I’m confused and frightened by evil. I’ve seen it at close quarters. I grew up around it. I’ve lost people I loved to it. And yet, I still don’t understand evil, and to combat it, I think we must first understand it. I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot lately, and at some point I will explore them in depth in a book tentatively titled, Alien Enlightenment. For now, I want to ask a few questions.
Evil. What is it? And why does it fuel some people? Can feeling hatred turn you evil or insane, or does being evil or insane make you feel consumed by hatred? What is the difference between a sociopath, a psychopath and a demonically possessed soul?
Perhaps we all have evil inside of us. If you believe in the concept of original sin, we were born with it, and we need God’s love to fight it or overcome it. If potential evil takes the form of temptation, then evil actions occur when we fail to fight the temptation. Under this theory, we must use the free will He gave us to choose to do right, to resist the temptation to sin, so that we don’t commit evil acts.
This still doesn’t explain how a person becomes evil. We all sin, or taking the religious context out of it, we all say and do things we shouldn’t. And yet, one bad act does not turn a woman into an evil one.
Even if you’re an atheist or an agnostic (or, I suppose a Buddhist) and don’t believe in the Biblical definition of sin, I bet you believe in evil. You know it when you see it right? Perhaps the concept of evil is a simple one: it is evil to base all of your actions on hatred, right? It’s evil to kill someone with premeditated malice, for example, or with the intent to cause harm, but it isn’t evil to kill someone in self-defense.
Are you still with me? I feel like we’re about to dive down a rabbit hole, but that’s the nature of philosophy. I think I’m going to define evil here as either hatred of the good or the purposeful act of allowing hatred to fuel your actions. With that definition in hand, how about the next question: what comes first—feeling hatred, or being evil?
I’ve watched people I love lurch from good thought to evil action and back and forth until I couldn’t make sense of it. Take the case of my mom. She would do something kind for me one minute, scream that she hated me the next minute, and at a certain point, all I knew to do was to hide from both the good and the evil she represented. At some point, in my head at least, I decided she was more evil than good, or I stopped caring about solving whatever equation she represented.
For a long time, I wondered why she could turn so hateful. I ran through all of the options. Was she crazy? Her behavior met with the standards for many different mental illnesses, from psychosis to manic depression (with psychotic breaks) to borderline personality disorder and over the last ten years, dementia. Looking backwards, I have no idea what’s wrong with her, but I do know that hatred, rather than love, is her fuel.
I’ve seen other relatives lose their minds, either from substance abuse or from mental illness, but this got me thinking. I have as much mental illness as any of my other relations; in fact, my brother used to taunt me that I was doomed to end up in a mental hospital like the infamous Spring Grove that housed an Aunt. But even though I heard voices at times, and certainly struggled to overcome evil, destructive impulses, I did not turn bad. I did not and do not act with hate in my heart.
Can sane people be evil? I think so. I’ve seen sociopaths in action. I’ve seen it when a man sexually assaulted me. There was no crazy in his eyes. Just lust, misdirected. Can one really evil act, like rape, turn a man evil? I think so, but perhaps that question is, as a priest once said to me, above my pay grade.
What about psychopaths? Isn’t that another word for an insane person who commits a lot of evil acts? At some point, hatred mixes with insanity and blossoms into a degree of evil that is pretty much beyond rational comprehension.
Speaking of evil that is beyond rational comprehension, I believe in demonic possession. Yeah, I know, I fell down the rabbit hole, but here we are. Once when I overdosed, I heard demons telling me to jump out a window. I’ve seen angels, or felt the light of their protection inside me. And I’ve observed a woman curse God as she spoke of the call of demons summoning her to kill the baby she did not want to carry to term.
Weird? Yes. Crazy? Perhaps. Demonic? I can’t prove it, but I am intuitively sure of demons and the battle we must all wage against them.
See you on the other side. The better side.