Matthew Fox’s University

ON JANUARY 19, 1996, a new being was born. It is called the University of Creation Spirituality (UCS) and its purpose is to reinvent education and religion for our postmodern times.

UCS will open its doors in September 1996, and will offer master’s degree, certificate and sabbatical programs. Students without strict college degrees may audit classes as well. There will be evening and weekend classes for working people, as well as 5-day intensives. A doctor of ministry degree program in urban spirituality will immerse active clergy in the emerging creation story from science as well as pioneering forms of worship and the ancient tradition of creation spirituality.

Creation Spirituality is about bringing science, mysticism and art together to allow the spirit to flow and humans to recover their deep and spiritual selves. UCS will dedicate itself to this task, and to influencing our professions and work worlds – including education itself. Is this a useful task at this time?

Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute has concluded that our species must change its ways of living on the planet drastically in the next 16 years. If we do not, the planet as we know it will not survive our human folly. If Brown is correct, it is clear we do not have a lot of time to play games of religion or academia left over from the modern era. We cannot reinvent our species without reinventing education and our professional work so that both inculcate spiritual values. That act of transformation is at the heart of the vision of UCS. That is why UCS can be called a postmodern University.

This version of a university will be based more on a pre-modern than a modern version of education. When universities were invented in the West in the 12th century their real purpose was to be a place where persons could find their place in the universe. That is key to UCS as well. Cosmology and the new story of creation that science is giving us arouses the experience of awe, wonder and reverence. This cosmology will be at the heart of this university and all of its branches. Like the Cathedral School of the Middle Ages that gathered around Chartres Cathedral and indeed gave birth to it, UCS will attract cutting edge artists who want to contribute boldly to new forms of justice and celebration.

Art as meditation will also be an integral part of the University curriculum. Through art as meditation persons have their hearts opened and their minds enlightened. Another way to speak of art as meditation is to call it paths to transcendence. Many of these ways are available to our species ranging from holotropic breathing to chanting to Sufi dancing and circle dancing to fasting to studying to Tai Chi and Aikido and clay and music and paint and massage and gardening and cooking and….

UCS will be a post-modern University with a pre-modern value system, meaning that cosmology, spirituality, creativity and service will characterize its learning. This will be a school that, in physicist David Bohm’s words, “begins with the whole.”

This University will be student friendly. We will keep prices low and will have an open budget for all faculty and full-time students to see. It will be economically self-sustaining, running on the tuition generated by the students-a tuition that is modest so that it will be available to people who are eager to learn but not excessive in means. Thus it will offer a prototype that can be duplicated in other cities. Among the principles of the school are the following:

  • Small is beautiful no bigger than 100 master students full time
  • No adultism education should not be about making older people rich and youth indentured servants but about awakening the young of spirit
  • Simple lifestyles (and moderate salaries) of faculty
  • Faculty who do spiritual practice and have an inner life
  • Community among faculty and students
  • Conscious awareness at a philosophical and structural level of the move from a modern to a postmodern world
  • Honoring the urban languages of our day as well as earth-based spiritual traditions
  • Schooling our moral imaginations
  • Applying the principles of creation spirituality to work and everyday living
  • Nourishing and supporting the mystic and prophet in each person.
  • Teaching of spiritual praxis, especially art as meditation
  • Intellectual Rigor Service and compassion: All knowledge is meant to serve the larger community
  • A school committed to bringing inner and outer work together
  • A coming together of science, mysticism and art to bring about cultural transformation
  • A place where the artist will find space to develop his or her gifts in the context of serving the larger community through creation spirituality

How do people return the sacred to everyday life? Artists must lead us. For this reason there will be a cutting edge multimedia arts centre at UCS. Artists will be given the space to re-connect art to spirituality and to create ways by which the community might be awakened through renewed ritual and art birthed from the creation spirituality tradition. The multimedia arts centre will allow the connection of art, religion and culture to come together with power.

Part of the centre will be a ritual laboratory where we will create and celebrate ancient rituals as well as devise new ones in the new postmodern languages of trance music, rave dancing, multimedia, techno art and rap. In this way cosmology can be awakened and a sense of reverence rediscovered. (We carry on this work here in the US in the spirit of the best of the Nine O’clock Service community in Sheffield, England, which sponsored the Planetary Mass in San Francisco. NOS collapsed in August following the disturbing discovery of abuse on the part of its leader. We pray for the community’s speedy healing.)

A spiritual awakening is indeed necessary today – and a clear commitment to getting ourselves out of a consciousness that is anti-mystical and is destroying the grace and beauty of our souls and planet. A spiritual awakening must permeate our educational institutions which have fallen into much cynicism and bureaucratisation and dullness of spirit. UCS will offer a way of waking up such institutions by presenting an alternative model of a university – a model that has ancient historical roots.

UCS features a unique gathering of teachers from the world’s wisdom traditions, science, the arts, techno-culture, business and indigenous spiritualities. It begins with a core faculty that is seasoned and ready; including painter Adriana Diaz; Seneca teacher of native ways Jose Hobday; liberation and feminist theologian Marlene Denardo; teacher of Shabda Yoga Russill Paul, from India; Luisah Teish, Yoruba priestess and author of Jambalaya; dream specialist Jeremy Taylor; and potter/poet M. C. Richards. Among new faculty eager to contribute are Clarissa Pinkola Estes, poet and author of Women Who Run With the Wolves; architect Charles Jencks, author of Architecture and the Jumping Universe and The Postmodern Reader; Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who will teach alternative business practices; scientist Rupert Sheldrake, author of Seven Experiments That Could Change the World and The Rebirth of Nature; Dr. Mary Ford Grabowsky, author of Prayers for All People, Mark Pesci, co-author of VRML, plus cosmologists, DJs, graphic artists and designers of virtual environments.

Join us if you can. For more information, write to the University of Creation Spirituality, 2141 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612; or call (510) 835-4UCS.

Matthew Fox is a former Dominican, now an ECUSA priest. This is an extract from the prospectus of UCS