Sunday, February 01, 2009


Tortured souls, redux; Or, a devil of a time

By The Erudite Redneck
(March, 1998)
(First posted here Sept. 14, 2005)

Maybe faith is just a fairytale to you. Or something from dull history. Or questionable philosophy. Or a murky lesson from a big musty black book.

Maybe it’s something you never wanted to hear to begin with and that you’d just as soon forget.

Maybe you think it’s just a myth used by bad people to trick gullible people. Or it’s just a waste of time. Maybe it’s something that makes you mad and you’re not sure why. Or it makes you sad because you had it once, before you forgot it, before you got so smart.

Maybe you’re offended to even see it mentioned in a public place. Maybe, as far as you think about it, it all makes sense. But you don’t think about it that much. You just go and listen, put some money in the plate, sing a song and go home. Or maybe you just stay home.

It’s easy, with all those maybes.

Or, perhaps you believe, simply and quietly and genuinely. And you’ve been blessed with a great measure of peace about it all. Be glad.

For others it’s hard.

When Jesus and the devil are as real to you as your brothers and sisters, and they both live in your house, wake up with you, go with you to school or work, follow you around during the day, sit at the dinner table with you, hang out with you in front of the TV in the evening, watch you as you drift off to sleep at night, one constantly beckoning you to do good, the other constantly tempting you to do bad, when the stories in the Bible are messages carried by the very breath of God himself sent through specially chosen messengers and meant for you personally, when you go to church and you love the people in it and you BELIEVE and you’re strong singing hymns on Sunday morning but you were a weakling raising hell on Saturday night, when your prayers have to blast past the demons teasing your mind and racing your heart and you’re saved and you know it but in the dark hours of the night you start to wonder, when you feel an otherworldly presence in a breeze from nowhere that touches the curtains in the front room ever so slightly or rattles the screen on the back door, when you don’t know whether the spirits are there for you or against you because you see through a glass darkly, when you’re tortured in your soul yet still praising God, then it’s terribly easy to be walking with Jesus one minute and dancing with the devil the next.

Amen. Or, oh hell. Jesus is a first cousin, the devil is a cousin once removed – but you’re all still kin. And you’re all close.

Salvation is something that started when you first saw the light and it’s still under way and will be ‘til you draw your last breath and it’s complete, not just “fire insurance,” not something that happened one time that you think about on Christmas or Easter and once in awhile in between: Heaven and hell are constantly before you. And in some ways it’s hard but in another way it’s the easiest thing in the world.

It’s your self, or his, day after day, sometimes hour to hour, and when things are really rough it’s minute by minute. Redemption is painful.

Then you’ll get it when Alan Jackson sings: “The gates of hell swing open wide, inviting me to step inside. ‘I’ll be your friend,’ he calls again. I know it’s him. The flames are spreading everywhere, but through the smoke I see her there. She’s all I see between the devil and me.”

And you’ll feel it in your heart, and it’ll hurt, when you hear that his 17-year marriage is on the rocks.

You’ll get it when actor Robert Duvall, as Euliss “Sonny” Dewey, a country preacher called from on high but still stuck down below, with his own marriage wrecked because of his own sins, angrily shakes his fist in God’s face and in bitter anguish cries out for help. And a little bit later he reaches for a bottle.

In the movie “The Apostle,” Sonny is upsetting his neighbors late at night with his hollering and carrying on, alone in his room – but then you know he’s not really alone. He’s not talking to himself. He’s praying out loud – a true tortured soul. And to anybody who’s ever been there, or even close, it’s as real as it gets.

If God is a “concept,” Jesus was just a man and the devil is a bad joke, life’s probably a lot easier, truth be told, but you won’t get Alan Jackson’s song, or Robert Duvall’s movie, at all.

And you won’t smile inside when you see “Jesus Saves” on a hand-scrawled sign stuck up along the highway – and when you realize there are signs like that all over the South, where Jesus needs the least PR to begin with since there’s a church at almost every crossroads. You’ll scoff.

You won’t be kind when some kids from a neighborhood church stop by to see if there are any kids on your place to be invited to Vacation Bible School. You’ll be gruff.

You won’t cringe when another preacher or priest gets in trouble. You’ll laugh.

You won’t pray for the president and the country, then curse, then pray again.

You’ll just curse.

