When did hatred begin?  First, of course, hatred and fear have always been with the human species.  And, when we don’t examine our own consciences, it easily gets projected and turned into blaming and  scapegoating onto “the other.” 

Ku Klux Klan cult gathering. Photo posted to Flickr by Image Editor.

The origins of hatred in America can be seen of course in Slavery, justified as necessary by capitalists wanting cheap labor to grow cotton and the rest.  To do this, one must institutionalize hate and treat other human beings as objects who are less than human. 

When slavery was ended in the Civil War, very shortly Jim Crow laws and lynchings spread domestic terror among ex-slaves and their descendants, laws that endured for a century and were only begun to be reversed by the civil rights movements of the nineteen fifties and sixties.

Bounties on the heads of native peoples in nineteenth century California were a certain way of “othering” another whole race of people—as was the establishment of the “mission” system of rounding up Indian people to live and work (for no pay) in missions, thus killing off their culture.  

Boarding schools, both governmental and religious, accomplished the same task and mainstreamed it.  Terror and trauma followed and the results of both can be found among indigenous peoples today around the world. 

hat Is Hatred?  What are its Roots? 

Projecting hate onto God: Westboro Baptist Church protest at Lincoln Southwest Highschool. Photo by Michael Sauers on Flickr.

Hatred seems to be the obverse of love. It comes from the heart—where love comes from—and therein lies its power. It seems to be a misdirection of love energy and it is clearly related to both violence and resentment.

Aquinas points out that anger is much less serious than hatred because anger does not seek evil against another except as just revenge or reparation for an offense. It seeks recompense.

Hatred, on the other hand, is directed indiscriminately against anyone or any group at all and not for reasons of justice but “merely because their disposition or character is not to our liking” and the punishment hatred wants to mete out has no limits. “Hatred intends evil in itself to one’s neighbor.” The person who hates does not care if the object of his hatred is deserving of it or not.  Hatred leads to violence therefore.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 287f.

Also see Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart, Mystic Warrior for Our Time.

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

Banner Image: “Hatred.” Painting by Baasir Gaisawat on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

“Hatred intends evil in itself to one’s neighbor.”  How does this observation by Aquinas apply to slavery and colonizing of old and to hatred born of white supremacy in our time?  What remedies do we have against hatred?


Recommended Reading

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10 thoughts on “Origins and Nature of Hatred”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    A Query for Contemplation: If as you ask, “When did hatred begin?” and then you answer with: “First, of course, hatred and fear have ALWAYS been with the human species,” then it seems that every person–think of the young man who killed ten in Buffalo, NY, has been born of “Original Sin”–or at least it sure as hell looks that way. Though, of course, we would never say that Jesus had Original Sin, but what about all those “regular people–who were not one of the persons of the Godhead” who wanted and had his blood? They certainly weren’t a blessing to Jesus. And even if you rounded up all the saints, (some 10,000) even if they were all good–especially the martyrs–were all subject to the evil of other humans, who were born of the seed of evil in them. But Eckhart tells us that “The seed of God is in us.” Then he goes on to say, “Now the seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree; and the hazel seed grows into a hazel tree; a seed of God grows into God.” Now that is Original Blessing !!! So, if you could please, speak to us of why Original Sin is not the case, and Original Blessing prevails.

    “Hatred intends evil in itself to one’s neighbor.” I totally agree with Aquinas because that is what happens on an inner personal level as well as on group levels. We can see this in how we colonized America, much to the detriment of the native peoples here, and then we continued to move on in our imperialistic conquests. So we have isolated the native peoples, denigrated the former slaves, and now we are refusing to be a refuge for those who are fleeing war and injustice.
    “What remedies do we have against hatred?” Unfortunately, the remedies I would suggest are not the kind of remedies the ones that need them would use, because for me it is in keeping a regular daily devotional life–reading, praying, meditating and doing daily works of kindness–my wife and I take care of a number of senior neighbors that live near us.

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    I very much appreciate hearing from Rabbi Heschel again and Aquinas distinguishing been hatred and anger. I think it is significant that renowned American journalist Fareed Zakaria closed his recent documentary on Putin by saying that Putin isn’t just immoral, he is evil. I think of Leonard Cohen’s prophetic warning in his song The Future: “you will feel the devil’s riding crop”. How do we counter Putin and his soul-less enablers? We do supply defense weaponry but more significant is the soul-full Russians like Navalny. For us at a distance, I think of the Good Samaritan who sees a stranger lying on the road dying, we respond with personal ongoing care and attention to the victims’ needs. This ‘love’ remedy is our response to blind violent hatred.

