More than 30 years ago, an encounter with a friend caused me to start pondering the nature of negativity. I had met one of the nicest people I knew for lunch and in spite of some great conversation along the way almost every one of her comments about the restaurant, the menu, the staff, the noise level, and the food were negative. It was as if she saw the absolute worst rather than anything positive. This seemed somehow disconnected to me, because this individual was one of the nicest, kindest, most caring people I knew. Not long afterwards, I arrived early to a weekly spiritual discussion meeting and encountered another early arriver—someone who was a longtime enthusiast of both the Cayce readings and the spiritual growth material. For the next 15 minutes, this person gave me her observations of what was most challenging about nearly every other member of our group. I started to wonder, “Are some spiritual people prone to being negative?”
Time passed, and I was having lunch with a minister who had just had a challenging encounter with “one of the most-committed and negative people” in his congregation. Part of his frustration, he admitted, was that “for some reason she is always seeing the glass as half empty.”
After these experiences, I began to notice many more instances of people (including myself) being too critical or readily seeing the negative side of things. On one occasion, I was leading a speaker training class at A.R.E. and found myself keeping a list of “everything the speaker was doing wrong” and overlooking everything that the person was doing right—and this individual was doing a lot of things right and would eventually go on to give a number of lectures for A.R.E. I started looking through the Edgar Cayce readings on topics related to criticism and negativity and found that there was a wealth of information. In fact, under the topical category of “Quotes and Similes” there are more than 20 files of information on some of the most repeated sayings in the Cayce database. “Condemn no one” is one of those often-repeated statements in the files. In fact, ninety-nine Cayce readings index this phrase; a few examples follow:
See the good, then, in every experience. Condemn not if you would not be condemned. Show mercy, patience and justice to all …
-- Edgar Cayce reading 361-9
Keep thyself from censure. Condemn none. Forgive as ye would be forgiven. Learn, in deed and in truth, the great commandment; that if ye would know the truth which would make thee free, ye must love thy fellow man as ye would have thy Father, thy God love thee.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 2403-1
Then condemn none. For there are universal and spiritual laws that are a part of the self as well as of the universal consciousness. For, like begets like in every phase of material, mental and spiritual experience.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 2560-1
First, analyze self and self's purposes. Know, study, analyze what is thy ideal – in body, in mind, in spirit. Not as to what ye would like for thy neighbor to be like; not what ye would desire thy friend or thy foe to think; not what ye would like for thy Creator to do – but rather ‘What sort of neighbor am I?’ And ‘Do I live that I would have my neighbor be? Do I think, do I act in a way and manner that I would wish my friend, my foe, to do toward me? Is my ideal indeed in Him, who is the way, the truth, the light?’
Then, study to show thyself approved unto Him, a workman not ashamed; never condemning, but living that as ye would have others do.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 2326-1
This last quote is especially interesting in that it redirects our inclination to critique others and the world around us inwardly instead of outwardly: “What sort of neighbor am I?” “Do I act in a way that I wish others would act toward me?” It is also reminiscent of the biblical stance of attending to one’s own issues rather than trying to correct the issues of another: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Luke 6:41; also, Matthew 7:3)
All of the above has contributed to my growing conviction that there is a process in personal enlightenment that everyone encounters on the spiritual path having to do with our personal perception. I have come to call this process “negative imaging,” and it works something like this:
As we begin to work on ourselves spiritually, we somehow attune to that spark of divinity that remains with us, and focus on growing toward our own “pattern of perfection.” Cayce called this the Christ Consciousness or the awareness of the soul’s oneness with God—a universal consciousness that resides as a pattern within every individual. As this begins to occur, we become more and more aware of the things in the world that are not perfect, that are less than their potential. At this point, rather than looking at the outer world and everyone in it and compiling a listing of how this is not quite ideal, the challenge that is suggested by the readings is that we need to redirect our perception inward: “Where is it that I am falling short of my potential?” “How can I help transform this relationship?” “What am I not doing that I need to do?” “How could I be a better channel of service at this time?” “Lord, what would you have me do?” In spite of the fact that we may be predisposed to see what is wrong with the outer world, we need to instead look within and see where we can improve ourselves.
