Further Lessons from Navalny, Sister Dorothy Stang, Putin & Aquinas

We have been holding up the bravery, creativity and godlikeness of people like Sister Dorothy Stang and Alexei Navalny who paid a steep price for standing up to forces of evil. Of course, history is filled with martyrs like them including MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, and many others.

“Heroes 2 – dalai lama, jesus, mlk, gandhi, mother teresa.” Artist: Daniel Johnson. On Flickr. Creative Commons.

Thomas Aquinas, an amazing observer of human nature, teaches that a tyrant is more afraid of good people than of bad people. This would seem to explain the fear in the Kremlin of Navalny, which resulted in poisoning him severely and, when treated successfully in Germany, on returning home was imprisoned, tortured and exiled to a prison in the arctic circle where he died at only 47 years of age.

It also explains the murder of Sister Dorothy for standing with the peasants and against the mining and ranching interests who wanted to commandeer the Amazon rainforest to satisfy their greed.

“Ex-CIA operative explains why Putin is ‘scared’ after Navalny’s death.” CNN

Now we have news that Putin, so afraid of Navalny in life, is equally afraid of him in death.  He is refusing to return his body to Navalny’s mother for a proper funeral, instead demanding that she promise a “secret funeral.” Her answer is to go public and point out how both illegal and immoral his demands are. Clearly, she carries her son’s courageous genes. 

Aquinas made another second insightful observation about politicans pertinent to a presidential election year in the United States. He said that “a politician must know more about the human soul than a doctor knows about the human body.” What a profound insight! 

Crowd at the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Photographer unknown, but believed to be Scottish photographer, Alexander Gardner. Wikimedia Commons.

Whether a politican appeals to revenge, hatred and the shadow side of their constitutents such as Hitler or others, or a politician like Abraham Lincoln seeks to elicit what he called the “angels of our nature,” a leader’s calling is to appeal to the soul of their citizens. A successful politician reads the soul of his people for good or for ill. 

Citizens ought to respond in kind and study the soul of those asking to lead them.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 393-401.

See also, Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 101-136.

Banner image: “Yulia Navalny, Alexey Navalny and Ilya Yashin at Moscow rally 2013-06-12.” Wikimedia Commons.


Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Aquinas that tyrants are more afraid of good people than of bad people?  Can you give examples of this?  And that a politician must know more about the human soul than a doctor knows about the human body?  Can you give examples of that also?


Recommended Reading

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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5 thoughts on “Further Lessons from Navalny, Sister Dorothy Stang, Putin & Aquinas”

  1. Avatar

    Herod liked John the Baptist in some ways, but feared him more. Out of pride and ‘saving face’, Herod had John the Baptist beheaded.

    In the age where many politicians have given up their owns souls to combative ideologies, falsehoods, misogynist and racist leaders, and special interest groups, they have traded away their moral compass. They no longer see their soul or anyone else’s for that matter being born of Original and Sacred Blessing. Only what they do know are they capable of passing on and attracting. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    I have personally experienced the fear tactics of a tyrant within the work of caring for elders in a for profit privately owned Retirement Home. What invokes their fear is truth-telling that is rooted in the morality and ethics of love, compassion, justice and mercy for all and the goodness of these being acted upon. Their fear tactics are enacted through their misuse and abuse of power and authority given them, due to the position that they hold, by those whom taught them the tyrannical ways of this type of fear based leadership.

    Truth-tellers, are like a thorn in the side of these tyrants, piercing their hearts, minds and souls; not to make them bleed, but rather hoping that the light will enter into their darkness. Tyrants fear this painfull exposure, as they do not want to face their own inner demons, nor do they want to be held accountable or responsible for the immoral, unethical and unjust choices they have made. They fear the loss of their positions of power and all the perks that come with this.

    Truth-tellers whom confront tyrants are the ones whom often pay the price; as they then become the target of the tyrant, whom attempts to hide from the truth, by their manipulative fearfilled tactics. Truth-tellers know this, however they are willing to put themselves in the line of fire, for they courageously and passionately stand up for the nonviolent ways of love, compassion, mercy, justice and the morality and ethics of this for the common good of all.

  3. Avatar

    Yes! Tyrants like Putin try to repress their fears and conscience but good people everywhere and democratic governments need to speak, write, and act publicly daily to remind them of their shame and disgrace as human beings for their murders, tortures, and repressions of the freedoms of many past and present good souls and the suffering of their family members.
    If people don’t speak up and act for God’s Spirit of Love, Truth, Peace, and Justice, we become complicit like German society did for the growth and eventual world destructiveness of Hitler and Nazism just less than a hundred years ago. There are also still many signs of people being consciously and unconsciously swayed and brainwashed by authoritarian charismatic political
    ‘leaders.’

  4. Avatar

    I am gratefully reading now your Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart. In your Commentary for Sermon 20, you write that “exclusively via negativa spiritually” would have “little or nothing to say about giving birth.” Tyrants do not create, they do not give birth. “Only persons who trust themselves and the universe can give birth” (p. 285).

    I think that Saint Paul was probably a “politician” who was trying to know more about his human soul. I have a lot of compassion for Saint Paul now, more so than I did when I was growing up a child in the church.

  5. Avatar

    Tyrants use lies, slander, harassment, and prejudice to separate groups of people into in-group favorites, “us (=good)”, and out-group “less-than-humans” i.e., “them” (=bad).
    The in-group fans follow the tyrant because they enjoy the vicarious power, prestige, perks, and safety that being “on the inside” SEEMS to give them, at the expense of the rights and dignity of the “wretched, pathetic, weak “lesser-things” — the outsiders.

    No, the bigot, the abuser, the tyrant is NOT afraid of “good people.” A bigot convinces him/herself that s/he IS one of the “good people” who’s boldly stamping out “filth” (anyone and anything /she dislikes or which stands in his/her way), turning their state/country into a dictatorship/theocracy where only their tyrant’s/group’s narrow version of religion/policy is “correct.” People like this do NOT fear good (ethical) people unless and UNTIL those ethical people unite in enough numbers, with enough strength of conviction and courage, to stand TOGETHER to fight the tyranny and injustice of these authoritarians, replacing authoritarianism/theocracy with democracy and freedom of religion.
    Tyrants divide in order to conquer; they count on apathy and prejudice which divides people into fractions of weakened power. Democracy falls when good people are divided and turn on each other.

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