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Editor's 1-Minute Essay:
return to "Forgiveness" main-page
Editor's prefatory comments:
The following article was written more than ten years ago. Since then, I understand more.
feelings of unforgiveness, long entrenched, forge steel bonds, become an unbreakable feedback-loop in the wearied mind, and cannot be dissolved with saccharine will-power, a gritting of the teeth ‘I forgive you’ – that won’t work, and will only make you feel more out-of-alignment with yourself
You can say the words “I forgive you” but you won’t feel the words to be true, and won’t truly want to, with mere good intentions and mental effort.
Injustices incurred a long time ago, especially during impressionable childhood, are the worst. These stalwarts have had a long time to build impenetrable concrete-bunkers in the head which defy one’s best efforts to disgorge them.
You can wallpaper-over the injury with repression and smiley-faced platitudes – for a time -- until the volcano comes, until the lid on the kettle can’t be held down any longer. But I will tell what needs to be done and is the only way to torch the roots of the malady.
|Okinawa Island, 1945, GI with flamethrower battling dug-in snipers
First, you must do some homework. The way forward, in principle, is explained in the “Surrender and Acceptance” and the “Zen” articles. You’ll get the details there.
However, essentially, the issue is this: Your truest nature does not have a problem with forgiveness. It is the “false self” alone, the dysfunctional ego, that cannot forgive. And since, in our unenlightened state, we closely identify with the “false self” and do even realize that we have a “true self,” we have a problem, or think we have a problem, with forgiveness.
The solution is this: Quiet your mind and feel the energy of your inner body. Begin with your hands, feel the tingling. Now the energy in your feet. And then slowly perceive an entire field of energy within. And when you do, you will begin to “mind the gap.” You will sense a separation, an unbridgeable gulf, between the energy within, the “real you,” and the chaos of emotional negativity, the “imposter you.” You will be able to feel, to know the truth of, “Here is the real me, and over there is the emotional chaos, the unforgiveness. They’re not the same, and I can feel ‘the gap’.”
When you discover this “gap” within the sanctum of your soul, you will realize, very clearly, that the poisonous feelings of unforgiveness are just a paper-tiger of the offended “little me ego” and are not the real you at all.
Upon receipt of this knowledge, you will be set free. It will happen in an instant, though you might have been a prisoner since age 13.
"Ok, that's enough! Billy and Jimmy, you just stop that fighting right now!"
"He hit me first!"
"Yeah, but, he started it!"
"I don't care who started it! You're both to blame, you were both fighting! Ok, now, I want you to say you're sorry, and that you forgive each other. Jimmy, you go first!"
"I'm sorry... I forgive you."
"I couldn't even hear that! - you speak up now!"
"OK! I FORGIVE YOU!"
"See, that wasn't so hard, was it? That's how to be nice!"
Kinda brings back memories. Well, this mom did succeed in restoring law-and-order to Dodge City - but did it teach the kids anything about real forgiveness?
seventy times seven
The popular concept of forgiveness is equated with a gritting of the teeth, a burst of will-power, a setting of the jaw - something to be dispensed with quickly, like swallowing bitter medicine.
Jesus' men were discussing the subject of forgiveness. Fancying themselves spiritually advanced, they ventured a willingness, if absolutely required, to forgive an offender even seven times.
Jesus responded, "seven times? - how about, seventy times seven!"
Legalists have interpreted this to mean: "Well, let's see now. Jesus has given us a new law here - seventy times seven is 490 - so that's the magic number when extending forgiveness to a scoundrel; after that, he's on his own, and fair game. Jesus said so." (A recent Presidential candidate, offering the ripest wisdom, seriously offered this view as biblically correct, a guide for living.)
This interpretation would suggest that forgiveness is about careful record-keeping and charting.
seven, the perfect number
The ancients ascribed a metaphoric sense of perfection and completion to the number seven. Elsewhere, we've seen that seven is used over 50 times in the book of Revelation: seven lamps, seven angels, seven vials, seven spirits, seven woes, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven churches, seven heads, seven resurrections, seven plagues, on and on...
"monotonous, isn't it?"
Randomness cannot account for such multiplicity of occurrence; it is clear that the author of Revelation intended for the number seven to offer symbolical significance, not to be taken literally. Similarly, when Jesus' men said "seven times," they meant to say, "We will agree to forgive a perfect and complete number of times - beyond that, reasonable people would not demean themselves to go!" In other words, they thought "seven" would pretty well wrap the whole thing up in terms of moral obligation. Don't push it.
But Jesus was unimpressed: "So, you think 'seven times' covers it, huh? Well, how about perfection times perfection, raised by a power of ten?"
Clearly, we've moved beyond the realm of legalistic quantification. Forgiveness is more than accounting practice and keeping score; more than will-power and tenacious resolve, with Jimmy, under-study of Eddie Haskell...
trying very hard to say the right words, especially with mom within ear-shot. The truth is,
- Real forgiveness has nothing to do with will-power and trying hard to do the right thing.