Now ...

Scripture reading today at my infamously liberal church, where the preacherman noted that probably no one in the pews believed in demon possession, but that if someone did they were welcome, which is a good thing, since it's clear above that I used to without a doubt, and now, whether one personificates evil or what, I know it exists, even though it makes sense to me that the demons tossed out on their backsides in Mark were probably epilepsy or Alzheimer's or some such: Mark 1: 21-28.

Prayer of Confession:

Lord of Life, we pause to ask ourselves the questions that really matter. To what have we given our ultimate allegiance? What unclean spirits have we allowed to take up residence in us? To whom do we answer when our choice is between selfish habits and the call to be compassionate? When the moment comes to decide between addiction and freedom, what master shall we serve? We ask these things in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, our Teacher and Lord. Amen.

Question: Demons -- real, actual beings or not?


Real enough to those that's got them. Re: 'A Beautiful Mind'.
Yes. Sometimes we get too smart for others' own good. ... The Educated Church is having this challenge now in the Southern Hemisphere.
Might be a problem in Alaska too.
Question: Demons -- real, actual beings or not?

Don't be silly.

You won’t be kind when some kids from a neighborhood church stop by to see if there are any kids on your place to be invited to Vacation Bible School. You’ll be gruff

Don't slander us. We're neighbors first. Even buy their chocolates and whatnot when they ask nicely. And we smile when we do. You really need to get out (of Oklahoma) more.
Oh, come on. Newheart in a devil suit. That's silly.

Might be that you need to get in -- to Oklahoma -- more. :-)


I liked DrLobo's answer, myself. They're to whom they're real. And, as odd as it sounds, it never occured to me that schizophrenia might be an explanation for alleged demon possession.

And that raises a question: Are the personalities expressed by people with multiple personality disorder beings or not? -- and that ain't a silly question.
ER, I believe there real beings.

If we was believin in Christ from reading the same writers that told about the demons, then why wouldn't we believe theys r for real?

I really wanted to comment about Oklahoma Passage. I was watchin the story about the Bentons on channel 13 and thought about you. Thats some good watchin if yer an Okie. Wiley & Will, we need more of em.
Psychology is as noble a pursuit of knowledge as ever there was. Among the difficulties it faces is that it is still young as a science... and... it deals mostly with the brain, that, so far, immeasurably complex organ, and its products.

Nonetheless, psychology has successfully replaced nearly all previous hobby horses of abductive reasoning in the educated and popular West. Everything about the human person that baffles common or social sense is worked out with happy fun play with Time magazine psychology.

Certainly psychologists are confident that eventually everything about the human person will be known by a psychology variously composed of biochemical, evolutionary, cognitive-behavioral, and unconscious processes. The debate is how much of each and many have zero representation in some schools.

And yet, not every severely psychologically compromised person becomes a Jeffrey Dahmer. Comparatively such cases are extremely rare. At some other end, not every narcissist personality disordered, anti-social personality disordered person does what Bernie Madoff did, even with the opportunity.

So how do we "explain" Jeffrey Dahmer? How do we explain two ten year old boys leading a three year old boy on a 2 and 1/2 mile journey, kicking him, throwing bricks at him, beating him with a metal bar and leaving him on the train tracks to be severed? How do we explain their particularity in a world of billions?

Oppositely, how do we explain religious hermits, still living by the thousands (a few even living - with persmission - on cathedral grounds in England, the U.S. and many other countries. These do not live in some brother or sister-hood of social community. They live in predominate isolation and in prayer, though they often write and join in Mass quiet often. They beg for food and make their clothes like Buddhist monks but otherwise do not care for a single thing or have a single burden than to answer the call of the Lord to pray for the world and that only.

What is the psychology thereof? And, given that indeed there is a psychology of such behavior, is there a remainder not quite explained, not understood, is there something that lives uncontained by Western categories of understanding?

Of course there is. Science is a set of slowly evolving projects born of a few paradigm shifts, and history is not at an end.

Evil is real. Possession is real. So is the madness of sanctity. But they are mysteries, documented, but uncontained.

We have continually updated the names and faces of grace, sin, redemption, salvation, even, for some of us, the Great Commission.

We have not fully updated our popular notion of the principalities and powers. Mostly because the sciences have not given us Time magazine that is persuasively condensed down, yet. And evil is titillating enough on its own without analysis. In fact, analysis kills the Hollywood thrill.

