The spiritual mystic has two eyes well developed. One is the eye of discernment, and the other is the eye of unity. The mystic, like God, includes both. Discernment is an ability to know what is better from worse, or good from bad, and discernment can know differences in levels and degrees. Having good judgment has the same meaning as having good discernment. Discernment is necessary for wisdom, and we need discernment to know what is injustice and what is justice. Discernment about ourselves is very much needed for our own self-development, since we cannot really mature if we cannot discern what is good/useful in us from what is bad/dysfunctional. Discernment also recognizes mistakes in action and in thinking. Without self discernment we are liable to merely accept that everything we think and do is just great, just perfect.
The discernment-perspective is discriminating between the two poles of value: good and bad, or between better and worse. It is said that the wise can discern between good and bad, or between better and worse. We use this ability of discernment in practical life. But very often, spiritual teachings tend to devalue this practice of discernment, while promoting a ‘non-dualistic’ unity-perspective that seems to require the abandonment of discernment between what is good and bad. In many of these false views, (excuse me), what is bad is discerning between good and bad, or what is bad is holding the discernment-perspective. But besides the obvious self-contradiction in this ‘non-dualistic’ view, they also often fall into a false conclusion that everything must be perfect and good.
Yet as stated elsewhere, the unity-perspective does not necessarily demand that everything must be perfect and good, nor an abandonment of our sense of discernment. The proposition here is that discernment and unity can co-exist in spiritual experience; without one contracting or destroying the other. To understand this synthesis and include both views in one’s experience is to progress to the next stage that reconciles mysticism with practicalism. This reconciliation or synthesis might be called discernment-within-Unity; that within the greater Purpose and within the greater Process there needs to be acts of discernment between the better and worse, or between good and not-as-good. This is part of the Process, part of the Purpose, and part of the Unity. Also what makes everything all together a Unity is that everything is pervasively guided, in some degree (but not strictly or ruthlessly manipulated), by the same Great Will and Purpose.
The Unity-perspective is seeing all of the parts and events of life as in-Unity. Everything is seen as part of the great Unity. One of the common mistakes in this perspective, though, is to conclude that every thing or event must have an important purpose in the great Unity, for it would not exist in the Unity unless it did have some important purpose. This is a false conclusion, as shown elsewhere. Our reality is a loose Unity, not a strict one. The greater Unity of Purpose includes all things and events, but this does not entail that everything has an important purpose. For example, there are many events of any day in the world that are not essentially important at all in the greater spiritual purpose, and many events that life would have been better without. So, Unity does not have to entail that everything is necessary or essential to the Unity, nor that everything is perfect, nor that everything is stage directed.
But what is truly important regarding the Unity is that life is in a Process of gradual spiritual evolution. Some pieces and events within this Process are mistakes, accidents or imperfections; yet they are still in the greater Process. So in this sense, they are still in the Unity. If we look at smaller areas of the Unity we may not see Unity, but if we look at much larger fields of time and space we can view the Unity. So larger perspectives can more reveal Unity, just as larger perspectives reveal greater Purposes. Thus, a mystical experience of Unity in the world is primarily caused by a widening of perspective and intuiting the greater Unity connecting things; rather than a more usual preoccupation with smaller fields of life whereby one tends to see conflicts and dis-unities.
The wise know that such conflicts and disunities are merely part of the greater Process of spiritual evolution – which has to include conflicts and disunities. In other words, conflict and disunity are occasional and temporal phenomena within the Great Process, within the Great Purpose, and thus also within the Great Unity. Yet, although conflicts and disunities are inevitable and necessarily allowed in the Great Process, this inevitability and necessity is only general, while not all specific cases are necessarily. An overall necessity does not entail that every specific case is necessary. In other words, there is a general inevitability, but this does not logically entail that each particular example of conflict and disunity is inevitable, or necessary, or purposefully needed, or perfect.
Thus, the highest spiritual path of virtue is a balance between the unity-perspective and a discernment-perspective. Discernment makes distinctions between good and bad, better or worse, right or wrong; and this discernment of distinctions is foundational to intelligent decisions. If one has to make a decision, there are but a few ways to make that decision. One way is to discern a right or better path to take, based on an ethical, aesthetic, or sometimes logical discernment. Ethical and aesthetic discernments may often come from the heart, or from the emotions, but nonetheless they make at least an implicit distinction between good and bad, better or worse, true or false, right or wrong. Another way to make a decision is by pure whim, without any conscious discernment. In this way, one does not use any distinctions between good and bad, etc; and decisions are made for no real reason at all. Yet, there is probably some psychological cause for making a decision, and this may involve a subconscious distinction of good or bad, attraction or repulsion. The third way to make a decision is really a passive mode of letting some other person or group make the decision, so not making the decision for oneself. Yet in this passive mode, one is probably just allowing someone else to make distinctions between good and bad, or desire and repulsion.
