From R. Rohr’s CA&C Newsletter
A Wisdom for Our Time
I believe it is a loss to our Christian heritage that Julian’s mystical teachings have not received more widespread hearing. Matthew Fox points out that she was in many ways ahead of her time. Her voice and writings were sidelined by a patriarchal church and culture unable to hear her nondual message of “oneing” and her celebration of embodiment as an extension of the Incarnation itself. Perhaps we are finally ready to hear Julian’s wisdom today. Matthew Fox writes:
We learn about ourselves, our history and society by asking questions that expose the shadows in which we still live. To me it is obvious why [Julian’s] work was ignored, and in naming the obvious we name the shadows we have inherited from our ancestors.
First, she was ignored because she was a woman. . . . Julian found her voice—and wrote the first book in English by a woman. She speaks out about womanhood and about mothering and about the Divine Mother. She insists on the feminine side of God as imbuing not only God the Creator, but God the Liberator, and God the Spirit. . . .
She bakes into her entire book the constant theme of nondualism and of “oneing.” Sensuality and substance are one thing. . . . She talks of the “glorious mingling” of body and soul, matter and spirit. She insists on the marriage of nature and God, on panentheism [God in all things and all things in God] as the very meaning of faith, and on the marriage of God and the human (for we, too, are part of nature): “between God and the human there is no between.”. . .
We were not ready for her. We were too engrossed with the masculine projects of empire building and “discovery” doctrines of raiding and destroying indigenous cultures of “mother love”; we were too busy chasing knowledge, at the expense of wisdom, for the power it brings to buttress our empires through science and technology, too preoccupied with creating capitalist behemoths that demanded we extract whatever goods we could from Mother Earth without asking any questions about paying Mother Earth—or future generations—back. . . . Julian’s feminism did not fit the patriarchal agenda at hand . . . and she stands up to patriarchy (including the institutional church) in many instances. But subtly so—as a lover, not as a prosecutor.
The second principal reason Julian has been ignored for so many centuries, and why we were not ready for her, is that she is so thoroughly creation-centered in her theology that people did not understand her insistence that “God is in nature,” that nature and grace are one, and that goodness is everywhere but “first of all in nature.” When the agenda is to exploit nature for all the profits it can deliver, who wants to hear about the sacredness of nature?
Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond (iUniverse: 2020), 110–111.