In addition to being a “privation of the good,” I see Evil as a force or energy related directly to the Via Creativa, to creativity and misuse of imagination. As Denise Levertov names it, a “failure at imagination that leads to compassion.” This is sometimes called the “sin of omission” which Aquinas says is always about injustice.
Evil turns its back on goodness but can also be a force of energy and creativity in its own right that leads to the opposite of compassion, death, destruction and suffering. Witness the war on Ukraine today.
So I see Evil as “a privation of the good” and a misuse of creativity, using it for destruction and not compassion and building up. Death, not Life. Otto Rank is wise for having named the centrality of creativity to our very nature as human beings but also to our complicity with Evil.
What he calls the “artiste manque” haunts us. If we don’t deal with our creativity well, it will lead to self-destruction and other-destruction. It leads to our neurosis not just as individuals but as societies and communities. It is deadly. A “mortal sin” therefore that spreads death elsewhere.
Seeing the dual dimension to Evil assists, I think, our struggle against it in self and others whether we are talking today about an unjust war in Ukraine or the unholy war against Mother Earth. Evil is both a privation of the good and a misuse of creativity. In that way it is a demonic power, a negative and dangerous spirit among and within us. The opposite of Jesus’s teaching that “the kingdom/queendom of God is within and among you.”
Another naming of Evil that Carl Jung employees frequently is shadow, especially an unexamined shadow. Shadow for me denotes the omnipresence of evil—Evil is not “out there” somewhere exclusively, it is everywhere like a shadow is everywhere. And it is directly related to the Light. There is no shadow sans light. Light and light and shadow walk together.
Summarizing the past three DM’s, I would propose a Trinity of Evil that in some ways parallels the Trinity in the Christian tradition. Thus it constitutes a kind of anti-Trinity:
1. Evil as privation of good (privatio boni) vs. the “goodness” that God and existence are. (See Genesis 1)
2. Evil as a force or energy among us that is the opposite of liberation or redemption promised by Christ and other spiritual teachers. Thus, an anti-Christ.
3. Evil as shadow. A presence in our midst that needs attention. Not a Holy Spirit but an unholy spirit or spirits.
See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in So
ul and Society.
And Matthew Fox, “Otto Rank on the Artistic Journey as a Spiritual Journey, the Spiritual Journey as an Artistic Journey,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 199-214.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Can you recognize Evil as a three-fold reality as proposed in this meditation? Have you had personal experiences of Evil?
Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life
In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.