This whole idea of paradox needs to be understood by everybody, really, because we deal with paradoxes in our daily lives. A paradox is two (or more) seemingly true statements that lead to a contradiction or seem to defy logic. The viewpoints appear to be contradictory to each other, but the statements themselves seem true.
For example, one paradox in philosophy is the statement, “you’re whole, complete and perfect” and then we read, “here’s how you heal your imperfections.” A paradox from the Bible might be “you’re made in the image and likeness of the God,” and then we read (in the Bible) we are “made from dust and to dust [we] return,” or that we “act like wild beasts.”
These are the types of statements that are so hard to understand.
When we first get into any philosophy or religious movement, we can get confused by these statements, these paradoxes. We start our reading and find that this was said in one paragraph, and a contradictory thing that also sounds true, is in the following paragraph. Our reaction is bound to be, “What? I’m lost.” Have you ever felt that kind of thing?
At this point I am reminded of what the Buddha said. It is one of the most important things for us to remember in taking up any study.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down through many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, accept it and live up to it.”
Here are two more examples of what I called paradoxes.
“To arrive at that which we know not, we must travel by way which we know not.”
John of the Cross
“God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites. So that you have two wings to fly not one.”
“There is nothing to heal but the thought that there is something to heal.”
I grew up Baptist. By the time I was in high school I wanted to go into the ministry. When I graduated and went off to Baptist college, I decided that wasn’t for me. It was not what I thought and I left, and this started my seeking.
San Diego has this beautiful park called Balboa Park. I would go up there for lunch during the week when I was in my senior year of high school. One day I saw this Chinese man, very short and overweight, sitting next to one of the trees eating lunch. He looked like Buddha. Honestly. What I felt was really funny was that he sat his bowl of noodles on his stomach and then he ate.
I went over to find him one afternoon and I noticed that he was teaching Tai Chi, and I said, “So you teach the Tai Chi.” His reply was “yes, I do.” I asked if I could take a lesson. “Yes,” came a little voice.
So, I started taking it the next day.
I would get there just before lunch so I would be able to have my lesson and then I could sit next to him while he ate and ask him questions.
He came from China where he was raised in a monastery under a vow of silence. Imagine, I did most of the talking. I would ask question after question after question, and usually after about 10 questions he would respond. “No philosophy, no meaning.” I was left hoping and trying to figure out what he really meant. Was he speaking some form of Zen?
He was a paradox in and of himself because he would teach Tai Chi, a meditation in movement and he was from a Shaolin monastery, which are the warrior monks. Doesn’t this seem like a paradox?
A group of us figured out because of the TV show Kung Fu what the Shaolin monastery was all about.
At some point he began teaching classes at a local gym because the number of students had grown so large. One time we asked him if he could perform any of the Shaolin (Kung Fu style) exercises he learned in the monastery. At the same time we actually worried about this 70-something man with a big belly doing these Kung Fu exercises that are very intense and very fast.
He agreed. The group of us watched him as he started through this series of exercises, and in three or four minutes he did 120 of these karate moves flying through the air and doing amazing moves—what I call choreography. He stopped and wasn’t even that out of breath.
He had moved from this monastery when the Communists took over. At that time they were getting rid of all the monasteries in China, and he made it to Hong Kong. He had no occupation or skills so he took a job as a shirt maker. He married and had a family. When the children were old enough, they moved to the United States. Some years later when he lost his wife, he also came to the United States. Again not having a skill, he thought, he began teaching Tai Chi and all its variations including Tai Chi sword and Tai Chi Cane.
When I would ask him questions about the philosophy, he would reply, “No philosophy, just move.” I would ask, “What’s the meaning of Tai Chi?” His reply, “No meaning.” This was not like David Carradine’s character in the Kung Fu television show.
We often find paradoxes, like this one, when we discover new philosophies. When I got into Buddhism, I was confused by the apparent contradictions. When I got into the Taoist movement, I became confused as well.
