[June 17, 2022] There is an axiom in the post-modern philosophy that permeates our Western thought that says those incapable of evil are higher moral persons. Certainly, they claim, more moral than someone capable of evil deeds. I will propose that this is wrong, dangerously wrong, because if you are incapable of doing evil, then you are absolutely a victim of it, a rejection of the evil in you.1 Embrace the monster in you.
“The line between good and evil runs through the human heart.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
It may seem counterintuitive to say that, in my thinking anyway, the embracing of the monster within you is what gives you the strength of character and self-respect too. It is impossible to respect yourself until you grow teeth, the ability to bring great havoc and destruction upon others. If you grow teeth like the great lion, you realize that you are dangerous and capable of standing up to threats and defending those who are weak and innocent.
Such an idea does not mean that being evil is better than not being evil. What it means is that being able to be evil – and then not being evil – is far better than not being able to be evil. In the case of being incapable of evil, you are nothing but weak and naïve. In the second case, you are dangerous, but you have it under control.
Those in the martial arts world know this as part of their training philosophy. Their idea is that they are not training you to fight; they are training you to be peaceful and awake to the world around you and avoid fights. But, if you happen to have to get into a fight (and are competent at fighting), that decreases the probability that you will have to fight.
The strength you develop in the evil within you is the best guarantee of peace. Through your analysis of yourself, you can understand why other people are capable – and you are capable of all sorts of terrible atrocities that characterized the evils of the 20th century. Without that understanding, there’s no possibility of bringing it under control.
If we study the 20th-century evil (Nazi Germany, communist USSR and China) and ask ourselves what these culprits are like, the answer is that they are just like us. If you don’t know that, you don’t know people or yourself. You also have to discover why they’re just like us. People don’t like giving themselves such an honest look, which partly explains why the path of enlightenment within yourself is rarely followed. If the world were all about following what makes you happy and blissful, then everyone would be at the pentacle of wisdom, and that is certainly not the case.
Wisdom is facing what you least want to face. It means to embrace the monster within you.
- Much of what is found in this article is taken from various lectures given by Dr. Jordan Peterson. I recommend his videos, books, and adopting his practical advice.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).