“Thou Shalt Dare the Dark” (Via Negativa)

Today we will begin to explore the Via Negativa. The Via Negativa is the way of darkness, silence, and solitude, but also pain, letting go, and letting be. Meditate on what Matthew’s words have to say to you at this point in your life.

Meditating with low-pitched Solfeggio frequencies, assists in entering the dark. Video by Source Vibrations.

In his book, Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, Fox refers to the Four Paths as Four Commandments. For the Via Negativa, he says the commandment is: “Thou Shalt Dare the Dark.” 

He writes: Meister Eckhart says that “the ground of the soul is dark.” This implies that there is no moving from superficiality to depth without entering the dark—and every spiritual journey is about moving from the surface to the depths. Eckhart calls God “super-essential darkness”–so there is no encountering divinity merely in the light. 

The divine is to be met in the depths of darkness as well as in the light. We call this the apophatic divinity. “Daring the dark” means entering nothingness and letting it be nothingness while it works its mystery on us. “Daring the dark” also means allowing pain to be pain and learning from it.” 

God is experienced through darkness, chaos, nothingness, suffering, silence, and in learning to let go and let be (via negativa)

The Grand Canyon at night. Photo by Sharma 1195. Wikimedia Commons.

When one has suffered deep pain, and allowed the pain to be pain, one can visit the Grand Canyon, and learn that it has nothing on the human person who is even deeper and more powerfully carved over millions of years, by the flowing tides of pain. 

Pain is the most legitimate school for compassion that I know of. 

There is no way to let go of pain without first embracing it and loving it—not as pain, but as a sister and brother in our dialectical living of both pleasure and pain. Eros does not come without a price. 

See Matthew Fox, Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, p. 56.

And Fox, A New Reformation, p. 86.

And Fox, Original Blessing, p. 130 and pp. 142-43.

Banner Image: Entrance to Bulalakaw Cave in the Philippines. Photo by Kyrpatria082102. Wikimedia Commons. 

Queries for Contemplation

Matthew says that the Commandments for the Via Negativa is: “Thou Shalt Dare the Dark.” When have you “dared the dark?”

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality
Selected with an Introduction by Charles Burack

To encapsulate the life and work of Matthew Fox would be a daunting task for any save his colleague Dr. Charles Burack, who had the full cooperation of his subject. Fox has devoted 50 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship.  His more than 40 books, translated into 78 languages, are inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and have awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. Essential Writings begins by exploring the influences on Fox’s life and spirituality, then presents selections from all Fox’s major works in 10 sections.
“The critical insights, the creative connections, the centrality of Matthew Fox’s writings and teaching are second to none for the radical renewal of Christianity.” ~~ Richard Rohr, OFM.

A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality & The Transformation of Christianity

A modern-day theologian’s call for the radical transformation of Christianity that will allow us to move once again from the hollow trappings of organized religion to genuine spirituality. A New Reformation echoes the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and offers a new vision of Christianity that values the Earth, honors the feminine, and respects science and deep ecumenism.
“This is a deep and forceful book….With prophetic insight, Matthew Fox reveals what has corrupted religion in the West and the therapy for its healing.” ~Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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4 thoughts on ““Thou Shalt Dare the Dark” (Via Negativa)”

  1. Avatar

    The ‘inward self’, our Christ and soul consciousness, speaks to us across all time and space. Being, our being as such, is not constricted by the physical and time bound. Our eternal soul is just that, eternal. If we have some limitations, they will surely pass in time. The light which shines on us out of the darkness is not a judgmental light, but a guiding light. What we may or may not like about ourselves can change under the power of the light. We need not fear the light as it is a helpful reminder of where we are, where we should go, how we should change, and how we can lighten the load we unnecessarily carry. We fly on ‘the wings of love and spirit’ and have our own wings of love and spirit, that set us free.
    Your joy and stillness comfort me. It is much better to walk through the pain of loss with You, in Love’s embrace, than walk alone. I am loved, I will always be loved. We are loved, we will always be loved. We surrender and can release, give up, our thoughts, feelings and worries and make peace with ‘the Truth’. We can know in our hearts that we will never be separated from Your Sweet Love. My cup overflows with Your love in the best of times and in the ‘not so best’ of times.
    Some prefer to keep themselves busy by trying to ‘fill all voids’ with many actions and many words, whether written, verbal and in thought. The wise prefer to just ‘sit’ in the void and co-exist with it, befriend it. — BB 07 23 2023.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The descent into the depths of the via negativa at times is intentionally spiritually discerned. There is a choice made to enter into the darkness, through the spiritual practice of solitude and silence and a willingness to participate in engaging in the deep shadow work of the soul; doing so with compassion, kindness, love and acceptance. The Christian mystics know this as Spiritual Retreat, the Buddists as having Tea With Mara, and the Shamans as Gateway Ceremonies.

    Other times, one is suddenly and chaotically thrust into the depths of the via negativa, due to situations beyond one’s control; in which the descent just happens. Usually this is due to some unexpected loss, trial or traumatic event unfolding. Befriending this pain is much harder for it is often unwanted, met with rejection, fear, confusion, questions that the answers to seem so elusive or unsatisfactory. There is a human tendency to suppress and oppress this pain, to numb oneself from the depths of what one is feeling.

    And yet, here too, the Mystics, Buddhists, and Shamans know the value and importance of retreating, of meeting and ceremoniously engaging with this deep dark pain; befriending and accepting it, with merciful compassion and love. Through this depth process of converging with the pain, a transformation slowly begins to unfold and one finds oneself evolving and emerging scarred, but no longer bleeding; broken but also broken open even further into letting go.

  3. Avatar

    The via negativa — the darkness, silence, suffering, mystery of God — became a reality in my life around age nineteen when I felt a loss of innocence by becoming more self-conscious and aware of personal and human suffering in the world… This started my lifetime and ongoing spiritual journey of search for meaning and deepening my faith…. The reality is that there is such a thing as existential sadness because of our deeper conscious awareness of ignorance, cruelty, destructiveness, injustices, and suffering still persisting in the world among humanity. Even Mother Earth’s Soul is sad and suffering due to the destruction and pollution we have inflicted on Her beautiful and bountiful environment and living creatures which we as a human species also depend upon for our earthly lives and sustenance. This human pain and suffering has been ongoing not only in human history, but within us. This is the same wisdom of Eastern spiritual traditions that speak of karma, reincarnation, and the evolution of our souls. This Apophatic God is truly a mystery, but fortunately our faith informs us in our hearts that our Beloved co-Creator~Source Is also Compassionate~Wisdom~Just~Truth~Healing~Creative~Beautiful~Joyful~Transformative…
    and ETERNALLY PRESENT within and among us Loving, healing, strengthening, guiding — Us, our Mother Earth, and all dimensions of our multiverse COSMOS in HER-HIS SPIRIT of LOVING EVOLVING DIVERSE ONENESS….

  4. Avatar

    It seems to me today that the via negativa also must include going into the darkness of evil, which can be really scary. Demons, or fallen angels. This is a longtime Catholic tradition, and I believe it is real. To get your courage on through close constant contact with the God of your understanding, and really face the evil in your life that is oppressing you and killing you, and others. And prevail over this evil; showing yourself that where there’s a will, there’s a way. That God is stronger and smarter than any ‘ol fallen angel. God is there with you in your terror. Start small maybe. God and Goddess bless you in your journey through the fear to the other side, where peace and strength and healing await you.

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