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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

Are Humans Inherently Flawed? Is Evil ‘Natural’?

September 14th, 2014

The recent news about beheadings and crucifixions in the Middle East is so horrendous, I have started to wonder whether we, as a species, are inherently flawed – whether there is something profoundly ‘wrong’ with human nature.
I have always loathed the idea of original sin. Looking into the eyes of a new-born baby, how could one possibly think this beautiful creature is ‘sinful’ from the start? Far better to embrace the doctrine of ‘Original Blessing’ surely?
And however much a Christian service might have uplifting moments – a break from dirge-like hymns to some beautiful ones, the light flooding through stained glass, the beauty in some of the language of the prayers and readings, the magic of bread and wine offered as a sacred feast, taking one back to the pre-Christian classical Mystery schools – however much these may inspire me, still I find it hard to cope with all the guilt-tripping: the opening Anglican prayer that reads like a ‘bad mantra’: “there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.” Imagine what that is programming into your mind and body – “There is no health in me” – every morning (as an Anglican priest or devout Anglican is supposed to pray, I believe).
And yet…
Humans can be so unspeakably destructive – either to their fellow humans or the Earth, perhaps the ‘unthinkable’ needs to be thought – that human nature is not naturally beneficent, and evil acts therefore the result of aberration, but that it is in its essence a mixture of beneficent and maleficent, and that only some sort of training, discipline, spiritual practice, psychotherapy or education that can help us ensure our beneficence rules our head, heart and actions, rather than the reverse.
What do you think? Have you sometimes thought ‘perhaps they got it right when they came up with the idea of Original Sin’?

48 Responses to “Are Humans Inherently Flawed? Is Evil ‘Natural’?”

  1. I don’t believe in original sin; neither do I believe in original blessing, as you put it. What I do believe is that we, human beings, are animals fundamentally with many of the pressures impinging upon us that affect other life forms. Admittedly we, homo sapiens sapiens, are able to identify features that distinguish us from the ‘lower’ animals, language and symbol manipulation being just two. But we inherit in our brains the impulses of those ‘lower’ animals, overlain with a gloss of cognition and affect. Thus, at bottom much of our behaviour is geared towards survival. Furthermore, because we are physically weak in comparison with other large animals, we have evolved as herd creatures. This means that, in order to remain part of our herd, we can be induced to engage in behaviours that ordinarily we would find abominable. In addition we are both blessed and cursed with imagination. This sometimes takes us into dark places. And finally, we are insatiably curious, and will often try to enact what we have imagined, often with unpleasant consequences. It adds nothing to the understanding of humanity to toy with notions of sin because it detracts from the processes that really underlie behaviour, including and especially socialisation (such as intoning your deep uncleanliness as illustrated in the daily assertion you suggested was part of the Anglican Clergy’s daily practice).

  2. Knights of old played the Beheading Game, even the Druids did it. But do course we have moved on from that, but some areas of the world have not.
    This is a world of duality, but ultimately all is One. The One power unfolds it’s potential through duality, and we all play our roles. Good and Evil do not really exist as such. Nor do any dualities.
    We learn to know that all is One, yet still play our particular role in duality. Takes a bit of work!
    Those who are beheading others in today’s world, are ignorant of love, compassion and their part in the One unfoldment. They think that they are the doer. We think that they are the doer. But what really is happening is just the unfoldment, of life, of a universe, of a particular planet.
    Yet still we must play our part, and work for goodness and understanding. We still must speak out at injustice, even though we know it is the One power working through us all.

  3. Hi. 🙂
    I told you once before, I am at your diposal if you need to make some transpersonal “shadow work”. 🙂

  4. Yes I am slowly coming to the conclusion that humans have some sort of flaw, I don’t like the word Sin, but I do believe in some sort of original flaw, if you can call it that, I do feel it is a part of us that is to do with survival of our species or tribe, but it has become out of balance, and maybe the life style we lead is the cause of this. by feeding it with greed, avarice and anger. You only have to look at human history, this destructive side of us has always been there. Maybe it can be controlled, I think when we look at Buddhist, they seem to be able to control the destructive side of human nature, My own experience is through daily meditation, and my practice of the craft, has really changed me, now when anger arises or negitive thoughts arise,

    • Sorry my computer would not let me finish, so I just smashed it to bits in a rage…….JOKING LOL, what I was saying in the last post, is when anger arises, or negative thoughts, I just say, sorry! I am not forming a relationship with you, I will not entertain you, it works for me, 90% of the time, and I can tell you, I used to be Mr angry…….not nice! anyway I do feel the destructive mind set can be trained. Blessings, John.

