How do we learn to navigate life with both “dualistic clarity” and “the non-dual mind”?

In his keynote address at the Renaissance 2021 Spiritual Directors’ Conference, titled “Why  is so much evil called ‘good’?” Fr. Richard Rohr sets out to propose a path that might enable us to find our way to work with both dualism and non-dualtiy.

As I said yesterday, this address needs to be heard in its entirety, along with the half hour question and response at the end. It can be viewed here:

But here in abbreviated form are Rohr’s three steps to what he calls “the Wisdom” path:

1. you must recognise that what you hate in others is already yourself in some form and you don’t know how to change it in yourself so you try to change it in others. You are well-practiced in keeping it disguised from yourself. Jung called this “the shadow self.” The shadow is not evil; it’s what we refuse to see in ourselves that allows us to do evil while calling it “good.”

2. there is a need for dualistic clarity about the issues on which Jesus most used dualistic thinking; they are money and power. You cannot offer euphemisms around issues of justice, no gas-lighting around central issues. Make them absolutely morally clear. To jump too easily and quickly to the next step is what we call spiritual by-passing.

Rohr offers a caveat to this second step along the wisdom way, suggesting the possibility that there may be people “at the highest levels of consciousness” who

no longer need dualistic clarity because they hold it intuitively inside.

It is a high vision to live in the uninterrupted awareness of the oneness of all life and find within oneself the ability to live like good holding at the same time all the tragedy and the glory of the human condition. So Rohr follows up with a cautionary warning that,

none of us should presume we are at the highest level of consciousness and can automatically jump to a purely enlightened response in the moment.

We must continue in this timebound material realm with what Rohr calls,

dualistic clarity; there is good and there is evil.

We need to hold this “tension of opposites,” and understand that,

The only way you can do this is by holding the tension of opposites, the ambiguity of the human situation. Or, as Jesus puts it in one of his parables, “Let the weeds and the wheat both grow together until the harvest.” Can you believe he said that? Sounds like moral flimsy. My job is to hold the reality of the weeds where everything human beings do is imperfect. It demands a great sympathy, empathy for humanity and for yourself and for everybody else. Only thus is the disguise of evil pulled back.

3. Now, after finding dualistic clarity, you must seek the “contemplative mind” for your non-dual response where the perfect can include the imperfect, where order can include disorder.    Judgement can include compassion, where I own my own complicity in the systems that have allowed this evil. This is the non-dual mind.

Rohr sums up,

So first succeed at clear-headed moral thinking. Second, my response can’t be choosing sides and thinking because I chose this side over that side, I’m right. That’s what we’ve got now, where we are presented with two alternatives and we think because we have chosen one, we’ve got the right one. I wish it were that simple.