de·mon·ol·o·gy Pronunciation: \ˌdē-mə-'nä-lə-jē\ Function: noun Origin: 1597
1 : the study of demons or evil spirits 2 : belief in demons : a doctrine of evil spirits 3 : a catalog of enemies
Socrates posed a lot of really spot on questions.
I loved the ancient dialogues. Written by Plato, a wrestler and devotee of Socrates, they're extremely readable. Insightful without being pretentious, gripping without being shallow - they boot ten shades of shit out of 99% of everything that's called itself philosophy since.
It's a short piece, but important, and here's why. It's where, for the first time, Socrates comes out with one of the core insights for which he is famous:
"No one willingly goes to do evil or what he thinks to be evil."
He goes on:
"To make for what one believes to be evil, instead of making for the good, is not, it seems, in human nature. When faced with the choice of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he might equally choose the less."
Socrates' question is simple: If evil leads the person doing it into damaging their relationships, themselves, their own lives - everything that is theirs - why would anyone do it?
And his answer is - we wouldn't. None of us do and none of us would.
"But wait!" I hear you cry. "Lots of people do evil things!"
Yes, but we're not talking about them. We're talking about you.
When have you ever done evil?
Now before you get all down on yourself, don sackcloth and ashes and start whipping yourself for all the things you hate yourself for, that's not what I'm talking about. There's something interesting here.
We are so fast to condemn the actions of others - it rises up from deep inside us as an instinctual hatred or revulsion.
But here's something a little odd. All the times when I've done something fucked up in my life, I was totally convinced I was in the right.
Is that not strange?
I mean, you may have vandalised something, or been nasty or bitchy, but in the actual moment where you were doing it, you considered yourself completely justified.
In fact, there's an even stranger thing. Think back to the moments in your life where you were, with the benefit of hindsight, most shitty. Think back to those real doozies where you really dug the knife in and twisted it.
Those moments where you were most nasty and cruel and hurtful - the moments that you don't like to think about because they make you wince.
There is a universal thing that runs through all those moments.
The moments where we are the most 'evil' as human beings are the moments we are most totally convinced that we were doing the right thing.
Look at your past, at the times when you've inflicted the most damage on those around you. Remember how you felt as you inflicted that damage. The righteous fire.
Moral certainty is what evil looks like from the inside.
And of course you're right. It's easy to see shittiness from the outside. But you should bet your bottom dollar that all of these people and every other motherfucker from the dawn of time was totally convinced that they were absolutely, positively, doing the right thing.
We see very clearly the shit that other people are do.
Maybe this person's being an asshole, or this woman's being a bitch. You can see very clearly that they're being cruel. You can see the nastiness and the superiority in their eyes. We get to experience just how creative they can be with their shittiness.
In that situation it's tough not to push back. It's like a reflex to resist their shittiness in whatever form it takes.
And from that reflex it's extremely easy to move from opposing their particular shittiness, and oppose shittiness in general.
Think about it in your own life. How quickly the battle goes from you against some person, to you against what they represent to you.
You're not fighting that bigot because they were racist and you want to hurt them... you're fighting racism itself, you're a hero in the cause of equality.
You're not fighting that bitch because she was cruel to you and you want to take her down... you're fighting bitchiness itself and you want to strike a blow against bitchiness.
You're not fighting that bastard because he's so arrogant - you're fighting him because you hate arrogance and you want to see arrogance destroyed.
I mean think about it.
Fighting a racist, or a bitch, or a bastard, and you're just fighting one asshole.
But fighting racism is a moral crusade.
Fighting cruelty is a moral crusade.
Fighting arrogance is a moral crusade.
There is a subtle switchback trick that something in your head is playing on you. It's been doing this to all of us from the dawn of time.
On and on the mind spins it's tales, drawing the world in broad strokes of right and wrong and good and evil.
We translate from the particular to the universal - from the small and personal to the large and epic.
We're not having an argument with a workmate. We're fighting all arrogance in a grand moral battle. There is something about us now which makes a victory over our workmate a great triumph in an ongoing war of good vs evil.
Even if we lose in the fight against the racist or the bitch or the bastard, there is something grandly tragic about our loss. Instead of being just some guy or girl having an argument with another guy or girl, we are the nobly wounded representativeof the armies of light.
It's not about instigating conflicts. It's about escalating them to a grand scale, and we swallow the lie because it casts us as the hero.
This is one of the core dynamics driving the madness of our society. It is one of the core dynamics tearing this world apart. It is one of the core dynamics creating explosive conflict in your own life.
So how do you stop it?
Well, the first thing you need to realise is that all evil, no matter how grand or powerful, has no real power. It is always based on lies, and all lies have no power at all.
This process, like all lies, cannot be fought. To fight it is to buy into the fiction that it is on the same level as you, and it is not, for you are real and it is a lie.
Think of it like this - a lie has no reality, just like a hole. A hole isn't something - it's the absence of something. If you try to fight a hole in the ground you will not win. There's nothing there to hit. It's a hole - an absence of something.
Swing your fist at it and you'll just fall in.
Same thing with a lie - attack it and shit will explode in your face. And you'll be so busy fighting that you'll forget in an instant that it's a lie.
And as soon as you forget that evil is a lie - it's not a lie anymore.
This sounds weird and metaphysical - I don't mean it like that. Nor do I mean it in some vague mystical way, some vague Ricki Lake kind of way. I mean it very literally - once you start fighting someone you see as evil, that person will see you as evil and fight back.
And in that same instant, the process of 'scaling up' the conflict will kick off in both your minds.
You will both be morally certain of your position.
Every attack from the other side will further cement your moral certainty in your head.
Every attack from your side will likewise make your opponent more certain that you are evil.
And you will both fall into an escalating process of demonisation. You recreate your opponent as a demon in your mind. Your opponent recreates you in his/her mind as a demon.
Both of you see yourselves as fighting a moral crusade. You can see this happen on a small scale with little arguments you have at home or at work.
You can also see it on a large scale with nations and religions throughout history
But always remember that humanity is humanity, and these things that take place on a national scale are exactly the same processes that take place on a personal scale in your own life.
So you have a contingent disagreement. It's about where the hedge should be or whose stapler it is.
All of a sudden you're 'fighting evil' and it's an 'issue of principle'.
Neither of you can back down because it's not about the actual fight anymore. It's about good vs evil.
And the further you get into this - and it is a silken and slippery slope - the more the process spirals and accelerates. It grips your mind and you - and your 'enemy' - both begin to unconsciously rationalise the world in terms of your moral conflict.
This is something that happens on an intimate level, inside you. It is the core process of every entrenched disagreement you have or will experience.
And at it's core is one process. This process of demonisation.
Instead of some woman being a bitch, she's an evil whore in a million different ways. The mind builds her up to be this grand bond villainess who needs to be taken down a peg or two - and you're the person to do it.
He's not just some ignorant racist. He's a representative of the mindless hatred that's tearing our society to pieces, that sets man against man, woman against woman. That generates fracturelines and malice where none need to be, and you know what - someone needs to draw a line in the fucking sand and teach these racist bastards a fucking lesson.
And it's not that this guy is an arrogant prick. It's that arrogant pricks think they have a right to push people around, and they've been pushing you around since year zero. No more. Not me, not now, not anymore. Someone should teach these guys a lesson.
You see the process? Small scale translated to large scale. And at the core of it, the process of escalating a personal conflict to the scale of archetypes - or rather, from the small to the epic.
We swallow the lie because it casts us as the hero.
But here's the thing - the escalation rests on something. It rests on our image of our enemy (the bitch, bastard, racist, whatever) as being so uniquely evil that they can act as a stand-in for the universal darkness we tell ourselves they represent.
That's a bit of a mouthful. Let's break it down, make it simpler.
