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.”