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Julie wrote,

||Corruption arises from weakness of character.

Babies are not born evil.||

But where does weakness of character come from?

I think it's mostly inborn, but trauma during youth can also have a significant effect.

irh,

Great comments! Some further responses:

||People are born with the brains they have, into the families they have, with the cultures they are, with the conditioning they are subject to, and a myriad of never ending events and influences both obvious and not - that they (or we, I should say) - are not really responsible for in any truly trackable way that can be mapped on to personal "evil" or "low level souls"||

Here's my image of how evil works. It's not top-down, as with a Satan or some such thing, since we'd have to explain why such a power didn't simply destroy everything. I think evil is bottom-up. It's like static electricity on everything, the slight but universal dissatisfaction of Reality with itself. That diffuse charge, however, can come together from various sources, indeed tries to do so, so as to dissipate itself in a big way. So in my view, evil "looks for" weakness and character flaws and so on and tries to use them. Not even in sentient way (again, not like Satan), but more in a viral way.

Some people are very good at channeling and using this energy. They get high from it. Hitler would be the premier example. He was incredibly talented at gathering together people who flowed very well in this energy (Himmler) and some who were probably even better than he at using it (Heydrich).

And if it sounds like the Dark Side of the Force, well, I think Lucas had real insight into how evil works.

||I don't think the humbleness of our humanity changes anything about the transcendent nature of what is in fact, possible beyond our bodies....no different than a bad TV or radio changes anything true about the source of the signal.||

I agree.

||what if you had gangs of 90 year olds with dementia out in the world - but at the apex of their physical stamina and agility - they would appear to be the most dangerous sort of group in any community - full of unexpected malice and unpredictable outburts - we'd avoid them at all costs and even keep them locked away - but understanding the cause of their corruption, no one who was worth emulating - would really think of them as evil - or psychopaths - or low level souls.||

That's a really brilliant point! I would say, however this: what if they are channeling evil at this point?

My father had some character flaws and tended to be on the depressive side, but after he had a bad car accident and got heart disease, he became *really* depressed and went about making our lives hell. He was most assuredly channeling evil; you could feel the dark energy in the house. And I have found that depressed people tend to fall into two categories: "help me" depression and "**** you" depression. Those in the latter category seem to get a special psychic ability to press others' buttons and make others feel terrible with amazing efficiency.

So, responding to your very cogent points in a general way, I think there is an important distinction to be made between "evil" and "responsible for being evil." At the ultimate level, I'm not sure anybody is responsible for anything--the paradox being that we each need to wake up and take complete responsibility. Not everyone can do so (can any of us really do so?!).

@Eric Newhill: There are different theories about sociopathy and one is that of a lack of adequate nurture during the early development stage. I find that plausible. Moreover, if a sociopath is born that way then I don't believe that 'evil' is a true description of their character. Evil requires a knowing, an. understanding and an intent.

The film 'Dangerous Liasions' is a brilliant study of evil. It deals with the deliberate destruction of innocence and the satisfaction/pleasure taken in such deliberate destruction. It requires an understanding of the human
psyche plus contempt for and envy of innocence - which is the one thing that the evil-minded person can never regain.

Psychopathy, on the other hand, is more akin to the child pulling off the wings of a live fly, or the legs off a spider. It contains a complete lack of empathy: a powerful element of emotional ignorance. Or it can be borne of an indulgent upbringing - a failure to bring a child, successfully, out of the stage of the 'terrible twos' - a state of never fully coming to understand the personal consequences of ones attitude, actions and general behaviour towards others: an ugly kind of ignorance. Trump falls into that category; he's not even clever enough to be fittingly described as evil.

Matt writes: "But where does weakness of character come from?

I think it's mostly inborn, but trauma during youth can also have a significant effect."

It comes from the choices we make. Adversity either strengthens or weakens character. We all face adversity of some kind or other at every stage of our lives. How we handle adversity determines our character. Some people are born with an easier temperament than others. But I suspect it all evens out one way or another. Water always finds the cracks.

Something else that seems to fit in here is the notion that a person's spiritual strength/development can be measured by how much mental and emotional pain they can bear without becoming bitter and twisted.

Since we each carry around with us an aura - an emotional atmosphere - one can see how some people can give off the kind of feel that is commonly known as 'bad vibes'. That, I suspect, is what we become aware of when we sense evil: a disturbance of our inner equilibrium.

Conversely, when in the presence of 'good' souls we feel comfortable and calm. :)

"So in my view, evil "looks for" weakness and character flaws and so on and tries to use them. Not even in sentient way (again, not like Satan), but more in a viral way." - Matt

I like how you put it. Agreed.

I do think that often people with brain damage or other physical damage channel the kind of evil you speak of.

Also, I reiterate that if reincarnation is real - and a lot of evidence strongly suggests it is - then we would expect that some low level souls would be reincarnating, perhaps for the sole purpose to fulfill their more heinous desires. Also, there may be morphic fields of evilness that create incarnate souls - I mean we have to consider where souls come from in the first place. Eastern religions say from Karmic forces and desires. Only in the West do people imagine a loving God as the source of all souls, created in its image.

"Also, I reiterate that if reincarnation is real - and a lot of evidence strongly suggests it is - then we would expect that some low level souls would be reincarnating, "

That is so Trumpite! Us and them: low-level souls and the supremacy. Well, if ever there was a 'low-level soul' it's Trump. And if ever there were even lower level souls it's got to be his sycophants.

