The selves operates entirely in the realm of duality. When you go to the lowest aspect of dualistic thinking, you end up seeing the world as black and white, meaning that you are always right and anyone opposing you is always wrong. The reasoning is simple.
People define a belief system as infallible and as the only true one, meaning that they think it is entirely true and not influenced by error at all. People think their belief system springs entirely from the highest truth and is not influenced by the illusions of the mind of separation.
In reality, this line of thinking springs from the selves’ desire to set themselves up as an authority figure that cannot be questioned. It is an attempt to create the outer appearance that because you belong to the only true belief system, you are guaranteed to be saved.
It also gives many people the sense that they are better than those who do not belong to their belief system. Even today many people are caught in this approach to life. They have a very obvious sense of righteousness, they judge others and they feel better than others. An obvious example is the fundamentalists of any religion.
If you have ever interacted with such people, you will know that it can be extremely difficult to carry on a normal conversation with them. It is virtually impossible to discuss anything that goes beyond or seems to contradict their beliefs. If you try to make them see that their beliefs are limited or even incorrect, you are usually met with a very hostile reaction.
In extreme cases, such people are willing to kill anyone who threatens their belief system, as for example a Muslim fundamentalist who carries out a suicide bombing to defend Islam. Or a Christian crusader defending a piece of real estate in the Holy Land—as if God (a spiritual being) ever wanted people to kill each other over anything in the material world.
When people are less extreme, they will label you as being of the devil (or any number of other negative labels) and refuse to talk with you. This, of course, makes such people unreachable for a spiritual teacher.
Escape from extremism
What can bring people out of this state of having closed their minds completely? The reality of the situation is that the conscious selves of such people have refused to make decisions. The conscious self has retreated into a self-made fortress, and it has assigned the selves as a guard.
The role of the selves is to build fortress walls that are impenetrable to anything that would require the conscious self to wake up and start making decisions again. Of course, as the medieval castles proved, any fortress built to keep the world out, will also keep its inhabitants in, thus becoming a prison.
The inevitable result is that the selves will act as a computer that mindlessly carries out its programming, taking the person further and further into the extreme of black-and-white thinking. This will cause the person to be in continuous conflict with other people, and when the conflict becomes extreme enough, the conscious self might finally wake up and realize: “I can’t do this anymore. There must be a better way!”
If the conscious self is willing to take at least some responsibility for its situation, it can now reverse the downward trend, and it can then start the upward path that gradually leads it out of the prison built by the selves. There are three main factors that can impede this growth:
- The mental prison was built as a fortress designed to “defend” the conscious self from having to make decisions. The conscious self might be emotionally attached to the security and comfortability of the prison. This might manifest as an unwillingness to run the risk of making decisions or as an attachment to the beliefs out of which the fortress is built. It might cling to this security in order to avoid feeling vulnerable.
- The selves wants the conscious self to believe in the lie that if you don’t make any decisions, you can’t make mistakes. The reality is that because you have free will, not making decisions is still making a decision. If you don’t make decisions, you are allowing the selves to make decisions for you. All of the selves’ decisions are mistakes, in the sense that they will not bring you closer to higher awareness.
- The selves’ survival instinct will seek to keep you inside the walls where they feel like they have you and the world under some form of control. The selves will actively and aggressively seek to prevent you from rising to a new level of the path of higher awareness.
What does it mean to rise to a new level of the path? There are many valid ways to divide the path into levels or stages. In this context, it means that you come to the point where you begin to see the fallacy of dualistic thinking. You begin to see the forest itself rather than being blinded by the individual trees. This is when you can begin to consciously reach for the non-dual truth of higher awareness.
The selves and the forces of this world will mount a major offensive against any person who begins to rise above duality. They will do anything they can think of to keep you trapped in dualistic thinking. Their only way of doing this is to use the duality of the mind of separation. However, this is a formidable weapon because it is much more subtle than most people realize.
From one extreme to the other
Many people have started rising out of extreme selfishness by being converted to a religion that talks about heaven and hell. Such religious people are still very much trapped in black-and-white thinking. They are largely unreachable to higher awareness.
In today’s world, many people have started seeing the limitations of a black-and-white approach to religion. Some are still members of traditional religions while others seek a more universal spirituality or belong to a New Age organization. Common for all these people is that they have started to rise above the black-and-white, fear-based, judgmental approach to religion.
They are what we can call spiritual seekers. They realize there is more to know about the spiritual side of life than what can be found in black-and-white doctrines, and they are actively looking for a higher understanding. These are the kind of people who are open to the teachings of higher awareness.
Spiritual seekers represent the greatest potential for turning around planet Earth and bringing humankind to a higher level. The problem is that at the present time this is only a potential. What keeps it from becoming a manifest reality is that too many spiritual seekers have become trapped in a form of dualistic thinking that is so different from black-and-white thinking that some people believe it is above duality. In reality, it is simply the opposite extreme of black-and-white thinking.
