I was drawn to Martin Buber’s ideas of I-Thou while at unversity in the 1960s. Here is a great post by Andrew on the subject. How often do we treat others as objects rather than as other subjects with whom we can empathise?
Of course, much modern politics is all about I-It, treating people as objects. Those who seek empathy and treating others humanely, as opposed to cold hearted objectivity, are tarred as woolly hearted liberals.
Similarly, I-It dominates many people’s attitude to the natural world, rather than being embedded in the wonder. Which is of course why we have a global ecological crisis.
Martin Buber’s book “I and Thou” is an inquiry into how our relationships with others shape our reality. His main thesis, which runs throughout the course of the book, is that there are two different modes in which we encounter the world, namely through ‘I-It’ or ‘I-Thou’ relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at these concepts in more detail.
I-It relationships are entered into to achieve some sort of external goal or purpose. Through these type of encounters we engage others with the intent and expectation of attaining some gain or benefit. For those familiar with the language of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, people are treated as means to achieve an end.
With the rise of political and economic bureaucracies, shift towards urbanization and the proliferation of global corporations of the modern era, I-IT relationships have become the predominant mode of interaction in our day to day lives.
Another great poem from Steve Taylor this week, reminding us that all the fears, guilt, imaginations, projections, bitterness… are inventions of our minds; when only what is happening here and now is of importance.
None of this is now
None of this is now: your fears about the future your guilt and bitterness about the past.
None of this is now: the obstacles that seem to lie ahead and the failures that seem to stretch behind.
Only this is now: your moment-to-moment experience of the world and of your being in the world and of the other beings who share your world.
And only the now is real. An unreal past can’t hurt you as a shadow can’t burn the ground. An unreal future can’t hurt you as a reflection can’t break the still surface of a lake.
Only your mind can hurt you when it wanders away from now and loses itself in restless thoughts of unreal times and places.
Can science and spirituality be reconciled? Is there a way of looking at things that brings them into alignment? Of course, the answer is ‘yes’. In his book Spiritual Science, published 2018, Steve Taylor gives a convincing answer. His subtitle is ‘why science needs spirituality to make sense of the world’. Steve gives the reasons and, from my perspective, comprehensively demolishes the arguments for the recently dominant paradigms of materialism and scientism.
Steve looks at the origins of materialism. Science originally developed alongside religion through pioneers such as Descartes, Kepler and Newton. They were not seen as incompatible. it was around the second half of the 19C that Darwin’s theory of evolution came to put into question whether the biblical stories could actually be true; there came a theory that religion was not necessary to explain the world. TH Huxley was a leading proponent of what became the materialistic viewpoint. The inner content of experience and consciousness itself were mysterious elided. After the world wars further discredited religions, materialism gradually took hold, and there came about a new faith that materialism could explain everything. As Steve points out this has denigrated the experience of the spiritual/religious life, and indeed has become a new religion. The result has become increasingly clear as humanity in the large degrades the natural world, and even imperils its own existence.
Steve then goes on to ask the simple question ‘What if the primary reality of the universe is not matter? What if there is another quality, which is so fundamental that it actually pervades matter, and matter is actually a manifestation of it? What if this othe quality also pervades living beings, and all non-living things, so that they are always interconnected?’ Of course, this sort of idea has been adopted by many cultures in history, and is similar to the perspective of the ageless wisdom propagated by Helena Blavatsky. Steve refers back to the ancient Greek philosophy, to the world’s religions, to indigenous cultures, all of whihc had similar viewpoints. It is the modern materialism that is the aberration.
Steve’s panspiritism, and the similar panpsychism, have much greater explanatory power than materialism, which tends to reject the numerous phenomena that it cannot explain, not least the question of consciousness itself, which tends to be ‘explained away’ from the materialist viewpoint (the ‘hard problem’). In the panspiritist vew, consciousness exists everywhere and in everything, and the brain acts as some sort of receiver which channels it. And of course this view allows for the possibility of ‘spiritual experiences’, which are well understood and documented.
