The experience of union, with man, or religiously speaking, with God, is by no means irrational. On the contrary, it is as Albert Sweitzer has pointed out, the consequence of rationalism, its most daring and radical consequence.
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
The mythological story of the ‘fall of man’ in the book of Genesis in the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. Because they listened to the snake (the Devil) and did eat from the tree, they were evicted from paradise.
We have generally interpreted this myth in terms of disobedience to God, and that this disobedience led to the whole of humankind being inherently evil. This interpretation has some logical problems. If we were created perfect (in the image of God), as Christianity claims, how could we suddenly become imperfect? The very definition of ‘perfect’ implies that imperfection is impossible.
But let’s return to the tree. Could it be that ‘God’s command’ was in fact a warning that the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ would have dire consequences for humankind, not because of any ‘punishment’ from God, but because of the inherent danger of choosing such a judgement? That, in fact, the consequence would be, not the eviction from paradise, but the loss of paradise inherent in the very judgement? That God ultimately had nothing to do with all this?
Let’s look at it from a purely logical point of view, irrespective of our particular beliefs.
Whenever you try to be ‘good’, the logical implication is that you are ‘not good’, which is ‘bad’. You can’t be anything in between. A little theft is still theft. A little lie is still a lie. The assumption that we are inherently evil is, in fact, an underlying tenet of probably most religions – and of our education system.
I want to repeat this; it’s critical. The very distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – which is a judgement – creates something that did not exist before. By defining something as ‘good’ we literally create its opposite – evil.
This leaves us with another logical inconsistency; one known as a ‘double bind’. If we are to become good, which probably most of us are continually attempting to do, how is that possible if we are inherently evil? How can that which is inherently evil become good?
Double binds can have seriously detrimental effects. Many people land up in mental institutions because of them. It is therefore not surprising that A Course in Miracles calls what it designates as our ego and its thought system as insane.
In nature there is no judgement. Kudu’s eat leaves, lions eat antelopes and parasitic wasps lay their eggs in paralysed insects. The wasp larvae then eat the insect from the inside out, and only at the last moment the insect dies. Few people would probably call this ‘good’, but is it ‘bad’? This is just the way nature operates. And yet, despite many attempts to deny this, there is a phenomenal intelligence in nature; far beyond anything we can understand with our limited consciousness.
It is this same limited human consciousness that has the need to judge. It is this consciousness that has created religion and it is this consciousness that created the idea that nature could have developed purely coincidentally without any ‘higher’ intelligence involved.
Now if we look at the words of the Jesus mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible, we hear something of which I think very few of us have grasped the implications. Jesus said, “Do not judge.” Not to judge means not to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. A Course in Miracles takes it one step further: not to judge means not to give anything in this world any meaning.
In his book The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce wrote, “We invariably build religions around our spiritual giants or use them to support a religion in order to avoid the radical shift of mind and disruption of culture these rare people bring about, shifts we interpret, ironically, as threats to our survival and thus instinctively reject.”
I think that’s exactly what we did with Jesus. We could not even imagine a world without judgement, never mind take him seriously! And so we changed the story. Where Jesus came to teach that God has no need to take revenge and needs no sacrifices, we made Jesus into the very sacrifice he said God doesn’t need!
What Jesus came to teach was that we are still inherently perfect. Once the image of God, always the image of God. Of course, this doesn’t refer to our bodies, but to our essence, which is spirit. A Course in Miracles (which is said to have been inspired by Jesus) states that our bodies are merely used by our ego to ‘prove’ the separation from God.
When speaking about judgement, Jesus continued: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
In psychology they call it ‘projection’ or ‘transference’. There are numerous sayings such as “The pot calls the kettle black.” We know the phenomenon very well, yet we still don’t like acknowledging that what we see in others is in ourselves. Or rather, what we judge as evil in others, we have judged evil within ourselves and promptly banished to the dungeons of unconsciousness. Psychologists call it ‘denial’. We refuse to look at it because of the very fact that we have judged it ‘evil’.
The only way to escape the insane consequences of the double bind, “You must be good, but you can’t, because you are inherently evil,” is to stop judging. By judging anything as ‘good’, we simultaneously keep ‘evil’ in place.
Is that not what all of us desire so passionately – not to be judged? Is our greatest desire not to be accepted for who we are?
The problem is that we judge ourselves so harshly. Despite all outward appearances to the contrary, how many of us do not feel inadequate, worthless or downright bad? We would not admit it, of course, but that does not take away the reality.
This is exactly the reality A Course in Miracles addresses. The separation from God, it says, could never really happen. What is expressed in the myth of the ‘fall’ is merely our perception. In reality it is an illusion. What is perfect cannot be made not perfect. Our experience of separation, however, leaves us with a deep sense of guilt and fear. Long before the existence of A Course in Miracles the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm realised this already when he wrote in The Art of Loving, “The awareness of human separation, without reunion by love – is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety.”
Judgement and separation are inextricably linked. To judge somebody as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is to strip that person of his or her humanity, and to disconnect from him or her. We cannot do this without disconnecting from ourselves. We live in a very disconnected society.
Disconnection increases guilt. It is from this guilt that we create monsters. We see the Devil incarnate in others, because we do not want to acknowledge our own feelings of anger, lust or murderousness.
‘Sin’ does not cause guilt. Guilt causes ‘sin’. By fighting ‘sin’, we increase guilt, and therefore ‘sin’. In the words of Carl Jung: what you resist, persists.
Guilt can only be undone through forgiveness. To forgive is to cease judging. That is why Jesus taught what he did. To claim that Jesus died for our sins is to deny the very message of forgiveness that Jesus taught.
Forgiveness is seldom possible, however, without a period of grieving. To grieve is to let go of grievances. This is seldom easy, and impossible while we insist on remaining disconnected through judgement. In psychological terms it involves withdrawing our projections. To realise that, irrespective of what somebody else did, that person is still just as human as we are.
To let go of judgement is to let things be as they are, and to let ourselves be who we are. That means letting go of the belief that we are inherently evil, which in turn means letting go of fear and guilt. There is no other way to undo sin.
By refusing to see people – including ourselves, or anything else, as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we allow our inherent perfection, and therewith our inherent joy, to emerge. Until then, the evil world that we see around us is literally our own choice.
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