Why It’s Scarier to Think in Gray Than In Black-and-white

Michele Koh Morollo
5 min readJan 28, 2024

Non-dualistic spirituality, third eye openings, ego death, and learning to swim in “grayland”.

Photo by Alex Padurariu on Unsplash

I have heard people, myself included, complain about how the “problem” with religion, politics, media, the different generations, and the world at large, is dualistic thinking. At the heart of conflict and warfare is our propensity to think in absolutes, to cling to our own belief systems while vilifying belief systems that contradict our own. Dualistic thinking is self-righteousness in action. “I am good, you are bad”, “I am right, you are wrong”, “This is beneficial, that is detrimental”, “This is an asset, that is a liability”, “I failed, I succeeded”, “It’s all or nothing”.

Our need to see ourselves as good, as righteous, noble, whole, as having chosen the correct path, spouse, job, way of life, is so powerful that it blinds us to the fact that the idea of goodness or righteousness is subjective and ever-changing. What may seem cruel in one circumstance (say killing a kitten) might be kind in another (killing a kitten who is in immense pain but unable to die). The field of ethics — a branch of philosophy that “involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior” — has given us an extensive lexicon (eco-friendly versus eco-unfriendly, moderate versus fundamentalist, organic versus inorganic, woke versus prehistoric, addictive versus recreational, legal versus illegal, feminist versus fourth wave feminist, socialist versus capitalist, conservative versus liberal, atheist versus theist, rich versus poor) that we can conveniently use to place individuals, groups, and ideas into boxes. The trouble with boxes is that while they create order and make things look neat, their job is to segregate, divide, and isolate. Boxes separate rather than unify, confine rather than liberate.

I’m reading a book called “The Naked Now: Learning to See As the Mystics See” by Franciscan priest and author Richard Rohr. In it, Rohr speaks a great deal about non-dualistic spirituality, and how non-dualistic, or non-binary perception is the equivalent of what the Eastern esoteric and mystery schools refer to as the Third Eye. Quite simply put, to open one’s Third Eye, or to “be enlightened” requires a shift from thinking in black-and-white to thinking in gray. The mystic’s…