An Open Letter to Our World
IS GOD AT WAR WITH THE DEVIL?
DOES THAT EXPLAIN EVERYTHING?
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am excited to be able to use this space on the Internet as a place in which we can join together to ignite a worldwide exploration of some of the most revolutionary theological ideas to come along in a long time.
The ideas I intend to use this space for in the immediate future are the ideas found in GOD’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD: You’ve Got Me All Wrong. I believe this new book (published last October by Rainbow Ridge Books) places before our species some of the most important “What if” questions that could be contemplated by contemporary society.
The questions are important because they invite us to ponder some of the most self-damaging ideas about God ever embraced by our species. For example, the statement that…God was at war with the Devil, and that’s how this all began.
Virtually every major religion teaches of a personality or a creature that is not God. This creature has been calledby many names, some of them: Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, the Evil Spirit, the Fallen Angel, and the Tempter. This creature is said to be in a constant battle with God for the souls of humanity.
To use but one example, the theology of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses teaches that this creature called the Devil existed originally as a perfect angel, but later developed feelings of pride and self-importance, then persuaded the first woman, Eve, and through her, the first man, Adam, to disobey God. It was this decision to rebel against God’s sovereignty and obey the Devil instead that made Adam and Eve sinners, causing them to transmit a sinful nature to all of their future offspring.
God could have simply destroyed the Devil then and there, and killed the disobedient couple as well. (He did, after all, kill two million people at His hand or His command, if we are to believe the Bible.) But, according to the theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses, God decided to allow time to test the loyalty of the rest of humankind, and to prove to the rest of the universe that man cannot be independent of God successfully, that man is lost without God’s laws and standards and can never bring peace to the earth, and that Satan was a deceiver, murderer, and liar.
Why God would need to test anything, much less the loyalty of a just-born species (which would be akin to humans having to test the “loyalty” of a three-day-old baby), is not explained. Nor are we told why God would need to “prove” anything to the rest of the universe—although this aspect of the theology does present us with the interesting assertion that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Otherwise, why bother?
This science-fictionesque story of God kicking God’s own lovingly produced creations out of paradise is not limited to a single denomination’s theology, but is widely taught in similar form in the Origination Story of many religions and cultures.
In some Korean homes, to offer a separate example, the story of Mago’s Garden is told. This tale speaks of a Deity who created a paradise and then placed in it human creations of different colors, like flowers in a beautiful garden. Because of their differences, however, these creatures fought amongst themselves, and so, in Her disappointment and anger, Mago banished Her creations from paradise, separating them and sending them to different places upon the earth, telling them that they may return to the Garden only when they learn to exist together harmoniously. According to the continuation of this story, the people of a different color upon the earth have been trying to find a way to do so ever since.
Each of our Origination Stories tells of a God who created something that, in the end, turned out to be not so good. Improbable as this sounds, the insistence on this story continues. In some accounts of this tale, what turned bad was an angel named Lucifer; in others it was God’s own children; and in still others, it was both. In some stories, God was at war with the Devil, and, being victorious, threw him into hell forever, and it is from this horrible place that he now competes for men’s souls.
In any case, humanity’s fundamental Origination Story is, as I said, the story of a good plan gone bad—of something that is not divine, but emerged from The Divine, that has failed to demonstrate or reflect qualities of The Divine, and that now seeks to tempt all of us to do the same.
Now comes The Great What If . . .
What if there is no such thing as Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, or any “evil spirit”—and what if that which is not divine simply does not exist?
Would it make a difference? Does it matter? In the overall scheme of things, would it have any significant impact in our planetary experience?
Yes. Without the existence of a wicked entity or a force for evil that is said to exist in Ultimate Reality, the entire mythology of God’s battle with The Darkness would disintegrate, and with it the whole idea of the eternal struggle of good vs. evil.
A news story in August 2014 from the Internet website, The Spectrum.com, illustrates how deeply this idea has become ingrained in the human culture—and offers us an impeccable example of a point made in the very first chapter of this book.
There, I said that it’s not a small thing to be wrong about God, because a striking number of the decisions made by billions of people across the globe are made within the context of what they believe about God, and about what God wants. If you think I may have overstated the case, I offer this: “Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy told members of the Independent American Party gathered to hear him Saturday that the April confrontation between his family, federal agencies and Bundy’s armed militia supporters was part of an age-old battle between good and evil,” the news article on The Spectrum said.