When I found Science of Mind in 1977 with Rev. Terry Cole Whitaker in San Diego, I felt like I had come home, a common expression for people discovering SOM. I liked it because I wanted answers to questions that traditional religions were not answering. I have a very active mind, and I wanted explanations for things that in the Baptist or Catholic faiths I couldn’t find. They would say, “Don’t worry; you’ll get it someday.” “I’m not worried. I just want to get it now,” was my response. When they said you are made in the image and likeness of God and then followed that with ”made from dust and dust you will return to,” and I saw all this violence in the Bible … well. I was confused.
So Science of Mind helped unravel the mysteries. As I got into my first class in 1978, Basic SOM, I read the textbook and I began seeing contradictions again. In a way it reminded me of the issues I found in other traditions. At first it felt like those of the other sacred texts I’d been reading. Have you had this kind of experience, where you thought you had it and then—wow?
But all the sacred texts written thousands of years ago were written in cultures that were a lot simpler than our culture is today. Many of these were also written in monasteries by people who had no worldly experience, and the translation between their inner experiences and the outside world were not easy to understand. Not only that but these experiences didn’t come through the interpretations and translations in the subsequent years.
For me, since the complexities of our society are almost as big as our population, I wanted something that was current; wanted something that made sense to me here and now in this culture. Do you think we live in a simple culture? No, it’s complex and pluralistic, marked by materialism and so different from our older agrarian roots.
When my Tai Chi master came to Hong Kong, he was given a menu for dinner. He said, “What is this?” They replied that in a restaurant you can choose what you want to eat. His experience was that you were given what you would be eating for a meal. This was a moment of paralysis for him. His culture and this new culture were very different.
Do you ever feel like there are so many choices that you become paralyzed?
I discovered I still had to unlock statements, paradoxes, in Science of Mind, such as “you can have what you need when you don’t need it anymore.” Understanding this just wasn’t as hard as decoding a thousand-year-old set of statements through various translations from the original.
When you do find a paradox, how do you deal with it? How can you take two things that are apparently contradictory and understand them? According to Albert Einstein, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” That would mean we can’t solve the paradox from the level that sees it as a paradox. We must go higher!
So the paradox we mentioned before, “You are whole, complete and perfect—and here is how you heal,” requires you to step up a level to understand the paradox. “Whole, complete and perfect” is referring to who you are as a spiritual being, your higher Self, or True Essence. Whereas, “how to heal” is in reference to your mind/body field. This field is where the healing is needed.
You need to move to a higher level. When we understand the higher level of things, the bigger picture of things, a lot of these paradoxes resolve themselves.
For example, suppose you are driving through your state and you come to the small town with two policemen at the intersection and you ask how to get to a particular place. One says to turn left, and the other one says to turn right. Confusing? Yes.
When you arrive at the place you wanted to go, you find that both highways lead there. So, at the level of asking the two policeman and getting two answers was a paradox. Moving above the paradox—in this case meant seeing that both highways ended in the same place—is understanding all sides.
Yet in many cases we cannot see the end result from this paradox position. The left brain, which relies on rational, sense data, cannot compute.
Another example: we can have peace on this planet any time. But we all have to choose it. We all have to choose!
We have a stunning report that came out about the amount of food consumed in the United States. If the rest of the world consumed at the same rate, we would require nine planet Earths to sustain ourselves. Shocking! That’s just absurd.
It’s hard sometimes to sit down and recognize that you can be quiet. If you had an on-off switch to the mind that would help discover a universe within, that is far greater than anything you could possibly find outside.
The carrot to sitting quietly is that everything is possible inside, long before it’s possible outside. There is a power within you and you can use it in your daily life. Anytime you want to, but you have to connect to the source of that power because if you try to heal yourselves from the place of being in the mind, it doesn’t work.
When you recognize the source of who you are, the truth of who you are, you come from that place. That changes it all because the healing is a replication of this pre-existing wholeness (pattern). And this healing has to become whole, complete and perfect in the outer world.
The biggest paradox that you have to understand is what I have been talking about: the truth is, the source is within you. That’s the greatness of everything. That’s the power of everything, and that is what generates the universe. It’s not just in some people; it’s in everyone awaiting our use of it.
By Laurence De Rusha, author, inspirational speaker, minister