Cynicism: Living Without a Via Positiva

Meister Eckhart teaches that “a good person praises good people.”  A cynic praises no one.  A cynical view of life banishes goodness, is not even looking for it, finds it neither inside oneself nor in other beings or in existence itself.  So sad.  But so prevalent where patriarchy reigns. 

Priestly Ordinations were led by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, Saint Louis, Missouri Photo by Phil Roussin, Flickr

Consider the cynicism among the inquisitors in the Vatican as recorded in the recent book, In the Closet of the Vatican.  The author lays bare the reality of self-hating gay priests and prelates, many of whom occupy the Congregation of Faith (formerly known as the Office of the Holy Inquisition) who consider it their job to tell Catholics, married and unmarried, gay and straight, what their sins are and aren’t.  While the author criticizes the addiction to power of these “guardians of the faith” and their hypocrisy (half of them are acting out sexually either with partners or with prostitutes) he does not mention the other sickness they are wallowing in: Cynicism.  Cynicism is giving up on seeing goodness or joy or the Via Positiva.

There is no joy, no sense of blessing, of the goodness of creation–yes including the goodness of our sexuality and the healthy sharing of it, among these people.  Pope Francis has called them “rigid.”  Rabbi Heschel warns of our need to “choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.  Cynicism is not parochial.” (25)

This pitiful bunch actually give being gay a bad name, preaching crazy things like “a homosexual is equivalent to a murderer” (Cardinal Burke), etc. etc. 

“Love is Love” Photo by Jean-Baptiste Burbaud from Pexels

People who have not experienced themselves as basically good ought not to be preaching to others.  Obviously.  It is clear now why their inquisition went crazy over my book Original Blessing calling it “dangerous and deviant.”And why they so resist feminism and the return of the Divine Feminine.

Adrienne Rich exposes the “fatalistic self hatred” that is integral to patriarchy.  This book proves her correct.  These people are invested in a fatalistic self-hatred that they are preaching to the rest of us.  Shame on them!  At long last have they no self-inspection?  (Isn’t confession supposed to render people self aware?  Apparently it’s not working very well these days.  Maybe a good therapist is needed instead.)

Can we move from “fatalistic self hatred” to Goodness again?  That would mean leaving patriarchy behind, wouldn’t it?  It would mean opting for Original Blessing, or Original Goodness, or “Original Wisdom” as Saint and Doctor of the church Hildegard of Bingen calls it.

See Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, “God is Goodness,” p. 3 and much more.
See also Matthew Fox, “Review of Frederic Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican”
Banner Image: “Il Cardinale” by Marco on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

Do you recognize a “fatalistic self hatred” ruling many of our institutions in the West?  Politics?  Education?  Economics?  Religion?  Media?  How can we deconstruct that?

Be you recognize cynicism in our world and institutions?  Does that feed despair?  How can we apply the Via Positiva to wash away cynicism in ourselves and society?

Look inside.  Be with the goodness that is there and the desire for goodness that is there.  Smile at it.  Then find it in others.

Recommended Reading

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview.  In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.

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11 thoughts on “Cynicism: Living Without a Via Positiva”

    1. Avatar

      Yes! Just rediscovered you via the Shift Network. I resolved to reject cynicism when I became a mother, but it was arduous because my best friends were cynics! I went on to study quite a bit, and have formulated a theory that helps me come to terms with human “imperfection” and regenerate compassion I would love to be able to get your feedback. Is that possible?
      PS: Thank you for sharing your cosmic consciousness! I have to admit I bought your book when it first came out, yet never read it. But I really “resonated”! And thanks for offering these meditations for free! I am “financially challenged” and really need conscientious guidance right now. Can’t wait to engage the 99 names book. I have thought for years we need a more realistic, reverent language for ecological, cultural/spiritual wellbeing .

      1. Gail Ransom

        Dear JoAnne,
        Welcome to Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox. We are glad to have you with us! Thank you for sharing your decision to reject cynicism when you became a mother. What a powerful story. At that moment of intense participation in Creation, how awesome that you were transformed by the beauty, joy, and mystery of life. Surely your friends were able to respond to your children as growing, loving miracles!
        Gail Sofia Ransom
        For the Daily Meditation Team

  1. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew, for your insight into what cynicism is. Occasionally, I stop and visit houses for sale; and for a couple of years I’ve noticed a trend that represents to me the mindset of American culture in this decade. Almost every one of these “staged houses” (along with recent “redecorating” that three of my extended family members have done) are “decorated” in shades of gray. What a clear representation of the general malaise in the current American outlook on life. It seems to represent a general, overriding depression–a failure to see hope for the future or enjoyment of life and creation. How different it would be to enter a house and see splashes of color everywhere! We need a more Mexican outlook on life. Color everywhere!

  2. Avatar

    25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
    26¶If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

    -Book of James

  3. Avatar

    How can we obtain Original Blessing as an e-book for the visually impaired? Could it be published a Kindle edition?
    Many thanks

  4. Avatar

    Reading these words brings tears to my eyes and heaviness in my heart, that I will in turn bring into the courts of heaven with my prayers for goodness and mercy to surround the prostitutes that are servicing these men and that God’s love will overwhelm this congregation of faith to a renewed state of transformation.

    Be not overcome with evil but overcome evil with good. God’s goodness will prevail, the world around us has become new! People seeing that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, so close, so very close will change how the congregation of faith will be able to operate in this new world.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to this arena of the church where religion is robbing us of heaven on earth.

    Let love reign!

  5. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this. Over the last year, I’ve been talking about this very thing…specifically as it relates to women and their bodies. Did you know that 90% of women in the US dislike their body? The messages of our patriarchal media keep women tied up in internalized corsets that steal them of their birthright to live freely, exquisitely, passionately, purposefully and fully embodied in this form. Imagine how the world might change if women started loving their bodies just as they are? The industries that would go out of business? And the causes/initiatives/creations women would put their focus to instead? That great gladness very might meet the worlds deep hunger. As I have developed the course, I realize that is is much less about body image and more about unwinding from this “fatalistic self hatred” and reclaiming our basic embodied Goodness again. This meditation couldn’t have come at a better time.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Jackie,
      Its good to hear from you. Thank you for writing. Your take on how cynicism can affect how we regard our own body as well as how we regard our culture gives us a whole new layer to consider. Thank you for reminding us that our cynical culture has taught us to regard our own souls and bodies as curse rather than blessing. De-layering the effect is a big task, but from what you describe, well worth it.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

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