One lesson I learned from writing my book on Evil is this: The opposite of evil is not the good, but the Sacred.

Lotus blossom, symbol of purity growing from mud. Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

This means that we cannot have a conversation on evil until we have a conversation on the Sacred. If we are out of touch with the Sacred we are necessarily out of touch with how to deal with evil; we see only its effects, we don’t get to its essence and we don’t deal with it effectively therefore.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches that

the Biblical answer to evil is not the good but the holy. It is an attempt to raise man to a higher level of existence, where man is not alone when confronted with evil. Living in ‘the light of the face of God’ bestows upon man a power of love that enables him to overcome the powers of evil.…

Martin Buber teaches that we cannot wipe out evil, but we can work to turn it into good. There are lessons to be learned from the light we find in the darkness, lessons of wisdom and compassion learned from grief and suffering and loss and betrayal.

Entry to delight. Photo by Pedros Ramos on Unsplash

The good is a door (“I am the way,” “I am a door”) to the Sacred. The Via Positiva, in its many forms and experiences and expressions, opens the way to an experience of the Sacred. It is important to recover the “Blessings of the Flesh”—the universe flesh and Earth flesh including  that of all creatures on earth; and our human flesh.  Science now tells us that all flesh in the universe began in the original fireball—from then today it is all kin.  It is all sacred.

Sin 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.” The methodology by which we choose to discuss Evil is important. It matters that we ask these three important questions:

1) Where is the good all around us? Answer: In the blessing that the universe, the earth, and our lives are.

Gates of Hell sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Located at the B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University. Wikimedia Commons.

2) Where is the good within us? Answer: The seven chakras. They are all love points, places of positive energy and strength we carry within us.

3) Where are the doors to evil in us? Answer: The seven chakras when they are unbalanced, off center, or “misdirected love,” as Thomas Aquinas defines sin.

The seven capital sins, or sins of the spirit, are doors that allow evil to enter us. Evil is much bigger than sin.  Evil has something “spiritual” about it, as Buck Ghosthorse teaches.  We do not wipe it out—racism was confronted with the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties.  It is back in the 21st century.  Every generation has its struggle with evil spirits like racism to confront.  To be continued

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. xxxvif.

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

Banner Image: “Secret Of the Living Source.” Visionary image by Franzisko Hauser on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What follows from Heschel’s observation that the Biblical solution to Evil is not the good but the holy and that love overcomes Evil?  And Buber’s teaching that we cannot overcome Evil but we can work to turn it to good?

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17 thoughts on “Evil and the Sacred”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you ask us in our Queries for Contemplation: “What follows from Heschel’s observation that the Biblical solution to Evil is not the good but the holy and that love overcomes Evil? And Buber’s teaching that we cannot overcome Evil but we can work to turn it to good?” Until we treat the earth as sacred rather than as a thing–a commodity to be used the earth will not be safe–or anyone on it. And until we see each other as holy–as “Thous” rather than “Its”–those who dominate will use the “lessers” to their own favor with out caring for their innate worth and sacredness.
    You write: “The Via Positiva, in its many forms and experiences and expressions, opens the way to an experience of the Sacred.” Some of these forms and expressions come in, seeing the goodness of the universe we live in, as well as in the earth and ourselves, or in those seven “love points.” And when does evil come in? When the “love points” are misdirected as the “Angelic Doctor” says. And the “Seven Deadly Sins” are doors where we enter the place of fascism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, fundamentalism, not to mention the places of the poor and the homeless who do not have the “Mean Green”–as my father used to say–to help themselves.

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    Scripture reveals that God “fills all things,”and that God “is all and in all,” meaning that all of creation is sacred. So that to murder, degrade, defile, abuse, desecrate or do evil to any part of it, said Christ, is done unto him and to his Father. That is, such actions serve to crucify him once over, and the incarnated good (God) in them. So the mystery of iniquity runs parallel to the mystery of grace, despoiling the latter. In that the biblical timeline, the words of Christ, and the epistles of Paul call for a consummation (reconciliation) of all things to the good in Christ in the Kingdom Age (when the Church Age ends), seems global evil must reach critical mass before it becomes extinguished forever. Meanwhile, as Matthew suggests, store up the good via devotional practices as agents of light in a evil tainted world.

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    Today’s devotional reminded me of David Frenette’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. It emphasizes the vital importance of encountering evil with God.

    “And when challenges come, help us find you consciously
    Freeing us from encountering death, suffering and evil outside you
    For you are the generative source of this universe
    Its laws, and life itself”

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      Mr. Lange. I believe you’d feel differently if you were Ukrainian, trying desperately to fend off Russian domination, carnage, and violations of the sacred to your land, people, traditions and form of government. There is, after all, a time to bear arms when it comes defending oneself, one’s family and country against preemptive (unprovoked) violence. Passive or non-violent resistance has its place for sure, but like other virtues, also has its limits. Any virtue makes a great servant, but a poor master.

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    Jeanette Metler

    Abraham Heschel’s observations, communicated in the words of today’s DM… come from his lived experience. From a very early age, he was taught of the SACRED, the HOLY, the DIVINE LOVE, COMPASSION AND MERCY of God… which prepared him well to deal with and overcome the evil he would encounter, during Hitler’s war. He was taught what he calls the 3 starting points of seeking God. The first, being the way of sensing the sacred and holy presence of God in the world… in the all and the everything of creation. The second, is the way of sensing the sacred and holy presence of God in the Bible. The third, is the way of sensing the sacred and holy presence of God, through good deeds of love, compassion, mercy, understanding and forgiveness. He personally experienced this throughout his life, as the living fountain of his faith.