Steve goes on to explore the correlates between mind, brain and body, near-death and awakening (spiritual) experiences, psychic phenomena, an alternative view of evolution, the puzzle of altruism, and the problems of quantum physics, which has long been known to be inconsistent with simple materialism. Finally he outlines key tenets of panspiritism and the significance of the expansion of consciousness in the evolution of our universe. This is what it’s all about!
Steve’s book is a genuine tour de force, expressed in language that is not deeply technical. Well worth reading.
I imagine that there is always a wonderful sunset in progress somewhere on earth; whether you see it is just a question of where you stand – a metaphor for the inner spiritual world that lies always within and is accessible with the right inner stance, or so we are told by countless mystics and sages.
The process of seeing the setting sun is, for me, in itself a spiritual experience, bringing me closer to that inner world. So the chance to stand on these Devon cliffs at the recent full moon, as the sun went down, was a privilege indeed. My trusty Panasonic ZX200 superzoom made a fair interpretation of the true glory of the colours, here presented in time sequence.
I was watching out for the green flash as the sun disappeared, but it was not to be on this occasion.
Meanwhile, behind me the unusually large April supermoon was coming up fast, a reminder that these two lights are inseparable and interdependent, as are mind and feelings, which they represent in astrology.
Another great post by Scott Preston which draws together many different but related threads in the study of our two modes of consciousness.
The ideas of Jean Gebser, William Blake, Carlos Castaneda, Iain McGilchrist, Buddhism, Christian mysticism are woven together and related. All are clearly describing the same reality with different terminologies. And what a wonderful title word: diaphaneity.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” — William Blake
“Purify your eyes, and see the pure world. Your life will fill with radiant forms.” — Rumi
“The mystery, or the secret, of the sorcerers’ explanation is that it deals with unfolding the wings of perception. The nagual by itself is of no use, it has to be tempered by the tonal. The sorcerers’ secret in using the nagual is in our perception.” — don Juan to Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power.
In his book The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser describes the new (integral) consciousness as being chiefly characterised by “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world”. The citations above are other attestations to the fundamental reality of the “diaphainon
From time to time I include on this blog a poem by Steve Taylor from his latest newsletter. This one reminds us about the source of what is really important, rather than what is on the surface – listening to the intuition, as opposed to the instant reaction of emotions or monkey mind…
Everything Comes from your Depths
Nothing real or valuable comes from the surface of your mind – only the most trivial thoughts, the most mundane impressions and the most selfish desires.
Everything real and valuable comes from the depths of your being – the intuitions that guide your life as surely as a compass the creative flow that carries you to places you never knew existed the inspiration that lifts you to peaks you never knew you could reach the insights that are shared with you like whispered secrets from a stranger.
So let your the mind be soft and clear free of assumptions and beliefs and of dense swirling mists of thought so that there is no barrier between you and your mysterious soul and so that the endless riches of your depths keep rising to your surface.
In this post Victor Negro suggests how we are influenced and manipulated by outside forces and individuals pursuing their own agendas, encouraging us to give away our own power.
All around we see how political agendas are pursued by subtle means to ensure a population compliant with their agenda (eg ‘economic growth’, ‘consumerism’).
Our task is surely to become aware of these manipulations (not necessarily conscious), and become our authentic selves. As Victor says, ‘It depends on whether you have your power or you have given it away.’
There are some happenings around you that will make you think that you are being wasted, being finished. You are living your life and doing what ought to be done to the best that you can, but something seems to be undermining you, something seems to be in resistance, tugging at your sense of completeness, trying to deflate you.
Sometimes, it is difficult to place a hand on what is going on, because most times these impressions are most active when you are alone, and at other times when you are with others. You can feel a lessening on your body and some dark thoughts within you. You can feel, sometimes, your strengths waning and everything seem dark and you question the truth of your being and of what you desire. You may even entertain the thoughts of giving up. At some points, these things happen to you not because…
I love this post from Scott Preston with a great title. It draws together ancient philosophical/ spiritual/ religious ideas and more modern thinking to suggest the direction that human consciousness is moving in, letting go of Monkey Mind and coming into presence.
Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.” Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.” Huike said, “Although I’ve sought it, I cannot find it.” “There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified it for you.”
It is often very difficult for Westerners, especially, to understand the meaning of this parable. Generations of conditioning has inculcated the belief that the res cogitans is fundamental to who and what we are — that is “the thinking thing”. “I think, therefore I am”, pronounced Descartes, and divided being into incommensurate domains of the res cogitans and the res extensa — the subject which thinks and the objective realm that it thinks about, the realm of extension, of space and motion. Cogito ergo sum — I am because I think.
This formula (called “metaphysical dualism”) has generated all sorts of problems for the modern mind, which are not…
In this post Andrew reminds us of the value of stillness, the clear mind, the insight into our own inner being. This is how we avoid the constant distraction of the modern world and its insistent demands on our thoughts and attention.
Many of us will do just about anything to avoid a state of boredom. Alone in an empty room staring into the ceiling and doing nothing but examining our thoughts seems dreadful. Faced with this situation we quickly turn to our mobile phones scrolling aimlessly, browse the internet or watch television.
Any distraction will suffice to avoid boredom.
We pride ourselves on outward achievement, on constantly having something to do. Consequently, being busy has become a status symbol in our culture. It demonstrates to others that you are important and have achieved some level of success.
However, not all cultures think of this matter with the same perspective. Eastern philosophies emphasize the importance of introspection and stillness. The practice of meditation asks us to sit alone with the contents of our mind…
One of my themes in this blog has been the over-dominance of left brain as against right brain in current Western societies. This was the subject of Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary, reviewed here in 2016. So I was delighted to come across this video of McGilchrist in conversation with John Cleese (of Fawlty Towers fame) on the subject of Creativity, Humour and The Meaning of Life, and their essential relationship with the right brain.
To pick just two points that it inspired for me:
Comedy is essentially ‘right brain’, and is not ‘politically correct’ or ‘woke’. Comedy depends on irreverence, and being able to laugh at things that are potentially forbidden subjects. Just think of those TV images of masses of men leading the Soviet Politburo or the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Not much comedy in those solemn faces.
Meaning, imagination and inspiration are very much related to right brain. Have you noticed just how boring politicians are on the media when they are in the process of spouting some ‘party line’ that the left brain is following? The only interesting speakers on programmes such as the BBC’s Question Time are those with the freedom to speak out from their own life experience.
You will have your own takeaways from listening to this fascinating conversation between an outstanding academic/psychiatrist and a top class comedian. The video is in 3 parts of around 20 minutes each. The first part follows, and will naturally lead you on to the others..
Most of us are familiar with the biblical story of the fall, when Adam and Eve were thrown out of paradise after an incident with a serpent and a piece of fruit. I remember it from Sunday School at the local Methodist Chapel. Why did our ancestors place so much emphasis on this story? It comes in Genesis 2, in verse 8, just after the creation of heaven and earth.
And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man…
God creates Adam and then Eve and by the end of Chapter 4 (verse 23), because Eve partook of the fruit of a forbidden tree (it was clearly the woman’s fault):
…the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth…
This was obviously highly significant to the men (well they probably were of that gender) who set down the Old Testament. Why? Well, Steve Taylor’s book The Fall has an answer to this question, not only for the scribes of that era, but also for ourselves and future human beings.
It’s taken me a while to get around to reading this book – first published in 2005 and highly recommended by many reviewers. I guess I sort of thought I knew the story, but it was not with the wonderful vision encompassed by this book. Steve is a psychologist, so his story is imbued with a deep understanding of human psychology, but he has also clearly researched and understood many disciplines to produce a work of this scope. This is a history of the fall and a vision of our potential return to paradise.
I make no apology for reblogging this quote from the Vaclav Havel, the much loved last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic. I believe it speaks particularly to the difficult times we face, worldwide. It is through hope that we will chart a way through.