- Jesus' men were proud of their self-defined magnanimity. What they deemed to be forgiveness, however, was just the Small Ego congratulating itself, "high fives all around," on how spiritual it was.
Sister JoAnn and The Sunflower
While visiting Sister JoAnn, one of my professors of some years ago, the conversation turned to writing projects, and I mentioned my "forgiveness" article. One of her favorite subjects broached, she immediately went to a bookshelf and presented me with a copy of "The Sunflower." "I have homework for you," she joked, as she requested my review.
Author Simon Wiesenthal, the famous "Nazi hunter" and concentration camp survivor, offers what many consider to be an exceedingly difficult moral dilemma - a situation that he, himself, experienced:
- "You are a prisoner in a concentration camp. A dying Nazi soldier asks for your forgiveness. What would you do?"
Wiesenthal, in the main, had listened patiently to the twenty-something Karl, a mortally-wounded SS officer; but, in the end, Wiesenthal decided to say nothing - no last word of consolation to this guilt-ridden soul seeking a particle of comfort in his final hours.
"The Sunflower" offers 50 short essays, 50 different perspectives, each attempting to answer the question: "Would you forgive this Nazi?"
The Sunflower: a brief review of the 50 essays
The vast majority of the 50 were concerned with questions such as:
- Was Karl repentant? or, repentant enough?
- Was a death-bed contrition adequate to warrant forgiveness?
- Did Wiesenthal have the right to forgive this man?
- Did Wiesenthal, even if he were willing, have the right to represent all Jews in any forgiveness toward this man?
- Would not forgiveness constitute a form of "cheap grace" - itself an immorality - thereby minimizing Karl's atrocities?
- Should not Karl suffer and experience punishment for what he did?
- Did Karl have claim to pity in any form?
- If we forgive, do we not run the risk of forgetting the lesson to be learned?
- Can man forgive? or, is this the domain only of God?
- Is Karl not presumptuous to ask for forgiveness after what he did?
- Is forgiveness to be tendered, if at all, only by the victims?
- Are certain evils, because of their magnitude, beyond the reach of forgiveness? that is, are some sins unforgiveable?
The Sunflower: my own thoughts
Four essays I particularly liked; two of them, by the Dalai Lama and his assistant. These men understood the merits and perils of the Small Ego; they also understood the illusionary nature of death and the reality of the afterlife; the unending evolution of the soul; and the non-substantive, ephemeral essence of evil.
Another noteworthy response, in my opinion, was given by a former Green Beret. His honest introspection, born of great hardship, informs us that war "amplifies and exaggerates the good and evil we have inside us"; moreover, concerning his time in Vietnam, he admits, "I began to see myself as someone I did not want to be."
With surprise, and great interest, I noted a writing by Albert Speer, third in command of Nazi Germany. Speer was the only one to acknowledge personal guilt at Nuremberg. He spoke of culpability, that which "cannot be erased in my lifetime"; that, he "can never forgive" himself. "Every human being has his burden to bear. No one can remove it for another."
To be frank, I did not enjoy reading nor did I find inspiration from the opinions of most of the 50. In their writings, generally, one finds a great deal of pettiness, self-righteousness, legalism, narrowness, and hard-heartedness.
- The 50 were obsessed with quantification: who's paying how much, to whom, for how long, where, in what manner, and to what degree. And they wanted to argue about legal rights and justice, sufficient penalty, and adequacy of remorse. I call all of this a spirit of "tape-measure ethics."
Much of the discussion approximated that of a courtroom hearing, judge-and-jury sentiments, with precious little, a relatively few token comments, reflecting the true essence of forgiveness.
One writer actually stated, essentially, that he would have made sure that Karl would never have left his presence; with this, he said, there would have been "one less Nazi" in the world! The writer seems to have no inkling of what he is saying... is it one less, or one more?
Friedrich Nietzsche: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that, in the process, he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”
If ever I were to find myself on trial, I should not want to be judged by most of those offering opinions in "The Sunflower." I think I'd rather take my chances with the Nazis; because, at least some of them had begun to admit that they were doing bad things; at least Karl was not deceived about who he was and what he had become: a first glimpse of one's own insanity is the beginning of sanity. But I fail to see even a modicum of such clear-eyed humility within the majority view of the 50.
eye for an eye vs. turn the other cheek
The Small Ego understands neither the value nor the true meaning of forgiveness; instead, it sees weakness by any such sentiment. It is inspired by perceptions of "I don't have enough" because "I am not enough."
Forgiveness is not about "tape measure ethics"; not about tort law or just compensation; not about demanding one's legal rights.
- Editor's note: This does not mean that the enlightened person, at times, will not safeguard legal rights, but, when these are defended, it will occur without neurotic attempt to fill an inner void, an insatiable desire.
A most famous section of the New Testament addresses the heart of "tape measure ethics."
In the "Sermon On The Mount" (Mat. 5), Jesus speaks of "turn the other cheek" - but, without historical background this phrase might cause some confusion.
