Good and Evil Within Each Soul

Observing the natural world, we see a pattern of birth and death, spring and winter, growth and deterioration. With rebirth, a new spring and renewed growth, we observe life’s ongoing cycle forever continuing. Likewise, within every person, we observe that there exists both darkness and light, good and evil. When we become more evolved spiritually and psychologically, we begin to question what part of ourselves is “good” and what part is “evil” more than we question who among us is good and who is evil. We recognize that every human being has the capability for both good and evil within his or her soul. Even the concepts of what is good, and what is evil, become more intertwined in our vision when we become more conscious human beings. Is it “evil” to kill a chicken,  or any animal or plant, for our own nourishment and survival? Is it evil to kill another when he or she is suffering unbearably – as did Clint Eastwood’s character when he killed the totally paralyzed Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby”? Was the friend of Jack Nicholson’s character in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” a cold-blooded killer when he killed his friend after Nicholson had been lobotomized, or did the friend kill Nicholson as an act of love?

What good and evil entail, even regarding killing, has complexity beyond one-dimensional, predetermined stereotypical thought when we explore deeper. If we cannot recognize the darkness in our own souls, we cannot be in control of that darkness. In an unconscious state, we may project our unacknowledged darkness onto others, as was done to many African-American men in the Jim Crow South when they were lynched by KKK members for unsubstantiated sexual infractions against white women.

It is when we remain unconscious human beings, and are afraid to see the darkness in our own souls, that we project onto others labels that we do not like in ourselves. We can better control, without judgment, the darkness in our own souls when we are not afraid to look at our own darkness straight on, with simplicity and honesty, knowing that we all must face – and come to terms with – our own demons, as we reach for a higher light.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln did not find it necessary to project onto the white Southerner the label of “evil enemy” because he was an evolved human being who recognized that all people contain both good and evil, including himself. In his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln said, “Both (those of the North and the South) read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. . . The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither, has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. . . ”

Lincoln saw himself as a destined player in a divine plan. Lincoln, no doubt, could contain within his conscience his responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men during the Civil War because, in his historical vision, he recognized that the human slaughter that took place during that war was, spiritually, the sacrificial lamb that atoned for the evil inherent in the institution of slavery in America which had, ultimately, ensured that that war would occur, beyond any control which he might have had to prevent it. Lincoln’s commitment was to sustaining the union, even with its past darkness of institutionalized slavery, so that the universal ideals upon which this nation was founded might not perish from the earth, but might instead live as a shining model of light to future generations, worldwide.

Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both aware that assassins were constantly pursuing them. In a sense, by continuing to follow their perceived divine destinies, even in the face of possible assassination, they gave their lives so that a greater good would come of their self-sacrifice, as did Jesus. The tomato “gives” its life that we may survive. That is the tomato’s destiny. The chicken “gives” its life that we may have protein to survive. That – at this point in human evolution – is the chicken’s destiny. As we further evolve as a human race, we may not be able to abide the killing of animals for our own survival, but we have not yet arrived at that evolved consciousness. Jesus said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Higher consciousness, combined with good intent, make for a better world. If we have that good intent, we cannot be unfaithful to a mate who we know will be destroyed by our actions. If we have awareness, and good intent, we cannot be bullies through verbal or physical abuse, when we know that by doing so we may cause the decline or destruction of another. Many people are not yet aware that a cold look, or that a cold heart, can damage severely, or that lust in one’s heart for another can damage or even “kill” one’s mate, or that hating “kills” the spirit, and even the body, but moreso of the hater than of the hated.

We should not be expected to stop the “killing” of animals or plants, at this point in our evolution, for food for our own survival. The food chain process contributes to the continuing cycle of life, but it is important for us to recognize that HOW we “kill” other life for our own survival affects us spiritually. Are we grateful to the plant or the animal for its gift of self-sacrifice for our survival?  Do we treat the animal with respect and care until the point of its slaughter? Do we conduct the slaughter with some reverence for the gift of nourishment, knowing that we have handled the slaughter as humanely as possible? Some slaughter houses are totally inhumane, with no reverence at all for animal life. The owners are aware of the cruelty they inflict, for profit, upon the animals well before the animals’ slaughter. The awareness of what they are doing for their own self-interest and greed, without care or respect for the animals, reflects the darkness and evil in their souls, more than the slaughter itself. Do those who are in management within corporations respect and value even the lowest of their employees? If they do not perceive that all employees are valuable to the corporation’s survival, and if they do not treat all employees with respect and equality simply because all are human beings, they may affect the psychological and physical decline of many of those employees. Inhumane treatment to other human beings often contributes to their decline, and in some cases to their premature deaths. We should, at least, recognize this fact to be true and give voice to its happening.

