For some time now we have been meditating on Evil.  This is so important to do.  Spirituality is not ultimately about comfort.  It is about living a life of depth and creating solidarity with others who do so. 

Pseudo-spirituality: spiritual bypassing, batting away all forms of negativity. Created for J.C. Penney.

To be spiritual means responding to life in all its depth (I defined prayer as “a radical response to life” in my first book 52 years ago and have not wandered from that understanding): The depths of awe and beauty, joy and delight (Via Positiva); the depths of silence; and suffering and darkness (Via Negativa); the depths of giving birth to alternative visions (Via Creativa); the depths of putting these alternative visions into form, in our work worlds and citizenship (Via Transformativa).

Necessarily, this journey includes encountering Evil along the way, both internal and external.  Three current young political leaders—Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and now transgender leader Zooey Zephyr—are examples of the Via Transformativa in their work.  They are elected representatives of democracy standing up on issues of justice regarding protecting our children from gun violence and from homophobic and transgender violence as well.

“When I rose up and said there is blood on your hands…I was speaking to the real consequences of the votes that we as legislators take in this body.” Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr, moments before Republican lawmakers voted to censure the transgender politician for an alleged breach of decorum. Yahoo News

One of the signs of our times is fascism which is alive and well in today’s politics.  Susan Sontag’s definition of fascism as institutionalized violence is currently playing out in both the Tennessee and Montana statehouses which are busy expelling and silencing “the other,” whether black or trans representatives.

This institutionalized violence uses a political structure to muzzle and expel, robbing thousands of citizens of their right to be represented in a legislative body.

Seeing these three representatives stand up is a blessing.  They are doing holy work, the work of justice.  

Such work is so demanding that it will hollow them out and render them strong and courageous and pure in their intentions.  It will render them holy.  It did this to MLK, Jr. and to John Lewis and many others before them.

The Tennessee Three are honored by President Biden at the White House, before presenting their plea for national gun reforms. PBS NewsHour

What shall we say about holiness and evil?  Rabbi Heschel said it best: 

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

To be continued


See Matthew Fox, Prayer: A Radical Response to Life 

See also Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion;

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

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

Banner Image: Putting her life on the line: a protestor locks herself down to heavy machinery in an effort to stop Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline construction at the sacred headwaters of the Mississippi River. Photo by Felton Davis on Flickr.



Queries for Contemplation

Meditations: Do you agree with Heschel that the holy is an answer to evil and that powers of love enable one to overcome the powers of evil?


Recommended Reading

Prayer: A Radical Response to Life
How do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? Fox defines prayer as a radical response to life that includes our “Yes” to life (mysticism) and our “No” to forces that combat life (prophecy). How do we define adult prayer? And how—if at all—do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, originally published under the title On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American StylePrayer introduces a mystical/prophetic spirituality and a mature conception of how to pray. Called a “classic” when it first appeared, it lays out the difference between the creation spirituality tradition and the fall/redemption tradition that has so dominated Western theology since Augustine. A practical and theoretical book, it lays the groundwork for Fox’s later works.
“One of the finest books I have read on contemporary spirituality.” – Rabbi Sholom A. Singer

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.

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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11 thoughts on “Holiness and Answering to Evil”

  1. Avatar

    “The Work of Love”

    Are we not told that ‘the work of love’ is to be done and the labourers are few? So as labourers of love, it is ‘the work we must take on’ despite, and more so in light of, the labour shortage. And are we also not told that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head? Does this not all say and mean that the ‘power of love’ is derived from, manifests from, ‘the work of love’? If so then, let us all that are listening get to work. — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you, Bill,
      for the reminder of our marching orders, and to do it joyfully – with hearts overwhelmed with love:
      Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho! it’s off to work I go!
      We go! embracing our Divine Labor of deep, abiding Love.
      Thank you again, Bill… for the reminder.

  2. Avatar

    YES! YES! We have a great responsibility on out spiritual journeys to manifest our unique True Heart Selves~Sacred Eternal Souls within us in our daily lives with one another within God’s Spirit of LOVE~LIGHT~LIFE… This includes our Spirit of Compassion, Peace, Justice, Truth, Healing, Service, Creativity, Beauty, Joy, … in our unique human ways in the Sacred Process of the Living Eternal Present Moment within our physical and non-physical multidimensional-multiverse co-Creating~Incarnating~Evolving Sacred Cosmos of Loving Diverse Oneness….
    ????????????????

  3. Avatar

    The powers of love do overcome the powers of evil, and I must first feel that strength and be able to share it with others so that, little by little, we have the beloved community. Love gives the courage and perspective not to be overwhelmed by despair by the inexorable march of darkness spreading across the U.S. and other places. I have to get past the place of reacting with horror to the place of creative action and be satisfied that what small contribution I can make is enough.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you, Sue, for helping us perceive that it isn’t about any one of us being enough, it is about all of us, the Beloved Community, each being who and what we are. Then together we are enough, a love greater than any evil. It is wise to recall, wisdom, and giving all we have, may not go without suffering. It is part of the enough that brings meaning to the Loving.

  4. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Tara Brach, a Buddhist and psychotherapist, teaches the practice of the Holy and the powers of love, as a pathway to overcoming evil; through a practice called Tea with Mara.

    Mara is the Spirit of evil. The Buddha was tormented by Mara, and no matter what he tried he could not resist Mara’s evil afflictions. So one day, rather than reacting out of fear, the Buddha decided to radically accept Mara, in the Spirit of Meta… friendliness, compassion and love and he invited Mara to tea. Mara came and sat with the Buddha and as Mara experienced this essence and presence of Meta… Mara encountered what no one but the Buddha had ever offered. The Buddha spoke only one thing to Mara, which is “I see you.”

    The Buddha choose to see Mara, through the eyes of the heart of radical acceptance, love and compassion. The Buddha no longer fearing Mara, overcame the evil powers of Mara, by naming the many manifestations of Mara… meeting Mara in the Spirit of Meta. The Buddha taught that inviting Mara to tea, when Mara shows up… whose spirit is often hidden within ourselves, each other and fearfully acted upon unconsciously… that through naming and acknowledging that “I see you Mara”… is a holy pathway, an answer to overcoming evil.

    The prophets do the same.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you for the thoughtful and deeply meaningful story of the Buddha and Mara.
      Seeing is so much more than seeing!

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