Embracing contradiction is part of most spiritual journey game plans, especially where such an embrace of contradiction would have no hope of resolution. To be fair, some people really do love knowing nothing. They might say they love mystery, but that is hardly much different from just not knowing. Self-described spiritual leaders every day and in every part of the world somberly encourage hopeful candidates, hungry for the rewards of humility, to respond ever more meekly to mystery and misfortune. Would you suspect that this little felix culpa contains a hidden danger?
Anatomy of Concession
The defeated rejoinder, “we weren’t meant to know” and its slightly insane cousin, “this was meant to serve a higher purpose” intimates, to anyone within earshot, that the speaker believes himself to be deliberately excluded from some secret. Reflect on the implications of this for a moment and I should think it would chill you: the idea that one is not content with self-exclusion, but would entertain thoughts of a conscious entity with an overarching ability to exert a conspiratorial force. Imagine an all-knowing and all-powerful being who exists outside time. This hypothetical personality — up and over there — likes to mete out morsels of wisdom and revelation to other beings — down and over here — who find themselves in precisely the opposite kind of reality.
Most religions of the world positively insist that their own Arch Deity is the very Personality who is intensely interested in the goings-on of people. Further, their Arch Deity is usually said to have provided all of the tools to establish (or “re-establish“) a loving, subservient “relationship” with itself. The religions with love-gods, that is. Other gods are made to be more irascible and bluntly demanding. Either way, having submitted yourself to such a powerful being, you are usually promised a reward if you don’t insist upon too many answers.
– The Gods Control Flow of Information
We humans know little and feel falsely, don’t we? We have so little power, compared to the power on display in the rest of nature. And we all are — people and the rest of Nature — stuck in time and driven by forces we barely understand; stuck and driven often whether or not we even try to understand! In a scene from one of the New Testament gospels (Matthew 24:36) in which he is depicted as touring the Temple grounds and intoning about the various popular prophesies of the day, the Jesus character says:
“…knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only”
This assertion is taken as profound wisdom, perfectly consistent with an old conception of the human mind which holds that gods control the flow of information. So, of course Jesus would say that! All cult characters and personalities say these sorts of things! Mohammad (and later editors) said those sorts of things with regard to his own cult: The unknowable weight of a mustard-seed. The hidden things in rocks. The mysteries which only Allah is “well acquainted with” and promises to bring forth (Sura 2:234, 21:47). Similarly and perhaps not coincidentally, Joseph Smith said these sorts of things while claiming first-hand knowledge of gods. Also said by modern Hindu sect leaders, psychic-spoon-bending scam artists, all fast-money hucksters — each with respect to his or her own bit of special gnosticism: They all say, in various ways:
“We are limited in a mysterious way and are prevented from having full knowledge in order to serve a higher purpose“
And by “we”, they never mean to include themselves; they mean “you”.
– Subservience and Loss of Dignity
An unbalanced relationship, such as what one might have with a powerful person, can be nothing other than an abusive relationship when your well-being is directly related to subservience.
This is the everyday stuff of misery for many people. The lock and key of an abusive spouse (with clumsy, averted gaze of friends, an added bonus). The self-perpetuating misery under a mafia boss. The trap of having to please an insecure and spiteful middle-manager. They make demands and exercise privilege to withhold favors. A relationship in which one person withholds information from another, in which one person takes an overtly exploitative position to punish or reward based on a willingness to assent to that situation, is nothing other than abusive. I am not making a revolutionary statement here; these sorts of abusive behaviors are in many places considered criminal.
Given the opportunity to defend a friend stuck in such a situation, would you not look for some way to help? You might, if you could, try to help him free himself from such abusive dominance. And surely, you would not freely accept this kind of abuse for yourself. Certainly not after having seen its effects. No mystery is involved. When one sees specific examples, unfairness and the violations of justice are recognized immediately for what they are. And doesn’t the thought of that kind of subservience also inspire even a little outrage?
Self-abasement and loss of dignity are signs of danger. No difference exists when we talk about an abuser invented for religious rites or a self-appointed legislator. Your subservience is obvious when you’ve been made into a toady for a dictator’s secret police or when you find you’ve somewhere sublimated your hopes and dreams to favor those of a violent spouse, but the danger to one’s self is no less within invisible objects of devotion dressed to fit your sensibilities and neuroses!
Confront contradiction. Acknowledgement of contradiction leads to knowledge. If not leading to complete knowledge, then at least to better questions (or just an appreciation for irony). How will you respond to what you do not know? Ultimately, questions, experience and mindfulness lead to the destruction of contradiction. The truth of your situation, as a human, reading these words, is that you are meant to know what you try to know.