March 18, 2024
SF Gate

The Answer to Evil Isn’t What You Think It Is.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP

Going by received opinion is one of the worst ways to solve a problem. This is glaringly true when it comes to the problem of evil. Whether we recognize it or not, we all cling to outmoded, mistaken, or distorted models of where evil comes from and what to do about it. All of these models have failed, but that doesn’t prevent people from following them.

There is a better answer to the problem of evil, but it emerges only when reality is no longer blocked by mind-made notions passing for truth. Let me try to clear away some of this mental underbrush.

The oldest model that distorts reality traces evil back to unseen cosmic forces. This is a supernatural model that ascribes evil to devils, demons, or Satan. In some traditions, these evil forces are built into the scheme of things, while in other traditions there is a fall from grace. In any event, human beings reflect the cosmic war between good and evil. The problem is that no one has ever found the slightest evidence for the existence of cosmic evil, which resides in the annals of religion, myth, and folk beliefs.

Another model holds that evil is an incorrigible trait in human nature. Sometimes this is traced back to primitive atavistic urges we inherited from our remote ancestors; sometimes it is embedded in the unconscious mind. What Freud called the Id is mindlessly driven to hatred and violence, and by repressing these forces, we condemn ourselves to eruptions from the unconscious that tear the fabric of civilization. The problem with this model is that countless people are not incorrigibly violent or hateful, nor do they find themselves struggling against such psychological forces.

The most recent model for evil is the disease model, which holds that evil is a pathogen like a virus or bacteria. Those who exhibit evil behavior are sick and need to be treated. The problem with this model is that perfectly sane people start and encourage war, which entails murder on a mass scale. In addition, the pathogen that causes evil behavior has never been located genetically or led to a cure.

The models I’ve mentioned are actually the most respectable. People are generally ashamed to admit to other models, such as racism, prejudice against “the other,” and a sense of outrage that seeks only to punish evil rather than trying to understand it.

Respectable or not, what all these models have in common is a lack of awareness that is born by accepting conventional wisdom, traditional values, and social norms as if they hold the truth.

It represents a huge step forward if you can rid yourself of outworn and distorted models, because only then can you begin to think for yourself and seek the truth on a personal journey. Here are some insights that have emerged over the centuries about evil.

  • Good and evil are opposites, and this is enough to prevent reconciliation between the two.
  • As a result, life is led, individually and collectively, in a never-ending struggle.
  • If a struggle can never end, the only rational course is to take yourself out of the struggle.
  • If the struggle is essentially mind-made, the everyday activity of the mind holds no answers.
  • Where the mind holds no answers, higher awareness does.

This train of logic is clear, but it is blocked by received opinion. You can tell that you don’t have clarity by noticing your own reactions to horrific news stories about behavior that people would quickly label as evil, such as child pornography, mass shootings, drug wars in the street, and violent domestic abuse.

In most people, such news reports create a confused and inconsistent response that includes the desire for revenge, passive acceptance, resigned resignation, a plea for justice, horror, guilt, and so on. The play of these responses is a symptom of why the war between good and evil, as a concept, is at once never-ending and futile.

It takes a lot to lift yourself out of the fray. Received opinion steps in to claim that not participating in the good fight is itself immoral, as pacifism is typically viewed in wartime. What are we to do, simply let evildoers run wild and unchecked? This is distorted thinking because if you pause for a moment, a fair judicial system consists of impartial judges who do not fight the good fight. They stand for higher values of justice, and by extension, higher awareness.

Higher or expanded awareness—the term doesn’t matter—is innate in human beings. When we behave out of love, compassion, empathy, non-judgment, and truth, we not only exhibit higher awareness, we prove that it is real. These values constitute how we would hope to be treated when we do wrong. At the very least, we fear and hate the prospect that the tag of “evil” would be placed on us.

Therefore, when we place this tag on someone else, we are projecting our own fear mixed with hatred, confusion, frustration, and irrationality—all the roles, in fact, that society ascribes to evil while being guilty of the very same. The underlying problem isn’t whether we need to mete out more punishment or more leniency. Codes of law are the level of society where those things are provided for, however imperfect.

A better answer to evil demands a dose of higher reality and a willingness to abandon false models. We all suffer from inner confusion and unresolved conflicts, but that isn’t the same as believing that we are trapped in a war between good and evil, which is our destiny. Evolution is our destiny, and what we are evolving toward is the choice to be more aware instead of less.

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution for the last thirty years. He is author of the forthcoming book, Digital Dharma: How to Use AI to Raise Your Spiritual Intelligence and Personal Well-Being. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”

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