To give insight into these influences I will try to give an overview of the past 4-5 days. This should be interesting as due to the nature of some of them, I really can't give a great deal of elaboration. This will lead to an attempt to outline where my mind currently is and what is currently running around in that space. The learned Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford supplies the quotation that most often comes to mind, "It's all in your head. You just have no idea how big a place that is."
The rest is cut. Primarily because it's close to 2500 words. Secondarily, because it gives people an out for not bothering. My words, my thoughts. Debate if you will. I always need more to chew on.
Over the past 4 days I have taken part in the following list of activities (for the most part taken in order), “Building a ceremonial ritual temple”, “Watching Ocean’s Twelve”, “Rehearsing and then participating in magickal rituals of exaltation and annihilation”, “Participation in a social endeavor which exemplified Thelemic thought”, “Studied a ceremonial ritual of death invocation”, “Watched Kill Bill (Volumes 1 and 2, the latter I ran out and purchased immediately upon the conclusion of watching the former)” and mixed that whole list up with a great lack of sleep
So, here I find myself on Monday morning contemplating the easier concepts of the universe. What is the meaning of: Christ, prophet, king, priest, messiah, good, evil, harm. Why is the pursuit of divinity left only to the curious and not encouraged in all? I used “Wikipedia” as a source for the beginnings of my investigation. This may have been a very bad decision. Take for example this definition:
Evil is a term describing that which is morally bad, corrupt, wantonly destructive, selfish, and wicked. It is one half of the duality of good and evil expressed, in some form or another, by many cultures. It describes a hierarchy of moral standards with regard to human behaviour; evil being the least desired, while love is usually the most praised. In essence "evil" is a term for those things which (either directly or causally) bring about withering and death- the opposite of life. In casual or derogatory use, the word "evil" can characterize people and behaviours that are hurtful, ruinous, or disastrous.
So many ambiguous words used to define an even more ambiguous concept. (Note: while typing that link I accidentally misspelled the word “even” as “evin”. I find this an interesting irony. I love the use of the term “morally bad” to assist in this definition. The only thing we know of “bad” is that it equates to “not good” which we know is the opposite of evil. But lets focus on the term “morally.” This term seems to be a very nice can-of-worms that both political parties drew upon to use as bait for the American populace in the last theatrical performance of theoretical democracy.
Oh, goodie! Definition 2. Let’s see how long it takes us to get to recursion.
Morality is a complex of principles based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which an individual determines whether his or her actions are right or wrong.(In Wikipedia “right” and “wrong” auto forward respectively to “Good” and “Evil”, so your recursion level is 1.)
So, we are off and running. If it is defined as morally wrong it is evil and thus proves merely by statement that is morally wrong. Q.E.D. He who claims something is evil thus proves it merely by stating it. And vice versa, and thus well versed in your vices. We are however saved by the fact that these examples of evil, or wrongness are so defined but only when ascribed to cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts. I will give an example.
In 1908 at the Olympics Henry VII instituted the act of having the nations of the world dip their flags to the presiding monarch of the host country. All but the US performed this act. Historians argue as to whether this was established procedure for the flag (as the USA flag code which prohibits dipping was not drawn up until 1923) or merely the response of an irate American who wanted retribution for an oversight by the British committee who omitted the American flag from the stadium decorations.
So, was the act morally wrong by definition of cultural beliefs? On behalf of the world culture, it was one nation striking out on its own to opposed an agreed upon behavior. On behalf of the nation it was a demonstration of that nation’s beliefs. One could thus define that the behaviour was good as metered by the American populace but evil on the level of subversion by the viewers of the rest of the world. Of course, in 1908 how many people considered the importance of the American Flag outside the US as compared to the number of people within the US?
