Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Understanding the Light and the Dark

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." ~Meister Eckhart

There is a part of me that is drawn to dark things, dark forces (not only in thought but in real life), so much so that I have a pretty thorough understanding of them. I’ve been like this for years. These days, it's mostly gone.

It’s not a bad thing that I had it. By understanding these things as well as I do, I understand true good as well. It sounds paradoxical, but it’s true: the more you understand evil, the more you can understand the good and the beautiful, and the more you can appreciate them.

All of us have been trespassed against, have had bad things done to us. All of us have trespassed against others, done bad things to them. We have been both victims and victimizers. As a result, we must forgive ourselves for what we have done, and we must forgive others for what they have done to us. It’s an illustration of that old saying, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

One thing that is required is the understanding of motivations, of why we have trespassed against others, and they against us. Without that understanding, there can be no forgiveness. Once these motivations are understood, then there is the possibility (although not the certainly) of forgiveness.

Once there is forgiveness, then the hate and anger and desire for revenge can be given up, and it can be replaced with peace.

Ideally the sequence would be confession, followed by repentance (asking for forgiveness), followed by atonement – “making good” for what you have done (and without the atonement, the first two are worthless). If this is not possible, then at the very least there has to be that understanding. That is the minimum for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is possible without someone confessing to you, asking for forgiveness, and making amends. Even if there is no repair and reconciliation, there can still be forgiveness. Usually, this is the case, anyway.

If you don’t forgive, it’s possible to become a victimizer yourself. I once heard a saying, “If you seek revenge, dig two graves.” If not that, how about, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Sometimes, there is a lot to understand and forgive. There is, I think, quite a lot of abuse in society – abuse in childhood, in adolescence, in public schools, in jobs, at the hands of government. And by understanding what was done, you can forgive.

Forgiving doesn’t mean condoning or tolerating the wrong. It doesn’t mean letting the offenders off the hook, to continue their wrongness, morally or legally. Wrongs have to be righted, sometimes quite vigorously. That’s a given. But in righting wrongs a person shouldn’t let resentment, hate, self-pity, guilt and the desire for revenge eat up their life.

Unfortunately, even if you can forgive someone, your trust in them is gone, and can never come back. Once a person loses their reputation, it’s gone forever.

I have quite a vivid imagination, and can access feelings through it. Because of that power, I can imaginatively identify with and understand the motivations and minds of men who abuse women, of rapists, of serial killers, or white slavers.

I can also understand the mind and motivations of women who become hookers, or strippers, or star in porn films.

The one thing I can’t understand are child molesters. I understand it intellectually, but that’s it. I can go no further.

In the case of the men, their feelings are more sadistic – a desire for complete power over women, whom they hate, and the desire for revenge and to utterly crush and control them. They are this way because they feel they have been abused and humiliated at the hands of women, and this is their revenge on them. They have hardened their hearts, and to them it’s always the women’s fault, not theirs. They’re takers, not givers.

In the case of women, it’s more masochistic, and is often a desire for attention. But there is still that desire for manipulation and control. In their case it’s caused by abuse and neglect at the hands of men.

All of it is a cycle, one of abuse and neglect followed by revenge and murder (if not literally then the attempted murder of their spirit). There’s a saying that tells it all: “What goes around comes around.”

Probably the oldest story that gives us a clue as to what is happening is that of Cain and Abel. Cain murders Abel because God rejects his sacrifice, and humiliated and shamed, Cain blames his problems on Abel and murders him.

Shame and humiliation lead to murder. Those who have been shamed and insulted and humiliated, who have suffered neglect and abuse, attempt revenge through either the murder of the body or spirit (and the long-term sadistic murder of the spirit is much more fun that merely murdering the body).

Cain and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve, and this is important. That story of Adam and Eve is an attempt to explain how evil came into the world. Actually, the story of that family explains how evil, followed by murder, came into the world.

When God catches Adam and Eve breaking the rules, Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent (a symbol of envy). What they’re doing to projection, or scapegoating, and as the late M. Scott Peck noticed, scapegoating is the genesis of human evil.

First comes projection, or in the case of Adam and Eve, non-violent scapegoating, generally based on envy. The next step is violent scapegoating, illustrated by Cain and Abel.

Adam and Eve, until they eat of the tree, and naked and don’t know it. They’re unconscious. Then they become conscious, realize they are naked, and become ashamed and humiliated, just as Cain is ashamed and humiliated.

What is implied in the story of this archetypal family is that is not only is murder based on shame and humiliation, but also on envy, which is probably the most corrosive feeling in the world. Those who have been abused and neglected are not only shamed and humiliated, but also envious of those who have the power over them to do to them the bad things they did.

What, then, is the good? The opposite of all the above – the lack of hate, envy, shame, anger, humiliation, neglect and abuse, projection and scapegoating, and the desire for revenge. It can be a hard road, but those things must be understood and forgiven.

One thing I think is necessary for happiness is to be thankful and grateful. And people who hate, and who are full of humiliation, envy, self-pity, guilt and the desire for vengeance, cannot be grateful and thankful. That is why forgiveness is so important – for your own happiness and peace of mind.

When people can give up the influence of the past, then they can live almost wholly in the present, and enjoy it as much as they can. As Warren Zevon once commented, "Enjoy every sandwich." Then you can be thankful and grateful for even the smallest things. After all, enough is as good as a feast.

The things of which I write have been known for a long time – thousands of years. But they aren’t really taught anymore, which is truly unfortunate. They certainly aren’t taught in most churches, the way they should be. They aren’t even taught in colleges.

It’s not only people who suffer for that lack, but society, and, indeed, the world. After all, forgiveness in not something you find – it’s something you give.

"There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed."~Robert Brault

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