God and the devil were walking through a garden, when God paused and pointed: “Aren’t these beautiful flowers?” God said.
“Why, yes,” the devil agreed. “They are lovely. Here, let me organize them for you.”
Rules and structures are everywhere. Many seem placed outside of us, put upon us, as it were. Necessary, it seems, to keep us in line. In fact, many outer laws spring from our inner conscience, where divine laws are woven into the fabric of our beings. For we all embody the great conscience of the world.
It’s the ego that needs rules. The ego serves the great purpose of holding us together and taking us out into the world to do our work, spiritual and mundane alike. When it gets good enough at doing the mundane—like going to work, paying our bills and getting along with others—it can take on more spiritual tasks—like unwinding our faults, healing old hurts and being of service.
But the ego has no depth of its own. To do our inner work, the ego must learn to let go and tap into greater resources. For the ego has no original ideas, no creativity, no true wisdom. This is why the ego needs rules. Rules and structures are what we must rely on until we’ve learned to live from within, finding our own voice and heeding its messages.
Along the way, we all need to develop discipline, which includes abiding by outer structures that help societies function as well-organized systems. And yet, if we were truly able to live by the wisdom welling up from within, we wouldn’t need so many outer rules. We’d simply do what’s right according to our conscience.
Ages ago, we weren’t developed enough for our conscience to be close to the surface, so outer laws were handed down to help us out. Don’t steal, we were told, and don’t lie. Don’t kill your neighbors or cheat on your partner with them. And take a little time, regularly, to connect with something greater than yourself. These are internal spiritual laws, part of our inherent moral compass, which had to be given to us as commandments until we could sense them on our own.
So deep down, we know right from wrong, without anyone wagging a finger. Trouble is, we don’t always do right, even when we know better. And as long as that’s the case, outer rules will be required.
The Guide teaches us that God’s world is an orderly one. Order, then, is a divine principle, and our unwillingness to live in an orderly way indicates tangles in our inner landscape. Further, in the Spirit World, structure is not something rigid and brittle. On the contrary, in the Spirit World, the more structure there is, the more fluidity there can be.
Structure, then, is what provides us a framework so that people can live together in harmony. Without it, we’d all go off in different directions, following our individual whims and sidestepping the natural flow in an effort to feel free. In doing so, we’d miss out on the feeling of freedom that comes from being part of something bigger than ourselves. Truly, there’s no shame in being a cog in a gear that moves the big ball of life forward.
Structure provides a framework so that people can live together in harmony.
Inside our beings, our organs work together to support our human existence; in our outer activities, our body parts work in concert to move us around. Same for animals, fish and birds, where the wing of the eagle doesn’t resent or dismiss the talon. All parts are welcome, needed and useful. In a similar way, various organizations come into existence with the intention of making some kind of forward progress.
Then in comes distortion and up wells dysfunction. Health in a body falls down when there’s no longer internal cooperation. Harmony within a family, company or country turns sour when rules become rigid and used for control rather than for coherence.
Where we often trip up is in seeing the distortion of organized systems—the devil at work, if you will—instead of the divinity inherent in their make-up, and we rebel. Rather than stepping into our own leadership and responding like mature adults, we rant and rave like children. The problem, then, doesn’t lie at the feet of law and order, but at the hands of the willful, destructive way it gets carried out, and our immature behavior in response.
Over time, our society has evolved from the days of royals and dictators, to a two-party democracy run by freely elected leaders. The concept of balancing self-responsibility with compassion is a good one, necessary even for a society to govern itself. For both perspectives are fundamentally just and both are needed.
Then the whole world tips, not to one side, but into chaos.
But when they go into distortion, people from both camps can fall into victimhood and blame. For the potential injustices carried out by those who have more power can create imbalances, and that leads to anger and hate on both sides. Then the whole world tips, not to one side, but into chaos. The orderly structures become brittle and break, causing more fear to surface and the powerful to cling more dearly to unfair practices.
The problem lies in placing the two complementary and necessary aspects of self-responsibility and compassion outside ourselves, as two competing opposites. When one is viewed as the antithesis of the other, we veer into the ditch, rather than realizing that two lanes, going in opposite directions, can work really well together. Both sides, in fact, are needed. Freedom then, where we all can drive safely down the road, calls for both self-responsibility and compassion to be enlivened in every individual.
For that to happen, we have to the leave the seemingly safe construct of the ego—the part of us stuck in duality—and trust the divine will living inside us that is able to rectify the two. We must seek to see where either is lacking within, and bring our best to getting ourselves into balance. When we all do that, then our outer structures will naturally hold their proper form, embodying balance, strength and fluidity.
On that day, all will be well with the world. Until then, wars will continue to be waged, inside and out, and we will not be at peace.
Pearls, Chapter 3: Exploring the Spiritual Nature of Political Systems
Pearls, Chapter 10: Two Rebellious Reactions to Authority
Pearls, Chapter 11: Bringing Ourselves to Order, Inside and Out