Sunday, June 29, 2014

Is Evil Real?

I've recently become involved in an online discussion with another paranormal enthusiast regarding the existence of evil and it's ramifications, and the talk has caused me to think (or rethink) much of my ideals regarding genuine evil. I'd developed several thoughts regarding evil when I briefly studied philosophy in college about three or four years back and here are my essential thoughts on the topic. Keep in mind that these are only opinions as I am not a professional psychologist or philosopher.

Premises of Evil

From my observations regarding evil it has a handful of solid characteristics. For the purposes of these points I will use Dennis Rader, commonly known as the BTK (Bind/Torture/Kill) killer as my text-book example of evil.

  1. Evil requires a certain level of awareness, intent, and intelligence, and is not dependent on instinct. For instance, a cheetah who chases down and kills a gazelle is not evil. The animal is doing what millions of years of evolution have trained it to do for the purposes of survival and existence. Rader, however stalked and killed his victims not out of instinct but out of intention and design. He intelligently chose his victims and committed his acts in a fashion as to allude observation or capture.
  2. Evil is driven by self gratification, not by the survival instinct. Rader at no point 'had' to kill his victims, as an act of self defense, for example. His actions were driven by self pleasure, only. This gratification can come in several forms; financial gain (murder of  a spouse for insurance, as an example), sexual pleasure (Rader), psychological reward, and many others.
  3. Evil comes from within, not without. The Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Djinn, evil spirits, evil aliens...all of these are examples of outside forces people use to externalize violent acts of crime they've committed which we would term evil, blaming these entities for somehow forcing or coercing the act by the 'innocent' perpetrator. However, in truth evil stems from within the perpetrator themselves, committed for the sake of their own gratification.
  4. Evil people, or those who have committed an evil act, seek to deny, diffuse, or even refuse, blame.  M. Scott Peck hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that evil "[i]s consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection" (taken from the Wikipedia page on Peck). Going along with my point number 3. evil people don't want to see themselves as being evil, and externalize that blame in any way they can to either avoid punishment, continue to perform their evil acts for self gratification, or reconcile any form of guilt or shame they may feel for committing the acts.
  5. Evil typically goes hand-in-hand with psychological disorders. In fact I would say you can't have evil without a psychological disorder, however you can certainly have a psychological disorder without  evil. Antisocial disorder, or any emotional or mental disorder which causes loss of empathy or narcissism (a term avoided by professional psychologists these days), can be the foundation or grounds for people to commit evil acts, and I believe anyone would be hard-pressed to argue someone committing evil without having some sort of disorder. However, I am not pointing that fact out as a way to apologize for, or justify someone committing an act of evil. Those perpetrators are still in the presence of mind during the act to justify punishment.
  6. Evil can be overcome by it's perpetrator. Rader was not forced to commit his acts, and although it can be said he was compelled to do so, ultimately he had the choice not to commit them, However that choice would have required him to admit to his acts and come to terms with his compulsions, not something easily done without professional psychological help.
  7. Evil conceals itself. As evident with points 1. and 4., perpetrators of evil acts hide either their actions or their identities for the purposes of avoiding punishment, staving off guilt, or seeking further opportunities to commit evil acts. Rader lived a rather modest and normal alter-ego life, but it was a life that allowed him to research and discover his next victim of his evil intentions. Yes, often times perpetrators of evil will flaunt their actions to the general public, press, or law enforcement, but especially in those times they take pains to keep their true identities concealed.
  8. Evil is persistent and consistent within the perpetrator, and typically is unrelated to emotional outbursts. Bouts of anger or rage do not constitute acts evil. If a housewife kills her husband after finding him in bed with another woman, this does not constitute an evil act.
With those points in mind I've come to the conclusion that evil is something that is real, but it is 100% founded within intelligent perception. I'm tempted to say "human intelligent perception" here, but for the purposes of the paranormal we have to expand the boundaries of that definition. If paranormal entities, whether they be alien, ultra-universal, or spiritual, are intelligent, they can commit acts of evil. On that point, and emphasizing my belief as stated in point number 3. I don't believe in demonic possession in the least. I could go on further regarding my ideals on why demonic possession is a farce, but I would need another few blog posts, specifically about the cultural perspective of demons and the Devil. I'll save all that for another day. :)