What is the truly spiritual response to the terrible event in South Carolina? Is it forgiveness, as so bravely extended to the young killer by the family members of those he murdered?
Yes, that is a wonderfully spiritually elevated first step, and the whole of humanity is inspired by those grieving family members in Charleston. Yet there is another step, a step beyond forgiveness, that I believe God offers to everyone of us—and invites each of us to embrace in our own lives as we move toward spiritual mastery.
That second step is understanding. And ultimately, it replaces the first. Ultimately it renders forgiveness unnecessary.
I have observed, in my own life and in the lives of many others, that this is one of the most challenging and difficult messages of the so-called New Spirituality as articulated in books such as Conversations with God. It is challenging because, on its surface, it seems to violate everything we have been taught about the most sublime, exalted way to behave—and about the way that God behaves.
What if it turned out that God does not forgives us for anything, and never will? Might this be the missing link? Might this be the data about God and Life that we have never allowed ourselves to consider?
I have been asking for years: Is it possible that there is something we don’t fully understand about God and about Life, the understanding of which would change everything?
I believe the answer is yes, and that the following is what we do not fully understand: God does not and will not offer forgiveness to anyone for anything, because forgiveness is unnecessary. It is replaced in the process of Divine Balance with a more searingly powerful energy: Understanding.
First, Divinity understands Who and What It Is, and so It is aware that God cannot possibly be hurt or damaged, injured or diminished in any way. This means that Divinity would not be disappointed or frustrated or annoyed or angry or vengeful for any reason. It simply has no reason. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord” is, I believe, the biggest spiritual untruth of all time.
Second, God understands that humans do not understand who and what they are. Thus, they imagine that they can be hurt and damaged, injured and diminished (and from a purely human perspective, this experience is very real). It is out of this misunderstanding of who they really are that all thoughts, words, and actions seemingly requiring forgiveness flow.
Humans do things they would never do if they understood their True Identity and embraced it fully. Understanding this, God has no need to forgive humans for what they do (even if God could somehow be “hurt”), any more than we have a need to “forgive” a two-year-old child for saying or doing something that some might call “bad.” Forgiveness is not part of the equation in our response. We simply understand how an 18-month or 24-month old child could do such a thing.
The idea that you need to forgive an adult is clearly based on the fact that you feel they should know better than to have done what they have done to offend, damage, or hurt you. Yet the Soul knows that nobody does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world. The Soul knows that everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment.
Just as we understand the child whose simple immaturity and confusion led to his actions, so, too, do we see, when we come from the place of the Deep Understanding of the Soul, that the exact same thing is true of the adults who act in ways that persons of greater awareness of their True Identity would never act.
The more we find out about the young man who perpetrated the mass church killing, the more we see how this applies. Ah, we say. Now we understand. We begin, as well, to understand the mass consciousness and the limited awareness of many aspects of the internet culture in which he found himself submerged, and the sources from which he gathered his data about life. As we learn more about this particular case, the mind catches up with what the Soul already knows.
Understanding thus replaces forgiveness in the mind of those who have expanded their consciousness to include this level of awareness. The invitation before humanity, then—if we truly wish to change and finally transform the human experience—is to change our model of the world. And how can we do this? By telling a new story, the true story, of who we really are, of why we are here on the Earth, of who and what this thing we call Divinity really is, and of what God wants.
Perhaps the most profound spiritual outcome of the mass killing at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston will be that it will lead the whole of humanity to this heightened awareness.
The families of those who died there have shown us our magnificence with breathtaking clarity. Let us allow their first step to take us to the next step: a compassionate understanding of how any human being (much less masses of human beings) could do the kinds of things we see being done every day in our world, and a deeper awareness of the truth of who we are in relationship to each other and to God, such that we begin living that truth at last, in every moment of our individual lives, erasing finally these horrific events from our collective experience.
There could be no more fitting tribute to the blessed souls who gave up their present physical life to bring each of us the opportunity to open to this awareness.
In the meantime we see, with gentle comprehension, that understanding replaces forgiveness in the mind of the master. We see, as well, that only understanding of our past and our present can change our future. Condemnation has never done it, and it never will.
This is not something that is lost on God.
Divinity, therefore, patiently and lovingly awaits our growth, even as we do with our children.
Will Charleston wake us up? When a 21-year-old who has hardly begun to shave more than twice a month says (as reported by multiple media sources) that he wanted to start a race war, and was willing to kill nine people in order to do it, is it time for us to look at ourselves—again–and ask some piercing questions—again?
Has the human race lost control of itself? Is this just another aberration, or have there now been enough “aberrations” to make us ask: Are we really this primitive, this barbaric as a species? What is the problem here? What is causing all of this?
