Another Definition for Evil
“Evil,” “bad,” “ungodly,” “sinful,” and “of the devil” are all words a person uses to describe actions or statements that are on a list each person holds in his or her mind. We heard our parents describe good behavior and criticize bad behavior. We were rewarded or punished for our actions and statements, solidly creating the standards we now hold for right and wrong actions and statements.
The judgments of “right” and “wrong” are so much a part of what we learned during our childhoods that we believe life has rights and wrongs built into the fabric of the universe, just as it has trees and mountains. But it doesn’t. They’re entirely in the assumptions and perspectives we each hold. They don’t exist outside of us. We set up the criteria and we make the judgments based on standards entirely in our minds.
When a wrong is very strong in our assessment, we categorize it as evil. Some actions are, indeed, patently cruel and abhorrent such as genocide, mass murder, and the rape of children. They are, nonetheless, evil only because we characterize them in that way. At some time in history, among some people, genocide, mass murder, and child sexual abuse were (or are) considered acceptable:
Genocide. Most people today believe genocide to be an atrocity. However, between April and June 1994, 800,000 Tutsis were massacred by Hutus in Rwanda, feeling themselves to be “right.” (“Rwanda: How the genocide happened,” BBC News, April 1, 2004. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1288230.stm, May 7, 2007.)
Mass Murder. Mass murder is abhorrent, but in August 1945, the United States detonated atomic bombs that eventually killed 270,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Nazi holocaust exterminated 6 million Jews. People performed those acts willingly.
Rape of children. We might think that the rape of children would be shunned by all civilized people, but a 2004 report on sexual abuse of children by priests reported, “About 4 percent of U.S. priests ministering from 1950 to 2002 were accused of sex abuse with a minor, according to the first comprehensive national study of the issue. The study said that 4,392 clergymen—almost all priests—were accused of abusing 10,667 people, with 75 percent of the incidents taking place between 1960 and 1984.” Only 2% were ever incarcerated. (Agostino Bono, Catholic News Service, “John Jay Study Reveals Extent of Abuse Problem.” February 27, 2004. Retrieved from the American Catholic Web site, http://www.americancatholic.org/News/ClergySexAbuse/, May 7, 2007 ) The abuse was not pats on the rear; they were sodomy, rape, and at times, sexual torture.
The fact that a multitude of people were involved in these actions doesn’t suggest they are acceptable. It just means that what we judge as evil is determined entirely by what our individual, personal standards are that are in our assumptions and perspectives. Most readers would agree that the activities I’ve cited are abhorrent, but that only shows that we all agree on our viewpoints about them. It obviously doesn’t mean the evils are in the fabric of the universe—a great number of people approved of every one of them.
Today, many people would regard as evil every one of these activities a great number of people commonly participate in:
The list could go on for pages. You reacted to some of these immediately, judging them in an instant as acceptable or evil. Among your neighbors are people who would call evil what you regard as acceptable; and you have judged as evil some things they commonly do.
- Eating dead animals
- Killing animals for sport
- Manufacturing and selling cigarettes
- Killing people by law for committing crimes
- American soldiers being in Arab lands
- Keeping people from crossing the border from Mexico
- Permitting religious organizations to hide records of sexual abuse of children so perpetrators are moved from parish to parish without congregations realizing it
- Providing alcohol to people known to become violent and abusive when they drink
- Manufacturing and permitting people to own weapons of war such as assault weapons
- Permitting children to play simulation games where they are taught to be violent and homicidal
- Promoting the eating of unhealthy, fattening foods
- Not acting to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming
- Showing graphic violence in mass media children watch
- Putting people in jail for having sex for money
- Forbidding people who would benefit from marijuana therapy from participating in it
- Visiting mediums
- Gay marriage
- Wicca and witches
- Demeaning employees to make them work as the manager wishes
- Firing employees who try but can’t perform their jobs instead of finding places for them somewhere in the company
- Promising people that God will give them money if they contribute money to a church
- Church leaders living lavish lifestyles
- A young woman who marries a rich older man
- Attacking a country, killing its civilians, and overthrowing its dictator
If we insist on having a list of what is evil, the list will conform to our own viewpoint and we will condemn great numbers of people who perform the actions. In other words, what we judge to be evil is entirely in our assumptions and perspectives. Good people are like us. The others are evil.