  5. Wherever there is light there is shadow too. And as long as our mutual world is based on dualistic experience this probably will last until most or all of us are able to align with unity. And yet I believe that humankind in its core is beneficent. What makes humans maleficent is a strong and overwhelming mixture of education (or the lack of it), life-denying surroundings, the general madness of societies and … of course … the set of experiences each and every one has chosen to live through and master. Personally I believe that inmost we have the choice whether to create or to destroy. The problem is that most of us don´t believe we have a choice and that our modern world is often not really encouraging our path to this awareness…

  6. I think that “training, discipline, spiritual practice, psychotherapy or education” CAN all help, but that people ALL realise what ‘good’ is quite naturally without them, they just get confused about it, sometimes because of confused versions of training, discipline, spiritual practice, psychotherapy or education!

  7. I believe humanity is a collective as far as responsibility goes and that we are also all connected. One might say I would never …but how can you know. It would be more helpful to recognise that ‘yes, I could.’ The concept of original sin was an attempt to say this, but those who formed those thoughts didn’t see what we in 2014 have seen, and were not exposed to what the children of today meet in media, that they are not ready to comprehend.

  8. I was yust wondering how it is possible that people in laboratories experiment so heartlesly cruel on our members of family the apes or other animals..rear some news on that subject ans saw some images which were heartbreaking, without no real reason other than those they made us believe for so called lifesaving methods, make up or just because you get money from the taxpayers to pretend you do something important with it, which is not needed at most of the times, if and when we would accept life as it is,when i read your piece..and i wondered on evil. I believe there is evil, And it breaks through the surface of our lives ..Ceremonialists might call it coming from tyhe Qlippoth, the sink of the universe. The evil that breaks through is sometimes fired up, somethimes icecold and rational..the latter i fear the most. compassion come through love..why isnt it there where it is needed? and what can we do about that? As soon as we know of such situations we must not let them get the better of us, we must start with prayer , and rituals, candles and light work..there are many ways to act on the information and transform together the energy that controls the situation

  9. We are driven far more, in my opinion, by nurture than by nature. Even though we are all different, we are all so mouldable especially when young. Our tribal nature, our bias to what we know and against what lies beyond our borders emotionally as well as geographically causes a form of ranking to occur. We value common language and culture, religion and race, colour and even gender in a complex sense of inequality. If indoctrinated at a young age we can end up with for example the horror of the treatment of Jews by the nazis and the genocides in eastern Europe more recently. Extremes of cultural or religious teaching coupled with hardship and deprivation especially to the young and the circumstances for human ‘inhumanity’ can be developed. The great challenge I believe is for all people to be valued equally and supported positively, and to resist tyranny whenever and wherever it shows itself. The combination of international values and local interpretations makes druidry one example of a potential force for good.

  10. THE TWO WOLVES
    A CHEROKEE STORY
    A young boy came to his Grandfather, filled with anger at
    another boy who had done him an injustice.
    The old Grandfather said to his grandson, “Let me tell you a
    story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that
    have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate
    wears you down, and hate does not hurt your enemy. Hate is
    like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have
    struggled with these feelings many times.”
    “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one wolf is good and
    does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does
    not take offence when no offence was intended. He will only
    fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the
    other wolf, is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a
    fit of temper.”
    “He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot
    think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless
    anger, because his anger will change nothing. Sometimes it is
    hard to live with these two wolves inside me, because both of
    the wolves try to dominate my spirit.”
    The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked,
    “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”
    The Grandfather smiled and said, “The one I feed.”
    http://theacademy.sdsu.edu/TribalSTAR/resources/files/TWO_WOLVES.pdf

  11. Yes.

    We continue to spread the old patriarchal conditioning of Adam and Eve ill Eve. good v evil. black v white and on and on. Always looking for the differences rather than the law of One- ying yang image.
    George Carlin says it best in his videoes re god and religion.

    We are groomed from birth to believe some people are good and some evil, when in fact we all have the potential to be both.

    But indoctrinate children from a young age to believe in some invisible man in the sky who said we are born in sin because of Eve ill Eve and must suffer accordingly.
    The danger is in believing it and not questioning our ancestral beliefs.