Our attitude, and our choices, toward all life affect our spiritual growth or deterioration, as we live out the ongoing cycle of life, which we share not only with other human beings, but with animals and plants. We must attempt to raise human consciousness to value all life, knowing that within life’s ongoing cycle, we are destined at times to “give” to others, and at other times we are destined to “take” from others. We should both take and give with care and with reverence. The mother will give of herself – even to her own decline – for her child, but she does so with joy and thanksgiving because she knows that she fosters the further life of her child. The child, in turn, should take the gift from the mother with humility and thanksgiving. By taking the gift from the mother in this manner, the child’s consciousness and soul are enlarged. Both giving and taking can foster spiritual development, but we must do both with full consciousness, and with reverence, for spiritual deepening to occur.

The Pilgrims and the Native-Americans gave thanksgiving to God, as they individually perceived God to be, for the food that they, together, received and consumed. That is why the celebration of the first Thanksgiving on American soil between the Pilgrims and the Indians remains our spiritual model today in how we should receive food and physical nourishment, as well as how we should interact with all others in our mutual quest for survival on this planet. Jesus demonstrated both awareness and reverence for his role in a divine plan when he willingly gave his life for humankind, and it is with awareness and reverence that we should “take” the body and blood of Jesus in communion. It is the depth of our awareness and reverence for all life, as we both give and take, that will determine the quality of our spiritual growth, as individuals and as a world community.

From “Dwellings,” pp. 44 – 46, by Native-American writer, Linda Hogan:

“Last year, I was at the Colorado River with a friend when two men from the Department of Fish and Wildlife came to stock the water with rainbow trout. We wanted to watch the silver-sided fish find their way to freedom in the water, so we stood quietly by as the men climbed into the truck bed and opened the tank that held fish. To our dismay, the men did not use the nets they carried with them to unload the fish. Instead they poured the fish into the bed of their truck, kicked them out and down the hill, and then into water. The fish that survived were motionless, shocked, gill slits barely moving, skin hanging off the wounds. At most, it would have taken only a few minutes longer for the men to have removed the fish carefully with their nets, to have treated the lives they handled with dignity and respect, with caretakers’ hands.

“These actions, all of them, must be what Bushman people mean when they say a person is far-hearted. This far-hearted kind of thinking is one we are especially prone to now, with our lives moving so quickly ahead, and it is one that sees life, other lives, as containers for our own uses and not as containers in a greater, holier sense.

“Even wilderness is seen as having value only as it enhances and serves our human lives, our human world. While most of us agree that wilderness is necessary to our spiritual and psychological well-being, it is a container of far more, of mystery, of a life apart from ours. It is not only where we go to escape who we have become and what we have done, but it is also part of the natural laws, the workings of a world of beauty and depth we do not yet understand. It is something beyond us, something that does not need our hand in it. As one of our Indian elders has said, there are laws beyond our human laws, and ways above ours.”

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5 Responses to Good and Evil Within Each Soul

  1. Ellen Rixford says:

    As a Buddhist/Scientologist, I find everything in this discussion relevant. The Buddhist philosophy doesn’t get particularly involved with supreme beings or deities. But compassion, and the recognition of “Buddha Nature” in all sentient beings is central to being a good human being. The incident with the fish in the Colorado River was indicative of “far heartedness.”. Had I been there, I would have stepped up and offered to carry the net. I would have also told those men that their cruelty would have an effect—a long lasting effect on their future. It makes me very angry to see cruelty to an innocent creature who cannot fight back.
    The recent child rape incidents at Penn State, and the ongoing child rapes to which the Catholic Church, to its shame, turned a blind eye, are excellent examples of human ability to harden the heart and desensitize to evil. When institutions who describe themselves as being devoted to the good of the spirit are able to tolerate such behavior, one wonders what must be going on in the minds of the men who run them.

    • Thank you for your perceptive and bold comments, Ellen. I continue to hope that, through self-awareness, the so-called “strong” will understand that genuine strength does not come from victimizing others, but from healing oneself and all life, including other human beings, animals, and the earth, itself. Those of power must relinquish valuing dominance through power, prestige, and wealth, and instead value the spirit which lies within all life. The fundamental difference is between a dominating, hierarchical consciousness and a loving, egalitarian one.

