Rohini’s last three blogs have all addressed the same dialectic: Love v. power. It seems simple enough, especially when Rohini lays out the ways in which we confuse the two. But one thing that has stuck with me about these blogs is that “Love v. power” is actually much more true, much more accurate, than “Love v. hate.” Because one way that we refuse to acknowledge our own hate, both as individuals and as a society, is by misconceiving it.
Not long ago, I listened as an elderly woman delivered a seemingly dispassionate inventory of people who had figured importantly in her life. It was a litany of hate, couched in terms of those who were “strong” and those who were “weak.” It never entered her mind to consider anyone else’s kindness, or generosity, or decency, or faith. Power trumped every other value. The woman reminded me of the Nuremberg trials, in which some of the Nazi war criminals set forth a similar vision of life with the same matter-of-fact sense of certitude. No fiery denunciations, no glacial lack of feeling—just a fixation on power, wherever one might believe it to lie. And, as Rohini has pointed out, Love may be the ground of all that exists and the greatest power there is, but power as the small self conceives it is the negation of Love.
Where does that leave hate? Especially since the Holocaust, psychologists and social scientists and cultural theorists of all kinds have provided countless definitions for and explanations of hate. Most of those approaches view hate as some form of projection.
But all such models get hate wrong. They construe it as a consequence of something else, even if that something else is a fixation on power. In that calculus, if you are drawn to power, then you end up hating, and hate is evident in your actions. But what I realized after reflecting on that woman’s remarks is that looking for hate in any sort of outward manifestation is looking in the wrong place. Because hate is nothing more and nothing less than the choice to see the world in terms of power relations rather than in Love.
And so all our customary remedies for hate are too little, too late. Hate has to be seen not merely in moral or psychological terms but as a spiritual orientation. Love moves all things toward fullness, toward resolution, toward God. But the small self twists that inward motion toward fullness into a desire for power. And the only kinds of power available to the small self are those that mean separateness, involution, forgetfulness of the Real. So, at its core, the business of the small self is hate, and every small self is murderous.
One other contemporary writer to grasp Rohini’s point here is René Girard. For Girard, a social order of individuals (read: small selves) is locked in an endlessly imitative and competitive pursuit of desires. Everything is seen in terms of power relations. To prevent this battle royal of mimetic desire from escalating into violent anarchy, a scapegoat is chosen as a way to redirect and focus all that hate and violence. When the scapegoat is killed, the violence is temporarily purged. The social order is therefore founded on murder. For Girard, a Christian, Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross exposed the hate at the heart of the social order, and showed us the only way to transcend it: by absolute surrender to Love. There is no other way.
What Girard doesn’t tell us is how we can go about surrendering to Love. For that, we have to do the hard work of anatomizing and dismembering the small self. And we can’t do that without the expert guidance of spiritual teachers like Rohini.
We all want to see hate from the wrong side. We want to see it as an emotion, or a set of behaviors. We want to see spectacular manifestations of hate, which reinforce our superficial, self-absolving view of it. But the truth is that at each moment we must choose between Love and power, and every time we choose to see life in terms of power, we are already practicing hate. The rest is just knock-on effects. And until we get this—not intellectually, but experientially—we will continue to twist and desiccate and make unrecognizable the Love that is our true nature, and our birthright.
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