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Getting to know Evil

July 3, 2014

I want to try and understand what makes something evil. There is the Christian mythology of the Fall. Adam and Eve eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. But by this standard evil is any attempt to know the world for yourself. And so that makes the whole modern era since the enlightenment evil. Including all the sexual liberation and human rights that have since come with it.

For the Buddhists all bad acts create bad karma, and so evil always gets its comeuppance according to them. Evil never persists for long or gets away with its bad deeds. But this seems a slightly naive and convenient thing to believe to me. Or at the other extreme lies the pessimistic Buddhist outlook that sees everything in this life as suffering, and the only good thing being when it comes to an end in Nirvana.

I think there is something to the Fall, in that human nature did not always contain this evil element. Evil has arisen as we have had to develop internal moral codes and dialogues, due to the absence of external ones. And part of this dialogue is a recognition of evil.

And I think there is also something to karma, in that for the most part any deeds we perceive as bad ourselves tend to play on our minds and this has consequences.

But, it only seems to be part of the story. I think evil has become a much more complex phenomena now, that infiltrates deep into our psychological make-up.

Evil is the small part of our mind that wants us to fail. The small part of our mind that wants to see others fail. Evil is  a sabotaging, destructive force within our own psyche. A tendency to turn on those things we have claimed to love and care about most.

Evil seems to be unleashed completely irrationally, and yet it obeys its own rationale which it seems very sure of and passionate about. Evil emerges when our rational mind and our instinctual nature get out of sync. It is retribution from our instinctual nature for years of denial and repression by an overly constricting rational outlook. An outlook we thought was our own, but which was in fact something we internalized from moralizing forces of others around us in our formative years.

There is a link with sex here also. The sexual muscles and forces do not obey our will in the same way as our other muscles do. They do not care for an intellectual long-term outlook that sees human reproducing as unsustainable. They do not think in terms of means,  ends and balances. They think in terms of all or nothing. They do not take stock of the provision of resources required for all offspring resulting from execution of these sexual forces. They think only of taking advantage of the current moment. An opportunity is perceived and taken with no thought for the long-term consequences.

How much trouble this gets us all in individually and humanity collectively is plain to see. There is an element of evilness lurking here implicated in our very existence that we cannot extricate ourselves from. We collectively choose to keep quiet about it, rather than face it head on, out of fear of our own implicateness, in it.

A forbidden tree remains in the human garden: Thou shalt not rationalize sexual love. Is it evil to pluck fruit from it. Or does the evilness spring from our very fear of plucking from it? Is it playing on our fear, and can we overcome this fear?

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