Does Evil Exist?
We came to Samuel prepared with questions about the nature of evil, only to have the tables turned when he started interviewing us. This is the first part of an article that will continue in the summer issue.
Samuel: I suggest that our conversation be the article this time. I hope that individuals will then write in with their comments and thoughts, which I’ll respond to in the next issue.
Paula: Our topic came from a remark you made during the last newsletter interview about “where Satan lives.” I had always looked on Satan as a mythological figure, but after hearing that I thought, Well, maybe there really is a Satan, maybe there really is evil. And if there is, what in the world does that accomplish in human evolution?
This society, through the media, is constantly fed a diet that reinforces the concept of evil— somebody’s been murdered, somebody’s been raped, somebody’s engaged in child abuse. There is a constant flow that we have to take in. How do you turn that into light? How do you keep your light alive when the world is reflecting at you that it’s dark out there, you need to be afraid?
Stuart: I know so many people that we affiliate with in this work who do not keep in touch with the news at all because they cannot bridge the teachings of love with the world as it is. How do you maintain your hope, how do you maintain your positive beliefs in a world in which there seems to be so many negative things?
Samuel: You answer first, Paula. Do you think that there’s evil in the world?
Paula: No, I think it’s a matter of perception. Things I used to see as not desirable I see as quite desirable now. But I think that it’s easy to be judgmental and to get attached to a perspective that might need to be changed. We so often judge other people as evil.
Samuel: Mass consciousness has that tendency, yes. And what’s your belief, David?
David: I think evil is just the long way around. It’s the long path to the Source, rather than the short one. Evil is what slows you down, and it is a matter of judgment rather than an absolute force in the Universe. I think what people see as evil is usually something opposed to beliefs they are really attached to.
Samuel: And you, Stuart?
Stuart: I don’t believe there’s inherent evil in the universe. I think that humanity and mass consciousness and cultures have created a scapegoat to prove their power lies outside of themselves and try to explain things that they don’t quite understand. And I think that Christianity has done more to create evil than to help people overcome it. I think that the Church has used evil as an excuse to manipulate people. In our society, in our media, movies, television it makes a great story— good against evil—and so it’s very prevalent.
Samuel: But what about the knowledge that light shines better when there’s darkness first? Or that you would not have an understanding of good if there were only good, and there is therefore a need to create a concept of darkness or of a personification such as Satan that individuals can relate to in order to know what good is? What do you think about that?
Stuart: Joseph Campbell talked a lot about that in his teachings on myth, saying that suffering was really important for the human condition. I’ve sort of resisted that idea, but I do see that there’s inherently going to be a certain amount of suffering when you’re dealing with form and loss.
Paula: I agree with that. No matter what we want to do to make our world whole, dichotomy is inherent, and good and evil is just one of those dichotomies. But our perception of what’s good and what’s evil shifts all the time.
David: And then we make the judgment—maybe it’s begging terms semantically—that evil is “bad.” I’m not sure that evil is bad. It serves a function and it has its place, and I think that may be what you’re talking about.
Paula: But if you have a child that is raped, how do you approach that with love? You have guardianship of that child, yet this force has come in and done something that has caused great suffering. How do you sort out dilemmas like that? One would love to be very compassionate and holy and say, “Oh, it just happened, and isn’t the Source wonderful!” but the truth is you’ve seen a child violated. Or look at things like euthanasia and abortion. Things like that pose dilemmas all the time, and it’s hard to know where to take a stand.
Samuel: Is there then a difference in definition between those things that are called “evil” and those things that might be “misinformed”? As you said, the definition seems to be changing all the time. Are there things that could be considered across the board, through the ages, anytime, bad?
Paula: That’s a good question, because you would think that the taking of life, life as representation of the Source, as the breath of the Source . . .
Samuel: I will be sure to give you your broom and face mask.
Paula: Broom and face mask?
Samuel: Aye, as those who sweep away the bugs that might have crawled in front of their path, and try to not even inhale germs and such, lest it kill that life.
Paula: Oh, I see. But there has been traditionally through the ages a sense that the taking of life is wrong . . .
Paula: Except if I’m a Crusader, and I’m doing it in the name of Christ, well then that’s acceptable.