    However there is a predator psychopathic group on Earth at the moment who have no emotions and no conscience. Were they born this way? How did they come through to here, etc.
    Their brain images are physically different. Years ago these people were locked away, but as there is no cure, they have been allowed free in society since the 1970’s. They are so charming and so many get fooled by this. Behind the mask they would take you out and not blink an eye. Jesuit training is similar as we now know. Torture the children young, fragment their souls and use them in any way they see fit. Make sure the children never know mother love is another way- as Hitler and SS knew too. With no feelings of love, then love cannot be passed on. Janov writes really well on this matter – primal scream.
    My daughter as a child kept on asking me re the humans and why are they like this? She would observe and report back and it was interesting from a child’s perspective to listen.Where ever there was a strong person in their power, the humans had to try and destroy him/her and bring them down. Gang rape being one thing she noted. Just had to conquer that strong girl and put the bitch in her place. They would swarm around and hunt in packs here in the town but most people never noticed. Also the humans seem to be in some sort of coma- walking zombies- oblivious to the predators around them.

    We looked at the Roman church and all the methods of torture its members created. One rarely sees them discussed or pictures showing Pope’s Pears, etc and water boarding, burning torturing was the order of the time. We are merely repeating this cycle for the final time. We have to ask why?

    Anyway these torture tactics are all well illustrated here.

    http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/murderers.htm

    Iron Spider

    The iron would usually be heated to red-hot and then used to slowly rip the breasts from the body. It would be used for such crimes as heresy, adultery, self-induced abortions, blasphemy and other “hideous” crimes.”

    The Pope’s Pears

    The vaginal pear was used on woman who had sex with the Devil or his familiars. The rectal pear was used on passive male homosexuals and the oral pear was used on heretical preachers or lay persons found guilty of unorthodox practices. Inserted into the mouth, anus or vagina of the victim, the pear was expanded by use of the screw until the insides are ripped, stretched and mutilated, almost always causing death. The pointed ends of the ‘leaves’ were good for ripping the throat, intestines or cervix open. ”

    And of course the ultimate Hammer of the Witch.
    Torture Chambers
    ‘ For 1500 hundred years, the Christian Church systematically operated torture chambers throughout Europe. Torture was the rule, not the exception. Next to the Bible, the most influential and venerated book in Christian history was the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), which was a step-by-step tutorial in how to torture “witches’ and “sorcerers”.

  12. I’ve always understood the original sin as the consequence of our conscience and empathy. Basically, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    When looking how playfully a cat tortures a bird, how enthusiastically a wolf kills sheep by the dozen or how cheerfully hyenas devour their still living prey, I am revulsed, my sense of compassion hurt, and I’m left wondering how animals can demonstrate so much cruelty.
    But they’re not cruel, they simply follow their instincts, without knowlegde of good or evil, without this transfer of emotion we call empathy. They’re innocent, because they don’t know sin, they know only the rules of nature they don’t have the choice not to follow.
    We feel guilt, because we know we kill. We can feel the suffering of the creatures we mistreat and imagine how bad it would be if the same treatment was applied to us.
    But we still are animals, with the same instincts. In every human, the cruelty, the urge to kill, to flee, to eat is there. And those instincts, allied to our intelligence makes us the most dangerous creature for the world and for ourselves. That dangerosity is the reason why we need ethics, and rules to avoid behaviours which would be too destructive(evil).
    We are neither good, nor bad. Like the wolf or the cat, we have instincts and appetites, as natural, as brutal as any other animal who kills for a sustenance. Thanks to our conscience and our empathy, though, we have a possible knowledge of good and evil.
    But it is a knowledge, it is cultural, it isn’t natural. We must discover it, learn it, cultivate it.
    The original sin is a way to aknowledge we are naturaly pushed by some instincts which allied to our intelligence, can be of the worst destructive nature.
    It requires learning, training, and a lot of knowledge, to be conscious of those forces and be able to direct them towards constructive goals. The sense of guilt is the only limiting factor to our freedom from natural laws.
    The poisonous fruit is just that, in my humble opinion, the necessity to feel guilt, so we don’t let loose our natural instincts and appetites coupled with our unatural powers and intelligence. It’s the sting for a moral conduct, for an understanding of consequences, and to cultivate compassion as broad as possible, our true guide in understanding what is good and what is evil.

  13. Hello, Philip, this is the question, isn’t it. Today as I prepared for a Tarot seminar I teach each month, I recalled that The High Priestess is called among many other names: Peace and Strife. Perhaps this is because she is associated with cosmic memory. When we remember ourselves we have peace, when we forget ourselves we have strife. We flow in and out of these states.