You live on a planet that is like a twilight zone. Some spiritual light has started to penetrate the density of humankind’s consciousness. There is still so much darkness left that the light and the darkness can mix into shades of gray that make it very difficult to tell the difference between what is real and unreal. The human selves and the forces of duality can still use the subtlety of the duality consciousness to blur the difference between what is real and unreal.
The result is that there is currently no concept, truth or spiritual teaching on this planet that cannot be perverted by the human selves. The selves will try to turn any idea into a dualistic idea by putting it on a scale with other dualistic ideas—usually by setting up the idea in opposition to another idea.
The consequence is that whenever you take a major step forward on the path, your selves will repeat their never-ending game of seeking to create two extremes and polarize you towards either one. When you come to the realization that you have had enough of one extreme, your selves will instantly try to make you jump into the opposite extreme. The purpose is to prevent you from leaving behind the dualistic way of thinking and rising to a higher plateau.
Most spiritual seekers have had enough of the black-and-white approach to religion. They are done with the fanaticism and they see the fallacy of the value judgment: “Our religion is the only true one and thus we are always right and those who disagree with us are bad people and will go to hell.” Most of them have distanced themselves from this approach, which is a step in the right direction. The problem is that the selves will try to make such people go into the opposite extreme, and in too many cases it is successful.
What is the opposite extreme of black-and-white thinking? It is a form of thinking in which nothing is black or white because everything is gray. This gives rise to a number of problems, but let me briefly outline the main ones:
- Religious people tend to think there is only one true religion (their own), which inevitably leads to religious intolerance. Spiritual seekers have distanced themselves from religious intolerance, but many have come to believe that religious tolerance means you must accept all religions as equally valid, meaning that you don’t need to evaluate whether an idea is true or false. Just believe and let believe.
- Many religious people are judgmental and intolerant towards members of other religions. Most spiritual seekers make it a virtue to be non-judgmental, but the extreme outcome is that they see almost any type of belief or behavior as acceptable. Or at least they think you should never speak out against other people’s beliefs or behavior.
- Many religious people feel threatened by those who disagree with them and often respond with hostility and anger. Obviously, this prevents them from following Jesus’ command to “Love one-another as I love you.” This leads to hypocrisy. They claim to be Christians, but they don’t act lovingly. Most spiritual seekers see through such hypocrisy and are sincerely striving to be loving towards everyone. However, they also believe that being loving means you should be gentle and never challenge people’s illusions.
The net outcome of this approach is that many spiritual seekers have come to believe that in order to do spiritual work and raise the consciousness of the planet, they simply have to avoid the obvious extremism of black-and-white thinking. They think it is enough to be tolerant and loving, but they do not see that this is simply another fortress built to prevent the conscious self from making its own decisions.
They do not realize that the selves that used to be judgmental when – in past lives – they were trapped in black-and-white thinking, have now morphed into selves that are loving and kind towards everyone. Instead of truly overcoming their selves, they have allowed the chameleon of the selves to change color so that it blends in with their new world view, where being gray has become a virtue that is seen as being superior to being black-and-white.
Your responsibility to discern
What caused the “Fall of Man” was the duality consciousness. The essence of the duality consciousness is that it is disconnected from non-dual reality. The duality consciousness sets up its own definition of what is good and evil—a definition that is out of alignment with the reality seen by higher awareness.
The selves are born out of this relative definition of “truth,” and thus they cannot see any need to discern between what is a non-dual reality and a dualistic unreality. It only sees a need to discern what is right and wrong according to the dualistic belief system that it currently accepts as infallible. The selves have replaced non-dual reality with a belief system created by the mind of separation.
Anything you do in the duality consciousness – be it good or evil according to any man-made standard – will only take you further away from oneness. You cannot overcome the duality consciousness by using the duality consciousness. It simply is not possible to make true spiritual progress unless you are willing to discern between what is real – meaning that it is a non-dual truth – and what is unreal—meaning that it springs from the mind of separation.
Unless the conscious self is willing to take up its responsibility and sharpen its ability to discern between non-dual truth and the unreality of a dualistic “truth,” you will not make true spiritual progress. You will simply allow your selves to maneuver you into a form of self-righteousness that is different in appearance but essentially the same as what you see in many religious people. There are millions of people on this planet who claim to be truly religious or spiritual people, yet they have not even begun to see the fallacy of dualistic thinking.
People who take a black-and-white approach are completely convinced that there is only one true belief system and that all others are false. The effect is that they do not have to discern between what is God’s absolute truth and what is a dualistic illusion. Since their belief system defines what is the infallible truth, they have no need to think for themselves.