You may recall that Mr. Bundy was ordered by the federal government to cease grazing his cattle on government-owned land. Mr. Bundy refused, and his refusal made the national news, drawing people with loaded guns from far and wide to stand up to the government with him. Or, in Mr. Bundy’s own words: “There was people from almost every state in this United States was there. Some of them told me they’d traveled for 40 hours to get there. Why did they come? . . . Because they felt like they needed to. They was spiritually touched.”
Mr. Bundy was further quoted in the news story as asking the group he was addressing: “If our (U.S.) Constitution is an inspired document by our Lord Jesus Christ, then isn’t it scripture?”
“Yes,” a chorus of voices replied. “Isn’t it the same as the Book of Mormon and the Bible?” Bundy asked. “Absolutely,” the audience answered, according to The Spectrum website.
The armed standoff with federal enforcement officers (who, by the way, backed down) mirrors the same cultural story that starts all our wars. Human wars are based on—and, in fact, require—the characterization of people and positions as “good” and “evil” in order for humans to be sufficiently motivated to violate their own basic nature, which is to never hurt or damage anyone or anything.
A “reverence for life” exists at the core of every sentient being, and the only way to get such a being to act against this internal impulse is to convince that being that it is doing “good” by acting in a way that the entity itself would call “evil” if the same actions were taken against it.
Much of humanity’s dysfunctional behavior around violence and war has arisen out of humanity’s religions having adopted a story of a war in heaven between God and Satan in which God was victorious, resulting in the Fallen Angel being driven out of paradise.
As we have recounted here now several times (following the ongoing example of several religions), the Fallen Angel was not destroyed, however, but, according to the mythology, was allowed to continue to exist as the Prince of Darkness and the Chief of Demons, who to this day continues to struggle with God in a battle for human souls.
Fascinatingly, this is characterized as a battle that Satan can win. And when he does, the souls who succumb to his temptations are sent to join him in the everlasting fires of hell.
The Bible is replete with statements about hell—which assertions are put forth as vital doctrine (Heb. 6:1, 2), describing hell as a real, literal place of fire and torment (Jude 3, 7; Rev. 14: 1 0; 20:10-15; 21:8); telling us it is where those who knew not Christ would suffer everlasting damnation (2 Thess. 1:8, 9); and warning us that to this day this is a punishment that lasts forever for those who reject Christ (Matt. 13:41, 42; 18:8, 9; 25:41-46; Luke 16:19-31).
And so, religion has been urgently advising us for centuries that we must do all we can to avoid the snares of the Devil. The idea of intrinsic good vs. inherent evil has thus become a foundational element of the human Cultural Story, as has the notion that God is in a struggle with the Devil, which struggle justifies and allows God’s administration of horrible-beyond description punishment to those who fall prey to Satan’s temptations and do not seek forgiveness in a specifically prescribed manner. It is what gives human beings the moral grounds to administer horrible-beyond-description punishment to those whom they designate to be their enemies.
What’s good enough for God, after all, should certainly be good enough for us.
Thus, our species has found a spiritual basis for all manner of human barbarity, and offers God’s example as complete vindication of many of its cruelties.
Remove the idea of evil from the constructions and stories of Ultimate Reality and the cornerstone of cruelty crumbles, its rationale lost, its basis dissolved, its justification juxtaposed with an Ultimate Reality where nothing but Love exists, nothing but Love ever existed, and nothing but Love ever will exist.
The entire script about evil being at war with good, and about an angel who was in a struggle with God in the Kingdom of heaven, is derived from the idea that something which is not God can exist.
This idea gives rise to a corollary notion that “sin,” understood to be an offense against God, is possible—that it is possible for the Most Powerful Being in the universe (indeed, the Creator of the universe) to become upset because one being out of seven billion on one of several trillion planets did not go to Mass on Sunday, or failed to travel to Mecca during his lifetime, or fell in love with another being of the same gender.
This construction, in turn, leads to the dubious conclusion that punishment by God will and must ensue as retribution for such offenses, thereby balancing the “scales of justice” and ensuring that in God’s Kingdom, everything exists in a state of purity and perfection.
The irony is that a punishment horrible and everlasting is wildly out of proportion to many of humanity’s supposed “offenses” (such as coming to God with purity in one’s heart, but by the wrong religion). The sad paradox is that this is everything but an expression of purity and perfection.
Now, here is God’s message to the world…
God has been telling us from the very beginning, and it is becoming more clear to us every day, that humanity’s Ancient Cultural Story about the existence of a creature known as Satan is plainly and simply inaccurate.
It is okay now to remove this ancient teaching from our current story, and to stop telling this to ourselves and to our children.
