What’s the point of self-preservation if, beyond all this malarkey, there is eternal life? Why do we hold on, instinctively clinging to our bodies? There seems to be some contradiction here.
This longing to stick around—to remain here in the physical world—is really an out-picturing of the divine spirit’s desire to pour itself into the great void. All day long, we are creating and animating matter, infusing it with consciousness and our own divinity. That, in a nutshell, describes the Grand Plan: push the Great Spirit out into the void, gradually filling it to the brim. And right there, on that lip, is where evil comes in.
As spirit slowly penetrates the void, divine attributes are able to live and breathe, but at first, only to a small degree. Concepts are split, consciousness is fragmented, and vision is limited, so there is error and ignorance and fear. Light meets the darkness and things get wonky; the very idea of existing is bundled together with the threat of nonexistence.
On this level of existence, then, we are torn between the forces of good and the forces of evil. But the more our spirit is able to penetrate the void, the more we transform fear and hate and untruth into their original faces of love and truth. And then the more we fill the void, the more we experience the Big Truth: we mere mortals are—well, glory be—immortal. Deep breath.
So here’s one of our conflicts on the level of appearing as human: we long for eternal life, which we know doesn’t exist in the human body, yet we frantically strive for it while here in our bodies. But if we go the other direction and deny the importance of our physical lives, as some religious people may do, because we sense our souls will live forever, we miss the point of God’s plan: we’re here to infiltrate the void—to spiritualize matter.
Our clinging to life then is not merely an expression of our fear of death—although that could be part of it—rather, it is a valid expression of creating, of following the great movement of life, and of fulfilling the Plan of Salvation.
So when Christ said to ‘Be in the world, but not of the world,’ he was saying we are to have a joyous will to live in the body, with no hint of fearing death. Sure, we realize there’s a lot more on the other side, but living here as humans can be a wonderful venture for a greater cause. And then later, when we transition by way of death, we’ll be moving into a fuller existence where all is well.
So notice the unity here: our knowledge of that fuller, deeper life lets us feel more secure in this physical life. Yet living here has a meaningful point and should not be shirked. All difficulties are a little less weighty with this perspective. We will realize that we’re here on temporary assignment, and we have an important role to play—but this ain’t the only game in town.
Take this in. Even if we’re only able to dip our small toe into this notion, we’ll have a new understanding of what it means to ‘be in the world, but not of the world.’ As we work to complete the task we’re here to fulfill, we’ll gain a deeper appreciation of these words. It’s a twofold-job: purify our personal dusty bits and at the same time, give over our talents and resources to pitching in on the Plan of Salvation, per God’s wishes. If we do this, square pegs will find square holes. It could take a little time for everything to fit together, but time is, in the grand scheme of things, an illusion. And frankly, we’ve got all the time in the world.
The more we ramp up our commitment—and really mean it—and make an effort every day to find our blocks and distortions, the more energy and excitement we will feel. Peace and security will ooze out through our pores. But if we focus on selfish ends, we’ll be more insecure, battling a frightening sense that life is meaningless. Here’s the vicious circle: life is meaningless, we push selfishly for minor fulfillments, we feel divorced from Christ, and life feels more meaningless. Then we wonder why we feel depressed.
Some of us have climbed off this hamster wheel, but we’re still only making a half-hearted effort. We’ve got one foot in heaven and the other on a banana peel. So we partly dedicate ourselves to sincerely fighting for the good. In these areas, we feel deeply content and our lives make sense. There’s a pleasant glow of meaning and fascination, of joy and security.
But then there are those areas where we hold back. We hope to strike a bargain, swapping a little self-seeking for doing God’s will. Hence we live in hell, feeling bored and at loose ends, not quite in sync with creation. Living in heaven, then, means we know our place and we do our job.
Our convoluted thinking has us believing that working for God will bring us suffering and pain. If we didn’t believe this, we would dedicate ourselves more completely, with less resistance and more trust in God’s greater plan. Here, really, is the nut: surrendering our will to God’s will. In truth, if we dedicate our life and talents to God, we will flourish in our daily life. Best yet, our splits will heal and unify, so unbelief will turn to belief, fear to trust, hate to love, ignorance to wisdom, separateness to union, and death to eternal life. Holy palooza.
An important tool for tackling this struggle is courage; don’t underestimate this. In fact, a lot of people assume spiritual people are meek and mild, implying we don’t have much courage. The spineless, we think, are the victims of those who are aggressive and bold—the courageous ones who have all the energy and strength. So in a mixed up way, we equate courage with evil, and meekness with goodness. Well, wrong-o.
