A Reflection on Good and Evil

I wrote in my post “Tarot and Oracle Cards: Good or Evil?” that good and evil are concepts of the mind. I thought I’d elaborate on this, lest my readers think I’m crazy or evil myself.

Nondual Reality is all there is, yes. This Reality includes all, accepts all, and transcends all, including moral concepts like good and evil. However, we do not live in a world where all human beings realize Oneness and act from that place. We live in the relative realm, where there is light and dark, left and right, good and evil. Evil exists, it just doesn’t have absolute existence. Only God has Absolute Existence.

We as human beings are moral creatures. We think in terms of ethics. As a philosophy major, I focused my studies on ethics, particularly virtue ethics. Rather than a view of consequences as being either harmful or beneficial, or a view of morals as being universal law, I chose to study a kind of ethics that asks, “What actions does a flourishing human being take? How can we flourish as a society?”

I’ve found that the answer to my persistent question of “How can I flourish? How can we flourish?” is actually really simple. Repent. The Greek word used in the Gospels is metanoia, which means to rethink. Yeshua’s gospel wasn’t that he was specially sent to save us from our sins by dying on the cross. That was Paul’s gospel. Yeshua’s gospel was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Rethink! Change your mind! Literally, change how you see.

The key to human flourishing, and the flourishing of the whole planet, is a change of perception from seeing everything in dualistic terms to seeing the One Reality behind it all. I’m speaking of nothing less than a mass transformation of consciousness, not in the sense of simply changing our thoughts, but getting beyond our thinking mind.

I do this through asana practice and meditation, sometimes with plant medicine. Nothing like Amazonian tobacco snuff to blast you out of your head and put your squarely in touch with your body. By whatever means I can, I try to find that spacious place of awareness that exists within. Sometimes I go gently. Sometimes I need more force. In any case, I let God run my life. Because whether my ego likes it or not, God is running my life.

Though good and evil only exist in relative reality, I don’t live without a moral code. But I live that moral code knowing that what I do to anyone, or don’t do for someone, what I say, or don’t say, I do to Myself. Because my eternal Self is in all. I take inspiration from the Yamas and Niyamas of the yoga tradition, the Eightfold Path of the Buddha, and most of all from the Scriptures of my Catholic tradition. These all add structure to my way of being in the world. Otherwise I would be, as I know I have been in the past, a wild force of chaos, a hurricane leaving suffering in its wake.

No, there’s no cosmic battle between God and the devil. Good and evil exist within the human mind. I don’t say that they exist in the heart, because when we perceive with the eyes of the heart we see only Oneness and have compassion on all beings. The mind is the creator of duality. This is the meaning of Original Sin: every human being is born from unbroken Oneness and grows up in the realm of duality, learning it from their parents, who learned it from their parents.

The Fall was not a historical event as such. Humanity did not come from only two ancestors. Serpents don’t actually talk. This story is an allegory for growing up. We are born out of unbroken oneness with our mother, and as we grow we develop an ego identity. This ego considers itself as separate. We have to develop this ego identity in order to function in the world. But we go from paradise in our mother’s wombs to the trauma of separation through the development of ego.

A lot of Catholics believe in a real devil prowling about the world, creating suffering. I find it interesting that we still need some kind of scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility. We’d rather point the finger at the devil and his army than at the person in the mirror. We see God as a big daddy figure who will protect us from the big bad fallen angel Lucifer.

At Mass, we petition God for peace in these times of war. My silent question is, “What are we, both individually and collectively, doing to promote peace?” The devil is not the arbiter of war. We are. Humanity as a collective must take responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves. The fallen angel mythology is just a story we tell ourselves to avoid responsibility. We’re the source of our own problems. It’s also within ourselves that we will find the solutions to all our problems.

I’ve been thinking about writing a book. I toyed with the idea in the fall, but I want to actualize it this year. Initially, I thought it would be a book featuring case studies of great spiritual teachers and activists. But I want to dig more deeply. I want to lay out a spirituality-driven ethics for the modern world. It’s a more ambitious project, but nonetheless one that I think needs to be undertaken. We don’t need an ethics that originates from the dualistic mind. We need an ethics that originates from the perception of the heart, from a view of Reality as it is.

Most likely, I’ll title the book the same as this blog, The Power of One. I believe in the power of one vision for a better reality. Not my vision. God’s vision. I believe in the power of one person to change the world. Not because of their money or their marketing, but because of the purity of their heart. I believe in the power of one human family to solve the problems we’ve created. Not because of our technology, but because of the underlying Reality we’re all a part of. I believe in The Power of One. And I hope you can start to believe in it, too.