Sometimes spirituality is like a drug; you get high on your beliefs. They pump you up, ease your conscience, or provide simple answers to complex problems. But then one day you realize that the answers aren’t very good answers, and getting high feeds your ego more than your soul.
There is a trend, seen most strongly in New Age writing, to deny or ignore the dark side of human nature. New Age philosophy tells you that human beings are by nature loving creatures that turn bad only when they have been hurt in some way. If everyone was raised in an environment of unconditional love there would be no selfishness or violence, no greed, power struggles or illness. You are told that your true essence is divine and, indeed, that you are God. You come into the world perfect, and only poor parenting or hurtful life events cause you to behave in selfish or antisocial ways. Sin is nothing more than ignorance of your divine and perfect nature. The New Age viewpoint is that there are just two fundamental emotions in life: love and fear. All other emotions are derived from these two.
These ideas are attractive. They soothe your ego and defend against the unpleasant reality of evil. In the New Age, evil is an illusion and has no independent presence or activity in the universe. Hate and cruelty are ultimately caused by fear, not evil. In this respect, fear is the perfect fallback, as in: “I know I shouldn’t have raped that woman, but I was afraid of emotional intimacy.”
One problem with this belief system is that it sells you short as a human being. In fact, you are capable of far more evil than you probably give yourself credit for. And this capacity for evil isn’t just caused by a lack of nurturance as a child, or out of a fear of success, or a fear of your divinity. You are capable of evil because you are human, and human beings aren’t born whole, they are born unconscious. If you live life well, you become more whole through the process.
You are capable of evil because, like all people, you are egocentric. The more egocentric you are, the more out of sync you are likely to be with your soul and God. If you find yourself on a power trip, the cause isn’t always to be found in fear or an unconscious “inferiority complex.” It could be that you just like the feeling of power. It is a high for your ego. You can be a glutton not because you aren’t getting enough emotional nourishment. Maybe you like being a glutton and have never felt that motivated to change your behavior. You may abuse alcohol or drugs not just because you are spiritually starved. In fact, it could be the other way around. Perhaps you are spiritually starved because you opt for quick and simple solutions, rather than those requiring sacrifice and self-discipline. You may have an affair not because your spouse has been “emotionally unavailable.” Your infidelity may have been driven more by the excitement you feel in breaking the rules. After all, your ego prefers to make rules rather than follow them.
Not only does evil arise from your human egocentricity, it also has a powerful and independent life of its own. Evil is the second-most formidable force you encounter in life, and if you take a Pollyanna view of it, you are that much more likely to become its instrument. Jung once said that “not knowing acts like guilt.” This is especially true of those realities which you should be aware of but are not. The painful truth, the truth you don’t want to see, is that you collude with evil. You collude with it on an individual basis by choosing to remain ignorant of your shadow, or “dark side.” You collude with it by choosing not to explore the motives, methods and masquerades of your own egocentricity. You choose to remain unconscious.
You also collude with evil at a collective level. For example, as a nation we collude with evil by continuing to abuse and exploit the earth, or by building a huge national debt that we will leave for our children and grandchildren (better they suffer than we). You collude with evil when you allow your government to wage war on behalf of corporations, or ignore issues of poverty and social injustice. You collude with evil by accepting the pre-packaged and pre-analyzed “news” of the mainstream media, when deep inside you know that if you aren’t being lied to, you sure as hell aren’t getting the whole truth. You collude with ignorance in order to remain ignorant. You collude with certain spiritual beliefs so as to avoid a more humbling encounter with your soul and God.
This is the problem with candy store spirituality: it tastes good, but it does not nourish. It is not fun to look into a mirror and see a Hitler staring back at you. But, to not look into the mirror is to not own the whole of who you are; the beautiful and the repugnant, the blessed and the evil. You diminish yourself when you do not shoulder the truth of your larger being. You can do good, and you can do evil, and part of your job on earth is to figure out which is which.
1. Chitwood, Terry, EdD. Death: The Beginning of Life. Polestar Publications: Sioux Falls, SD. 1988.
2. Jones, Alan W. Soul Making: The desert way of spirituality. Harper Collins: NY. 1985.
3. Stein, Murray. Jung on Evil, (selected writings of Carl Jung). Princeton University Press: NJ. 1995.
For more info, contact Dr. Andy Drymalski, Reno and Carson City psychologist at 775-786-3818, or visit online at www.renocarsonpsychologist.com.