Evil and 21st Century Spirituality

Deepak Chopra, writing a Forward to the recent edition of my book on Evil, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, declares that evil will be the primary issue in a twenty-first century spirituality.  He writes: “In addressing sin and evil, Fox’s book faces the single greatest obstacle of spirituality in the twenty-first century.  The human race escaped the mass horrors of the previous century by the skin of its teeth, only to find that Satan couldn’t be put back in his bottle….As millions walk away from organized religion, wondering where God was during the Holocaust or 9/11 or Abu Ghraib, the satanic side of human nature seems more intractable than ever.” 

Deepak Chopra presenting. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Yahoo.

To me it is significant that Chopra names Evil the number one obstacle to spirituality in our time.

We have been meditating for a number of weeks on Keeping Light alive and especially through our work in reforming our professions and more.  In yesterday’s DM we saw that the opposite of Evil is not the Good.  Bad is the opposite of Good.  The opposite of Evil is the Sacred or the Holy.  

The Good is very important, however, in combatting Evil.  Indeed, the good is a door (“I am the way,” “I am a door”) to the Sacred just as sin is a door to Evil. The Via Positiva in its many expressions opens the way to an experience of the Sacred.

Large sign displaying the word sin. Photo originally posted to Flickr by April.

Sin is a door to evil—it is not evil itself but a door to it.  As the Lakota teacher Buck Ghosthorse put it, “Fear is the door in the heart that lets evil spirits in.”  Notice that “fear” is a door—sin is a door—but Evil is something much bigger than sin.  Evil trips in when we weaken ourselves by submitting to bad habits such as fear that we call vice or sin. 

Religion that over emphasizes “sin” often ends up impotent to treat Evil or even talk about it with credibility.  Too much “sin talk” becomes like the little boy who cried wolf one time too often.

Portrait of Buck Ghosthorse hanging in the home of Matthew Fox.

This is one reason why, in meditating on Evil, we want to return regularly to the Sacred and to the Good in order to empower us to stay on track and to lead with our positive values.  That is where our strength lies.  Buck Ghosthorse, in saying that fear is a door in the heart that lets evil spirits in, followed up with these words: “Therefore all authentic prayer is strengthening the heart so that fear stays outside the door” and does not enter, bringing evil spirits with it.  He is right.  The good makes us strong.  The Sacred renders us strong.  We need to stay connected to it.  And deeply so.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. xiii, xxxvii.

Banner Image: Peaceful protestors Adelaja and Pancho Ramos-Stierle are arrested at Occupy Oakland protest, 2011. Photographer: Noah Berger

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Deepak Chopra that Evil is the Number One obstacle to spirituality in this century?  What follows from that?

Do you agree with Buck Ghosthorse that fear is a door in the heart that lets evil spirits in?  What follows from that?

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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2 thoughts on “Evil and 21st Century Spirituality”

  1. Avatar

    Unfortunately, Buck Ghosthorse / Ghost Horse was not Lakota. He was Leonard Albert “Buck” Mattern Jr. originally, born in Pennsylvania.
    After serving in the military he was a Klan member for several years in Florida. This fact is captured in newspaper articles and also in FBI surveillance. Mattern was an active unrepentant Klan member.
    So no, I do not agree “with Buck Ghosthorse that fear is a door in the heart that lets evil spirits in”. I don’t know that he actually said that. And of course there is a time and place for fear. Fear triggered by actual danger can help us take actions that may help us be safer.
    “Evil spirits”? This was supposedly said by a man who had been an active Klan member. He was a Klan official, a Kladd. He participated in rallies, cross burnings, and violent brawls.
    Mattern was not a “Lakota Medicine Man”. He was a fraud.

    1. Avatar

      Book Jenkins,
      I don’t know who you are. Perhaps no one does.
      But I personally know who Buck Ghost Horse was, and he was most certainly not a fraud. He was a great Medicine Man and a man of integrity.
      Shame on you for your slanderous words and uneducated judgmental opinion.
      The Great Spirit sees all.

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