The belief in two powers: Part 2

by William R. Yoder on March 5, 2011

The belief in two powers

Tree of the illusion of good and evil

The belief that there is another power besides love

(Click here to read series from beginning) The belief in two powers can be stated in one of two ways—and both ultimately say the same thing.

The first way to express the belief in two powers is that there is another power besides love—another power, another cause, another source at play in our lives. The power of love is the power for healing, for deep peace and perfect happiness, for well-being in every area of our lives. The other power is basically a power for un-well-being—a power that can limit of threaten our well-being, that can harm us. This second power might take the form of evil, threatening economic forces, germs and viruses, unfair government policies, thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. The point is that there is a second power operating in our lives, and we have to remain ever vigilant and afraid if we are to survive.

The belief that you are separate from the source of your good

The second way to express the two-power belief is that you are separate from the source of your good. And that means to experience goodness and well-being, love and happiness in your life, you have to “do” something. You have to somehow get or achieve or earn your well-being. This may include “paying all your karmic debts,” or “atoning for all your sins.” It may involve expending a lot of energy and effort manipulating others and changing the world to achieve or get whatever you “need” in order to be happy. From this perspective, you are separate from the source of your good—in your very nature you are lacking and needy.

The fruit of that #!@**! tree

In virtually every religious tradition, some form of a belief in two powers is the ultimate cause of all of our suffering.

For instance, in Genesis, we are told that we were expelled from the Garden of Eden because we ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Many people take this at face value, believing that once we disobeyed God by learning about real evil, we were condemned to a life of real suffering. But from the perspective of a belief in one power, there could be another way to understand that story. It could be interpreted as an explanation of where our experience of suffering really came from.

Imaginary fruit can cause indigestion

If God is the only source and power, and God is all-good, then there can be no evil. That would mean that the phrase “the knowledge of good and evil” really referred to an illusory belief in two powers, the illusory belief in both good and evil, the illusory belief that evil was real. So humans, by adopting the (mistaken) belief in two powers, moved themselves out of that place in their minds of perfect love and peace and happiness, and became locked into an (ultimately illusory) experience of suffering and fear.

A vengeful God of love? Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

From that perspective, the whole idea of a vengeful God expelling us from perfect happiness is simply a projection, blaming God for what we did to ourselves. Making God “vengeful” was projecting a kind of dualism onto God. God’s love was no longer unconditional. It had now become merely conditional—we would be loved as long as we followed the rules (were good), but would be punished if we strayed (were bad).

Attachment to the objects of our desires

In Buddhism, Buddha says that the cause of all suffering is our attachment to the objects of our desire.  And why would we be attached to the objects of our desires.  Because we believe we are separate from the source of our good. Thus we believe that we “need” the objects our desires in order for us to be happy, and that sense of need is why we are so attached.

Change your mind!

Ultimately, the mystics from all of the world’s religions agree that evil and need and fear are not truly real, and suffering is not inevitable. But what needs to change is not the world, but our own minds. And one way to think of the change that has to take place within our own minds is the shift from a two-power core belief to a one-power core belief.

This is not to say that a one-power core belief is an accurate description of ultimate reality. Ultimate reality is not the sort of thing that can be captured and described by words. At best, our beliefs and ideas can either open our minds to it, or block them. That’s what free will’s all about: choosing either allowing beliefs or blocking beliefs.  To be continued ….

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