Clearly the Scriptures speak of the Via Negativa and the dark night of the soul. We are invited in to taste the ashes as our food. Job and the Psalmist too remind us of the depth of loss that the human soul tastes.
To undergo such loss can be an important part of our spiritual journey as mystics and prophets. As Mechtild of Magdeburg teaches: “We have been given the white wine of joy and the red wine of sorrow to drink. Until we have drunk deeply of both we have not lived.” The white wine is the Via Positiva; the red wine is the Via Negativa.
Consider Psalm 22 which Christians often apply to Jesus dying on the cross:
My God, my God, why have you deserted me?
How far from saving me, the words I groan!
I call all day, my God, but you never answer,
All night long I call and cannot rest.
Yet, Holy One, you
Who make your home in the praises of Israel,
In you our fathers put their trust….they never trusted you in vain.
Yet here am I, now more worm than man,
Scorn of mankind, jest of the people.
All who see me jeer at me,(Ps 22. 1-8)
They toss their heads and sneer,
‘He relied on Yahweh, let Yahweh save him!
If Yahweh is his friend, let Him rescue him!’…
A herd of bulls surround me,(Ps 22: 13-18, 21)
Strong bulls of Bashan close in on me;
Their jaws are agape for me, like lions tearing and roaring.
I am like water draining away,
My bones are all disjointed,
my heart is like wax,
melting inside me;
my palate is drier than a potsherd
and my tongue is stuck to my jaw.
A pack of dogs surrounds me,
a gang of villains closes me in….
I can count every bone of my body,
and there they glare at me, gloating;
they divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothes….
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
my poor soul from the wild bulls’ horns!
The lesson is that the dark night is harrowing, yet it is often a part of life. We do not dwell just in the Via Positiva. We enter into the darkness, however unwillingly. Suffering carves us out and replaces our hearts with new and larger and stronger ones. As Joanna Macy puts it, “when your heart breaks the whole universe can pour through.”
See: Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 132-177.
Scriptural quotes adapted from The Jerusalem Bible.
Banner image: ““MUDMAID – Lost Gardens of Heligan” by Pete and Sue Hill
Stop at a phrase that moves you in this reading. Be present with the phrase. Let it wash over you and through you. What is it making you feel? What is it telling you about 1) staying awake? 2) Not forgetting? 3) what you can do?
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.