Many decades ago when I was a trainee in a transpersonal psychotherapy program, we were assigned a particularly poignant and very difficult exercise: to investigate and articulate a situation where I could take another life, that is kill another human being.
Not ‘if’ I could kill, not ‘if’ I was the type of person who could kill, but under what conditions could I find myself actually committing murder. Then the exercise extended to under what conditions could I torture another person, what conditions could I inflict sexual harm; what conditions for lying, stealing, cheating, betraying, etc.
You see where I’m going; the big ones we all want to deny are rape, torture and murder, and of course many of us have never had to encounter the traumatic conditions that would elicit such behaviour. And most of us have a rationale for the times that we lie, or cheat or steal. The point of this exercise was to excavate those aspects of ourselves that we have denied; exiled into the shadow because they are so shameful but are so much part of being human. We are all capable of anything under certain conditions. Then to be able to take full responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs and actions in the world as a material human being and as a being of light connected to the cosmos, connected to everything and everyone.
The training was done in an era where the standard for healthy self responsibility was straight, white male with university education. There was no thought given to the power inequities of gender, of sexual/ gender identification, race, or colour.
This investigation process took place over many months. I knew others were struggling as much as I was and we were encouraged to keep our attention and questions focussed on ourselves. It was fascinating to notice how seductive it was to deflect my attention and project my disowned parts onto someone else.
As I learned more about myself and understood that a particular situation with a “perfect storm” of stresses, threats, trauma and losses, I could imagine scenarios where I could commit murder and, hopefully, avoid the circumstances. Though to think that is always possible is to engage in magical thinking. And similarly for the other behaviours that are prohibited, first in the ten commandments and then in Jesus commandment to love one another as he has loved us.
These, my friends, these dark, disowned parts of us are the weeds.
What does Jesus tell us about the weeds?
The first thing he says is that they cannot be separated from the wheat. They grow together until the harvest and then are separated. The weeds will be burned.
The fire appears in the challenges or moral choices that we encounter in life. The harvest is that point of choice in our response. The pandemic has exposed the injustices that arise out of agism, sexism, racism, homophobia, contempt for indigenous rights and the absolute failure of extreme capitalism which leaves many people of all ages, races, genders and gender identities vulnerable to disease and death. How am I participating either knowingly or unknowingly in these injustices?
The pandemic has also exposed our culture of extreme individuality without responsibility for the good of the community. Those people protesting about having to wear masks aren’t fearful about losing their health; they are afraid of governance that would impinge on their individual rights. Their protest is about governance. Values.
And we haven’t even touched on climate change and our collective responsibility for pollution and the degradation of our planet.
The fires of purification are becoming more visible.
After he left the crowds and the disciples are alone with Jesus they want to know more about the parable. Jesus explains further: the good seeds are sowed by Love, the field is the world, and the bad seed is sown by turning away from Love. The angels will gather the causes of sin and all evildoers. In the end Love will gather all and purify us in the fire. There will be remorse and struggle.
After the purification “the righteous will shine like the sun”.
Love abandons no one. In the end all are forgiven!
I’ll close with a quote from John Lewis, an American hero of the civil rights movement who died on Friday.
“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become more important principles in public life.”
-John Lewis, from his 2012 memoir Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change,
Quote taken from Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, July 18, 2020