Samuel: Or if it’s any war for a good cause. Well, all right, so the taking of life even tends to have its gray areas. Can you do any more with that idea to help you decide what it is that makes something evil? Is there an absolute, or does this change through time? What are considered bad things? You said taking life, and I said, So what kind of life are we talking about here, and are we then making the judgment that the life force of the gnat is different from the life force again of the human? And what about the Kevorkian life force debate that says, Well, it’s all right if you take life when the person wanted to give it.
David: If it’s not against their free will.
Samuel: Is that what’s evil? Where do you set the standard? Because you judge your life by that standard.
David: Another question is, Is the definition of good and evil one that a society or mass consciousness can make, or does it rest with the individual?
Samuel: What do you think?
David: I think it’s probably shades of both, but mostly a matter of intent, and intent rests within.
Samuel: It’s good to hear that: “shades of both.” But David, what about a situation like this: There is, let’s say, a lovely little child, and you love this little being with all of your heart and would never, never intend to hurt that being. And yet, because of your ignorance, maybe because your intent is to do what is best for you, maybe you are just living your life, but you step on that child and hurt it. Well, your intent is good, but the results were bad.
David: Bad? I would say uncomfortable for the child—and for me.
David: Bad is a judgment that is perhaps beyond my competence to make in that situation.
Samuel: Why then is it uncomfortable for you?
David: Because of my conditioning to believe that comfort is good and suffering is bad. But if I create suffering in the child, particularly unintentionally, it is very likely because of some compact between us and for the higher good; the suffering may bring about a good that I’m not . . .
Samuel: You think that it is possible for suffering to bring about a higher good?
David: I’ve observed that in myself.
Samuel: So your intent is not ever to hurt that child. Nevertheless, as the child is hurt and you know that suffering can bring about greater wisdom, your desire would be to know that this can work in a higher picture, that in fact there may even have been a currently unconscious compact for it to be lying in the middle of the floor while you are walking past. Remember to tell the Jewish people that about the concentration camps. “This is a compact you made.”
Very much a key in there is intention. What happens if you intentionally hurt that child? How do you make the judgment then?
David: Then I think I’m more approaching evil, because the intent does not come from a sense of greater good, unless I’m causing pain as a surgeon might, with a higher good in mind.
Samuel: And what happens there? We’re trying to delineate here. Using a dog as an example, sometimes in training the dog to stay out of the street, you jerk its collar back and intentionally hurt it as a means of teaching it something. Does that make you evil because you have intentionally caused pain?
David: No, I don’t think so, because I am not intending to do harm.
Samuel: You are intending to do momentary harm for a greater purpose.
David: The intent, though, is not harm; the intent is to pass through to the greater good.
Samuel: And who determines what that greater good is?
David: One really can only do that for oneself.
Paula: But according to that concept, you are saying that if a man who has a dysfunctional background and has unnatural or difficult sexual impulses and acts them out on a child, he is not evil because, in his world, his intent is not evil; he is simply trying to take care of impulses that he doesn’t know any other way of controlling.
Samuel: The law would not agree to let him be true to himself.
Paula: Is he evil or not evil?
David: Well, he’s imposing on the free will of another and may need to suffer society’s consequences for that, but that’s different from being evil.
David: Well, that goes back to the question of where intent really comes from. All intent is not conscious intent. His conscious intent may be to cause pain, but that is an acting out of a deeper intent, perhaps from a higher level of self, which is motivated by growth, though it may be twisted.
Samuel: Growth by relieving personal pain?
David: Hopefully, relieving that pain is a step toward becoming able to move toward the light.
Samuel: All anybody ever, ever is trying to do is make their life better. The difficulty with that, of course, is that “better” is not fixed. It is a standard that changes, depending upon the society, the civilization, the socioeconomic group, and so forth. So if I am in pain and can only relieve that pain by doing something to you that provides pain for you, I’m only working in an intent to make my life better, and once my life is better—because I have no more pain—then I will be able to touch light. Yes? Is that where you’re going?
David: Well, I think you do see that in reformed criminals. Their own actions have caused them such inner conflict that they’ve worked through to a clearer perception of good, light.
Paula: Inner conflict or outer conflict? Their actions cause outer conflict with society, but it doesn’t necessarily cause conflict within them.
David: If it doesn’t, then I don’t think they go through the process of reform, so they’re not able to work their way through to the light. In order for them to reform, there must be inner conflict.
