What is evil?

 

What is evil? What does it refer to?

As usual, there are many answers – each with some value.

Personally, I don’t find the word very useful and rarely if ever use it, apart from when I explore it in inquiry or as I do here.

So with that caveat, here are some answers to the question: what is evil?

The easy answer is that nothing is inherently evil, and nothing is what we call it. Evil is in the label. The idea of evil is created from a mental overlay.

We could also say that it’s intentionally causing harm to others, whether as a byproduct of getting to another goal or for its own sake. This is tricky since we all cause harm to other living beings in our daily life – especially to non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations.

And that’s a reminder that what’s evil depends on who we are. If we are a human, then evil can be seen as what other humans do to us when they act in ways that systematically harm us. If we are a non-human or an ecosystem, we can say that the current behavior of humans is evil since it systematically harms non-human life. Animals are imprisoned and killed just so they can provide food or other products to humans, and they often suffer immensely in the process. Ecosystems are systematically damaged and destroyed so what’s extracted from them can temporarily support human activity. And if we are any being in the future – any future human or non-human being or ecosystem – then the current human behavior is evil. It’s destructive for all future generations. This means that, in a sense, we are all evil. Each of us is evil to someone. And our current human society, the way it’s organized, functions in an evil way. If we chose to use the word evil, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, we have to include this view.

And, related to “it’s all in the label”, evil – as anything else we see in ourselves or the wider world – is a projection. It’s an idea we put on something in the world. And the idea, as any other idea, is made up by our own mind by a combination of mental images, words, and sensations. We may feel that something is evil, because it’s connected to sensations in our body that makes the idea seem solid, real, and perhaps even true. And that, in turn, is happening because we have learned it from our parents, friends, subcultures, and our culture in general. (That’s probably why I don’t find the word very useful or compelling: I didn’t grow up in a culture where it was used much or was seen as meaningful.)

In a more pragmatic sense, what we conventionally label evil in humans is often their reaction to their own trauma and pain. Hurt people hurt people. When we see someone acting in a way we can call evil, it’s often because they themselves have deep wounds they don’t know how to deal with in a constructive way, so they react to their deep pain by inflicting pain on others. Or, at the very least, by not caring very much if they inflict pain on others. (This gives us some understanding and empathy for people acting in this way but doesn’t in any way condone their actions. It’s still our duty to do what we can to stop harmful actions.)

This lack of caring can also happen if we are very removed from the consequences of our actions. If most humans today can be seen as evil from the perspective of non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations, it’s not because we wish to inflict pain and suffering on these. It’s because the consequences of our actions are often far removed from us. We don’t see the consequences and don’t get immediate feedback. And it’s also because we live and operate within a social system that’s created in a world (in the 1800s) where the resources and garbage-absorption capacity of the natural world seemed infinite and is still – for the most part – considered infinite in our economic system. It’s not, in itself, evil, but the consequences can certainly be experienced and seen as evil.

How can I work with this in my own life?

I can explore my ideas of evil in this way, and through inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries, Big Mind process etc.). I can find in myself the qualities and characteristics I see as evil, and see “out there” in the world and other people. (Even if what I find are perhaps much smaller or even just seeds and potentials.) I can put myself in the place of others – including non-human species, ecosystems, and future generations – and ask myself how they would see my behaviors, and perhaps use that as a correction. I can inform myself about the far-reaching and distant consequences of my actions and use this as a correction and guide for my own life. I can invite in healing for my own traumas and wounds so I am less likely to create and operate from ideologies aimed at protecting me from my own pain (racism, sexism, uncaring anthropocentrism, general dehumanization etc.), or lash out when my pain is triggered and harm myself and others.

Personally, I find my actions are evil from the perspective of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. It’s not intended to be evil, but I know it can easily be seen that way. After all, I operate within a system that doesn’t take the long term and distant effects of our actions much into consideration. It’s not incorporated, because it didn’t need to be when our system was developed. I also know I my actions have caused suffering for others, especially when I have not been able to be completely honest or in my own integrity because of my own pain and fears. That is something I am working on, both in terms of finding healing for my issues creating this behavior and preventing it by being honest, taking care of my own needs (some of it has happened because I didn’t), and be more in integrity.

Evil?

 

Some people like to use the word evil.

It’s easy to understand why.

It’s part of our culture. Christianity likes to do the same. (Even if it initially was to discredit competing religions.)

It makes it simple.

We don’t have to look for complex answers to why people behave the way they do.

We can use simplistic solutions. We can tell ourselves that everything will be good if we just get rid of the evil people.

We can put it on others and keep ourselves safely on the good side.

And yet, it is an overly simplistic term. It robs us of the opportunity to a more real understanding which can help us deal with it in a more constructive way.

And that too seems very obvious, but it apparently isn’t to everyone yet.

So what’s behind what looks like evil?

One answer is trauma. When we are traumatized – whether it’s from social conditions or personal interactions – one way to deal with it is to react to it through dehumanizing others and using verbal or physical violence. And that can certainly appear as “evil”.

So what’s the solution? In some ways, the solution is also simple. It is to create a society where people’s basic needs are taken care of. Where food, shelter, education, and health is taken care of. Where there is less inequality globally and within regions. Where people who suffer receive help to heal and get back on their feet.

This is already in place in some countries, mainly in Northern Europe, although there is always room for improvement. To have this happen globally is a taller order, partly because many are opposed to it.