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      A family member is a medical professional who has treated some of the most despicable of humanity—criminals, bigots, violent tempered people, etc. She says that her hatred is toward the disease that brought them to her, not toward the person the disease inhabits. I always thought this was a noble way of looking at it, but I’ve never found a despicable person wounded and been required to make that distinction. I’d like to believe I would act against the injury instead of the person, but truthfully, I don’t know.
      There was a situation near where we live in which law enforcement fired on a man drawing a weapon against them. The man died, but before he died, the officers surrounded him and began to administer first aid, then CPR—would I have done the same? I hope so.

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    Damian Maureira

    What remedies do we have against hatred/evil? The mystics answer that we have to take responsibility for our own awareness of God ‘s Divine Loving Presence in our own hearts~soul. Of course this is the deep healing and transformative journey of our eternal souls towards Loving Diverse Oneness with the grace of God’s Divine Love~Wisdom… Since God Lovingly created us with free will, we have to be humbly open and trusting to this Loving, Healing, Transformative, and Mysterious Presence and Transformative Process… Since it has not been easy for most people, especially men, throughout human history to the present day to faithfully and humbly let go and die to egocentricity, evil and hatred has thus easily seeped into our hearts and actions with its’ consequent personal, social, and environmental destructive consequences and human suffering… In spite of this harsh reality, we have to maintain our deep faith and trust in our own compassionate awareness, growth, and actions of our eternal souls (Higher Self~Cosmic Christ Consciousness) of God’s Divine Love~Wisdom~Creative Presence within and among us in God’s Loving co-Creation~Evolution in our multiverse Cosmos….
    ?❤️?

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    I am looking forward to Matthew’s reply to your questions because I have the same questions myself. I love the idea of original blessing but when I see so much hatred manifesting I think…is it because so many people believe the lie of superiority of whiteness…. believe the lie of separation….. If that is the cause what can we do to displace the lie with the truth?

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    “The self did not originate in the self.” What a profound sentence to meditate on! I wrote that down to put on my wall.
    I wonder if hatred isn’t some form of superstition. First there has to be a deep underlying sense of fear and feeling threatened, and then as a collective way to manage this there is a commitment to a contorted set of beliefs that somehow provides the superstitious illusion that your own safety is enhanced by hating others. The way in which fervent haters are immune to reason reminds me of superstition or even obsessive-compulsive behaviors – convoluted attempts to soothe a threatened self.
    The remedy might then be all the things that make people develop a secure existential attachment.

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    I’m glad to see these definitions and explanations of hatred. I don’t wish evil on anyone. I am, however, furious at the group(s) that seek to unjustly dominate the lives of others and to produce through their legal actions and their distinctive religious prejudices to create a de facto slavery society by denying those **they** hate the inalienable right of individuality, personhood, free choice, freedom of religious belief, and the ability to chart their own course.
    This series of comments has been very helpful to me. Thanks.

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    Jeanette Metler

    My sense is that hate stems from some deep seated, soul PAIN. If you’ve ever experienced intense chronic pain for an extended length of time… it can make one become debilitated… unable to navigate one’s emotions, thoughts, or choices, with any sense of conscious awareness… due to the constant affliction and intensity of the pain itself. PAIN can actually drive one into a kind of madness… due to ones literal inability to do anything to alleviate the constant anguish the PAIN itself. This madness, often then leads to a kind of manic evil… that releases itself in violent expressions and manifestations… due to the PAIN itself being an energy that cannot be contained… sometimes imploding, leading to suicide… or exploding leading to the killing of others. This imploding or exploding is an attempt to alleviate the built up pressure and tension of the utter anguish of the intensity and energy of PAIN itself.

    The response of Divine Unconditional Love… is compassionate MERCY… which is relying upon, depending on and trusting in the power of the Spirit of God, within… to strengthen and wisely guide oneself… to do what one can… in order to alleviate this PAIN of another… that this PAIN may be transformed into a deep healing within one’s very soul. The Cosmic Christ, through Jesus… exemplified this throughout his ministry, expressing this in his teachings and manifesting this in his life… revealing its greatest measure.

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    martina nicholson

    The first hard story of After- the -Fall, is of Cain killing Abel. Rivalry which becomes murderous, because of feeling a scarcity of love, or of favor, seem endemic in human history. Hatred might be from many things, but probably always starts with competition and comparison. Brené Brown said that comparing ourselves to others always makes us feel anger, fear, shame and sadness. This is both when we feel favorably or unfavorably viewed. So we need to hold off judging by comparing and competing. We need to put ourselves inside the judgement of the Advocate, the God who loves us and keeps us in being. By staying inside that I/Thou relationship, and doing our own personal spiritual journey, we keep out of the grounds of enmity from jealousy and artificial scarcity of love. Loss of that personal sacred relationship is very very important in our era. To believe that God loves us, and that we do not need to do anything to deserve that love, is the greatest problem of our time. It is the full heart which feels generous and wants to give, to share, to offer peace and goodwill.

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