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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.