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. 

A mini-documentary on the life, work, and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal. Produced and directed by Louise Palanker.

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: 

Author Andrew Moore examines the concept of the banality of evil, coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt to explain the particular psychology of organized totalitarian evil. Great Books Prof

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. 

“Ring of Peace, 2015” – More than 1,000 Muslims form a human chain around a Norway synagogue, responding to an Islamist gunman’s deadly attack on a Denmark synagogue. euronews

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”?

Recommended Reading

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

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6 thoughts on “Beyond Evil?”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The power of Love, that enables humans to overcome the powers of evil is rooted in the reality of our solidarity with that which is sacred… the living truth that all of creation, including humanity is woven together in a intricate web of interrelationships, interconnections, and interdependencies, which maintain and sustain all existence.

    Evil is indifferent to this living reality. Evil exerts itself through the powerful illusions of heirarchal individualism, the false superiority of an egocentric “I” which leads to the delusion of seperation from the wholeness, holiness and sacredness of the unification of the Oneness of all that lives.

    The indifference of evil moves subtlety into the psychy of humanity, in the sense that if the evil unfolding, evolving and emerging in this world doesn’t converge with the individuality of the egocentric “I”, directly impacting this personally; then there is no need to acknowledge or respond to it. However this illusive lie is far from the living truth of reality, which we are all experiencing the effects of for example; due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, or the damage being done in the Amazon forests, or the barbaric oppression of the feminine in not only Iran but in the US also.

    1. Avatar

      Evil is not only indifference by the individual who is supposedly not impacted it, it is being actively orchestrated by the propaganda of the press and politicians and commercial interests on an unprecedented scale, as Matthew says. Large scale crimes are being facilitated by a bureaucracy kept at arm’s length from evil. Witness 45’s behavior at the Jan. 6th insurrection. He was the perfect narcissistic mouthpiece for the likes of the oligarchs who wish to do away with democracy. 45 connected up and riled up the seething anger within the so called “deplorables.” And because he actively “angrily” courted them, anger to anger, they could be easily manipulated to have their expendable boots on the ground do the “dirty work” for Trump–who does the evil bidding of these oligarchs. We all need to be more conscious of our networking shadows, both individually and within groups and institutionally, eh?

      1. Avatar
        Carol Vaccariello

        Thank you Jeanette, for your awareness and your inclusive comment. I wonder, who are the next trail blazers. Youth seems to be stepping up individually and collectively. Refreshing to see their energy for justice. Sad that this awakening is coming at such a high price.

  2. Avatar

    Unless our human self is in balance or integrated with our Divine Nature — True Heart Self~ Sacred Eternal Soul~Unitive Consciousness — we risk becoming part of or contributing to the banality of evil in our personal and societal life…

  3. Avatar

    Indifference to evil is worse than the evil, and the opposite of good is indifference. Only the holy and the sacred can overcome evil. The banality of evil is the way that ordinary people and functions are entrapped in such a way that evil looks “good”; it is the institutionalization of evil, as in Nazi Germany, and it becomes normal. This process is clearly going on in many parts of the world and here, especially in some states like Florida. The only response to it is love, which includes peacefully speaking the truth to power. There are pockets of this kind of love, which we can all draw on. I think of the many groups and individuals who work tirelessly on behalf of human rights and those who rush in to help whenever and wherever the need is–another shooting, a natural disaster, etc. There are teachers like Matthew and Richard Rohr to educate and inspire us. We can find the holy and the sacred, if we search for it.

  4. Avatar

    Hi Mathew, I wanted to share an experience I had while in a group meditation. It was a guided meditation. We were asked to create a sacred space that would welcome a visitor. Then we were asked to expect a knock on the door of our sanctuary.
    When I opened the door – satan stood there!
    I was taken by complete surprise as can be imagined. I then remember the words Jesus spoke “Love thine enemies”.
    I did not hesitate – I stepped into the opened doorway to extend a heartfelt hug (to satan!!!!) – he immediately disappeared into (my inner guidance told me) a black hole.
    I closed the door, heard another knock and opened the door. A very old man with long white hair and beard stepped into my sanctuary. He wore a long white garment and carried a very large white book with a pink flamingo feather holding a place.
    His eyes were the most beautiful blue.
    He opened the book – my knowing was looking at my lifetimes of karma – columns extending into several pages.
    He took the pen (red ink) and put an X through all the columns.
    He then disappeared.
    My life has been so blessed. I am continually humbled by Gods grace in my life!

    Thank you Michael, for having a platform for sharing and connecting.

    In gratitude-
    For the love you are
    And the Light you bring.

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