Ch 3. The oneness of good and evil

From a mystical perspective, one that allows the coexistence and cooperation of good and evil, we see that the Great Orchestrator (God, life, the universe, however you understand divinity) controls both sides, for our spiritual benefit.

You are to speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I will multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.

Exodus 7

This idea, or set of ideas, isn’t new. It makes up some of what we call the non-duality or cosmic oneness doctrines. This idea shows up in every mature mystical tradition, in lots of religions, in all the advanced monastic instructions the world over.

It’s sometimes expressed in other ways: “Everything happens for a reason.” Or “everything is part of God’s plan.” Or “you’re only given as much as you can handle.” Or “good and evil are both three-dimensional illusions; they don’t really exist.” All of this, articulated this way, is extremely harmful, hurtful, and a misuse and misdirection. It’s fine for those who don’t know suffering, but in the throes of real pain and real trauma, these ideas alienate rather than comfort.

Unfortunately, in nearly every articulation of modern non-duality, everywhere non-duality shows up, it is used as a nefarious invalidating form of bypass, most often spouted by narcissistic gurus who have no experience with pain, suffering, and lack any discernible depth, or predatory narcissistic spiritual phonies, who lurk around various groups, high on their cerebral gymnastics, invaliding pain when people are most vulnerable and seeking real warmth and validation of their suffering… 

The use of these doctrines to bypass pain isn’t grounded in the truth of the human condition. Those who are themselves numb, disembodied, and dissociated from their feelings take up lofty ideas, seemingly easy inconsequential ideas, and believing that that is sufficient, they attempt to force those ideas on others, as if changing one’s perspective changes the truth of trauma or the necessity of healing pain.

It ignores everything that is real and everything that hurts. There is no courageous admission of evil, no philosophical grappling with reality or the injustice inherent in evil’s existence, no work on the intolerability of suffering, and certainly no space for the painful digestion of the trauma being inflicted. There is no diving into the depths of pain to work through it; no excavation of real truths and wisdom within, no reflections to be gleaned, no cultivation of virtue, no correction of imbalances, no purification of any soul substance, and no growth to speak of. Instead, the beliefs are always used to avoid pain and dismiss it, which is psychologically unhealthy, spiritually wrong, and mystically misses the entire point of the experience. 

My aim here is to avoid bypass at all costs. Rather to deepen into ugly truth everywhere it shows up to be seen. To admit and recognize and work through all the complicated, difficult, and painful substance of being human, and to use those greater truths in their proper form – as a cushion and an empowerment to tackle what is hard, what is scary, what feels most impossible to get through; to help find the meaning, and derive the lessons of wisdom in otherwise devastating and catastrophic pain. 

If you know that the same powers who love you and who want you to grow and learn, are involved in the orchestration of your pain; that it’s not random, but deeply important and meaningful; that the suffering isn’t in vain and isn’t a result of accident or bad decision-making; that there is help, and guidance, and support available inside the darkness… That makes all the obstacles, and challenges, and losses a lot easier to bear.