I don't know what you're on, Eric, but I suggest you get your tablets changed. You take paranoia to a whole new dimension. :(

Julie wrote,

||Some people are born with an easier temperament than others.||

Is this much different than my saying that some people are born evil?

Obviously, I don't think babies are born evil per se. But some people genetically (or via the methods Eric suggests--all possible) have a greater propensity for evil.

I think Heinrich Himmler is a good example of a person who could have gone any number of ways but ended up extremely evil. He apparently was extremely nice to his family. He vomited when he saw Jews being murdered by machine gun. He expressed regret for his Holocaust actions but felt it was for the good of Germany and thus acceptable. He wasn't a sociopath (displayed empathy, as did Hitler with respect to animals). It's easy to imagine him being a slavishly loyal person in a German corporation and not hurting anyone. But he is responsible for reacting positively to an evil message and killing millions of people. He had the propensity for evil, and it seems likely that that character was inborn and not a result of trauma (i.e., he wasn't a sociopath and didn't seem particularly maladjusted).

||Some people are born with an easier temperament than others.||

Is this much different than my saying that some people are born evil?"

Yes. Hugely.

"But he is responsible for reacting positively to an evil message and killing millions of people. He had the propensity for evil, and it seems likely that that character was inborn and not a result of trauma (i.e., he wasn't a sociopath and didn't seem particularly maladjusted)."

Look up Milgram's experiments before judging.

Julie, So you deny that there are evil forces and evil people in the world. I understand. It is common perspective for overly protected people of the liberal persuasion (e.g. socialists) to hold, because they have it stuck in their heads that being a good virtuous person means seeing that we are all equal and all fallen angels to be saved by virtuous crusaders armed with good feelings and lots of social science gobbedly guk.

As long as you stay in your bubble you can enjoy your little cult and, thus, feel superior. Classic liberal hypocrite.

Eric said:

"Only in the West do people imagine a loving God as the source of all souls, created in its image."

Not really. When we look at the *esoteric core* of all the great traditions, East and West, they agree that:

" . . . . Realizing our Identity with this Ultimate Reality brings freedom from suffering and death."

What's the difference between that, and positing "a loving God as the source of all souls"?

More on this subject here (the source of that quote):
http://www.centerforsacredsciences.org/index.php/publications/the-mystical-core-of-the-great-traditions.htm


....and we have pretty good evidence of poltergeists w/nasty temperaments, obsessions/possessions (see, for example, the case of Annaliese Michel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4n9vK0_mdk)leading to the destruction of the victim.

But it's nice that some people just say evil is not true because...well... because they just don't like it. Babies aren't born evil, because...yuck! too scary!

And if you say it's true you're a poopoo head, so there!.

Very convincing argument

I think you need to get your tablets changed, Eric. Really, I do. :/

Good link, Bruce! There are many roads leading to the same spiritual truths. That's why I've never set up my stall on any one of them.

"" . . . . Realizing our Identity with this Ultimate Reality brings freedom from suffering and death."

What's the difference between that, and positing "a loving God as the source of all souls"?"

Big difference.

BTW, I think I should point ou here that I'm not a 'liberal'. In fact, I'm not even party political. It's always seemed to me that one can only put one's faith in individuals. Hence I place my vote behind the person whom I believe to be most sincere in their beliefs. Sometimes the choice is Hobson's. But I try to rely upon my instincts and intuition.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think Eric and Julie have kind of a Sam 'n' Diane thing going on?

One of these days, those two crazy kids'll quit bickering and just admit they love each other.

;-)

Bruce wrote,

||Realizing our Identity with this Ultimate Reality brings freedom from suffering and death."

What's the difference between that, and positing "a loving God as the source of all souls"?||

Then Eric responded,

||Big difference.||

And then Julie said,

||There are many roads leading to the same spiritual truths.||

Well I think everyone is a bit right! I think there are vast differences in implications between Abrahamic religion and Buddhism. I do think both have truth to offer, but one must distill it and build on it. To me, that is what the New Age is about, has formed a rather cohesive and workable myth at this point, IMHO.

And I also agree with Michael: "Get a room!" ;)

I'll admit it. I am desperately in love with Julie. Infatuated. Hypnotized. She's the last thought I have before I fall asleep...until she's there, my little angel, to greet me in my dreams. Then she's my first thought of the day when I awaken. I would slay a dozen dragons, swim across the Atlantic just to be with her. I'd even take whatever medication she recommends if only she would return my love; if only even for one night.

You know what? I'm going to do it...right here on this forum.... I am going to drop all of the armor from my soul and lay bare heart. I'm on my knees, right now as I type these words.....

Julie Baxtor will you make me the happiest man alive and do the me the honor of marrying me?

I await, tormented, for your response

Your always,
Eric

That's a very sexist way of looking at things,
Michael, if I might say so.

I dislike Eric for reasons that, I believe, any decent human being would: namely his support of that most imbecilic and dangerously volatile representative of America, Trump.

Were it not for the fact that Eric purports to be a reasonably intelligent man, I could perhaps forgive him. But he represents all that is ugly in human nature: the willingness to find intellectual justification and acceptance for their own prejudices by standing behind that caricature of a statesman.

On balance, I think it best that I leave this group because my feelings are unlikely to change on this issue, which I regard as fundamentally important to the future of the Western world. And that being so, I simply cannot find within me the tolerance just to 'rub along'. Yes, I feel that strongly.

With respect, Michael, I'm out of here.

"That's a very sexist way of looking at things, Michael"

You mean you took my comment seriously?

