One of the hurdles I’ve had to deal with from the very beggining, in my writing, has to do with what you might call the banality of evil. Tim has mentioned this in the past and has done again. I have to say that baroque criminality and florid megalomania fascinates me in some ways. The possibility that there might be true monsters is tantalizing, for reasons I’ll go into below.

But the thing is, you move from the superficial evidence which would seem to imply some truly bizarre and potent evil lurking in the wings, and the deeper you go, what do you find? Boring, banal little freaks. Tedious, emotionally stunted adolescents and raving paranoids. Shell shocked two dimensional fanatics who lack anything resembling a creative imagination. Squalid psychopaths and perverts.

It’s disheartening in some ways. And why is that, you might ask? Surely it’s better for us all that there seem to be no ‘real’ potent monsters lurking about?

Maybe so, but it depends how you define ‘better’.

Back in the early days of AB I spent a fair bit of time rapping back and forth with the now sadly dormant Rev Max about this stuff and those exchanges helped me arrive at much of my current understanding of the matter. Anyway towards the end of that trajectory, Max posed the question: are there ‘evil kung fu masters’ or not? If so, then that would change everything. I agree. Maybe not in the way he meant, but I do. But how exactly would it change anything?

The problem is it’s a chimera, it slides through your fingers. Surely there are profoundly skilled and adept people in the world, and there are also profoundly evil and malevolent people in the world. But are there those who are both profoundly adept and profoundly evil and sweeping in their ambitions? My observation has been that those who want to fuck with people tend not to be especially masterful at much, besides lying and manipulation. The growth of consciousness and the drive to abuse others seems to be at cross purposes. Nevertheless, there is a void there. A gap in the evidence, a gap in the explaination. Something is implied here.

In short, are there real supervillains out there? And if not, then why not?

It’s not a trivial question I think. And it’s part of the reason I started this current iteration of alchemical braindamage. It was one of the first things I talked about when I came back.

If you’ve been reading my other strand of writings, then you know my overriding concern is with evolution, with personal transformation, with alchemy. It’s kind of psychological chemistry, with agents, reagents, catalysts, solutions, sytheses. The world is the vessel wherein our person psychology is cast and recast. It is our mirror, and our fuel.

My fear for the world has always been that fail to live up to our potential. That we don’t aim high enough, dream big enough, feel or think deeply enough. We devalue ourselves, devalue others, and demystify the world until it falls over and prepares to kick up it’s heels. We engineer catastrophes at the same time as we psychologically disempower ourselves to deal with them.

Most people seem to take one of two approaches to the question of evil. Either you have the quavering deer in headlights approach where you neither understand the problem nor equip yourself to deal with it, or you have the dismissive postmodernist skeptic who deconstructs the problem till it carries no urgency, and no real meaning. Just sick people, just stupid people, just the way things are. Crippled by hysteria or blinded by reason. In either case you’ve allowed no real room for yourself to grow. You’re either a deer, or you’re a product of impersonal forces.

I rewatched the movie Unbreakable with my girlfriend the other day, and it makes me think of that. The Elijah Price character played by Samuel L. Jackson is, by any reasonable standard, a broken person. Physically broken, mentally broken, and we begin to suspect, spiritually broken. He seems to grasp at some bizarre notion that Bruce Willis is a larger than life figure, a superhuman savior for the world. And until the end we don’t understand why.

We finally see that Price is searching for his complimentary opposite. For the counterweight that would set his life purpose into motion. By helping David Dunn discover that he is a superhero of sorts, this allows Price to step into his own personal vision of greatness. His purpose is validated. He is no longer the sick, broken man. He is the supervillain, the archnemesis. In some way by giving a stranger the permission to become something larger than life, he himself assumes that stature as well.

The psychological mechanism at the core of this is very real. If we insist on stripping others of their meaning and purpose, then we simultaneously strip ourselves of our own meaning and purpose. If we insist on not understanding the truth in the darkness then we will never understand ourselves either.

