Love and Hate, Good and Bad, the Sacred and Evil, Crucifixion and Resurrection. There is much to ponder as daily headlines keep reminding us of humanity’s capacity for evil.
And also—in this season especially—for Resurrection and Breakthrough.
Still more shootings; still more silence from many politicians refusing to end access to assault weapons—and expelling those who speak up.
In an important book called The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, Simon Wiesenthal tells the story of being a prisoner in a concentration camp and being asked by a dying Nazi soldier for his forgiveness.
“What would you do?” He asked a number of persons, myself included. I responded this way:
It was this clinging to denial that surely constituted the sin behind the sin of the Nazi horrors. How many ordinary German citizens—and clergy and bishops—knew something evil was going on and still lived in denial? Willful ignorance is a sin. In this case, a catastrophic sin that made the Holocaust possible…..
Human capacity for evil is not just about isolated, individual decisions and acts. This story—the entire Nazi story—lays bare the sins of complicity and the sins of omission and denial that render our participation in evil so profound. These sins occur so readily in mass society when lies and power can be so easily disseminated by propaganda of the press and politicians and commercial interests.*
One of the lessons I learned from writing a major book on evil is this: That the opposite of evil is not the good but the Sacred. 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 Heschel teaches:
The Biblical answer to evil is not the good but the holy. It is an attempt to raise humans to a higher level of existence, where one is not alone when confronted with evil. Living in ‘the light of the face of God’ bestows upon people a power of love that enables them to overcome the powers of evil.
To be continued
*Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (NY: Schocken Books, 1997), p. 148.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. xxxvi.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: A light in the darkness. Photo by Subhro Vision on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Do you see the sacred or the “holy” at work in confronting evil, a “power of love that enables humans to overcome the powers of evil”?
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God
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