Other Articles by Chris Walsh

No Paradigm

This article displays something about Chris Walsh's attitude to psychotherapy.

Therapeutic Alliance

The Therapeutic Alliance with Those Having Both Substance Abuse & Major Mental Illness.

Mindfulness In Individual Cognitive Therapy

Taking advantage of the recent acceptance of mindfulness meditation by cognitive therapists, Chris presented this paper to the 28th National Conference for the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy in April 2005.

Chris's Mindfulness Site

Carmen's Dream

A case study integrating contellation work with ongoing therapy.


Bert Hellinger

Constellations for Organisations

The Adulteress

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This is the Bert Hellinger’s version of the famous bible story of the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus into openly flouting the law(John 8:1-11). They are about to stone an unnamed adulteress, who is often identified as Mary Magdalene; the same Mary Magdalene who the Bible reported to be the first person to have seen Jesus after he had risen from the dead. (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18).

Hellinger uses this story to highlight the all encompassing nature of the compassionate heart. So, in this version, Jesus’ compassion includes not only the adulteress, but also the Pharisees and the adulteress’s husband. This is very similar to the compassion expresssed in Thic Nhat Hahn's poem The Door of Compassion

The Adulteress

In Jerusalem , early in the morning, a man came down from the Mount of Olives and went to the temple. Inside, he sat down in a middle of a circle of learned and righteous men and began to teach. Then they brought to him a woman, set her in the circle, and said, "This woman was taken in adultery. The Law of Moses says that she must be stoned. What have you to say about it?" But they were not really concerned about either the woman or what she had done. What they were really interested in was setting a trap for this man who was known to help people and was famous for his leniency. His clemency outraged them and made them indignant. And they felt that the law gave them the right to destroy not only the woman, but also the man, if he did not share their indignation, although he had nothing to do with the deed.

Here we have two groups of offenders. To one of them belongs the woman: she was an adulteress, and the righteous and indignant people say she is a sin­ner. To the other group belong the indignant people: in their hearts they are murderers, but they call themselves just and righteous. Both groups are burdened by the same harsh law, the only difference being that with regard to the first group, the law calls a bad deed wrong, and with regard to the second group, it calls an even worse deed right. But the man they were trying to trap eluded them all: the adulteress, the murderers, the law, the judges, and the temptation to wag his finger. In front of them all, he bent down to the earth. And when the righteous and indignant men failed to take his hint and continued asking him to tell them what he was thinking, he straightened up and said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And again he stooped down and wrote in the sand.

All at once, everything changed: for the heart knows more than that which the law permits or commands. The indignant men left the temple one by one, the youngest bringing up the rear. The man respected their shame and continued writing in the sand. Men they had gone, he straightened up and asked the woman, "Here are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?" "No one, Lord,” she replied. Then, as if he were of the same mind as the righteous and indignant ones, he said, "I do not condemn you either.”

He was reported to have added, "Go, and sin no more," but those words, as biblical scholars have proved, were added later, probably by someone who felt the love and greatness of the story to be more than he or she could bear.

There's another point of interest in the story. Neither the righteous and indignant men nor the story itself mentions the real victim: the woman's husband. Had the righteous and indignant men stoned the woman, her husband would have lost his wife twice over. As it was, without the interference of righteous and indignant men, the couple had a chance to deal with their problem themselves and to achieve reconcilia­tion through love, and perhaps to make a fresh start. Had the righteous and indignant men been allowed to come between them, this solution would have been impossible, and not only the woman, but also her hus­band, would have been worse off.

So it is sometimes with abused children, when they fall into the hands of morally indignant people rather than loving ones. Righteous people are not really concerned about the children. The measures they recom­mend are the products of their indignation, and they only make things harder for the victims. A child, although she was a victim, often remains tied to and loyal to the offender. So if her father is persecuted and morally and physically destroyed, the child also dies morally and physi­cally, or one of her children atones later on. That is the curse of indig­nation and the curse of the law that serves as justification.

What, then, should caring and enlightened therapists do? They must reject any dramatization of the events and look for simple ways in which both the victim and the offender can begin anew, but with more insight and love than before. Instead of looking for a so called higher law, enlightened therapists look only at the actual people, victims and offenders, and take their place among them. They know that only the law seems to be unbending and eternal; on earth everything is transitory, and the end is followed by a new beginning. They stay humble, and have love for everyone, for the victims, for the offenders, for the secret instigators behind it all, and for the avengers. Have I made the attitude clear?


FOOTNOTE (by Chris Walsh):

It is interesting to note that there are many people, who can’t cope with the level of compassion and wisdom shown by Bert Hellinger here. They then confuse compassion for a perpetrator, with tolerance of the act of perpetration. Even worse they may think of it as collaboration.

It is in fact clear in the telling of this story, that the best interests of the victim are uppermost in Hellinger’s mind. He not only wants to protect them from the perpetrators, but also from the righteous and indignant who through ignorance and arrogance often compound the problem.

So for example, it is often necessary to separate the victim from the perpetrator so the abuse cannot continue. This step can be enacted skillfully and with dignity; just as the adulteress was separated from her would be assailants in this story. So wise compassion includes protection of the victim from further abuse, while maintaining the stance that Hellinger recommends.

Therefore the sage takes care of all people
And abandons no one
And takes care of all things
And Abandons Nothing

This is called "following the light"

LaoTsu: Tao Te Ching, 27

Bert Hellinger pp243
LOVE’S OWN TRUTHS, Bonding and Balancing in Close Relationships, 2001
Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, Inc.
Phoenix , AZ , USA