Another reason we don't have much of a hold on it. It sells too well as it is.

Evil is a commodity, bought in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves by piercing our sense of safety, and then putting it back into place, newly treasured.
Very thoughty, Feodor.

Dr ER's pee aytch dee is in psychology -- experimental, sciencey psych, not the clinical lie-on-the-couch type of psych.

Seems to me that most people's concept of psychology is to the actual social science of psychology as the casual although thoughtful reading of history is to the serious scholarly pursuit of researching and writing history.
One of the best popular essays on Good and Evil is the movie "Serenity", and it is fun to watch.

Is Evil real? You betcha. I do hold two opposing opinons on this and still can chew gum.
"There just seems to be evil sometimes."

That was the best answer I could muster to many that I saw affected directly or indirectly by the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007. Of course, one can look at the psychopathology from a neurochemical and developmental point of view, and can make some very valid scientific conclusions in instances like this. But what of the choice? If there is such a thing as free will, then do we not have the ability to choose constructively or destructively? Even if we don't, do our choices not lead to (at times) constructive or destructive outcomes. I would posit that the choice of destruction is evil. Whether it is done out of volition or avolition in the scientific or cosmic sense, I'm just not sure at times.

All that being said, I think that the question of evil is a question of faith. I do not think that science's inability to explain all behavior at this time either supports or fails to support the idea of evil.

As to multiple personality disorder. Most psychologists and psychiatrists would categorize this as a very split sense of self. The terminology for the illness is "Dissociative Identity Disorder." Think of the self as a mirror. A shattered mirror is like a dissociated ego or self. When one looks into the shattered mirror, one sees little distorted versions of one's self.
The sense of self can be further fractionated (leading to putting more names on an increasing number of shards) or (as is the goal of almost all therapy) reintegrated-- in essence gluing the shards back together.

ER, As to the individual personalities being separate beings, not in my opinion, but then again, is the person with one personality a being?
If a person harbors multiple personalities named: Bill, Susan, Jake, and Ben.

When the person is Jake he kills and eat babies. Bill and Ben don't know nothing about this. Susan has watched Jake do it from her internal hiding place. One day while she's in charge she calls the police and turns Jake in.
The police find this person while he is Bill and arrest him. Bill passes the lie detector test with flying colors. Unfortunately or fortunately Susan comes out before Bill leaves the police station and spills the beans. Ben however is a nationally famous defense lawyer and so represents Jake at triel. Doing so he calls Susan to testify against Jake. Jake is convicted and sentenced to death. Susan receives the $500,000 for the arrest and conviction of this serial killer. Bill, represented by Ben wins a civil judgement against the police for false arrest.
Now do they kill Jake?
Would that not be murdering three innocent beings?
Would Bill's judgement be overturned because he aided and abbeted Jakes hidding for authorities.
Would Susan getting the reward violate State law against Jake profiting from a crime?
Can Ben get paid for writing a book about these experiences?Would... oh well.
Those are the exact kids of things I was thinking of.
Doc can speak to the fact that even a normative sense of self is being questioned as to its unitarily cohesion. We like to think the self is a largely integrated result of normal psychological development.

Perhaps for little longer.

In constructivism, the self is seen to be the result of a network of constructs built and organized by biologically driven need to use experiences to anticipate and predict one's environment.

If this were true, the self itself is an epistemological apparatus subject to tinkering and change, just like a "science," as George Kelly says. Meaning is a hit and miss experiment with anticipating reality. Evil, on the individual level, is a huge miss prompted by a twisted and falling apparatus.

Is this more comforting or frightening than attributing evil to a warped will even thought less romantic or spiritual seeming?

Evil is anomie, normless, nihilist ... ?
Drlobo, I think Ben would have sued for triple damages by was of a class action suit.

The curious case of the Multiple Personality Disordered person will suffice as an example. If this person had no chance of reintegrating the personalities, then I suppose individual being status could be considered. That is not what occurs in such Dissociative states, as reintegration is not only possible, but is the goal of therapy. It is similar to the veteran who, in a time of severe psychological stress/trauma, performs actions that he cannot remember at a later time. We're talking dissociation, just on a very large scale. An individual being cannot be integrated into another being, in spite of what Star Trek III may suggest.