Some philosophies suggest a path of no discernments and no distinctions, because they place highest value on non-judgment, and they want to see everything as equally good. In some philosophies of monistic unity, it is believed that everything must be equally good; because God created everything, and everything God creates must be good. In this philosophy there are not even gradations of the good, because any gradations would imply distinctions between better and worse, and such distinctions make dualistic divisions, which the monist cannot accept. Interestingly though, the extreme monistic view of unity has the same pragmatic implication as extreme ethical nihilism; because both believe that good and bad, and other value distinctions, are either illusionary or remnants of manipulative social conditioning. Both suggest that one need not make value distinctions nor have any value discernment, in order to uphold an all-is-one perspective. Yet this results in a loss of the value dimension itself; where upon unity becomes flat, reductive, and simplistic.
Probably the main attraction to these non-discernment philosophies is the elimination of critical judgment, or a world without any judgment; whereby everyone and everything is regarded as perfectly equal. This sounds very fine and good, but it is flawed by its impracticality and its value annihilation. For in a process and teleological Reality, there must be discernment and decisions based on distinctions between better and worse, which is the basis for seeing where to go next in the process towards a higher teleological goal.
The important question is how can one make needed and practical discernments/ judgments, but also remain in the Unity-perspective. Suggestions have already been made, but one further suggestion is that value distinctions and discernment/judgment can be regarded as essential elements of the Unity, especially when we realize that Unity is a Process coming into completion. In other words, the Unity is not a static picture of perfection with everything equally good; but rather, reality is a Unity-in-Process, and value distinctions/discernments are necessary events in that Process.
Yet to balance this discernment-perspective and activity, one can regard any one and any thing, at any particular time in the overall Process, as being/doing a certain stage in their process. That is, whatever we see about another person or about the world is just a temporary picture of where they are in a larger Process, or a picture of where they are on a road towards their greater spiritual maturity and integration of wisdom and ability. Some of these picture-snapshots might be when the person happens to be in a problematic state, or stressed about things, or when they accidentally slipped, or when the social or natural environment was challenging, or when they were sleep-walking in automatic conditioning. So the snapshot we take of any one or any thing may not look too good.
Therefore, there is nothing wrong with discerning that what we see is not so good, or that the person might best make better decisions. Even though we can avoid judgmental blaming in the knowledge that people are acting according to their intelligence and ethical capacity, it is nonetheless true that people can make bad and unethical choices, or they can regressively slip downward on a spiritual scale rather than progress towards a finer maturity. We shouldn’t be fooling ourselves that everything and everyone is perfect at every moment, or that nothing ever really goes wrong or regresses. In other words, we need to keep our value-discernment and see things realistically.
Yet this discernment-perspective can be balanced by a unity-perspective which views everyone in one great Process towards finer goodness, love and beauty. And besides, everyone is only receptive to higher divine inspiration, at any one time, according to their present capacity for this receptivity or sensitivity. This understanding does not annihilate a need for value-discernment about how this person is presently behaving or presently doing, but it does suggest an understanding and compassionate perspective – which is an essence of the unity-perspective.
Within Unity are distinctions and also discernment-perspectives. The Unity contains all of this. So distinguishing discernments between good and bad, better and worse, right and wrong, true and false, beauty and crudity, are value-distinctions within the greater Unity Reality. As such, they are significant in the realm of manifest life; even though all of these distinctions disappear in the absolute experience of Unity. They disappear in the pure dimension of Spirit, or Unity; yet they necessarily exist in the relative dimension of manifestation, the realm of becoming. So in this world of manifestation or becoming, value-distinctions and value-discernments are necessary and encouraged.
Yet one should be cautious of three possible problems with value-judgments; such as meanness, prejudice, and rigid divisiveness. In fact, many people react in argument against value-distinctions because they have experienced the occasional cruelty and injustice caused by these problems. But we should not simply abandon all value-distinctions just because of some possible problems or distortions of the practice; don’t throw out the baby just because the bathwater gets dirty.
Value-distinctions are needed in this world of becoming; though one does not have to make value distinctions and discernments with meanness, prejudice, nor rigid divisiveness. Instead, we can bring love, compassion and patience into this; such that we make the needed distinctions of value and the needed discernment, but with qualities of the Unity-perspective. We still love the larger reality, and we still have compassion and patience because we understand that each particular is in a larger spiritual process.
One very important issue is often forgotten about discernment. The more one realizes God, the more one is discerning about what is good.
Now this is where the significant spiritual debate might begin. For there are some who think that spiritual realization results in non-discernment of good vs. bad. They believe that spiritual enlightenment is when everything is equally good or equally praised. This is the biggest mistake of our time. This is the worse mistaken belief. I will explain.
As one gains a greater realization of God, or realizes more of God, one also acquires qualities of God. Remember that if we are truly not separate from God, then we are God in some way ourselves. We are microcosms of God, reflections of God, instruments of God. These are all useful ways of speaking. One very important attribute of God is wisdom, and another important attribute is creative power. So if we are supposed to be microcosms of God, or inseparable beings of God, then it logically follows that we too ought to have wisdom and creative powers. In fact, these would be very significant qualities of God; right? So if we are to be wise and powerful in our creativity, then doesn’t that involve discernment about what is good or better than something else?
