Some thoughts on evil… (This is a long one.)
It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A good day to think about evil.
We need to begin to think maturely about evil, to form a conscious and active relationship to evil.
Given that as small children we were not allowed to touch, hear, taste, see or smell “dirty” or “disgusting” things, we have grown up thinking that we are good and safe only if we avoid all the things that might be untouchable, distasteful, hard to hear or reek with foulness. We close our eyes/minds to thinking about evil.
Evil feels to our immature consciousness as if it is about blame, shame and guilt. It feels mysterious and unknowable. We feel we must keep evil at a distance or we will be punished.
As adults we scapegoat others. We attach evil to others and drive them out of the community of humankind or execute them. We believe if we kill an evil person for doing evil things, we rid our world and our future of evil.
Hollywood has entertained us with our desires to kill or avoid evil. Occasionally, we see on a screen a suggestion of our relationship to evil as when Luke Skywalker learns Darth Vader is his father, but even then Luke kills his father.
It is not who is evil but what is evil and what is our relationship to evil?
We believe if we avoid perceiving evil, it will cease to exist when actually evil thrives on our lack of attention.
If we can’t face evil in ourselves and in others and in the world, if we can’t imagine taking responsibility for our relationships to evil what hope is there for the future? We remain manipulated by evil. We remain stuck in our naivete and evil runs our life.
If in our moral space we keep evil at a distance, we can’t connect with it consciously or define it or see when and how it penetrates our thoughts, feelings and actions.
I have found over the years I have been reflecting on my many relationships to evil in all it’s shapeshifting forms that the reflections give me more moral stability and moral freedom in my choices. I feel more real having a clearer sense of my shadows. It nurtures me more than false feeling found in maintaining my appearance of being good.
The work of personal and moral development is not about walking in the light of goodness, it’s about slogging through the swamp to find the demons and dragons of our inner life.
Here are three manifestations of evil that show up in our social interactions.
Any attempt to influence, coerce or control another person or group of persons where there is potential to
- cause harm
- violate the integrity of the other
- disrespect the other’s differences
Now I am a parent of two grown children. Reflecting on my parenting (long before I began to look at evil from a mature consciousness) I see many times when I thought I was being a good parent raising a good child, but I was not thinking of the lasting harm I was doing, how I was violating their emerging integrity or my insensitivity to how different they were from me.
My intentions were never evil. Of course, not. Yet I had so little consciousness that all my parental goodness was often a foil for evil, because I had never explored evil in a thoughtful way.
As adults, we cannot develop morally, without attending thoughtfully to our manifold relationships to evil.
In this Imagine Self Academy course, I present some observations I have made about evil and our inner life. I will share what I sense to be difficult, humbling and liberating questions about the demons and dragons we find dwelling in our soul and in the soul of the world.
This is not “Evil for Dummies.” It is a course on thinking about ” What is Evil? and What is My Relationship to Evil?” for those who strive to be fully and powerfully human, to courageously build their personal bridge between spirit and matter, good and evil, life and death. It is not a course for those who find comfort in a belief system or dogma that says God will protect us and punish them. It is a course for those who want to grapple with big moral questions that may be unanswerable in any certain way but who feel if we don’t ask these questions, if we don’t struggle with our doubts, if we don’t stand on the threshold, we are fully human.
I will offer you some perspectives that will encourage you to find your own evolving thoughts on evil.
In writing the previous paragraph I had two closing thoughts:
When we strive, really strive for moral development we will engage with evil with every step we take but we will serve evil less and less.
And then the bridge metaphor made me think of the nursery rhyme/song, London Bridge is Falling Down. The full version is stanza after stanza of how we build London Bridge up again! The nursery rhyme teaches children all about how our soul overcomes the evil it falls into over and over again.