The Shadows that Betray: Choosing Love in Times of Evil

From a Sermon given Summer Equinox Worship Service  on March 21, 2021

It is springtime, the point in the natural cycle of Mother Earth of regeneration and renewal.  Further it is spring of 2021, a time when many people are breathing a sigh of relief as things, at least in the United States, have an air of emergence from the dark days of winter and the darkness of the past year. Most of us in this community seem to understand that we have been given temporary reprieve from the challenges set before us; and that there are more to come. For now, however, we can rejoice in our successful perseverance, give thanks for the bountiful assistance we have received along the way, and recommit to the Creator-of-Us-All in weathering the days ahead.

This morning I want to talk a lot about dichotomies, and working with them successfully.  I was asked to speak about evil which certainly is a relevant topic given how it seems to be lurking at every turn in the road these days.  In these apocalyptic times the heat has been turned up and the creepy crawlies have come scurrying out of their corners, and creepy they are indeed! 

Many segments of the world may have come together rather quickly to take on the COVID-19 virus, but we are only beginning to even look at, much less address the energies that made its entrance into our collective lives necessary. Essentially we have ripped off the bandage that was covering the wounding of our shared world. There is going to be a period of bleeding, hopefully followed by some genuine healing of the underlying disturbances that caused the injuries in the first place. The lack of balance, the inability to negotiate dichotomies can be seen as the source of the injuries. So let’s talk about evil and its place in that imbalance.

The evil in the world has been so plentiful and profound, that many have chosen to shut down their own world in a vain attempt to avoid the pain it causes them to view it. Limiting one’s perspective in order to avoid working through what is triggered by viewing the truth may work in the short term. . .but it typically causes even more damage in the long term. This image of suitcases taken from Nazi concentration camp victims in Poland is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

What is evil? I could easily offer an entire sermon just trying to define this term.  Given that it is a hotbed of thoughts and feelings comprised of a seemingly endless myriad of social programming there are probably as many meanings to this word as there are people on Earth. All words are symbols to some degree or another, and words that have been used to contain the cognition, affect and behavior of those that use them over centuries, words that are used to convey religious concepts, words that reflect deep fears and other debilitating sensations are particularly chock full of energetic bits that snag and ensnare the matching pictures with which humans communicate.

On these fronts, the word “evil” checks all the boxes. Just about anything a human being says, does or is can be and has been labeled by another human being as “evil”. 

Perhaps a commonly-held meaning upon which many could agree is what it is not.  Evil. . .is not good.  The concept of “evil” is often captured by its juxtaposition on the opposite end of the dichotomy of good and evil. 

For some people, the word “evil” is reserved for something they see as profoundly not good, i.e. people and events that live out their experience on the extreme edge of the good-evil continuum.  You will hear me on occasion talk about evil as someone who is so disconnected from themselves, so ungrounded as to cause greater suffering; or someone who is so lost that they attempt to force others to their will by violence or other horrific means.  I try to bring as much neutrality and compassion as I can muster to the discussion of even these extreme attempted transgressions against God’s created order, but my analyzer sometimes has me tripping awkwardly when I am trying to talk about those playing out the extreme end of the evil side of good and evil.  At those times I try to step back a bit, or maybe I should say, step up in my viewpoint.

 So what exactly is “evil” from a spiritual perspective?

In the Bible, which is the foundational document for the Abrahamic religions followed by approximately four billion people on this planet there is the tale of the creation of the natural world. The Book of Genesis says our ancestors were told by the Creator that they could eat any of the abundant fruits of paradise with the exception of that which grew on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They were informed that if they ate from that particular tree, they would experience Death. And of course, you know what happened then.

Pay attention to the message there. Like any sacred text, the Bible is symbolic yet purposeful.  We are being taught about one of the most, if not the most primary dichotomies with which we struggle on Planet Earth.  Good and evil have been right there with us from day one. What is more, human animals were given the choice from the very start about whether or not we wanted to play out this dichotomy.  Apparently we decided to go for it. We could have made a different choice. We did not. We choose to experience dichotomies.

Also take note the use of the word “knowledge” of Good and Evil.  God was not advising us that there would be no good and evil if we did not partake of feasting from the Tree bearing its name. He was telling us that the choice was between “knowing” about good and evil and presumably not knowing about it.  What I hear from this is that the choice was about what we were going to undergo in our lived experience, in other words in our embodied form. Because we choose the option that included experiencing good and evil with our physical bodies, subsequently we signed up to experience death. 

Most organized religions and spiritual traditions recognize death as an illusion, an artifact of the physical body which has little to do with real life, aka as eternal life. This image of Life and Death by Liliflor Arte is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

So here we are in the springtime of 2021 having just experienced a global pandemic that killed thousands. with many more to come. We are living currently in a world dying of “natural causes” so to speak, as the environment around us crashes and burns.  Death is everywhere, as is life. The stories of individuals and groups of individuals rapidly coming together against all apparent odds to support each other during these times of crises are as plentiful as the stories of disaster, betrayal, and loss. Full-blown evil is clearly staring us in the face, but I would argue so is full-blown good.

We are playing out the dichotomy of good and evil accompanied by death, as we have chosen to do.