Does wisdom declare that all things possible are equally Good? Or does creative power sit around believing that some ‘other’ [God] will do the creative work? No. In other words, if we are to be as God on Earth, without separation, and in the Unity-of-Being, then we ought to be as wise as we expect of God, and we ought to be a powerful creative force in the world (not a passive whatever). Would we think that God’s wisdom involves an indifference about what is good or better? Is God’s view: ‘whatever happens is just as good as anything else”? Is that wisdom? No. We are part of this God. We are instruments of this God. We are the creative hands of this God. So if we are going to make creative action, we are immediately confronted by the question of what is good to do, or what is the better creative action. This is where wisdom comes in. Wisdom is always asking such questions.
If we say that only God will decide what is right and do what is right, while we remain passive in this respect,; then we are acting as separate from God. We are treating God and ourselves as very different. In reality, God is the bigger Function, and we are the smaller functions. The realization that we are not separate from God is that we are God. God is us, and we are God. The difference is that God is the Whole, and we are the parts. God is the Universal, and we are the individuations of That. God is the Source, and we are the periphery. God is the Unity of diversity. We are diversity in Unity. God is the Primary Power, and we are the instruments of power. God is the Light, and we are the light bulbs. God is the General Planner, and we are the practical workers. God is the macrocosmic wisdom, and we are the microcosmic wisdom. God will decide the bigger issues, and we must decide on the smaller issues. We are reflections of God, so we need to take on God’s own Work, yet in a smaller circumstance.
Now, it is possible for a self to ignore the whole issue of discernment. It is possible for a self to ignore their own natural discernment. For example, some spiritual groups believe that discernment between good and bad is a problem of the ego and cultural conditioning, and thus they practice ignoring their own natural discernment in favor of being indifferent, impassionate and un-opinionated. For they believe this is the spiritual way. Unfortunately, this is not the true spiritual way. God does not view all things as equally good and perfect; neither does Christ and the masters of wisdom. Instead, this whole world is in an unfolding process of moving towards greater integration, harmony, love, wisdom and goodness. To think that everything is equally good and to not make any distinctions between better or worse, is to deflate and ignore this evolutionary purpose of life. So discernment is vitally important to the spiritual purpose and the use of this discernment to make wise decisions.
God must have wise discernment about what is better or worse. Would you deny that God has a discerning sense of higher beauty or finer love, as distinguished from pollution and baser selfish desires? Would you deny that the world is meant [by God’s intention] to be more loving and beautiful than it now is? Are we moving toward a better world? Or, in the attitude of indifference, is any way ‘it is’ just as good as any other way?
Furthermore, if a person chooses to ignore (or maybe they never actually know) their natural spiritual power of discernment, then they would be acting ‘as if separate’ from God. Why? Because if we are not separate from God, then we have access to all of God’s qualities. In fact, we would be microcosms of God, and thus our purpose would be to actualize our God Qualities. And if our God Qualities included discerning wisdom, then in a non-separate state of being we would be naturally actualizing this quality. And to not actualize this quality, or to dismiss it as either irrelevant or non-spiritual would be to ‘separate ourselves’ from God.
Part of people’s confusion about using discernment might be about the nature of love. The masters and saints, the spiritual friends of God, the initiates of the Path, have a caring love for all people, no matter what they do. But this caring love should not be confused with agreement. The disciple of love will love everyone equally without prejudice. We love the deep spiritual soul of everyone, the divine child within everyone. But we do not necessarily agree with everyone, nor do we necessarily love their actions. We love the innermost of each person, but we may not love their outermost behavior and actions. And we may not agree with their ideas. One reason for this is that the true divine qualities of goodness and wisdom seek to manifest in the world. The good qualities of God seek to manifest. In other words, God seeks to manifest in the world in the most loving and wise manner. God seeks to manifest as harmony not discord, love not hate, peace not war, etc. The purpose of life, therefore, is not an indifference about manifestation. God seeks to actualize in each living person, which means that God’s Qualities of love, wisdom and creative power are seeking to actualize through us. A greater and higher goodness is seeking to actualize on earth; which is the spiritualizing of the planet. Greater love, goodness and beauty is unfolding. But this can only unfold with our participation, because we are involved in the unfolding. If one sits outside of the unfolding, merely being an indifferent observer, then one is not really participating. And in order to participate, one has to actualize the spiritual quality of discernment – knowing what is better from worse, or right from wrong. For without such discernment, how will you make a wise decision? What would your decision or action be based on, if not a discernment? The only alternative to using discernment in decisions and actions is to hold an indifference or an attitude of ‘whatever’ – in the belief that whatever way one chooses is just as good as any other way. This attitude may give a person a sense of freedom and stress-less-ness, but it also feeds on laziness to improve ones’ ability to make good judgments or wise discernments.