Feodor and ER, You both refer somewhat to evil in the context of the actions of the individual. I wonder about the idea of evil, vis a vis, as an outcome, with or without the knowledge or will of the individual.

Of course, we could extrapolate that idea to consider the self as an entity that may exist independently, as part of the universe at large, or not at all.
Doc: "the idea of evil, vis a vis, as an outcome, with or without the knowledge or will of the individual. '

Bad outcome unintended and unanticipated is an accident. Accidents and natural disasters are a problem of theodicy: why isn't God good enough to protect good people?

I'm not sure what you are referring to with, "we could extrapolate that idea to consider the self as an entity that may exist independently, as part of the universe at large, or not at all."
The single question - are there demons, or a devil - has become split into two: What is "evil"? Does it have a proximate cause in a supernatural being, or beings?

Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell wrote a four-volume history of the idea of the Devil, the second volume of which I read as an undergrad for a seminar, the fourth volume of which I own. Before he delves in to the subject at large, he offers, via a prologue, his view that (a) radical evil is very real and very scary; and (b) the cause for such seems to lie outside our tidy understandings of humanity, psychology, etc., yet he is not quite willing to personify it . . . yet.

Not just Jeffrey Dahmer, or Ted Bundy, or Jack the Ripper. What about the Khmer Rouge? Mao's purposeful decision to allow millions of Chinese starve during "the Great Leap Forward"? The carpet bombing of North Vietnam by the Nixon Administration, including bombing the dikes in the north so that the rice crop would fail, starving hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese citizens? Abu Ghraib? Auschwitz/Birkenau?

Hannah Arendt's report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann arrived at the conclusion that, in the modern world, evil wears the banal face of the bureaucrat, sitting around, reducing human life and worth to numbers, focusing on outcomes of policies without regard to real life. Eichmann, in some sense, understood that he had done "wrong", yet remained adamant that, in carrying through a policy decision that arrived from above, he was not "responsible" in the same way, say, Heinrich Himmler was. Arendt's conclusion, by the way, is unsatisfying precisely because it deals with social evil as a phenomenon without any reference to real human beings; it is, in some ways, at one with its subject, removing the human element and concentrating on social processes and functions.

Evil is, obviously, real. A mother kills her child simply to be rid of the burden. A woman traps her children in a car, sinks it in a lake, then claims to have been car-jacked. A man, confused by his own sexuality, and attempting to deal, without the benefit of medical supports, with flowering schizophrenia, begins to kill young men to whom he is attracted. Without recourse to any other explanation, certainly can be descriptive; yet, it also serves to remove the subjects in question from fellow-feeling. We call them "monsters", "animals", and many many people (once myself included) feel no compunction at all in taking the lives of such people (I remember when John Wayne Gacey was executed, and feeling highly satisfied that such a one as this was no longer taking oxygen from the planet). In recent years, the term has been bandied about by those in high places, as if there were something noble and radical in calling those who commit mass murder "evil". This has reduced the moral force of the term, in my own opinion, and done little from the perspective of answering the next question, viz., "OK, they're evil. What do we do about them?"

I do not believe in demons or the Devil in an Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby way, although one would be surprised at how many people do. These portraits of the Satanic, of evil, while physically repugnant and visually shocking, do no justice to the reality of evil, personal and social, that we encounter. They are vehicles for catharsis, really, allowing us to face "the devil" and see him vanquished in some way.

Yet, I do believe that we cannot reduce human evil - not just the radical evil of the serial killers and mass murders, those who harbor visions of apocalypse and political tyranny - to social or psychological causes. Theologically, I do not believe that "original sin" explains it all, or even most of it.

This is a long way around to a very short answer: I'm not sure what I believe when it comes to this subject, except for this: Radical evil exists, and all of us, even the most psychologically stable and morally upright, have the capacity for monstrous deeds within us; both this capacity, and the strength we have to resist them lie not just within us, but outside us as well. Beyond that, I am really not willing to go.
I differ with GKS.

There are psychological evils that do not rise to the murderous let alone the heinous. Abuse: physical, sexual, verbal can reach evil proportions in damage done for generations in extended families, even if the scope of the original offense would not be considered evil. Perhaps this is what Doc means by outcome unrelated to actual agency.

