The late Catholic monk Thomas Merton (who died a martyr for peace in 1968), said that “today wisdom begins with sorrow.”  Can we so accept our sorrow today and be with it and not flee from it that wisdom might emerge?  Are we strong enough to be with the sorrow and the Via Negativa? Can we acknowledge how genocide and ecocide are Evil?  Can we combat the powers that are causing such evil to emerge?

“Empty Oceans.” Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels 

We are living in apocalyptic times.  We are facing extinction—our own and that of millions of other species.  What is our response?  Is it fear?  Despair (which is born of fear?)   Or action to seek out allies to assist in changing politics, education, religion, economics and the rest?

Clearly we need to learn to face Evil more directly, but one problem we face in the West is that patriarchal guilt, shame and religion have very often oversold sin and left us bereft of a language to discuss Evil.  “Our language for Evil is at a primitive stage” says psychologist Scott Peck.  In my book on Evil I bring East and West together–the 7 chakras of the East and the 7 capital sins of the West–to create a new language about evil. 

It is time we talk about evil. And act on it.  Evil within ourselves and evil in societal structures.  Are we up to that?  I think so.  It is necessary for our survival and nothing inspires the human race like necessity.

Ocean wind turbines. Photo by CGP Grey on Flickr

Out of the Via Positiva and the Via Negativa can be born a vigorous Via Creativa.  Consider for example these ideas from two young scientists whom I heard speak at a conference on Climate Change.  One said this: “We can build an island now 1000 miles off New England and put windmills on it that would provide 100% of the electrical needs for North America—no gas, oil or coal needed.  It would be in no one’s back yard—people would not even see it.” 

A second scientist said this: “If we can quadruple the amount of storage in batteries (and we have doubled that so we only have to double it one more time), the entire southern hemisphere of the globe—which is the poorest part and the sunniest part—Africa, South America and Southern Asia—could leap frog over the industrial revolution and exist entirely in a solar-generated society.”

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Banner Image: “Desert.” Photo by Austin Langlois on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

If “wisdom begins with sorrow,” what wisdom do you derive from the sorrow you are feeling about the Amazon forest burning and the losses involved?

If the Via Negativa is about letting go and letting be, how well are you learning those practices?  Meister Eckhart says “we sink eternally from letting go to letting go into the One.”  Is it your experience too that the letting go never ceases?

Recommended Reading

Fox makes the point that religion has so often oversold the concept of “sin” that it has left us without language or power to combat evil. Through comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.

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9 thoughts on “Speaking of Evil”

  1. Avatar

    Dear Matthew, first thank you so much for your work to help us all wake up to sacredness. I would also like to recommend the work from the organization, World Beyond War. and their wonderful book, “A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.” I believe your work on the Sacred along with work like, “A Global Security System…” are the path to True Shalom.It can happen – it is happening, as our ignorance evolves. The pain of the destruction though is overwhelming and as you say can only be withstood with balance. love to you, Mair Honan

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Mair,
      Thank you for writing, and thank you for letting us know about the organization, World Beyond War. With so many people and organizations moving us toward a new consciousness, surely our ignorance is evolving into wisdom. Evolution into new forms is the way of the universe. May each of us continue do our part in transforming our fear into love.
      Gail Sofia ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  2. Avatar
    João Cláudio Fontes

    Besides the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit , i think we need to face the evil in the soul level , metaphysical evil , those loosen archetypes/demons that destroy our dreams . We need new shamans/exorcists too !

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Joao,
      Thank your for the reminder of the complexity and mystery of evil. Is the metaphysical evil you describe seated any deeper in our souls than love and positivity? Your comment makes we wonder.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar

    I like the story from one of the indigenous traditions of a grandfather speaking to a circle of young ones. He tells them there are in each of us a struggle between two hungry wolves. One is ravenous for revenge, angry, greedy and capable of doing great violence. The other is just as ravenous for love, joy, peace and harmony among his mates. When asked which one will win, Grandfather says it will be “the one we feed.” Each of us must search our hearts, and face the dual potential for good and evil in ourselves.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Thank you, Carole, for this reminder of a powerful story. It always wakes me up to its wisdom whenever I hear it, and has again. It takes some strong intentionality to choose to feed the harmony wolf, I’ve found.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  4. Avatar

    Yes. For me, letting go never ceases. As soon as I am able to let go of something, I realize how much more I need to let go of. It’s much like the saying “The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.” It’s also, in my experience, the reverse of accumulation. The process of accumulating things builds on itself. For many of us, once we realize we can have a few things, we realize how much more there is to have. It’s the trap and the “brilliance” of capitalism. Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that letting go — of things, mindsets, ego, etc., etc. — is true freedom.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Thank you, Susan, for your profound comments on seeking a balance between what teaches us with its presence, and what teaches us with its loss. The mystical life is one of letting go, as you describe, until we can face existence just as we are – with no title, no possessions, and no atttachments to argue for our validity. I wonder if the trap of capitalism that you describe is in some way built upon the fear of engaging life without props or pretense.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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