    Mathew spoke within today’s DM of the lack of RITES OF PASSAGE, of spiritual mentorship within our world… especially regarding young men. I am certain that these two eighteen year olds… responsible for the mass shootings of innocent children and some adults… did not observe nor experience any of what Abraham Heschel did throughout his formative years. Abraham also wrote, that the beginning of faith, is the awe, wonder and reverence of the Great and Holy Mystery of God. Many of our youth today, I do believe have not observed nor experienced any sense of this… for many have grown up with nothing but sin and evil all around them… which has deeply wounded their hearts, minds and souls. Our youth, do not know how to turn the sin and evil that has personally been inflicted upon them into something good. All they know to be true, is what they have experienced… which is the utter pain and anguish of the affliction.

    Their violent acts… are a raging scream uttered from the depths of their wounded souls… a wild cry, to be seen… to be heard… to be set free from the tragic horrors of what they are internally suffering. They are lost in the wilderness… dying of spiritual malnutrition… hungering and thirsting for what they have never known, observed or experienced… which is the unconditional love, compassion and mercy of God… which we are to be the administers, teachers and mentors of. Our youth have not failed in honoring the sacred and holy life they have been given, but rather humanity is failing our youth… in nurturing, tending to, and caring for the sacred and holy…there, within the hearts, minds and souls of our youth.

    My prayer is that all of humanity may… in some faithfilled way… turn our failure into something good!

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      Carolyn Winters

      I resonate to your remarks, especially regarding our young people. In my life I’ve heard friends decry the lack of ritual and ceremonies from our American society, Including rites of passage for our young people is just one aspect of that loss of learning how to “live life in a sacred manner.”

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    Damian Maureira

    Yes, Matthew, our faith, prayers, and mystical tradition, as well as the goodness of many of our ancestors and present sisters and brothers, remind us that God’s Divine Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Healing~Justice~Creativity~Beauty~Joy~Compassion~Mystery… is always within, among, and around us in our evolving compassionate souls and as co-Creators in our Loving Creative~Evolving multiverse Cosmos… This Sacred Divine Loving Diverse Oneness is Always Mysteriously Present and All in All, even in the Silence and seeming darkness/absence, and Compassionately in our human suffering of life’s earthly challenges and tragedies….

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    Thank you so much, Matthew Fox for letting the light of God’s face shine on us readers/viewers through your
    Meditation today and each day.

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    Today I am still raw and numb from the unspeakable vileness at Uvalde. Overwhelmed with disgust at the people (who, I’m convinced, are incarnate evil) who support distribution of weapons that allow—that ENCOURAGE—such evil. Infuriated that whatever is sacred is incapable of stopping this.
    “Evil is neither suffering nor sin; it is both at the same time, it is something common to them both. For they are linked together; sin makes us suffer and suffering makes us evil, and this indissoluble complex of suffering and sin is the evil in which we are submerged against our will, and to our horror.” Simone Weil

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Olive, Thank you so much for your quotation by Simone Weil. Though she was Jewish by ethnicity, to me she was a secular saint, and she was “baptized by desire,” and buried in the Catholic section of an English cemetery. Thank you for making your comment today !

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    Carolyn Winters

    Again, Matthew, thank you for today’s meditation and for the thoughtful responses that have come from it.

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    It seems clear that all these killers that have massacred small and large groups for decades share the lack of love, the self hatred that gets projected onto children, co-workers, women, Asians, Sikhs, Jews, Black people, etc. There seems to be a common aspect of being bullied, for most. What can we do? When I substitute taught in 1st and 2nd grade years ago, I would be so angry with teachers who simply stood by when a child was being bullied or even encouraged it! Being silent in the face of this evil towards a little child is evil. I spoke up then, and if I see anyone being bullied now, I speak up. Those who work with children especially can be sensitive to the problem and act to protect the vulnerable one and teach other children to also.

    That said, I really wish that they would simply commit suicide and not do so much damage before making some poor law enforcement person or persons have to make it “suicide by cop”.

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    I heard on an interview on NPR yesterday that gun violence is the leading cause of death in adolescents 14-21 years. The leading cause of death—not cancer, not accidents, not other “diseases”, but something preventable. I am beyond sad at what happens in this country with gun violence. And it seems that no one talks about the fact that these atrocities are carried out by CHILDREN themselves. What are we doing to our children to fill them with such hate and poison? And when will our elected officials stop considering power and money above children’s lives? I am from New Hampshire and yesterday was the last day before our Legislature leaves for its summer break. On the docket that probably will pass (there is a Republican majority) are laws favoring looser gun controls, carrying loaded firearms openly (or not) without permits nearly everywhere, and several laws allowing this state to refuse to carry out federal directives that are opposed to what they agree with. It makes no sense!

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    Jeanette Metler

    Sadly, for many within humanity… as the prophet Heschel has given voice to… “the Spirit has become a stranger in the soul”, which has led to much suffering, sorrow, sin and evil in this world.

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