Jeezum crow.

:-O

Julie wrote,

||With respect, Michael, I'm out of here.||

Dammit, Eric, I blame YOU!

In all seriousness, there are Bible verses I have in my head that are like mantras, and one is, "The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me" (Mark 14:7).

I expand this to mean, "Certain problems will always be with you to an extent, so you might as well learn to live with them."

You can't purge all your friends who do things you don't like or support politicians you don't like (there is a line to be drawn, however).

You can't purge a form of all the commenters you don't like, or quit all the forums who have *some* commentary you don't like (though again there is a line to be drawn).

And the reason why you can't do that is that, once you purge, inevitably some other friends will start annoying you, or some other commenters will come along and annoy you, or the forums you have left will begin to annoy you more. That's just the way Reality works.

My $0.02.

Re "A World of Hurt"—this just popped into my head:

Did he who made the lamb make thee? —William Blake, "Tyger Tyger"

Julie,
I realize that this all quite sudden and you must be experiencing an avalanche of emotions.

And there is the issue of your husband. You will have to let him know that your heart belongs to another now.

Take your time. I will still be here waiting, desperately awaiting, you answer. I will wait until the end of time and then some if that is what you need.

"Psychopathy, on the other hand, is more akin to the child pulling off the wings of a live fly, or the legs off a spider. It contains a complete lack of empathy: a powerful element of emotional ignorance"

Not true. I have studied psychopathy a lot. I have also known a few full fledged psychopaths. These people not only do not have empathy, they experience glee and twisted satisfaction when they dupe others and, especially, when they have brought about the painful ruin of innocence and what is good in others.

These people are NOT created by childhood abuse - though they will often make statements about their parents being abusive because they have learned that it gains them sympathy from social workers and psychologists.

People want to understand how such monsters came to be and, as we see on this very thread, few are able to accept that they are born that way. people want to have a comfortable explanation - like give children adequate love and they will grow up to be good adults. But that isn't true. Psychopaths come from all family backgrounds. One of the attributes that all psychopaths have in is refusal to internalize personal responsibility. It is too easy for them to blame others for the evil that the psychopath himself does.

Not only do they covet possessions and power, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others
(a symbolic sibling, for example); what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can
earn through honest labor.

And once having drained what they can from one source, they turn to another to exploit, bleed, and
then cast aside; their pleasure in the misfortune of others is unquenchable. People are used as a means to an end;
they are to be subordinated and demeaned so that the antisocial can vindicate themselves...

Mimicry is often used to convince others that the psychopath is a normal human being. He does this to create a false empathy with his victim.
The psychopath will try to make you believe he has normal emotions by spinning some sad tale or professing profound, moving experiences;
the truth is, most psychopaths go through life as in an incubator, touched by few and having no real compassion for others;
but they will lie to convince you that they have normal emotions.

The pity factor is one reason why victims often fall for these "poor" people.

Lying is like breathing to the psychopath. When caught in a lie and challenged, they make up new lies, and don't care if they're found out.
As Hare states,

"Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths...
When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed --
they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie.
The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener." [Hare].

Often, their behavior serves to confuse and repress their victims, or to influence anyone who might listen to the psychopath's side of the story.

Manipulation is the key to their conquests, and lying is one way they achieve this.


This is how psychopaths operate. They will deny reality until their victims have a nervous breakdown.
Often, the psychopath will turn on the victim and claim that the victim suffers from "delusions" and is not mentally stable.

The psychopath is primarily distracted and impressed by his own grandiose self-representation,
which often leads to him unwittingly telling people things that lead to his detection. They often forget the lies they told
and tell contradicting tales, which often makes the listener wonder if either the psychopath is crazy,
although in this case the psychopath isn't really crazy -- he's just forgotten what lies he's told

"Often, the psychopath will turn on the victim and claim that the victim suffers from delusions and is not mentally stable." That's called gaslighting, after the movie Gaslight, in which Ingrid Bergman's husband does this to her. A good film.

"That's called gaslighting, after the movie Gaslight, in which Ingrid Bergman's husband does this to her. A good film. "

Yep. Great film.

Causing someone to doubt truth and rob them of their very sanity, while destroying what is good in their life, is evil. That is what psychopaths do and they really get off on it. It's soul rape.

IMO, that is the number one source of misery in the world. The psychopaths exploit weakness in dupes and get them to do their dirty work on a mass scale in some cases; the worst cases.

Hmmm on Karma and reincarnation...I'm not sure this equates with the idea of Platonic Evil? I don't claim to be a Hindu scholar, just raised in the tradition, but I recall karma doesn't necessarily align with evil persons in the past becoming evil now. IIRC even some Theosophists have believed they were evil people in the past, but this was either part of their soul's evolution or perhaps just due to circumstances.

I agree it's *possible* evil souls reincarnate into psychopaths I am wary of saying it must be true or that psychopaths are irredeemable (or close to it) from birth.

I think both mundane and parapsychological research is needed to make any firm conclusions on the origin of psychpoathy or Evil in general.

SPatel, I don't know either.

It just seems to kind of make sense. If someone was evil in a life time, for whatever reason, what would stop them from reincarnating and continuing down their evil path?

I like Hinduism a lot, but it may be that some of its concepts are generalized into dogmas that miss the truth more or less. I would love to sit and speak with Hindu scholars and adepts. Sadly, I have never had the opportunity present itself.

