Evolutionary Enlightenment, Oneness and the Paradox of Good and Evil

I invite you to enter with me into one of the deepest areas of human difficulty with the promise that by the end I will offer a possible way out.  This journey is triggered by recent dialogues involving Andrew Cohen at the EnlightenNext Midsummer gathering and these will be present in the coming story.

The story is an old one, one of the oldest our culture has.  In biblical terms you can take it all the way back to the Garden of Eden and the fall of humankind.   In that story the first humans were expelled from paradise because they obtained the knowledge of Good and Evil.  It is also a modern one; the dialogues took place against the backdrop of the atrocity committed in Norway by Anders Breivik.   However any atrocity will do for this conversation and the world has never lacked examples.

The background to the dialogues rests in Andrew’s latest book.  With great clarity and skill he articulates our need for a new way of approaching enlightenment.   The core of this view is that the universe has, from the moment of the big bang, embodied an impulse to create and evolve.  The enlightenment journey, whether by spontaneous revelation or meditative stillness involves finding the place in consciousness of the non-dual, the “One without a second”.  It seeks the place where each of us lives within that which is not capable of being separated, where there is no boundary between my consciousness and the consciousness of the all.   Historically this has been put forward as a place of acceptance, where we enter the bliss of being part of the God-mind and there is nothing to do, where enlightenment is a state of being.

There are of course many versions of this process, but if one takes the Buddha and Jesus as typical examples, the challenge that humans face when consciousness returns to awareness of the day-to-day world is that we notice human suffering.  For most of us there is a natural impulse to do something about that suffering.   Beneath this is a deeper paradox.  When in the place of oneness there is acceptance of the world as it is, knowing it to be perfect.   And yet it is in the nature of life to be creative.  Perfection can be improved upon.  The big bang represents the original expression of this creative impulse.  Since we all come from the big bang, since we are all a part of the expanding consciousness of the Universe, that impulse lives in us.  So from Andrew’s viewpoint, enlightenment is more than a state of being.  It is an ongoing creative act and our role in becoming.  In the individual space we must take responsibility for creating our own future.  In the space where we are the One that has no second, there is no boundary to our role in creation.  Evolutionary enlightenment takes us to the place where we take ownership of that role.  We are required to stop playing the game of denying our incarnation and making spirit superior to material existence.  We return to the Garden unashamed of our naked flesh.    

And there, whether we like it or not (and I assume that we don’t) we meet Anders Breivik and we meet Hitler.  On my mother’s side I share Andrew’s family name of Cohen.  At that level moral repugnance meets personal survival.  The urge to distance myself from Hitler is huge.  Yet we know that it cannot be that simple and Dr. Mike King pointed this out during the first dialogue.     I will put Mike’s point in my words, and with a little Spiral Dynamics perspective thrown in.

The evolution of human Values has taken us through various stages, changing views of what is acceptable.   In the early stages morality was about survival, tribal safety and power.   At all these levels there was a core element of “kill or be killed” guiding our moral compass, preserving the family, the tribe or the warrior band.  Humans took care of “their own” as the circle of ownership expanded.   After three stages the Values territory changes and in our culture we are familiar with the Judaeo-Christian proscription, the higher thought that “thou shalt not kill”.   Nevertheless both here in traditional Blue and in the modern level of Orange Values, those who do evil face punishment whether in biblical Hell, in earthly incarceration or execution, or potentially both.   We are not one with the perpetrator.  Evil is evil and I am not a part of it, nor it of me.

In the post-modern world we find the Green perspective of “there but for the grace of God go I”.  We acknowledge our common humanity, our psychological wounding and we encounter something more akin to Jesus’ forgiveness and Buddha’s compassion.  At the human level there is a sense of oneness, but is stops short of the place of “One that has no second”.   For more ordinary mortals here lies too much distaste, fear, revulsion; the urge to distance ourselves from deep evil is strong.   How can we do anything but disapprove?  How do I acknowledge or accept real oneness with Anders Breivik?    The flesh rebels.

The paradox is obvious and painful.   While we are faced with Evil that we cannot share ownership of, we are in separation.  In our knowledge of Good and Evil we expel ourselves again from the Garden.   We view God’s creation as imperfect but worse than that, we seem to be in a place of impotence where we cannot remedy the imperfection.  Both Roy Bhaskar and Andrew Cohen agreed that it is not possible to force our view of what is good or moral on another.  Osama Bin Laden believed in the rightness of his cause and Breivik in his and they did so with a passion, but their view of creative improvements looks destructive and wrong to us.  There is no enforcement over the spirit or the mind and we are left to manage the body and behaviour with jailing and execution.   We quarantine the disease which we cannot heal.

