Via Negativa….

I have been reading Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing” and the poem of that name  came from that  reading.  It’s a world and wealth of divergent Philosophy of Theology in this book;  it  intrigues me.  I have been studying the chaos and comfort of Shintoism for the past few years, but being (mostly) Western in culture and thought, this  book of Matthew Fox doesn’t grate upon other philosophies.  It includes them in an enormous and pungent stew of theologies.  Perhaps the issue is to find those things in there that feed and nurture a seeker, as some of us are called.

I haven’t finished this book, but am surprised to find myself reading it every day, in the morning, and surprised  how much it feeds my poetical attempts.  Fox has themes, or spirals of placement here: Via Positiva, Via Negativa, and I think the third one is Via Creativa….I haven’t read that far along yet.

Yesterday I was talking to my 99 year old Aunt Jean, a beloved and very philosophical relative, quick in mind if tiring in body right now.  And only after getting off the phone (she had some class to go to…) did I think of what the Via Negativa could be and probably was:  Aunt Jean was talking about the ‘calendar knowing her age, and forcing her to attend to her years’.  LOL!  Well, the calendar is the same for all of us, and especially in the Winter. She said that all of January she was low in energy, just not able to do much (this from a woman who does much, probably too much!) and I thought this Via Negativa was a perfect process to follow in the beginning of the year, say January to February.

Via Negativa, if I understand it,  (and I don’t deeply) is an acceptance of the Dark, of Silence, of Unknowing, of Stillness, of Unknowing the voice of God, of just Waiting.  Well, it seems that this season, this Winter, is the perfect time to make our peace with the Via Negativa.  Perhaps to gather our energies, to sit and stare out the window at nothing, to draw nearer a low fire, to feel empty and to feel the void around us.  To await the next cycle…or spiral…of Via Creativa, that of Spring and all that means…all that blooming, tender energy.  So a small poem came out of this ‘silent’  path, this new concept of Via Negativa.  It fit the gray outside and and gave some sense to this time.

Lady Nyo


Via Negativa


Winter is the perfect channel

To carry Via Negativa,

No static

Just Silence, Stillness

And the embracing Dark.


On this path,

We sit in contemplation,

relish the early dusks,

No answers,

No struggle,

We empty ourselves of movement.


This time is filled by little outside;

A flash of darting cardinal

Like a stream of blood

racing past our eyes,

The sound of a falling limb

makes us search the skies,

The moaning of the wind

bustling around limbs,

soothes us,

 the rattle of skeleton- bones

Of  attic haunts

does not disturb us.


These are part of this path,

this dark quietude of a particular season.


And yes, Death,

As Winter brings

To those who succumb to frigid winds,

And those lost from shelter.


We spiral into the Darkness,

Where we barely need breath,


Conserve our energy,

And stare outside at such

A severe palette.


Stilling ourselves,

stilling our hearts and thoughts,

We draw closer to low fires,

Scratch our dried skin

Like a monk in a hair shirt,

And, with time and patience–

spiral back into the light of Spring.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012


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9 Responses to “Via Negativa….”

  1. Steve E Says:

    Lady NYO…Absolute LOVE for this poem, these words, is what I feel. I Googled the “negativa and Positiva (vias) and look so interesting. But there I go again, wanting more information, knowledge, it is SO human to seek to know.

    (MY!) De Mello has this for theology:

    “It was well known that the Master had little use for ‘theology’, as the word is commonly understood.

    “When asked point blank about it, the Master said, “Theology has become an evil because it is not so much a quest for truth, as the maintenance of a belief system”.”

    Lady NYO, these thoughts are with me swirling around. That is why I am SO grateful to have discovered my own ‘how-to’ meditate–quieting this little brain where monkeys love to play.

    Love. PEACE!


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Steve! It is so human to want to know more…and that is a good thing! It keeps us searching and from getting stale….in mind, body and theology. LOL!

    “When asked point blank about it, the Master said, “Theology has become an evil because it is not so much a quest for truth, as the maintenance of a belief system”.