There are social evils that have several explanatory factors including the psychological, the evolutionary, the religious, etc. Slavery, fascism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny, or in a different direction, the selling of childhood and the fantasy that one's child can make millions of dollars if one finds the right entertainment field at which they surely are naturally great.

Genocide may be a perfect storm of evil combining with evil, social forces manipulated by a charismatic and manical leader feeding on evil. Hitler and Goebbels, Pot Pot, Idi Amin, Marshal Bugeaud and General Gérard.

Evil has many forms, even a low calorie, evil lite, bottled in the form of variable rate sub-prime mortgages eagerly, effusively given out to couples who today have marriages, families and futures coming apart at the seams.

Many days in the last year, I have heard the sound of the seams of a marriage ripping coming from the brownstone next door.

Every day at work, though, I work with children who are growing up in the urban shanties that are the remains of those who survived the darkest days and longest years of evil perpetrated by government of this nation. The seams of a whole people were ripped in muscle and bone by knives and rope.

The social evil of institutionalized slavery built bit by bit a machine of Satan that was too vast to be seen. Evil begets.

But every day I work with lives, with bright, joyful, manly and womanly lives of genius. Lives who learned to count themselves a long time ago when evil discounted them.

What is evil? Being defeated, ever so slowly.

Evil is our problem with God.
Quotes of the thread:

"Evil has many forms, even a low calorie, evil lite, bottled in the form of variable rate sub-prime mortgages eagerly, effusively given out to couples who today have marriages, families and futures coming apart at the seams."

"Evil is our problem with God."

I should give plaques! :-)
I do not think I said that evil could be replaced with psychological categories. I said that it has been done so by much of modernity. I disagree with this position entirely. I think I also said that evil comes in many shapes and sizes, from the kind of crumbling marriage to which Feodor speaks to the radical images we see on television.

I also said that I disdain an explanation as simplistic as "the devil" or "schizophrenia" or "social psychology" (the middle term especially in light of a report today that those with mental illness are no more prone to violence, especially radical violence, than those who display no such illness, unless there is the added factor of drug- and/or alcohol abuse). I was also trying to move away from a common habit of depersonalizing those who commit acts of radical evil, calling them "monsters", etc. This is a hobby-horse of mine, I suppose.

To reiterate, because Feodor apparently misunderstood my main point, I definitely am not saying that evil can be reduced to anything, and I find the habit to be a kind of intellectual and moral laziness. I also believe it is a kind of fearfulness; it is far easier to dismiss evil, either the humdrum of the little white lie, or the radical evil of the battered wife and child, or the gas chamber, as aberrant, than to face the reality that these exist as possibilities for all of us. This is a real consequence of evil, I think. To dodge it, or dismiss it, as the result of illness or theo-metaphysical lack or limit - "sin" in some popular understanding - ignores the fact that, too often, we can see our own faces reflected in the eyes of those perpetrators of evils, big and small.

That's my point. I have no answer to the conundrum. Pray, I suppose, and love without ceasing, as Paul admonishes.
You know, there is so much we don't know about so much -- dark matter, space, being and nothingness, Life, the Universe and Everything and etc. -- I am not prepared to disbelieve in demons.

I don't think there are beings and supernatural beings, though, any more than I belive in nature and supernature in the first place.

It's all nature. It's all natural.

I am, however, prepared to accept the fact that our spiritual and philosophical forebears attributed personality to forces they didn't otherwise understand. But, maybe not.

One man's 21st-century "Close Encounter" is a first-century man's run-in with the Debble, maybe. ...
Sorry GKS, I used "evil" for tragedies that can be explained by psychology and social power and neglected to distinguish from your "radical evil."

I do not think family abuse is Evil necessarily. I do not think family incest is Evil necessarily. I do not think crimes, even murder, are evil necessarily. I do not think I am evil nor anwhere near being evil at the moment.

I believe psychological dysfunction can lead to abuse, incest, crime, murder. I believe therapeutic response can prevent/cure abuse, incest, crime, murder.

I believe social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and cultural social dynamics can foster group bias, prejudice, and hate. This is so rife in human nature that I do not think it is evil and I do believe that education, experience, and wellness, ethical, moral "therapies" can prevent/cure social ill.

But I also believe that evil is, as definition by attributes, generative.

