Why are things the way they are on planet earth? Why so much suffering? Why so much violence? Before answering these questions, please bear in mind that there is also a great deal of healing, love, joy, cooperation and harmony occurring all over the planet – it’s just that our attention, via our screens, is often drawn to that which distracts us the most from our higher-deeper possibilities (love, joy, kindness, wisdom), and that distraction is violence. There’s nothing like violence and negative emotions to keep humankind from developing beyond the wise-clothed-ape level.
Hieromonk Damascene, in his extraordinary book Christ the Eternal Tao, instructs that humankind’s “fall into disobedience was at once a fall into distraction and that was how our consciousness started to become compounded and fragmented as it is today.”*
Similarly, G.I. Gurdjieff helps explain the inexplicable aspects of human behavior. He once said that, “it is precisely in unconscious involuntary manifestations that all evil arises.”**
These quotes shine a psychological light on what Christian theologians call “sin”, the Upanishads call evil (agha, अघ), suffering (dukkha, दुःख) and samsara; and what all humans call our experience of life – that is, until inner transformation occurs.
Here is how Maurice Nicoll helps us connect the dots on how we are to respond to the situation we find ourselves in as a species:
“The whole conception of [Inner Christianity], its whole meaning, is concerning this development of a New Being in oneself…What do you think this development…means?…It means overcoming the violent person, the person of violence in you…As you must all know by know by now, negative emotions can easily lead to violence, so you will understand that this creation of another person in oneself, which is possible from the definition of Human as a self-developing organism, has a great deal to do with separating oneself from all the infinite forms of negative emotion which will eventually always lead down to violence. If we could really overcome violence in all its manifestations, which means at the same time overcoming all forms of negative emotion, out of this violent person….there will arise a different person who can ascend toward the Conscious Circle of Humanity…The whole idea of the Work and the whole idea of esoteric teaching as far back as known history goes, is about your being a self-developing organism and consciously working against the circumstances of your life so that nothing can drag you into negative emotions.”***
As negativity and violence expands in our culture, we are invited to not identify with it, and to consciously work against letting the circumstances and events of violence and negative emotions that we may observe or experience trigger the virus of violence in us. Wisdom says: do not let violence become an excuse for dragging your mind-heart-body Being into the mire of negative emotions.
Not identifying with violence and negative emotions does not mean accepting, or becoming complacent or numb to it. Rather, non-identification is to be so aware and conscious of the reality of violence and negative emotions, occurring around us, that we, like a healthy cell responding to an invading virus, wall our mind-heart-body being off from violence’s toxicity, so to help the Whole Organism of Humankind retain and increase in Health and Development.
Such differentiation and non-identification is not meant to lead us to stoicism or non-empathetic resignation. Rather, we non-identify to stay sane, to remain in love for the Whole, and all its fragmented, suffering parts. Non-identification is the second act of real love. It is how we can truly love our neighbor as our self, and forgive our enemies. The first act toward real love is self-observation: seeing, noticing, becoming aware of our own thoughts, feelings and reactivity to our circumstances, relationships and life-events.
* Hieromonk Damascene, Christ the Eternal Tao, 283.
**P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, 52. I changed Mr. G’s wording a bit. He said, in which evil lies. For the sake of clarifying his meaning, I shifted it to “arises”.
***Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, 1300.
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