July 31, 2012
The Via Positiva – Part One
Do you love life? Are you passionate about the very existence of existence? Does the natural world as you encounter it directly and unmediated in meadows, mountains, forests, seas and skies inspire you to awe?
If you answered yes to one of these questions, then you’re probably seeing the world through the lens of what Mike King, calls the Via Positiva. King is a UK-based philosopher, artist, engineer, graphic designer, and author of Secularism: The Hidden Origins of Disbelief and Postsecularism: The Hidden Challenge to Extremism.
Last fall, King wrote a series of five essays on the Via Positiva – a deeply life-positive and world-embracing philosophical and spiritual orientation – exploring its historical roots and discussing the direction he feels it’s pointing us to in the future. The fifth essay in the series is dedicated to Andrew’s work and how Evolutionary Enlightenment fits into the broader view of the Via Positiva.
We’ll be publishing one essay each week for the next five weeks here on Andrew’s blog. You can read the introduction to ‘Part One’ below and then download the full essay in PDF form.
Introduction to the Via Positiva
Do you love life? Are you passionate about the very existence of existence? Does the natural world as you encounter it directly and unmediated in meadows, mountains, forests, seas and skies inspire you to awe? Does the natural world as you grapple to understand it indirectly and mediated through the sciences of evolution, quantum theory, relativity and classical dynamics inspire a different yet just as profound awe? What about music, painting, dance, architecture, engineering marvels, medicine and astonishing feats of physical prowess in sportsmen and women? Do these, and the profundity of human justice achieved against all the odds, raise you to the heights? Do you see this inspiration and elevation as something bordering on the spiritual, or perhaps the very basis of human spirituality? If so, you are on the via positiva.
Do you find spiritual-religious paths and teachings that are mute about the beauty of existence incomprehensible? Do you find spiritual-religious paths and teachings that declare this world “fallen,” or that we are born in original sin, repugnant? If so, then this may be a natural reaction against the via negativa.
This series of essays will delve deep into the meaning of these two obscure Latin terms, which originate in 19th century theology, but which have enormous implications for 21st century spirituality. Between them they create a whole new way to understand the tremendous variety of the spiritual life, past, present and future.
So what do the terms via positiva and via negativa mean? In the first instance the via positiva is a certain kind of spiritual outlook, or path to Enlightenment, or way of understanding “God,” that is world-affirming and world-curious. The via negativa is a path that ignores the world, or, to be a little more precise, it ignores the world that is manifest and manifold, the world so immensely rich and varied in its detail and workings. The via positiva is an engaged spirituality while the via negativa is a renunciative spirituality, though we will find that such a black-and-white distinction is only a first approximation because of how intertwined the paths are…Click here to read the rest of the article (to download the PDF, ‘right-click’ and select “save as”)
You can learn more about Mike King by visiting his website here.
Image: Igor Kovalchuk – Fotolia.com