Eric:

It does get a bit odd because there are conflicting descriptions of the nature of Good and Evil. In some cases it seems certain beings are not only evil but meant to be evil - if demons become good they end up destroyed.

OTOH, you have stories of redeemed demons in both Hinduism and Buddhism. I guess it only makes sense since Hinduism is a catch-all term over a variety of different but interrelated faiths, similar to "pagan" describing faiths of Pre-Christian Europe I think?

For me a good synthesis of Eastern/Western thinking is found in Eric Weiss's The Long Journey and Doctrine of Subtle Worlds:

http://ericweiss.com/SubtleWorlds/

http://ericweiss.com/ideas

SPatel,

I implore you to stop providing so much good reading material. There is only so much time in a day--or a lifetime! :)

Here's something that may relate in some way to 'A world of hurt'.

The new computers that do deep learning. I can see in the future they may be applied to an awful lot of quantum, scientific, biological, mechanical etc., problems.

If you look at how the computer solves problems, it is based on how we learn, and that is by making mistakes. Big ones, small ones etc., in everyday life. Lyn x.

A classic psychopath and evil person: https://www.yahoo.com/gma/meeting-charles-manson-prison-made-hair-back-neck-114004437--abc-news-topstories.html

I like at the end how the news people are wondering "what could have made him this way?".......of course Manson blames his mother, but that is thin gruel. Lot's of people have bad parents and they don't turn out like Manson. More importantly, Manson is a known liar and manipulator. Why does anyone believe him when he talks bad about his mother? These people will lie about anyone. They have no shame. His mother may well have been a saint.

Born evil and remains unrepentant

This article offers what seems like a balanced presentation:

"Relatives ... don’t paint a pretty picture. 'Little Charlie Manson was a disagreeable child ... he lied about everything [and] always blamed someone else for his actions ... obsessed with being the center of attention ... he tried to manipulate everyone ... his interest in people was dictated by what they might be able to do for him.'

"Granted, the odds were against a baby born to a 15-year-old girl more interested in partying than motherhood, one whose shenanigans earned her a five-year jail term for robbery when her son was 4. We quickly get the grim impression that Charlie’s destructive course through life was fixed very early. But we also see that he was no hapless victim of circumstance; he chose his path. A kid whose main interests were knives and guns was unlikely to grow up into a happy citizen, even if he was also fond of music.

"Trying to put both their lives in order after she got out of jail, Charlie’s mother was unable to stop him from stealing and cutting school. In desperation, frightened by her out-of-control kid and his 'crazy eyes,' she sent him to a Catholic school for male delinquents when he was 12. Over the next nine years, Charlie graduated from petty crimes and reform schools to transporting stolen cars across state lines, which earned him his first adult jail stint in 1956.

"During his infrequent breaks from captivity in the 11 years that followed, Charlie acquired his only significant work experience as a pimp, applying to vulnerable young women the manipulative skills he’d honed from his jailhouse reading of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. "

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/03/the-making-of-a-monster-charles-manson-s-childhood.html

Michael,
Good article. How anyone can read about Manson and still that some people are not evil is beyond me. He's actually a garden variety psychopath, IMO. Just most psychopaths don't do such publicly outlandish crimes. They tend to be more low key and often personal. It's the same desire to control, possess and harm others for a twisted self-glorification; just some calculate that they shouldn't do certain acts because they'd be caught. Their desires and fantasies are all the same.

The first thing to realize with debates like these is that pretty much everyone concedes that behaviour results from the complex interplay of nature/nurture. And this includes even those who regard one force as being predominant over the other. I think it is fair to say that virtually no one presumes exclusivity of one over the other. So that should be our starting point here. In fact we could even consider this as a postulate: ‘Behaviour is influenced both by intrinsic biological factors and the environment.’

Also, for the sake of this discussion we will assume the existence of freewill, as otherwise there is really no debate to be had (as the notion of evil quickly becomes meaningless when freewill is taken out of the picture; it is almost like saying a brick is evil for landing on someone’s head otherwise).

It is also instructive to consider the question of evil from two different logical possibilities. First, let’s assume that we are mere animals, and there is nothing more to us. All our consciousness, personality, and drives, derive from the complex electro-chemical processes in the brain (of course this seriously brings into question the existence of genuine freewill, but we will assume this exists anyway). Secondly, we will consider the same question from the possibility that we are more than human, that we have a soul separate from the biological animal we inhabit.

We will take the case of someone who is ‘born evil’. If taken literally, this means that no matter what environment this individual is placed in he will be evil anyway. (It is incoherent to consider the idea that someone born evil could potentially (at least from a practical point of view), through being placed in a nice environment, become non-evil. Consider a possible scenario: A new-born baby is evil, immediately placed in the most loving environment possible, and by the age of say 4 has become non-evil. I think you get my point without further elaboration). It is here we hit the first problem. Even if we assume the existence of freewill, does even the mere theoretical (as opposed to practical) possibility of becoming non-evil (presumably through the exercise of freewill) have any real meaning? Lots of things are possible in principle but don’t have any practical significance. It is possible in principle to win the lottery jackpot every time you play. The odds against this happening are overwhelming – but not zero (meaning it is possible in principle). Presumably someone who is born evil would be facing such daunting odds that the chances of transcending this disposition for bad behaviour would be so overwhelmingly small that the above analogy becomes appropriate. (We can consider this a justified assumption, since otherwise the statement ‘being born evil’ is far too strong. The statement naturally carries with it the thought that ‘evil’ is an overwhelmingly powerful force. Otherwise the word evil is entirely inappropriate to use in the first place).