  14. A very thought provoking post! I think Dr Prince has hit the nail on the head, we are herd animals who too often forget that. The shocking experiments of the ’70s are brought to mind that demonstrated far too well how readily we follow the status quo. But intrinsically evil? I am not so sure. This seems an emotive analysis of something that is merely a human condition. Given the wrong circumstances disastrous results can ensue. Given the right circumstances we can achieve loving results. This beautiful link reminded me of the latter https://www.facebook.com/HaikaaMusic/photos/a.231016800285752.76690.224955307558568/677867592267335/?type=1

  15. An additional quick note about the specific violence we witness in Syria and other places.
    I believe it is the mirror of our own.
    When people are bombed, starved, exploited, excluded, … they become angry. That anger is lived as a thirst for justice, reparation, compensation.
    For people who have seen their children shredded or burnt to death by bombs, families starved because of unbalanced trade, children exploited for our lust, those beheadings, as barbaric as they are, seem like justice, the way to get even by inflicting at least some of the pain they have indured because of us.
    When such barbaric acts are thrown upon us, we should first question our own sense of guilt, and understand how barbaric we have ourselves been to generate such hate.
    It is us we see in the mirror violence.

  16. During a meditation I asked, “Do evil doers get punished when they die?” I was informed in the negative, the reason given to me was. All souls that incarnate have a pure spirit but the human form they occupy is flawed to a greater or lesser degree. Some of us have the ability to listen and take note of our conscience which is our pure spirit speaking, yet unfortunately others ignore it and do not hear the message. So, as far as I’m concerned. YES we are flawed, we are not perfect but could that be the lesson we are here to learn? To overcome our imperfection and to listen to our conscience? /|\

  17. Do you remember the prison project study that was done at an American University? Taking average, seemingly psychologically healthy kids and having some of them play act as prisoners and some as guards it was found that any of these students were very capable of performing the most heinous acts to the other students when pressured. The cruelty exhibited got so bad so fast they had to stop the study….. There is a vast darkness in every being that we rarely acknowledge in our culture. Every being, human or not, is capable of insane cruelty when triggered in certain ways which is different for each individual. A memorable quote from some movie I had seen was a murder suspect defending himself saying, “I could never have done such a thing! I am not a monster, do you think I am a monster?!” and the investigator replies, “You look human enough.” Jung has spoken widely about the nature of the unconscious realms and the “monsters” that lurk within, and the human conundrum of bringing light to the unconscious without triggering monstrosity and monstrous acts. Call it what you will, yes, we all possess the potential for extreme cruelty, and this potential rather than being acknowledged has been repressed in our psyche’s where it has become very dangerous to ourselves and our world. The Hindu religion gives us some clues as to the wholeness of our nature through deities that carry the huge range of our potential simultaneously – Shiva, Durga, Kali, etc. And through the stories of these beings we learn who/what we really are and how these potentials can be used for good and/or ill. Our darkness is part of the reality of who we are, and to not acknowledge it and address it in a healthy way pushes it further into shadow….

    • Oh Yes! You make the point quite well — One must therefore acknowledge this dark potential lurking in the world in oneself and perhaps in all life, and address it without being co-opted, seems the only viable answer.

  18. Funny, I had just written the above comment and then I saw this quote from Jung from the Red Book where he says, “My friends, it is wise to nourish the soul, otherwise you will breed dragons and devils in your heart.” ~ Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 232.

  19. All you need to consider is this bit: “The recent news about beheadings and crucifixions in the Middle East is so horrendous”

    It is so horrendous I can’t imagine it being part of human nature. New born babies don’t bring this into the world with them, they are corrupted. Thoroughly so. Babies don’t have any defense against this corruption, either.

    Even in the Christian myth, humans start out pure and their corruption comes later. Heaven knows where they got (invented) the idea of “Original Sin”, when it’s obvious that Original Blessing came first.

    My human body, which I’ve come to trust, reacts and tells me its horrendous, and that this cannot be part of human nature.

    • “My human nature, which I’ve come to trust…”

      We’re (I was) born trusting our bodies, but we’re (I was) de-educated and made to doubt it (especially in the context of Original Sin)… another form of corruption.

  20. I suppose it depends on how absolute one needs to see reality as being. In our Bardic initiation, we accept the pain we will undoubtedly suffer, along with the many and great joys of incarnate life on Earth. There is the potential in most of us for great empathy, compassion, love, and altruistic action– I have seen much of this in my 62 years of such life. Yet, horrific cruelty, selfishness and wantonly destructive behavior certainly also abounds. It seems quite often to be the result of greed. The Hopi indigenous people of the Arizona Hopi Mesas believe that they have come into this world from another one originally, because in their previous world, they became too greedy, which caused the breakdown of that previous society, and so the spirits made them start over again in another world where they would have to work very hard ( American southwest desert!), and obey certain rules of conduct to survive. The traditional Hopis adhere to the prescribed lifestyle and social codes to this day.

