Our mind can only operate within the framework of what is often called “dualism,” which is perceiving the world through a grid of binary opposition: up/down; right/left; good/bad; happy/sad; cold/hot; day/night; etc…
Dualistic thinking is not a problem when it comes to basic human cognitive functioning. However, there is a limit to what can be known in this framework, and when we impose it on spiritual truth it becomes a problem.
Perhaps one of the most dualistic views of the Christian religion is: Heaven/Hell. In this dualistic understanding, Heaven is viewed as a perfect state of being or a perfect paradise with no pain, no suffering, no disturbance, no discomfort, no difficulty, no problems, no hardships… just complete perfection. On the other hand, Hell represents the opposite – eternal conscious torment.
Can you see the dualism in that? It’s one or the other – Heaven or Hell.
Jesus did not subscribe to this dualistic view. The primary message of Jesus was, “The kingdom of God has come.” Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was here and now. In other words, God’s kingdom – the reality of love, peace, freedom, well-being, wholeness, security, contentment – is present and available in the context of the human reality and condition. This is a non-dualistic truth that Jesus taught. Our mind can’t grasp this because we think of our options as:
a) Be on earth and be miserable
b) Die and go to Heaven and be perfectly happy
c) Die and go to Hell and be eternally tormented
Jesus says, d) None of the above. Jesus’ answer was living in the reality of God’s kingdom HERE and NOW. If you took Jesus’ words to be true, leaving this world would actually be leaving God’s Kingdom because Jesus said the Kingdom of God has come. That’s good news! You don’t have to wait to die and go to Heaven for the good stuff!
But the mind can’t accept this. Why? Because it can only comprehend one or the other. It can’t conceive of both at the same time.
Jesus main message was, “Repent for the kingdom of God has come.” The word “repent” does not mean to be sorry for your past wrongs or to turn away from a life of sin. The word “repent” (metanoia) means “beyond the mind” or beyond the way we typically process reality. In other words, Jesus said that the kingdom of God is here but you can’t get to it in the same way you are accustomed to knowing things or figuring them out. Metanoia involves a deep inner shift in terms of how one perceives what is real.
The attraction of the dualistic view on this matter is that you don’t have to do anything and can absolve yourself of personal responsibility. Right? All you have to do is die and go to Heaven. This is why Jesus said that the path to truth is a narrow road. People prefer the path of least resistance, and are willing to suffer terribly in the process. We all know Frost was right, taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.