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?
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.
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.”
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?
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.