I’ve just started reading Rev. Matthew Fox’s book The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, and, thus far, it has been excellent. I have been a fan of Fr. Fox since I read some of his work on the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart. Fox’s spiritual journey is one that I can relate to in some ways, at least at a surface level. He is a former Catholic priest who was investigated by Cardinal Ratzinger (the erstwhile Pope Benedict XVI) who was at the time the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor of the Inquisition. Ratzinger determined that Fox’s works were dangerous and dismissed him as a “feminist theologian,” as though that were something to be ashamed of. Fox’s censure for his theological ideas, coupled with his coming out as gay, led to him leaving the Roman Catholic Church and becoming an Episcopal priest.
The “Sacred Masculine” that Fox is looking to awaken is not to be confused with the macho, sometimes sad0-masochistic version of masculinity that so many of us have experienced or even acted out in our lives. This masculinity is one that is in all of us, whether male or female, girl or boy, woman or man and is a force for creativity and nurturance in its own right. Fox warns, rightly, against taking masculine or feminine archetypes as “literal,” i.e., thinking that only men can draw on masculine archetypes or access sacred masculinity – that is false.
The book begins by tracing 10 ancient masculine archetypes, reconsidering them in the light of new scientific discoveries, particularly in the field of cosmology. The only one I’ve read so far is the Father Sky archetype. This archetype speaks to how we relate to the larger universe out there, including the sun, the moon, the stars. Science in the modern world largely killed off the conception of the universe as a living, breathing reality, reducing it to a mechanistic, cold, impersonal place that can only be understood by mathematical calculations.
Fox, however, sees a new turn in science and cosmology in the so-called postmodern world. Father Sky has become relevant again as we have increasingly grown to understand the ever-changing, creative processes of the universe. As Fox says, “New stars are themselves being born every fifteen seconds, while others are dying. And supernovas, galaxies, and human beings join in this great dance. We drink in the universe, which is not static but constantly evolving and unfolding.” Father Sky is alive again!
It’s important to note that Father Sky and Mother Earth are nothing without each other, and we cannot exist without both of them. There is a sacred marriage between them and between these archetypal forces within each of us. Reclaiming the archetypes and metaphors of the ancients in the light of new discoveries helps us to re-enchant our world, creating a story where we belong to one another and to the greater cosmos. This is not about forgetting our individuality, but it’s about seeing how we all fit into a cosmos and bring our own talents and perspectives to this sacred marriage. Yes, the Earth and Sky and Stars are for us, but we are for them, too. You are for me, and I am for you. We often forget that second part. We want the “take” part, but we don’t like to “give.”
Father Sky and Mother Earth remind us that the world is not ours to manipulate and control. It is our place to bring our special gifts – our reason, our intelligence, our individuality, our abilities to build community and create beauty – to this cosmos. What a wonderful opportunity and responsibility!
Edit: I found this wonderful Maori work of art depicting Father Sky (Ranginui) and Mother Earth (Papatuanuku) in their tight embrace before being separated.
Another wonderful depiction can be seen here: https://flic.kr/p/suRR.