“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not a prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for success, but rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope definitely is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Nationalism is a psychological abberation, driven by insecurity. This is the message of this excellent article by Steve Taylor in Psychology Today, which I recommend reading. Nations are artificial constructs, which lead to pathological effects such as wars. The basic psychology of human beings is co-operative with their fellow human beings. The problems we now face, such as the covid19, climate breakdown, species extinction transcend national boundaries. The only future for humanity is one of global co-operation.
The impulse behind Brexit, of ‘making the UK great again’, and the similar impulse behind the Trump presidency, have been going in precisely the wrong direction, driven by the insecurity of their former working populations who have been driven to feel insecure by the economic system. The US appears to have a ‘get out of jail’ card in a Joe Biden presidency, but only if he addresses that failed economic system. The UK has got itself into a more permanent mess with Brexit, but can emerge if the co-operation engendered by a fair ‘deal’ is brought to fruition. A ‘no deal’ will be a psychological disaster for not just UK, but the whole of Europe. The insecurity generated can only lead to more problems.
Of course, nations will still need to exist in some form to organise human affairs, but only within the context of the larger groupings of which they are a part. History tells us that these are largely geographically based – China, India, various European empires, USA… or more global such as the Spanish, British and French colonial expansions. And the context of the United Nations or equivalent organisation is vital.
The charismatic and the populist leader are most suspect in this whole context. I suspect they automatically come to prominence as the collective sense of insecurity rises.
As Steve says,
Nationalism is a psychological aberration, and we owe it to our ancestors, and to our descendants — and to the other species, and to the Earth itself — to move beyond it.
Do you sometimes wonder at the larger number of do-gooding organisations in the world? How come there are so many, many people willing to dedicate part of their lives to improving the lot of others and our connection with nature. Their name is legion.
Of course, many of us despair at the dark forces of personality and greed that apparently lead many major governments and businesses. But behind this there are so many forces moving in a more enlightened direction, and changing the nature of political debate, slowly but surely.
I believe that we see here the symptoms of genuine progress of humanity, away from the strong attraction of charismatic and fear-driven personality/ego forces, towards a deeper and genuine connection with, for want of a better phrase, spiritual values such as truth, beauty, goodness, compassion. Humanity is evolving, not least because of the demands being placed on us as a result of recent materialistic blindness,
I was much struck by the words of Simon Marlow in the recent Arcane School full moon talk for the sign of Sagittarius:
“Let us be clear in our assertion of the reality that over the course of history humanity has displayed a real trajectory of spiritual progress and development. This view causes not a few eyebrows to be raised, especially these days, when there is so much apparent evidence to the contrary. The conventional scientific and sociological view is that humanity has not really changed at all for thousands of years; that the great civilisations are but superficial veneers which temporarily paper over the permanently present and serious cracks or flaws in the character of humanity; that humanity is in fact fatally flawed. All apparent progress is only notional, to use Stephen J Gould’s striking phrase.
If we just existed as the form, as separate selfish personalities, as forever warring nations and competing power blocs, I think we would be quite justified in holding this view. But the point is we are not just personalities. The personality is, if you like, only the tip of the iceberg, the visible bit. Deeper than that, perhaps hidden to many but always present, are far more extensive, holistic and loving dimensions of our being. These dimensions are now demanding a widespread recognition. And did we but know it, the very flaws and deficiencies within humanity are forcing us all to become discoverers of these dimensions of conscious living that lie hidden within us all. And the guarantee of their existence is their revelation in the lives of the increasing number of spiritual giants and geniuses who have emerged from the womb of humanity over time.
We do not perhaps hold sufficiently in our minds the reality that it is our recognitionof these problems that is so encouraging. The fact is that millions of people all over the world are facing up to this reality and are now working and serving to heal, to remedy injustice, to resolve the urgent environmental and climate problems, to hold new images of beauty before the eyes of everyone, to penetrate ever more deeply into the mysteries of the unknown, and to attain to new heights of achievement in every single field of human activity without exception.”