  2. From Jim Galloway’s blog of the AJC:

    Another poster’s comments (upon reading my “Good and Evil in Each Soul” essay, which I posted on Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist Jim Galloway’s blog, 8/31/14, in relation his article on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: (Link: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2014/08/30/jimmy-carter-no-peace-without-justice-for-palestinians/)

    “Thanks Mary Elizabeth. Just to rif off a part of your comments:

    Part of my ancestry is Lakota Sioux. It may be entirely an invention of Hollywood, but I always liked the thought that after they would kill an animal for food, they would take time to thank its spirit for giving them sustenance, and life.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    My responding comments to this poster on the Galloway blog:

    “Those thoughts are exactly what I was writing about in my link. My spiritual thoughts have come from my own exploration of spiritual consciousness, of over 60 years of concentrated thought and readings all of my life in that realm of existence, rather than from any specific readings I recall. My great grandfather was an ordained minister, as was his father, as well as his grandfather. The insights I have shared, in my link above, are organic to my own understanding of what the deeper, spiritual existence entails, springing naturally, I believe, through my bloodline. I have had these thoughts as early as age 9. It is my hope and prayer than Israelis and Palestinians, as well as all other peoples on Earth, will see with spiritual eyes that we are more connected in communion with all life, than we are different. Thus, a spiritual healing of mind and soul, and a forgiveness of oneself and of all others, showered upon all humanity, as the rain showers the Earth with renewed (spiritual) life.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Other poster:

    “(You had written): ‘My great grandfather was an ordained minister, as was his father, as well as his grandfather.’

    My background wasn’t quite so sterling 🙂

    One great uncle was involved in the KKK, as a result of the coal companies effort to bring black families from the south, to Iowa, to work in the coal mines.

    A second uncle lost his eye while making ‘shine in a shed outside his home.

    So you come from better stock than I do :)”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    My response to this poster’s remarks:

    “Please don’t misunderstand what I have written, CherokeeCounty. What I meant by disclosing my deceased relatives’ backgrounds was not to present myself or my relatives as “better” but to delve into the mystical with you (and with others who may read my thoughts) by exploring how we each “see” the world, somewhat differently, and to understand that that can be a result of our genes as much as because of our experiences. Such is the mystery of life and of God’s hand in our lives. (Only at 71, have I lost caring about surface perceptions by others of my intent; I now only want to share as deep an understanding as I can muster). We all have slightly different perceptions of reality as I have found. Artists generally see matters of life and death more piercingly than do CEOs and business types. And, so do some ministers, who are true to the spirit and not full of Earthly vanities. That is why both the artist and the prophet are seen to be otherworldly. Read the link below, Cherokee County, and you will understand from where I come, in a deeper way. I thank you for revealing yourself so truthfully to me, which shows a level of trust that is appreciated. Likewise, I have revealed to you about myself – not for any superficial reason to be “better” – but to be honest, in as deep as way as is possible for me, because I wanted to give you the “gift” of seeing me in a more profound way because you have been so supportive of me (as has Kamchak). My gift to you, both, was to dive as deeply as I could into who I am because of what I have inherited genetically (which, to me, is part of the mystery of life). I believe that the line between the living and the dead is a fragile line. My great-grandfather visited me in a dream before my first cousin, a woman minister, gave the sermon on a mountain (the first woman to have done so) about 4 years ago. What my great-grandfather revealed to me in that dream was part the sermon that my cousin gave the next day. This is totally true. He may have inspired her sermon, in fact, in ways mystical more than logical, on the other side. I felt a strange need to tell her of my dream just before she got up to give her sermon, and she looked at me in awe, saying, “Mary Elizabeth, that is the heart of the sermon I am about to give.” We both knew that something profoundly spiritual and mystical had happened. (Btw, on the other side of my family, my great-grandfather – at one point in the Great Depression – had survived for his family as a bootlegger. 😉 ) I am far beyond in my journey from judging others in terms of “better” or “worse” families. I truly see everyone on this planet as a unique soul, equal to every other soul (from King to Beggar) – only each different from every other soul, also, in glory to God’s magnificent creation, full of splendid variations of all kinds of life, but all full of life, through the spark or divinity of love. Read this, Cherokee County. I think you will enjoy it. One day, I hope to meet you.” https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/critique-of-the-1986-argentine-film-man-facing-southeast/

    • Note to Self: I saw the film “A Cabin in the Cotton,” an early 1930s film starring a very young Bette Davis today on TCM. It is a gem of a film for those interested in how the wealthy class often exploits the lives of workers for greed. Good, interesting drama, too. (Davis has a bit of a Marilyn Monroe accent as a Southern Belle. I cannot help but speculate if Monroe had seen this film in her youth and had adopted that voice as her own sexy creation.)

  3. Pingback: MaryElizabethSings Has Found Her Voice | maryelizabethsings

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