I view evil as sin without guilt or remorse. I define sin more or less Biblically. Evil does exist in this world. My Leftist academic friends refuse to see it because it would mess up their world-view and they might have to fight something a bit more dangerous than golfer Republicans with pink pants, and my re-born Fundie pals (yes - academia has some closet Bible-readers) insist that the word is "Devil" with the "D", not "Evil." There is a culture gap there which will never be crossed. "Devil" implies an external force; "evil" implies a human source.
But put me in the "Believing in Evil" column anyway, even though C.S. Lewis convinced me that it makes as much sense to believe in a God as in a Devil. And I do believe in a God, although my degree of faith varies day to day. It would chart like the Dow Jones, with its long-term upward trend.
The denial of evil is dangerous. It leads naive or willfully naive folks to trust when they should not. Whenever I consult with a new patient, one of the first several things I quietly assess is their degree of what we call "sociopathy" - the strength of their conscience. Not whether they behave well, but whether they care enough in their bones about the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, integrity or deception, manipulation vs. genuine vulnerability, self-interest vs. genuine love.
It's not about how they act in public, or about what they say - successful sociopaths can be actors and good schmoozers, flattering, engaging and ingratiating, and sometimes charismatic. Those traits are red flags. Sociopathic people are rarely awkward or genuinely vulnerable. And while they are ultimately "takers" and "users," they don't want that to show, and, if they're really good, they can even make you feel good about it. They'll tell you how great you look and buy you a drink while they pick your pocket.
It is important for a psychiatrist because sociopathic people are beyond help, and we should not take their money. They don't tell us the whole story, and they shade it, distort it, provide false confessions and play other tricks. They cannnot help it, and that is the tragedy. Self before all, Self as God. Like Tony Soprano. And they find ways to justify or "rationalize" (a shrink term for justifying or excusing sin) this to themselves, or they don't even bother. Yes, they feel pain, but it's the wrong kind. There's only narcissitic pain - self-pain, or shame, or self-pity.
But, even as I write this, I see myself falling into my own trap, i.e. talking about evil as if it were pathology. It is not. When evil is strong, it is a form of spiritual death, of soul death - a thing that "chokes the breath of conscience and good cheer" and which brings pain and misery and destruction to others with it. This happens because the experience of soul-lessness, of inner hunger, of spiritual emptiness, drives people to fill the emptiness with money, power, admiration, adolescent-style nurturing, attention, a feeling of self-importance, multiple love or sex partners, "substances," etc. - always putting their image needs, and instinctive needs, first. Life as an extension of high-school. Feeling like objects, they treat others as objects too - as sources to fulfill their needs and hungers.
When I try to blend my psychoanalytic training with my religion, I view self-love as one key to thinking about evil. I don't mean ordinary vanity and conceit - I mean the hidden destructive self-interest which is easily concealed behind any number of facades, such as modest, victimized, or innocent demeanors, for common examples. Pride, envy, vengefulness, destructive or angry inner selves - these sins reside in all of us, which is why we need Christ to bail us out - but only evil can put on a real show of care.
The only thing psychiatrists have to offer to evil is prayer.
Why discuss this in The Blog? Because I think it is relevant to our view of the world, not just our personal lives. The Stalins and Hitlers and Saddams and Castros are too easy. Don't be paranoid in life - just insist that trustworthiness and decent intentions be proven, whether in world affairs or in your personal life, before you bestow the gift of trust.
And, for Heaven's sake, don't look for those good things in the world of international affairs. Just think about it for one second - who would want to be President of Russia? Or Dictator of Venezuela? The only reason I have some trust in Bush is because I don't believe he ever really wanted the job, or felt worthy of it. That is a "plus" in my book.
Denial of EvilOne common failing of good-hearted people is to imagine that everyone else is good-hearted. Similarly, suspicious and malevolent people tend to imagine that all people are malevolent.And everyone who knows anything about themselves knows tha
Tracked: Jan 08, 18:30