In that leads me to my next step in the analysis if evil and the pervasion of dogmatic thought. Please note the irony in the similarity of the words, “Pervasion” and “Perversion.” One means permeation and infusion, the other means to change in a manner that is right or good, thus to corrupt. I note the irony because faith and the understanding of what is right or wrong for self is at its core a solitary process. One can look to external influence to aid in understanding of these things, but the actually things themselves are still accepted from within. To in fact interpret the deeper meaning of one person’s internal realizations for another and then address it as Law or required internal belief is in its own way perversion through pervasion. Thus I illustrate with another example.
The film Dead Poets Society is an exploration in the discovery of self. The societal constraints at the time was a belief that children of the age in question were neither equipped nor socially desired to have understanding of self. Thus, to actualize self discovery was in its own way counter-productive to the educational process that the school desired. This societal crash occurs when the character of Neil discovers that he is an actor. This career path has no place in the society he lives in. He is put to a choice. He must either renounce the society and culture he lives in or he must renounce that which he realizes is within the core of who he is. Neither side of this internal debate is prepared to find a middle ground of agreement. When he acquiesces to release that inner part of himself to appease the cultural requirements, there is nothing left of himself. He is effectively dead. The suicide is merely an explanation for those who do not understand what has transpired. Interestingly, the suicide is done in the father’s office, with the father’s gun while the boy is shirtless and wearing the crown of his theatrical role. (I will almost spare the obvious comparison of the martyrdom of a shirtless and crowned representation of spiritual self) One can almost say that the suicide is almost the murder of self by an uneducated society that has already established rules and is thus unforgiving to those that cannot follow said law.
We turn in our hymnals once again to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. For those who have not read this pearl I will sum up. For the younger sister in this society to marry, the Elder sister must wed first. The elder sister however will not allow herself to be yet another subservient female spouse to a chosen husband. An abusive an arrogant man comes to town who convinces the father that he will put the elder sister in her place and by the end of the show, she publicly declares the place of woman in the society.
The story itself is subversive on a level that I think may have only been matched by Edwin Abbot’s Flatland. The central character of Kate is practically a pariah. She denounces her society and culture. The role of Petruccio represents on first glance simple proof and anthropomorphism of this culture to an almost comic level. But on a deeper level you may see the subversion. Culture is culture as long as everyone plays the game. One can theorize that the behavior of Petruccio and eventually Kate is merely a façade to remove public scorn and even attention from their lives. A luxury that Neil in DPS cannot be afforded to show the abject tragedy.
So, now the question evolves into a contemplation or even a realization why we discover that several anti-Semites surprisingly are from Jewish upbringings; why we discover that some gay bashers merely haven’t found their way out of their closets; and worse, why several of the worst sex offenders and clock-tower-killers are the quiet ones we don’t expect. Quite simply, in this day and age… we have evolved into a society of public repression.
Our growing failure however is that the repression is taught to us through forcing ourselves to lie to ourselves rather than acknowledging the good. This is probably unclear so I will clarify. Rather than acknowledging our differences privately as strengthening of self, we are taught to resent our own differences and hide them and go out of our way to deny them. We are asked to hate the people we are. So much so, that people are in a daily fugue of constant of internal inclination that clashes against a constant barrage of opposing societal edicts. Most people have had those desires to run a stop sign or throttle a co-worker or boss. But rather than acknowledge these thoughts, we bury them… Forget about them. Even convince ourselves of being “bad” people because we even thought of them.
Our larger culture has evolved a standard set of behavioural patterns. And we are taught fear of thought or behaviour against these patterns. Even to the denigration of self. Now… this becomes interesting. Societaly, it is acceptable to bring harm upon self (to a degree determined by the same society) if one opts to contemplate that which goes against those edicts of that society. Now, this begins to sound very far fetched until you use the example of the class system that exists in this country in the most heinous of hells that we refer to as “High School” I must agree with a man well onto his way of sainthood, “Wil Wheaton” who said of his being a High School ‘Geek’, “… if I could go back in time, I’d kick my own ass.”
