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Via Creativa

The Via Creativa is the third path in a series on the four paths of experiencing God within creation spirituality according to Matthew Fox's book, Original Blessing.

Fox introduces the Via Creativa this way:

We have now traveled along two paths in the creation-centered spiritual journey, that of the Via Positiva and that of the Via Negativa; that of cosmic blessing and our own royal personhood, and that of darkness, silence, and emptiness. Because this tradition pays equal heed to both the Via Positiva and the Via Negativa, it celebrates the union of the two in the Via Creativa. In letting both pleasure and pain happen, both light and darkness, both naming and unnaming, both cosmos and void, we allow a third thing to be born: and that third thing is the very power of birth itself. It is [the creative energy of God] erupting out of humanity’s imagination. It is the image of God, the image of the Creator, coming alive and expressing its divine depths and divine fruitfulness. It is our creativity which is the full meaning of humanity’s being an “image of God.”


Let me begin by reminding you of something that I’ve said to you before… everyone is creative. We want to pigeon-hole creativity into the arts – music, poetry, writing, painting, sculpture. But we use our creativity in so many other ways, like gardening, problem-solving, decorating, teaching, dressing. 

Fox reminds us that the imago dei or the image of God in each person is necessarily the image of the Creator. If we make God the only Creator then we don’t acknowledge that the “fearful creative power of God” is ours… and ours to use responsibly. For truly, creativity can be used to affirm life, or destroy life, to bring compassion and beauty or to bring hatred and ugliness.

The basic spiritual discipline in the creation tradition is the development of beauty, but this heart of the spiritual journey is not about painting a picture or making some kind of object. At its core it is about creating beauty in ourselves by taking the light and shadow sides of us and weaving them together into a whole tapestry full of light and dark strands that together are magical, healing and unified. 

The Via Creativa is the culmination of engaging the first two paths – we create out of what we have experienced in the Via Positiva and the Via Negativa. Creativity cannot happen where there is no Via Positiva, where we are unaware of the world around us and the universe we are part of. The affirmation, thanksgiving, and ecstasy, of the Via Positiva lead one to create "out of pleasure and delight for the sake of pleasure and delight." But this path is shallow without the depth and balance of the Via Negativa.

Where one does not also engage the Via Negativa, plunging in to the darkness and the depths of oneself, creativity will not happen. “Darkness is the origin of everything that is born – stars born in the darkness of space, our ideas and images born in the darkness of the brain, children born from the darkness of their mothers’ wombs, movements of liberation born from the darkness of slavery and pain.” 

In his book Creation Spirituality, Fox says, "The commandment of the Via Creativa is: Do not be reluctant to give birth!" This commandment is borrowed from the diary of then 16-year-old Otto Rank, who would eventually become a reknowned psychologist. Sexually abused as a child, he had occasionally considered suicide as a teenager. This mantra: Do not be reluctant to give birth! kept him moving forward and as an adult he would one day dedicate himself to healing and liberating other. It was Rank who said “pessimism comes from the repression of creativity.” 

I would hold that creativity is repressed because we’ve repressed ourselves, we don’t see ourselves as capable, worthy, enough. We don’t see ourselves as beautiful, unique creations who’ve been given beautiful unique gifts to share. We don’t remember that we are created in the image of God, making us creators ourselves, or co-creators with God.

In my Religion 1000 (Understandings of Religion) class that I taught at Carthage, the first assignment I always gave was a personal reflection essay. I’m sure it seemed odd, but I asked them to reflect on their personal heritage and experiences – positive and negative, to evaluate and express the meaningfulness of those experiences, and to describe their understanding of God and the purpose of religion in their lives. My intent was for them to bring to consciousness where they were starting from personally as we began the class. All real growth and learning changes us and helps us to see ourselves more clearly.

We need to be aware of the stories of our lives, and the stories we’ve told ourselves, before we can write the next chapter in those stories with the help of the Creative Energy of the Spirit.

Artist and creativity workshop leader, Julia Cameron, talks in her book, The Vein of God, about having her students write narrative timelines (5,000-25,000 words) about their lives. The goal was to write quickly and without editing. To think of it as an exercise in archaeology, but you are digging for yourself. By doing this people would hopefully be able to see their memories from a new perspective with new insight.

Cameron shares this story:

Suzanne, writing notes for her early 20s, wrote down the fact of her sister’s accidental death. Moving on to jot down other notes, she saw that many of her favorite things had left her life along with her favorite sister. For the first time, she saw clearly how darkness had settled over life, and she saw too that it was guilt as well as grief that had shadowed her days. She and her sister had shared many joys. Grieving her sister, she packed away many of her enthusiasms just as she had packed away her sister’s clothes… In doing her notes, Suzanne saw her life illuminated. Later, writing out her Narrative timeline, a thaw came to Suzanne’s heart. The records she and her sister had found so riveting – couldn’t she listen to them again? Couldn’t she, 20 years later, now allow herself to take the trip to Paris that she and her sister had planned long ago? She could and she did. In losing her sister Suzanne had lost much of herself. In claiming her past, Suzanne found herself present for her future. 

Suzanne dove into the Via Positiva and the Via Negativa and came to a place where she could dare to give birth to something new and life-giving.

1 Cor. 3:9 states, “We are co-workers with God.” And if we are co-workers (not employees or slaves simply being told what to do), but co-creators with God, the question becomes what would God have us help create?

If we are striving toward health and wholeness for ourselves, if we affirm our goodness and our enoughness, if we ground ourselves in our connection with the natural world and feel deep within the gratitude that arises from the connection and beauty, and if we celebrate the things that bring us pleasure, plus we don’t ignore our shadow side, the darkness in ourselves, our fears, wounds, griefs, shame, anger… if we have delved into those, let them go or let them be… what will we create then? Will we create a self that is kind, generous and seeks understanding? Will we create within us a compassion for self and others? Will we then allow all of this good within to flow out into the world creating more beautiful ways to lift other up? I hope so.

What will you co-create today?

Love & Light!