“The purpose of evil is to help man grow; to help man develop. To face man with the consequences of his own choices. To make him turn away from the toys of the world and look for his real self, his real nature. Evil is real but not the final reality. The final reality is the Light and Love of the Divine. Root yourself in that final reality always and at every moment, and evil will crumble around you.”
~ Mother Meera
A famous quotation by the Roman playwright Terence reads: “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”, or “I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.” Just so, if we are genuinely interested in discovering what we truly are (and are not), we need to explore the “shadow”, as well as the light, of our nature and appearance. Although Joy and Light are the truer and more predominant reality by far, while the shadow is illusory and fleeting, it is still a fundamental element of our human experience, and needs to be both acknowledged and properly understood, or we will continue to be confronted by it.
Carl Jung made an excellent point when he noted: “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
In my previous essay Notes from the Other Side, I elaborated on testimonies from near death experiencers regarding the luminous and loving aspect at the core of our being, and the reports that many of us are here in a kind of elementary or primary educational format, learning basic lessons about how to behave, for example, or working on unresolved emotional conflicts, completing unfinished projects, or simply enjoying the human experience of physicality and all the interesting adventures that come with that form. Some are here out of curiosity, and may never return again, after once getting a taste of what human life on Earth entails, while others may return repeatedly “on assignment”, serving in the betterment of their communities as teachers, healers, and so forth.
However, if I were to stop there, I would be ignoring the totality of our collective existential condition. As Joseph Campbell wrote: “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” Consequently, I am using this opportunity to briefly consider another suggested aspect of our sojourn in this material realm. It is one in which a certain percentage of us may seem to find ourselves (depending upon our angle of vision) with a woeful sense of forced incarceration or involuntary confinement.
Indeed, for a portion of humanity, this theatrical stage we call Earth certainly might be experienced as more in the nature of a prison planet, rather than a school or tourist destination. From one perspective, many may feel they are here, not so much as students or joy-riders, but more as inmates, doing time in the furnace of the harsh psycho-physical reality that this realm can and often does provide.
2500 years ago, Gautama the Buddha experienced a profound insight into human life, and soon thereafter proclaimed what was to become known as the First Noble Truth of Buddhism: “Life is suffering (dukkha).” The Sanskrit term “dukkha” has also been translated as dis-satisfying, or stressful, but it certainly does not take a spiritual genius to recognize that for most of humanity, this existence is difficult, challenging, and typically fraught with hardship, pain, disappointment, loss, and sorrow, which are only occasionally interrupted by little glimmers of fleeting happiness.
Another term the Buddha applied in describing the prevailing realm of dukkha was “Samsara”. Specifically, samsara refers to the wheel of re-birth, or vicious cycle of craving and aversion — that chronic habit we indulge — always running around in circles, chasing after the same experiences again and again, lifetime after lifetime, while each time expecting a different result. In that, we are not unlike a dog chasing its tail.
According to Buddhist cosmology, this wheel spins us through a continuous cycle of incarnations. These many births, deaths, and rebirths are all based on our own choices, which generally stem from ignorance about who and what we are, and what mature life in this universe really requires, especially in terms of personal integrity.
Again, according to the Buddhist description of the process, all of these successive lives are governed by the driving force of our “karma”, the principle of being reborn according to the nature and quality of our past actions. “Positive” or “skillful” deeds result in an “upward” movement to more agreeable circumstances, while “negative” or “unskillful” deeds lead in the opposite direction. In any case, we ourselves are the sole authors of our good and bad fortune, and we are our own judges too.
By this theory, if we want to know our future life, we can consider our present thoughts and deeds, for they are the building blocks for what follows. For instance, regardless of our religious or political affiliations, how well (or poorly) do we treat others? In either case, it will come back to us, because we are not separate from each other in reality, and so what we do to another we literally do to ourselves. In this regard, there is perfect justice in the universe.
Consequently, if we wish to gain some insight into why there is so much apparent evil in this world, we need look no further than our own backyard (or even our own mirror). There is evil in this world because there are beings that are responsible for perpetrating evil acts every day. A quick scan of the daily news clearly reveals the situation. Sometimes it appears as if we are drowning in a relentless epidemic of human stupidity and destructiveness.