I think that is why we personalize it: it has a kind of life, a generative interest, but this interest is not a creative one.

I think evil people get that way, or evil social action gets that way, when, in a context of dysfunction, it experiences generative capacity and feeds on its power, crazily mistaking what is produced for the things that are the proper generation of people and societies. Destruction, at first, is a feeling of power, and can hide behind what looks at first like a good thing: solidarity, independence, self definition/pride, group cohesion, etc. Evil is a shapeshifter and looks like a good for the longest time by shortening the horizon a person or persons can see.

Evil is opportunist with human weakness.

All the more reason to address our weaknesses. If great therapy were had, the jails would be reduced by 80% or 90% of their holdings. If prejudice and hate were educated out, poverty relieved (much less balances among colors), and gender roles equitably balanced, Evil, your radical Evil would be pushed back almost to Eden.

But not quite. Evil is real; it has attributes, it has capacity. And its existence in creation has no real Christian answer.
One last point, then I'm out. I do not say, nor do I believe, that I am now, nor have every been, a perpetrator of radical evil. We all sin, as the Bible says, but there is certainly a moral distinction between the kinds of sins all humans commit either through omission or commission, and the kinds of radical evil acts we can name. All I am suggesting is nothing more and nothing less than Richard Rubenstein's notion, first staked out in After Auschwitz, that, with the Holocaust, the attempted rational and thorough eradication of an entire population for the simple crime of having been born has opened the floodgates to that being a live possibility forever more. Not a necessity, nor a probability, simply a possibility, no longer in the realm of "the unthinkable".

As with this social, political phenomenon, so too with the personal, radical evil of Ted Bundy. Not that we are all of us potential Ted Bundy's. Rather, that the heinous acts of those such as him, and others, add to the collective possibilities of radical human evil. That's all.
All we need to fight evil is an army of River Tam characters.
Resist evil, and it will flee. WTH does that mean?
Kris! I wafdn't dissing ya! Just missed ya!

Re, "If we was believin in Christ from reading the same writers that told about the demons, then why wouldn't we believe theys r for real?"

Well, to my way of thinkin', if the only Jesus ya know is the one you've read about, it makes me wonder if ya know Jesus. Ya know?

Not meant to be a slap! But resting in the Jesus only in the book means restin' in the book, which is a kind of idolatry, unless the book itself is, like, Jesus. Like God. God. ...

But I get where yer comin' from.
To attempt to clarify (or at least muddle through):

I was hypothesizing the idea of evil apart from the human experience, or perhaps within the human experience as it relates to the universe. If there is an evil outside of us, we can extrapolate from that idea that the very self we think we know may be involved in a greater universal construct.

Does evil require knowledge or free will to qualify as evil? If we can explain the actions of a Dahmer as showing that he had no knowledge of his actions as evil, is it then evil--or not evil by reason of the insanity? If the former, then the evil here does not require volition. Can we not then assume some external force involved that could also be at work in the actions of angry elephants, bees, or asteroids on destructive paths?
All this jawin bout evil's got me wantin to watch Austin Powers...

"Satan? I've seen him. He's among us. He's real.

Phantom. Miss Saigon. Sunset Boulevard! Know ye the signs of the devil: overmilking, smoke machines, trouble with Equity."

-- Nathan Lane, "Jeffrey"
Hello ER,

I understand what you was sayin and don't take as a slap at all, it was good reasoning on your part.

To clarify; The Spirit testifies to my spirit that the Jesus the writers are writing about in the Bible is the Son of God.

So if I believe that, then I believe that the demons they wrote about are real also.

Anyway, have you seen Oklahoma Passage? It is some good watchin. I don't mean to change the subject of your post either. I was just watchin it Sunday and thought about you thats why I came over after being away so long, been busy wit other stuff and all. I think about you most anytime I see Okie history stuff, we for sure have that very much in common.

Oklahoma Passage? Is that an OETA thing?
One more thing ER.

I agree with you about the book. The Bible purpose is to point to the Christ and God.

Many have missed that point since since Moses wrote the law.(John 5:38-40)
Oklahoma Passage? Is that an OETA thing?

