In a recent DM we learned from Hannah Arendt that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world is destroyed when politicians lie consistently.
This means that our current election is about nothing less than taking our bearing in the real world.
Or losing it.
Thomas Aquinas, thirteenth century theologian, mystic and prophet, committed his life to bringing science into religion (specifically Aristotle who was discovered by Europeans thanks to Islam scholars and translators in Aquinas’s day). He had some important things to say about politics and lies and politics.
One thing he said is that a politician must know more about the human soul than a doctor knows about the human body. This is quite a stunning observation. Check it out.
Hitler knew a lot about the soul of the Germans in the 1930’s—the depression, the poverty, the loss of WWI, the resentment, the anger—and he tapped into it successfully. With, of course, the help of professional propagandists and liars and the use of the media of his time.
In fact, Hitler declared that “there would be no Third Reich without the media.” I’m sure the Murdochs and Steve Bannon and other preachers of the CODT know that well.
Looking at a more positive application of Aquinas’s observation, consider Abraham Lincoln. He knew a lot about the human soul and he appealed to the “better angels of our nature” (his words) on many occasions and surely in his second inaugural with the end of the Civil War in sight when he called for forgiveness and “binding up the nations’ wounds.”
When FDR took office in the midst of the great depression and declared that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he too understood the soul of the nation at that time.
Another teaching about human nature, truth and politics from Thomas Aquinas is this: “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice.”
Notice what he is saying, that the human heart cannot live with just lies. He would surely agree with Arendt that “the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world is destroyed” when lies prevail.
But justice accompanies truth and according to Aquinas, who also brought the term “common good” into western jurisprudence and politics, there is no peace and no health in a society without justice. Justice includes balance and harmony and not rule of the few over the many. But justice is not possible without truth.
This is not just a social fact but a psychological one, we can bring healthy sociology, politics and psychology together because the human heart itself, according to Aquinas, thrives on truth and justice.
Thus this year’s election season is about losing or not losing our bearings in the real world. And the way to not lose our way is to put truth first and thus feed the heart. And justice.
See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, p. 394.
And Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp.101-108.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Monument in Central Park, New York, honoring Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, pioneers in the struggle for women’s rights and the right to vote. Photo by Regan Vercruysse on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree with Aquinas that the proper objects of the heart are truth and justice? What follows from that when truth is lacking? When injustice is reigning?
Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science. A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics