NPR Weekend Edition Host Scott Simon’s commentary week on Mumbai was a bit of a surprise. “[A]fter covering too many killings, as a reporter or host, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Oklahoma City or Somalia, I’ve come to the conclusion that the perpetrators of such crimes might just be … evil,” he said.
“Evil is a word that many people of my generation shrink from using. It seems so imprecise and uneducated — biblical, rather than cerebral and informed. But there are times and crimes that remind me how often the Bible gets it right.”
Shrinking away from the idea that a person could inherently be evil is nothing new. The fifth century Chinese Buddhist translator Dao Sheng had a really hard time with the concept of icchantikas—those who do not have the Buddha-nature, which the Buddha mentioned in his final teaching, The Nirvana Sutra. So Dao Sheng rewrote and retranslated the text to say that icchantikas could be saved too, adding rose-colored lenses to the Buddhist worldview.
It is not unlike C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, where the best way for evil to conquer is to convince people that it does not exist.
When asked about the nature of “entities,” William Q. Judge explained:
First, there are the humdrum masses of elementals that move like nerve-currents with every motion of man, beast, or natural elements. Next are classes of those which have a peculiar power and consciousness of their own and not easily reached by any man.
Then come the shades of the dead, whether mere floating shells, or animated elementals, or infused with galvanic and extraordinary action by the Brothers of the Shadow.
Last, the Brothers of the Shadow, devoid of physical bodies save in rare cases, bad souls living long in that realm and working according to their nature for no other end than evil until they are finally annihilated—they are the lost souls of Kama Loka as distinguished from the “animated corpses” devoid of souls which live and move among men (The Path February 1895).
In explaining how evil people “function,” Scott Simon mentions Romeo Dallaire:
“[T]he courageous Canadian general who tried to stop massacres in Rwanda, once told us that evil men and women see no innocents in the world. They will slaughter mothers without conscience and their children, too, because mothers give birth to children who can grow up to be their opponents. Evil people are not dumb, he said. They simply use the power of their mind to cut off their conscience.”
CHIEF CAUSE OF WORLD EVIL
I will point out the greatest, the chief cause of nearly two thirds of the evils that pursue humanity ever since that cause became a power.
For two thousand years India groaned under the weight of caste, Brahmins alone feeding on the fat of the land, and to-day the followers of Christ and those of Mahomet are cutting each other’s throats in the names of and for the greater glory of their respective myths.
It is religion under whatever form and in whatsoever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the churches; it is in those illusions that man looks upon as sacred, that he has to search out the source of that multitude of evils which is the great curse of humanity and that almost overwhelms mankind. Ignorance created Gods and cunning took advantage of the opportunity.
Look at India and look at Christendom and Islam, at Judaism and Fetichism. It is priestly imposture that rendered these Gods so terrible to man; it is religion that makes of him the selfish bigot, the fanatic that hates all mankind out of his own sect without rendering him any better or more moral for it. It is belief in God and Gods that makes two-thirds of humanity the slaves of a handful of those who deceive them under the false pretence of saving them….
Remember the sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, morality, and universal charity, the altars of their false gods.”