Notice the context, the Old Testament law of "eye for an eye." While the Israelites did not literally go around putting out offenders' eyes, these words, taken from the book of Exodus, in poetic fashion, refer to measured and proper compensation for injuries sustained. Today we would speak of "suing for monetary damages" - that's exactly the sense of "eye for an eye"; that is, if you suffered an eye's worth of damage, you were entitled to an eye's worth of compensation. All of this serves as context to Jesus' phrase, "turn the other cheek."
In other words, Jesus is saying, "You have heard since ancient times that, as a matter of tort law, injured parties are entitled to just compensation, exactly commensurate with damages incurred - eye for an eye! This Old Testament rubric made for excellent tape-measure ethics."
However, in a notable "but I say to you" teaching, he dilutes what had been considered sacred law for a thousand years with "turn the other cheek."
- Notice how eye for an eye stands in contrast to turn the other cheek! The parallel structure is very artful, a literary device to heighten the force of Jesus' argument.
Allow me to offer an expanded paraphrase of Jesus' instruction that we might feel the impact of his logic:
"You have always heard it preached, 'eye for an eye,' that is, you have a legal right to fair compensation, a just monetary recompense for damages suffered. I'm not suggesting that this precept be done away because it does have its proper place in an equitable society. However, I want to bring an expanded perspective. There is more to Life than demanding one's rights. I say to you now that there will be times, in order to further the greater good and to serve God, when you will want to set aside legal rights afforded by strict justice; sometimes, instead of eye for an eye, you will proactively agree to incur further injury or insult; so to speak, you will turn the other cheek. At those times, metaphorically speaking, when you are hit on one side of the face, you will agree to be hit again on the other! that is, you will be willing to accept additional insult and injury - if you deem this forbearance to serve the greater good and honor God."
The question will be asked, how shall we know when to live by "eye for an eye" or by "turn the other cheek"? The answer is, God will lead us to know. And how shall we be informed of this directive? - by communing with one's own soul, the "true self," which is linked to God.
'turn the other cheek' and self-defense
Contrary to the opinion of some, the right to self-defense is not directly addressed in the "turn the other cheek" principle; Jesus' words contain no necessary prohibition against safeguarding one's life.
Further, "turn the other cheek" should not be construed as invitation to another's abuse or mandate to become doormat to the world. Jesus here is not encouraging a life of victimhood.
There will be times when the enlightened person might demand that a potential aggressor keep one's distance and stay away. However, when the bellicose path is required, it must be chosen reluctantly, with no spirit of hostility, ever mindful of the greater good, even for one's insane enemies.
I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men!
In the gospel of Luke Jesus tells a story about a man who went into the temple to pray. But instead of asking God for help with his failings, he launches into a speech about how wonderful he is:
"I give money to the church, I do this great thing, and I do that great thing! Oh, Lord, I am so glad that I am not like other men - for example, that scum-fellow over there, who shouldn't even be in the temple with me at the same time!"
- Editor's note: Archie Bunker, in an old episode, having picked up a friend at a bus station, advises, as they hustle out of the arrival port: "Don't look at nobody now, you might catch something!"
So condescending and proud is this man, so unrealistic in his estimations, so pleased is he with himself, that we wonder if we've stumbled onto a parody-skit for Saturday Night Live.
We've all known the pointing finger, the curled lip, the askance brow... It's 'those people'... ones not as good as we, ones concerning whom we thank God we are not like.
“Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being 'those people' – the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our kids play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want living next door.” Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough"
non-forgiveness knows nothing of connectedness and centers upon separateness: I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men!
In the article on "Evil," we discussed how any human being, under sufficient provocation, utterly led by the insane Small Ego, is capable of any crime, any atrocity, ever committed in history. Most of the 50 "Sunflower" writers, and most of society with them, stand oblivious to this inconvenient and politically-incorrect fact; instead, we busy ourselves with self-praising sentiments of, "I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men."
It is overweening fallacy to believe that the young Nazi Karl, and so many like him, were somehow more intrinsically evil than the rest of us. That idea is simply not true, a saccharine bromide we gulp to sedate ourselves. Plain reality reveals gullible and misguided people like Karl, by the untold millions, all around us, every day, in every aspect of society - whose seeds of Evil await germination via sufficient provocation and untoward opportunity.
If you doubt me, read the concentration-camp memoirs of Viktor Frankl, wherein he recounts that the worst and most brutal in the camps were not the Nazi SS but the Kapos, those petty foremen drawn from the ranks of fellow inmates, bribed to viciously supervise their own countrymen. Further, among the guards and wardens, at times, were to be found saintly men, who, at risk to their own lives, secretly bought medicines and supplies for the camp-miserable. Frankl states that it was impossible to separate good guys from bad guys based on station and rank as, he asserts, the dividing line of good and evil ran through every heart equally!
Any self-evaluative notion of "I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men" is patently untrue - and to suggest otherwise is invitation to neurotic dysfunction. We live our day-to-day lives with potential ultimate-evil around us all the time - not only on the international-national-local levels but, especially, as near as our own misguided hearts, our own egoic neediness; all that's required to bring evil to fruition, a slipping over the line, is a lack of "presence" to one's true self.
closing in on a clear definition of forgiveness
Part of the problem of Evil is that we don't want to know about its true nature; we tell ourselves sweet little lies about how we're exempt, better, and separate; we say or imply that Dr. Frankl is wrong, that evil is not so egalitarian as he suggests; that if we simply try hard enough to be a good person, if we exhibit that burst of will-power with Jimmy, we can cheat existential nature and become one of the good guys of the world who sing, "I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men!"
Well, to argue the competing view, what's wrong with will-power?
"Why can't we simply try very hard to be good people? Is that a bad thing? There are some pretty good neighborhoods to live in where people are conscientious and strive to be fair and just - what's wrong with that? And among these "good" people, they do attempt to live by the magnanimous rule of forgiveness. If someone wrongs them, they endeavor to put vengeance aside and offer forgiveness - so what if it's led by a burst of will-power? Communal well-being is maintained and there is a good measure of peace in the neighborhood. Will-power seems to be working just fine in some places, thank you."
Yes, of course, there are many good neighborhoods where people work very hard to live good lives; and, if required, many of these "good" people would try to forgive an enemy. All this is commendable; however, we are forgetting some important truths about the human condition.
Professor Philip G. Zimbardo and The Stanford Prison Experiment
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PUT GOOD PEOPLE IN AN EVIL PLACE? DOES HUMANITY WIN OVER EVIL, OR DOES EVIL TRIUMPH? THESE ARE SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE POSED IN THIS DRAMATIC SIMULATION OF PRISON LIFE CONDUCTED IN 1971 AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY.
"How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress. Please read the story of what happened and what it tells us about the nature of human nature." Professor Philip G. Zimbardo
As we are so fond of employing the Nazis as posterboys of consummate Evil, let us remind ourselves that Germany, going into World War II, was the most advanced society the world had ever seen.
Allow me to quote myself from the "Evil" article:
German society was the most cultivated and cultured, the best educated and most sophisticated - from that day to this... Never in history - certainly not since ancient Greece - had so many intellectual and artistic luminaries dominated: Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach; Einstein, Mach, and Braun; Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Kant - we could go on for some time here... And to suggest that what happened there could never replicate itself in the United States - here, in our "dumbed-down" educational system - is just wishful, shallow-thinking, a dysfunctional denial of the seeds of Evil that reside in the dark quarters of every human heart.
- Editor's note: There was a reason for certain jokes between the Americans and the Russians after the War: "Our captured German scientists are better than your captured German scientists." It's a miracle that we won that war. The Germans were on the verge, just about to launch their own damn space program with atomic weapons. Our subsequent programs in these fields, in no small measure, represented the brilliant efforts of German scientists.
Yes, we have our good neighborhoods; but let us not deceive ourselves. Germany of the early 1930s had its "nice neighborhoods," too. And young men like Karl grew up in those well-ordered precincts but, in so doing, were not watching inane sitcoms and listening to rap music. In those "nice neighborhoods," German children were studying the arts, music, philosophy, math, and science, in a manner and to a degree concerning which our own "nice neighborhoods" would typically enjoy little acquaintance. And to posit that our children today in "nice neighborhoods" could never slip over the line into ultimate Evil, as did the youth of Germany, is just lying to oneself, a mocking delusion of the nature of things.
- Editor's note: See Dr. Adler's comments on the quality of the German educational system which produced a pantheon of intellectuals rarely seen in the history of the world.
Will-power and trying very hard to be good will not forever save us, even if our neighborhoods are presently quiet and orderly; sufficient catalyst and provocation, potentially, might turn it all upside down very quickly - as it's occurred in more advanced societies.
Further, in our "good" neighborhoods, I submit to you that in virtually every one of those subdivision houses, behind closed doors, you will find unhappy people struggling, within their deepest persons, to remove the sting and bitterness of some past offense. With all of their "trying very hard to be good," they are unable to forgive at the depths of being.
- Oscar Wilde: “Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”
Like Jimmy, they might have said the words, "I forgive you," but the acidic sentiment of desire for retribution lingers long after and cannot be expunged with platitudes or self-proclamations of clemency. It's not that easy, and it doesn't work that way.
Will-power cannot produce one iota of authentic forgiveness.
Choices might be made to further the common good, along with speeches dedicated to brotherly love - but the wounded, secret heart is not so easily swayed. Forgiveness is utterly foreign to the Small Ego and will not be moved.
Most of us, almost all, have never seen or experienced the true forgiveness. It is virtually unknown in our world.
closing in on a clear definition of forgiveness
If true forgiveness is foreign to us, how shall we perceive its nature? - how can we come to know that which has never been seen or known?
This is more than problematic; but let's look at the word itself.
"Forgiveness" literally means "to give before."
It seems safe to say that almost 100% of the definitions and examples of "forgiveness" we've considered, plus those featured on the main-page, deal with "to give after."