Like it or not, this plane of existence seems to operate on the principle of duality, on the dynamic of self and other. As we grow, the other grows, in some complimentary and mirror way. As our understanding and recognition for the other grows, our understand and recognition of the self grows as well.

This is a strange thing to contemplate, and sort of counter intuitive. But if you approach the monster with understanding and respect, if you allow him to crystallize in your mind in his fullest expression, you will at the same time crystallize within yourself to your fullest expression. This is how the world works. How it has always worked. There is no ‘utopia’, no ‘dystopia’. There is no final resolution to anything. Only this dialectic, this endless round of conflict, communication and synthesis. The only release is to step into the timeless, but that is another matter.

I think in some ways our real and enduring problem is a kind of enforced neoteny, and prolonged infantilism. We refuse to face the cycles of growth and maturity, we refuse to evolve into our true selves and thus we refuse to allow the other to grow either. And our world putters and gasps and seems to fall into upheaval.

And I feel quite sure on some level that the only way to end this apparently aimless chaos, the only thing that can end it, is this cultural rite of passage, this hero’s journey into the dragon’s lair. Where we will know ourselves through knowing the dragon, and the story will continue as it always must. Otherwise, we too will remain locked into stasis with the sick, broken and stunted children that we imagine to be lurking in the shadows.

7 thoughts on “” Now we know who I am…”

  1. There’s a lot of validity in your point, but the line of reasoning that says you should impart significance to the “other” [theorizing “we” want to be one of the “good” guys] in order to enable our own evolutionary acceleration of potential.

    It’s a bit of a heavy handed political analogy, but it strikes me as, for example, Bush giving the ill-defined fundamentalist terrorists a definition of “evil” in that he might elevate himself to the role of “good” or “just”. Same way that communism and the USSR was thoroughly demonized and defined in such a way so that, as their opposite number, we became all that was noble and right with the world.

    It might be effective, but it seems to gloss over reality.

    I kinda feel that the “truth in the darkness” is that they are “tedious, emotionally stunted adolescents and raving paranoids”.

    As far as there’s any “truth” to be had.

    And I tend to think that the best way to “know ourselves” is probably to transcend this notion of duality or that our ability to… actualize… for lack of a better word right now… is somehow limited by an other.

    Great blog, btw.

    I’m really diggin’ your series “Alchemy for the Braindamaged”, as I’m clearly amongst the brain damaged.

  2. I agree entirely that hitching one’s own growth to an other is counter-productive.

    in this sense I’m speaking more of how we characterise the other, which is contained entirely in our heads.

    what troubles me is that the strength of our learning is in the problems we overcome. it seems in our culutre we’ve done a marvelous job of fabricating an infantile stream of fictitious problems and boogeymen to pit ourselves against, and as a result we’ve turned into a world of delusional whiners.

    conversely we’ve also managed to deconstruct, downgrade and denigrate the real issues in our lives so as to distract ourselves from the failure of our values, our perceptions and our sense of responsiblity.

    in simplest possible terms we’re prepared to laugh off or glibly tolerate the excesses of the elites in our culture as the actions of the egotistical, venal or sick. instead of treating it as deep indictment of our own apathy.

    it would be different if you truly didn’t understand the scope and seriousness of what’s happening. the truly oblivious are happy in the land of cartoon terrors like osama bin laden.

    but to grasp the seriousness of the real situation, and then to retreat into a self satisfied faux-philosophical rationalisation strikes me as childish and tragic.

    we’re so afraid to sacrifice our unearned luxuries and engage a real crisis of moral and spiritual growth that we’re left in a perpetual arrested adolescence.

    that said, I’m not sure even george fits the bill of the kind of dragon I’m talking about. i suspect it’s a personal thing for each human being. but the system he represents, and the mentality behind it…that is the dragon for our culture, and the longer we refuse to face the things in US that brought it about, that continue to allow it exist, the longer we’ll wallow in some kind of neonate fusion state of undifferentiated chaos.

