The Black Jaguar and Humanity’s Evolution
Excerpted from Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh by Matthew Fox
There is a teaching from the ancient peoples of the Americas about “the time of the Black Jaguar” that seems very pertinent to now. We are told that at such a time there will emerge a purifying chaos in which lies are seen for what they are, and there is a collective craving for returning to the simplest truth. At this confusing time, old group and ethnic identities become debilitated, and millions of humans lack clarity about their future and their true place in the world. The social pillars and belief systems of the conservative past are broken, and the new pillars are not built yet.
It is a difficult time, but also one that “offers the most opportunities for those who seek their liberation from old mental prisons.”
At such a moment “it is the Black Jaguar who rules” and big change happens, “so that a new time of creation may arrive and find hearts that are clean and open to see and support the unfolding of a new world, still unknown.” Many people may experience “major losses in their lives; some are brutally taken out of their comfort zone. Many see their old life not working anymore or feel afraid when seeing destruction happen in the rest of the world. It all means just one thing: It is time to change.”
The “time of the Black Jaguar” sounds a lot like what the mystics call the “dark night of the soul,” which I have chosen to call the “dark night of our species.” At such a time we are invited to face evil as the lovers and warriors we truly are. It is a time for asking ourselves: What are the prisons holding us back? What ways of thinking? What toxins reside in our chakras? What attitudes hold us back? What cleansing do we need to undergo? All this so that a new time of creation may arrive and find hearts open to see and support the unfolding of a new world.
In speaking of evil, we are beginning to see beyond human peccadillos to something very real and very grand in its consequences. What humans can do to destroy this amazing and utterly unique and beautiful planet, with all its varieties of beings of so many colors and sizes and shapes and histories—its elephants and tigers, its polar bears and lions, its whales and sharks, its rain forests and redwood giants, its flowers and plants, its deserts and oceans, its rocks and rivers, its music and ceremonies and costumes and culinary magic, its cinema and poetry, its families and tribes—cannot be underestimated. We are exposed to grandeur, and yet we can destroy grandiosely.
What will it be? The age-old wisdom from the Book of Deuteronomy is straight-forward and simple: “I put before you life and death. Choose life.” The doing of it takes work, inner work and outer work. Intention and conscious value choosing. It takes focus. It takes moving beyond the mesmerization of new gadgets and the shouts of financial wizards who tell us there is only one way of being a human and there is only one form of doing economics.
Questions emerge like the following: Does sin evolve? Do chakras evolve? Does evil evolve and adapt? I think the answer to all three questions is: Yes. Part of humanity’s evolution is the evolution of our capacity for intellectual might and creativity, which in turn can be used for good or for evil. Cain’s stone has been replaced and “advanced” by nuclear weapons and nearly instantaneous communications (such as those ISIS has picked up from Silicon Valley). But has human understanding of evil evolved? And our efforts to combat it? Has human wisdom evolved?
Surely psychology offers many insights to assist us in addressing our projections and our off-balance chakras or capital sins. It helps us to shed light on and to confront our shadows. But psychology is not enough. Spiritual practices that render the soul and our decision-making strong and full of the courage of spiritual warriors are also important. And evolution in this regard needs some serious fast-forwarding. It is my hope that my book, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh, contributes to that evolutionary advancement.
We can do better, but to do so we must face the evil within and about and behind us. We must learn from the past that ordinary people are capable of great evil. Going along to get along, going along to remain comfortable, settling for couch potato–itis—it is a popular option and an easy one. Rabbi Heschel, seeking lessons from the Holocaust, warns that “the opposite of good is not evil, it is indifference” and “indifference to evil is worse than evil itself.”
Our times call for more passion, not less. For more exuberance for living, not less. For more moral outrage, not less. For wider harnessing of that anger in nonviolent actions, not less. For more caring, not less. For more generosity, not less. Hopefully my book might assist the dialogue and communication and decision-making we can and must make to stand up to evil both within and without. That is my deepest prayer.
The bottom line is this: Let us demonstrate that we are truly in love with the 13.8 billion-year flesh of our lives—as we claim we are when we say we love our ancestors and children, grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren not yet born. Let our language reflect that by “flesh of our lives” we mean all our cosmic relations—earth flesh and universe flesh and animal, plant, mineral, ocean, finned and feathered and four-legged flesh, as well as human flesh. Were we to grow in this kind of love, we would be so alive that we would find a way to ignite our imaginations to redo all our institutions from law to finance, from education to politics, from business to religion, in order that our species might survive on our unique and healthy and thriving and beautiful planet.
That is how one combats and transforms evil: By love. And generosity. And letting go. And creativity. That is how one responds in the time of the Black Jaguar.