Articles on Shamanism
and Healing

Imagination, Belief, Intellect and Knowledge

A wise man once said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.  Clearly however, most of our contemporary culture does not view it as such. Read More...

Monsters or Madness?

Over the past year or so, I have noticed an ever increasing tendency of people wanting to discuss with me, a very serious and "dark" subject. Read More...

Rethinking the "Nature" of evil

Most of us believe we have a good idea of what "evil" is. It is the opposite of all that is good and wholesome. It is the antagonist, the "bad guys" in the perennial Good vs. Evil epic myths, that are described over and over, in the stories that we were raised on. Read More...






Rethinking the "Nature" of evil

Most of us believe we have a good idea of what "evil" is. It is the opposite of all that is good and wholesome. It is the antagonist, the "bad guys" in the perennial Good vs. Evil epic myths, that are described over and over, in the stories that we were raised on. Evil's essence is captured perfectly by the "dark side" in the epic Star Wars saga with the diabolical emperor, the cold and heartless Darth Vader and the corrupt Galactic Empire. It is depicted as the sinister Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter series and by the wicked witch of the west in The Wizard of Oz . Evil represents that element in life that evokes our darkest fears, and at the same time, it is the very thing that we love to hate the most. We understand, all to well, that evil is not simply just make-believe from some "story", but that evil is a very real component of life and that it is the source of enormous pain and suffering in our world. Without a doubt, most people in our culture, feel they know who the "evil people" are and would put the likes of Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, and Osama Bin Laden at the top of the list. What exactly is it though, that makes us categorize these people as evil?

While it is true that for the most part these notorious historical figures are viewed as evil, it can not be said that the consensus is in any way unanimous. These figures all have their share of sympathizers and even supporters. What are we to make of this fact? The only logical conclusion is that the notion evil is a subjective thing. Although his actions caused enormous pain and sufferings for countless people, for many in the world of Islam, Osama Bin Laden is viewed as a hero who died fighting the evil and aggressive United States of America. Let us consider another historical figure, Andrew Jackson. Jackson was the seventh president of the United States but from a Native American's point of view, he would be similar to Adolf Hitler. It was Jackson who was was largely responsible for the "trail of tears" (essentially an ethnic cleansing campaign) when he continued and renewed the political and military effort for the removal of the Native Americans, from the south eastern parts of the United States, with his passing of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Rather than being viewed as evil however, Jackson is celebrated on on our $20 bill as an American hero. Clearly it can be shown that evil, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Wikipedia defines evil as "the violation of, or intent to violate some moral code" and Webster's online dictionary defines it as "morally bad or wrong." An obvious question then arises. Who determines this moral code and where can we get a copy of it? For many people in the West the answer is God and the Bible. To these people, God is the all powerful, all wise and omnipotent creator and the Bible is his book of moral codes and commandments. If however, God is all good and all powerful, how can we understand the existence of evil? Did God intentionally create it? If so, then why? If not, is evil some sort of a mistake made by God? If God is all wise how could he have make a mistake? Is there some sort of force (IE Satan) that exists that even God can not abolish?
If God is all powerful, why can he not abolish Satan and evil? It seems clear that there is a problem here. If you think I am leading you towards and Atheistic point of view and that I am suggesting that all of creation is nothing more than random chance, a statistical probability over vast amounts of time and space without any design, you would be wrong. On the contrary, I believe there is a is a hugely intelligent and loving creator, but I believe that evil is merely a relative concept rather than an a definable and objective "thing." Nothing is inherently evil. Certainly there is no evidence of any sort of power on par with the creator that is evil. Snakes, spiders, bats and sharks have all been given a "bad rap" by man, but a logical review of the facts would show that none of these creatures are in any way "evil." If anything, only man can be accused of anything remotely evil, what with his hunting for sport, his lust for power and control over others and his cancerous effect on the planet. Is man really evil though? It depends on how you define evil and when. More on this later.

To me, evil is a term that is used to describe acts and the ones who perform them that the majority of people in a given segment of the population and at a particular time judge to be "bad" or "wrong." We are basically describing the biggest "rule breakers" against culturally accepted ideas of right and wrong at any given time. These ideas are not universal (created by God) however, and vary over time and between cultures. In some places women must cover their faces in public and in others girls are not considered "clean" until they have gone through genital mutilation. While in some cultures it is a "sin" to eat pork, in others it is "unholy" to eat beef. Today, in our supposedly progressive society, it is heatedly debated whether or not water-boarding constitutes torture or is merely "simulated drowning" and whether homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples and be allowed to wed. Many who are against gay marriage claim that it would decay our societal values, but was it not the "value" of our society however, only some fifty or so years ago, that "colored people" should sit in the back of the bus? Was it not the cultural norm just about one hundred years ago that women did not have the right to vote? Isn't it true that our righteous values included the the right to own other humans (slaves) in the not so distant past?

Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that we should all live in anarchy with out any rules or laws. What I am suggesting however, is that we first need to recognize "evil" for what it is. Rather than conceiving of it as some bad "sick" supernatural force, we need to understand that evil is a relative and subjective term and that it is defined differently by different cultures and at different periods of time. This is a good thing to realize, because it takes some of the "charge" out of the concept. Evil is not some extraordinarily nasty and unholy "thing" that is on par with the creator. Evil is not the result of some enormously powerful sadistic being, with horns and a tail, that lives in Hell and who's sole purpose is to tempt and seduce us human beings. Evil is a subjectively felt "thing", a possibility within the full spectrum of experience that the creator's design allows for.