In other words, when someone causes injury or insult, then, after the fact, people are called upon to "forgive"; but on the level of etymology, it's an absurdity. Whatever we do in the aftermath in terms of negotiating peace, with ourselves or a perpetrator, is not "for-giveness" but some version of "aft-giveness"!
While, as per strict definition, "forgiveness" takes place before injury or insult is sustained, are we not just playing with words here? Common sense dictates that the business of "forgiveness" must occur after the evil deed is done.
The meaning of a word is a fluid thing, can evolve over time, and no sure guide to current usage. However, in this case, the simple root words of "forgiveness" are clear enough, not susceptible to great variation, and, as we'll see, beautifully capture the spiritual sense of this extremely important virtue.
show me an example of forgiveness
Albert Einstein - one of those German scientists - once said,
- "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."
Most people's lives are currently run by the Small Ego - and it will define "forgiveness" under influence of its lower-level of consciousness. This is why "forgiveness" in the world is reduced to tawdry "tape measure ethics."
As Einstein instructs, we cannot solve, nor even properly define, the essence of true, spiritual forgiveness on the level of the Small Ego.
Acknowledging this systemic malady, how can we properly assess "forgiveness"? In my own life, it is readily apparent, to me, that, often I am still directed by the Small Ego. But, it's just a process of "growing up"; no big deal.
That said, there are times, for fleeting moments, when I've caught a glimpse of the meaning of forgiveness. It will be a long time before its true spirit becomes, for me, a permanent state of mind, but, even so, I've seen "the promised land" from afar; and even that much helps one to sense the core essence. Allow me to share what I've seen as a visitor.
the Spirit Guides: professionals in the art of forgiveness
ln "The Wedding Song," we learn that true romance is "something never seen before." True romance, like every other virtue and eternal blessing, is of the soul, something that "bubbles up" like an artesian spring (John 4) from the depths of being, the "true self."
In our world, the Small Ego errantly defines virtue in terms of its own narrow, materialistic perspective - utterly misconstruing the nature of love, peace, and joy, along with other aspects of the soul.
And so it is with "forgiveness" - something never seen before in our world; that is, until the advent of the "true self," allowing us to catch the first rays of the glorious dawning of a new life and a new humanity.
Close at hand, for all of us, is a ready example of true forgiveness. Spirit Guides have been assigned to each person. At this very moment your own Spirit Guides are near you.
I think it was Father Benson who said that the Spirit Guides - formerly of the Earth, as we ourselves - are carefully chosen and prepared for their service as "guardian angels," so to speak. Having lived on the other side for many hundreds of years, they have attained a level of spiritual maturity that might escape us for a while.
in the Spirit Guides, the true meaning of forgiveness is revealed
The Guides have been with us all of our lives. They know our talents and weaknesses; in a real sense, they know us better than we know ourselves.
These kindly, altruistic - and powerful - advanced persons are not surprised by anything that we do. They are well aware of potentials for good and evil. They never say or think, "Oh, I'm so disappointed in you! After all my work for you! You are such an embarrassment to me and my services! I would never have done that! I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men - like you!" [smile]
We can afford to smile at the absurdity of a "guardian angel" thinking such ego-centric thoughts. How could he or she be of service to our frail, stumbling selves with such a haughty attitude? Well, it doesn't happen.
the Guides "forgive" us even before we mess up
They are not shocked or put off by our foibles. They might not be pleased, but they know all about human weakness and temptation and how hard it is to live "down here" in the trenches. They help as they can, without overly interfering with our choices. If we are bound and determined to learn the hard way, then, so be it, if that's the "teacher" we need; even so, they attempt to "whisper" a better direction for our spirits.
But the point is this: in the Guides, we see the classic meaning of "forgiveness." Their actions speak to "a giving before." This means that before we mess up, they've well armed their attitudes to maintain an even keel. They know mistakes and problems are coming. They don't take anything personally; they're not offended; they don't get miffed. We're like little kids to these wise and powerful beings, and they love us, are loyal to us, and want only the best for us, and will stay with us, thick or thin.
how did the Guides develop this high-level proficiency in forgiveness
If we're not careful, we might be tempted to say, they succeeded by trying very hard to become good and finally made the grade over hundreds of years.
I don't think so. Jimmy's will-power, whether exercised once or over many years, will only serve to emphasize what we're lacking in terms of forgiveness. Trying hard just makes us feel more empty.
Then how did the Guides develop? Instead of "trying very hard" with a "burst of will-power," they learned to relax and came to know the inner-body, the "true self," and began to sense the "eternal life of artesian spring-waters" (John 4) bubbling-up from the depths.
Eckhart Tolle offers the best advice on how to access the "true self."
the whole concept of 'forgiveness' is a misnomer, a legal fiction; there really is no such thing; further, to the spiritual mind, there is no offense to be forgiven
Imagine this hypothetical situation of the Guides. One says to another,
"I can see that in the next five minutes our boy is going to really step in it again. He's making me look bad, and creating more work for me, but, hey, I've counted to ten, my temper is under control, and I've already forgiven him for what he is about to do, despite my best efforts to keep him on the straight and narrow."
