Amidst Evil in Ukraine, Good News from Father Sky

Evil is often defined as “privation of the good.”  It would seem then that keeping the good before our eyes is one way to ground oneself in a time of evil goings on.

First photo as the Webb Telescope opens its eyes: the star HD 84406 is refracted into 18 images by the telescope’s 18 not-yet-aligned mirrors. Photo credit: NASA

Speaking of goodness, we need to look to Mother Earth and Father Sky in a time of chaos and upset caused by humans resorting to war, violence and hatred born of what Eckhart calls our “perverted” relationships.”  And war is surely a perverted relationship.

There is some good news about Father Sky these days.  The Webb Telescope is succeeding in offering us pictures of the wonder-filled and light-filled starry sky even while we await its coming revelations and light pictures from the early origins of our cosmic home.  [See “James Webb: ‘Fully focused’ telescope beats expectations”]

This is very important in a time of witnessing the widespread disaster and destruction in Putin’s war in Ukraine.  We need to bring the bigger picture, the more-than-human picture, into our consciousness in order to endure the evil in our midst.  As the Psalmist says, “look up to the mountains.”  Look beyond what humans are doing in order to get some perspective, to taste again the goodness and beauty of existence.

Webb’s mirror alignment continues: while the purpose of this image was to focus on HD 84406 for alignment evaluation, Webb’s optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up. Photo credit: NASA/STScI

“Fall in love with the world in spite of history,” as Derek Walcott puts it.  Drink in the beauty of existence if you are to bear witness to the ugliness and lies and brutality that humans are capable of.  Take in the light of the universe, the light of the cosmos from its earliest stages in order to gird yourself for the darkness and suffering that war brings down on us as well.

Light after all is a familiar synonym for the Divine around the world.  “I am the light of the world” (Christ).  “Be a light unto yourself.” (Buddha)  “God’s Presence shines with glorious light.” (Ps. 96)  “Yahweh my God, how great you are!  Clothed in majesty and glory, wrapped in a robe of light!” (Ps 104) 

The Bhagavad-Gita says that Divinity carries a “glaring effulgence, spreading on all sides, like blazing fire or the immeasurable radiance of the sun.  Yet I see this glowing form everywhere, adorned with various crowns clubs, and discs.” 

Sun rising over the Great Smokey Mountains. Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

The Koran says: “God is the light of the Heavens and the earth.” 

The Gospel of Thomas says: “Jesus said: ‘If they say to you: ‘Where are you from?  Say to them: ‘We came from the light there, where the light was, by itself.  It stood boldly and manifested itself in their image.” 

Thomas Aquinas says, “God is light; and one who approaches this light is illuminated, as Isaiah says: ‘Rise, in love, and be enlightened.”   

In Buddhism, ignorance means the lack of light.  Understanding means “made of light.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Flowing from Global Faiths, pp. 62f., 67-69, 76f.

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

Banner Image: Four nebulae known for their breathtaking beauty: the Eagle Nebula, the Omega Nebula, the Trifid Nebula, and the Lagoon Nebula. Hubble Telescope images; credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Queries for Contemplation

What are your experiences of God as Light and Light as God?  Do you return to these experiences in times of chaos and darkness?

Recommended Reading

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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13 thoughts on “Amidst Evil in Ukraine, Good News from Father Sky”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You began your meditation saying: “Evil is often defined as ‘privation of the good.'” I however believe that evil is a thing of itself. As we watch the news today the horrors of war come before us, and it seems as if Putin has all under HIS control. But then you bring us back, and help us put things in perspective with words like this: “We need to bring the bigger picture, the more-than-human picture, into our consciousness in order to endure the evil in our midst. As the Psalmist says, ‘look up to the mountains.’ Look beyond what humans are doing in order to get some perspective, to taste again the goodness and beauty of existence.”” Viktor Frankel discovered this even in a boxcar crammed full of humans on their way to Auschwitz. He said amidst the horror of it all, he could still see–through the slats in the box car–that the sun was shining, and birds were singing, and the world was going on. And that perspective gave him hope, and that is what we need. That is also why we need to, “Drink in the beauty of existence if you are to bear witness to the ugliness and lies and brutality that humans are capable of.”
    And so you ask us today: “What are your experiences of God as Light and Light as God?” The first thing that comes to mind is hearing Andrew Harvey say, “Burning radiance!” Another is singing, “This Little Light Of Mine”–I think of the word, “doxa” and the Buddha’s words that you mention, to “be a light unto yourself.” And dare I say, “Full Moon Rituals?” And finally you ask: “Do you return to these experiences in times of chaos and darkness?” And my answer is simply, “Yes.”

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      Is evil a “thing in itself”? There have been analyses made for that view. Douglas Rushkoff offers an alternative view in his book NOTHING SACRED: THE TRUTH ABOUT JUDAISM. He opines that just has cold is the absence of heat, evil is the absence of good/love. He concludes that Heat and Evil are not things in themselves.

