“In this world,
Hate never yet has dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.”
My younger brother (John) had brought me to one of his “Best Buddies” events, a companionship program for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. We pulled up to the front of the building where the event was being held, and he stopped the car. “Nick there is something I have to tell you. These people are just the way that they are. You have to just decide before you go in there – whether or not you are going to accept them and love them as they are … because they can’t change and there’s nothing you can do that is going to make them be any different.”
It was not something totally unexpected for bringing in a first timer to an event for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. For me it has always been the case that people with such obvious handicaps as Down-syndrome have easily escaped my judgment and blame for transgressions. I could never see myself being anything but loving and accepting of them. It seems to be another story entirely though with people I consider “normal,” the vast majority of whom at any moment may do or say something sparking my condemnation or blame.
I could no longer reconcile the discrepancy. With nothing but a simple label of the mind, there became no place in my heart for blame or judgment and yet with a different label, I could justify untold discrimination. Yet to what degree, I wondered, was the so-called “average person” 100% neurologically perfect, if in fact there is such a thing? And if so what would be the measure?
The problem of measuring people’s level of intellectual or developmental disability is for me the same problem as identifying a universal age at which non-disabled people become culpable adults. Children too, I have come to learn about myself, could never do any wrong in my eyes, for “they don’t know any better.” The opposite proves to be true for those lucky individuals who qualify for my label of “adult.”
18 is the magic number,” says our society. “17!” shouts our justice system. “21” argues the alcohol, tobacco, and firearm regulatory bodies. Meanwhile, voices in other cultures say, “17, no 15!”
But what if no one ever becomes all knowing and everyone acts out of their ignorance at least to some degree? – A dangerous idea in a sociopolitical system benefiting more from serving after the fact justice than preventing crimes fueled by hate and discrimination.
That no one is omniscient or all-knowing is a truth which many consider self-evident, and not requiring further validation. Yet it seems for many, as it did for me before this experience, that this truth is only recognized at the intellectual level. As it turned out for me, there were other deeper levels of knowing at which I did not yet recognize it.
Having grown up religious, and being a student of mythology, I had heard of the “Kerostasia” of the ancient Greeks, the “Weighing of Souls” of the ancient Egyptians, and was familiar with the biblical adage from the crucifixion scene, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” Obscured by their archetypal and non-intellectual form, any positive trans-formative powers these myths and religious symbols may have once held had been long lost to the overwhelming taste of religiosity and dogma. That is until now.
Many native and ancient cultures revered individuals born with what we call intellectual or developmental disabilities, considering them spiritually significant. Likewise, here they represented for me a symbol carrying the power of all the former myths, capable of conveying this truth on much deeper levels, that permeated my entire being.
“To what degree then …” I wondered, “ is anyone really culpable, that is, meriting our condemnation and blame?”
If I too am in fact obscured by my ignorance as a child is by his youth, then all the hate, discrimination, judgment, and non-acceptance I have brought into this world would amount to nothing. Yet it is not just nothing. This meant that all hate and blame against the Hitlers and corrupt of this world was unwarranted.
How honorable the Ghandis, Christs, and Mother Theresas of this world who learned to love their enemies and care for the true development of those who transgressed upon them as they would a child.
Yet this seed of truth did not stop as a sapling. It flourished into a mighty tree, turning all the toxic carbon dioxide of my mind into rich and fresh oxygen. It’s leaves offered my heart shade from the brutal desert sun of a guilty conscience and judgmental mind.
This tree grew skyward, ever nearer to the heavens, until the full significance of its simple truth came to flourish. Even my erroneous condemnations of others was itself a transgression for which there stands no merit for condemnation. All the gears of a great and dark machinery deep within my soul was shutting down, a darkness fled from the spark of this light and the Beast of the ages met its timely demise.
Life had returned to my veins and warm color to my eyes where once was the dismal gray of untold shame and guilt. My heart weighed fair against the feather of truth, and transgressions I had carried on my own or put onto others shoulders melted as a candle by its flame.
I welcomed a personal myth carrying the same redemptive power as those symbols and myths of old, gaining much needed insight into obscure terms such as “salvation” and “redemption.” A redemptive experience which came to me not from a religious or political authority but rather a truth from a mundane event which echoed throughout all time and space, freeing my heart and my mind from chains I knew I carried.
“He is without blame
Though once he may have murdered
His mother and his father,
Two kings, a kingdom, and all its subjects.
Though the kings were holy
And their subjects among the virtuous,
Yet is he blameless.”
A simple wisdom shown by a younger brother in odd circumstances, yet, here lay a key capable of releasing eons of untold emotional and psychological baggage. Ignorance will never lead to bliss, but the knowledge of ignorance sets the soul free of the snares of Maya. How trans-formative a truth would be in a society with religious beliefs of eternal damnation and a penal system focusing on guilt and punishment if such a truth were to spread as flames in the night?
To hear a more in depth discussion of this topic, listen to the Return Of Gnosis Podcast (Episode 2) below: