Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34)
Brother Jonas asks a tough and timely question in a recent correspondence with me regarding the savagery in the Middle East:
Since the situation in Iraq and Syria worsened I've tried to bring the whole situation and the energies that it evokes in me into my Templar practice. I feel sorrow, anger, and disgust but also deep compassion. I don't know how to feel about the jihadist though. In a way I feel sorry for them, that they are so consumed by hatred and other destructive attributes that they barely seem human any more. In fact it's almost as if they were demonic manifestations in flesh. How do I relate to them in a loving merciful way?
The Perfect Master had much to say about a context such as what we see in the contemporary Middle East. Like our time, his was fractured constantly by violence, everyone wondering if they'd live to see the next day or night. It is not my experience whatsoever. I have no comprehension of what it is to be a refugee for years, even decades. Many of the families of my students do know this. From them, very indirectly, I sense how for too many sincere people in this world, life is not a right, but a gift.
Jonas took the question right to his heart when he imagined his own family being hurt, mutilated, or killed by demonic, war-time atrocities, which trigger such complex feelings in himself. It is good to feel these feelings, because every news story coming to an average, privileged person like myself is rooted in horrific trauma people are literally experiencing without a pause or a choice.
What for Roman-occupied Judea then or Israeli-occupied Palestine now is a problem without beginning or end. For William Golding, the author of the novel The Lord of the Flies--what might be one of the most elegant, essential studies of evil--peace is anomalous, violence is constant. This is our condition as we are in ourselves, anchored in the animal past. Selfishness, desire, and fear, compel people and civilizations to self-consumption. To believe it will be so different in any century to come expects more from a majority than herd-consciousness is capable of conceiving, let alone embracing. If I continue to be first about myself, then this is why all that I do participates in the most fundamental problems eating up habitats, resources, and other people.
The Gospel doesn't really pretend to change the world, nor the human condition. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me (Matthew 26:11). Christianities which propose otherwise--an idealized heaven and earth in the material plane--are far removed from the foundation of the Mount of the Skull. Instead, the Gospel shows how one can transcend whatever structure a worldly power can impose. In a word: Sanity. It is sane to forgive, to be generous, understanding, and patient. We are the most immediate beneficiaries of this orientation; others are also very blessed by our growing capacity to move opposite the self-cherishing dominating this world.
Speculating how one might respond in a traumatic crisis of political violence means little; So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6.34). The self of today is not the self of another day. It is enough that one manages the challenges and resistance presenting itself today.
Is this not acutely the work of a Templar each day, to not fear in the face of the Enemy? Our Grand Master of the Temple, Adonai Yeshua, shows clearly through the gift of his death how insanity can only end consciously with us. Sanity is a movement beyond the solarplexus and in the heart, where all opposites are synthesized by a self-transcendent unity. Sanity is as big a picture as one can bear to comprehend of individual mindstreams in all their reincarnations, that even an evildoer will actually learn, and respond consciously. Sanity is addressing the energy dimension itself through prayer, invocation, and ceremonial action, which is why, amidst a band of a dozen men or more, I hear that just two swords are enough (Luke 22.38) and why for the Elect, a literal holy war is rarely legitimate, being instead a call for the endurance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus (Apocalypse 14:12). Make no mistake: There's absolutely a fight in the energy dimension against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12), but this greater holy war is within. This for me is an essence in Templar mysticism.
By Grace of the Grand Master of the Temple:
May we know an external fight is an internal fight lost.