By Natalie Amsden
The headlines shout messages of yet another Priest scandal, the evening news glorifies a local break-in, and battles wage over the regulation of deadly weapons.
Often it is easy to lose faith in humanity.
Strangers save the lives of strangers as a storm rips through a neighborhood, a community rallies to raise funds to support a family in need, and a nation’s heart is captured when a child prodigy shares his or her gift with the world.
Hope is restored.
We live in a society that speaks both of duality and oneness. We belong to a species with the intelligence to create atomic fusion but the stupidity to use an atomic bomb. One moment I can become overwhelmed with admiration for a fellow human being, and seconds later I find myself reeling with disgust. Sometimes I can’t help but ask:
Is the nature of our world good or evil?
To get to the bottom of this question, let us first consider the big picture.
Is the Universe good or evil?
Our Universe is a chaotic and unforgiving place filled with massive galactic collisions and primarily void of life. Yet, at the same time, the Universe is so limitless, so abundant, so perfect and magnificent. Some scientists see chaos while others see order. For some, the vastness of space leads to feelings of insignificance, while for others the infinitude adds deeper meaning to life. Whether the Universe itself is good or evil depends on the purpose it was created for and/or the opinion of a conscious observer. Being that we can never fully grasp the former, the ultimate answer lies in the latter. It appears that it’s up to me and you to decide.
It may be easier to grasp the notion of good and evil if we bring it closer to home, and so next let’s consider the Earth herself.
Is nature good or evil?
We hear stories of mommy cats nursing abandoned puppies and wild rabbits and deer becoming friends. We experience awe when we observe the beauty of sunset and wonder at the majesty of the mountains. We are fascinated watching the delicate praying mantis, but then she suddenly eats her mate’s head.
We live in a wonderful world of unimaginable beauty, yet disease is ravaging the earth, plate-tectonics cause lava to flatten villages, and extreme weather causes destruction regardless of who or what is in its path. But again, the Earth’s just being a planet. Only we can judge it as good or evil. It seems that the answer remains up to us.
So, as the conscious observers, who are we? Are we judging from a place of good or evil?
Is human nature good or evil?
We have Sigmund Freud to thank for the modern Western world’s strong bias toward the belief that humans are innately bad. (Although, really certain religious factions have been pushing notions of original sin for thousands of years… But that’s another story.)
Freud believed that people were innately bad (destructive, cruel and selfish). He believed that if it weren’t for society dictating what we can and can’t do, civilization would collapse.
Now on the other side of the spectrum is the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers.
Rogers believed that people are innately good, and that people can be described as, “positive, forward-moving, constructive, realistic, [and] trustworthy.” Rogers believed that people, if given free will, would naturally move in a direction to improve society and perpetuate the human race. From Rogers’ perspective, the evil we see is not due to human nature but due to societal or cultural factors (nurture), such as money, prejudices, injustices, and traumatic or negligent upbringing.
One does not have to do anything but watch the news to verify the validity of Freud’s claims. (As a side note, perhaps one solution to experiencing more of the good is to STOP watching the news. I’m just saying. And while I’m already in this aside, let me mention that we wouldn’t even know who Sigmund Freud is if it wasn’t for his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the founder of public relations. Watch the documentary “The Century of the Self” if this interests you.) At the same time there is ample evidence that supports Rogers’ notion, such as the myriad of stories of people self-sacrificing for the greater good and tribal communities existing in peace and harmony without corruption from outside forces.
So is human nature more like Mother Teresa or Jeffrey Dahmer?
Are we eternal beings of love that are one with All That Is or are we original sinners who are punished and judged?
If we can appreciate the perfection of a flower or the beauty in the complexity of elegant machinery, why can we not see the magnificence of the human form, or even more, the human experience?
One thing (only one thing) is clear after all of this analysis: The answer to the question, “Is the nature of our world good or evil?” is that:
It is our CHOICE.
It all comes down to asking ourselves: which world do we want to live in? What do we want to experience? What world do we want to create?
If it’s up to us to determine how we perceive ourselves, our fellow man, our planet, or the Universe, then we have to delve into another of these mind-boggling questions:
“What does good and evil even mean?”
Grapple with that one for a while.
I’m an eternal optimist and I have come to KNOW the Source in a way that leaves me little doubt that it’s ALL good. Now, that doesn’t mean that I, or all people, would choose to perceive it that way. Perhaps our opinion makes it so, and perhaps it is what it is regardless of how we choose to feel about it. I don’t know. But I do know I’ve run out of time to go down any more rabbit holes.
“And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.” (And it was good.)
Natalie, Publisher of Transformation Magazine, has worked with thousands of people seeking to live a life of purpose and genuine relationship with their true selves, others, and their world. She is the former Director of a counseling center for teenagers and their parents. She is also a public speaker and leads workshops and retreats on Practical Spirituality, Finding Joy, Discovering Your Purpose, and Enlightened Relationships. www.transformationservices.org