The Meeting of East and West
An essay about Unconditional Love
By Carol Moore
Love thine enemy is a common exhortation of Christians, but it seems a mere exercise of the mind for there's never an explanation of just how to do it. Surely love is more than just a begrudging acceptance. The mind says you can love your enemy, but the heart rebels. And somehow empathy must play a role for without it you can't step outside your own viewpoint. Sympathy and compassion are admirable emotions, but they don't convey absence of judgment so much as empathy. And as an old cliche says, love is blind -- meaning without judgment.
Perhaps Jesus stood as a testament to more than what the western world is aware because it's hard to imagine any Christian today happy to face lions for his beliefs. I can't help thinking new testament passages have been watered down to accommodate our western society. Julian Johnson felt that "Religion [is] not concerned so much with spiritual and transcendent realities as with the mundane protocols of society." But in reality, "We treat our fellow men properly because we love them. We do not love them because we treat them right."
But how can one love thine enemy when we have trouble controlling even our own unwanted desires. Julian Johnson wrote: Let us understand this crucial question. How to destroy evil desires? It can never be done by negation, and yet negation is the method employed by ninety-nine percent of the human race, by parents, by teachers, by reformers, by the courts. They all forbid things. They tell people what they must not do. They write in their laws, "Thou shalt not." A few understanding ones offer something better to attract the minds of the disobedient. But the goal can never be achieved by negation. It is a principle of psychology verified by the experience of everyone that whatever the mind dwells upon, that thing becomes a part of the individual. We grow like that which we contemplate. The more vividly the thought dwells upon anything, the more that individual becomes like the thing he thinks about."
Jesus was aware of these conflicts. "As a man thinketh," he said, and yet he proclaimed the kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. He recognized the weakness of the flesh, but at the same time declared the Kingdom of God was "not of this world," and it dwelled within.
Indeed, the true way to overcome evil, "We must always set before the mind something which has a greater power of attraction." [Julian Johnson]
"In Mother Teresa, I saw the action of a love that is always expanding ... Through her, I came to sense that it is not what we do or even what we believe that causes love to flower, but who we are in our essential self." [John Robbins]
John Robbins was heir to the Baskin Robbins fortune. He gave up that fortune to seek a higher road. In his book, "In search of Balance," he writes: "Even when our efforts to help each other and to improve conditions are well-intentioned, they are often futile when we are beset by unresolved personal issues and anxieties. The most fruitful actions are those we undertake when we are centered in our essence, when we are focused by our passion, when our actions are guided by a sense of spiritual direction. In today's world, inner peace may be more than a pleasure and a source of personal freedom. It may be the very precondition for effective action and survival."
I believe man's need to love and be loved, even in conflict, is satisfied through reconciling his self-worth. So it is his emotional need for love in order to acquire self worth that drives mankind. Material possessions, belief systems, relationships, all realities come back to an individual's self worth which he will tie to his family, government, religion, creed, or whatever, to achieve. Indeed history has shown there is no limit to what people and governments will do to preserve their dignity, even at the cost of others. Geoffrey Hill, a contemporary social critic believes so much in the importance of dignity that he calls himself a "Dignitarian." The search for love, self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, appears, at a shallow glance, to be always at someone else's expense, because it means if you have "more" somebody has "less".
"Half of the harm that is done in the world Is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it. Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle To think well of themselves." [T.S. Eliot]
J. G. Bennett, in describing Gurdjieff, an Eastern philosopher said, "He had a burning compassion for the sufferings of mankind, all the stronger because he soon became aware that these sufferings are due to our nature. So far as I can make out he was still under thirty when he came to the conclusion that the main cause of human suffering lies in defects that people do not take sufficiently into account. These are, especially, our own credulity and suggestibility, to both of which we are subject because of our vanity and egotism. If it were not for his egoism, man would not be suggestible, said Gurdjieff. He saw mankind not so much as evil, harmful, or dangerous, but as helpless."
Richard Cytowic, a neurologist, in his book "The Man Who Could Feel Colors" explains the overriding power of emotions: "While the cortex contains our model of reality and analyzes what exists outside ourselves, it is the limbic brain that determines the salience of that information. Because of this, it is an emotional evaluation, not a reasoned one, that ultimately informs our behavior. Likewise, all analogies of the mind to a machine are inadequate because it is emotion, much more than reason, that makes us human."
In man's pursuit of self-esteem he can rationalize in his mind gain at another's expense but must also ignore any feelings of empathy. A matter of mind quelling the heart. So, contrary to Abraham Lincoln's words of, "As I would not be a slave, I would not be a master," we have:
"BODMIND: So you are a sergeant in the Dominicans? That's a sordid trade you are practicing. MEDROSO: "Its true; but I'd rather be their valet than their victim, and I prefer the unhappiness of burning of neighbor to that of being roasted myself." [Voltaire in "Philosophical Dictionary"]
In commenting upon the book "1984" Eric Fromm wrote: "If he [man] were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate."
Fromm was commenting upon an individual's and society's inclination to deaden awareness of others in order to elevate the self.