What is in store for us now? Are we stuck on a dying planet? It might feel like that at times, but that can’t be the outcome for the planet as a whole.  God created the world as a whole and only God can destroy it as a whole.  We can destroy pieces of it, including our own individual and collective lives, our happiness, etc. but the world in its entirety doesn’t belong to us. So what now?  To answer this question I refer you back to the invocation used to start this service, a famous but pretty much universally misunderstood passage from John, Chapter 14, Verse 27.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    

I believe the Christ here is talking about a kind of peacefulness that has heretofore been absent on the planet in the lived experience of human animals.  He is NOT talking about the absence of conflict, which is how most people think of peace. He IS talking about having transcended dichotomies.

He surrendered his entire being to the All-That-Is, the Father, the Mother, Allah, God/Goddess, the source, the divine, however you want to call it.  As an individual soul, he made the individual choice of his own free will that allowed him to transcend the need for dividing the world into body and spirit, good and evil, or any other seeming opposites.  There is a different kind of peace that awaits those who transcend dichotomies.  He experienced this different kind of peace. The rest of us have yet to explore that territory.

Rumi is talking here about a very subtle but profound shift of consciousness. When spirit in body lives this Truth in every fiber of its being, there is no longer any separation from anything on Planet Earth. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

As we work through the pictures that divide us from our true nature as spirit, as we work to deenergetize the projections onto others of these pictures, we find ourselves drawn closely and closer to the sweet spot in the center of the dichotomy.  As we do so, the extreme edges, those that reflect the transgressions almost all of us would be tempted to label as evil, fall away of their own accord. But also as we do so, we have to confront the shadows.  We shine our light as brightly as we know how to do at any particular point in time and space, and because we are not yet a part of the All-That-Is, our light creates a shadow of sorts.  The irony is, the larger our light, the larger the shadow. 

Remember though, that darkness and light is itself is an illusion, a dichotomy which our brains use to maintain domination. We are still floundering in a landscape that we cannot yet see. So we continue to project what we cannot see in ourselves onto others as a means to heal as we stand in our own way.  The healing often become easier on our bodies as we retreat from the extreme edges, but our myopic vision remains until we no longer choose it.

Light and darkness is just another dichotomy, a trick of our human animal brains to try to make sense of our world by prioritizing the physical body’s viewpoint. Spirit knows no such bounds. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Is there a reason for hope? Absolutely! The Christ and others have shown the way.  As one continues to work through the pictures that divide us from our true nature as spirit, the sweet spot increases and eventually the “sides” between good and evil shrink until eventually they disappear entirely. Then there is only wholeness. This is the transcendence of dichotomies.  It is herein lies our peace. Therein lies our salvation. It is here that Heaven-on-Earth awaits us.

I’d like to start wrapping up my sermon this morning by talking about the message about good and evil embedded in the Lord’s Prayer.

I want to read you from the version of the Lord’s Prayer translated by scholar and Sufi mystic Neil Douglas-Klotz from the original Aramaic text.  This is the line that in the King James Version of the Bible is read as “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  I’m going to focus here on the “deliver us from evil” part, which in the Aramaic is “Ela patzan min bisha.”

Don’t let surface things delude us; but free us from what holds us back (from our true purpose).

Don’t let us enter forgetfulness, the temptation of false appearances.

Rather, break the hold of unripeness that prevents good fruit.

From the evil of injustice—the green fruit and the rotten—grant us liberty.

Deceived neither by the outer nor the inner—free us to walk your path with joy.

Keep us from hoarding false wealth, and from the inner shame of help not given in time.

What I hear here is something completely missing in the KJV of these important words.  I hear Jesus talking about time. According to most abrahamic versions of Genesis, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they committed an evil act and are “sinners,” perhaps particularly so on Eve’s part.  This false belief system has resulted in untold pain and suffering not only for human animals but for nonhuman animals. In this translation I hear rather that the introduction of good and evil into our physical world has resulted in humans forgetting where and who we are. 

From a spiritual, perspective, time is an illusion. From a body perspective it is a potent reality. Simultaneously holding both of these perspectives as truth is the work of God. . .often requiring tuning into energetic sources of information through meditation or symbolic representations. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

The solution?  Heartfelt desire to get beyond the delusions . . .and time.     

Remember if you would, that spirit exists outside of time and space but our bodies understand only the present moment. By talking about the importance of acting neither too soon nor too late, Jesus is talking about the embodied spirit on Mother Earth. The Christ is telling us that we are prone to deluding ourselves; and teaching us that the trick to finding wholeness again is in the knowing that we are going to be groping around in the dark for awhile, but also having the faith that we will get there entirely when we are ready to be there.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

In other words, this time around, we have to take our bodies with us into salvation.  We have to make all the parts of us conscious, even the ugly ones, until they are no longer needed. We have to learn to love our own shadow, as well as those who bless us by reflecting back to us the pictures about which we have remained unconscious, no matter where they are on the “bad” part of the spectrum.  That’s what we signed up for when we ate that damn apple!     

Do you want to know how to overcome evil?  One growth period at a time.

Copyright 2021 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Sacred Writing

Gutenberg-BibleYou have heard that it is said, be kind to your friend, and hate
your enemy.

But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless anyone who curses you,
do good to anyone who hates you, and pray for those who
carry you away by force and persecute you so that you may
become sons of your Father who is in heaven, who causes
his sun to shine upon the good and the bad,

And who pours down his rain upon the just and the unjust.

Matthew, Chapter 5, Verses 43-45 of the Christian Bible

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