Martin LeFevre Meditations: An Inquiry into Evil
An Inquiry into Evil
I finally finished Romeo Dallaire’s book, “Shake Hands with the Devil,” about the Rwandan genocide. Often I could only read a few pages at a time. The horror of it, and the relentless spiritual and philosophical questions it implicitly raises, have remained with and haunted me.
Consider this passage, in which Dallaire, the Force Commander for the UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) quotes Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistani diplomat who was the special representative of the then Secretary General, Boutros-Ghali: “The Interahamwe made a habit of killing young Tutsi children, in front of their parents, by first cutting off one arm, then the other. They would then gash the neck with a machete to bleed the child slowly to death but, while they were still alive, they would cut off the private parts and throw them at the faces of the terrified parents, who would then be murdered with slightly greater dispatch.”
Can ordinary people face such evil? Yes, if it’s human. Certainly evil is not a supernatural phenomenon, but rather the worst byproduct of thought-consciousness. Therefore it is human. But what does evil want? Are particular people or peoples its only targets, simply as objects of bottomless hatred? Psychologically and metaphysically, unspeakable brutality serves another, much wider and more diabolical purpose.
Clearly, the metaphysical targets of evil are not parents watching their children being mutilated and murdered, anymore than the psychological targets are slaughtered children. Metaphysically, evil means to be known but not faced, so as to whisper through our deepest fears and eat away at the hearts of living individuals all over the world.
The intentional darkness in human consciousness wants every person to believe in our hearts that there is nothing we can do about evil, and that we may as well inwardly quit and give free reign to self-centeredness. Then it achieves its goal of turning the human heart to stone.
In America, where self-interest has long been viewed as the highest good anyway, the vast majority of people have become broken and inwardly dead. People are often ‘nice,’ but there is an immense emptiness here that makes people slaves to the forces of darkness behind our government. People don’t know, and don’t want to know that “the US government actively worked against an effective UNAMIR and only got involved to aid the same Hutu refugee population and genocidaires, leaving the genocide survivors to flounder and suffer.”
Collective darkness is as real in general consciousness as the self is in individual consciousness. That is to say, it materially exists, though psychological separation is illusory and arbitrary. And since it's a completely interconnected global society now, the spread of inward deadness is the gravest threat to the human spirit in the evolutionary history of humanity.
Ordinary people have come face-to-face with what Alexis de Tocqueville called “religious terror," but self-knowing provides protection from and the antidote to evil. Rigorous self-knowing also turns the tables on collective darkness, by transmuting the material of one’s own content of darkness into the light of understanding. In the end, darkness makes us sub-human, or, facing it within, we grow into human beings.
Rain pelted the windows all night, fell steadily all morning, and came down in furious squalls, accompanied by thunder and lightening, in the afternoon. A couple hours before sunset the weather began to clear, and I seized the opportunity to get out into the parkland.
The creek, needless to say, was a torrent, and the trails a muddy mess, though it felt good to stride through the muck. Every bough and leaf dripped from the daylong deluge. The park was very quiet, and a runner’s footfalls echoed across the wooden slats of a footbridge a short distance away.
A small Cooper’s hawk screeched, flew across the stream, and alighted at the top of one of the innumerable oak trees that grace the land here. Later, a much larger specimen of the woodland hawk flew over, its brief presence leaving a lasting impression. Below in the water, a merganser, paddling almost as if it thought it would be sucked under, nervously negotiated the rapids under the footbridge.
A meditative state ignited in the undivided observation, and the past dissolved in the intensity of the infinite present. Shifts in consciousness are never the goal; there is simply the intent to watch what is, and learn. That intent, plus a quickness and intensity of self-awareness in the current of consciousness, effortlessly bring about awakened consciousness.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.