Excerpt from Matthew Fox on 5/8-9/20
Julian’s theology is decisively non-dualistic (as is that of all authentic mystics). She is non-dualistic as we have seen when dealing with sensuality and substance, body and soul, matter and spirit, the Divine and creatures including the human (“between God and the human there is no between” she tells us).
Wherever there is patriarchy and wherever the quest for imperialism reigns there will always be dualism just as there will always be control manias and pessimism, a breeding ground for cynicism and despair.
But no such dualism that sets nature against grace is found in Julian.
Another dualism that she takes on, inherited from patriarchal theologians such as St. Augustine, deeply affected by Plato’s dualisms, is the dualism of nature vs. grace. (A dualism picked up heavily by the Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin as well.
Like Meister Eckhart, who preceded her (he died thirteen years before her birth), who said “nature is grace,” and like Thomas Aquinas who preceded Eckhart and who turned his back on platonist dualism by choosing Aristotle over Plato because he does not denigrate matter and is not dualistic, Julian set out to heal that awful rift between grace and nature set loose by the platonic and neo-platonic influences on Christian theology.
Nature and Grace are in harmony with each other. For Grace is God as Nature is God.
This would seem to drive the arrow into dualism itself and the distortions and disfigurements religion makes of our relationship to our bodies, our sexuality, our earthiness and the rest of creation in the name of a nature/grace mindset.
Julian expands her teaching this way:
God is two in manner of working and one in love. Neither Nature nor Grace works without the other. They may never be separated.
She simply demolishes the dualism of nature and grace. This makes her a feminist for, as feminist theologian Rosemary Ruether points out, dualism is the mark of patriarchy and non-dualism lies at the center of feminist philosophy.
Julian reminds us that “we are indebted to God for our nature and grace.” Nature, she says, “comes from God…and no flaw or fault has been found in it.”
Julian stands up as a champion of creation spirituality and as one who trusts nature and human nature.
Indeed, she often makes the point that faith means trust. For example, she writes:
Faith is nothing else but a right understanding of our being—trusting and allowing things to be; A right understanding that we are in God and God whom we do not see is in us.
Translations from Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich, pp. 107-109, 89.
See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 81-87, 208-219, 257-264.
A spirituality built on “goodness” is a spirituality resulting in joy and love, for goodness elicits both joy and love. The three feed on one another.
“We were made for Love,” declares Julian of Norwich.
She teaches that the soul is required to “perform two duties: The one is we must reverently wonder and be surprised. ““The other duty is we must gently let go and let be, always taking pleasure in God (what is good).” Here she is naming the Via Negativa which in any of its manifestations, whether experienced as silence or as grief and suffering—it requires our letting go and letting be.
She recognizes the Via Negativa as inevitable because “seeing God in this life cannot be a continuous experience.”
Her analysis parallels that of the brilliant twentieth century psychologist Otto Rank who recognized the primary function of neurosis as distorting our imaginations to create reasons for putting ourselves down and hating ourselves. He called this misuse of imagination, the artiste manque in us all. We are often tempted to play old tapes of self-abuse—just as Julian is saying.
Julian continues: These feelings affects us mentally and physically. But the Holy Spirit, the endless life living with us makes us peaceful and at ease, harmonious and flexible.
She urges us to …do all in our power to keep ourselves strong…
For Julian love permeates the universe through all time and space. While the Via Negativa can haunt us and persist, trust can see us through it. God did not say: ‘You will not be tempested. You will not labor hard. You will not be troubled.’ But God did say: ‘You will not be overcome.’
When Julian saw a vision of the book she was writing she learned the following:
It was said to me: ‘Do you wish to see clearly your Lord’s meaning in these Showings?
See it well. Love was your Lord’s meaning.
Who showed it to you? Love.
What did you see? Love.
Why was it shown? For Love.
Translations from Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich, pp. 113, 119, 78, 42, 86, 115, 134.
See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 42-56.