The Via Positiva Amidst the Chaos & Evil of War

We are trying these days to pray the news, including the very bad and ugly and evil news of Putin’s war in Ukraine. This includes “walking our walk of lament on a path of praise” (Rilke).

Singers and musicians, young and old, perform to raise the morale of Ukrainians taking cover in bomb shelters, in the Kyiv subway, and other threatened areas around the country as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues. Video by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

It is important when dealing with Evil that one regularly “come up for air” and remember the Via Positiva and what makes life beautiful and worth living—and even dying for. In my major study on Evil, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, I deliberately begin with three chapters dedicated to Blessings or Goodness.  I begin my study on evil with “Blessings of the Flesh” that includes first, Praise of the Universe Flesh; then the Earth Flesh; then Human Flesh including the Seven Chakras that name for us “Further Blessings of the Human Flesh.”

After all, we derive our energy to combat evil from the deeper wells of beauty and goodness and blessing, from the Via Positiva therefore.  Just as Mary Oliver found her healing from having been raped as a child by her father by studying nature, and praying and devoting herself to nature.  Just as one does not enter a dark cave without a lantern, so we dare not enter the darkness of evil without a light of goodness and blessing.

Volunteers in Poland welcome and care for separated child refugees from Ukraine. Video by Good Morning America.

These days I find myself going back to my book, Original Blessing, because recovering the original blessing that is our birthright and that coursed through all 13.9 billion years of the universe’s unfolding that brought us here, is necessary to awaken to a cosmic perspective on human history and to nurture ourselves for struggle.  As poet farmer Wendell Berry observes:

It is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth….There is an uncanny resemblance [sic] between our behavior toward each other and our behavior toward the earth.

The threat to the earth in war (including the possible nuclear accidents due to the many nuclear power stations in Ukraine) is horrific like the slaughter of innocent children and adults is horrific.

Ukraine’s refugees, soldiers mark International Women’s Day. Video by Reuters.

Artist Robert Henri testifies: 

Everything that is beautiful is orderly, and there can be no order unless things are in their right relation to each other.  Of this right relation throughout the world beauty is born. 

Watching war is watching evil, chaos and therefore ugliness unfold.  The chaos of war seems to trump beauty because it trumps order.  Henri: 

Art is the noting of the existence of order throughout the world….This orderliness must exist or the world could not hold together.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit  (NY: 1960), p. 144

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 65, 79.  

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp21-130.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Golden endless fields. Photo by Olga Subach on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you recognize what Wendell Berry points out, an “uncanny resemblance between our behavior toward each other and our behavior toward the earth”?  And war as chaos and destruction of the beauty that holds the world together (Henri)?

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6 thoughts on “The Via Positiva Amidst the Chaos & Evil of War”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today our “Query for Contemplation” is: “Do you recognize what Wendell Berry points out, an ‘uncanny resemblance between our behavior toward each other and our behavior toward the earth’? And war as chaos and destruction of the beauty that holds the world together (Henri)? I believe that Berry is exactly right–“our behavior toward each other resembles our behavior toward the earth”–and thus we need to apply the “Golden Rule” in our relationship to the earth as we do to people. It also rings true to me that it is beauty that holds the world together. I think of Plato’s “the true, the good and the beautiful” which sustains life and society, or as the Native American Tradition walking the “Beauty Path” with: “Beauty before me, Beauty behind me, Beauty to my right and beauty to my left, Beauty above me and Beauty below me, I walk on the Beauty path…

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    As we know, the word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news.’ We wouldn’t need good news if, as lopsidedly presented via media outlets, much or most (not all) of earthly life wasn’t rife and despoiled by bad news. In fine priestly fashion, Matthew ministers that good news, devoted to keep us in remembrance of same, and to keep, practice, and uphold the nobility of the good in a troubled world of bad. Thomas quotes Jesus in his gospel record as saying “the kingdom of heaven is spread upon the face of the earth, and men do not see it.” Meaning, most men, as in male. If you see it, and live it, you are in the minority, so count yourself blessed, and live nobly in an ignoble world of unredeemed patriarchy.

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      When we talk about ‘sheep’, we include ‘ewes’; when we talk about ‘deer’ we include ‘does’; so when we talk about ‘men’ in the bible, we include ‘all people including women’. In and of itself, a quote from Jesus is not indicative of a ‘world of unredeemed patriarchy. There may be other reason for believing we live in an ignoble world of patriarchy, but we must never forget or diminish the powerful role that women played in the early church.

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    Jeanette Metler

    Thank you Mathew, in helping us all come up for a breath of fresh air, amidst the depths of the via negativa of this war. Thank you for the video clips within today’s DM. I was moved again to tears today, however these tears brought a warmth to my heart and a smile to my lips… as I gazed upon the radiant light of the via positiva… the glorious beauty and nobility of the Spirit of LOVE, within the hearts, minds and souls… that inherent goodness present in its essence within humanity… reflected in the people of Ukraine, Poland and those from other nations. All of this filled me with faith, hope and trust in the everlasting beauty and resilient power of LOVE.
    I am awed and touched by the wonder of seeing the living Spirit of this LOVE… unfolding, evolving and emerging… in the midst of the horrors of this war.

    I realize just how important, yet also challenging it is… to remain open in heart, with arms spread wide… embracing that which appears as so very paradoxal and contradictory, the Via Negativa and the Via Positiva… fully living in the tension of the in-between spaces… in the horizontal center of the Cross… awaiting the vertical movements of the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa that are yet to unfold, evolve and emerge through this center of tension… that humanity might ascend into a higher level of conscious awareness… seeing our interconnections, interdependence and interrelationships… that humanity might also descend into the depths of that inherent goodness, beauty and nobility of the presence and essence of the SPIRIT OF DIVINE LOVE… our true divine nature, incarnate within the sacredness of our humanity… that we may truly and deeply begin to live in right relationship with ourselves, each other and the all and the everything of creation. This is my hope and my prayer… as we all share the burden of this Cross together… the resurrection and ascension of new life… a new way of living in unity.

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    Matthew, the same day you quoted Wendell Berry saying there was an uncanny resemblance between the way we treat the earth and the way we treat each other, that same morning the New York Times (0nline) reported the following:
    ‘And Halliburton has continued to operate oil fields in Russia despite a specific appeal from a top Ukrainian official.
    ‘ “Always unfortunate in so many ways for so many people,” Jeff Miller, Halliburton’s chief executive, said in January, about the prospect of a war. “But from a business perspective, we’ve managed these sorts of things up and down for, I hate to say, nearly 100 years.” ‘

    How’s that for a summing-up of corporate capitalism?

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