We can be thankful that no such small-minded, "it's all about me," conversation takes place among the Guides; if it did, their virtue would be grounded in "will-power" and "trying hard"; rather, the Guides' calm forbearance is rooted in a perception of cosmic oneness with God and with everyone. At the center of being, they've learned to sense an affinity with all of life and creation. The Guides, over their hundreds of years of spiritual practice and meditation, have so aligned themselves with Universal Consciousness that, when they witness their charges about to create trouble, the calamity is viewed, as Tolle says, without their "turning it into a me." In other words, the Guides have sufficiently advanced, such that, "it's not all about them" when we mess up. Therefore, the Guides' prescience regarding a charge's mistake never engenders a thought of "forgiveness," as such. They're not remotely tempted by "eye for an eye" compensation; that would never enter their minds.
What does this mean? Consider this picture: When a baby in a high-chair is learning to drink a glass of milk, the mature and caring mother will not be offended when the inevitable spillage occurs. She doesn't deliver a warning notice,
"A word of caution, little baby, you're getting close now to the magic number of 490, so I'd be a little careful; but it's ok today as I've already forgiven you, even before it happens. That's just the kinda mother I am."
How absurd, there's none of that; for the mature mother, there is no offense, there is no infraction demanding remedy, none exists; no apologies needed, no recompense to be extracted, no debts to be made whole - and the concept of "forgiveness" never enters her mind, as she willingly "turns the other cheek," seeking baby's highest and best.
"Forgiveness," strictly speaking, is a corrupted thought-form known only to the needy Small Ego. "Forgiveness," like Zeno's arrow in flight, is the Small Ego's attempt to chop reality into discrete units - but no such "separate" event exists! Instead, compassion for the immature, based on perceptions of common humanity - let's not call it "forgiveness" - is a seamless, continuous, open-ended, and pervasive state of mind of the spiritually advanced. "Forgiveness" was invented by the Small Ego; it's how the Ego imagines spirituality to work, a distorted vision, as it attempts to posture and role-play the image of a "good" person.
To the advanced spiritual mind, "sin" and personal offense, and cause for tort claim, do not exist; because, from that better perspective, there is no lack, no deprivation, no shortage, no need to seek for compensation, but only a sense of fullness, abundance, a oneness with God and with everyone, a universal affinity - love and compassion for all, as we're all connected. No one is separate, no one is "other people"; there is no "I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men!" Everything exists within Sacred Purview, within the Divine Will. Nothing is out of place. It's all "peace like a river," and we simply flow in the current of God's bounty, no matter what happens. Everything, as the "Course In Miracles" instructs, is a lesson God would have us learn. No one can truly harm us, nothing can rob us of heritage and destiny. Immersed in such perceptions of fullness, what need have we of "forgiveness"?
Herman Hess, in his Siddhartha, tells the story of young man who lived during the time of the Buddha. He traveled far and wide in his quest for enlightenment.
all important things in life are learned from a river
One day the young man came to a river. The ferryman offered to take him across the raging torrent. During the trip, the ferryman explained that all important things one needed to learn in life could be learned from the river.
In John chapter four, Jesus, speaking to the woman at the well, explains that what we want most in life, in fact, the richness of "eternal life" itself, already exists deep-down within us. Though we were "made in the image," our task is to develop, unfold, and bring to the surface of consciousness the treasure-trove latent within.
"It's like living waters, an inner river, a naturally-flowing artesian spring," Jesus said, "with its hidden source centered in the soul, linked to God."
All virtues of the spiritual mind flow naturally from that hidden origin. This is the true source of forgiveness, as it is the source of all other aspects of authentic spirituality.
To access the godly qualities of the spiritual mind, including forgiveness, requires no effort, no gritting of the teeth, no burst of will-power. Rather, it all flows naturally, effortlessly, "peace like a river," without the slightest aid from ourselves; in fact, it will carry us, lends strength to us; our part is simply to flow in it.
Eckhart Tolle offers the best advice on how to access the "true self," the "artesian spring" within.
living in the wonder as the heavens open
Editor's note: The short piece below was written for the "Desire" page, however, it fits well with our important discussion of flowing in the energies of Life.
"Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding." The Tao Te Ching, the first verse
These cryptic, mystically-derived statements rank as some of the most profound ever written.
"Ever desireless" means having escaped the distorted perceptions of the Small Ego which sees only emptiness, lack, and deprivation. In this hall-of-horrors state of mind, neurotic desire, as attempted antidote, springs easily to the forefront of diminished consciousness.
A "desireless" frame of mind, one that flows in a sense of abundance and fullness of God's domain, allows one to see "the mystery."
And what is "the mystery"? We are informed, within the verse itself, in terms of implied meaning, by a veritable "mashal" explanation.
"The mystery" - that which, before discovering the Tao's phrase, I termed, "living in the wonder" - becomes a most keen awareness, a heightened level of consciousness, that all good things of God fill one's life, one's destiny, beside which, an all-encompassing, universal unity pervades and underlies all existence, which is to say, there is nothing else, nothing other than this singular totality.