    There are also some whom I have encountered, indeed, some of them quite young children, who had been born and reared alongside very well adjusted siblings in lovely families, and these children seem to have no conscience. They will mutilate, set on fire, forcibly dismember family pets for fun, and some have intentionally killed siblings, or others, often in horrific ways, for no particularly compelling reason they can express. They often seem quite normal if one just meets them in a classroom, or through the bars of a cell in a unit for “the criminally insane”, as I have in the past sometimes done. C.S. Llewis’ “bent hnau”?

    I do not like the concept of “original sin” as embodied in the anglican words I too grew up with either, and have often pondered this. We attempt to explain the ( quite often incorrigible-seeming) behaviors of some people in terms of previous abuse, maladaptive behavior-acquisition, dysfunctional enculturation, and sometimes, neurophysiologic and neuroanatomic deficiencies or differences from the human mean. They are the exception yet, still part of humanity in many many other ways.

    Certainly we are highly adaptive as a species. Our nervous systems are much more plastic than we used to think. An isolated, very concentrated subculture which stresses extreme conformity for peer and religious approval, may potentially manipulate this property to accentuate certain human capacities innate in most of us, and minimize others. Interestingly, cultures which successfully teach respect and love toward others, tend to do this in ways which are respectful and loving, and leave at least some freedom to make mistakes. It seems to me that possibly otherwise normal humans become capable of atrocity under circumstances of extreme social/religious/moral rigidity, where they have come to see certain others as so completely alien, that empathy is out of the question, and have become so isolated that they themselves are only able to respond to the positive reinforcement of those few associates they may be able to identify with or whose authority they have voluntarily accepted, and through this self-imposed isolation, are no longer accessible to the normal social positive feedback and reinforcements for compassionate, loving and respectful actions toward others? It does seem that this is part of who we are.

  21. It’s difficult NOT to think about this issue in our present world state. If many historical time periods have been fraught with intense issues, our time feels distinct, in that much of what we’re seeing unfold has been created by our own human actions- and it will well be us responsible for destroying our own now mostly human-created systems – not the Gods/Goddesses, not the forces of nature, not something other then us. It’s sorely tempting to chalk this mess up to more dualistic thinking, where we are more/either good or evil, but this IS just more either/or and the more pertinent issue is our awakening to the reality that we aren’t either/or- that IT isn’t. So, if this sense of separateness we’re awakening from isn’t evil, it’s a false perception. If we had ‘created’ a more sustainable system as we evolved in this round on the planet, we would still contain both a capacity to create/good and destroy/evil. It would seem it’s easier for our good/create to be more dominant then our evil/destroy when we aren’t having to witness the pain we’ve created with our false sense of separateness and either/or. Yes, spiritual growth and integration, psychotherapy, etc. assist us, but as a former therapist I don’t believe they teach us anything most of us don’t already have inklings of within ourselves. Ditto for the overall – weren’t there times when humanity appeared to understand it wasn’t as separate as we’ve seen ourselves in this round? When we created more sustainable systems and our reach wasn’t so false and great? These periods also contained human and non- human creation and destruction. The systems we create obviously affect our individual choices – our likelihood to act out of love or anger- but they aren’t the only factors. If our systems are based on individualism, consumption, accumulation, separateness, and self-protection they result in increased destruction but even when they were more aware we were still capable of both. Not at hand in your inquiry, but I actually find it comforting that as part of a whole, we have built a ship ( we have power) that is sinking, and bringing an awful lot of things down with it ( awareness, shame), but the evolution of the overall whole – Gaia, Mother Earth, creative driving force, homeostasis – WILL wash away its aspects that don’t support the most good for the most and the whole damn amazing thing will continue to evolve into another round of opportunity, awareness, creation and destruction. I see/feel the paradox- is there/ there is something greater then us – we’re a part of it but not all of it- what is this thing – and why does it/and us create and destroy? This is what seems to remain – and all I can really know of it is that it contains units that create whole systems, that have a span of existence that play a part in a larger whole and then die and become a part included in what is created from again. So, the great mystery remains intact. I feel like this is what I can truly know and it’s why I’m a pagan/druid. The wheel of life and death is what we know and it can’t be separated, and it’s a part of something larger then our singular consciousness, that we help create but aren’t the sum of, and this thing can both obliterate AND create at it’s elemental core, and as such, so can we.

  22. Gosh Philip, people have been beheading and crucifying each other non-stop since ever. You’re so sweet to have only just noticed!

    Have you considered the Gnostic position, that humans, body and soul, are slaves of the evil archon, and only by rejecting every aspect of common consciousness can one begin to penetrate the dark veil of ignorance that envelopes us?

    • How sweet of you in turn Lillian to credit me with such innocence!
      I had indeed considered that question, and in fact conversed with the evil archon about this at great length over a cup of tea. He’s actually very nice and terribly misunderstood.