The people who think all belief systems are equally valid are also refusing to discern between non-dual truth and a dualistic illusion. If there are no false ideas, you have no need to discern. Simply find a belief system you like – usually because it does not challenge your selves – and then allow your selves to make you feel that you are sure to be saved.
Both black-and-white thinking and gray thinking give people a “perfect” excuse for not making an effort to discern between the non-dual reality and the dualistic illusions. This is a very easy approach to life, but it springs from the fact that the conscious self refuses to take responsibility for its situation.
You are a co-creator with God, and you cannot turn off your creative abilities. You are either co-creating through the mind of higher awareness or de-creating through the mind of separation. It is your inherent responsibility to discern between reality and unreality to the best of your ability, while continuously sharpening your discernment.
In the current conditions found on Earth, discerning is not an easy task. You are not required to be perfect; you are required to be willing to try. Those who run away from this responsibility are simply not making progress, no matter how convinced they are that because they belong to the only true church or because they never judge anyone, they are among the righteous ones who will surely be saved.
Take note that the selves are trying to create a false path and then convince people that by following it, their salvation is guaranteed. Both the religious people who take a black-and-white approach and the spiritual seekers who take a gray approach are following this false path, namely the broad way that is taken by many people because it is easy. It does not require their conscious selves to take responsibility and make decisions. It gives the impression that you can be saved without discerning.
The sense of righteousness of many religious people is based on their belief that they belong to the only true religion. Behind that belief is an even deeper belief, namely that it is possible to define outer conditions in this world, and if you live up to these conditions, God has to let you into his kingdom.
Defining such conditions is the basic programming of the selves, and they will never see that this is a fallacy. The conscious self has the potential to see the fallacy of this approach—but only when it decides that it is willing to take up its responsibility to discern.
When you step on to the path to higher awareness – the true path to salvation – you realize that there are ideas that are false because they spring from the mind of separation. You are not showing tolerance by not challenging such ideas. However, this does not mean that you have to act like the people who take the black-and-white approach. They have a judgmental attitude, and they are condemning and judging anyone who disagrees with them.
As you begin to attain non-dual discernment, you are no longer threatened by any ideas so you have no need to judge or condemn other people. Instead, you can now look beyond the outer ideas and seek to genuinely help people rise above illusions. You never judge or condemn other people, but you freely challenge ideas and actions that are self-destructive and destructive towards other forms of life.
Many people have started rising out of the tendency to be judgmental towards other people. You find them in liberal Christianity and in many spiritual movements. Such people have made it a virtue to be kind towards everyone, and they often justify it by referring to Jesus’ calls to turn the other cheek and do onto others what you want them to do to you.
There are stages of the spiritual path. There is a time when a person can benefit from following a black-and-white belief system. Likewise, there is a phase where many people find it necessary to go into the opposite extreme and be non-judgmental. This should only be a brief phase, and too many people get stuck in it because they allow their selves to convince them that it should be permanent.
Many such people allow the mind of separation – focused in their selves – to convince them that the ideal behavior for a human being is to always be soft-spoken and kind. They will often justify this by referring to the behavior of spiritual leaders, such as the Buddha and Jesus. The reality is that neither the Buddha nor Jesus was always soft-spoken, and although they practiced kindness, it was not the human, dualistic form of kindness.
What is dualistic kindness—how can there be more than one form of kindness? When you are trapped in duality, you define kindness a certain way, usually by saying that it is soft-spoken and never challenges people. This causes many people to believe that if they are always gentle, they will always be kind. Such people often have made themselves believe that Jesus or the Buddha always acted this way.
The reality is that both the Buddha and Jesus had come to set people free from the illusions of the selves. They often challenged the selves and their illusions. If you take an objective look at the scriptures, you will see that Jesus was not a soft-spoken person. He challenged the scribes and Pharisees and he overturned the tables of the money-changers. He even challenged his own disciples and in many situations acted in ways that could be considered unkind or even inconsistent. The reason was that he practiced non-dual kindness, as do all other true spiritual leaders.
Non-dual kindness takes a fundamentally different approach than dualistic kindness. Non-dual kindness is based on higher discernment and it clearly sees when people are trapped in a dualistic illusion. The ultimate form of kindness is to help people lift themselves out of their dualistic illusions so they are no longer trapped. Precisely because the selves have the effect of making people blind, it is often necessary to shake people awake so they can start thinking again instead of blindly following the selves or an outer leader.
When you begin to attain non-dual discernment, you see that being soft-spoken and gentle is not necessarily true kindness. True love – non-dual love – is above duality, and that is why there is no fear in love. Instead, this perfect – undivided, unconditional – love will cast out your fears.
The problem is that as long as you identify with the selves, you will be afraid to accept unconditional love because you think you are unworthy of it. It is only the selves that are unworthy of perfect love; the conscious self is always worthy. However, until you accept that you are worthy, you cannot accept the love that will cast out the fears that spring from the selves.
