This article was prompted by a Richard Rohr Meditation that I got in my inbox this morning. In it, he discusses how systemic evil is in life.
Evil only succeeds by disguising itself as good.
Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999) was a Brazilian archbishop and brilliant nonviolent activist who offered a model for understanding how structural injustice leads to greater violence. I overlay Dom Hélder’s teaching on the “spiral of violence” with traditional Catholic moral teaching which saw the three primary sources of evil as the world, the flesh, and the devil—in that order. If evil and institutionalized violence (“structural sin”) go unrecognized at the first level, the second and third levels of violence and evil are inevitable. If we don’t nip evil in the bud at the level where it is legitimated and disguised, we will have little power to fight it at the individual level.
This could have been called “The System”: it isn’t Creation or Gaia, but the underlying structure that’s man-made. It’s the way groups, cultures, institutions, and nations organize to protect themselves and maintain their power. This is the most hidden and denied level of evil. We cannot see it because we are all inside of it, and it is in our ego’s self-interest to protect the corporate deception.
Organized religion has always fixated on this part: sexuality, morality and ‘sin’. When we punish or shame individuals for their sins, we are usually treating symptoms rather than the root problem or cause: the illusion of separation from God and others.
There is a deep and direct connection between “the world” or “the system” with its culture and corporations and the evil things private individuals do. The entertainment and business worlds celebrate people who are greedy, ambitious, angry, vain, prideful, deceptive in the name of profit, and “lustful” in many ways beyond the obvious (these were historically called the “capital sins”). We can’t reward and promote evil at this level and then shame it at the personal level. It does not work. We can’t romanticize war, but then rail against murder.
The Big Bad Wolf is ‘hidden in sheep’s clothing’ as part of the flock, as it were. This personification of evil is hard to name or describe because it’s so well disguised and even idealized. If “the world” is hidden structural violence, then “the devil” is sanctified, romanticized, and legitimated violence—violence that is deemed culturally necessary to control the angry flesh and the world run amuck. Any institution thought of as “too big to fail” or somehow above criticism has a strong possibility of diabolical misuse. Think of the military industrial complex, the penal system, banks, multinational corporations subject to no law, tax codes benefiting the wealthy, or even organized religion itself. We need and admire these institutions all too much. As a result, they can “get away with murder.”
Since almost the very beginning of the Christian Era, alternate thinking has been suppressed by ‘those in control’. Early Christians were actually Gnostic in their approach to understanding what went on with Jesus’ life and “death”. They saw that this world is actually ruled by a ‘god’ who has usurped the title. This did not win them any friends when it came time to ‘marry’ the Church and State. In fact, it caused them to be hunted down and eliminated.
So, the knowledge went to ‘sleep’, where it has been for a couple of thousand years. Now, people are beginning to ‘wake’ up from their slumber. They are starting to ask questions. And the biggest question seems to be: “Why is evil allowed to exist?”
Can we come back to a Truth? Nothing exists as all good or all evil, especially in this three dimensional, binary world. Light without shadow would be impossible to comprehend. And, like the Yin/Yang symbol, each half has a dot of the other inside.
Well, folks, it’s the same for us humans: male or female, we each have an internal spirit which is the opposite sex. They are the anima and animus in Jungian Psychology. Why?