    I agree that we need to rise above needing the other to define us, but what i’m getting at in brief is that most of us haven’t even truly gotten to that stage in the first place, let alone risen above it. we just tend to think that we have.

    thanks for the props btw. i enjoy your taste in selections, besides the obvious generousity in pimping my stuff for me…

  3. Wow, that blew me away. I’ve only been reading you for a few weeks now- in fact, I don’t even know how I found you, but I sense there is much wisdom in what you say. It’s so rare to come across something that isn’t just bullshit. Reading this, I was reminded of how the movie, “The Exorcist”, frightened me for a very long time (I was raised Catholic). Eventually, I dismissed everything about evil as total nonsense, believing that evil only existed for people who believed in it. I felt much better for a while, because I was in control. I couldn’t stop looking into it, however. Now, I’m at a place where I don’t doubt that there is evil, but I’m not afraid of it because it only seems to control and bother those people who give it power through fear or desire for power. I know I’m not glib as your usual posters, but I really do enjoy your thoughts.

  4. Hey Zach, hope yer well

    Interesting material here… yeah by “evil kung fu masters” I meant people who were accomplished esoterists-shamen-energy workers or whatever who know that all-is-one and yet deliberately choose to act as though it aint.

    You sum it up well here i think: “The growth of consciousness and the drive to abuse others seems to be at cross purposes.”

    That said there is a lot of ambivalence and difficult material there too – in the imaginal realm-liminal realm. Things are sometimes necessary that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t want to be necessary.

    Not everyone can know everything, information doesn’t always want to be free, sometimes you can’t help everyone, energy is limited, at least that is what I have discovered.

    Innocence can be dangerous too – just ask Billy Budd.

    Later buddy, keep up the good fight


  5. Hmm, I’ve often thought along these lines too. Ultimately, even reading the contrary, I’ve come to the conclusion that evil does not exist.

    “Remember, Lucius, that everything you learn is already part of you, even to the Godhead Itself. Study nothing except in the knowledge that you already knew it. Worship nothing except in adoration of your true self and fear nothing except in the certainty that you are your enemy’s begetter and its only hope of healing. For everything that does evil is in pain.” John Furie Zacharias, Imajica, by Clive Barker

    After going through the readings put forth through those emails by Stratford+, I’ve become interested in the concept of hylics those “bound to the matter, the principle of ignorance and ‘error.'”

    I’ve not the experience necessary to gauge whether the Gnostic conception of humanity is legit, but if there are in fact those that are bound to the material/carnal experiences and are consequently “spiritually devoid,” per se, then I could see the diluted concept of “evil” arising in those that “know” no better?

    It’s late, but worth contemplating further. Cheers!

  6. Hi —

    Interesting site! Very useful, and synthesizes a lot of murky thoughts I have had but have not always stopped to de-murkify (if I felt them distinctly enough in the first place!).

    One thing I thought about when you talked about this:

    “We devalue ourselves, devalue others, and demystify the world until it falls over and prepares to kick up it’s heels. We engineer catastrophes at the same time as we psychologically disempower ourselves to deal with them.”

    … was the idea of the ‘death wish,’ which, if I understand it correctly (and I’m being reductive here for the sake of brevity), is more about a desire to not be in control than it is about death per se. I know I’ve confused some tendencies in myself with ‘self-destructiveness’ when, if I really looked into it, I was actually wanting to just let go and not be driving or wand-wielding, if you will, all the time. It was more a product of pressuring myself and of perhaps lusting after results too much and not trusting in the process, that I wasn’t just a solo act in the world.

    In other words, at least for myself, I’ve noticed that what I took as sabotage and as setting my sights too low was more a product of ‘fear of being overwhelmed’ and of not being very skilled at setting limits (the whole idea you talk about of not throwing away the whole f’ing map at once) for myself and experiencing a kind of vertigo as a result.

    Looking forward to more posts — thanks!


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