Why does fear have torment? Torment springs from the division between the conscious self and your higher self, a division that was not caused by but is upheld by the selves. Until the conscious self overcomes this division, you will be in torment. You cannot overcome the division between you and higher awareness until you decide to take up your ability to discern based on the one truth rather than the dualistic “truth” of the selves. Only when you are willing to let go of the sense of identity built by the selves and reach for your true identity, can you be made perfect in love.
By letting go of the dualistic sense of identity, you can come back into alignment with your own higher self, and then you will always be able to practice non-dual kindness. Jesus was gentle with some people and challenged others. The dualistic mind will approach this by trying to analyze his actions and define patterns. It will then set up outer characteristics and say that in this type of situation one should be gentle and in that type of situation one should be challenging.
Jesus’ behavior was not based on outer characteristics or intellectual analysis. It was based entirely on the condition of the individual soul. He gave every person he met what that person needed in order to take the next step on the path. What people needed was what could take them beyond a particular dualistic illusion.
The selves and the dualistic mind cannot fathom its own illusions so it can never turn non-dual kindness into a system. You cannot use the duality consciousness to overcome the duality consciousness. Non-dual love, non-dual kindness, is above what the selves can fathom. It can be practiced only through higher awareness.
There are many people who have accepted that kindness and love should be the ultimate guide for their behavior. However, if they do not reach for higher awareness, they will inevitably begin to practice the type of kindness and love defined by the selves. The selves will inevitably turn kindness and love into dualistic concepts.
The selves will try to create an outer system which defines how to practice kindness and love. For most people, this leads them to believe that if they are always gentle, they are always kind. This is simply a refusal to exercise non-dual discernment.
Many well-meaning spiritual seekers have been maneuvered into a blind alley by their selves. These people are sincerely striving to rise above the judgment and anger of those who practice a black-and-white, fear-based approach to religion. Jumping into the opposite extreme will not enhance your spiritual growth beyond a certain point. It will simply trap you in another form of dualistic thinking.
The essence of dualistic thinking
The central characteristic of dualistic thinking is that it sets up a system in this world and then judges ideas and people based on that system. You cannot create a mental box in this world and then fit the unlimited Spirit of higher awareness into it.
The selves cannot create a system that can contain and confine God—but the selves will never understand this because to the selves God is simply a concept. The selves actually believe they have the capacity and right to define God. In reality, God can never be defined by any words or concepts in this world, which is why higher awareness is the ultimate frame of reference for escaping duality.
As long as you allow your selves to try to fit higher awareness into a box, you cut yourself off from having a direct experience of the Spirit of Truth. While you may think you have fit higher awareness into your mental box, the reality is that the first person to be trapped in your mental box is you.
God will never fit into any mental box, only a graven image of God will fit into a dualistic box—the Living God will be unmoved. But once you create a graven image, you will be bound by the image, for you can never go beyond the image to experience higher awareness directly.
Fundamentalists judge everything based on their belief that there is only one true religion. Many non-fundamentalists judge everything based on their belief that there are no false ideas or that one does not need to discern. The selves always sets up a belief system by defining a certain concept or idea as infallible, meaning that it should not be questioned.
Black-and-white thinkers say there is only one true religion, and thus all others are false. Gray thinkers say we should always be kind towards everyone, and they define kindness as being gentle and soft-spoken. Both types of thinking spring from the selves and their need to create the appearance that as long as you stay within the confines of an infallible belief system, you are guaranteed to be saved. In reality there are absolutely no conditions in this world that will guarantee your salvation.
The only thing that can guarantee your salvation is that you enter higher awareness. Higher awareness cannot be fit into or confined to any belief system created in this world. That is why the only way to attain higher awareness is to reach beyond all of the outer belief systems.
You can use a belief system as a foundation for reaching for higher awareness—which is the true function of all valid belief systems. You must never allow the selves to make you believe that because you belong to a certain belief system, and follow its outer beliefs and practices, you are guaranteed to be saved.
People tend to define infallible belief systems and think they are not influenced by error or illusions. In reality, any belief system in this world will be influenced by the mind of separation. The simple reason is that as long as people are not free from their selves, they will subconsciously impose the mental images of their selves upon any belief system. If people claim their belief system is the only true one or is better than others, they demonstrate they have not risen above duality, thus giving proof that their belief system has most certainly been influenced by the mind of separation.
In the following discourses, we will take a closer look at how the selves manages to convince people that they do not need to reach for higher awareness but can be saved by following a belief system in this world. This point is truly the dividing line that separates those who attain true spiritual progress from those who believe they are spiritual but have used the illusions of the selves to build an appearance of spirituality—thus being hypocrites.