An incredible Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, wrote a philosophical novel entitled The Brothers Karamazov. Professor McBriar, the Philosophy 101 teacher I wrote about previously, introduced it to me and I read it with great interest.

In Dostoyevsky’s text, two brothers live out competing philosophies. One believes that Jesus came to teach mankind rules, order, and dogma so that we could simply follow these rules and attain happiness. Many a Christian Church was born of this ilk. The other brother argues that Jesus came to liberate us from ourselves, removing the vice of self-deception to allow our innate goodness to triumph. He argues that it is possible to be something greater than our limitations seem to permit.

These competing thought systems still play out today with uncanny social impact. Is our self-deception, our “less than” thinking, a reflection of our societal thinking or a contributor to it?

Two Ways of Seeing Ourselves

These two thought systems are in stark contrast to each other, but Dostoyevsky proves that through contrast the greatest mysteries can be revealed. He wrote,

“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.”

Are we living out a battle between our ego and its self-deception and a God within who seeks to free our heart?

Personally, I don’t believe God would ever enter such a battle. Battles are flawed, human creations. But are WE, the holder of God’s image and likeness, the betrayer of that image? Is our self-deception itself the devil of whom Dostoyevsky speaks? Could this be the contrast that helps us see something more, something bigger than our ill gotten self limits?

Death, or an Awakening?

One of my favorite concepts spoken of by Jesus is that “We do not know the day nor the hour.” So much of modern Christianity connects this saying to our human death, but did we miss the point? I like to think that Jesus was speaking of the denial of the devil within and our subsequent awakening; an awakening from death, which is the denial of the spirit of love and peace within us, towards a divine life that embraces love and peace. By these means, death leads to new life.

Jesus taught us this and so much more, but perhaps we have overlooked the message of our individual liberation from self-deception by creating a God who is like ourselves, a God of battle, a God who can’t decide (as we can’t decide ourselves). We made God out to be judgemental and vengeful, yet this conflicts with the very idea and practice of love. Living in self-deception (death) we fail to comprehend God (ourselves) as being only love.

Self-deception is the lie we live daily that tells us we are incapable of the same unadulterated love which Jesus manifested and labored to teach that we were capable of as well. If “we know not the day nor the hour,” but do know such time will come, when? Answer: it is for each of us to awaken to this truth at the water cooler, in passing strangers, in our marriage, and amongst our tormentors. It seems it’s a choice we make. Is this the embrace of the “present moment” that unleashes our true selves?  

The Truth Within Us

Dostoyevsky wrote,

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish between the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.

Looking to hire and build your team? Looking for a new relationship? Look for those who recognize there is such an “hour,” here and now!