Moreover, if we were to visit a regular prison, we would not expect to find a lot of do-gooders there. Rather, we would invariably encounter people who have been sent there for committing serious crimes. So too do some commentators apply the analogy to planet Earth, roiling as it is in violence and blood lust, hatred and prejudice, sociopathy and psychopathy, cruelty and selfishness.
Once when the great swami Parmahansa Yogananda was finished with a Sunday morning meditation service, a young man approached him and asked, “Swamiji, Is there really such a place as Hell?” Yogananda paused and then replied: “Where do you think you ARE?”
One can find many accounts which portray this earthly stage as a kind of incarceration facility for certain beings, due to the evil which they have perpetrated. Ironically, such beings are their own jailers to a very large extent, as long as they are still prone to the level of immaturity which breeds the horrors we regularly witness on this globe.
As one proponent of the “prison planet” paradigm, writer Lou Baldin, noted: “If life was easy none of us would be here now. Life is not easy for the same reasons that being in prison is not easy. Prison is designed to keep inmates from coming back. And yet the prisons are filled with repeat offenders.”
Keep in mind that such a scenario is seen through the lens of one relative level of consciousness, and although it may resonate to a certain extent, there are other vantage points from which to regard the problem of apparent evil (and karma) that may differ significantly from the one outlined above. Indeed, one’s subjective level of awareness will certainly be a major factor in the interpretation they superimpose on perception and experience, and for the human persona, it will typically be one heavily conditioned by the fear-based myths and superstitions of the old religions.
Alternately, many of those who have experienced “the bigger picture” through expanded consciousness (either based on a near death-type experience or mystical insight), report discovering that we are not on earth to be punished, we are not imprisoned on any wheel, there is no karmic debt in need of being paid off, we need not return to get any lessons, and immortality does not have to be earned. Those concepts are merely figments of superstitious mythology and human speculation and misunderstanding, and don’t really apply in terms of how things actually work.
Indeed, there is good reason to suggest that we would be much better off not perpetuating those obsolete notions, which can tend to trap minds in fear-based fixations, which in turn will need to be seen through and transcended sooner or later. The rather prevalent theme among religionists that the human realm is a place from which we need to escape is essentially a negative projection of mind based on concepts fabricated by the limited and ambivalent human persona.
With the benefit of expanded consciousness, however, we begin to realize that there is actually nothing in need of fleeing, but only of being recognized and appreciated for the opportunities the physical dimension provides for our Spirit’s infinite expansion in Self-Realization. Suffice it to say that, in the final analysis, the grand mystery which constitutes the real process of reincarnation is still far beyond the reach of human comprehension.
One seer with who I have come to resonate a great deal (Sparrow) has this to say:
“There is never any need to return to Earth or in fact the physical plane of existence again, unless you so wish. Those that preach that the sentient being behind the physical form has to keep incarnating back into this challenging species simply do not understand what takes place in the spirit world. They are so caught up in personifying the Earth as the only school for a sentient spirit that they do not even comprehend the extent or nature of learning and growth in the spirit world. They simply do not understand that this physical universe is merely one miniscule classroom in a kindergarten, next to millions of other schools, colleges and universities in existence for your spirit journey. The conclusion that your infinite consciousness is somehow limited or boxed into repetitious cycles of rebirthing upon a small water planet works only to make you feel worth-less. Compare both vantage points and feel which one resonates a higher universal truth.”
Furthermore, he writes:
“It is a misconception human beings have that they must lay captive within a cyclical prison of reincarnation in order to ‘get it right’ and achieve some egotistical notion of hierarchical Self-value. This notion is very frowned upon by many within the spirit world who observe the implications of this mentality as damaging to the growth of individual character and life experience. This fear based mentality has no basis in truth as many discover when they choose never to have a physical existence again, yet advance beyond anything known in your current universe. This idea that souls keep on returning to Earth to re-experience the same limited existence through some fictitious reincarnation theory is religious myth. This is not to say you cannot choose to return, but to say most do not bother, having already experienced it.”