Truth be told, cowardice is as potent an evil as any aggressive act of cruelty or dishonest malice, and spiritual cowardice leads to betrayal of God. So being weak and cowardly is not so harmless, and is often less spiritual than taking a risk and showing some positive aggression.
When we’re weak and won’t stand up to evil in others—when we won’t fight for the truth—we’re encouraging evil. We’re saying the perpetrator isn’t that bad, that it’s OK and maybe smart, and see, other people also support it. We fear that if we stand up for decency and exposing the evil, we’ll be the one who gets ridiculed. We sell out in order to not be rejected.
This is what goes on all the time. We encourage evil and then push this out of our awareness, leaving a stink-cloud of guilt hanging over us. No matter how we try to talk ourselves out of self-hate and into self-esteem, our lack of courage in giving up acceptance from others—which may or may not even be real—will be our downfall.
So let’s say someone maligns another and we stand there doing nothing. Our silence is not a sign of our goodness or gentleness. Far from it. It might even be more destructive than the outright maligning. The maligner showed their hand and took the chance they would be rebuked. If we standby and passively listen, we’re kiting on their evil, enjoying the active maligning and not taking a risk to right the wrong. Heck, we’ll even take pride in not having ‘stuck our nose where it doesn’t belong’ and said anything. Sheesh.
Silent collusion, then, is more evil than an out-and-out evil act. For example, active evil alone could not have resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion. It could only happen because of all the colluders, traitors and silent bystanders who stood by and watched, too afraid for their own skin to stand up in opposition, allowing evil to win. (Although, of course, over the long haul, evil never really wins.)
It was no different in Nazi Germany under the Hitler regime. The few perpetrators in charge would not have gotten very far without the silent collusion of the masses who feared for their hides as being more important than all that stuff that God stands for: decency, truth, empathy and love.
So here’s something interesting to ponder: the active principle in distortion—as murderous and harmful as it might be—is never able to cause as much damage as the receptive, passive principle in distortion. So the lowliest attribute on the bad-ways-to-be scale of humanity is not to be hateful, it is to be lazy. Inertia—including laziness, apathy and unwillingness—is the freezing of the flow of divine energy. In inertia, the radiant matter hardens and thickens, being blocked and deadened.
Inertia is part and parcel of both our primary and our secondary guilt. Our primary guilt is for helping and abetting evil, subtly approving of it lest we become the one disapproved of. Our secondary guilt lies in pretending we’re not doing that—we’re just being good—when really we’re a coward and are selfishly covering our own tails, thereby silently giving permission for evil to carry on. This is why Jesus Christ was a bigger fan of the evildoer—the one who is nearer to God—than of the self-righteous one who is trying to appear good.
Inertia doesn’t take action in defense of good. Instead, laziness and inaction support selfishness and lack of engagement, keeping things stagnant and not growing; change is thwarted. Even if activity swings a bit wide in the opposite direction, it at least prevents us from being lulled into the ever-present temptation to stop.
Some of us believe that to be lazy is to be restful and that to be active is to be exhausted. On this, we’ve got our wires crossed, and we may use this justify taking a more laid back approach to our spiritual path—to be more silent and receptive. But it’s in the active motion that we build and create, change and grow. As we adjust to this movement, we find it enjoyable and relaxing.
So as long as this kind of wrong thinking prevails, we need to question our desire to sit in stillness and quiet. Such practices can become an excuse for staying inert, for avoiding effort and taking any risk. Our souls will establish the right balance if we tune into and trust the inner movement.
The void is totally stagnant and inert; it needs the enlivening power of the spirit to penetrate it, and this can’t be achieved by holding back. Sometimes we feel we shouldn’t have to try so hard; we should be able to find enlightenment through easier means. But sitting and waiting for God to come to us may be false receptivity, which is inertia behind a mask; the more we go this route, the less real receptivity—taking in God’s ever-present grace, for example—is possible.
On a spiritual path of self-confrontation and self-discovery, effort will be required. We need to push through the inertia that wants to keep us in resistance to our own growth process. We must actively confront the exact nature of our laziness, and more importantly, see how we rationalize it in order to keep on indulging it.
Wherever we feel weak, confused and unfulfilled, bouncing between giving in and putting up a fight, our inner house is divided. We are not yet walking straight in the world. The path to true autonomy involves surrendering our will to God’s will. Part of the course-correction process may involve a temporary disadvantage, a hurt or a rejection, and it most definitely will require a bolt of courage. We may need to sacrifice a selfish aim. Plus, we’ll need some faith that God is looking out for us and always has our best interest in mind.
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