Full Moon Talk Sagittarius, November 2020, London, Simon Marlow
Humanity is rising to new heights of being, to more conscious living. Each of us has a part to play…
Featured image shows hidden dimensions of an iceberg in Svalbard, its underwater surface structures. from Andreas Weith, via Wikimedia Commons
It is in the nature of humanity for there to be conflict and wars. If you doubt this, see the list of wars that have raged throughout history, or see how even now a large portion of the earth is engulfed in some form of conflict. So conflict is inevitable. Yet there is a spiritual principle, call Harmony through Conflict (also known as 4th Ray), which indicates that harmony can indeed result from conflict.
So political conflict does not necessarily result in wars. In this context, agonism is a very useful word, as you can see from its definition in Wikipedia. Agonism “emphasizes the potentially positive aspects of certain forms of political conflict [and]… seeks to show how people might accept and channel this positively”.
The recent World Goodwill Newsletter points at the deeper meaning of an agonistic approach as described by political theorist Samuel A. Chambers:
“Agonism implies a deep respect and concern for the other; indeed, the Greek agon refers most directly to an athletic contest oriented not merely toward victory or defeat, but emphasizing the importance of the struggle itself—a struggle that cannot exist without the opponent. Victory through forfeit or default, or over an unworthy opponent, comes up short compared to a defeat at the hands of a worthy opponent—a defeat that still brings honour. An agonistic discourse will therefore be one marked not merely by conflict but just as importantly, by mutual admiration…”
So agonism is the ideal in any conflict – a respect for the other side, some sort of struggle, and a result that brings honour to both sides. This is of course the original ideal behind sports, which still prevailed in the cricket of the unpaid ‘gentlemen’ in my youth, but was soon superseded by the professionalism of paid ‘players’.
The important underlying concepts are respect for the other, and dealing with honour. Are the protagonists in the current Brexit negotiations behaving with respect for the other and with honour? One suspects that the problem in reaching a final agreement lies in a certain lack of trust that they are dealing with people with these fine qualities? Which sounds like agony rather than agonism.
Featured image shows world conflict map from Statista. The idea for this post came from World Goodwill Newsletter. Britannica suggests that agonism is a biological term meaning ‘survivalist animal behaviour that includes aggression, defense, and avoidance’. ‘In human societies, agonistic behaviour can serve as a tool to bring about constructive activity as well as distinct antisocial, destructive acts.’
Steve Taylor writes some wonderful poems that really strike a chord. This one is from his latest newsletter, and his latest book The Clear Light. It brings the universal down to the personal.
Making the Human Race Whole
Make as many connections as you can so that this broken world can become whole again.
It’s your responsibility to radiate benevolence to everyone you meet to be reckless with your friendliness and surprise strangers with your openness on behalf of the whole human race.
It’s your responsibility to turn suspicion to trust, hostility to sympathy to expose the absurdity of prejudice to return hatred with implacable good will until your enemies have no choice but to love you on behalf of the whole human race.
It’s your responsibility to free yourself from bitterness and harness the healing power of forgiveness to repair connections and re-establish bonds that were broken by resentment years ago on behalf of the whole human race.
It’s your responsibility to make as many connections as you can to open up channels of empathy through which compassion can flow until there are so many connections across so many different networks that finally, like the cells of a body, billions of human beings will fuse together, sensing their common sources and their common core.
Then a new identity will emerge, an overriding oneness, a human race that is truly whole, at last.
the interconnectedness of all things and the implications of that for the modern world, and
the need for development and growth of the individual psyche, from both psychological and spiritual perspectives.
These themes come together in a subject called astrological psychology, which I will briefly consider by describing their basic models of the human being.
Psychosynthesis is a transpersonal or spiritual psychology, which considers not only the personality or ego, but the higher spiritual faculties. Psychosynthesis was developed by Italian psychoanalyst Roberto Assagioli, a contemporary of Carl Jung. Both built on the work of Freud and developed psychologies with a spiritual dimension.
