Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The False Dualism of Wisdom

In Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus J. Borg begins one chapter with a generalization that surprised me. He said that all great teachers of wisdom teach that there are two paths, the path of wisdom and the path of foolishness. I think that this was an unfortunate generalization, both because I think it is wrong and because it was not necessary to his presentation.

At a very literal level, the generalization is wrong because it describes a one-to-one relationship. One path to wisdom, and one path to foolishness. I don't know that there is ever only one path to wisdom, but even if there were, there would still be millions of different paths to foolishness. (See, for example, the Book of Ecclesiastes for the point of view that everything is foolishness.)

Looking beyond literalness, the generalization still implies a dualism that may exist in traditional Christianity (e.g., good v. evil, God v. Satan, and Heaven v. Hell), but may not necessarily exist in other thought systems. For example, Taoism may divide the universe into competing forces (the yin and the yang), but it does not label one "good" and the other "bad." In fact, much of Taoism is devoted to achieving a balance of contrasting forces, and to eliminating concepts like "right" and "wrong."

Similarly, A Course in Miracles differs from traditional Christianity in rejecting the whole notion of evil. What we call "evil" is, according to the Course, nothing but an illusion of our sick or fevered minds. The Course also states that love is so all-encompassing that it can have no opposite. More to the point, the introduction to the Course also rejects the notion of different paths. It states that the Course is a required course, and that "free will" only gives us the opportunity to decide when to take the lessons, but not the curriculum itself. In the thought system of the Course, there is only one path, and our choice is not among different paths, but between taking the one path or none at all. Or, to use the metaphor in a different way, there may be different paths, but only one destination. What others might call the "path to foolishness" is what students of the Course would call a longer and more difficult path to the same destination.

The reason that there is only one destination is God's grace. God's grace only admits of one destination, and that is salvation. We can choose the path we take, but we can't alter the destination.

No comments: