I received the following after recent horrific events: “...will you speak to the presence of what we perceive of as evil in the world and how best to respond to it?” and also, “I have been wondering how it is that I have been so “lucky” to find myself in the company of so many “good” people.”
First we must be clear that there is no force in the world that is evil. There is no entity, demon or devil or spirit, that is evil. There are no people in the world that are evil. Evil exists only in our minds as a moral judgement, a belief, and what one person considers evil, another might well consider good. Even the same individual, at different times and in different circumstances, might consider the same behavior evil and then not. Or good and then evil. For example, a persons beliefs and feelings about such things as abortion, capital punishment, or war might change. Our ideas can be quite confused and changeable depending on circumstances and our personal depth of understanding.
This is not to excuse the murderous behavior on the part of any individual for any reason. But such behavior is not driven by “evil”, but by hatred. And hatred is not even a primary emotion but rests on other feelings such as anger and behind that feeling, especially in violent situations, are feelings of fear, powerlessness, hopelessness, feelings of not being acknowledged and valued.
We see the same phenomenon in our country and western civilization generally and we see it playing out in the political arena. To understand what is happening we must first ignore the surface arguments and reasons given, which rest primarily on a superficial understanding of how things occur. It is true there has been rapid cultural, geopolitical, and technological change and that many have been unable or unwilling to change themselves and their lives in order to make a place in the new order. Old supports--church, neighborhood, employment with companies that provided reliable pensions, health care benefits, and life long security, government programs designed to help, etc.--have crumbled. Only marginally recognized as a contributing factor, our ideas and way of life have divorced most people from any strong identification with nature and the earth itself.
As a result of these and other factors, such as cycles of change driven in part by natural forces of creativity, many individuals feel powerless and hopeless about their lives and their futures, feel unacknowledged and unvalued by their culture, their government, those they perceive to be in power. In some cases this leads to individual acts of suicide. In more cases it leads to mass acts of suicide and this encompasses not just suicide bombers and mass murderers, but those who incite to and engage in war. It also leads to riots and floods and wild fires and earthquakes and storms of all kinds.
When whole groups of people lose contact with their own inner power to act and affect their lives, their emotions move in predictable directions. They range from despair, resentment, anger, fear, hopelessness, hatred, and a host of others. As human beings our emotions, driven by our beliefs, have effects individually and collectively that we have learned to ignore and discount.
We know that our beliefs have a significant impact on the emotions we feel. We know that our emotions affect hormonal levels and chemical activity in our bodies. We know our bodies are made of the same atoms and molecules as the world around us--the earth, the trees, the critters and insects, and all manifestation. And we know that the atoms and molecules are in a state of constant exchange with the environment (think of breathing as the most obvious example). But we have forgotten that, because of this connection (and other electromagnetic influences) our emotions have a direct impact on the world around us. They are, in fact, significant factors in how we create our experience, our reality.
When groups of people with similar and powerful emotions gather, as at a sporting event or a political rally, and some of those emotions are as described above, it is a near certainty that a riot or violence of some kind will occur. It is a way that people reconnect with a sense of power which is what they crave and seek. It is perhaps not the best way and certainly not the only way, but it can work to make people feel better, to feel they have the power to affect their lives and their world, that they have value.
When a group of like-minded (and thus like-emotioned) people live in the same geographical area, they emanate the same energies, make the same exchanges with their environment. Those emanations affect not just other people, but the earth itself and everything that partakes of earthly experience. Thus they influence and can cause earthquakes, storms, wild fires, floods, and so on. When a shaman calls for the people of the tribe to gather, and arouses them through his words and actions, he is basing such behavior on the understanding that human activity affects the weather and the environment. Thus, rain dances can be very effective.