Assagioli’s view of human nature is encapsulated in his ‘Egg model’. The psychological ego lies within the dotted egg shape, in its conscious and unconscious guises. The transpersonal (spiritual or higher) self lies at the top and just outside the egg itself. The boundary of the egg is dotted, to illustrate the permeable nature of this relationship, i.e. that this higher self can be connected with.
It is easy to see that the stronger the ego becomes, the more materialistic the person becomes, the less she is open to the higher self, the less permeable is the shell of the egg. In the extreme case the habitual ego is effectively encased within a hard shell. The possibility of higher connection has all but disappeared. It is not difficult to identify individuals in the world where this is apparently the case. Their name is legion.
For most of us the shell is permeable, but the layer of habit is quite strong. Some effort and perseverance is required to connect to our higher faculties. This is where the addition of astrology can help.
Now consider the fact that all is interconnected. We are each part of the one whole, which includes the heavens. Not surprising then, that the configuration of the heavens at the moment we are born tells us something about ourselves. The connection is brought alive by astrology.
Swiss astrologer/psychologist Bruno Huber studied this connection while working with Assagioli, and eventually came up with a workable synthesis of the two disciplines. He identified correlations between the psychology of the individual and the astrological chart of their birth time, in the process creating an entirely new form of birth chart, which is beyond the scope of this brief article. His system was termed astrological psychology.
Huber developed his model of the Amphora, which takes Assagioli’s Egg and extends it into an astrological model of the psyche.
The Amphora relates the Egg to astrology, and shows a way upward towards our spiritual nature. The ego lies, as before, within the Egg, reflected by the personality planets [Sun, Moon, Saturn – glyphs in red] supported by the tool planets [Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter – lower white glyphs]. The Egg has been opened out at the top, where lie the top three transpersonal planets – the lowest, Uranus is the planet which helps ‘break through’ the shell of the ego, the middle one Neptune represents the universal love at the ‘neck’ of the Amphora, through which we must pass before the spiritual transformation with Pluto at the top.
Of course this is a symbolic representation, whose meaning in the context of any given individual and their birth chart can be teased out by the seasoned astrological psychologist.
This is just a taste of the rich astrological psychology that was developed by Bruno Huber with his wife Louise. The fascinating story of how this came about and the enormous dedication and effort of these two remarkable human beings is told in the recently published biography Piercing the Eggshell, edited by myself and Joyce Hopewell.
Featured image shows Roberto Assagioli and Bruno Huber. Amphora diagram is an extract from the cover of Piercing the Eggshell.
I am about 8 years old. We are walking through the partly built-up area between North Hykeham village and the edge of Lincoln. It is pitch dark, apart from regular pools of light beneath the gas-powered street lamps. I am astounded and inspired by the beauty of the heavens, as my dad points out some of the constellations – the Plough, Orion, the Pleiades… – and the Milky Way.
This was the inspiring experience of all our ancestors, yet within a couple of generations it has become a much less common experience for today’s children, because of light pollution. You just cannot see the sky with the same intensity, if at all, from most inhabited areas. We are losing contact with the heavens, and hence the sense of our place in the universe.
losing our connection to the nighttime skies, the tapestries into which our ancestors wove their stories of meaning, timed the planting and harvesting of crops, and deduced the physical laws governing the cosmos
thus losing our connection with the Earth itself
artificial lighting of buildings kills migrating birds in their thousands
nighttime lights suppress fertility in wild animals, affect their sense of direction, disrupt their natural rhythms, affect the ability of moths and other insects to navigate, with knock-on effects on bird populations
studies show that light pollution increases atmospheric pollution.
All this is pretty well known science, and many local authorities have responded over the years. I well recall that in the 1980s there was tremendous publicity about the scattering of light around and upwards by street lights at the time. But increasing awareness and improved technology have led, over the decades, to today’s more sophisticated lighting which casts light downward, giving an effect more like the local pools of light I recall from childhood.
