Martin LeFevre: The Origins of Love and Evil
The Origins of Love and Evil
The mountain reservoir is already low. Ten or fifteen meters of steep hillside lie exposed, and the light brown soil is pockmarked with stumps from trees cut over fifty years ago.
The man-made lake is prematurely low not just because of the millions of gallons per day the surrounding communities consume for their water supply, much less the tens of thousands of gallons that helicopter buckets scooped up to fight the summer fires in the region. Rather, the caretaker said, it’s because we didn’t get any rain in the spring as expected, and they didn’t top off the reservoir.
But the bowl is still beautiful, and a stiff breeze blows off the lake, generating countless wavelets that gently lap against the shore. One feels once again the stupendous stillness of the place. This little man-made mountain lake is a microcosm of the universe, an Arecibo antenna for the silence of the cosmos.
Suddenly the breeze dies down, and the stillness becomes palpable. A woodland hawk soars over the water, its light-colored underwings accented by darker areas that follow the curve of its wings. For a minute the wavelets continue to lap onto the shore. Then they too suddenly stop, and just as they do, the mind falls silent and meditation spontaneously ignites.
The sun streams over the pines on the ridge a mile away, throwing a long brilliant line across the water. A skinny salamander skirts along my outstretched leg, and one sees and feels, as if for the first time, that love is the very essence of nature, being, and energy.
The domination of thought in the brain prevents perception and reception of this quality that is beyond words. It’s easy to throw around a word like ‘love,’ but the actuality is much harder to see and feel. One wonders why this is, if love is in fact in the very nature of things.
What is it about the human brain that allows one to see and feel, beyond knowledge and science, that love is of the essence? And if nature is an expression of infinite order and love, then where did evil come?
It’s easy to project man’s darkness into nature, to see life as a struggle of “tooth and claw.” That justifies injustice, rationalizes irrationality, and denies the unique brutality and destructiveness of man. However even one of the smartest animals on the planet, the Orca, or “Killer Whale,” does not seem to kill out of maliciousness, or greed, or conflict with other species, but simply to live.
That isn’t to paint some Rousseau-like picture of a pre-human or pre-agricultural Eden. The predator-prey relationship, without moral overtones, is the law of nature.
I saw a video recently of a pod of Orcas cooperating with great precision to wash a seal off an ice floe. The floe was big enough to afford temporary protection for the seal, but small enough for the Orcas, working together under the direction of one of them, to generate waves that washed the seal off the floe.
But that wasn’t’ the most amazing thing. They then allowed the seal to get back onto the ice floe, whereupon they repeated the procedure. Close observation revealed that older, more experienced Orcas were teaching juveniles the masterful maneuver. During the first expulsion from the floe, the juveniles just watched. During the second, they participated, and were rewarded with the seal.
The humans at the scene projected conflicting emotions onto the events--sympathy for the seal on one hand, identification with the hunter Orcas on the other. But neither was accurate, as projection always precludes perception of actuality.
Of course domesticated animals, such as dogs, can become vicious if mistreated or trained to be so. And some animals, such as old or impaired lions in the wild, living in proximity to man, have been known to exhibit not only a taste for human flesh, but a seeming vengeance against people encroaching on their territory. In addition, Jane Goodall observed in Tanzania one troop of chimpanzees waging a war of extermination on another.
With the possible exception of chimps however, who have a rudimentary level of conscious thought and no doubt resemble early humans, evil does not exist in nature. Given that human are bringing about only the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on earth, understanding the emergence of evil in nature through the evolution of ‘higher thought’ in man is very urgent.
A quantum leap in consciousness occurred in man, based on the capability to remove, remember, and manipulate objects in the environment. That adaptation gives us the capacity both for awareness of the order, harmony, and love that permeates the universe, as well as a capacity for disorder and evil arising from self-centeredness and greed.
To be consciously aware every day of the indivisible intelligence and holiness that permeates the universe requires another quantum leap in consciousness. Having come to the end of tens of thousands of years of ‘man,’ can the psychological revolution that heralds the human being ignite now?
- 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: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.