Evil and Us

Even if, juristically speaking, we were not accessories to the crime, we are always, thanks to our human nature, potential criminals. 

In reality we merely lacked a suitable opportunity to be drawn into the infernal melee. 

None of us stands outside humanity's black collective shadow. 

Whether the crime lies many generations back, or happens today, it remains the symptom of a disposition that is always and everywhere present - and one would therefore do well to possess some "imagination in evil," for only the fool can permanently neglect the conditions of his own nature. In fact, this negligence is the best means of making him an instrument of evil.

What is even worse, our lack of insight deprives us of the capacity to deal with evil.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.68

The civilised man, where he cannot admire, will aim rather at understanding than at reprobating. He will seek rather to discover and remove the impersonal causes of evil than to hate the men who are in its grip.

[Bertrand Russell]
Unpopular Essays ('The Functions of a Teacher'), p.130

John Bradford (1510 - 1555) was a prebendary of St. Paul's. He was an English Reformer and martyr best remembered for his utterance, "There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford."

The words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London, when he saw a criminal going to execution for his crimes.

"John Bradford"

Any attempt to understand the attraction which Fascism exercises upon great nations compels us to recognize the role of psychological factors.

For we are dealing here with a political system which, essentially, does not appeal to rational forces of self-interest, but which arouses and mobilizes diabolical forces in man which we had believed to be non-existent, or at least to have died out long ago.

The dark and diabolical forces of man's nature were relegated to the Middle Ages and to still earlier periods of history, and they were explained by lack of knowledge or by the cunning schemes of deceitful kings and priests.

One felt secure and confident that the achievements of modern democracy had wiped out all sinister forces; the world looked bright and safe like the well-lit streets of a modern city.

When Fascism came into power, most people were unprepared, both theoretically and practically. They were unable to believe that man could exhibit such propensities for evil, such lust for power, such disregard for the rights of the weak, or such yearning for submission.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.5-6

Although we are still almost totally ineffective at dealing with habitual criminals, there is a greater realization that savage punishments neither deter nor reform, and a greater inclination to perceive that antisocial conduct may reflect alienation from society or feelings of despair rather than innate wickedness.

[Anthony Storr]
Freud, p.126

Fundamentally speaking, evil has no more existence than a mistake. The ultimate nature of all living beings is perfect. That perfection is always there, deep within us, even when it's hidden from sight by ignorance, desire and hatred.

[...] the essential perfection of the Buddha nature is inherently present within each living being in the same way that there's oil inherently present within sesame seeds.

That perfection may be hidden from sight, but needs only to be revealed and expressed as we rid ourselves of what hides it, the obscuring layers of ignorance and of the negative emotions that form under ignorance's influence.

Those obscuring layers don't belong to the Buddha nature. They hide it from sight but they don't change it in any way. Nonetheless, it's all too easy for us to lose track of that essential nature and get involved in dualistic ways of thinking that are translated into negative words and deeds, and hence into suffering.

The apparent opposition between good and bad doesn't really exist. It's simply the result of our way of seeing things. It exists for us, but only for us. It's sort of a hallucination. The false doesn't have any real existence and isn't in any way a component of the truth.

So evil is only an aberration, just as a mistake is only an incorrect perception of reality.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher

Evil needs to be pondered just as much as good, for good and evil are ultimately nothing but extensions and abstractions of doing, and both belong to the chiaroscuro of life.

[C.G. Jung]
The Essential Jung, p.280

Slave morality is essentially the morality of utility. Here is the source of the famous antithesis 'good' and ‘evil’ - power and danger were felt to exist in evil, a certain dreadfulness, subtlety and strength which could not admit of contempt. 

Thus, according to slave morality the ‘evil’ inspire fear; according to master morality it is precisely the ‘good' who inspire fear and want to inspire it, while the ‘bad’ man is judged contemptible. 

The antithesis reaches its height when, consistently with slave morality, a breath of disdain finally also comes to be attached to the 'good' of this morality - it may be a slight and benevolent disdain - because within the slaves' way of thinking the good man has in any event to be a harmless man: he is good-natured, easy to deceive, perhaps a bit stupid, un bonhomme. Wherever slave morality comes to predominate, language exhibits a tendency to bring the words 'good' and ‘stupid' closer to each other. 

-- A final fundamental distinction: the longing for freedom, the instinct for the happiness and the refinements of the feeling of freedom, belong just as necessarily to slave morality and morals as the art of reverence and devotion and the enthusiasm for them are the regular symptom of an aristocratic mode of thinking and valuating.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 260

It is easy enough to divide our neighbors quickly, with the usual myopia, from a mere five paces away, into useful and harmful, good and evil men; but in any large-scale accounting, when we reflect on the whole a little longer, we become suspicious of this neat division and finally abandon it. 

Even the most harmful man may really be the most useful when it comes to the preservation of the species; for he nurtures either in himself or in others, through his effects, instincts without which humanity would long have become feeble or rotten. 

Hatred, the mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, the lust to rob and dominate, and whatever else is called evil belongs to the most amazing economy of the preservation of the species. To be sure, this economy is not afraid of high prices, of squandering, and it is on the whole extremely foolish. Still it is proven that it has preserved our race so far.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 1

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