It's about hating someone so much we can fool ourselves we're fighting a grand battle by fighting them.
Or to break it down to just one word:
Like all universal human processes, people can gather together and do this en masse.
It is the heart of racism.
It is the heart of sexism.
It is the heart of sectarianism.
It is the core process driving bloodshed in Israel and Palestine.
It is a universal factor in all hatred.
And you can sum it up in one word.
Unless you paint your enemy as a demon you cannot have your moral crusade. And if you cannot have your moral crusade you cannot have your moral certainty. And if you never feel the righteous hatred of moral certainty, you will never be evil.
When you demonise someone you call a demon into being - in yourself.
Whether you think that this is a worryingly accurate metaphor or an actual infernal gateway is by the by - the process is something we each can recognise within ourselves each day.
Just as we can, in the cold light of day, recognise the shattering damage it has inflicted, is inflicting and will inflict on our lives.
Moral certainty is what evil looks like from the inside.
All moral certainty is based on demonisation.
All demonisation is a lie.
Lies cannot be fought.
They do not need to be.
You see, the next time you feel angry, you'll know exactly why.
You'll know that somewhere, some part of your buried unconscious mind has created a monster, a demon, out of someone in the outside world.
So look for the demon. It won't be hard to find. It's the person, thing or concept you're raging about relentlessly in your head.
Then look at the demon. The bitch, the bastard. The racist. The cheat. The liar. Whatever. Whoever has become the bane of your life - look at them.
You'll see the image you have, grand and evil. The furious emotional charge around them.
Look past the hate and see the humanity. See the individuality of the person. See them as they are, not as your rage would like them to be.
You will usually see very quickly the weakness beneath the surface. How the pain they are causing comes not from their grand, evil strength, but from their own fear and ignorance.
This isn’t something you impose on top of your feelings of hate. It’s something that you will see clearly, and in seeing it, your hate will be punctured like a burst balloon, and will collapse into feelings of pity and a consciousness of the irrelevance of your former enemy.
Don’t take my word for it. Give it a go.
And I’m not saying in some bullshit Ricki Lake way - “evil is just fear when you get deep down.” Everyone knows that at some level.
The trick isn’t knowing it intellectually. The trick is breaking the recurring processes of demonisation and hatred that turn you into a bastard and destroy your life. The trick is to break the cycle of hate creating hatred. Of
Of these intractable spirals of emotional and physical violence and alienation which form the contours of every aspect of human life, from the personal scale right up to the global.
The more you look at the dark side of humanity’s consciousness, the more it will seem to you that there is something in there that we have yet to confront in this modern age.
Processes of such twisted and vicious sophistication it's almost as if there were entities hiding in the dark cathedrals of our subconscious minds.
One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps there were beings of an entirely different stripe to us. That have no ability to live outside of the worlds of agony in which we humans often dwell.
Things not of flesh or bone. Things that have no power of their own, for they have no reality of their own.
They are formed of lies, they are created of lies, they live in lies and lies sustain them. Their only power is the power of deception, but it is a power they have wielded unchecked for a long time, and they have grown fat on the pain and hate on which they feast.
They cannot be fought, for to fight them is to feed them.
But then of course, like that hole in the ground, you don’t need to fight it. You just look at it for what it is. A hole in the ground.
And that arrogant bastard just becomes a slightly pathetic guy who’s desperate to have people look up to him.
That cruel bitch becomes a vaguely sad figure - a woman desperately trying to prove to herself that she still has some power because so little in her life means anything to her anymore.
The racist just looks like a lost person, a thug. Nothing grand. No great crusade.
Just lost people pulling others off their aim, off track, off target.
And there’s a Greek word for missing the mark.
We all know this word - ironically enough - as one of the main tools for demonisation.
The word is very small.
And when you look at what it meant originally, and how it is now seen and has come to be used you might see it as the most misinterpreted concept in the history of language,
You might also see it as the greatest deception the Devil has ever pulled.