Looking in the Mirror

Spiritual Revelations for those seeking Humanity in Humans ~~CordieB.

The Shadow of Human Nature


Excerpted from The Book of Secrets, Deepak Chopra.

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 in 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 guards 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.

For further reading, go to  Evil is Not your Enemy, Part I or Evil is not your Enemy Part II

Have a super weekened!


  paisley wrote @

oh this was an excellent post… i have and do agree with this totally,, and i call it the lord of the flies mentality…

remember the little boys in lord of the flies??? little english schoolboys,, turned murderers almost over night when allowed to exercise their “right to control”……

i am fortunate enough to have visited my own dark side,, to know what evil i am capable of and to acknowledge that not only does it exist,, it sits much closer to the surface than most would like to admit……

not long ago i wrote a piece on precisely this same subject,, i will link to it here so you can have a look…..


  Amber wrote @

That makes me absolutely sick. Honest. It makes me lose hope for mankind.

Have you ever seen the movie “The Terminal”? It wasn’t sadistic, but I had to sit and wonder how it was that people could be so down right evil to one another… just because.

  SanityFound wrote @

Strangely enough I have been writing a post for a week now on inherent evil… think I might link back to here when I finally finish it, hope you don’t mind Mwah!

  cordieb wrote @

@Paisley. I read the poem; and it is very true. Most people do not believe they have a dark side. I’ve seen mine and it is not pretty. But I think in knowing my dark side, I abe to recognize it and control it. PLL, C

@Amber. It is quite sickening – but strangely it is something that lies in human nature. According to research; this would happen to the average person no matter how sane they normally are. It is the dark mystery of human behavior behind such attrocities as those stated above, slavery and the holocost. PLL, C

@SanityFound. You know i don’t mind. . . . don’t know why you felt you need to ask? Although, I don’t believe we are inherintly evil. I do believe we have the capacity for both evil and goodness. Mwah . . . PLL C

  Sorrow wrote @

this reminds me of the experiments they did after WW2 trying to figure out how so many people looked the other way during the holocaust.
It was the ability to ascribe blame else where. The darkest parts of our being ..
there is a devil that i do not doubt.
But is wanting in me? or just plain wanting out?
a nursery Rhyme from my childhood that always make me pause.
a wonderful and thought provoking post.
makes you look with in.
could i ?
would i?

[…] times bring out the The Shadow of Human Nature, Grief, we forget The Nature of Genius and start to believe that it Will last forever… We forget […]

  Visionary wrote @

You are stirring the Visionary in all of us Cordie. Thank you for a great post and some very insightful comments.

I studied this experiment several years ago as part of my investigation into human nature and human potential.

What surprises me most about this experiment and what happened in WWII is not what people ended up doing to other human beings but that given the violent and horrific history of our species, we are still surprised when we are confronted by evidence of our own capacity for unspeakable acts of cruelty.

Civilisation is a very thin veneer upon deep layers of instinct which drive us to selfish acts of barbarism and and cruelty. When our comfort is threatened we see very quickly what human beings are really like beneath the surface.

It is the unwillingness to look into our own shadows and take responsibility for our capacity for cruelty that sets our shadow side free to prowl unguarded.

This is so tightly bound up with what Save Our Species was created to deal with that I am going to write a Post in reply to this article.

Love V

  angryafrican wrote @

Disturbing. But so true. People will do horrible things. And people will watch. No one is immune. No one.

[…] The Shadow of Human Nature by cordieb […]

  Duma Key wrote @

Great blog, spins of much to think of. This shadow that exists manifests in many ways and a part of human nature I fail to understand, this need almost desire to see another suffer, to hold some control. It brings to mind Lord of the Flies and place into a harsh new reality.

  Save Our Species » Good and Evil, Choice and Responsibility wrote @

[…] The Shadow of Human Nature by cordieb […]

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