This is the blemish of self-esteem achieved at the expense of others, that is you must deaden the capacity to feel as they do, to have empathy. If you gain the love of the world it isn't unconditional and it isn't lasting. Ultimately while mankind may yearn for unconditional love so that he might have a permanent and lasting self-esteem he's forever aware of the fickle nature of an impermanent world. So just as we "harden" our hearts at another's misfortune, we strive to forget that misfortune could one day be our own. But does man's self-esteem/worth/love really rise and fall on the vagaries and fickle nature of this world? The ancient Masters taught otherwise.
How do we unlock this seeming contradiction? According to Julian Johnson, "This is the secret of the whole mystery. You must be prepared "in your heart." After reading "The Path of the Masters" by Dr. Julian Johnson, Christ's words appear to take on new meaning for me as seen through the esoteric teachings of the ancient (and living) Eastern Masters.
Julian Johnson, the author, in his life had been a Baptist preacher, missionary, medical doctor and finally disciple of the Baba Sawan Singh Ji (a living Master 1858-1948). It became Dr. Johnson's goal to bring eastern wisdom to western thinking. "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." Christ was called Master by his disciples and according to Dr. Johnson many of his acts and sayings reveal that he was a living spiritual "Master."
Basically Dr. Johnson says a living Master teaches his disciple(s) the secret techniques of how to tune the soul to within to hear and experience the "audible life stream" which is actually God resonating throughout/within all life. This audible life stream can only be heard with the heart -- not the mind -- so there is no explanation, only an experiencing. The Eastern Masters taught that through these secret techniques of listening with the heart, man can "hear" and feel God resonating within him and it is an experience of boundless love and joy. In this context the experiencing of God becomes the kingdom within of which Jesus spoke.
Artwork: THE GOOD SHEPHERD by Bernhard Plockhorst
"And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables." St. Mark, 4:11
Quoting Julian Johnson: "Did it ever occur to you as a very strange thing that God has not given to mankind any definite and easy method of knowing about him? Yet as a matter of fact, he has given out such a method and it is accessible to all...
"Today the West thinks that the East only has a psychology. It doesn't even think there is a science of the soul.
"But the point we wish to emphasize here is the importance of the Oriental view in regard to spirit and mind. The very idea of 'going inside' of oneself and there seeing and hearing things called occult, or experiencing a state of superconsciousness resulting in a super-refinement of mind and soul, are all difficult for Western thought. This is because the whole subject is new to the West. It has never been a daily routine among us as it has been in the Orient. Long before the days of Herodotus, or even of Manu, the subject was familiar to every child in the East."
But how can we know that Jesus taught the technique of going within and hearing the sound of God? There is no certainty, only suggestion.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but can'st not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: So is very one that is born of the Spirit," said Jesus. (John 3:8)
Once again, Julian Johnson writes, "The following was translated from the Persian by Judge Munshi Ram and Professor Jagat Singh(1) It is full of beauty and rapturous appreciation of the heavenly bani, the Shabd [Divine sound]. "To me came the Sound incomparable, which comes Neither from within, nor from without. Neither does it come from the left, nor from the right, Nor from the back, nor from the front.
With only a yearning for unconditional love, man is forever caught/limited by his own needs. I believe while people may aspire to unconditional love, it is not a human trait but a Divine one. And it was of this Divine spirit of unconditional love that Jesus spoke and perhaps it is the key to understanding seemingly emotional contradictions.
Here is the crux. Without expression of unconditional love man is doomed to imperfect love, a love that must be always earned, judged, and forever fleeting. The rational mind climbs to inexhaustible levels contemplating it and religions have schismed into fragments because of this -- always concerned about who measures up and who doesn't. It's small comfort that you measure up better than the next guy if it means just another rat race, albeit spiritual, measured by social protocol and ethics. However, if Divine love is truly unconditional this says there's no place for judgment, or division, or schism -- only the pure joy of an all-encompassing Divine embrace.
Through the technique of going within, God's love becomes the Great Attractor. The desires of the world are overpowered by a greater desire.
"There is a beyondness in the Sermon on the Mount that startles and appalls the legalistic mind. It sees no limit to duty--the first mile does not suffice, he will go two; the coat is not enough, he will give the cloak also; to love friends is not enough, he will love enemies as well. Come to that with the legalistic mind and it is impossible and absurd; come to it with the mind of the lover and nothing else is possible. This is the expression of a love from within and not the compression of a dull law from without." [E. Stanley Jones]
Because the world is imperfect, Jesus warned against laying up treasures that decay. He was reminding us that the only source of unconditional love is from within. For love and self-esteem what greater source or affirmation than God himself. If we look to the world to gain love/self esteem through possessions, actions or relationships we are relying on an imperfect world that cannot help but disappoint. Jesus warned that the more we embrace the outer world the more we will be deprived of the inner kingdom and orphaned from the Divine spirit.
It is understood that when people feel loved they are more loving. When people are happy they are more generous and able in every respect to pass on that love. Sane men contribute to creating a sane society just as a sane society contributes to making sane men (to paraphrase Eric Fromm). In this sense the effects of God's kingdom within work towards a heavenly kingdom without.
