Continued from Evil is Not your Enemy – Part I
The vast majority of people would probably choose the first two definitions, because physical harm and deprivation are so threatening. At this level of consciousness, evil means not being able to survive or earn a living, and good means physical safety and economic security. In the next two levels, evil is no longer physical but mental. One’s greatest terror isn’t being deprived of food but rather being told what to think and forced to live with chaos and unrest. Good means inner peace and the free flow of insight and intuition. The next two levels are even more refined; they have to do with creativity and vision. One’s greatest fear is not being allowed to express oneself or being forced to label others as evil. A deeply spiritual person doesn’t view good and evil as rigid categories but has begun to accept that God had a purpose in creating both. Good is free expression, openness to all new things, reverence for both the dark and light aspects of life. Finally, the last level sees the entire play of good and evil, light and shadow, as an illusion. Every experience brings union with the creator; one lives as a co-creator immersed in God consciousness.The one reality accepts all these definitions, as it must, because anything that consciousness can perceive is real to the perceiver. Evil is part of the hierarchy, a ladder of growth in which everything changes depending on the rung you happened to be standing on. Nor does the growing process ever end. It is at work in you at this very minute.
If you wake up one day to suddenly discover that you hate someone else, that there is no way out of the situation except violence, that love isn’t an option, consider how subtly you arrived at your position. It took a whole world to throw you or anyone else into the arms of what is labeled as good or evil. Having internalized these forces, you reflect the world just as the world reflects you. This is what it means in practical terms to have the world in you.
Yet evil cannot be your enemy if the world is in you; it can only be another aspect of yourself. Every aspect is necessary to life, and none is excluded or banished into darkness. This view may seem even more naïve at first than Gandhi’s passivity, for it appears that we are being asked to love and understand a murderer the same as a saint. Jesus taught exactly that doctrine. But translating love and compassion into difficult situations has been the crux of spirituality’s huge failure. Violence causes love to break down, turning it into fear and hatred. But evil doesn’t actually do this. The shaping forces on consciousness do. Here is where good and evil become equal. I can give a striking example of what I mean.
In 1971, students at Stanford University were asked to volunteer for an unusual experiment in role playing. One group of students was to pretend they were prison guards n charge of another group who pretended to be prisoners. Although it was understood that this was make-believe, a jail setting was provided, and the two groups lived together for the duration of the experiment. According to the plan, everyone would play their roles for two weeks, but after only six days the prison experiment had to be terminated. The reason? The boys chosen for their mental health and moral values turned into sadistic, out-of-control guards on the one hand and depressed victims of exorbitant stress on the other. The professors conducting the experiment were shocked but couldn’t deny what had occurred. The lead researcher, Philip Zimbardo, wrote: "My guards repeatedly stripped their prisoners naked, hooded them, chained them, denied them food or bedding privileges, put them into solitary confinement, and made them clean toilet bowls with their bare hands." Those who didn’t descend to such atrocious behavior did nothing to stop the ones who did. (The parallel with infamous acts by American prison guard in Iraq in 2004 prompted Zimbardo to bring the Stanford experiment back to light after more than thirty years.) There was no extreme to which the student guards would not resort short of outright physical torture, Zimbardo mournful recalls, "As the boredom of their job increased, they began using the prisoners as their playthings, devising ever more humiliating and degrading games for them to play. Over time, these amusements took a sexual turn, such as having the prisoners simulate sodomy on each other. Once aware of such deviant behavior, I closed down the Stanford prision."
Where did this runaway abuse come from? For comforts sake, we usually say that it exists in a few "bad" apples," but the Stanford experiment suggests something more disturbing: Evil exists in everyone as a shadow, for the person is a counter to the shadow of evil, of course, and if we return to our list of shaping forces on consciousness, each person would exhibit a different map of influences. But if you are fortunate enough to have made choices on the good side of the equation, you must still acknowledge that the shadow exist in you somewhere.
The shadow was formed by the same everyday situations that shape our consciousness, and it is released by new situations that parallel them. If you were abused as a child, being around children can bring up those old memories. The Stanford experimenters devised a list of conditions that cause people to do things we’d call evil, or at the very least alien to our true selves. I’ve expanded on it in light of what we know about dualism and separation.
Conditions that release shadow energies.
Removing a sense of responsibility
Peer examples of bad behavior
Rigid levels of power
Prevailing chaos and disorder
Lack of meaning
Implicit permission to do harm
Lack of accountability
Again, are any of these conditions intrinsically evil? This list, as compared to the first, feels as if some evil component has entered. Leaving aside prisons, where one might expect the worst in human nature to emerge, as a physician I’ve seen similar abuse in hospital settings. Certainly, hospitals are not evil; they were established to do good in the first place. But the shadow isn’t about who is good bad. It is about sealed-up energies looking for an outlet, and the hospital is rife with the very conditions listed above: Patients are helpless under the authority of doctors and nurses; they are dehumanized by the cold mechanistic routine, isolated from everyday society, made more or less anonymous as one "case" among thousands, and so forth.
Given the right circumstances, everyone’s shadow energy will emerge.
What do you think? Your comments are welcomed.