But recently the ubiquity of cheap lighting has led, at least in our area of UK, to a new source of this pollution: individual households putting up relatively bright lights on the walls of their houses or the end of their drives, and leaving them on all hours of the night, others leaving outside Christmas lights on for months on end.
This is totally unnecessary, as modern movement sensors ensure that lights are only on when needed – surely the only sensible approach. What is it about people who press on regardless, because they ‘like their house lit up’, or feel they need their driveway under permanent illumination? “It’s a free country, I’ll do what I like.” It seems like ignorance and lack of empathic connection with nature and other people, with perhaps an underlying fear of the dark. Could this relate to a fear of the inner darkness perceived within themselves, because the inner world is an unknown land? The outer reflects the inner.
The dark is necessary for our sanity, as well as for nature.
I’m sure that one of the formative influences of my life was watching Westerns on the new medium of TV. You know the story. It was always about the goodies and the baddies. The baddies got together in gangs, and got more of their share by force, imposing their will on the goodies, who were well meaning but ineffectual. Then along came the hero(es), who sorted out the baddies and gave them their just desserts. The goodies won.
Can the goodies win in real life? If we look at history who were the goodies? The indigenous peoples who lived a sustainable life over thousands of years in sympathy with nature? They lost bigtime, their lands and precious artifacts, even their lives, stolen by Europeans over hundreds of years, who look suspiciously like baddies.
The winners of wars against the likes of Napoleon and Hitler? So many baddish acts to rid the world of the worst sort of baddie. Hardly goodies.
The creators of political systems out of the ashes of wars – the American constitution, the UN, the welfare states, the German constitution, the Marshall Plan. Yes, these look very much like goodies.
The thing is, this is not a symmetrical polarity, as might appear. Goodies are, well, good. They do the right thing in all their dealings. They are driven by conscience and abhor bad acts. They are even inclined to give baddies the benefit of the doubt. They recognise the bad in themselves.
On the other hand, baddies are bad, and have no conscience. Baddies always do what will benefit themselves and those who profess loyalty. And they will do whatever it takes. They have no self insight, nor any desire for it.
So, in a straight contest, the baddies will probably win. Putative heroes are driven out of town, or worse.
But the thing is, goodies are more numerous, and more co-operative. Given the right political system, such as democracy, the goodies can and do win. Welfare states thrive.
However, in the wrong political system, the one-party state, the corruptible democratic institutions, the ruling junta, the baddies can rule the roost for a long time. So many countries seem to be in this state at this moment. Name your own examples.
This is why democratic institutions and the rule of law (and I would add limited terms of office) are so important, and why they should never be allowed to be undermined, which is precisely what populist leaders and beneficiaries of the status quo try to do.
My conclusion – the goodies can win, but eternal vigilance is needed from the heroes within the people, to sustain the institutions that are their defence against emerging baddies.
Featured image is shootout from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Kerry McAvoy has written an interesting post on evil What Evil People Have Taught Me, which came to my attention because she referred to my earlier post on People of the Lie. She poses an interesting question, can evil people be ‘saved’ or redeemed, and suggests that this may not be possible.
To recap, my post picked out three major characteristics which give warning signs of evil:
refusal to face the evil within, denial of one’s own guilt, often means projecting onto others and scapegoating.
an extreme narcissism, termed malignant narcissism by Erich Fromm.
a strong will to control others, leading to manipulative behaviours, demanding loyalty,…
We tend to think that all people with evil characteristics can be redeemed, a speciality of Christianity. But what if the characteristics are so strongly built in that they are effectively caught in a world of their own, surrounded by the courtiers willing to go along with them? Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Napoleon come to mind.
As Kerry suggests, we can face them with the truth:
Our defense against such people is to stand firm in our convictions. To refuse to bow and tremble in fear. Truth is our best weapon.
Reality is the other corrective. Such as when a UK cabinet minister was sent to prison for his misdeeds and emerged from the experience a changed man, redeemed. Redemption has to be a possibility, but is difficult to envisage in cases such as Hitler and Napoleon. It would seem that there are degrees of evil.