“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” Matthew 3:2, 4:17/Mark 1:15
The word, repent, here, actually comes from the Greek word, metanoia, which means a “turning about” or a complete reversal of one’s self and one’s life. In this case, it would mean turning away from our identification with our outer mask and confronting what lies behind the mask. John A. Sanford calls this our “inner adversary or enemy.”
We all carry an adversary within us: the part of ourselves that contradicts the outer front. It thinks the thoughts we do not want to acknowledge as our own; it has feelings and urges we cannot openly express because it would throw into jeopardy the egocentric role and image we have assumed for ourselves. It is our Mr. Hyde.
“The relationship between the inner enemy and the mask is one of diametrical opposition,” Sanford says. “The more we pretend to be this or that, the more the enemy will be the opposite. Therefore, it is only as we become conscious of the mask we wear that we can hope to make peace with ourselves.”
So, in reality, he says, our biggest enemy is our unconsciousness of the mask we are wearing. We can never come to terms with ourselves and be open to the new, creative life of the kingdom unless this unconsciousness is overcome.
Often our inner enemy will appear in our dreams as figure of the same sex as the dreamer, usually seen as the opposite of the mask. A man with a thirst for power might see the enemy as a weak man in his dreams. A woman who has repressed her sexual-erotic side might see the enemy as a harlot. On the other hand, a hardened criminal might see the enemy as a gentle, loving figure.
“The inner enemy is neither good nor bad in itself,” Sanford says, “but is that within us which contradicts whatever conscious attitude we have adopted.”
People are so reluctant to see themselves as they really are, and to face that inner contradiction, that it is only by great effort that people can be brought to self-confrontation. So it is that the majority of people stick to the wide way of unconsciousness rather than taking the narrow path to self-confrontation.
Sanford says that ignoring the inner enemy will not resolve the problem because the enemy will now appear in the guise of other people, and the hostility that originates within ourselves is transferred to those people.
“Whatever we have ignored that is vital and important to our total personality is seen in others,” he says. “So, the beginning of the solution to the problem of the enemy is to recognize it within ourselves. We carry the enemy in our hearts. We hate the enemy because it contradicts us.”
The fear that if we acknowledge the enemy we will be taken over by it completely is unfounded. In fact, the exact opposite is true. To acknowledge the enemy as our own is to begin to be released from its power and to find its constructive side.
“The inner enemy includes essential parts of ourselves that have been excluded from our conscious personality development,” says Sanford. “Now they can be included in the conscious personality instead of being relegated to the hell of being split off in the unconscious.”
It is not the enemy who is evil; it is our unawareness of the enemy that creates evil.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.” Matthew 7:1-2/Luke 6:37.
Judging others is always dehumanizing, Sanford says, and it is an example of out inflation as well, since it depends on our presumptuous assumption that we are in a position to pass judgment on the life and soul of another.
“It is because we see in the other person what we hate in ourselves that our judgment is such an unconscious act,” he says.
This is why our judgment of others always returns to us: in judging them we are, in effect, judging something we are unaware of within ourselves. In this case, it is essential we strive for self-acceptance. Just being aware of that aspect of ourselves, and accepting it, goes a long way toward self-healing and self-actualization.
In the end, our wholeness will be extremely paradoxical. As Jesus says, “cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16
Like the serpent, we will be familiar with things of the earth, our ego. On the other hand, we will be innocent as doves because we will be conscious of our own motives and our own earth-nature, and in this way will remain innocent.
Next Week: The Role of Evil and Sin in The Way