I believe strongly that we have to find a way out of this bind and I believe that one exists.  The way I see it, for as long as there is even this scintilla of separation from the oneness of creation there will be a flaw that runs through our enlightened evolution which prevents us from being truly whole.   I believe this cannot do other than affect our creative impulse.  So I want to pass on the story of Dr Hew Len whose example I believe offers us a way through, a means to acknowledge our oneness with the evil-doer, not in accepting the unacceptable but in being a part of its redemption and healing.

Dr Ihaleakala Hew Len is a clinical psychologist who worked at the Hawaii State hospital in the high security ward for the criminally insane from 1983 to 1987, where he cured an entire ward of violent mentally ill patients using the simple ancient Hawaiian healing method of Ho’oponopono.  During that time, Dr Hew Len didn’t ever do any therapy sessions with the patients. He would walk through the ward, and review the patient’s files, not for the purpose of therapy but to see what there was there for him to clean up. 

Dr Hew Len always kept in mind that every person, including the patients in that ward is really a creation of The Divine.  From this place of owning his oneness with them, it followed that since their condition and experience were part of his reality, it was possible for him to work with them via his own interior process.

When Dr Hew Len arrived at the hospital every one of the seclusion rooms were occupied with violent patients, but as he worked consistently on his own memories and feelings, within a year and a half, all of the seclusion rooms had been shut down, and patients were starting to be able to take care of themselves.  The more he got clear, the more patients got better, and over the four years that he was at the hospital, many of the patients went home, and eventually the ward was actually shut down.

The principle of the Ho’oponopono practice is simple and clear.   Since we all share in the non-dual reality, anything that is in my awareness is my own experience, including the evil done by another.  Whatever is placed in front of me that disturbs my equanimity offers me an opportunity to clear myself, and to clear the field of consciousness.   Thus for each of us when faced with Anders Breivik we have the choice, in engaging with his deep dysfunction, to clear the area of consciousness that we share.   Since there is no separation we do this firstly to bring inner calm to ourselves, with the added potential that we can contribute to a change in him too.   So while we cannot enforce a change in the interiority of another, we may contribute to it.  The Hawaiian hospital experience indicates that we can be effective when we make this choice.

The practice is equally simple.  I engage my mind, at whatever depth I can, with the awareness of the ground of being, the individual, the issue and I say to the Divine (in me, the other and the All) “I am sorry.  Please forgive me.   I love you.  Thank you”.  Dr Len says of this that the bottom line is that whenever there is a problem that we notice, we are always there.  So he constantly asked the Divine to make amends through him for whatever he was experiencing as problems with the patients in that ward.  In his view, the only reason that he exists is because “peace begins with me”, and while saying that he still stumbles a lot, that is what he practices.

If evolutionary enlightenment involves accepting a fundamental impulse to create and recreate the world and better the lot of humanity, and if we are each truly owning our place in the co-creation of that better future, then Hew Len’s approach presents us with a means to step past our difficulty with the Evil done by “others”.   As I see it, this goes a long way beyond the post-modern “there but for the grace of God” which while it is a compassionate acknowledgement of common humanity, still leaves me separate from the other.    Instead it presents an integration of my interiority with the shared consciousness of the whole.

Andrew Cohen’s call is that we should each take our place, acknowledge the Ground of Being and then also become conscious of the evolutionary impulse.  “You are the only one who can do this.  That’s the ultimately challenging and profoundly liberating truth you discover in Evolutionary Enlightenment.  Any individual who is committed to this path has to know, at the deepest level, that he or she is the only one who could possibly do this.”  (“Evolutionary Enlightenment”, P.53)    I am awake to my impulse to evolve and so I must recognise that in acknowledging any remaining distress about the holocaust, or in my response to any other horror, the remedy is with me.  I am the only one who can possibly do this.  If God is all that there is, then that which I experience as Evil is of necessity also a part of God.  Whatever label I give to the whole, Evil will be a part of that.  To be one with the whole I must renounce the knowledge of Good and Evil that I imagined myself as having gained.  I must give back the apple, seek the Garden of my own equanimity in the face of my destructive impulses and include Hitler in the repentance and forgiveness that I desire.  Nothing less will heal the split in creation or resolve the heaven and hell of my own experience.

So, I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  Thank you.  I love you.  


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