Friday August 24th, 2007, by Martin LeFevre
Evil is the intentional component of the collective darkness in human consciousness. It is the calculated expression of the entire content of the willful ignorance, hatred, envy, jealousy, and selfishness built up in the human mind and heart over the generations. Darkness is a vast content, needless to say, and it is not only accumulative, but it’s growing exponentially.
As such, darkness must be confronted within, or it will snuff out the human spirit, perhaps soon. If that happens, it won’t matter how much longer we go on physically.
The legions of living dead are people who have had a brush with collective darkness, and have chosen to deaden themselves as a way of coping with its enormity. Jesus must have lived in a culture like this, though perhaps at a point when a significant number of people wanted to live again (unlike America at present, in which most of the walking dead are comfortable in their deadness). Is this the true meaning of his ‘miracles’ of raising the dead?
This nascent understanding has been forged not through philosophizing, or even questioning, but through terrible encounters with evil, beginning with encountering the devil itself when I was in the USSR in 1990.
It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I didn’t believe that there was such a thing as the devil before this assault in the Soviet Union, but the experience left no doubt, as I was nearly destroyed by it. That began a long period of philosophical questioning into the nature, origins, and operation of evil.
I discovered that these ‘things’ (the chief devil and all the legions of demons) are man-made, not some supernatural phenomena. I also saw that they repeat, with new twists, the same old stuff over and over again, with boring sameness (giving a lie to the notion that darkness and evil are much more interesting and exciting than goodness).
Carl Jung’s description of our “shadow” is similar to what I call the darkness within us (as distinguished from, but inextricably related to collective darkness and evil). His word is too benign though, at least as it’s come to be used, with the term “shadow side” having been appropriated by countless New Age and feel-good ‘life coaches,’ spiritual guides, therapists, etc.
The result? Individual and collective darkness have continued to grow unabated. Indeed, these soft-soaping approaches have encouraged the growth of malignancy in the human heart and spirit, because they are designed to hold the terrible reality at arm’s length, while convincing people that they are growing by touching the edges of their ‘shadow side.’
If one comes into contact with evil outside, it brings up the deepest darkness within oneself. The denial of evil outwardly, and darkness inwardly, allows it to grow within one, and therefore in human consciousness.
I don’t believe even the worst people, like Stalin (whose legacy was integral to what I encountered in Russia) are evil. Rather evil is the most impacted and intentional component of collective darkness, out of which some people act.
As such, it isn’t just serial killers and such who act out of darkness and evil, but anyone in a dead, darkness-saturated culture who has numbed themselves beyond human recognition. And since more and more people in the global society are becoming zombies, the challenge for the living person is to have discernment without paranoia, and strength without ill will.
People can have a considerable degree of darkness within them, as almost all of us do, but when someone does evil, they are acting as conduits of collective darkness—that is, evil. Though they are still responsible, the individual person is not the source of evil, as this hyper-individualistic culture maintains.
What is the goal of evil? It wants to make every person and every people like itself—inwardly dead. In how many people, and peoples, has it already succeeded?
Nonetheless, collective darkness and evil can be a spur to learning—if one has the deep intent to learn. Indeed, learning through negation turns the tables on collective darkness.
If even a small minority of people adopted this approach, not only would the evil in the world diminish greatly, but also the growth and emergence of true human beings would vastly increase.
We must rid ourselves of the illusion that we humans are evolving positively. It simply isn’t so that we are progressing as a species, except scientifically and technologically. But the need to believe it, and our Western conditioning (and perhaps the nature of thought itself) keeps convincing people, against all evidence, that ‘the light is overcoming the darkness.’
Beyond our dimension, though inextricably part of the material universe and emerging from human consciousness, are beings that have become either synapses of light, or nodes of darkness. The former are not in conflict with the latter. They aren’t, in other words, two sides of the same coin—‘yin and yang,’ masculine and feminine.
With regard to questions about evil and the devil, we are in uncharted territory. So let’s keep things simple, and go step by step. Evil exists, and it has intentionality. It does not emanate from a single person, but from the darkness in human consciousness as a whole. Logically, that points toward malevolent entities in human consciousness. What are they, and how do they relate to the individual self?
To my mind the self is a node of darkness in the individual. Thought, requiring an organizing principle, probably needs a mechanism of a self in some way. But it is the implicit belief in the intrinsic separateness and permanence of the self that makes it a node of darkness. For anyone with a modicum of insight, these illusions lose their grip. And in the meditative state, the entire mechanism and content of the self dissolve in awareness, at least temporarily.
The unquestioned belief in the actuality and permanence of the individual self apparently congeals into extreme nodes of darkness— collective selves that completely believe in their separateness, permanence, and superiority. We call them demons, and the top dog among them, the devil.
Even the individual self, however illusory, has great power. Many people live their entire lives in terms of it. How that can be is itself a difficult question, one with which neuroscientists are currently obsessed. Not with regard to the spiritual and philosophical questions of course, but how the brain constructs and maintains the illusion of a separate self.
And that raises the most difficult question of all: Given that the obvious locus of the material self is the individual brain, where do demons and the devil reside? Since essentially we all share same consciousness, are they simultaneously ‘wired into’ many human brains, connected together in an underlying way, and giving rise to the likes of the Bush/Cheney/Rove (now Rice) troika?
Or do they have single hosts at a time? (The mumbo jumbo of exorcism in the Catholic Church notwithstanding, possession happens.) Two of the most evil-impacted men in all history existed at the same time and fought each other—Hitler and Stalin. Given that the devil needs a living host, that would make these two extreme manifestations of evil the work of lesser demons, with Satan hiding somewhere else, pulling the strings.
Evil likes to play the trick of pitting one evil manifestation against the other, to generate more darkness. That is fundamentally what the ‘war on terror’ is about—the evil of the American government against the evil of al Qeda. That’s why even Barack Obama is wrong about the need “to stop fighting the wrong war is so that we can fight the right war against terrorism and extremism.”
Good does not make war against evil, since that would make it part of evil. People have had to fight the expressions of evil at times (the shaky moral scaffolding of ‘just war’ notwithstanding), but those times belong to the past. Treating terrorism as a form of international criminal activity is the only way ahead. Indeed, stripped of all the propaganda, it’s the way governments are operating.
Given that this is the way evil works, it does no good to kill individuals acting out of collective darkness. The evil manifesting through them merely migrates somewhere else in the web of human consciousness. If we are to prevail over evil, the darkness within nearly all of us has to be taken up and illuminated. That’s why self-knowing is absolutely necessary.
To reiterate, evil exists and has intentionality. It isn’t supernatural. Evil neither preceded humans where human consciousness is concerned, nor exists in some immaterial realm.
Evil bores me. The reason I pursue this line of questioning is because darkness and evil are suffocating the human spirit and destroying the spiritual potential of humanity.
I realize these columns raise more questions than they answer, but that’s fine, as long as some people start asking them.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing columns in various places around the world for over 20 years. Email: email@example.com.