Those who "desire" see only the "manifestations," that is, the ebb-and-flow of occurrences and happenings at the surface of mundane life. Desire, the Small Ego's needing-and-wanting, cannot perceive a larger picture.
But now we come to the grandest statement of all:
- "the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding."
Living in "the mystery," "the wonder," causes the heavens to open, curtains of clouds roll back, and every day one is treated to new insights of ultimate reality, new visions of cosmic understanding, the shimmering-glistening-sparkling vista of life lived as a son or daughter of God.
Father Robert Benson:
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. How many people can earnestly and sincerely and truthfully say, as they recite this part of the Lord’s Prayer, that they have forgiven those who have trespassed against them? Assuredly such a sentence were better left unsaid.
The latter half means little in the minds of so many people, and the first part can have no effect whatever upon any individual,
however piously it may be said, and with whatever high hopes of receiving forgiveness the suppliant may have.
The Father cannot be offended. He has no forgiveness to give. He does not condemn; He does not punish, nor does He relegate to others either the power or the right to punish. The offences which the great majority of mankind commit are offences against natural laws, the laws that govern the spiritual nature of man, and
those offences themselves react upon the one who commits them.
We may offend our fellow man, and we can—and we should—obtain his forgiveness. Then we can proceed to put ourselves in proper spiritual order. In doing so, we shall have the help of the spirit world under the guidance of the Father of the universe
Himself, through His ministers of the spirit world.
We have not offended God; we have broken certain spiritual laws. If you were to cast yourself from a high wall in total disregard of the law of gravity, you would have no one to blame but yourself because your physical body was drawn violently towards the
ground at the cost of broken limbs or other injuries. In this respect you have ‘broken’ the law of gravity, but you have offended no one, injured no one, in this case, but yourself. The spiritual laws must be respected just as you upon earth respect the law of gravity, a law that is ever-present and so potent.
The dismal burden of so many of the ‘authorised’ prayers is the constant begging to God for mercy and the forgiveness of man’s sins. This inveterate custom of hammering into the minds of the users of prayerbooks their innate sinfulness is bad for it sets up all manner of morbid conditions in the consciousness of folk
with sensitive minds. The publicly recited prayers are no better in this respect. They forever proclaim man’s sinfulness and unworthiness, until man himself, if he ponders upon the matter, can see very little hope in his future prospects when he passes into the spirit world. Mercy and forgiveness, these he will cling to, because he is taught that God is all merciful and will forgive the sins of all those who are truly contrite.
I have tried to explain to you how both mercy and forgiveness are not dispensed by the Father of Heaven. The Church will insist that it is right, and will so continue to stress these two points until it learns some degree of enlightenment. While the Church is spending so much time upon two erroneous beliefs it might
better be spending such valuable time in preaching and teaching the truth. Orthodoxy is blind, but its blindness does not merely affect the ecclesiastics who uphold it, it materially affects the thousands of souls who believe what those same ecclesiastics teach them.
Thus they arrive in the spirit world, when their earthly life is ended, with their minds clouded by ignorance and befogged by erroneous beliefs. We, in the spirit world, have to put this right. We have to bring knowledge of the truth to souls befuddled with earthly religious teachings which have woefully led them astray, not from the path of moral rectitude, but along the path of sheer ignorance of the conditions of life in spirit lands.
Speak to any one of such folk, and Orthodoxy would blush with shame could it hear the remarks that are made by these souls upon the way they have been misled. You can understand, then, how we have no great liking for the institutions which are responsible for this state of things. As it is, the errors of the Church have to be set right in the spirit world after countless souls have passed into it.
I have recounted to you the abject terror in which numberless people arrive in these lands, actuated solely by the fear of the awful Judgement which is supposed to await every soul upon its transition. I have also recounted to you some details of the overwhelming relief which we are able to bring to these tortured souls.
It is because I myself once taught such things that I now spend a great deal of my life in the spirit world coming to the instant rescue and relief of these spiritually deluded folk. Would that I had never given tongue to such errors when I was living on earth!
It is an uncomfortable feeling, I do assure you, to discover that what one taught with seeming authority has not a vestige of truth in it. It is more than uncomfortable; it is humiliating.
But with complete understanding we can go to the aid of people who have themselves been afflicted by such teachings, and thus
we can help to put things right not only for newly arrived friends in distress, but for ourselves as well. There are too many ‘mysteries’ attached to the religions of the earth world, ‘mysteries’ which no one on earth or in the spirit world can solve or will ever be able to solve.
Religion is wrapped in strange problems, so many farfetched beliefs are held, so much time is wasted in the recital of incomprehensible creeds, that the whole business of traveling safely into the spirit world has become a hazardous process, something to be feared and dreaded, so problematical in its outcome, so circumscribed with pious nonsense which has no relation to the truth, so insulting to the Father of the universe, that man, by being constantly told that he is a 'miserable sinner' can only throw himself upon the mercy of God and beg forgiveness for his many ‘sins.’