Now take this same scenario, but take it into the future by say 5000 years. We will imagine at that time they have the science and technology to remedy cases like this (evil babies) by manipulating the workings of the human brain. So this future society take such evil new-born babies and tweaks the neural pathways in their brain until they becomes non-evil. The question is of course – how meaningful is it to say this baby was ever evil in the first place? In this kind of future, we would have to define ‘evil’ simply as being the ‘potential’ to behave badly. Since everyone is corrected at such an early age, well before they can actually any commit evil acts, there would be no other operative definition available.

Now modify this thought experiment slightly. Consider an Elysium type planet, where this kind of corrective surgery is only available to the wealthy elite. Then all the evil people on the planet are simply those whose parents are not in a financial position to afford the necessary corrective surgery.

Even the logical possibility of being able to correct for the potential to commit evil is enough however. We could then quite reasonably conceptualize evil people as those who have not been fortunate enough to be born at such a place or time that these kinds of procedures are readily available.

We can never define evil on behaviour alone. Otherwise many animals in the wild are evil. So evil must necessarily be contingent on the capabilities of an ‘evil doer’ to (in principle at least) act otherwise. But even then, evil has quite a nebulous character to it. We rarely assign the word evil to very young children, even when they behave in a way which would be considered evil if an adult were to behave in a similar manner. If a six year old child deliberately pushed another child in front of a bus, would we really regard that child as evil? Or even less extreme, if a child bullies another child, are they evil? On the other hand we would probably consider an adult who exhibits these kinds of behaviours as being evil. Now suppose there are radically advanced alien civilizations out there, with Beings who would regard our intellects similarly to how we might view small children, or more primitive animals even. Would they assign the word evil to any of our behaviour at all? They might conceivably view us in a similar way to how we view more primitive creatures on our planet.

Now let’s consider the other possibility – that we are more than mere humans. Suppose we are spiritual beings inhabiting animal bodies, and let’s suppose NDEs are genuine spiritual experiences. This changes things in a crucial way. It is entirely possible that all evil behaviour is simply derived from the humans we inhabit. It reminds me somewhat of the 90’s movie Dark City (which everyone seems to think is crap apart from me). Whilst we might believe we could never under any circumstance behave a certain way, would we nonetheless do so if we were literally in someone else shoes (another human + another environment)? Putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes is fundamentally different to being in someone else’ shoes, for the former is simply projecting our current life and biological/environmental driven personality into another person’s life and biological/environmental driven personality. The latter is actually being that other person (in the relevant sense) – an entirely different thing. If we are all capable of evil under the right circumstances, then there seems little meaning to the idea of being born evil. This is because evil then becomes contingent and not intrinsic to what we fundamentally are (please bear in mind this is written from the viewpoint that we are not actually human!)

In addition to the above there are other things to consider. Think of Nazi Germany. Were all those people born evil? Seems a massive fluke if this were indeed the case. It is important to bear in mind that it was not logistically possible for organizations such as the Gestapo to operate effectively without considerable help from the general public (by grassing up neighbours/relatives etc). It is historical events such as these that cause one to suspect that wholesale evil behaviour can emerge under the right (or rather wrong) conditions.

The concept of evil is a fluid one, changing over time and geographical region. Different cultures consider different things evil. Although there is often considerable overlap it does bring home how fuzzy the concept of evil is. The problem is that whatever feels right to an individual is right, and vice versa. This statement is more profound than the simple tautology it appears to be. If we feel on an emotional visceral level that something is wrong, then virtually nothing will persuade us otherwise. Typically no amount of logical reasoning will shift us, even when it has been amply demonstrated that our views on one thing we consider evil are completely contradictory to our views on other things we don’t consider evil (this happens all the time). Some people can transcend this trait, but not many. As an example take (voluntary) euthanasia. Some people consider this evil, even though they might consider it cruel not to put a beloved pet out of its misery and suffering. This is blatantly contradictory (to any reasonable person) but a person holding such a view will typically invoke all manners of rationalizations in an effort to offset the self-evidently contradictory nature of these two opposing viewpoints. And there are many many more examples besides this one.

So is evil a manmade concept? Most likely. This conclusion in no way condones bad behaviour. It is simply an attempt to meaningfully deconstruct the concept of evil. Nothing more. I am not trying to condone anything! Without rules of conduct, civilized society simply cannot exist (although I use the word ‘civilized’ in the loosest sense possible, given the current nature of Western civilization).

It is perhaps on a practical level expedient to continue considering certain types of behaviours as evil. Certainly on a purely emotional level I personally feel that certain types of behaviour are evil, irrespective of what I might know on an intellectual level. And perhaps that is the way it should be.

' Mark Green', people do differ on the degree of genetic input. As can be seen in those with varying degrees of cerebral palsy for instance.

Research on mental disorders such as being a Psycopaths is mixed. Some show parental neglect may play a part for example, but also that a number show abnormality in white brain matter important to reward and punishment, and reduced grey matter influencing feeling of guilt, empathy and moral reasoning.

So at present research suggests, some may be born with a propensity to be a psychopath, and others influenced by their environment.

Eric has worked with those with mental disorders and I am a trained psychiatric nurse. I guess saying someone is born with an evil tendency is an opinion ( like yours) as they are described to be - predatory on others.

You orate a lot, so much so I am beginning to think this is your Facebook page.
Cheers Lyn.

Good thoughts, Mark.

