Today, I suggest one possible way of looking at the Source, the All, that to which we sing in Hymn 123, “Spirit of Life.” I suggest that we consider this as the Primal, Never-ending Creativity. Further, we can reflect and actually be this Source when we engage our own creativity. Two ways of being this Way, Source, or Spirit are artistic expression and spiritual journeying.
Human creativity, like the creativity of the cosmos, is not a simple process of getting from A to B in a straight line. It is not simply a constant bringing forth, an eternal fruitfulness. It involves brewing, mulling, working, hoping, destroying, gestating, and letting fields lie fallow. So much more than putting words on a page, paint on a canvas, or commands into code.
One famous method for looking at the creative and spiritual life was outlined many years ago by the post-Christian thinker and writer, Matthew Fox. Fox suggests four stages or paths, each of which he names with the Latin word, “via.” “Via” is a road or way; each step, then, is a process in itself. A way.
The via positiva is where we begin our journey: The Way of Blessing. For the artist, this is the reception of inspiration or idea. In the spiritual life, it is what may be called “extroverted mysticism,” that overwhelming sense of the blessedness of life, gratitude for the gifts of Earth, awe in the face of the impossible goodness of life. The poems of Walt Whitman and Gerard Manley Hopkins in their ecstatic lists of blessings often embody the via positiva.
After these moments of joyous inspiration, the artist and the seeker come to the via negativa, the Way of Darkness. While darkness of any kind has often been associated with evil and terror, this characteristization is limited at best and racist at worst. The via negativa, by contrast, the time of close and holy darkness, is necessary.y for the world’s blessing and change This is the time of confusion, doubt, gestation and incubation, and ultimately of the human being and Earth waiting for seeds reaching sunward.
When light does come—and it will come—we see see our way clear to go to work, to walk in the way of the via creativa, the Way of Bringing Forth. We apply ourselves to what has been given to us, and the vocations to which we are called. The via positiva and the via negativa have prepared us for this season of working, writing, painting, sculpting, singing, researching, analyzing. This is the time of perspiration that comes from inspiration.
The “end” of the via creativa is not the end of the cycle—the cycle goes on and on! The birth of our creative works, born again and again, changes us. The fruits we grow and offer to others change the giver and the receivers. Individuals and whole cultures become new as we give what has been given to us.
And so we move into the via transformativa, the Way of Change. As we give our work to the world, we welcome change, offer change, and experience change in community. Our work literally brings about visions and experiences of Beloved Community. We must just remain faithful to the promptings of Spirit within those visions.
As Graham and Williamson both say, the changes cannot happen without us. Each of us is a unique star in the firmament. Each of us has a story to tell, a life to lead, visions to bring to fruition. Without our participation, our plugging into the Primal Creativity at the heart of life, our gifts remain locked, hidden, hoarded. We will not change the world unless we are willing to be changed ourselves. Fearful, we do not give others the permission to shine along with us.
But we can and do change the world, whether we admit it or not. The question is how we will change and be changed, how we bless and curse. We can dare, can risk our hearts for the good of all that lives and breathes and is. For some of us, the reminder that our creativity will benefit others makes it easier to trust our own giftedness. We must remember, though, that blessing is for us just as it is for others. Love, beauty, compassion, wisdom…these astonishing transformations of life are for everyone. The Spirit of life offers uncountable ways to bless, simply by emulating that Spirit, God Herself, inspiring and conceiving; impatiently waiting and hoping; diligently laboring with shears and shovel; responding and changing and changing and changing again.
We need trust to do this. Fidelity to what is given us to do and trust that the fruits of our labors will not go unharvested. It is never given to us to know all the change we cause. A word from you may land in a secret, previously unknown place in my heart. I may tenderly cherish that word and be transformed by it without your ever knowing.
So let us be faithful travelers, together risking being the Spirit of Life, the Source of Love, and the Primal Creator, blessing and loving, and changing as we go along.