Question: ‘Serge, do you believe in the reality of evil? Do you think it exists? if so, what should we do about it?
Serge: I do believe in evil, yes, and certainly feel that if we are to have a better world that we should understand it and, if we feel strong enough, confront it and not bury our heads, ostrich-like, and pretend it is not there. You know that old saying about evil being allowed when good people do nothing. Well, it’s true! However, if we are to ‘do anything’ about evil, we need to recognise its many different faces. The way I see it is that there are two kinds of evil: obvious evil and non-obvious evil. Obvious evil is, well, obvious. It is about Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Darfur, Stalin, Genocide, Auschwitz, murder, torture, Saddam Hussein, Stalin, Etc.
What is far more important, I think, is the non-obvious evil which sits under our noses and which W.H. Auden described as being present at our breakfast table. Krishnamurti saw ‘The evil of our time’ as being about ‘The loss of consciousness of evil.’ I define this evil as the evil of our living a wholly self-centred, unconscious life, where we take no responsibility for our actions, where we make money out of exploitating the weak and vulnerable, where the Have’s of the world don’t try to help those who have nothing. For me, war is evil and it emerges when we make enemies out of somone or some race or tribe or nation upon whom we project our disowned hostility and aggression.
I think this evil comes out of a numb heart, where we either cannot or do not feel the consequences of our actions. Scott Peck in his book ‘People of the Lie’, suggested that many evil people are so-called ‘Solid citizens, who may be rich or poor, and have normal jobs (i.e., they can be school teachers or bankers , etc) . Their evil is that ‘They commit crimes against life and aliveness, yet these crimes are so covert and subtle that they cannot be designated as crimes. ‘ What is most evil is the absurd notion that if we wage war against it, that we will kill it off, or, as many terrrorists believe, that good will come about if those who see the world differently to oneself, are eliminated. As recent world events have shown, this only increases it. Indeed, our desire to be heroic and ‘good’, lies behind a lot of surplus evil.
So what do we do? Several things. Firstly, we recognise this as well as recognise the darkness inside our own hearts – our own violence and unconsciousness – and work with that as opposed to projecting it outside of ourselves all the time. In other words, we open our eyes to where we like to scapegoat or make others wrong for those ‘motes in our own eyes’ that we refuse to see, and we take back our projections and in doing so, unhook ourselves from any thoughts or activities that help keep evil alive in the world. Then, we seek to fill the ‘vacated space’ with unitive qualities that emerge as we open our hearts – that is, we try to flood our awareness with thoughts of peace and love and compassion.
Then we follow this up with activities that benefit life. For example, we give up our jobs selling AK47 rifles and instead we create a project for peace or we start a business selling organic vegetables – engaging in activities that don’t damage our planet. Moving away from evil is all about a shift in consciousness, where we intentionally cease being part of the problems of the world to being part of their solution. In this context, it is important to remember Mother Theresa’s wise words , to the effect that ‘We don’t curse the darkness, instead we light a light!’
i.e. We don’t hate evil; we understand its place in the order of things, but we seek to understand it and deal with it intelligently. The more we dedicate our lives to thinking lovingly and positively, to acting out of the truth of our hearts, the more light we generate, and the less space this allows for evil to exist. Working with world evil is everybody’s responsibility.