      • Misunderstood? Oh. Please convey my apologies! You mean he’s not saying “Thou art not That?” I thought that Separation was the essence of him. And it’s the real root of evil.

  23. I always liked the other part of the “General Confession “: “we have left undone those those things we ought to have done, and we have done those things that we ought not to have done….” Those Jacobeans had a way with the language! LOL

  24. read som theology at University and found out that a new theological idea of believing ‘the evil’ as independent reality entity has emerged in the 20 Century, called Christus Victor- theory. It was inspired on some Swedish theologian, who thought that is was the original Christian belief of the Antique times; It was then promoted by Anabaptists/Mennonites. Other theories are the ones of Abelard and Anselm of Canterbury. The Christus Victor theory believes that Christus won over the evil forces that tried kill him by ressurrecting. When president Bush stated we wanted to fight the forces of evil in Iraq, he was probably inspired by this theory that got more dominant in Christianity also outside of Mennonites. Abelard believed that god acts also through creating problems/evil. I believe that, too- I like
    Abelard in this; I should read his texts;

  25. Humans are not inherently evil. We can’t be – we invented the idea when we learned to think abstractly, so only a relatively recent development. Did we suddenly become evil after we had thought it up then or were we evil before? No, we were innocent before and we still are. Notice how concepts of good and evil are tied in with religion. The worst religions being the ones whose imagined rewards and punishments are the most exaggerated. I am convinced that belief in an intolerant, judgemental, violent god makes people behave intolerantly, judgmentally and violently. The worst of all in this respect is of course Islam. Religion of peace?? My ass. Read the Qur’an and the Hadith (traditions of the Prophet). The only reason any Muslim is peaceful is because he ignores the injunctions of his religion e.g. ‘As for the unbelievers, kill them wherever you find them’ (9:5). Some animals are violent, frightening, poisonous. Epidemic diseases kill indiscriminately and in huge numbers. Is the Ebola virus evil? No, it has no morals, so can’t be evil. Only humans, who know the difference between good and evil, can be evil. But actually we don’t know, because what is ‘good’ for one man can be ‘evil’ for another man. We are taught to think of these things, they don’t come naturally. All we can say is that in certain pre-civilised hunter-gatherer societies such as the Ituri rainforest pygmies, the Piraha Amazon tribe or the Shoshone native Americans, people have a natural empathy towards all other people which does not have to be taught. In pre-cilivised horticultural societies such as the Dani of New Guinea, wars are fought in which a very high percentage of participants are killed. They do not think of themselves as evil, however, because they have not been taught to believe that they are bad people!

  26. Every traditional culture I know of tells the tale of the “fall” of creation in some primordial catastrophe. Only since the “Enlightenment” have we been in the habit of regarding human history as a march of unrelenting and inevitable progress. This seems to me largely to be propaganda disseminated by our overlords to make us think we are much better off with compulsory education and a lifetime spent in a factory or office cubicle than we would have been as illiterate peasant farmers and artisans. Who could be happy without being glued to a smart phone 16 hours a day? Unthinkable!!!

    The older view displays a tough but ultimately more merciful realism. Thanks, in part, to inherited flaws, and thanks also to the influence of spiritual forces which do not have our best interests at heart, we are inclined to wickedness when conditions nudge us that way. Original Sin is an unfortunate and inaccurate phrase, but one that has the virtue of facing up to the situation we are in. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, it is the only empirically verifiable Christian dogma.

    The good news is that the most powerful forces at work are redemptive and loving, and purpose forgiveness, salvation and restoration to all who desire them, be they good or evil, and ultimately to the whole creation.

  27. Perhaps my daughters theory is right when she said that the human race is like a destructive alien here to not only ruin the Earth but everything on it.
    Most evil is done in the name of ‘religion”.

    • When a planet collides with another, is it evil? Or if a star in the universe explodes, is it evil? No. I see life on earth as a process, as with all other planets. In this physical universe, this is how it works. Destructiveness is a natural occurrence in the physical universe. It is up to us as humans, to try to make life good and peaceful. That striving, along with the striving of terrorism etc, is what gives the movement of life. Yes, terrorism is wrong, but it is ultimately just the other side of the process. Black, white, good, bad etc. on and on, that’s what moves us, until this planet’s life is finished. Seeing it as a universal process has brought much peace to me, even though I still strive for peace on this earth, as that is my role.
      Everything is part of One thing.

  28. Hi Philip

    I think I would like to read Peter Owen Jones’ and Mark Townsend’s answer to this.There is definitely something wrong with us humans. As well as what is going on in the middle east the arson at the dogs home filled me with a deep sadness. I t really is hard to believe how cruel humans can be.