The second suggestion I am making here is that what we perceive as evil, is fundamentally a result of ignorance. It is not from a an ignorance of the laws, morals and ethics of a given society, but rather from the ignorance of the fact that "we" are all one interconnected "thing." Our most advanced science, quantum physics confirms what most of the great traditions, indigenous societies, underground mystery schools and great mystics have always stated, we are all one! Albert Einstein tried to convey this message to us when he stated: "A human being is part of the whole called by us "the universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." If we all realized this truth, we would not commit painful acts against "others" because we would understand that we would only be hurting ourselves.

What I am suggesting is that we each individually need to recognize that "evil" stems from ignorance. It stems from ignorance of the fact that we are all one and from ignorance of the fact that any one of us could have been raised in such a way, that our life experiences could have led us to a particular point of view of reality, and that our point of view on reality is what causes us to act in the ways that we do. Basically, I am saying that each and every one of us have the potential for evil! Each and every one of us, given the right life circumstances and experiences, could be a Hitler. It is the denial of this fact that allows for us to "project" our own evil aspect/potential onto others and then live in fear of what "they" might do to us. This fear in turn is what fuels the military machine and allows us to justify taking "preemptive actions" against others. These actions, of course, make it all the easier for "them" to project their shadows on to us and see us as evil. Can you see how this dynamic based on ignorance can grow and perpetuates itself?

I practice dream yoga as a form of spiritual discipline and it allowed me to see this truth in a very clear and concise way. It is a an ancient tradition/method that comes out of Tibet and allows one to get a deeper understanding of our true selves through increasing dream recall, recognizing patterns and symbols within dreams and ultimately attaining lucidity (waking up within the dream). I had come across this practice while researching nightmares that had been plaguing me for some time. I was haunted in my dreams by an ominous and dark figure that was always trying to "get me." Invariably I would sense his presence and try to escape from him by running away as fast as possible. As is common in these types of nightmares I found myself unable to move quickly or even scream and I would end up waking in a cold sweat and with a pounding heart. I had read that in our dreams we must face our adversaries in order to overcome the nightmares and that often times "they" had an important message for us. One night I dreamed that I was upstairs in the house I grew up in. It was around dusk and I was alone. Suddenly, through a window, I saw a dark and ominous figure in the shadows of the back yard. Immediately I knew he had seen me and was going to try to get in the house. He started running towards the back door and I raced down the stairs, flew into the kitchen and frantically locked the door just as he was trying to open it. Without having to think, I knew for sure he was now racing around the house with the intent of gaining entry through the front door. In a terrifying panic I sprinted to the front door of the house again beating him by a fraction of a second and wildly turning the dead bolt to the locked position. Sitting on the floor with my back to the door, heart thumping, I suddenly remembered in some vague way, that I needed to face this "monster." Slowly, I conjured up all my courage, slowly stood up and peeked out the peep hole. To my utter and absolute astonishment, the evil and insidious monster on the other side of my door looking directly back at me was me! I woke up in that instant in complete shock.


After calming down and analyzing the dream for a bit, the message became clear. The dark and murky creature that had been trying to get into my house and get me was actually what the great Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung referred to as the "shadow." The shadows are those seemingly unsavory or undesirable parts of ourselves that we deny and thus are forced in to our "unconscious" and not part of our normal awareness. In my dreaming state (what Freud called the royal road to the unconscious) this shadow aspect was trying to get where it rightfully belonged...with me! The house represented my conscious awareness and "it" wanted in! I had not acknowledged that I had within me an aspect that was capable of evil, and by doing so I was essentially judging an inherent part of myself as negative. The part of my self that I was unconsciously ashamed of was trying to get my attention to this fact.

The basic thrust of Jung's whole ingenious psychology is what he called the "individuation" process. This is is the path that leads to self realization. This is the discipline of going from the self to the Self. The self represents only a small part of our true being. It is the conscious ego aspect. The Self on the other hand, represents the coherent whole, unified conscious and unconscious of a person – the totality of the psyche. In order to reach this "wholeness", we must integrate the unconscious aspects of ourselves which include the "shadow" elements. In order to do this we need to embrace our darkness and reclaim that part of our vital essence. We must overcome our fear that acknowledging the truth about ourselves will result in the "darkness" taking control. Once we accomplish this, we become like the Jedi Masters in Star Wars or Nemo in the Matrix realizing our full potential. We become fully conscious of who we really are and no longer will we be subject to unconscious forces and irrational fears. This is nothing less then the goal of enlightenment! It was what the alchemists were describing when they spoke of attaining "gold" from base metals and it is the Holy Grail. It is the true recognition of who we really are, co-creators in God's wonder filled universe.

So, back to the earlier question. Is man evil? Only time will tell. The future is not determined. As Forrest Gump's mother might have said: "Evil is as evil does." Clearly right now we are creating a lot of pain and suffering in the world. If however, we can collectively come to a place of understanding the true nature of reality and how we fit into it, then we can create peace and harmony on this planet with it an incredibly bright and exciting future. On the other hand, if we continue to live egotistically and unconsciously project our shadows on to each other, then we will to continue to compete against each other, selfishly deplete the earth of its resources and create a very dark and painful future . The first scenario is living intelligently and the second scenario is living ignorantly. Remember what Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see." The choice is up to you!