by Michael Maciel
In the ancient mystery schools, candidates for initiation had to undergo many tests to see if they were qualified to receive the higher teachings, especially those that pertained to the Law of Mind. They weren’t tests to tell how much the candidate knew intellectually; they were tests of character. One of the most important of these tests was (and still is) harmlessness. Candidates had to prove that they would never use the Law of Mind to hurt someone.
Harmlessness is a quality of the heart. It describes the nature of one’s overall intention. What kind of person are you? Do you have unresolved issues that cause you to want to retaliate, to seek revenge, or to harbor feelings of ill-will towards others? Would you resort to using the Law of Mind as a weapon of vengeance? Would you pray for someone to die? Would you use it simply to dominate others? Would you use it to block the legitimate interests of those with whom you do business? These are important questions.
They are important, but they still pertain to one’s outer life. How do we apply the principle of harmlessness to our inner life?
When we use the Law of Mind, our inner landscape changes. We become aware of the hidden aspects of the situation at hand. Predictably, new information will arise, information that may or may not conform to our original purpose. As this new information arises, we have to treat it with care. We must not kill it off. We have to be willing to make course corrections if the new information deems it necessary. This is the deeper application of the principle of harmlessness in our use of the Law of Mind.
Harmlessness must be tempered with discernment. When operating on the level of mind, you will encounter many autonomous entities. Some will be living forms that have a purpose and trajectory of their own. These have to be dealt with carefully, because until you know what their purpose is, you have to let them unfold as they will. But other forms are not alive. They are strictly thought-forms that have been infused with emotion. The only life they have is that which you give them or what they can derive from the collective mind of humanity. These forms must be dealt with in the same way you would treat any other extraneous thought. You simply get rid of them.
You can only kill that which is alive. The problem with extraneous thought-forms is that they can sometimes appear to be alive when, in actuality, they are not. They can even take on the appearance of a person or an animal. Sometimes, they can look monstrous, or they can appear benign. This is why discernment is important.
Discernment only comes through practice. It comes as a result of your devotion to the real. It comes through an assiduous mindset of renunciation, the ability to cast out of one’s consciousness everything that is not of God. But this requires patience. You have to let a thought emerge fully so that you can see what it is before dismissing it simply because it doesn’t fit in with what you already know.
Meanwhile, back in the realm of everyday life, “Thou shalt not kill” is fairly unambiguous. It applies to other human beings, and some argue that it applies to animals as well. But it can also be argued that when it comes to human beings or animals, there are much worse things than death. In the case of animals, the destruction of an entire species is far worse than the death of an individual member of that species. Likewise, the destruction of an ecosystem is worse than cutting down a few trees. Similarly, building a hydroelectric dam or cutting the tops off of mountains and dumping the dirt into stream beds can destroy a watershed, something that most would consider a nonliving system but which in reality supports the life of both animals and humans alike. So, “Thou shalt not kill” has its hierarchical levels of interpretation in the physical world as well, not just in the realm of metaphysics.
Unless we apply the underlying principle of harmlessness to the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” it seems hopelessly unworkable. Life lives by eating life. This is the law of the jungle, the ubiquitous reality of nature. If we try to remove the layers of meaning from this commandment by reducing it to a flat image, it becomes useless, because we cannot possibly use it successfully in all situations. And for it to be a true doctrine, it must be universal. There can be no exceptions.
We are thrown into a system of competing interests, a system that feeds on itself and does so with extreme prejudice. But it is also a self-sustaining system that, while presenting us with some pretty horrific challenges, also gives us extraordinary opportunities for soul growth and development. “All life is painful,” said Buddha. If it were not, we would have no reason to seek higher ground.
Our search for truth is a battlefield. As we rise up in our understanding, old concepts must go. Once they have proven themselves obsolete, we must uproot them without a second thought. The antithesis of this is to hang on to old concepts and murder the truth as it emerges, the same way Herod did in his Slaughter of the Innocents. Will you suppress the truth when it arises in your consciousness?
Books by Michael Maciel