Samuel: And if they are not working their way through to the light, then are they evil?
David: My personal belief is that they are working their way toward the light, but we may not be able to see that process in the course of observing them, even through an entire lifetime.
Samuel: Good big picture answer. Does that mean therefore that one cannot judge any individual as evil, even if that person is a non-reformed, practicing pain-giver?
David: I think we can’t judge them as evil, but we have a right to protect ourselves from them, and that may mean removing them from the society that they cause harm to.
Samuel: I don’t disagree with that. What method do you recommend for removing them? Probably much less stringent than mine. We have a system called karma; it works.
David: It doesn’t entail removal from society, however.
Samuel: Sometimes. In some situations, an individual, out of ignorance and trying just to survive or to take care of their own pain, acts out behaviors on others in society that cause pain, fear, anger, a great massive releasing of very negative energy; there is no vision of a greater picture, there is no picture of anything beyond releasing themselves from a burden. There is no acceptance of a responsibility in a societal experience. Humans are social animals, and those who come here into the body of humanity but choose to separate themselves from it in a way that causes harm to it are karmically responsible. Karma that has an effect beyond your present is likely to be the result of an action that has an effect on others but is outside the communal understanding. If the injury that I do to you is something totally out of the accepted skein of the society that I have chosen to come into, that is a different judgment karmically than if I have just tripped through, doing my best to be the best person I can be.
And that’s an important thing to bring into the good/bad judgment, too—that more cosmic perspective. The bad you do on your way to doing the good you’re really trying to do and the bad that you do because you’re trying to be bad, they have different implications.
The bottom line is it does not matter in your life what you believe, because you’re either going to be affected by the idea that there is evil and allow that to guide you, or you’re not going to be affected, and allow that to guide you. One may be faster than the other, but in the big picture the results will be the same. So the bottom line of it is, what you’re guided by does not matter, but how you put that belief into the world does. If you do not believe in evil and you behave evilly because you think there are no karmic consequences, well, you’re wrong. If you are so afraid of a punishing god that you must only be good, you are also so far from understanding the greater purpose of this experiment in this world that, again, you’re not doing good. You are perpetuating an evil by blindly following a system that some would call good.
David: And then there’s the bad you do just because you’re lazy. You’re not trying to do good or bad, you’re just not caring much. What does that say?
Samuel: Well, I don’t really believe there’s such a thing as that one. You are making a choice. In the largest picture it is true that everything is working toward the highest level of existence; everything is moving toward the light, but unfortunately humans have a mind and knowledge and make choices, and in one particular life, no matter how strong the inborn impetus toward doing the best is, there are those who choose not to follow it. But beloved ones, that is rare.
David: Well, what about that rare group—Hitler, perhaps, or Rudolf Hess? Are they working their way to the Source in a different way?
David: By a consciously chosen path?
Samuel: I promise you, my friend, they believed they were working to the light. I promise you, they absolutely did not believe themselves to be doing evil, but to be working for a greater good that caused temporary pain.
David: Were they right?
Samuel: I will not answer that. At least not now.
Paula: I don’t think we can live on earth without going through these little dilemmas. You see twenty dollars on the ground and you pick it up; do you see it as a gift from the Universe or do you take it to the nearest police station? Those little day-to-day dilemmas that make you ask, Where on the line am I going to fall here? How do you make those judgments of what is “right” in your life at that point?
Samuel: And I think that the question may be more accurately stated as, Where is the line between those things in which you are the judge and the jury and rightfully so, and those where a greater law—society’s law, perhaps, or civilization’s law, even humanity’s—comes into effect? I’m interested in knowing what people think.
What is the purpose of evil? I would like to invite people to write in with their comments: “We see this purpose or that one. We see the purpose that maybe the Church had in the beginning, and we see the manipulative possibilities that came into play. And we see that the concept continues on and that mass consciousness seems to have created an entity that personifies all of this. What’s that all about, and where does it lead?” I believe that this is exactly the sort of conversation that a lot more people should have, because it’s one of those things that helps them put words to their beliefs, and in so doing clarify their beliefs. I’m very interested in what the readership believes and how they put these questions and answers into their lives. How they live it and work it. And with that greater conversation, the best it can be by mail, I will comment on what seem to be the greatest questions and connections. The next newsletter will print some of those comments and my responses to them.