It doesn’t matter what individual experiences lead to the powerful emotions that contribute to such manifestations. Some people who live in great material comfort may be so bored and jaded, or feel so undeserving or guilty, or feel so lonely without family or true friends, that they feel just as helpless as those who live in dire poverty and can’t see a way out. Any individual who feels trapped and helpless, regardless of the external conditions of their life, contributes to the creation of situations, both individually and collectively, designed to break the pattern and lead to a renewed sense of personal power. Think of the ways people tend to reach out to others in times of crisis or natural catastrophe. Someone who entered a situation feeling lonely and unloved may be greatly benefited by receiving the support and kindness of neighbors and strangers. Someone who felt useless, that their life was pointless, may be greatly benefited by finding she is able to help others in their time of need. A sense of personal value and power is thus restored. In addition, because we are of the earth, powerful occurrences such as storms and earthquakes can remind us of our identification with the earth and thus with its power and our own.
Being lucky operates in exactly the same way. Our beliefs that we are lucky, that good things come our way, that people are basically well-intentioned, that we are deserving, lead to emotional states that affect the environment around us, including other people if they are receptive. (No one is influenced by another without some level of acquiescence or welcome on their part.) Strong feelings of contentment, satisfaction, generosity, kindness, and the like operate on the environment through the same mechanism as feelings of fear and powerlessness. Only if we harbor conflicting beliefs and feelings, such as “people don’t like me” or ”I have done bad things and should be punished”, will this process be short-circuited and the external results as confused as our ideas.
Enter certain buildings or rooms and you will be influenced by the energetic emanations of the people who preceded you there. A single individual with the proper energy, focus, and clarity can create and “hold” a space, for good or ill. A group can accomplish the same thing even more intensely. And the influences, if strong enough and/or repeated enough, will stay in a certain location. Dense building materials such as stone or brick, or crystalline objects such as table salt or crystals work well for holding energies but almost anything will do given enough intensity and focus. Awe inspiring buildings and haunted buildings demonstrate the same principles.
Spending time in natural settings can easily recenter and balance anyone who is receptive. Nature is naturally creative, benevolent and cooperative. And, as with everything made manifest, it is an expression of consciousness. Everything that occurs in our experience originates in consciousness. Everything that makes up our reality originates internally. We can spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to change the external circumstances of our lives by manipulating externals, but at best we will simply trade one unwelcome circumstance for another. I say unwelcome because we don’t try to change things that we like. We are meant to learn from this marvelous mechanism that our beliefs and feelings make our experience so we can encounter them directly, have the opportunity to meet the challenge presented, and learn how to be consciously cooperative in the overall process of creation. Since everything originates internally genuine, fundamental change must occur internally as well.
As to how to respond to the ugliness and brutality that occurs take a broad and long view of the human experience. Trust and believe that those who are mean-spirited, as well as their targets who may turn to self-pity or vengeance, will ultimately learn kindness and generosity. Trust and believe that those who engage in war, whether they seem to be perpetrators or victims, will ultimately learn to value life and peace. Hold on to your optimism and all positive beliefs. Deal with everyone, regardless of circumstance, with understanding and compassion. And know that you can do this from a distance. There is no law that demands that you must encounter ugliness face to face.
It is tremendously valuable to track down and acknowledge your beliefs. It is easy to name political, moral, philosophical, religious beliefs. It is much more difficult to uncover deeply held beliefs about ourselves and about how the world works. We might, for example, believe that people who behave badly should feel guilty and be punished in some way. This presupposes a belief in guilt and punishment itself which will surely affect us. Even if such a belief is clothed in ideas of karma, it causes just as much difficulty. We may believe that we are subject to the influences of our past experiences without realizing it is true only if we believe it. Examine those areas of your experience with which you are dissatisfied. Let yourself feel the emotions that arise and follow them back to the underlying ideas and expectations. Equally important, examine those areas of your life with which you are pleased and find the helpful beliefs that support them. Don’t be satisfied with the obvious. Dig deeply, with an open mind and a forgiving heart. What you will find as the result of this endeavor will , at the culmination, please you.