Nevertheless, all of our actions do have consequences, for which we are responsible. Even though this may be a virtual, or holographic reality, those consequences are still very real. The apparent fact that we are currently appearing in this extremely dense and slow vibrational plane on a small planetary frontier outpost on the outskirts of the galaxy — a realm seething with conflict, blood lust, and ignorance — is not the result of an accident, an arbitrary happening, or glitch in consciousness, but rather is the direct consequence of previous thoughts, actions, and decisions we have made.
Experiencers report that, according to what they have been shown, everything we encounter is a result of our own choice, and always fitted to purposes that lead to expanded self-awareness. Once fused into the human incarnational adventure, we might wonder why we chose our particular lot, such as a debilitating illness, or a tortuous circumstance like a ghetto or concentration camp.
However, even if we in our human guise do not typically understand “the bigger picture”, we are nevertheless aware on the soul level of the value and significance of every experience, regardless of whatever human judgments we might apply to any of it. In that sense, attempting to escape this world might be counter to our soul’s actual intent. As one near death experiencer, Anne Horn, reported: “If there is any message I can give, it’s not about meditating and leaving your body and taking your Light Being out of this Earth. Indeed, not. It is about bringing the Light into this Earth. Stay here. Be an anchor. Let the Light come in through you into this world. Don’t abandon this world. We need you. We need you here. We need you to be present. And we need you to be open, with an open heart… Everybody must be open. To bring this new age in, it is about opening your heart and letting it sing through you. It is coming! And it is a matter of all of us. Just open your heart and let It come in. Don’t leave. Don’t meditate and think this place is a bad place and we’re going to get out of here. This is a wonderful place. And it’s going to get even more wonderful. You’re here to anchor the Light so It can come into this dimension and be here.”
In any case, it is only through the benefit of expanded consciousness that we eventually are able to see through whatever pain and suffering we might experience, and recognize its intrinsic purpose as part of our curriculum. However horrifying our experiences might seem to be from the human angle of vision, in reality it is but an eye-blink, a brief movie that nevertheless is useful for us as we evolve in soul-recognition.
Every day we are presented with numerous choices, all revolving around love. The reason most of us are experiencing this realm as samsaric – suffering – is because we habitually choose selfishness over love. If we want to understand how the chains that bind us are fabricated, we can inspect our hearts for the creeping strands of greed, envy, arrogance, judgments, and hatred that are rooted there.
Alternately, if we wish to find the key to unlock the jail doors and liberate ourselves, we need to tear those poisonous vines out by the roots. Prisoners remain prisoners because of their love affair with evil emotions, and the more they are indulged, the dimmer the light grows, whereas those who break free from the binding trance of ignorance and hate, envy and greed, will move up and away from dimensions in the thrall of darkness and evil and never return. A good first step in the process of positive transformation, as the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa wrote, is to “learn to stop being a nuisance to the world.”
Nevertheless, no façade of gentility, no high philosophical realizations, no profound meditations, nor colorful transcendental experiences will free us until we have rooted out the vexations born of our resistance to and avoidance of love. Developing a conscience is a good first step – that is, learning how to “do the right thing” with grace and humility as life’s tests and challenges present themselves during our time here, and then accepting the consequences of our thoughts and deeds without complaint or blame. A good sense of humor helps a lot too!
Every choice we make contributes to the level or frequency of consciousness with which we identify, and which becomes our reality as we do so. We tend to often weigh ourselves down with our own stinky baggage, and so letting it all go – completely surrendering all our self-importance, resistance, fear and anger – is the means of self-forgiveness and atonement.
Liberation begins with recognition – really seeing what we have been up to, and also realizing that none of that is who or what we are. We always have the option to either transform our evil intentions and desires into humility, gratitude, and compassion, or just let the crazy monkey run wild. It’s always up to us. Both heaven and hell are our own fabrications, but it is not enough just to recognize that. We all have work to do.
“Just understand that what you see is not what is. Appearances will dissolve on investigation and the underlying reality will come to the surface. You need not burn the house to get out of it. You just walk out. It is only when you cannot come and go freely that the house becomes a jail. I move in and out of consciousness easily and naturally and therefore to me the world is a home, not a prison.”