The thoughts of this writing are based on the Hermetica, a body of literature written in late antiquity, but believed to be much older. Perhaps written at the time of Moses. Written originally in Latin and Greek, it is the source of the Gnostic teachings and it appears that Christianity took much from it as well.
Religions have so often been telling us how evil we are. That is pretty nasty and negative programming. This cannot be the intention of the good God that is credited with having created these teachings. So what is the missing part that could make sense of this, and how can we gain the benefit that some have gained from religious teachings.
This writing is going to make you have some uncomfortable reactions. Please try to keep an open mind until you get to the end. If it has not made sense to you by then, then you can get upset and throw it out.
Attitude and manner of understanding. We have discussed how your personal manner of hearing through your filters of your mind and memory effect how you hear what is said. It is hard to see good words in someone telling you that you are evil, but that is the key to gleaning the benefits.
There are no magic words or tricks to make the leap from normal consciousness to being able to have knowledge of higher realms. It is simply in changing the manner in which we think. It is all in the mind. That change is done by the elimination of the things we do, or the things that are part of us, that prevent us from functioning in a state of higher consciousness.
That is the elimination of negative thoughts and feelings regardless of the cause, which is done by developing the self-will to control yourself so that you do not fly out of control with anger. That is achieved by practices of self-observation and cultivating self-will by not speaking, or by forcing yourself to do things that you do not want to do, or by Adab – developing humility by putting others above and ahead of yourself.
These things can be done self destructively or constructively, depending on the frame of mind in which you do them. If you do these practices with the thought that nothing really matters, and that your life is devoted to ending your personal suffering, and that the idea of permanence in this world is illusion, then you can endure these difficulties. But if you do not see the point or potential benefits of this manner of being, then you will only make your suffering worse by doing them.
It is all in the mind. If you can make your mind function to 100% capacity, then you will achieve Godhood.
So all this is for that purpose. Now back to being evil. Simply stated according to the Hermetica, God is the Good, all else is evil due to its involvement and creation within the cosmos, being material and separated from the knowledge that all is God.
There are two ways to encourage a person, with love and with antagonism. Love creates a comfortable situation that may allow a person to relax enough and accept themselves enough to be willing to look at truth; but in a warm comfy situation, why would anyone want to dig up the crap about themselves and look at it. It can happen, but is rare unless the person has developed sufficient self-will to be willing to endure the pain when they are in pleasure. If a person was ready and able to do that, they would not need the loving situation to find themselves, they would find it anywhere.
The other method is irritating, pushing, antagonism, what can be seen as negative reinforcement. The point in question could be fictitious, which really only serves to hurt everyone, or it can be the truth. This is how the evil concept can help us. In comparison to God, or what we really are in our essence, we are evil. It is not hard to see how we can lie and be very nasty, that could be considered evil. Open your mind to the different possibilities of defining evil. Do not simply use your definition, but use the speaker’s definition so you can understand what you are being given.
If you built a chair and did not finish the wood properly, there would be rough spots that would catch the material of your clothing and give you splinters. You could ignore your poor workmanship and not look at your backside to see the damage in your clothing, or just scratch the itch of the splinters, or you could accept that the job is rough and incomplete and get to work sanding the chair until it was perfectly smooth.
In woodworking, as we have used this example, when the wood is very rough, you first must use a rough sandpaper, then a finer grade and then finer. Each time you must go over the entire chair again and again getting it a bit smoother each time. And each time you finish, you have to check for the rough spots again. You basically look for the flaws. You can see the difference in the quality of workmanship in any product, and the difference in price. Very simply these price differences are due to the extra time it took to make the better piece. The more refined, the more time and effort.
When the carpenter says his product is rough and not adequate, it is no reflection on himself as his permanent state of being or skill, rather it is an acknowledgment of the truth so that he can work on perfecting his product. To say we are evil is not some terrible thing – that is just your perception of the word because of how you have learnt to regard the word “evil”. And because of this interpretation, you may miss the benefit of much teaching.
Being evil means that you need a bit of polish. One of the things that needs polish is the manner of thinking and hearing so that other peoples words and actions do not effect you to the point that they prevent you from learning from them. So we are evil and must become good so that we can achieve this higher state of being.
Just as an example, the idea of kissing the kings ring. That sounds pretty bad to most people. But think of it this way. The ring symbolizes the kingdom, which is why the ring is passed from king to king. The ring is what gets kissed, not the hand it is on. When the kings ring gets kissed, that is showing the devotion to the kingdom and that the man who wears it is the representative of the kingdom, its servant as well, but also an image and symbol that the person can relate to; the intermediary between the un-personalized kingdom and each individual person. Just a thought to open your mind to other ways of seeing things so you may get the idea that all concepts may not be what they appear to be.