I’ve often looked back on my past and thought what I would have done differently. Looking for things I would have said or done had I known. I’ve often wished I could implant my life’s learning into my 15 year-old self or even my 12-year-old self. To watch the divine retribution that could have occurred and precious moments in my life. I do have to acknowledge the nearly-temporal irony of the fact that if I had had that knowledge, I would not have gained the experience that created that knowledge in the first place. Further, I laugh at the fact that to look back on who I was as who I am gives me a feeling of divine supervision. But, I digress.
What is evil? Is evil realizing that you have a penchant or an inclination that goes against societal norms? Is it acting on it in a society that does not permit that behavior? It’s easy to step away from the philosophical quandary with intangible theory. As it is just as easy to run to the topic with firm beliefs when actualizing with such tangibles that press buttons uniformly in most people. Or you could just say the word Nazi and invoke Godwin’s law.
I watched “Kill Bill” last night. For which I could say that the grantor of said gift was in fact evil (at least in the most sardonic manner of calling anything evil). I find myself wondering… who was the “bad guy?” Tarantino’s movies are a stunning exploration into a society that most of us don’t live in. A society where the rules are different. Many of us with the geekish upbringing have seen the lawful/chaotic, good/evil chart from the Dungeons and Dragons days. What happens when we go against said rules? Effectively, evil is more apparent, not when we realize behaviours in ourselves, but how we choose to act upon them and in what company.
To truly reach a spiritual understanding of self, one must be prepared to look oneself in the eye. One must not only be able to look at self, but understand self, accept self, and love self. The cultural mores are merely a guideline to effectively navigate said culture. One could go so far as to label it a tool or means to an end. One could easily theorize that for every law that reaffirms morals and family values there is a politician who voted for said law who violates it in an unimaginable manner. Sometimes, mass violations are discovered.
The inherent problem with this system is that it necessitates hypocrisy. Very few people actually will attest to the belief that their representatives are paragons of honesty. As the old adage goes, “You can tell when a politician is lying because his lips move.” This undermines faith in two directions. First it undermines faith in the leadership because they don’t follow the edict they lay down. It is almost as if they put themselves above their own law. Secondarily, it undermines faith in the edict itself. If those that make the law don’t even feel the need to follow it, why should I trust or feel a need to follow any of this law.
However, at the same time, we have to consider the wealth of people who like Neil are not equipped to handle the responsibility or realization of self. If one truly comes to the realization of self to the extent that they require the public expression of self, they have to take into account the potential repercussions. While an exhibitionist may fair completely well in a colony of nudists, a man exposing himself in a church in (insert your favourite Southe’n state here) is probably going to find himself locked away in a jail cell or probably beaten.
In some situations others will not share our self realizations. In others they will further be incapable of comprehending them. We are left once again in that dark room asking ourselves if we are evil because the mere vocalization of what we could question in ourselves could undoubtedly bring public scorn, derision, or the like. In a strange way, banning a book from one group makes an almost insidious amount of sense because while, we comprehend the power of the book, it may mislead others to make bad or even self destructive judgment. The question there always becomes… who decides what is ‘bad’ and what is unacceptable for the masses. More often than not it is a religious or civil leader who should be taking care of the well being of each. More often than not it is a religious or civil leaded who is taking care of protecting position by reinforcing the group.
We are at an interesting transition as a society. The walls of morality are beginning to permeate. But to others it is an undermining of an entire system of living. The neural lattice of their existence is built upon foundations that they are not equipped to undermine. If you have an inverted pyramid and want to change the peak. It is better to carefully cradle the top portions of the pyramid with a device that knows how to hold it; rather than kicking out point and trying to shove a replacement in before it falls. It is better, but not always the case. There are times that you have to let the pyramid fall to build anew.
So, how do we do this? Where do we strike the balance between pursuit of self and constructive, societal evolutionism? Do we even bother? I suppose only if that is something you have discovered within yourself.
Or perhaps, I’m just being evil.