The title of this book indicates a paradox, as most religious people would think “sins” would be of the “flesh.” Matthew turns it around and shows that there are blessings of the flesh and sins of the spirit—as he demonstrates with the seven capital or “deadly” sins.
(See quotations by Matthew Fox, below.)

The Seven Deadly Sins. Artist: Hieronymus Bosch. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

The Garden of Eden

The classical teaching about sin in the Garden of Eden is that we must resist the trinity of lust, pride, and disobedience. Desire gets a hit, pride takes a wallop, and disobedience get you a ticket to hell itself. But there may be genuine overkill here: What about the need for desire, for passion, for knowing what calls us and allures us, sirenlike, from our slumber? Fire is not the problem—in fact, acedia is lack of fire, and there lies the problem. Knowing and responding generously to what motivates us is an essential part of being alive in the world. Teresa of Avila said that prayer is 95 percent desire! 

Thomas Aquinas. Painting by Fra Bartolomeo. Wikimedia Commons.

One of Thomas Aquinas’s definitions of sin was “misdirected love.” 

Perhaps evil is inevitable in a universe as powerful and creative and full of eating and being eaten, living and dying as ours is. Perhaps evil is to blessing what terror is to beauty. Perhaps evil is the moral equivalent of terror, the moral counterpoint to beauty. Just as beauty and terror go together, so do goodness and evil, blessing and malice. Perhaps.

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society. pp. 228-229, 161, 160

Banner image: Blessings of the Flesh. Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Share some of your blessings of the flesh and sins of the spirit—if you feel comfortable.

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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8 thoughts on “ Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh”

  1. Avatar

    Blessings misinterpreted by pride can make one believe they have reached worldly success on their own. This builds upon itself until our pride shuts down our receptivity to the blessings and things that once appeared to be natural and fruitful become hard and difficult. When success enters our hearts and becomes our overriding identity, it crowds out most other things.

    As President of a company, I became the center of attention, the toast of the town, the business flourished, income for the company skyrocketed, and that of most employees as well, vendors showered down trips and attention, and charities loved the newfound support. Then ‘the company’ went in another direction, and what appeared to be blessings ie big income and attention, turned into hardship and rejection. Hardship becomes our blessings if we accept them, because in them we see who our friends really are, what it means to one’s own Spirit to stay buoyed through all the highs and lows, and the lows can extend over a number of years unabated. Our Spirit needs to have ‘one constant’ as its foundation, as the blessings of the flesh come and go. ‘The Teacher’ uses these lessons to show us that we are more than we limit ourselves to in fleshly desires and opens our heart to reliance and Divine awakening. — BB.

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      I just wrote something very similar this morning on another site. Pain is always a teacher. It’s up to us to hear and heed the lesson—and in heeding and hearing is where the blessing lies.

  2. Avatar

    I still have to read Matthew’s book “Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society” to increase my understanding of evil. The reality is that evil has existed in human history causing unspeakable human suffering up to the present day, that personal and social/institutional evil are intimately related, and that our human~Divine natures/souls are still evolving. Jungian psychology and genuine spiritual teachers (especially about karma) inform us that it is very challenging to be aware/conscious and heal our personal and societal shadows on our spiritual journeys, and how we consequently contribute to societal evils such as war, racism, poverty, and social inequities/injustices/destructiveness toward our fellow human beings and all living things/beings within Sacred Mother Nature/Earth… Fortunately, many good people in human history up to the present day inspire and strengthen our Faith in our Beloved co-Creator~Source’s LOVING PRESENCE within, through, and among Us to continue compassionately working towards God’s LOVING Just Queendom~Kingdom on earth as it is in HEAVEN….

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    I resonate with the definition of sin as “misdirected love.” God is defined as Divine Love, that creatively, imaginatively manifests the beauty and goodness of the all and the everything of creation. We are created in this same image and likeness, as co-creators, learning to manifest this same Divine Love. However we often do so imperfectly, misdirecting this energy, often unconsciously unaware of what the substance of our intentions contain.

    All of humanity is learning to take responsibility and stand accountable for the ways in which we choose to choreograph, design and direct the movements of this Original Blessing; resulting in producing that which gives life (via positiva) or brings death (via negativa).

    Spiritual discernment, connecting with the living essence of the Spirit of God, dwelling within the all and the everything; helps us to focus our intentions, that these may come into alignment/harmony with the substance, qualities, and natural characteristics of this Divine Love of God, that this may manifest consciously into form, within ourselves and this world.

    Jeshua was a living example of this focus on the Divine Love of God, spiritually discerning its substance, giving it form, through determining pure intentions with a clear understanding of the responsibility and power of this Original Blessing given all; consciously aware of being/living what the Father was guiding/leading him to be and live.

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    Blessings of the flesh to me include everything of beauty that appeals to my senses–seeing the glories of nature and watching a program or film that lifts me up, hearing music and the sounds of my loved ones, touching warm soapsuds and hugging loved ones, smelling the fragrance of a rose or the mouth-watering odor of bread just out of the oven, tasting a slice of that bread with butter melting into it—and many other examples. Sins of the spirit stem from separation from God and include selfishness, pride, and envy that so limit my vision of the world. It takes a lot of contemplative/meditative practices to get back into the place of the love that is God.

  5. Avatar

    As for my sins of the spirit… It’s usually stated that a “mystic must erase their ego.” But I seem to be the idiot who walks in reverse, from having a nebulous ego up through college (when I had my mystical experience), to having a minimal, timid one for many years, to a more solidified but definitely flawed one (it grew from all the cracked roots of childhood…and kept the cracks), and finally to a stronger one shaped by several crises over the decades. I now have a fully functional, messed-up ego!
    I’ve found an ego to be rather useful: for more clearly sensing where my boundaries are, and in claiming agency and asserting myself, especially in abusive situations. But an ego is a risky critter, eager to bite the hand that feeds it, and now I must work on getting my new ego-pet to behave.

    I was given the gift of mysticism…but it didn’t come with an owner’s manual. So here I am, still messed up and very human.

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      Join the club. I agree that we need a strong ego to be able to make decisions–like pursuing this journey we are all on. And then, we need to help it stay in its place as one of our gifts, but not the controlling one.

  6. Avatar

    I too, agree that the ego aspect has a place, which is NOT about being in control or the master over other aspects of self. It’s never made sense to me that we have to kill off some aspect of ourselves. How could this possibly lead to wholeness? The Buddhist tradition teaches about the ego, calling it Mara; and that we need to befriend this aspect of ourselves with compassionate understanding by doing what is called having tea with Mara. In this way we then simply acknowledge that we see this aspect of self, seeking to understand that it, that this aspect of self may contribute its mysterious part in cooperation with other aspects of self; ending the inner battle.

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