wells drawing from it to satiate the spiritual thirst of many people. Fox believes it is necessary for the human race to travel deep into their spirituality and to let go of the superficial differences that often bitterly divide humanity.

To make this journey, Fox “mixed sacred texts and mystical teachings from Judaism and Islam, Hinduism and African, Christian and African American, Goddess and Native American, Celtic and Buddhist and scientific sources” (424). Fox's mixing showed how we all can unite spiritually and relate to creation, divinity, the future, and ourselves. At the same time, however, I cannot help but think Fox's mixing often bordered on a form of scriptural cherry picking. Fox would often interject a passage into an original thought, setting off the actual passage in bold. An example is, “[Meister] Eckhart says Divinity is nameless, for no one can know or articulate anything about God?.God is a being beyond being and nothingness beyond being who consists of a changeless existence and a nameless nothingness” (163). Despite how much I agree with Fox, when I see this, I often think of fundamentalists that pick out passages to justify their beliefs. I am not so sure what Fox is doing in this book is much different from Left Behind Christians cutting and pasting the Bible to formulate their support for the rapture.

When Fox was at this best, he went away from injecting passages into his original thoughts. At the end of the book, Fox offered up eighteen myths (social visions not for analysis but for generating imagination) for humanity to embrace in creating spiritual unity. These myths can help people who “clearly do feel a need for spirituality, for connection with deep living, deep breathing, deep sharing, deep awareness and mindfulness” (438). The eighteen that follow stir up imagination and wonder.

1.?? ?The myth that all our spiritual traditions can learn from each other and offer something fresh from their experiences and teachings.
2.?? ?The myth that all Creation is sacred and we humans are part of it, integral to it, though late on the scene.
3.?? ?The myth that all Creation is on fire with sacredness; that the Buddha nature and the Cosmic Christ and the image of God reside in the very light (photons) present in every atom in the universe.
4.?? ?The myth that community already is because all things are interdependent, nothing stands alone.
5.?? ?The myth that whatever name we give the Source of sources, the Artist of artists, the Creator of Creation, all are accurate and none are sufficient.
6.?? ?The myth that the Divine has a feminine as well as a masculine side.
7.?? ?The myth that divine Wisdom roams the world, “fills the whole earth,” interacts with us and all Creation and calls us to supper.
8.?? ?The myth that the Divine, while present in all forms, is also present as emptiness, nothingness, and formlessness and that we experience emptiness, nothingness, and formlessness and can trust these experiences.
9.?? ?The myth that the Divine “I Am” can be spoken by every one of us and by every creature and that this is our way of asserting our divine nobility and exuding a radiance greater than ourselves.
10.?? ?The myth that we experience mindfulness, a state of being more and more fully present to the “I Am” and to our deepest self through mediations of various kinds.
11.?? ?The myth that our imaginations are holy, that the Holy Spirit works through us when we create and participate in the ongoing Creation of self, society, universe, and mind.
12.?? ?The myth that joy is possible even daily-and that we have a right to it as well as responsibility to search it out, prepare for it, and pass it on.
13.?? ?The myth that suffering, while it is everywhere, is real yet endurable.
14.?? ?The myth that Beauty is another name for the Divine, that it is available everywhere, and that our task is to become ever more aware of its presence and be sharers of its energy.
15.?? ?The myth that our sexuality is sacred, that the body is no obstacle to Divine presence, that love-making is a holy a meditation as fasting or serving, and that love-making is for the propagation of community and love as much as for propagation of the species (which clearly needs less propagation at this time).
16.?? ?The myth that our dying is a adventurous as our living and that what occurs at death and after death, whether we call it reincarnation or resurrection or regeneration, is mysterious but not final.
17.?? ?The myth that compassion is the imitation of the Divine and compassion includes celebration and relief of pain and suffering and the active struggle against injustice.
18.?? ?The myth that we are all spiritual warriors (or prophets) as well as lovers (or mystics).

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