On Good and Evil
Ultimately there is no good and evil…there is only God. It is perhaps the one dogma of mysticism, that separation is an illusion. This has been called the one true religion, and the Truth behind all religions. Huxley called it the Perennial Wisdom, which is really just Vedanta translated into English.
Taoism is the most explicit: there is only Tao! Yin and Yang however, are separation and unification. Any religious path should lead one back to God. In Vedanta the aspirant is a yogi, yogi meaning to yoke. The yogi seeks to yoke the individual soul, atman, to the universal soul, Brahman. In Christianity Jesus teaches ‘I am in you, just as the father is in me. Therefore the father is also in you.’ He is basically saying we all share the same soul, the soul of God. Genesis says God made man is his image. It also says God breathed life into man…and breath is brahman.
Vedanta is pretty much our oldest religion and it gives the most complex and detailed message. Islam is the latest religion, and it sends the simplest message. Islam is submission, the path of the aspirant being to submit to the will of God. It is an imperative religion for an imperative time.
Where the yogi seeks to unite their eternal soul to the sublime, Islam says to join your will with the will of God. It gives immediate normative guidance: act as God would. Ethics are where the rubber meets the road, where metaphysics turns into action. What makes an action good or evil?
For the western mind genesis is the primal lesson on good and evil. And it is all about separation from God. In the beginning man walked with God in the Garden of Eden. Man was not separated from God. Man ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and was cast out, separated from God. Notice that it is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. From the state of Divine Union action is separated into good and evil. The actor is then separated, God into man and man into history.
I see the sin in the separating- the fall into history started with the separation into good and evil. Thus the continuing sin of history is the sin of willful separation from God. Do your actions promote fear, ignorance, and separation from God, or do you act in love to spread wisdom and bring people back to God.
The good news (gospel) is you’re already back. History has an end. You are not separate from God; it’s just that you’ve forgotten. The ego is the soul in the state of forgetfulness of its union with God. The occasional mystic experience, or revelation, is a glimpse of that union, of the one-ness of everything. The Greeks call it anamnesis, or recollection. Aquinas towards the end of his life had a mystical experience. He said of it that the one revelation made all the work of the rest of his life worthless in comparison.
In genesis God is Elohim, the gods. The Elohim say, ‘let us make man in our image.’ And when man partakes of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Elohim say, ‘Lo, man has become as one of us.’ Genesis is the story of history, and the knowledge of good and evil is history. But lo, man has become as one of us…from God’s perspective outside of history we are already back. That’s the message of salvation; you are not separate from God. Knowledge of separation into good and evil is ignorance of union with God. So I say that to do evil is to perpetuate separation from god.
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