Although not using the term “negative imaging,” the readings certainly support this idea. For example, counsel given to a 63-year-old editor of a religious publication was as follows:
Unless you can be just as forgiving, unless you can find it just as easy to forget slights and slurs and things that would make afraid those who would judge others. For with what measure ye mete, it is measured to thee again. Even as He, the Master gave, the faults ye find in others are reflected in thine own mirror of life. And as He gave, Cast the beam out of thine eye that ye may see to take the mote from thy brother's eye.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 3395-2
On another occasion, when a group reading was requested by members of a Methodist Church, Cayce recommended the following:
In analyzing or giving that which may be helpful for this group, many personalities are to be taken into consideration. This should be the ideal of each member of such a group; that the personality of the Christ-Consciousness may be the individuality of each group; also each individual in the group …
Thus as the individuals in such a group read, analyze, study and apply those tenets, those truths that were presented by the Christ, they find that the Christ-Consciousness must become an individual and yet a living thing within their own individual consciousnesses. As with Him, He found no fault in others. This should be the first premise, then, of each individual; less and less condemning of others and more and more of self manifesting that love shown by the Father through the Son in the material world; that man, through this pattern, through this picture of God, may become a living example, may walk closer in that way of less condemning.
For as each individual realizes, as these tenets may be analyzed, if God had condemned – what opportunity would there be for man to find his way back to God? Thus each individual must do unto others as he would have his Brother, the Christ, his God, the Father, do unto him.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 5758-1
When a 31-year-old publicist sought guidance from a reading, Cayce counseled that the things he found to be as faults in others were actually the things he could not endure in himself:
Hence that as given first and foremost learn to be patient, not only with self. For that one cannot endure within itself it finds as a fault in others. That thou findest as a fault in others is thine own greatest fault, ever!
-- Edgar Cayce reading 815-2
In terms of our personal relationships with one another, the Cayce readings suggest that whenever we have an emotional response to another person—positive or negative—we are seeing a part of ourselves. The idea is that somehow we are predisposed to seeing our personal strengths and weaknesses in other people.
Honestly, I had a hard time with this concept until it finally occurred to me that even my own best friend had someone who did not like him, and even my “worst enemy” had people who loved and admired that individual. Why? It is because we see our own weaknesses and strengths reflected in other people. In other words, if you want to see what you need to work on spiritually, look at the people in your life that drive you crazy. Conversely, if you want to see what you have to work with, look at the people that you really love and admire.
One of the early disciplines I worked with when trying to overcome negative thinking about an individual occurred at a former place of employment. This individual and I did not get along very well. At first, I did not understand why no one else in the office was as irritated by this person as I was. Somehow their overall perception of her was different then my own. Because of the readings suggesting that we transform our challenging relationships, I decided to try to change this one. My goal was to somehow find something positive to think about this person each time I saw her. Each day, I made myself think of at least one thing, even if it was only that her attire looked great, or her hair looked nice, or she had told an interesting story. Every day when I saw this person, I made myself think of something positive. This was never spoken; it was only in my head. And I practiced for a number of weeks until one day I noticed a change in her! She was more outgoing and friendly toward me! She included me in her conversations when she talked! She came across as a co-worker who liked me, rather than someone who was avoiding me. To be sure, I don’t think she became a different person. Instead, I think my perception changed. I saw her as someone who liked her would see her.
One of the most challenging disciplines you can try is to go for an entire day without having a negative thought or a criticism about anyone or anything! And when you mess up, start over. It’s not easy but when you have done it successfully, you will find that the substance of that day stands out as one where you were somehow more in tune with your own best self or somehow saw others just as the Divine sees them.
The purpose of us having negative or critical thoughts is for us to become cognizant of the fact that there is still work to be done within ourselves so that we can move ever-closer to manifesting that potential that resides within each and every one of us.