      Re God as Light: I think of Madelyn ‘Al-Bright’ [RIP]. She generated beams of light in reaction to the deep darkness of her own personal story. Without the darkness would she have been inspired to generate so much light?

      1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Gwen, and heat is just the absence of cold and evil is just the absence of good. What I am saying when I say i s evil is a thing, I am not proposing “the Devil made him do it” I am saying that to just say evil is only the absence of good doesn’t make evil sound so evil. But evil is devious–think of serial killers and military torture–that to me is not just the absence of good–perhaps it would be better said that evil is an active principle–evil does things, and it is humans that perpetrate it. These are just some of my personal thoughts on the issue…

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          Thanks Richard.
          I agree that evil does appear to be an ‘active principle’ that we humans engage and propagate when we choose death dealing over love healing. I am always shaken by the willingness to torture other human beings, in the witch hunts and so many other places of incarceration, mostly associated with war. Your examples are compelling…

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    My experiences of God as light and light as God I have seen, unfolding, evolving and emerging through engaging with the beauty and goodness within the all and the everything of creation. In and through this I receive and perceive, intuitively, imaginatively and creatively… insights, revelations, comfort, consolation and wise counsel.

    How I return to these experiences in times of chaos and darkness… is by noticing, observing, acknowledging, appreciating, relating and responding to the light of God, that is always present in its presence… even in the midst of of chaos and darkness… which is a matter of turning my attention of focus towards this eternal, infinite reality and away from the temporary, finite reality, which will eventually pass away.

    Yesterday morning, for example, as I stepped out into the dawn of a new day… the entire sky was ablaze in the most glorious light of deep, vibrant reds, purples, pinks and mauves… stopping me in my tracks… grabbing my attention… I whispered the words, “absolutely spectacular… how beautiful.”
    I simply stood still, present to the presence, in awe… simply accepting, receiving, acknowledging this gift… responding with gratitude… awake and aware to this intimate moment of relationship with God, whom is the glorious light of Divine Love… that was giving all a warm and beautiful hug, reassuring us all… that there is indeed light in the darkness, order in the chaos, comfort and consolation in the pain and the suffering… that this too is here now, to be seen, unfolding, evolving and emerging amidst all that seems so very paradoxal and absurdly incomprehensible.

    All of this too is available… as a beautiful and good gift, freely given to all those whom open the eyes and ears of their hearts, minds, souls and spirits… to the essence and presence of the light and truth of God’s Divine Love in our midst… expressed and made manifest in infinite ways… moving within, for and through, the all and the everything of creation… which includes humanity, even though this may be hidden at times beneath distressing disguises.

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    Thank you for helping me face this day trusting that God is in control. I find daily meditation such a comfort

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    Matthew, thank you, thank you, thank you, for reminding us that in all our mystical spiritual traditions are found the faith, experience, and message that God’s Eternal Love~Light~Life is within us and among us in All of ongoing Creation~Evolution, even within our created human nature as co-Creators with God’s Beautiful and Compassionate Spirit of Divine Love….

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    Reading again Skylar Wilson’s writing about letting go and accepting death as today we see so much death and dread even more at the hand of Evil. Whether Evil is the absence of Good, or whether it is a thing of itself is moot. It exists and expands itself whether Good is present or not—many good people in Ukraine as well as all over the world sending Good to the victims of Evil—and that Good will may mitigate, but does not stop, Evil in its path.
    I must experience, go into, the grief of this time. But I must not be consumed. I must keep foremost the people who stayed to feed entrapped animals; those who rushed to save bombed hospitals; those who pray over the bodies in the streets; those who drive into danger to rescue others; those who pray from afar; those who make art in the midst of war and destruction.
    THERE is the Light.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Olive, You make an extremely good point when you say: “Whether Evil is the absence of Good, or whether it is a thing of itself is moot. It exists and expands itself whether Good is present or not…” I agree with you wholeheartedly on this point. And the words that come to me as I read your last paragraph is found in the first chapter of the gospel of John: “And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (1:5)

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      Olive, thank you for your comment… especially the last paragraph. I identify with the experiences of going into the multitude of feelings arising in the midst of this war… of entering into solidarity with others… their pain, suffering and sorrow… and the importance of not being CONSUMED by this. How you have done so… is going so deep that you have indeed seen the light there… in the midst of such destruction, darkness, death and evil… there, in the midst of the people of Ukraine whom have chosen to stay… rather than flee… the incarnation of the light and truth of God’s presence and essence within, for and moving through the hearts, minds and souls of these ones, our brothers and sisters… revealed and made known as acts of deep compassion, mercy and love.

  6. Avatar

    Thank you Rev. Matthew Fox for the photos from the Webb telescope. They certainly are needed in a time of such Via Negativa. In the midst of such destruction, let us remember God is there too. Let us find Him/Her in the darkness as well as in the light.

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