Yes its good stuff. I think its a 5 part series originally out in the late 80's early 90's.
I'll check that out. ... Been wanting to rewatch HBO's "Into the West" anyway ... :-) Good to see, man. Don't be so scarce!
Doc, "I was hypothesizing the idea of evil apart from the human experience, or perhaps within the human experience as it relates to the universe. If there is an evil outside of us, we can extrapolate from that idea that the very self we think we know may be involved in a greater universal construct."

Yep, or just maybe there isn't as much self here as we think there is. I mean every atom of our self is borrowed from something else before we used it. It one sense we are no more than a biological cloud of matter and energy that is continually taking in and giving off energy and particles. So "Self" is only a temporary zone of existence even in earthly terms.

Evil as an element of the Universe is a an old concept. It has been identified as such many times and places. I wonder does it exist on the periodic table somewhere or is it an energy force or being that forms and dissipates like our self?
Oooh that last part: The same thing could be said, or wondered, about love.
"Self" is shorthand for "self-consciousness" or, equally, "self-knowledge." Consciousness/knowledge is a category of meaning different from but ultimately existing upon matter/energy as does all of life. But "self" is also dependent upon a normal functioning human brain. But if the brain dies or is heavily damaged, the "self" dies, even though the matter and energy remain. So, the "self" is not coterminous with matter or energy.

Self-consciousness is why we cannot slaughter human beings but can slaughter fish and pigs and fire-ants who nonetheless have all their matter and energy intact leading up to the deed.

For me Evil is the generative, opportunistic, force of destruction that is, nonetheless, not self-conscious.

It is the "meaning" of, the paralyzing effect of, entropy, that "stray" or "lost" and therefore "useless" energy of a system. That it is energy means it can do work, but the work of entropy is not constructive (creative?) external work (which is "useful' energy) but deconstructive (destructive) internal anti-work.

Ultimate Evil is the heat death of thermodynamic free energy. Against this all of the cosmos screams, and sometimes abets it in its anxiety.
Evil as entropy? That's rather depressing, given the projected ultimate state of the universe, thermodynamically speaking. Not much to look forward too, I'm afraid. ;)
F: "So, the "self" is not coterminous with matter or energy."

Really, ever met a self without them?

Evil as entropy, would mean absolute evil would be absolute zero degrees. Hell would be really cold. We better get those people who are stopping light photons with near zero temperatures to cease and desist. Somebody give Inhofe or Coburn a call about this.
Since I have met matter and energy without a self, they are not, by definition, coterminous.

If you break a rock I don't think you've committed evil.

If you stop an antelope with near absolute zero temperature, that would be cruel, yes.
Hell would be really cold.

Well, Obama did get elected...
We can create lab experiments that elicit altruistic behavior in individuals and groups. Did that create some actual good in the world? No.

We can create experiments where people believe they are subjecting another to incredible pain. Did that introduce evil into the world? No.

I have known selves that have thought themselves to death. Depression, despair, severe apathy, the thought processes emptied the self of will and the matter and energy of the body had not choice but to follow.

Other selves fight the entropy of age or introduced by disease. Some fight against all odds, against what science would expect, until they lose the "will" to live and surrender to matter and energy. Lance Armstrong, Andrew Weil, most oncologists encourage an heroically positive mindset because studies show that positive dispositions do better in fighting cancer than dejected "selves."

Consciousness of death among living things instills fear, anxiety, flight. Self-consciousness among humans regarding our inescapable death drives so much that is ill and destructive. The entropy of the cosmos is an offense against the living even as it benefits from a dying sun, and Evil is a force that feeds on this offense.

But good is a force, too, that creates order in the cosmos and moves to perfect creation against entropy, against the physical laws of a fallen universe. That is why when we are good, when we love, we co-participate with God in the divine nature of creation, perfection, and we help redeem everything from the Evil that is the absolute cold of absolute death, the death even of God foreshadowed at Auschwitz, at the bottom of the Middle Passage, in the church, burning, filled with refugees of fear in Rwanda.
F: "Since I have met matter and energy without a self, they are not, by definition, coterminous."
I grant you that matter and energy are not the same as self, but I have never met a self that wasn't "coterminous" with some form matter and energy.

F:"We can create experiments where people believe they are subjecting another to incredible pain. Did that introduce evil into the world? No."

Evil actions by the self have no evil effect on the self? Did the doers in the experiment leave different people that they came in?
When you unleash evil within one's self, does not the Bible declare that to be the same as an outside action?

