Being with the Evil

self-assessmentOur normal tendency when we face the evil within ourselves is to try to change it. This is the beginning of sorrows, because the more we try to change it, the stronger it gets. If instead of resisting it we simply allow it to be what it is, it gets integrated or absorbed—“eaten,” if you will—and made a useful part of our whole personality. Jesus referred to this in The Gospel According to Thomas when he said,  Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.” The “lion,” in esoteric-speak, is our passions. 

Bible stories are not history lessons; they are the chronicles of our spiritual journey. In esoteric, or mystical, Christianity, “Jesus” refers to us, our human personality, and “Christ” refers to the Divine in us, the God Self. The word “Christ” is neither Jesus’ last name, nor is it a title. So, when we read stories about Jesus in the Bible, they are really stories about us and what we go through on our path toward spiritual enlightenment. It’s not that Jesus didn’t exist or that he didn’t accomplish the single greatest feat in the history of the world, but that he was also a Teacher, and he used his life to illustrate in living symbology what we must all go through on the spiritual path. This is what he meant when he said, “I am the Way.”

condemnedFor instance, when Jesus was taken and beaten by the Romans, he no longer looked like the magnificent messiah everyone wanted him to be. He looked like an ordinary criminal who was about to be put to death. Peter, his disciple, not only feared for his own life, but was ashamed of the man with whom he had so identified himself. He had fully expected him to take Jerusalem by storm—to fix the world—and this “defeat” was not what he had expected. He didn’t understand the true nature of Jesus’ mission.

We want the ego to be the conquering hero. We want our kingdom to be of this world. We think that this is what it means to be truly alive. But, Joseph Campbell, the mythologist, said, “Where your pain is, that’s where your life is.” The “evil” things within us, those things we regard as weaknesses, are really our greatest strengths, only they’re disguised by the mask of our own misunderstanding. All we can see is that there’s a hell of a lot of energy packed around them, and anything that powerful scares us and therefore has to be bad.

braveHere’s an example: A woman was beating herself up, because she could not permit herself to be angry with her mother. Mom knew where all the hot buttons were and would circle her prey relentlessly and then go in for the kill. She wasn’t worried, because she knew her daughter wouldn’t fight back. As long as the daughter believed it was wrong to get angry at her mother, she was helpless. But she was disempowering herself; it wasn’t her mother’s fault. When she finally accepted her anger, she was free to express it. The violent outburst that she feared lost its demon mask, and she was able to deal with her mother appropriately and effectively. It wasn’t the anger she feared; it was what it said about her as a person. It made the “Jesus” part of her look bad. In her own mind, getting angry at her mother was evil, and she didn’t want to be an evil person. But, it was her judgment that was at fault, not her anger.

beachIt’s not the evil in the world that threatens us; it’s the evil within ourselves. As long as we fear it—as long as we resist and deny it—it will have us by the throat, and it will run our lives. It will destroy our spiritual vitality.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28

Be wary of people whose main purpose is to provoke reactions in others. This is especially true of the media. They’re not trying to motivate you into action. They are trying to keep you from acting. As long as you are reacting, you are powerless. And powerless people have nowhere to vent their anger but on themselves, their families, and the communities in which they live. When people riot, they don’t burn down City Hall; they burn down the corner grocery store.

Here’s my story: for the longest time, if I was waiting in a long line of cars, and someone would speed past, so that he could cut in up front, I would go ballistic. Invariably, some “idiot” at the head of the line would let him in. I was just as mad at the person who let him in as I was at the one cutting in line. And—I mean—I would get all the way into the red, completely pegged off-scale!

Road-RageEventually, I came to the realization that I was totally at the effect of this situation whenever it occurred. I had to find a way to be with it. So the next time there was a long line of cars ahead of me, you know what I did? I cut ahead of everyone else. I became “that guy.” And you know what? It doesn’t bother me anymore. My reaction to it completely disappeared. Now, when someone makes a run for the head of the line, I can let them do it! I’ll even let them in myself when they want to cut in. I have no reaction to it at all.

