WILLIAM EDELEN: No Violence… No Dualism… No Absolutes…



The Contrary Minister (2002)

When asked “What am I?” I always answer by saying I think of myself as being within the historical stream of Mysticism where there is no violence, no dualism and no absolutes.

No Violence: The vast majority of all the religious violence of the last 2,000 years has come from the “believers” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam… the people of the “book,” the bible. Carl Sagan called the burning of the library in Alexandria by Christians in 391 one of the most obscene atrocities in the history of our species, Homo sapiens. Had there been a world view and philosophy of mysticism there would have been no burning of the library, but a celebration of the wealth of knowledge stored there… nor would there have been the Crusades… the Inquisition… the witch slaughtering… nor would there be a Northern Ireland nightmare… nor would there be a West Bank or Gaza strip killing field… Such violence would be unthinkable and obscene to anyone living within the world view of mysticism.

No Dualism: We must rid ourselves of the dualism that infects so much of our orthodox religious views of the earth and the universe. Dualism constantly separates man and woman from the sacred… nature from man… and spirit from matter. Several  years ago the giant Zen Master, D. T. Suzuki, was lecturing at Stanford University. He opened his address by stepping up to the front of the stage, leaning toward the audience, and saying, “Man against God… God against Man… man against nature… nature against man… God against nature… nature against God… a very, very funny religion.”

Many still want to apply the word symbol “God” to something “out there” that is separate and distinct from us “down here” on this planet earth. It is always God AND something else… God AND us… God AND the creation… God AND the earth… God AND the creatures… like the word “God” was a symbol for some “it” out there.

In Mysticism is the recognition that the word God is only a symbol for the Oneness of everything. The Mystery we call God is within every cell of our bodies, every leaf, every atom, every molecule within everything that is. The Universe is a totality and an interrelatedness of all things. It is John Muir saying that “everything is hitched to everything else.” Everything on this planet came from the evolution of stars. For this cohesive mystery within that totality some use the word symbol God… some the Tao… for the Sioux it was Wakan Tanka.

Today’s physics and quantum mechanics confirm that the classifications of organic and inorganic, animate and inanimate are archaic and invalid. (Of course, Eastern spiritual traditions with American Indian traditions have been saying that for centuries.)

James Jeans said it well: “Modern physics has reduced the whole universe to waves, and nothing but waves. All galaxies, stars, planets and human beings are manifestations of waves.” There is no dualism. “Everything is One and hitched to everything else.”

No Absolutes: The Dean of French Physics, Jean-Henri Poincare, wrote, “There is no absolute space… there is no absolute time…” Einstein latched on to these words to develop his theory of relativity. The only “absolute” in life is that there are “no absolutes.” All values are relative to the mind that entertains them,” they say in Taoism and Zen. “Truth on this side of the mountain is falsehood on the other side of the mountain,” wrote Pascal.

In orthodox Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is the neurotic desire to keep everything in simple black and white… good and bad… truth and falsehood… In Mysticism, as well, as in Taoism, they smile, or laugh, at this childish naivety and simplicity. They tell stories to illustrate. What’s good or bad depends on whether you are a man, a frog or a mosquito. To the man, the frog is good because he can eat the frog, but the mosquito is bad because he can eat the man. To the frog, the man is bad because he will eat him, but the mosquito is good because he can eat the mosquito. To the mosquito the man is good because he can eat on the man, but the frog is bad because because the frog will eat him. So what is good or bad depends on whether you are a frog, a man, or a mosquito. All of their stories like this carry profound truths.

The point: What is good or bad depends on whether you are a Democrat or a Republican… a Holy Roller or a Taoist… a Buddhist or a Jew… Hindu or Moslem. What they are saying in these stories is that all values are relative to the mind that entertains them. Nothing is absolute in Mysticism. The symbol for this recognition of complementary and relative opposites is the Tai-Chi disk, the Yin-Yang circle. Everything in the cosmos is composed of there relative and complementary opposites, never frozen or rigid, never absolute, functioning as ONE within the circle.

No absolutes. That giant of American letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said it well: “Nothing is secure… except life and the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love… No truth, so sublime, but it may be trivial tomorrow in the light of new thought…”

Mysticism is an attitude of mind, a particular orientation to the world around and within us, an insight into the nature of reality and truth, a recognition of the Oneness of everything that can be experienced directly. It is a spiritual sense of intuition. It is the recognition of the fact that the cucumber cucumbering is your brother… and the red tail hawk is your sister… and we all evolved from the stars together… and everything “is hitched to everything else” in a symbiotic relationship… and the waves that tie it all together… is the cosmic dance of Shiva.