The Nature of Evil
By Duane Hewitt
Those of us who see how our world is changing decade upon decade may be questioning what appears to be the proliferation of evil, both worldwide as well as in our communities. What’s going on? And what exactly is evil?
In their book Fear No Evil (pub. 1993, Pathwork Press), author Eva Pierrakos with editor Donovan Thesenga identify evil as numbness of the soul, portraying it in the way that children who suffer abuse, abandonment, rejection and pain protect themselves with a numbing of feeling. Thus, because it becomes too painful to acknowledge one’s own inner pains, the numbing process begins as a protective mechanism for the self. The authors break out three stages of numbness: the first being the numbing of self as the protective mechanism. The second is the numbing toward others: Once the self has numbed itself to its own pains, an indifference to the pains of others is then likely to follow. The third stage is actively inflicted cruelty. Here, the inability to cope with inner hostility, along with the strengthening of the protective device of numbing, leads to lashing out. This then takes the route of inflicting harm.
It’s generally a universal truism of human nature to classify people into categories of “us” and “them,” members and non-members, friend and foe. This tendency exists to make our view of an enemy unworthy in some way, and helps create the necessary rift that allows one to cause pain or death to another. This point is made by Lyall Watson in his book Dark Nature: A Natural History of Evil (pub. 1995, Hodder and Stoughton). Watson also makes a point regarding our perceptions of evil. Is our take on evil a misdiagnosis? By example, when we experience the flight-or-fight scenario, one might feel the requirement to fight to protect oneself or a loved one. Violence at such a point then becomes a protective attribute.
In The Road Less Traveled (pub. 1980, Touchstone, by Simon & Schuster Inc.), M. Scott Peck, M.D. acknowledges that evil is real and not, “the figment of imagination of the primitive religious mind feebly attempting to explain the unknown.” Dr. Peck goes on to say that evil is “laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme.” If evil is the epitome of laziness, it is because the soul avoids the responsibility of self-acknowledgment. Looking at the true nature of oneself can be both painful and frightening. (Fortunately, it can also be very satisfying and joyful.) But that peering inward takes both strength and courage. For this reason, the soul may have a tendency to look away because it cannot cope with acknowledging the truth about itself. Facing our fears and our pains is difficult. Taking responsibility for our feelings, emotions, actions, and who we truly are can be genuinely difficult. One who will not, or cannot, face and take responsibility for themselves begins the act of denial and numbness.
The Bible portrays a number of themes that might be considered precursors to evil, if not evil directly: Abuse, adultery, ambition, anger, anxiety, bitterness, deceit, depression, drug abuse, lack of faith, lack of hope, fear, gossip, hypocrisy, lust, money, pornography, revenge and temptation. But in reading through the list, one still arrives at the conclusion that there are choices to be had. We can make decisions about how we live our lives and how we impact those around us.
Trying to understand the nature of evil is a challenging and complex task. Clearly, there is much to it, ranging from issues of mental illness, substance abuse, societal problems, extremist ways of thinking, our growing and changing populations, and even the effects of media and social media. Is there a devil – something or someone affecting our decisions and luring us into hurtful choices? Perhaps, but are we then simply assigning blame elsewhere as we avoid taking responsibility for our actions?
It’s important that we find ways to protect ourselves and our loved ones from those who carry out evil acts, and we must be vigilant about it. We must also keep in mind that we have choices. We need to continue to educate ourselves about evil and evil trends. Perhaps we’ll never do away with evil, but through time, education, responsibility, and awareness, we may be able to alleviate those things that are responsible for evil.
Copyright 2013/2016 Duane Hewitt. All rights reserved.