Via Positiva & Via Negativa Intertwining

Beginning a few meditations back, we interrupted our Via Positiva essays to deal somewhat with the bad news that was bearing in on us from mass murders to the mass fires of the Amazon with its implications for Ecocide and the rest of Mother Earth.  So I want to say a word about our methodology. 

Weaving the dark and light into the fabric of our lives.
Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

Instead of proceeding on to the Via Negativa in a straightforward way I will be doubling back some to say more about the Via Positiva and then weaving in the Via Negativa as well.  So our method will not be straight linear but a kind of spiral with some back and forth between the VP and VN.  Furthermore, we do not want to get bogged down in the Via Negativa and the dark news of our time.  There’s plenty of that on the news daily!  We need to keep joy alive!

The longer I live and observe life and the deeper I go into the Four Paths I am more than ever convinced that the Via Positiva is primary and is embedded into each of the other Paths—it deserves to be weaving in and out as we move along.  Furthermore, as was made very clear in a recent essay where both Hildegard and Rabbi Heschel were cited, remembering is key to survival and strength during the darkest of times.  Remembering what?  Remembering the Via Positiva– the gift that beauty and existence are, all deeper than human folly and malfeasance. 

“Untitled” Photo by Jonathan Weiss on Unsplash

So I invite you to think of the VP and VN intertwining (and later the Via Creativa and Via Transformativa as well), like two colors of toothpaste emerging from a toothpaste tube; or the red, white and blue stripes on a barber pole.

Just one of the important relationships between the Via Positiva and Via Negativa is this: The Via Negativa and the emptying involved with it can actually assist the work of the Via Positiva.  Think of the purification of the senses that happens in a sweat lodge or in a fasting experience or in a situation of loss. 

For example, Molly Rush, a grandmother and activist associated with the Catholic Worker House in Pittsburg, tells the story of how, when imprisoned for protesting nuclear weapons, she would be allowed to walk in a small outdoor space every day and she began to notice tiny wildflowers growing up in the mud between concrete.  Gradually they became her close friends during her lonely times. 

“Resilience.” Image by Martina Liel from Pixabay

On being released from jail her senses had become so attuned to wildflowers that she could see them in the cracks while driving down the city’s streets and would swerve to avoid them.  She wondered if her next arrest would be for drunk driving because she was often zig zagging so as to avoid running over her flower friends growing in the cracks of the concrete.

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, 140-147, 157-172.
Banner Image: “Garden Gastropod,” Photographer unknown. From Pixabay.

For Deeper Contemplation

Have you had an experience like Molly Rush’s—where a loss became an insight into gratitude and seeing the world anew for its glory bathed in a Via Positiva experience? 

Do you remember to remember the Via Positiva in dark times?  How can you do that more effectively?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

In this book Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology). Here Fox lays out the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.

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14 thoughts on “Via Positiva & Via Negativa Intertwining”

  1. Avatar
    Melissa Reed Graves

    I am so grateful for these morning meditations. They set my day by reminding me of the goodness that we are. We need to keep remembering that especially in these hard news times. Thank you so much for this meaningful exercise.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Melissa, Thank you for writing. I will pass on your gratitude to Matthew as we know you will pass on your honoring of goodness throughout your day.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    As you plunge more deeply into the VP/VN interplay, as we do today, I hope to learn how your thinking compares with the classic dichotomy in Lutheran theology: The distinction between Law and Gospel. I am seeing many points of comparison so far. And this matters, because both your thinking and Luther’s appeal to me – not for their abstract intellectual qualities – but because they both reflect so well the contorted realities of living in the real world, and give meaning to the apparent chaos out there. Press on…! I’m eager to learn more.

  3. Avatar

    Your emphasis on the Via Positive brings to mind the words of Jewish mystic Abraham Heschel who said, “As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind.” The answer? “Wonder or radical amazement, the state of maladjustment to words and notions, is, therefore, a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of that which is.” “That which is,” of course, refers to the sacred nature of being. And Heschel warns, “Mankind will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation…”

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear John,
      How could Heschel know so well what life would be like now? His words about the advancement of civilization and the decline of wonder describe our current situation too well. Let anyone who can live with radical amazement do so. It is the intidote to our destruction.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Jan,
      When asked how we are, we usually answer with one dimension, “Good” or “Busy” or “Mad at the world!” But if we were honest, would would probably say, “Happy, except for this angry letter I just received.” Or “Surprisingly buoyant considering I just lost a major client.” Or “Grieving, and yet so grateful to have had such a wonderful sister.” May your intertwining paths open up new levels of appreciation for you.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  4. Avatar

    …being habitually busy, bowing to the small festering irritations and being absorbed into the culture of fear and trepidation on every channel, the energy seemingly filled with doom can encapsulate you into a tiny universe or it can be a catalyst to propel you into grandeur and the massive moments of awe.
    The stroke that I had this year made me take exceptional notice of the minute and the seconds and the instantaneous changes that occur when otherwise I was not paying attention. Now I am alive to how my brain works within me, the smell of a rose can take me into a pleasure field of sensation, the whole earth is definitely filled with Gods glory especially amidst the pain and in the dark. Entangle yourself in it all, cause at the strangest of times life as you know it can change. Setting your mind on Christ cosmos is the gift that needs to be exchanged to humanity one precious soul at a time, one sweet smile at a time. In the quarkiest of degrees we all are being redeemed we all are being loved. For me, breaking life down to the smallest common denominator helps in the dark times and gives me the shimmering glimpses of glory and expands the light. Interplay always!

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Esther,
      What a beautiful expression of intertwining Positiva and Negativa. Your stroke has given you an heightened awareness of the miracles around you, and the finite time we all have to discover and celebrate the divine in them. So many times, a life changing illness becomes the catalyst for living a full life with eyes wide open. Obviously, this is what has happened to you! I hope you keep writing about it. YOur descriptions are quite artful.
      Gail Sofia ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  5. Avatar
    Anne Marie Raftery

    Molly Rush’s experience reminded me of the times when, as the
    Prison Chaplain, I would join the Native American women in their
    Sweat Lodge Ritual. The four-quarters of sweating/sharing was a
    spiritual journey intertwining all 4 Paths: Via Negativa – Positive,
    Creative,Transformativa. For me, as Catholic, these were times of
    profound spiritual personal growth.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Anne Marie,
      Thank you for sharing your experience as a Catholic Prison Chaplain participating in the Native American women’s Sweat Lodge Ritual. I am sure that the experience was grounding and healing for all of you, encircled as you were within the four directions and The Four Paths. How fortunate that you were able and open to experience this.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  6. Avatar

    So refreshing to learn about your insights into Via Positiva & Via Negativa and the acknowledgement of both the inbreath & the outbreath in a culture so focused on the positiva aspect.

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