There is no such being as Satan, and hell does not exist. Those who believe that Satan does exist assert that his non-existence is exactly what Satan himself would declare, and would attempt to get us to believe. Therefore, anyone who says that Satan does not exist is seen not simply as someone who has a theological difference with the religious mainstream, but, more ominously, as “an instrument of the Devil.”
This ensures that such a difference of opinion is rarely revealed or widely discussed.
We will, nevertheless, discuss it here.
That which human beings call evil does exist in our reality, as part of the Contextual Field described earlier. Yet our definitions of “evil” are creations of our own devising, having nothing to do with any kind of inherent evil in God’s Kingdom.
Indeed, it is the absence of “evil” in the realm of the spiritual that requires us to create it in the Contextual Field within the realm of the physical, so that we may express and experience what we call “good.”
We do not have to create it on our own planet, however.
So long as something that we label “evil” exists somewhere in the Contextual Field (which is the universe) we can experience that which we call “good.” As well, we can use memory as a device with which to create a Contextual Field. Therefore, if we can remember a time when we experienced or heard about something “evil,” we can in the present moment experience that which we call “good.” Therefore, the presence and the expression or experience of “evil” on the earth today is not a requirement for the expression or experience of “good” to take place.
Because what we call “evil” is a creation of our own making does not mean that what we call “evil” is not “real” in our experience (insofar as anything within this illusion called physical life is “real”), or that labeling things, in human terms, as “good” and “evil” has no value.
Indeed, it is by what we ourselves call “evil” that our species defines itself—and those definitions change as the species itself evolves. Yet it is critically important for us to understand that those labels are our own, and have not been indelibly “stamped” on certain actions or conditions by either a Deity or a Devil.
I will now offer dramatic evidence that this is true.
On July 28, 1999, in a weekly address witnessed by more than 8,500 people, Pope John Paul II said that a physical, literal hell as a place of eternal fire and torment did not exist. Rather, the Pope said, a hell-like experience can be encountered by the soul—not only after death, but even in this life. This experience, the Pontiff said, was the experience of separation from joyful communion with God.
According to an official Vatican transcript of the Pope’s speech, John Paul II noted that the scriptural references to hell and the images portrayed by them are only figurative and symbolic of “the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God.”
He added, “Rather than a physical place, hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.”
The Pope went on to say that the ancient notion of a hell of fire and brimstone, and the frightening images from some scriptures and other sources and paintings, are also only “symbolic.”
Such illustrations, he said, should not be used to scare people.
To cite his exact words: “The thought of hell and even less the improper use of biblical images must not create anxiety or despair.”
The Pope also said that God does not condemn us to hell.
Eternal damnation, he explained, is “not attributed to God’s initiative, because in his merciful love he can only desire the salvation of the beings he created.”
He did not explain why God cannot bring to fruition His “only desire,” but did say that it is a human being himself who closes off to God’s love. And so, damnation is actually a human being’s own doing—the result of a free will choice to reject God and His forgiveness.
(For those who wish to look it up, the statement by Pope John Paul II was reported in the August 4, 1999 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Holy See. The Weekly Edition in English is published for the U.S. by The Cathedral Foundation, 320 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD. His remarks were also reported in the Religion News Service, a news agency reporting on religion, ethics, spirituality, and moral issues.)
And now, for that dramatic illustration of the similarities in the messages now being received and shared by human beings that I spoke of earlier…
The Pope’s commentary bore a striking resemblance to the words of Christian evangelist Billy Graham in an interview conducted by a major news magazine some years ago. Asked about the eternal furnace of hell, he offered this: “The only thing I could say for sure is that hell means separation from God. We are separated from his light, from his fellowship. That is going to be hell . . . When it comes to a literal fire, I don’t preach it because I’m not sure about it.” (Time magazine, 11-15-93)
And . . . these utterances by both Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham not only resemble each other, but come remarkably close to the words found in the book Home with God in a Life That Never Ends, the final installment in the nine-text Conversations with God series.
Here is the dialogue from that source, beginning with words attributed to God: Let us be clear. Hell does not exist. There simply is no such place. Therefore, there is no such place for you to go.
Now . . . can you CREATE a personal “hell” for yourself if you choose to, or if you believe this is what you “deserve”? Yes. So you can send yourself to “hell,” and that “hell” will turn out to be exactly as you imagine or feel a need for it to be—but you will not stay there for one moment longer than you choose to.
Who would choose to stay there at all?