Nothing could be more undignified than that man should grovel (as he is taught to do) in self-abasement under the overpowering weight of his supposed ‘sins’ ...
Let us forgive those who have offended us. That is vital, but let us not seek forgiveness from God. He does not give it because He has nothing to forgive. He cannot be offended, but we can break the laws of the spirit, and in breaking them we cannot ask the law to forgive us. But we can set about putting matters right so that we are again in harmony with that law and not defying it.
Eckhart Tolle, The New Earth
There is only one perpetrator of evil: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves...
Resentment is the emotion that goes with complaining and the mental labeling of people and adds even more energy to the ego. Resentment means to feel bitter, indignant, aggrieved, or offended. You resent other people's greed, their dishonesty, their lack of integrity, what they are doing what they did in the past, what they said what they failed to do, what they should or shouldn't have done. The ego loves it.
Instead of overlooking unconsciousness in others, you make it into their identity. Who is doing that? The unconsciousness in you, the ego. Sometimes the “fault” that you perceive in another isn't even there. It is a total misinterpretation, a projection by a mind conditioned to see enemies and to make itself right or superior. At other times, the fault may be theirs, but by focusing on it, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else, you amplify it. And what you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself.
Non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego. But you can only be in a state of non-reaction if you can recognize someone's behavior as coming from the ego, as being an expression of the collective human dysfunction. When you realize it's not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to react as if it were.
By not reacting to the ego, you will often be able to bring out the sanity in others, which is the unconditioned consciousness as opposed to the conditioned. At times you may have to take practical steps to protect yourself from deeply unconscious people. This you can do without making them into enemies.
Your greatest protection, however, is being conscious. Somebody becomes an enemy if you personalize the unconsciousness that is the ego. Non-reaction is not weakness but strength. Another word for non-reaction is forgiveness.
To forgive is to overlook, or rather to look through. You look through the ego to the sanity that is in every human being as his or her essence…
A longstanding resentment is called a grievance. To carry a grievance is to be in a permanent state of “against,” and that is why grievances constitute a significant part of many people's ego. Collective grievances can survive for centuries in the psyche of a nation or tribe and fuel a neverending cycle of violence.
A grievance is a strong negative emotion connected to an event in the sometimes distant past that is being kept alive by compulsive thinking, by retelling the story in the head or out loud of “what someone did to me” or “what someone did to us.” A grievance will also contaminate other areas of your life. For example, while you think about and feel your grievance, its negative emotional energy can distort your perception…
It requires honesty to see whether you still harbor grievances, whether there is someone in your life you have not completely forgiven, an “enemy.” If you do, become aware of the grievance both on the level of thought as well as emotion, that is to say, be ware of the thoughts that keep it alive, and feel the emotion that is the body's response to those thoughts.
Don't try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go, to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place.
The seeing is freeing. Jesus' teaching to “Forgive your enemies” is essentially about the undoing of one of the main egoic structures in the human mind. The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. And what is a grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion…
It doesn't really matter what proportion of your painbody belongs to your nation or race and what proportion is personal. In either case, you can only go beyond it by taking responsibility for your inner state now. Even if blame seems more than justified, as long as you blame others, you keep feeding the painbody with your thoughts and remain trapped in your ego.
There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness.
That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.
Editor's last word:
As I review what I've written above, I realize that much of it might seem as rubbish and incomprehensible to many. We know only what we know. Until one personally experiences the "flowing in the soul-energies" of a perception of affinity with all human beings, the "forgiveness" of Billy and Jimmy will be the best we can do. It may stop the shooting for a while, but not the tormenting deep inside.
Nevertheless, one more time, I will attempt a definition: When we discover and perceive, as a reality, a oneness with all human beings, "forgiveness," as such, will not exist. When we viscerally feel, and know, what the other person is suffering or laboring under - because we've experienced it, up close, in our own hearts and souls; when we understand, far too well, that any human being, under sufficient provocation and blindness, is capable of any atrocity of history; then, there will be no offense taken, tort claims will go begging, and the issue of "forgiveness" will never enter our minds.
The above discussion was written a few years ago, but the issue of forgiveness is a little clearer for me now. The clarifying concept is that of “choice.”
If we approach the subject of forgiveness from a popular, worldly, perspective, we tend to believe that we can choose to forgive someone. But “choice,” strictly speaking, never enters into the true process of forgiveness.
This statement seems counter-intuitive to us and doesn’t seem to be right. However, it is right, because, as we’ll come to see as “eyes open,” the element of choice plays no part in accessing the truth in any substantive area of life.
“Choice” is of the dysfunctional ego. The “true self” does not “choose” anything – anything important.
Instead, we must align ourselves with Universal Intelligence, and then “the answer” will simply come to us. It will come to us not because we choose it, and work very hard for it, but because it easily and naturally rises from the depths of being and presents itself to us, overwhelming us.
I must assign you some homework. This issue of “choice,” and its misuse, is discussed in the articles, “Reincarnation Is Not A Choice,” “Prayer: 1-Minute Essay,” and “Krishnamurti on Choice.”