We are meditating on the “philosophy of pessimism” which is widespread in our culture and gives birth to fear and paranoia.
Is this not what drives a culture driven by advertising and its countless promises of false hope? Is this not behind cynicism and much of the ennui and despair, depression and acedia that hits us when we are cut off from our first chakra and connection to the universe? Cut off from the Joy that wonder brings (Aquinas)? Does pessimism not feed pusillanimity and defensiveness?
Rank offers a cure for a philosophy of pessimism when he points out that the true source of pessimism lies in self-hatred. Pessimism is the projection we make upon the world of our own self-worth.
Where true self-love is meager, our love of the world will be meager. “Love others as you love yourself,” advised Jesus.
But if our love of self is shallow, the love we put into the world will be also. And the world is so strong in its various misdirected loves that our weak and shallow love will be easily drowned in the energies of that world.
The result? We will slink back into pessimism, the pessimism that is inevitable when human love is based only on the human and is out of relation with the cosmic love or the divine love, including the divine love incarnated in created things.
Our self-doubts and self-hatred and self-constructed pessimism will win us over and deceive us into actually believing (for it takes an act of belief) that life is vile and pessimism is the proper response to such vileness.
Blessing or goodness is gone; melancholy reigns. And when melancholy reigns, the heart shrinks, as Aquinas observes. Our world gets smaller. Joy is rarer and rarer to be found.
(Joy, says Aquinas, expands the heart, while sadness deflates it.)
When Adrienne Rich verifies that Patriarchy teaches a “fatalistic self-hatred” she too is saying that self-hatred kills. Pessimism therefore is a kind of slow death by self-hatred. But Rich offers medicine for emerging from a culture of pessimism grounded in a culture of self-hatred: Move beyond Patriarchy. Incorporate the healthy feminine and the healthy—as opposed to toxic—masculine.
Choose creativity, choose to give birth. Rank concurs: “Pessimism comes from the repression of creativity.” To bring creativity back is to bring the Divine Feminine back. Gaia, Mother Earth, reminds us of this daily.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 295f.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “‘They’ say all the answers are within. I believe that because I have experienced moments of clarity, so bright that I dazzle myself. But these moments are fleeting, and the past still so heavy to bear. So I keep searching, for my own eternal flame.” Photo by Gwynydd Michael on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Self-hatred and fear, self-hatred and pessimism: How radical is Jesus’ teaching that we learn to love others “as we love ourselves” and how hard is it to love ourselves healthily?
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