As a result, when we characterize a person or a group as evil, we are doing so based on our own standards or our group’s standards, but they are not evil as a consequence of violating some law of nature. In the end, the issue isn’t whether genocide, mass murder, and child sexual abuse are abhorrent. Of course they are. We would together deal with those who engage in such behavior. However, the problem is spiritual, not physical. “Evil” is an inappropriate physical-realm judgment of a spiritual being. Giving the name evil to a person keeps us from seeing the eternal spiritual person that is now caught in a low level of spiritual maturity, and it exhibits a flaw in our own spiritual growth.
If we allow ourselves to judge someone as being evil as their nature, then we leave open the likelihood that we will end in judging many people as being evil for one reason for another. If anyone can be seen as evil, then everyone can be seen as evil. It is a meaningless label that separates men from men and makes possible the genocide, mass murder, and sexual abuse that we abhor. It dehumanizes the person we regard as evil so we can do with them as we wish. And it makes it possible for others to come about and view us as evil for actions we perform so in the end, they feel they can do with us as they wish. But we participated in making that possible.
Instead of characterizing any person as evil, we must see them as spiritual beings at some stage of their eternal spiritual growth. It may be stunted; they may be killers or pedophiles and we abhor their acts. And in the physical realm, we can’t allow people whose spiritually stunted minds result in doing harm others stay in a society with those they may harm. So we have laws that govern these behaviors, and we remove them from society. That is necessary. But even as we do so, we must see them as broken people on their way to being mended, perhaps not in this life, but in their eternal futures. Every one is as he is because of the society that reared him. Being spiritually stunted, he hasn’t been able to break out of that prison the physical realm has created; he’s still a creature of the physical realm.
Those things we regard as evil are actions and statements that come from focusing on the physical realm. They are behaviors and standards people learned from growing up in the physical realm and have not yet learned to release. The remedy is to grow spiritually. That requires releasing the grip of the physical realm and entering the spiritual.
They are not evil, but they result in suffering, for the victim and the perpetrator. They are the result of low spiritual level and attachment to the Earth plane. They are characterized by self-interest and self-centeredness, hatred, separation, exclusivity, intolerance, conflict, cruelty, homicide, and the other signs of immature spirituality. Mature spirituality is signaled by unconditional love, tolerance, nonjudgment, servanthood, and the other signs. When we see the immature spirituality as characteristic of a person on the path toward heaven on earth, but at a very retarded level, we can avoid the judgment that comes from assigning the label “evil” and help that person to grow beyond where they are. Every person is a spiritual being at some stage of eternal evolution of spirit, even Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, and Adolph Hitler.
In the twenty-first century, we will have the greatest difficulty understanding people who kill us in the name of a religion or ethnicity. We will regard them as evil. In doing so, we will effectively cut off trying to understand them and will ourselves justify mass murder by cleansing the earth of them. What they are doing is a spiritual error that can only be understood and changed through spiritual understanding. The great danger is that we will continue to regard them as children of Satan and they will regard us as children of Satan and we will never come to realize that we are all children of God.
We should instead regard as evil anything that separates man from God, man from man, man from his inner self, and man from nature. The feeling of separation is an illusion that results in all of the conflict and atrocities that we normally regard as "evil." A person bound up with feelings of separation wants everything for herself alone, with only limited regard for others. It results in conflict, hatred, violence, war, and holocausts. When people and humankind grow to realize our oneness with God, each other, nature, and our inner voice, all of those things we regard as evil will disappear. There will be no need for laws against them or measures to control them. They will not be considered as options for thinking, feeling, or acting.
Capitalism is based on separation, resulting in the infinite struggle for infinite wealth. Nationalism, religious intolerance, and racial bigotry are all based on the illusion that people are separate from one another, from God, from nature, and from the inner voice that is the Higher Power speaking.
Most religions are based in intransigent dogma of separation. They separate man from God by insisting on interceding, separate man from man by insisting that God loves one group of chosen people more than the others, separate man from nature by teaching that nature is man's property to be subjugated, and separate man from the inner voice of the Higher Power by teaching that the inner voice is demons and delusional.
To free the Earth from evil, humankind must eradicate the feelings of separation that now dominate thinking, feeling, and actions. Those feelings are evil. The people holding those sentiments are spiritual beings who will eventually grow out of the feelings: people are not evil.
If we are to eradicate the feelings of separation that are evil, then we must not support the activities of any person or organization that promotes separation, and each of us individually must discard those assumptions and perspectives that imply separation, replacing them with assumptions and perspectives that declare our oneness in love, peace, and brotherhood.