The real adversary in our lives, that proverbial thorn in our side that leaves us aching and angry, and then sends us looking for someone to blame, is not what we have always believed. It is not something "out there." It's something "in here": an intimate enemy.
Everyone senses what that intimate enemy is as soon as he or she hears the expression. We all know that self-tormenting voice of defeat that rings within our own minds. No one is as critical of us as we are of ourselves. We all know how we are besieged by conflicting voices that send us first one way and then another, and finally make us doubt every decision. No one sabotages our plans and happiness as we, ourselves, do. No wonder none of our victories are permanent. Oh, we may have "fixed" an unhappy situation for a time; however, "fixing" any situation (or person) outside does nothing to fix the problem inside. The unhappy nature that created the problem will just create another. It has to, because the inner dissatisfaction that projected itself outward to identify that first problem continues to rule from within.
The unhappiness we feel is the bitter fruit of a lack of self-understanding. In our confusion we do many things that are self-harming. We do not deliberately hurt ourselves in this way; the true cause lies in hidden, unconscious forces. These forces have been referred to in many ways in spiritual studies and classical literature for thousands of years. They've been called negativities, the powers of darkness, opposing forces, even evil spirits, just to name a few. The important issue is not what we call these forces of conflict, but that we recognize the fact of their existence. For regardless of what names we give them, they all refer to one thing: unconscious, mechanical forces that cause human beings to behave like thoughtless machines, driven to action without reflection or compassion. When and wherever we see men and women taken over by something stronger than their ability to resist, whether it be anger, fear, lust, or greed, these hidden forces are at work.
At the same time, there are higher forces that can also be in charge of the individual. Down through the ages these powers have been referred to as the forces of light, goodness, or simply the truth: uplifting words that describe higher thoughts and conscious awareness that empower individuals to act and feel in a way that is genuinely good and true for all involved.
These higher and lower life forces are in a perpetual battle for control of individuals. Portrayals of this battle between good and evil dominate the art and literature of all recorded cultures. But what does it mean for each of us personally? It means that at any moment we have a choice. We can choose to work to stay awake psychologically and spiritually and live from and within a superior self, or we can fall back into a state of psychic slumber whose chief feature is a life of fear, frustration, and fighting.
Many people have unknowingly chosen to stay in psychic slumber for so long that they are no longer aware they even have a choice. Discovering that this choice is ours to make is one of the most exciting revelations greeting the new spiritual student. Unfortunately, as sincere as that student might be, choosing the light is not a one-time decision that solves the matter forever. Until our spiritual strength grows, we are continually pulled back to our old self-defeating self. We must work diligently to catch ourselves in a state of sleep and try to grab and extend moments of consciousness when we can.
Thinking about ourselves in this way, as beings operated upon by forces of either light or darkness, of consciousness or unconsciousness, can help us to understand the battle that wages within us, and that is then projected outward. Dark, negative forces create fear, self-concern, and all the fighting that results. At the same time, the forces of light are trying to show us that there is a higher world where we are always safe and where there are no enemies to battle. It is only wrong thinking that creates our enemies, and that sustains the view that our universe is a hostile place, a battleground designed to thwart our goals and dreams. Higher consciousness shows us that none of this misperception is real. And when we fully understand this, we also understand that there never really was any battle at all, not even between the forces of light and dark. The light is always victorious.