Wednesday, 2 January 2019

What about evil?

What about evil?

Evil is the elephant in the room.  Back in the 80's Scott Peck wrote an excellent book on the therapeutic journey called The Road Less Travelled which was a great success.  He followed up with a book called People of the Lie which simply dropped off the radar.  It was about 30 years ahead of its time.  Firstly as a child psychiatrist he noticed that some of the parents of the children he worked with had two significant qualities:  1. they always blamed the child and took no responsibility (the big lie) and 2.  they were very concerned about appearances. He called these people evil.   His solution was also a little off putting to many.  He turned to the only place that seemed to have any answers in regard to dealing with evil.  These were  religious institutions who practised exorcism as a solution to the problem of evil. 

Psychology and psychiatry have used the label "psychopath" later softened to "sociopath. The problem was it was simply a label not a diagnosis.  It certainly described behaviours which included the ones Scott Peck noticed, together with others such as they appear to be cold charming manipulative and like to hurt people.  It seemed to be implying that this condition was a psychological condition with possible treatment along with depression and anxiety.   However there was no real understanding of the condition nor was there any treatment.

Then in 2011 BBC Horizon ran a documentary called "Are you good or evil".  You can watch it on Vimeo.  Everyone should see.  It is cutting edge science.  There are many interesting things about things documentary but two stand out:  firstly it is cutting edge science using neuroscience and the technology of brain scans as well as scientific investigation into the chemicals that seem to be present or absent which are related to compassion.  The key thing is that it is proposing that evil is fundamentally  a genetic disorder like Huntington's disease or spina bifida, not a psychological one. Everyone should watch this video.  The documentary explored two groups serial killers and CEO's of companies:  25% of the CEO's had the distinctive brain pattern.  What is not yet known is how this is distributed in the general population.

As a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist as well as spiritual seeker, I deal with the nature and effects of evil behaviour as reported to me by my clients ranging in ages from 8 to 80.  I have been working in the area of developmental trauma (early abuse and deprivation) for over 25 years.  I have heard consistent and awful stories of the behaviour of people to their children and to their partners.  I have done a considerable amount of workplace counselling so there is also the bullying and persecuting behaviour of people in the workplace to employees staff and co workers. 

Evil is real.  As a genetic disorder we do not have solutions or treatments at this time: we don't yet do brain transplants.  A scientist is working on synthesising compassion chemicals and scientists are able to change the DNA of organisms.  People who have the genetic disorder usually do not think there is anything wrong with them and blame others (as Scott Peck noted). They would not voluntarily seek out treatment.  Unless they break the law they are unlikely to get caught.  My hunch is that they are more widely distributed in the gene pool than we might think, looking at human history and current human behaviour.  The really challenging news is that we all have some corrupted genes:  we all have evil within us to some degree as well.

Ultimately I believe that the question of evil is a spiritual question with spiritual answers.  This simply means our science has not yet fully caught up since scientific knowledge usually takes time to catch up with spiritual knowledge.  In the spiritual law in Isaiah it is stated that time can travel backwards or forwards.  This knowledge did not emerge fully into Western Science till the early 1900's  with the understanding of the arrow of time not operating at the quantum level (and going only forwards as time appears to. 

Our science now says evil is real:  a genetic disorder that can be identified.  Scientists are looking for answers.  Psychology and the study of human nature has much to say about evil inside as well as outside of us.  It is something Jung wrote about in depth and often as did his peers like Robert Assagioli and Sigmund Freud.  We cannot look into evil without looking into human consciousness and what Joseph Conrad rightly termed "The Heart of Darkness". One of the best portrayals of evil has be Marlon Brando's portrayal of the colonel in Apocalypse Now.  The question is Where do we go from here?