    That is ABSOLUTELY wonderful and spot on, dear friend. I can hear Meister Eckhart saying exactly this. He was such a heretic! LOLL!

    Yep, you have it, Steve…..mediation quiets the brain where monkeys love to play.

    I had to work a bit on that poem….writing things at 3am don’t look so good at 10am. LOL! It’s a continuous path to these things, neh?

    Thank you, dear, dear friend for reading and your lovely and insightful comment.

    Lady Nyo


  3. ladynyo Says:

    To the Readers of this Blog:

    I was contacted today by the Webmistress of a Poetry website I am unfamiliar with, about a case of plagerism by a member there. This person posted my poem “The River” as her own, changing the title and four lines (badly) in two stanzas. Otherwise, it was my poem, published in 2009 in my first book: “A Seasoning of Lust”. This poem also won “Poem of the Year” along with a poem by Nick Nicholson from ERWA.

    I am grateful to the Webmistress of Deep Underground for alerting me to this situation. This person has had her account deleted.

    Poetry takes work and time, and this person should attempt to write her own poetry and not steal other poet’s work. I am left wondering, though, what else she has stolen and claimed as her own. I can’t be the only poet….

    Lady Nyo


  4. brian miller Says:

    whew this is brilliantly done…a slow spiral down into winter…the sounds and curling in on ourselves…and then perhaps at our darkest…spring breaks in…


  5. hedgewitch Says:

    Again, my condolences on the plagiarism and I’m glad it was resolved, but I know it still leaves behind a sense of violation, of that deep well we write from being poisoned. Ugh. I was told that this sort of imitation is flattery–I don’t agree–I find it revolting.

    Your poem is full of a sense of winter and waiting, of fallow. If sitting and staring and thinking is what this time is for, I feel maybe I can handle that. 😉 Lovely poem, as always, Jane, and a pleasure to read it.


  6. Gay Says:

    Oh Jane, I feel you wrote this just for me! (As only you can). I am in this very mode and don’t know this work. I am moving Eastward in my philosophy as well. I think I might be Taoist if I really knew what that is, but I think it is a following of “The Way” and that is the way of the soul, the connect, the way of nature, and its signs are in that which lives, and breathes. As I said on the dverse comments, I had a severe asthma attack Sunday; didn’t go to hospital but coped with my inhaler and ibuprofin. It passed in time but it left me contemplative and understanding the beauty of “stopping” and enjoying the “quiet”. Wonderful work from your pen as always.
    PS. I wish I knew your Aunt Jean. She sounds like a novel in herself. Much love!


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Gay,
    I am so sorry about the trauma of your asthma attack. My husband is asthmatic, also, and we have gone through these attacks many times before. They generally are brought on by stress and environmental irritants, but stress seems to be the biggest issue.

    I understand your working towards the East in philosophy. I think in this country, in our society, we are given just a very few choices in spirituality, religion, and when we find something like Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, etc…we are thrown a bit. We have little support from family, friends, neighbors in this realization that these things are ‘outside of the box’ but also have great relevancy for our lives…especially as we age.

    When we cobble together a belief system, I believe we are taking the very best from so much out there…and that is fine! I am very worried about Aunt Jean right now….talked with her last week, and I miss my ususal letter from her, so I will call her again. She has no energy she has said, but it’s a worry when you are talking to a person at 99 plus.

    Thank you, Gay, for reading and your lovely comment. May your journey to health and peace continue. May the Winter season bring us peace and stillness to heal.



  8. ladynyo Says:

    It a certain extent. The Webmistress of this site only gave me this one heads-up. After that, she had nothing more to say.

    Well, it was a deep violation, and I was angry enough to write a blog entry, which I just might put up today. And I agree, Hedge…it’s not flattery, it’s thievery, plain and simple.

    Thank you, Joy, for reading this poem and your supportive comments…always.



  9. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian, for reading and your comment. And thank you for your entry on…..about plagiarism and all it entails.

    I know there is no way to stop this stuff…but at least we can see the moral measure of a person who would do so.



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