Some are opposed to it since it benefits some to have a great deal of inequality. The current neoliberal ideology, adopted by many in industrialized countries, ensures continued and perhaps widening inequality.

And ironically, some who are traumatized adopt a strong us vs. them ideology which prevents them from supporting policies benefiting everyone – including themselves. (We see this in the US, including among many current Trump supporters.)

Note: I am not blind to the irony in calling “evil” an overly simple label and then proceed to give a relatively simple answer and solution…

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Evil, pain, confused love

 

When we see actions that seem less than loving in ourselves and others, we interpret it in different ways. And these interpretations are based on our experience, understanding, and assumptions about people and life.

Behavior: Theft, lying, killing etc.

Surface psychology: Greed, anger, jealousy.

Moralistic, metaphysical: Evil.

Evolutionary: Behavior that, in some situations, helps us survive and bring up children.

Cultural and social perspective: Learned patterns. Learned ways of dealing with pain, fear, being a human in the world.

Family dynamics: A natural and understandable reaction to certain family dynamics.

Ordinary psychology: Coming from pain, wounds, trauma, reactivity.

Fear perspective: Reaction to unloved and unquestioned fear. Or, more precisely, unloved fear and reaction to the fear, and unquestioned assumptions behind the fear and the reaction to the fear.

Love and inquiry perspective: How we sometimes live when parts of us and our experience are unloved and unquestioned.

Living Inquiries: Deficient self, trying to protect an identity and/or fill a perceived hole.

The Work: The natural consequences of beliefs and identifications.

Satsang inquiry: Worried love, confused love, misguided love. An expression of love for the imagined self, trying to protect the imagined self.

Self-inquiry: Unquestioned assumption of being a separate self. Unexamined experience of (a) this seamless field of experience (b) being split, and (c) identifying with one part (me, I), and seeing the rest as “other” (others, the wider world).

Awareness: The play of awareness/awakeness.

Spirit: Divine play, lila.

Evil, confusion, love

 

We can say that something is evil, or appears evil to us, or we chose to label it evil. (Which is learned from our culture.)

We can also say that what appears evil is really from confusion, it’s misguided, it’s from unloved and unquestioned fear, wounds, trauma, beliefs and identifications.

We can say that this, in turn, comes from an attempt to protect the imagined self, and so can be seen as love.

And we can say that it’s all awareness, it’s all happening within and as awareness and love.

Either of these are valid in their own way. And it can be a relief to find the three last ones in own experience, through specific examples.

Practically…..

If I talk with someone who seem to see the first of these, I wouldn’t jump to the third or fourth. I would perhaps suggest that it comes from fear, wounds and trauma, and that it’s an attempt to protect the self.

And for myself, I explore what’s here. I can hold satsang with what’s here in myself, and see what’s there. You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really? (Each of these are gentle questions. Is it here to protect me? In what way is it protecting me? What is it protecting?)

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Evil

 

Evil – what is it?

To me, filtered through my way of perceiving right now, it looks like this:

It comes from beliefs, identifications, unexamined fear, a desire to protect the imagined self.

It takes the form of hatred, numbness, strong projections, lack of empathy, and more.

It’s tempting because it may seem like a quick fix, it may seem to get us something.

And in this way, what can be labeled evil is not so different from what happens when any thought is believed. It’s just more extreme, and more harmful in a conventional sense. It also comes from a deep wound, which is unmet by love, and the response to this takes an especially destructive form.

We all have it in us. If we see it “out there” in others or the world, it’s because we know it from ourselves. And the invitation is to meet this too with love, with understanding, and through inquiry into the stories creating it – the fears, wounds, and pain.

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Satsang with the devil

 

I am exploring holding satsang with the devil in my dream, his representative, and the witch from my recurrent childhood dream.

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me.

How would you like me to be with you?

What would satisfy you forever?

What are you really?

It’s very interesting to explore these questions in relation to the devil or the witch from my childhood dream.

You are welcome here. I notice hesitation, some fear. It’s an unfamiliar orientation. What will happen if I welcome the devil or the witch? I am taught to not welcome (apparent) evil, to push it away. Something terrible may happen. I am doing something wrong.

Thank you for protecting me. In what way are my images of the devil or the witch protecting me? How do I use these images to protect myself? I see I do. I create images of evil to protect myself, to keep it at bay, to push it away. It’s all innocent. It’s all my images. (And recognizing that doesn’t mean I leave my common sense.)

How would you like me to be with you? Both wants me to treat them with respect, and also with firmness. Not allowing them to take over, to have their way.

What would satisfy you forever? Respect. Love. Rest. Recognized as innocent. As love.

What are you really? Images. Awareness. Spirit. Christ.

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Dream: The devil

 

I am in a quite large old American car, and a man in a blue suit is in the back seat. He has some sort of connection with the devil, and I know the devil will arrive shortly. Somehow, I am able to do something that prevents him from coming there and then.

This dream helps me see that I still see certain things as inherently bad and evil, and I wish to meet that too with love. It feels much more peaceful, more aligned with reality. What do I see as bad, wrong or evil? What in the world do I see as wrong, bad, evil? What in myself do I see as bad, wrong, evil? How is it to meet it in satsang, in inquiry, with ho’oponopono, with love? What fears come up? How is it to meet these fears in satsang, in inquiry, with ho’o, with love?