The great value an exhaustively repeated negative behavior pattern offers is the irrefutable evidence it provides for learning the law of cause and effect. At a certain point, after finding ourselves in the same place, after repeating the same set of behaviors, we can say to ourselves with confidence and certainty: “If I say, do or think such and such, I will feel frustrated, disappointed, angry, hopeless and depressed.”
Of course, as St. Paul humbly admitted, knowing the law of cause and effect is no guarantee that the same demon compulsion won’t steal the show again and again and again!
Nonetheless, realizing the law of cause and effect with respect to a behavioral pattern is the first step in overcoming ignorance, what the Buddists call avidya. Overcoming ignorance is the only way to change our karma, if we understand karma to be the inevitable outcome of repetitive behavior. It might feel like punishment, but in truth karma rests completely in our own hands as the law of cause and effect demonstrates: repeat the same behavior, cause the same outcome.
If we remain ignorant of the outcomes of our behaviors we stay glued to them. Each day we wake up to our revitalized, reincarnated selves, still bound to the karma of the ignorance of the self we went to sleep with. This endless round of repetition is, however, essential, as each revolution of the wheel accrues irrefutable evidence of the karmic law of cause and effect.
Some day, in some life, it will serve to awaken us from our sleepy repetitive selves with knowledge and a readiness to change. We will simply know too much to be fooled once again. We know where it definitely leads and we don’t need to go there one more time. We have too much experience to take the bait. The tasty morsel or seductive promise of the entity—the devil behind the compulsion—is no longer interesting. The entity is dismissed, freed to move on to new life, mission accomplished, and so are we. Ironically, the entity is a slave to our own awakening and remains bound to us until we can honestly tell it to leave.
These devils, or petty tyrants as the shamans of Ancient Mexico called them, are actually our liberators. Those shamans sought to come under the influence of such devilish petty tyrants so that they might shed any vestige of self-importance, a critical component of achieving total freedom and fully awakening to our true selves and fullest potential.
Petty tyrants come in many forms, visible and invisible. Visible tyrants are those in our lives—family members, bosses, politicians, abusers, etc. Invisible petty tyrants show up as compulsions, overwhelming moods and emotions, limiting beliefs, and spellbinding projections that land on people and objects in the world.
What all tyrants have in common is their ability to force us into repetitive negative behavior patterns—they bind our lives; they control our karma. They attack our most vulnerable selves, the core of our self worth, without mercy!
We feel stuck, worthless, hopeless, out of control, overly in control, helpless, frozen, fatalistic, or even suicidal/homicidal in reaction to our tyrants. How can we possibly evolve in such a circumstance? How can we ever be free? So begins the cycle of repetitive negative behavior in thought, word, and deed that begins our training in the law of cause and effect. These negative patterns of self-hate and hate of others, of self-imprisonment and imprisonment of others, might last a lifetime or perhaps many lifetimes, however, our wheel of repetition is ultimately our wheel of liberation.
Once we learn the law of cause and effect, we are freed to detach from our devilish tyrant that has lost its power over us. Detachment means that our power is withdrawn from the tyrant; it can no longer hold us in check. We are then freed to fully move on to greater fulfillment, karma erased.
If we don’t feel compassion for our disempowered tyrant/devil that has held our power for us until we were ready to claim it through choice and change, we are caught in another permutation of the same karma, negative pattern revisited. Anger at the tyrant binds our energy to it, and so we are still not free.
True freedom means no attachment whatsoever to the energy of the tyrant, only gratitude for a job well done. Ultimate freedom lies in sympathy for the devil, as we both part ways and move away into new life.
Here is a rendition of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil by Rickie Lee Jones.