Take the evil concept as it is intended, with love of presenting the whole truth in a plain manner in relation to the goal. Compared to God, also known as the Good in Hermetic teachings, we are evil. If we want to be God we must emulate God. You cannot be or even understand something that you are nothing like. To understand something, or someone, you must be like them. Then you can achieve true unity.
So work on cleaning the black stain in the heart, as the Sufi would say, the evil parts of yourself, as in Christianity, accept that you are not good but do not take that as discouraging. Take that knowledge as the gift from one who loves you and wants you to be free and happy. It is only through the knowledge of your faults that you can correct them.
The most interesting part is that although it may be hard to accept right now, if you could accept this concept that you are evil and that although there is nothing wrong about it and it does not make you bad or any less in the heart of God, so to speak, and that you must clean yourself up and eradicate evil from your heart and mind, then this acceptance of what is real and not pleasant, without it getting you down or discouraged, would alone bring you far on the path.
Being evil does not mean that you are evil. It means that you have evil qualities, negative emotions. If you do not accept your negative thoughts and actions, how will you ever rid yourself of them? If you accept yourself the way you are, or think that you are not so bad, or that other people are just as bad and do the same things or worse, then you will not have the fire in you to burn away these character traits. So by saying evil, it is hoped that you will feel strongly enough that you will put in the efforts required to eradicate the evil traits from yourself. If evil is ignorance, then put in the efforts to gain knowledge, Gnosis.
It will take tremendous effort to live this way, to see your faults and look at them as you would a splinter in your finger that you are trying to get out but just seems to go deeper and deeper under your skin. That would get you pretty upset too. It is similar to what you will feel if you look at yourself with an objective eye. To see what you are, see when you are nasty and negative, upset or angry, and do a hurtful thing (an evil thing) to see these actions that you commit as you commit them. This will take you deep within yourself at that moment when you realize what you are, but only through this willingness to suffer by seeing the evil that you do, can it be eliminated and your heart cleansed.
If you could cleanse your heart, then there is an experience that makes it all worthwhile. It was said in some old saying that even if a person where to spend their entire life, 60 or 80 years suffering in this way, and only on their last day on earth this freedom was achieved, then it would all be worth it. But as you do this practice, very quickly will you begin to remove this negativity from your being, and you will see value in your efforts. Then you will understand. Understanding from direct personal experience, is the only way to Gnosis or truth. That is what we are trying to achieve by these practices.
God helps those that help themselves. This is the manner in which we help ourselves. By daring to face the truth about ourselves so that we can clean up. When this becomes your true sincere heartbeat, then you will find a power filling you to continue. The pain will continue but you will bear it with the knowledge of it being a gift of a helping hand to lead you through the most difficult part of the soul’s journey back home.
Do not confuse material financial success as an indicator of spiritual progress. A person can make millions but his soul is empty. It could be that he is close to God and rich too. There is no relationship in the two. Money is of this world, what you do with the money you have comes from your heart, which is of a higher nature. So possession of money and use of money are different and from different worlds, lower and higher. Do not let wealth, or lack thereof, give you a judgment of what another person is like or doing.
This path is very difficult, because I do not wish to make it flowery. I believe that softening the blow is like using a soft rubber hammer to nail large steel spikes into concrete. If this is too difficult for you, then there is no crime in leaving this school. Feel free to go and come back if you wish. You must take control of your life and do what you do because something inside you makes you feel that you have no other choice. Truly feel in your heart and soul.
When he was teaching me the Muslim prayers, Ibrahim, a 70 year old Sufi teacher and a devout Muslim, told me that God does not want anyone’s prayers if they do not come from their heart. If you do not feel something deep inside you that makes you continue with any project, then you will not gain its full benefits. Likewise, even if something is right and your heart would tell you that you must continue, if you never ask it and get that feeling, you will still miss out on something.
So you must check how you feel. When you do something because your mind tells you to, you gain mental benefit. But if you look deep inside your heart and find that your heart and soul tell you to do something, then they gain the benefit. If you never check with them, they do not get the food.
As it says in the Hermetica: There is but one religion of God, and that is not to do evil. Ignorance of God or Truth, is the greatest evil. Ignorance is the greatest evil.
When you are willing to look at all your evil actions, evil being anything that hurts another person, you will have to re-evaluate yourself. You may find it hard to continue, it will be a heavy weight to bear to see what we do so unconsciously throughout each day of our life. But only in this way can we polish the roughness and become fit for the Best to use.
There is not one religion that says this; they all do, in different words. The mind is out of control, we are asleep, we have no ability to act from self-will, we are governed by the law of accident. All these things control us and make us do things that which we do not choose but are impelled to do. To awaken and reach enlightenment we must gain control over ourselves, to gain control you must see what you are. To see what you are, you must look.