    • There is nothing wrong with humans at all. We are part of a universal process. Good and bad create the movement of life. I prefer good, but then we can strive for that. The whole universe is dying and being born, planets exploding and galaxies colliding. We are a part of that. Good and bad create the movement that makes it all evolve.

  29. It is so interesting how the One power that exists in everything is the evil and good. The whole process of war and peace ends in only peace. As soon as humans realise that they are all one family, the strife will stop. But until then, you better get used to it. The universal Big Bang is not finished it’s outward (evolutionary) journey yet.
    So…..the one power is the good and the bad (as interpreted in duality). It is the terrorist and the poor victim. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his poem, and speaking as that power, ” I am the may fly who sits on the flower. And I am the frog who feeds on the may fly.”

  30. No, I gently say, there is no original sin. There is life, and death belongs in it. What we abhor as violence is a warped urging of the instincts that kept us alive for a hundred thousand years. Ironically, the very systems we hoped would guide us to kindness – Christianity, Islam,etc. – are the catalysts of violent behaviors, ie. Crusades, burnings at the stake, beheadings. At the root of some of this is the constant dialogue between the needs of the individual and the needs of the group. Since we invented fire we have been arguing over who has to tend it, who has to get the wood, etc. Somewhere in that dialogue is the accusation that someone is not holding up his end of the social bargain. Someone becomes the ‘outcast’. Someone invents the ideas of superiority, and slavery, and righteousness and judgement. I am horrified by the crimes we have witnessed. Even more abhorent to me are the crimes against children lately – a little boy kept in a cage, tormented and starved to death, a girl trapped in a basement by her father until she is an adult with children by him. These are hard for me to consider, but I see them as a warping of the natural human animal. Having witnessed wildlife as a photographer, I see no horrible crimes. Predator and prey live in a dynamic balance, each species working well within its own kind. The human animal, trying to be ‘civilized’ fails sometimes. The eyes of a newborn baby give me hope that we will work out how to live together, as the human animals we are.

  31. I don’t know why, but I feel myself a bit confused. Is there anywhere in the universe a table of rules, which tells us what’s wrong what’s right? Nope. Can the Nature clearly be good or bad? I don’t think so. We can not be clearly evil, But we must give the chance others to live without fear in our immediate vicinity. I believe as dark and light, good and evil traits belongs to us. It can’t be deleted as a useless algorithm. What we choose, that is key. The situation is complicated. How can someone choose a ‘right’ way if any circumstances shows: There’s no other way.
    There is an instabile balance which separates our affinities to do right things or evil things. That is what we didn’t explore yet.
    As courage is not the absence of fear, our characters could not be more, without our evil part.

  32. I think that everyone does what they believe is right and good. Yes even the warmongers. They would be hero /warriors in past times. They are known as such in their communities now. Their actions are anachronistic not bad or wrong. People have a right to defend themselves.

    Interesting thought about those statements is which group does it refer to? And that depends on your perspective. Which ideology inspired the massacre/beheading? Again depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?

    Perspectives aren’t reality. They are abstract ideas, a mere breath of nothingness.
    Touch the Earth and feel the real world. Let that world speak to our hearts and minds.

  33. Awareness notices. Being is isness. The creator created and the created creatures have free choice…..so choose and develop awareness of chosen isness. Free will, free choice- what chooses to be affected by whichever……or not. Awareness…..
    The tree remains, whether shattered by shells from surrounding warfare, clambered on by children or Robin Hood’s band or doffed a cap in passing. Even the forests cleared by diggers are followed by weeds and blackberry thorns…cyclically.

  34. At the root of the idea of “original sin” is the notion of an inherent biological flaw, which is in the Augustinian theology, and is therefore transmitted genetically (from parents to children). Regardless of whether you buy into the rest of the theology, the notion of a potential biological flaw, however it comes about, is certainly something that we should consider very strongly, within the framework of Darwinian evolution.

    What seems to be apparent is that that potential for destruction is something which comes with our intelligence; it is not something animals have. They do not kill for ideology, for religious beliefs, because they (as far as we can tell) have none; they kill for survival, allowing of course that “play” (as with cats and mouse) forms part of the honing of survival skills. Some animals are territorial, and it is at the territorial level that we perhaps should see where our own potential for evil emerges. Wars are fought for territory both in terms of land, and to gain ascendancy in the territory of belief.

