from page Meeting Darkness 1 (BACK)
"Nature red in tooth and claw" is the mother of our experience of darkness. Most
human evil appears to be a distortion of the natural aggression, territoriality, and herd
programming that is built into our bodies. Unharnessed aggression leads to war and
unchecked herd obedience leads to inquisition. Theft, rape, vandalism, war, slavery, and
the whole sordid list of "evils" have their counterparts in the natural world of
plants and animals. Theoretically, the logic of the natural world is perfect; Nature keeps
what benefits survival -- what works -- and abandons what does not, Apparently, then, evil
If evil is a part of natural law and structure, then we must be ready to understand its
benefits and its positive aspects.
The Cosmological Dark Side
The cosmological dark side is ultimately the most terrifying. It is the"All is
Suffering" of the Buddha, the "Let the dead bury their dead" of the Christ,
the endless wheel of meaningless rebirth of the Upanishads, and, as pictured by the early
Gnostics, the prison-planet Earth created by the mad demi-urge Yahweh. There is an anguish
implicit in being a fragile living being -- doomed to live in an uncaring eternal
universe, doomed to suffer and die and disappear -- that is universal and absolute. This
anguish cannot be explained away, and it cannot be fought. The spiritual literature claims
that the cosmological dark side only appears terrible, and that, in fact, its nature is
love. The truth of this assertion can only be verified in the crucible of personal
The Cultural Dark Side
The cultural dark side -- exemplified by the violence on television and the crime and
oppression in our cities -- surrounds us so completely that we have become numb to it.
The violence of the cultural dark side is so vast and deeply entrenched that we cannot do
anything to avert it, but must depend on luck to keep us safe. Fortunately, for those of
us in the United States, our luck is good most of the time. Moreover, the cultural dark
side has been well-researched; the study of anthropology and sociology will prove quite
useful to the esoteric student. For example, Colin Turnball's ethnography of the Ik, a
displaced tribal group that became amoral and intra-violent, and behavioral experiments
demonstrating increased aggression in groups of overcrowded rats, offer fascinating
insights into the dynamics of the cultural dark side.
Remember this: we are blind to the cultural dark side, so close to it that we can't see
its forest for the trees. Torture, rape, and murder are going on while you read this, and
such behavior is conditioning you, especially through the suggestions and headlines of the
mass media. This constant conditioning is a unique feature of modem times, and it creates
special problems for the practitioner.
The Personal Dark Side
The personal dark side is the distillation of the other dark sides that have been
imprinted into the psyche of each individual This storehouse of bad memories, hurts,
fears, and all the other programs of violence and lust lies just underneath the surface of
ordinary consciousness. It is Freud's Id and Jung's Shadow; it is the source of troubling
dreams, crimes, and other disruptive behavior. The depths of personal darkness can be
extremely shocking. It's hard to conceive of, let alone grapple with, the amount of pain
and rage stored in the psyche.
We make great efforts to suppress this storehouse of darkness but it has a damnable
tendency to erupt into everyday neuroses, psychosis, and sociopathy. The modem medical
discipline of psychology specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and containment of the
personal dark side. The study of psychology's basic texts is essential for esoteric
students, an invaluable preparation for recognizing and dealing with our own petty
darknesses in explorations outside the island of light which is everyday mind.
The personal dark side rises up in meditation to torment and tempt the practitioner. It is
the personal "Devil," the private hell, which must be confronted and transformed
when it blocks the path of the esoteric student. The biological, cosmological. and
cultural dark sides are the foundation of the personal experience of evil; in the end,
however, individual practitioners struggling with the Work must face, by them- selves,
their own darkness.
When studied, all of these dark sides seem to operate as impersonal tendencies. programs,
or neurotic complexes. There is no good evidence (unless religious myths or texts are
counted) for the existence of a"Devil." If inherent evil exists, it is an aspect
of natural predation, disease, and accident, all of which work to prevent overpopulation
and to strengthen the species. The Buddhist doctrine that good and evil, god and devil
alike, are all illusory and temporary aspects of a constantly changing pure mind and
universe may be the picture of evil closest to the truth. By studying the dark side we see
that"evil" is not an all-powerful, consciously spiteful, agency determined to do
us in -- rather, evil is imbalance, ignorance, and accident. Armed with this knowledge the
practitioner can break free of the yoke of superstition. This is vital -- as a source of
true knowledge of the world, nothing is more unreliable than a superstitious mystic.
Today, the biological dark side poses far fewer problem than it did in past centuries.
Modem culture provides tremendous security, and the miraculous products of our technology
and medicine have helped us overcome many terrors. This does not mean that we are really
safe from the biological dark side. Anyone can get hit by a car, or develop a cancer.
Aging and death are still part of every life. Moreover, biological and cosmological
terrors must be accepted as the backdrop of life.
Continued on page Meeting Darkness 3
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