"We will take the case of someone who is ‘born evil’. If taken literally, this means that no matter what environment this individual is placed in he will be evil anyway."

Yes. I am saying that. I also believe the science behind the study of psychopathy backs up that assertion.

Yes. I believe that people have free will. However, weird as this may sound, I think that psychopaths are not people exactly. I think they are a different species or subspecies. They are more like vampires. There is something profoundly different about them. The research has noted that it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to take a normal and turn him into a psychopath. You can get as far as anti-social behaviors and callousness, but you get never get that deep seated, malignant, sadistic, perpetual hunger to lie, cheat, steal and, most importantly, to self-aggrandize by possessing and then destroying the hearts and minds of others that is the core personality of the psychopath. This latter part is the very definition of evil. It is a description of Satan.

Psychopaths always dupe people and then enlist the dupes in their notorious schemes. It's how they get off on their power over others. get the dupes to do evil they wouldn't normally do. To ruin them, spiritually. To remove their free will and replace it with the twisted will of the psychopath. So, no, not all members of the Nazi party were born evil. Most were normal that were duped by Hitler. Just as Manson's "girls" were not born evil either.

"The problem is that whatever feels right to an individual is right, and vice versa. This statement is more profound than the simple tautology it appears to be. If we feel on an emotional visceral level that something is wrong, then virtually nothing will persuade us otherwise. "

This is exactly the sort of thing that psychopaths say when working on a dupe. I reject it. Causing sadistic pain and robbing people of their free will is evil. Period. Perhaps if you were a different species, a predatory soul sucking vampire, then it's not wrong for you. I don't care. It is still the definition of evil. And you are evil.


Hi Eric & Lynn

Thanks for your feedback.

I don’t know a great deal about psychopathy other than the snippets I have got from my partner who works in mental health. My understanding up until this point was that psychopaths were simply people who lacked a conscience (or is that sociopaths, I can never remember?). Let’s just for the sake of argument suppose this really is the single defining feature of psychopathy (you can correct me if I am wrong). This raises some very interesting questions.

There is a school of thought that says there is really no such thing as a purely benevolent act. The reasoning behind this thought is that even acts which on the surface appear benevolent are really acts of selfishness in disguise. For instance, when I give my hard earned money to beggars in the street perhaps this is just to stop myself from feeling so bad about walking by and ignoring someone in need. Suppose one day this associated feeling of increased self-respect no longer occurred when I performed such charitable acts. Would I still continue to give anyway?

This is actually a very difficult question to answer, as it is purely hypothetical. I can try to imagine how I would act in that situation, but to be honest I don’t really know. If one has a conscience it is actually very difficult to imagine not having one, and to imagine the ensuing behaviour.

Something else to consider. I imagine that some psychopaths have traits which normal people have, but suppress. For instance, some normal people have a sadistic streak but mostly suppress their sadistic urges due to having a conscience. And the same is true of other negative traits such as dishonesty, manipulation, controlling behaviour, etc. I think it is likely that psychopaths, as with normal people, span the full spectrum of negative traits. The only difference is that psychopaths have nothing in place (a conscience) to counteract their destructive impulses. The people who you identify in your post as psychopaths are most likely only a small subset of total psychopaths. This subset happens to possess negative traits which are somewhat more pronounced than in general cases, and so therefore exhibit the most abhorrent behaviour.

Another thing which might be relevant to all this is the behaviour of children. I remember when I was a child I did not really have much of a genuine conscience about anything at all. Like most other children, I was trained by parents and society to behave via a system of reward and punishment. This is really nothing much more than Skinner conditioning, where an association is eventually formed between good behaviour and reward, and bad behaviour and punishment. I do not really know for certain whether other children had more than a conscience than I did because my behaviour was reasonably typical of other children (I was admittedly quite a naughty child in many ways, but probably not exceptionally so). But at some stage as I got older I developed a genuine conscience. The exact reason why is not altogether clear, but I think has probably something to do with an increased ability to empathize with others, and things of that nature.

So this might be another factor which makes psychopathy more of a multi-faceted phenomenon. Perhaps some psychopaths are simply better trained, so exhibit less deviant behaviour. Perhaps the Skinner conditioning of childhood sticks with them throughout their life, while in the more deviant cases of psychopathy this is not the case for some reason.

The problem is it would probably be hard to tell if what I am saying here is true or not, since if what I am saying is true, then these other psychopaths would not be so readily identifiable, and perhaps would fall under the radar.

I am inclined to believe that in reality there is just a continuum. As humans we have the innate tendency to put things in boxes. This characteristic is basically a form of cognitive economy, as it helps us to make sense of an otherwise very complex and chaotic world. If a pattern is discernable enough to register on our collective consciousness then we will immediately place it in some kind of category. This has the unfortunate unintended consequence of creating a false impression of how the world really is. It creates the illusion of discreteness where there is none.

I know this is probably very hard for some people to accept (although I have to admit I am not altogether convinced of the correctness of this view, it is just a strong suspicion of mine). But it might be instructive to consider this same principle in a different context – evolutionary biology. We falsely believe that what we identify as species provides evidence that there is a discrete nature to evolutionary processes. There is in reality however just a continuum. This is much easier to see once one considers the fact that 99.9% of all animal species that have ever walked the face of the Earth are now extinct, and also that the typical layperson person is only aware of a very small fraction of currently existing species anyway.

Mark,

Psychopath and sociopath are generally used interchangeably. Some researchers make some nuanced distinctions and others do not.

