An Eye for an Eye


An Eye for an Eye

In the context of opportunities for a deeper life, Peter Ouspensky offered an interpretation of the famous Old Testament phrase—“A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, a life for a life”—that I find far more interesting than the call to proportionate vengeance.  He points out that this phrase actually describes three stages of human evolution.  First, our baby teeth are pushed aside by a second set of teeth which accompany us into adulthood (a tooth for a tooth).  Second, our childish perspective is replaced with one that “sees” the importance of others’ concerns (an eye for an eye).  Third, we are invited to abandon our old life and to embark upon a new way of being (a life for a life).

These evolutions in our humanity are called for on Earth right now, if we are to survive as a species, let alone evolve individually into compassionate beings.  What was formerly advocated as a shift in individual perspective—allowing us to realize our potential in this lifetime and to possibly move beyond it—is now a dire necessity for the planet itself.

The “eye” which sees only our personal opportunities to amass wealth must evolve into one that is able to see the advantage of cooperation and of sharing.  Anyone who has sat with a child whose fever won’t break, or shares part of their wealth with others down on their luck, has had some practice exchanging an egocentric way of looking at life for one which understands that “we can’t take it with us anyway–so let’s leave things in good shape for those who come after us.”

As our relationship with the larger world that we share with others begins to shift and we glimpse that our pain and loneliness are rooted in preoccupation with our own desires and fears, it becomes possible to understand what the third stage of evolution, exchanging a life for a life, might mean.

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