All Criticism Is Not Scapegoating

One of the most common misunderstandings of non-dual or contemplative thinking, especially among progressive and earnestly spiritual people, is that it disqualifies any making of distinctions, all needed judgements, and even criticism of anything. This cannot be true, nor is it true. Mystical thinking is not a kind of naïveté or avoidance of creative tension but, in part, an allowing of that very tension to enlighten us and move us to a higher, deeper and broader level. First we have to name the problem truthfully before we can give any kind of Third Force, or graced, compassionate response.

Contemplatives are not Pollyannas or blind optimists. Their positivity comes from struggle and prayer, not from denial or repression. Third Force thinking is not naïvely trying to "balance" two sides of an equation, but it is precisely holding the two sides fairly and stubbornly until a third something shows itself. It normally should take a while to get there (unless you are in the one-tenth of one percent who are in the final stages of unitive consciousness). The transformative pattern is order > disorder > reorder, and there is rarely a nonstop flight from order to reorder.

I would say we must first struggle with the opposites and clearly name them before we can then transcend them with a truly contemplative or non-dual response. Jesus did not hesitate to call the religious authorities "whitewashed tombs" and "hypocrites" (read the entirety of Matthew 23!), while he simultaneously taught and exemplified, throughout this life, love of enemies and forgiveness of offenses.

Now, was Jesus scapegoating when he named his enemies so honestly? Was he having it both ways? Was he demonizing the opposition or was he, in fact, naming the demon that must be named? It is a very important and very subtle clarification and, without it, the contemplative mind could rightly be seen as naïvely simplistic, merely "the power of positive thinking," or even a dangerous denial of facts.

Something that can help here is a full definition of the scapegoat mechanism. Scapegoating is not just projection of evil or fault onto another person or group, but is precisely an unconscious projection. Scapegoating is destructive for both parties because those doing the projection really believe it--and, as Jesus says, "do not know what they are doing" (see Luke 23:34)! Like all sin, scapegoating demands that we be unaware and unconscious, or we would never do such things. Scapegoating demands a certain level of real ignorance, and invariably a narcissistic protection of our own self-image as pure, right, superior, victimized, or wrongly offended.

Contemplative, mystical and non-dual thinking is precisely a fullness of consciousness, from people who have suffered and weighed and made proper judgements about the presenting alternatives--but they do this with compassionate and calm awareness, never with denial, pretense, simplistic dualistic judgements, or denial of their own shadow. They are exactly and deeply not unconscious, but very conscious at several levels at once!

In short, we must first succeed at healthy and intelligent dualistic thinking before we can rise to the contemplative mind. One is not good and the other bad; they are both good--or I could be accused of being a dualistic thinker myself!

This issue has come to the fore for many people in the recent American political campaign, where some Christians feel that any open criticism of a certain candidate is demonizing and scapegoating the candidate. It indeed could be so in some cases. However, it also might not be scapegoating at all, but necessary, intelligent, conscious and prayerful discernment--and then being willing to pay the price for such truth-speaking. Many will hate them for it and, indeed, accuse them of all manner of evil (see Matthew 5:10-12). Maybe that is precisely the deal, and it is never a bargain.

But if we cannot rely on such spiritual intelligence as a very real possibility, Christians are doomed to not being taken seriously in any significant future election, debate, essay or conversation. That is too high a price to pay so that we can appear holy and contemplative.