Who set me to be your judge or divine your claim?
Round the strait fields you till of wrong and right
Rolls a wide plain where, in a realm all light,
I shall exchange your heart of flesh for mine of flame.
Dividing, sub-dividing, classifying, naming and ranking; that’s what the left half of the human brain does and it does it very well. After all, as a species of hunter-gatherers we need to be able to distinguish very closely between what is safe to eat and what is not. Our survival depends on it. In the scientific age we value these skills so highly that we train our children to hone them obsessively at the expense of other mental, and especially spiritual, capacities.
It becomes a problem when we allow these thought processes in which we have been so carefully schooled to dominate our outlook. Our approach to everything, all the objects and events we encounter in life, is then judgemental. We seem to be particularly adept at inventing reasons why other people are not worthy of our respect and consideration. Diversity is seen as divisive, threatening even, rather than enriching. This is a sure sign that the pre-rational energy centres are at work. The greatest Wisdom teachers of all traditions agree that an egoic mind focussed on judgement can never bring forth true compassion and so we are prevented from experiencing the broad plain of awareness that perceives unity.
As a means to help us escape from this narrow frame of mind Thomas Keating proposes a spiritual exercise in the conference from the Spiritual Journey series titled “Dismantling the Emotional Programs”: give unconditional acceptance to everyone in your life and love them just as they are; and accept every event. If you kept this up for three months, he suggests, you would be almost a saint. I hope you find this chant useful as a means of holding that approach in focus.
The opening words of the quatrain were spoken by Jesus when he turned down the chance to adjudicate on a moral/legal matter (Luke 12 v 16). Thus Christ is established as the speaker who points the way beyond divisive thinking to a place of unity where his light and grace can flow through us.