I understand your points, but I think you missed a key point of mine - that the defining characteristic of the psychopath is " deep seated, malignant, sadistic, perpetual hunger to lie, cheat, steal and, most importantly, to self-aggrandize by possessing and then destroying the hearts and minds of others that is the core personality of the psychopath"

If the main difference between a psychopath and a normal was simply a functioning conscience, then you would expect that psychopaths would just tale what they wanted from people with no regard to the victims' rights or feelings or material wellbeing. All of which they do, for sure.

My point is that it goes deeper than that. The sadism. The need to not just take what they want, but to utterly ruin the victim at the deepest levels. It's not enough to say, seduce a woman and have the sexual relationship that is desired and then abruptly break off the relationship when satisfied and bored. No. The psychopath must demean and degrade the woman. Before he can leave he must see her ruined. He must smash her self-esteem. Get her to do degrading sex acts that she wouldn't normally be comfortable with. Break her spirit in every way. When she has lost her sense of herself and has become desperately confused and afraid and, out of that confusion and fear, does whatever the psychopath demands, then, and only then, does the psychopath feel true satisfaction and is ready to move onto the next victim.

If you're telling me that that is how normals really are, but for this thing called "conscience", then I disagree. Sure, without conscience, you find your best friend's wife attractive. You seduce her and have an affair. Pretty rotten, but still nothing like all the possession, degradation and soul destruction that the psychopath must do to feel powerful and somewhat alive.

I know as I child I didn't do a lot of "bad" things - some that other kids did - because it felt wrong. I could put myself in the shoes of the potential victim and feel what they would feel. Also, sharing and being friends just felt better than fighting and bullying. Actually, I did fist fight a lot, but it was always against bullies that were picking on weaker kids (I was always unusually strong, athletic and pretty much fearless in that regard). Anyhow, it wasn't due to conditioning or conscience per se....just a feeling, I think. Is conscience the same as empathy? Are you saying that people are born without empathy and that has to be taught? Not sure I agree with that, but would need to think more about it.

A friend told me this real-life story: Many years ago, a toddler was visiting at her grandmother's house. The little girl was carrying around a sticky dessert that was dripping on the carpet. The grandmother politely asked her to sit at the table while she ate so she wouldn't do further damage to the carpet.

Instead, the toddler marched up to the nearest window and very deliberately wiped her sticky, messy hands all over the curtains, leaving deep stains. She then turned and showed her grandmother a wide, knowing, openly malicious smile.

Perhaps not surprisingly, that kid grew up to be manipulative and unbalanced.

Was she born bad? I don't know. But she seems to have been pretty bad by the time she was old enough to walk. It may not make much difference whether someone is bad at birth or whether he or she becomes bad within the first year or so of life.

Is this common? Probably not. But it's real. There is such a thing as a "bad seed," no matter how we choose to explain it.

I did not miss your point Eric. I stated at the top of my post that I was not sure of the exact criteria used to judge whether or not someone is a psychopath, but suspected it was to do with not having a conscience. I then stated I would assume that to be the case for the sake of argument, and see where that idea lead me.

If we assume for a moment that is the correct criteria for psychopathy then a lot of things which I stated were actually valid (albeit speculative) points. For instance it seems entirely possible in principle for someone not to have a conscience but to be reasonably well behaved, for all the reasons I stated in my post.

Having said this, if one does not define psychopathy by lack of conscience, but by criteria you suggested, then clearly my points were not valid. But I did say to at the beginning of my post I was going to assume ‘lack of conscience’ was the defining characteristic of psychopathy.

I think you possibly misunderstood my point about normal people. I was suggesting there is an individual spectrum for each personality trait. Potentially these traits could be largely independent of each other, but I think realistically there probably is at least some degree of correlation between them, though to exactly what degree is probably more a matter of speculation. My point was that if someone had a strong conscience, then how would one know the difference between someone who lacked these other negative traits, and someone who possessed these negative traits but did not generally act on them due to having a conscience? The same behaviours might well be observed in both classes of people.

It is also important to understand what I meant by the term ‘normal’ people. Within the context I was stating this, I simply meant non-psychopaths (people without a conscience according to the criteria I was assuming) but who spanned the complete spectrum of all other personality traits. So no I was not suggesting normal people would do the things you stated, at least in the sense you are using the word ‘normal’. I am simply saying there may be at least a small minority of people who do possess a conscience but might exhibit other negative traits which do not significantly affect their behaviour, at least under normal circumstances. There is suggestive evidence this might be the case as well, as history has shown us repeatedly that apparently normal people can both perpetrate and condone very abhorrent and destructive behaviour.

Nope, I was certainly not suggesting people are not born without empathy but it is trained into them. Training and empathy are fundamentally different things. Humans can be trained to behave in a very similar manner to how animals can be trained. It is called conditioning. This in itself will never lead to genuine empathy. I am simply saying that people can exhibit good behaviour for different reasons. Having said this, I would think that genuine empathy is a far better constraint on deviant behaviour than simply being trained to behave, at least in general.

My overall point was that there are most likely numerous factors which contribute to behaviour, and it might not always be obvious from behaviour alone what the different combinations of underlying traits might be in an individual. And that to me seems to me to be quite a reasonable suggestion.

And no, conscience is not the same as empathy. I think a conscience has probably far more to do with conditioning. We are trained by society to feel bad about doing certain things. Qualities like empathy and compassion are more fundamental, and probably have little or nothing to do with training.

Michael Prescott

It is demonstrably the case that there are “bad seeds”. But “how we choose to explain it” is precisely the focus of my posts. It is exclusively this I am addressing.

Mark,
OK. Then maybe a defining feature of the psychopath is that s/he is untrainable in the sense you describe. In fact, they resist the training tooth and nail.

This Earth life is a school and we are only here temporarily, just enough to learn what we need to learn and then transition to that great holographic heaven described by thousands of near death experiencers. The physics of heaven is very different from the physics we experience here.

There is both bad and good in this world so that it evokes enough emotion to imprint on the soul the stuff it came here to learn. It is the way it is in order to overcome the difference between the physics we experience here and the physics of where we are going. Time and space, duality and separation, oneness and connectedness, being embodied, etc. is all different where the soul is headed. The good thing is though when we get there it will all feel natural to us.

The soul's lessons are embedded in our everyday lives and we are holistically imprinted with what we need to learn regardless of who we are, or where we live, or what we believe. The reason "why we are here" is universal meaning it applies to everyone at every time and place in this life. Everyone experiences duality and separation, time and space, being embodied, and makes memories of what it was like to live in a 3 dimensional + 1 time universe.

Everyone is healed when they enter that Light.

"My Kingdom is not of this world." - Jesus the Near Death Experiencer

Here's an interesting site, one for you Art.

http://www.lifeafterdeathexperiences.com/

Lyn x.

Hmm perhaps not. Appears to be a personal commentary on life. Lyn x.

I think it is ultimately more meaningful to define evil from a strictly utilitarian point of view. Rather than label an individual as evil, it actually makes more sense to label certain acts as evil, namely those which cause harm to others. My reason for saying this is as follows.

When I perform a charitable act, such as giving money to a needy person, there are two possible underlying reasons why I might be inclined to do so. One reason is that it prods my conscience if I do not give at least some of my (not very excessive!) surplus to people in need. This conscience probably largely results from social conditioning. Society teaches us that it is virtuous to be generous, and not to be selfish. The other reason is that I have genuine sympathy, empathy and compassion for my fellow human beings, and have a deep down desire to help alleviate someone else’s hardship because I genuinely care, and do not like seeing people suffer. Introspection suggests to me that both of these factors are present in myself and influence my behaviour. This is perfectly coherent since these two things are clearly not mutually exclusive. So to the degree that I am performing such benevolent acts out of the goodness of my heart I am a good person, right?

Wrong. Further analysis reveals this line of reasoning to be on somewhat shaky ground. Here is the problem. I did not choose to have empathy and compassion in the first place. It is no more someone else’s fault that they completely lack these traits than it is of my doing that I possess them. It is just happenstance as far as I can see. It is not like someone without these qualities can simply press a button and suddenly acquire them. I did not a choice one day to possess some qualities but not others. I did not wake up one morning and think “Hey, you know what, I wouldn’t mind possessing a bit of empathy and compassion. Now where is the activation button that switches these things on.”

It is at this point that the idea of genuine benevolence starts to fall apart. If one really dislikes seeing someone suffer, then in a sense it is easier to help someone than it is to not. Walking by and not intervening is more unpleasant than parting with some of your hard earned cash. In other words, in a very real sense it is the path of least resistance.

So not only did I not choose to have these qualities in the first place, but given that I happen to possess these traits, behaving the way I do is actually self-centred – it is easier for me. I am motivated to act this way because my personality traits, which I did not choose, dictate it is easier for me to be this way than to be a selfish git.

It does not really need any more exposition to see the exact converse applies. We could substitute ‘good traits’ for ‘bad traits’ and apply exactly the same reasoning as above.

So in what sense are there good people and bad people. Sure, there is good and bad behaviour, so defining evil in terms of behaviour seems reasonable. But claiming there are evil people in the sense that they are inherently evil seems a bit dubious.

(Just to qualify my claim that conscience largely results from social conditioning: People can be trained to think that just about anything is right or wrong. For instance some people genuinely believe it is immoral to accept blood transfusions, or celebrate Christmas. Going against these beliefs will invariably cause them to have a guilty conscience. Conversely just about anything can be accepted as moral. Take the gladiator sports which was condoned by the Roman Empire, and many under the Roman Empire. These people saw absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the spectacle of seeing people slaughter each other. Even now there are many people who see nothing wrong with violent and sadistic blood sports involving animals and/or humans. This is why I make a sharp distinction between conscience and genuine compassion. They are not the same thing, although at times they can act together, as explained above.)

Michael said:

"There is such a thing as a "bad seed," no matter how we choose to explain it."

Michael, do you think some *dogs* are born evil?

Because we know that within years, or months, rottweilers, for example, can be trained to be vicious. They can be taught to seemingly take pleasure—as that girl at the curtains did—in doing some really bad stuff.

But does it make sense to talk of such harshly trained animals as bad seeds? Especially when they no doubt began their lives as gentle puppies. And especially since experience has shown that such animals can often be taken out of their hellish environments and redeemed, and their loving qualities allowed to emerge?

Is it possible that the girl in question was similarly taught, by the circumstances of her environment, to be malevolent?

I really don't know. Do you know anything of the girl's background?

Having said this, I am open to the possible that we may bring into this life, from past lives, tendencies that might make it challenging to become positive, loving, beings in our current lives. And that such people might, in that sense, bear some resemblance to bad seeds.

But I also think we're in danger of looking at the girl you described, ignoring her upbringing—yes, even just a year or two, as with the rottweilers—and then jumping to conclusions that are less than accurate.

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