|Image credit: Frits Ahlefeldt|
Popular culture often says that you have the potential to succeed, if you only work hard or believe in yourself. That’s certainly a positive and inspiring message, however what’s often overlooked is that you also have the potential to fail. This is a free will Universe, which means all potentials are available.
It doesn’t matter how good you are or what successes you’ve had in the past. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an enlightened Master, or whether you’ve single-handedly saved the world from certain destruction. This concept doesn’t take away or minimize the “status” one has or the accomplishments they might have done before. However, success in one area or at one time, doesn’t mean that one won’t make mistakes or do wrong in the future. Sometimes spiritual people make the error of believing their current level of wisdom means they can somehow do no wrong.
When I visited Egypt in 1997, there was an interesting story carved into a temple wall. Panels showed the Sun god Ra battling the evil god Set. Subsequent panels showed Ra getting larger as Set got smaller, demonstrating the influence of good increasing and evil decreasing. However, the last panel showed a very tiny Set on a leash, instead of Set having disappeared altogether. That meant that Set wasn’t fully defeated, and had the potential to return in the future.
Similarly, in Greek mythology, one of the Labors of Hercules was for him to defeat the hydra. If you cut off one of the hydra’s many heads, two grow back in its place. Hercules won by using fire to cauterize each cut, so that the heads wouldn’t grow back. However, the final head was immortal, so Hercules buried it under a boulder. Spiritually, each of us is Hercules, and the hydra’s heads represents the enticements of life. We can’t grow by only cutting our way through adversity, but rather we need the fires of insight and love. However, the essence of returning to wrong living is always a potential, so the hydra is never completely destroyed, and can only be pushed away.
Many books and movies feature the plot of a great evil locked away, that returns and needs to be dealt with. Some of these stories understand the allegorical nature of the “enemy”, in that it represents innate negative potentials within oneself or within humanity as a whole, instead of a specific evil person or group that just needs to be defeated externally in order for everything to be made perfect.
The Great Invocation contains the line, “and may it seal the door where evil dwells”. Some don’t like the Great Invocation because they see it as dualistic, in that sealing evil away isn’t as positive as transforming it into good. Certainly the darkness within should be understood and not repressed, and disagreements between people and nations should be reconciled instead of one side defeating another in a classic battle. However, the Great Invocation’s “door where evil dwells” has a more deeper meaning than is apparent to casual reading.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell
In 1852, abolitionist Wendell Phillips said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” That means in order to have a free society, one must always guard against elements which seek to take over or degrade human rights. Similarly, the price of lasting wisdom is eternal introspection and humility. That results in the situation in the quote above. It’s actually not a problem that wiser people have doubts, because it means that they’re continually looking at themselves, and making sure their “wisdom” isn’t making them arrogant, reckless, blind to change, or anything problematic like that.
My book “Evolution of the Spirit: Our Journey Through the Universe” has a section titled “Spiritual Mistakes”, listing the 12 types of errors people make on the Path, in chapter 15 “Mastering the Personality”. ♥