You’d be surprised. A lot of people live within a belief system that says they are sinners and must be punished for their “offenses,” and so they will actually stay in their illusion of “hell,” thinking that this is what they deserve, that this is what they “have coming” to them, that this is what they have to do.
It will not matter, however, because they will not suffer at all. They will simply observe themselves from a detached distance and see what is going on—something like watching an instructional video.
The dialogue then says that the moment any soul wishes to get out of this self-imposed hell, that soul finds itself, at the speed of thought, in a place of unconditional love, total knowing, absolute joy, and complete emersion and union with God.
All of these statements—from the Pope, from Rev. Billy Graham, from Home with God, and from many other sources of contemporary spiritual wisdom who could also be quoted here (but will not be in the service of time and space)—completely contradict what the Bible writers said in ancient times about the reality of a literal lake of fire that burns throughout eternity.
Previously in this text I said that, as a product of evolution, “not just one or two of us, not just a few people, but millions everywhere are now receiving God’s eternal message. It is coming through to humanity more ubiquitously and more accurately than ever.”
I also said in that earlier statement: “Not coincidentally, nearly all of these ‘new messages’ contain similar statements, offer similar observations, provide similar answers, and describe similar realities.”
So the question is, has the human race evolved sufficiently to finally move beyond the level of our earliest stories and statements about an Evil Spirit and a Place of Fire and Brimstone?
Or shall we continue to refuse to question the Prior Assumption?
The statement should be made again that setting aside the notion of a Devil does not mean abandoning our notion that some things are “good” and some things are “evil,” by humanity’s current definition.
The trick is to not meet “evil” with “evil,” but to realize that its very existence is a product of the Contextual Field which exists only in the realm of the physical, and thus to bless those who perpetrate “evil,” even as we seek to change what they have done.
What’s this?, you might say. We are to bless evil-doers?
Yes. Every spiritual master who has ever walked this planet has understood that. It is why all spiritual masters, each in their own way, have sent the same basic message to humanity:
“Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”
Buddha said: “Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching.”
Those teachings flow to humanity to the present day. The Dalai Lama spoke this is the twenty-first century: “Hatred will not cease by hatred, but by love alone. This is the ancient law.”
Can we believe the words of our spiritual masters? If they did not want us to believe them, why would they have said these things?
Could it be that they were trying to tell us that, through the highest expression of love, we could dissolve the pain and the power of everything and anything that we do not consider to be the most magnificent expression of love?
Could it be that every spiritual master has known that during all human lives we have been and are going to be invited to have the courage to contradict what most people would consider the “right” thing to do when under attack?
Does this mean that we should not respond when under attack? No, it does not mean that. But it does mean that the way in which we respond does not have to be the traditional way of self-defense and counter-attack, and can thus nullify the effects of the attack.
All love will in all ways nullify all negative effects of all attack. It may not alter the outward appearance, but it will forever alter the inward experience. And this, in turn, often does alter the outward appearance.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years in South Africa, but he refused to condemn his jailors. On the contrary, he chose to openly love them. The result: the guards fought to be assigned to his area. They sought his counsel regarding their personal problems, and he sat patiently with them in his cell, offering his gentle advice. It is said that on the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the guards wept. They had lost their best friend.
He understood at a very deep level that . . . All love will in all ways nullify all negative effects of all attack.
It is when we realize that we have the power to neutralize not just an attack, but any negative energy in any form whatsoever—from minor annoyances to the day’s major calamities—that we see that negativity itself is something we are subjectively producing, not objectively experiencing. We are creating it, not encountering it. It is in interior decision, not an exterior condition. Our inner struggle around this interior decision regarding any exterior event, condition, situation, or circumstance is what every spiritual teacher, every saint and every sage has spoken of through the ages as the biggest challenge of being human. Many Muslims refer to this inner struggle as jihad.
There is no creature or being such as Satan. God did not create an angel and watch it turn into a Devil, then allow it to bedevil humans for the entirety of their existence. But God did give humans the power to see things in any way that they wished. It may be helpful to think of SATAN, then, as simply an acronym for: Seeing Any Thing As Negative.
Like Nelson Mandela, we can adopt any perspective on any aspect of life that we choose. Our perspective will then create our perception, our perception will create our belief, our belief will create our behavior, our behavior will create our experience, and our experience will create our reality.
The decision to see something, anything, as negative is a choice made by us, and only by us. There is no “evil spirit” who has power over us.
Or, as the comic strip character Pogo, created by the late cartoonist Walt Kelly, was noted for saying: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”