SPIRITUALITY AND MANIPULATION
Updated: Oct 18
Photo courtesy of David Rodrigues
"If the concept of a spiritual person is the same as a victim, then you must unfailingly immolate yourself to achieve enlightenment?"
Spiritual people are usually mild; meek (weak from a frivolous perspective) and nothing attracts abusers more than someone they perceive as weak. At a subconscious level, they assume the possibility of validating their ego in a very simple way and without resistance, before someone they assume will be unable to defend themselves. There is a logic in all this, the general belief is that if someone considers himself spiritually elevated, he will be disconnected from feelings such as anger or will refrain from any violent action or force; therefore, "stoically" tolerating whatever attack and aggression he finds in his way.
This dangerous fallacy has been nurtured by centuries of religiosity and although within it harbors deep wisdom (to defeat evil with good), its essence has been distorted by ideologies conceived for the domination of the masses. Surely you will remember the words of the young Jewish Rabbi Yeshua: "If your enemy hits you on the cheek, turn the other." From a superficial and religious level of interpretation of the biblical text, it seems to teach people to become victims; slaves, not to defend themselves from abuse and, in the process, to multiply it to the detriment of themselves and others. In other words, it introjects the notion of lowering your guard "if you want to be holy."
Although the phenomenon of slavery, as presented in the New Testament, has to be analyzed in its proper historical and cultural context, the apparent favorable light in which it is shown, without any doubt, was used as the proper justification to promote a culture of submission and obedience on the part of the power structures over the population.
Religion was for millennia the mechanism of social control par excellence. Promoting helplessness as a value greatly favored the ruling elites. Proof of this was the practice of reading specific and decontextualized passages from the Bible, by the foremen to the slaves on the estates, throughout the American continent colonized by the European powers "the new world". The daily task began with a meeting of the slaves (sitting or kneeling) listening carefully to the foreman or a minister on duty reciting and elaborating on the benefits of the following biblical passages:
“Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” (New International Version)
“Titus 2:9-10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (New International Version)
If the concept of a spiritual person is the same as a victim, then you must unfailingly immolate yourself to achieve enlightenment. Is the peaceful resistance of Gandhi or Luther King Jr. (inspired by the premise of turning the other cheek) practical in your day-to-day interactions? It certainly worked for these great men in history, in the process of political and social struggle in their countries and in their very specific historical contexts, but will they be as successful for you, today, as an individual?
"There is nothing sublime or elevated in tolerating abuse in any of its manifestations"
Yeshua's words in relation to the famous passage that we are dealing with are the following:
Mathew 5:38-40 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well." (New International Version)
When analyzing the words of Yeshua, in the biblical text, from a kabbalistic level of interpretation, we find that not only the notion of "turning the other cheek", but his entire Sermon on the Mount (in which he introduces this and other principles) was, like all his message, tendentiously manipulated for ideological and political ends. Thus, not only is the premise of victimizing oneself before the enemy as a means of spiritual elevation false, but it is exactly the opposite of the teaching of the young rabbi, who in a coded language (as was customary in the Jewish mystics of the time in addressing the masses) he was actually teaching that the way to defeat evil is not direct opposition; which would generate more resistance, if not the peaceful and egoless confrontation of who initiates an attack; which doesn't literally mean getting hit on the cheek or putting dignity on the line.
By observing the teachings of a teacher, without paying attention to the actions and context of the teaching and the teacher, we are missing the true message. Yeshua was not, in any way, the simpleton hippie shown by the Western worldview heavily influenced by Hollywood. His message, his attitude, and his behavior were those of a strong leader who believed, if necessary, in forcefully enforcing what he believed in. Can it be consequent, then, on the one hand, with whipping the merchants of the temple by accusing them of "thieves" and, at the same time, teaching their followers to tolerate the abuse of thieves who come to beat them and take their belongings?
The point of balance is in the defense of our physical and moral integrity. The threats and dangers this world offers are very real. Openly exposing yourself to them, in the name of a misguided notion of spirituality, sullies your dignity, and endangers you, and potentially your loved ones as well.
Expressions such as "you are supposed to be religious/spiritual" are always in the mouth of the manipulator who expects from you a passive tolerance of their abuse. Don't be a victim of this universal fallacy. There is nothing sublime or elevated about tolerating abuse in any of its manifestations. You have been taught that it is noble and elevated to accept them with a smile; that you will make the world a better place by resisting "peacefully" (without defending yourself). This is an aberrant fallacy that not only seeks to weaken you in order to dominate you but, in the process, generates precisely the opposite effect of making the world a better place. By accepting abuse helplessly, you will be contributing to its multiplication.