It’s our beliefs.
In my observation, in my opinion, it’s our beliefs.
Every single thing we do is based on a belief that we embrace. All of our actions have their foundation in thoughts we hold about the outcome those actions will produce—and those thoughts are deeply rooted in the beliefs that sponsored them. A young man with a distorted mind just proved that to us.
But the distorted mind of one more perpetrator does not allow us to continue refusing to look at what is at least one source of our societal problem. Minds become distorted by ideas and beliefs that distort them. So what humanity holds, and shares, as its most sacred and important beliefs had better be accurate, had better make sense, or they will contribute to, if not outright sponsor, behaviors that none of us can make sense of—except those who perpetrate them.
What I have been saying for 20 years in thirty books and hundreds of lectures is that it is humanity’s beliefs about God that have produced humanity’s dysfunctional experience of itself. Hundreds of us…no, actually, thousands of us…wait, let’s say it like it is: millions of us…use our beliefs about God as justification for what we are doing.
Now that may or may not be the case with this 21-year-old man in South Carolina, but whether or not his actions grew out of religious fervor or faith, I am sure they emerged out of feelings of righteousness…and the idea that righteous indignation requires and justifies punitive action. And where do you suppose that idea came from? Well, I know of at least one source…
And so, I repeat: the ideas about God held in the common culture are used as justifications for what many humans are doing. I can tell you that political and paramilitary movements around the world are using those ideas right now—and proudly declaring that they are doing so. Individuals are using those ideas every day—and proudly announcing that they have bettered their chances of ending up in paradise because of it.
Even those who have no beliefs about God are widely impacted and deeply affected by those who do. It is a fact that many of the civil laws of our societies are based on restrictions and instructions found in Canon Law or Sharia Law. The result: people who may have no belief in God or Allah at all are affected by the mandates of those who do, who claim that their man-made rules and regulations have proceeded from a Divine Source and therefore carry the Highest Moral Authority.
The time has come for us to admit that huge swaths of humanity believe in a God of righteousness, judgment, condemnation, and punishment—allowing us to be righteous, judgmental, condemning and punishing with each other. After all, we reason, what’s good enough for God ought to be good enough for us.
The Bible narrative—to cite just one example—actually tells us that as a matter of recorded history over two million people have been killed at the hand or the command of God. And we are advised by many religions that God’s love can turn to wrath—and does if we displease The Almighty.
Do we think this has nothing to do with how we, ourselves, behave? Do we imagine there is no connection whatsoever between these thought systems, these beliefs, and the actions, choices, and decisions of individuals and groups across the globe?
Yes, we do. Many of us do—even as we declare with impunity that when we commit atrocities in the name of a Higher Power or a Greater Good, they are absolutely moral and correct, but that when the same things are done to us, those actions are immoral and evil, and those who perpetrate them are subject to God’s judgment and retribution (to say nothing of our own).
And, amazingly, we fail to see the contradiction.
We use anger to end anger, violence to end violence, killing to end killing, and fail to see the contradiction. We sanction the killing of people by our own government as a means of our government showing people that killing people is bad. And we fail to see the contradiction. “An eye for an eye,” we say, “and a tooth for a tooth.” And we claim that this is the word and the law of our loving God. And we fail to see the contradiction.
It is clear to me that what is required to change our lives and change the world is to change our beliefs. First, our beliefs about God—about whether such a Divine Entity even exists, and if so, what It wants and requires. Second, our beliefs about ourselves—about who we are and why we are here. Third, our beliefs about others—about our relationship to them, and to the Earth. Finally, our beliefs about life itself—about its reason, purpose, and function.
Yet what could cause or create a shift — or even a willingness to look at and evaluate, with the possibility of shifting — our most sacred and basic beliefs? What could cause us to simply take stock, to ask ourselves, frankly and honestly: Are these ideas that we hold about God and about ourselves working?
Can humanity even be honest with itself? Does our species have the capability to see the truth and to say what’s so? Or are we so blinded by what we need to be true, by what we have been told is true, by what our parents and their parents before them have sworn is true, that we cannot even consider the possibility that something may not be totally accurate here?
Is it possible, just possible, that there is something we don’t fully understand about God, about Life, about Who We Are and Why We Are Here—the understanding of which would change everything?
Let these be our questions for the day.
(Neale Donald Walsch’s latest book is God’s Message to the World: You’ve Got Me All Wrong, Rainbow Ridge Books, 2014. You’ll receive special rewards if you choose to obtain the book this week, as part of Neale’s “Oh, I Forgot!” Campaign. Check it out here.
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.”