    But that does not explain the unusually singular nature of some individuals, such as the Moors Murders, Fred West etc. We can see those as an aberration, but one that anyone is potentially capable of. Again, I think it comes down to our biology. The potential ways in which we can behave are more plastic and less rigid than lesser animals, and the downside is that we are capable of evil acts. But we are also capable of great good, it just doesn’t hit the headlines as much.

    I am inclined to Stephen Jay Gould’s views, summed up in two quotes:

    The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people

    Ordinary kindness trumps paroxysmal evil by at least a million events to one. It is a central aspect of our being as a species

  35. Greed, lust for power and fear of the ‘other’ are all part of the drive for survival. Hoarding of, for example, money and resources, is only a quantitative step away from hoarding tins of baked beans against a shortage. This is rooted in fear, fear that ‘we’ will not have enough to survive life’s exigencies. So, for international corporations, their behaviour is about fear of not surviving. Lust for power has a similar basis. Life is uncertain, so controlling as much of the uncertainty as possible gives the illusion that uncertainty is for the time being averted. What is happening in the Middle East is about uncertainty and fear. And let us not forget that the people of the Middle East have much to fear. Disregarding the Crusades, since the end of the First World War they have been interfered with, bombed, vilified, lampooned, despised and generally badly treated by the ‘West’ as well as their own ‘rulers’. One big bloc, the West, desperately trying to shore up its own defences against uncertainty and entropy, faced with another, smaller bloc, trying to do the same. Fear! Fear of dissolution, fear that ‘we’ will not survive. In the midst of this there are the easy assurances of religions that preach ‘peace on earth’, or in some metaphysical paradise, if only we would believe in the ‘right’ way. Easy ‘certainties’ supplied ready made by whatever doctrinal holy book one happens to trust. But, challenge someone’s certainties, and they become more fearful. And fearful people do desperate things, cruel things, all to re-establish the certainties that have been challenged. We are a fearful species, and we use our ability to think sometimes to come to misguided conclusions, such as the belief that all ‘infidels’ should be exterminated (to protect the easy certainties of faith). Incidentally, the word ‘infidel’ (one without fidelity) was used freely by Christians as well as Moslems to describe their enemies. Love or loath ISIS, or whatever they call themselves today, they are enacting the same drama that has been enacted for centuries by power brokers everywhere. They are enacting the same drama that ‘our’ corporations are enacting as well. CONTROL THE WORLD THAT YOU MAY AT LAST LIVE WITHOUT FEAR.

  36. So it would be pointless teaching children meditation then? Apparently if all children were taught meditation by age 8 there would be no more war in a generation.
    Lack of warmth and more criticism lead to misery in childhood which blossoms in the adulthood described in these posts.

    What could it feel like to be given more warmth and support? Can it ever be too late?

    Left brain adults who seem to always have it all worked out might be intrigued by cardiac coherence and heartmath– the intellectual thinking person’s short cut to harvesting meditation benefits.

    There is already, and has always been, enough bounty for each of us…and so it is.

    love and light

  37. Good questions. I will admit that I have not gone through all of the comments so forgive me if I duplicate here.

    I have, since acknowledging my druid path, recognized that humans are simply that. Human. Separate from other animals that inhabit this incredible earth. Cruelty, maliciousness and the need for control in contradiction of being ‘humane’ are simply part of the animal that we are. That we have intelligence (??) and the ability to strategize for our own (selfish) lives are just who we are. I often hear the phrase “we are spiritual beings living in a human body” – don’t agree. There is spirituality within us. Though do I believe that we are inherently ‘good’? Not at all. I have tired of trying to understand humans. I do know, however, that we have within all of us, a streak of cruelty and abuse that is not known in the rest of our world. I have accepted such and strive to get to know that side of me. Only then can I reach out and help others to understand that they have choice. Original sin is a man-made concept and I put no stock in it. But understanding myself and living accordingly … that I have some control over. Peace, T /|\

  38. Not a direct answer, but a story. Late stages of World War 2. A so-far unliquidated ghetto in Lithuania. Russian artillery sometimes audible 70 miles away. Likelihood that the people of the ghetto will be shipped out to be killed before the Russians arrive. Jewish partisans get into the ghetto through tunnels and offer a way out for some people – survival in the woods slightly more likely than survival for those who stay put. The young partisan leader, Benno, proud of his newly acquired military skills, turns rather contemptuously to Rabbi Pomeranz, the community’s spiritual leader: “since your prayers are so effective and have already done so much good, you, I expect, will choose to remain and pray to the Lord you God to save your people”. Pomeranz does not reply to Benno but later says, to no-one in particular, “That’s not why I pray to the Lord, blessed be His name. I pray to bring Him into being”. [from E.L. Doctorow’s novel’City of God’]

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