Jesus repeated many times how his Father's world was not of this world and he said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Since no man can be perfect so what did this mean? I would like to think he was referring to Divine Love. "God maketh the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike." To emulate perfection man has been given empathy (heart/spirit) to counter judgment (mind/world), and in this sense he becomes "perfect" as the Father.
"Then Peter came to him and said: "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him, till seven times?" Jesus saith unto him: "I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven."
But love goes beyond forgiveness and into the joy of giving. When man touches selflessness he touches God, the original giver. In the movie "The Flying Dutchman" it is said "Love is measured by how much we are willing to sacrifice." Perhaps this, too, is man's affirmation of unconditional love and emulates the Divine.
But it is not just sacrifice itself, but the knowing, the joy of what that sacrifice brings (through empathy) to another that emulates the Divine. This is why Jesus accepted the washing of his feet, it was a Divine act. A man accomplishes nothing if his sacrifice is for naught.
John Robbins wrote, "The hunger that lives in the human heart is part of the kinship that threads us all together. We are interdependent beings with a profound need both to give and to receive from each other. For what one of us is lacking, another has in abundance... If we are haunted by the images of men, women, and children that we have seen starving for food, it is because they are a reflection of our own need. They are a reminder not only of that part of us that is hungry, but also of that part of us that needs to give in order to be whole. Like many of my generation, I was beginning to sense that the quest for personal enlightenment and the work for social justice were inseparable."
While Jesus exhorted men to the kingdom within, unlike other Masters, he worked miracles to reveal the power of that kingdom as being boundless and unlimited. I like to think that Jesus was God's word in action in this world. He did not go to a mountain and hide away, he embraced mankind to become an outer revelation of the inner Divine Spirit and become as an example/pattern for imperfect man.
But I can't help feeling that the exact opposite of turning the other cheek and loving thy enemy is our western economic paradigm. It is no wonder love thy enemy appears a mystery when our very economic philosophy applauds competition, glorifying the winner over the loser -- no matter the cost. Ralph Nader sounds the alarm that we have forgotten "community" in a dash for millions.
Western thinking overlooks Jesus's special condemnation of the riches of this world, probably because western civilization is economically tied to mammon and the pursuit of material wealth. "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against man: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, for ye devour widow's houses, and for a pretence make long prayer." (St. Matthew 23:13,14)
"Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (St. Luke 12:15)
Jesus reserved his angry for the moneychangers. He launched his attack against those who would pervert the temple of God. So he could ask forgiveness for those who crucified him, but he had only wrath for the Pharisees. Why? I believe it is because man's pursuit of material wealth is in direct conflict with the Divine nature of unconditional love. Christ asked forgiveness for woman at the well, the robber on the cross, the prodigal son, even those who killed him. For these individuals he had only words of empathy (Whomever amongst you without sin cast the first stone.) But he had no such words for the rich man. Here he warned, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus explained this by saying you cannot serve two masters for you will end up hating the one and loving the other. "As a man thinketh so shall he be" is to point out that a man's heart serves that which he pursues and holds dear. But it is even more than this. With the pursuit of money and any "thing" acquired at the expense of others it is essential to "harden" one's heart. At odds with this concept is the parable of the Good Samaritan who, at his own peril and expense, stopped to help a man who had been robbed and beaten.
Just as material and spiritual are at odds, competition and empathy conflict in the world of economics. Western society has orchestrated all manner of mental/emotional argument and machinations to rationalize riches at another's expense as justified and necessary. This dehumanization is well defined in George Orwell's book, 1984, about which Eric Fromm (Humanistic psychologist) comments. "But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society...The question is a philosophical, anthropological and psychological one, and perhaps also a religious one. It is: can human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget his longing for freedom, for dignity, for integrity, for love -- that is to say, can man forget that he is human? Or does human nature have a dynamism which will react to the violation of these basic human needs by attempting to change an inhuman society into a human one? Orwell, as well as the two other authors, is simply implying that the new form of managerial industrialism, in which man builds machines which act like men and develops men who act like machines, is conducive to an era of dehumanization and complete alienation, in which men are transformed into things and become appendices to the process of production and consumption."
So while modern psychology considers a man unable to empathize (who has no feelings of remorse or sympathy for others) as a sociopath and mentally sick, the pursuit of a material wealth that requires, even demands a lack of empathy is rewarded with accolades in western civilization. I feel what Jesus taught was a perfect counterpoint to this emotionally bankrupt belief system.
Returning to the beginning of this essay to love thy enemy may not be just a recommendation of getting along, but a dynamic and powerful image of God's love revealed in the heart of all of us. To love thine enemy is unconditional love. No matter what the rationalization, to deny man's spiritual longing for unconditional love and a desire to express it is to set him on a path of material distraction and emotional denial. Without a personal experience of the Divine we must substitute beliefs, conjecture and judgment.
In the truest sense, if the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, the Eastern Masters have much to offer western thought.