There’s a saying: “Never trust anyone who’s incapable of being a jerk.” If jerks really get your goat, maybe you need to be one for awhile. The world didn’t come to an end when I cut to the head of the line—it went on spinning. But it completely changed the way I react to that situation. Look at what you do, at how you’re reacting. Chances are, you’re totally caught up in it, and it’s running your life.

BalanceWhen I did this, I didn’t do it as a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” kind of thing. That would have been merely surrendering to cynicism. I knew that it was a problem within myself. My judgment had become so polarized, so potentialized, that something truly bad was bound to happen. My decision to cut to the head of the line was not rational; it was spontaneous. It came from deep within me. It was as automatic as someone drowning reaching for the side of a boat. It came straight from the wisdom of my own soul. How do I know this? Because the result was so dramatically positive.

If you do this in the little things in your life (as in cutting in line), you won’t have to do it in the big things. It’s only when people are so determined and so stubborn about letting the small stuff go by, that they usually wind up having a major collision in their life. “Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” God knows nothing about size. As Emerson said, “There is no great and no small to the God who maketh all.” Every action, regardless of scale, affects our whole being.

There’s another saying that seems to always go with spiritual work of this kind: “First the test, then the lesson.” It wasn’t too long after I overcame my problem with people cutting in line that I heard on the radio that a study had been conducted on this very thing. It turns out that when people go around a line of cars (they call it “late merging”), traffic efficiency improves by twenty percent. Everyone benefits. What a perfect example of the gap between perception and reality!

cloverleaf-intersectionSometimes, the inherent intelligence within a system will cause people to break the rules, because the rules are getting in the way of the system’s need to function efficiently. Usually, their rebellion will be unconscious and manifest in strange ways. Their actions will appear anti-social, even criminal, because they cannot explain to themselves their own motives and therefore act out in the only way they can understand. They are controlled by their own judgments of right and wrong and will behave accordingly.

It’s important, dear reader, that you understand what I’m saying. If you have a judgement about bank robbers, I don’t suggest that you go rob a bank. But if you do, I guarantee that you’ll have an entirely different perspective on bank robbers! You’ll also have a lot of time to think about it—in jail.

If you have a judgement about something, it’s like a polarity build-up that you have to neutralize. In a karmic sense, you’re going to have to live your life doing the thing you hate, because you’ve got this whopping judgement about it. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to come into balance with it. So…what would you rather do? Would you rather do that and learn your lessons the hard way, or will you take your pet peeves, the little ones, and work out your judgements through them?

Karmically, there’s no difference between esteeming something and condemning something. If you esteem something, you have to go to it—you have to experience it in order to figure out what its real value is. And if you’re condemning something, you have to go there in order to learn understanding and compassion. Both esteeming and condemning have their magnetic pull. “Where your treasure is [what you value], there will your heart be also.”

StrengthResisting the evil in yourself is the surest way to give it strength. Giving in isn’t the answer either. To neutralize an energy buildup, you have to first let it be what it is. You have to acknowledge it without judgment, without calling it evil. The word “evil” is already framed as something to be fought against—that’s its built-in meaning. Instead, recognize that the energy itself is neutral and that you can convert it into spiritual cash. You can give that money to the poor, those parts of your personality that are undeveloped—your weaknesses.

These are the mechanics of spiritual growth. No one can do it for you. Take these tools and use them, and you will see immediate progress in your spiritual life.

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8 Responses to Being with the Evil

  1. Richard Distasi says:

    Thanks

  2. This is precisely what I do with people when I do pastoral counseling. Great insight.

  3. Yet another excellent and highly usable gift! Thank you Michael.

  4. Kathy says:

    I understood Thomas passage to be interpreted as “better the lion should eat the lamb and become like him than the lamb should eat the lion and…

  5. Mark Terpstra says:

    🙂

  6. Wounded Wolf says:

    Aside from some English grammar errors, pretty good article!

  7. Mark Terpstra says:

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