As for entropy as evil, I'll buy it as a metaphor but not as a potential fact. We really are within a thousandth of a degree Kelvin of absolute zero, cold enough to slow a mile long photon down to a slow moving dot. So I sure hope it is a metaphor.

The definition of coterminus is one, having the exact same boundaries (like the borough of Brooklyn and the county of Kings) and two, the same degree of scope and time (i.e. the true church and the elect).

If matter and energy exist in a rock as a singularity but the rock has no self, there is not coterminal relationship between the two. It must be mutually defined.

If the doctor hits my patellar reflex it does not mean I took a step. An elicited response in a lab is not a free response of volition. In fact, there is an equal likelihood that the student volunteers walked away from the Milgram experiment rededicated to compassion over cruelty.

Unless a photon is a metaphor, I don't think that moving it to near complete entropy is evil. Running an antelope through a trough that cools it to near zero Kelvin would be a limited act of cruelty... because of consciousness.

Evil is real to consciousness, not a photon. They are not coterminus.
As a second rebuttal (and really opening up a can of worms), if I cut my little finger (cut "myself") peeling potatoes, I my"self" feel pain. If my little finger were amputated would my "self" be exactly that much less itself?

Or, if you were to borrow a book, a book dear to me, and never were to return it, I "myself" would be hurt and angry. It would have real impact in our relationship. Is the matter and energy contained in that book a actual part of my "self"?

If a thief breaks in our home while we are gone, we feel threat, even violation to our "selves."

The self is capable of great expansion and contraction that is not dependent upon or available to matter and energy.

But here we are now to the level of very precise and explicit definitions.

Consciousness per se (in carbon based life forms) cannot exist without matter and energy. But can consciousness exist without a "self"? Perhaps in an antelope. But can consciousness exist without a "self" in human being normatively? No. Only in extreme developmental catastrophe or severe brain injury.
F:"The definition of coterminus is one, having the exact same boundaries (like the borough of Brooklyn and the county of Kings) and two, the same degree of scope and time (i.e. the true church and the elect)."

No kidding! Dang I didn't know that or bother to look it up either. You might think that a geographer educated in the use of GIS technologies who has for years dealt with layered geographically distributed data consisting of variance in density, demarcation and delineation would have had a hint.

So are you telling me that any self can not be said to be 'coterminous' with the matter and energy that such a self identifies as itself for the time that it knows itself to be a self?

Heck Feodor, let it go, my mind can't reach around the bend that far anymore.
As for myself, as Simon and Garfunkel said,"I am a rock".
Co-dependence, even co-determination does not a coterminus relationship make. That would require the rule that a change in one necessitates a concomitant change equal in scope in the other as well.

Cut my finger off, how much of my self is changed? Steal my book - no matter or energy of my self - but my self will alter our relationship.

Is the Ogallala aquifer coterminous with Archer Daniels Midland?

[Why is hypocrisy never fully conscious when telling another to "let it go"?

Because one is a rock.]
Re, "Is the Ogallala aquifer coterminous with Archer Daniels Midland?" -- NOW yer on to somethin'.
I knew! you would jump in on that.
I am nothin' if not easy to read. :-)
F:"Why is hypocrisy never fully conscious when telling another to "let it go"?
Because one is a rock.]"


And duffass did I not already say let it go cause "I" couldn't bend my mind around the corner? Geez....... I declare that you win and you go and act like a Republican.

"I am rock" was a joke. Did I forget to :) at the end?

Hypocrisy? What the hell?
No, don't answer that. I wouldn't understand anyway.
Yes, I was funnin' back, as you would say, or somebody here would.
You forgot the emotercon!
Yeah, emotercon.
Google: Results 1 - 10 of about 13,700,000 for emotercon
Must mean sumpton.
Oh yes, now I remember. It is the little thingy put at the end of a sentence by an emoter to make you think they mean something they don't. You know a con, an emoter's con or emotercon?

[very excited - raising hands]
Very good! Never took you fer a charismatic, tho ... :-)
Looks more like a sex sandwich in a bath tub. :) :):):>
Tantric, not charismatic.
Tantric, yes, like a sex sandwich in a bath tub.
Stop peeking.
Sniff. I sorter miss goin' 'round and 'round with y'all.
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