Thursday, February 15, 2007


How can we understand the ugly events of our lifetime and earlier periods of history without reconciling ourselves to the idea of evil? How can we understand some of the headlines in our newspapers and some of the news on our televisions and radios or events we have had the misfortune to witness directly without acknowledging this reality?

No, I do not argue for the idea of a dark deity of malevolence standing in opposition to God. A transcendent Satan is not a conception that I am comfortable with, even though I am a fan of John Milton and specifically of his great Paradise Lost. But I do believe that people succumb everyday to Satan-like thoughts and actions. These are thoughts and actions that they know to be wrong or thoughts and actions that are the products of their laziness—thoughts and actions that they will not examine and analyze, that they will not withstand, to which they will not apply the force of reason, thoughts and actions to which they will not apply the power of love.

The Evil Regimes

Yes, I do believe that it is possible for whole nations to succumb to evil, that is, when sufficient numbers mindlessly follow ideas and practices that are meant to hurt some, the more vulnerable, for the so-called betterment of others. Or how else do we understand the regimes of Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, and what happened recently in Rwanda and the Balkans and what is happening today in the Sudan without believing that there is in each of us the capacity for doing what we know to be wrong? (The examples cited here barely scratch the surface.)

How too do we understand the pedophiles, the rapists, the murders, and those engaged in enslaving others, say for the purposes of prostitution, or even those whose abuses of others, say parent of child, are of a lesser nature but no less abhorrent?

Opposite in a Dualist Universe

As an adherent of points of view that espouse the goodness inside each of us, the capacity for love, and the potential for compassionate action, it gives me no pleasure to write about evil, but yet I must. Because evil is the opposite by which in the dualist universe that composes our reality we see clearly what the positive virtues are. It is my goal in Mind Check to be comprehensive, and this I cannot do without an acknowledgement of the many forms of evil at work in all of us.

For a definition and description of evil in a framework that encompasses both the psychological and the theological points of view, I urge the visitor to study the works of M. Scott Peck ( In fact, Peck’s work is groundbreaking for three very powerful reasons: First because it initiates a union of the realm of values including values central to the world’s religions with medical science, specifically the field of psychiatry. Secondly because it encompasses a political vision—a vision of a better world made up of mentally sound people organized to encourage the best from each to foster the best for all. And third because it provides clear, useful definitions of what it means to be mentally healthy and what it means to be evil.

Books by Scott Peck

While all of Peck’s works are worth one’s time and effort for reflection and mastery, I especially call the reader’s attention to The Road Less Traveled, A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1978) and People of the Lie, The Hope for Healing Human Evil (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1983).

In the next installment of Mind Check, I will be looking at the War in Iraq as an example of evil as an instrument of statecraft. In this effort, I will refer to People of the Lie, previously cited, specifically to Scott Peck’s brilliant analysis of the My Lai Massacre during a previous U.S. military debacle, the War in Vietnam.


Thank you for tuning into Mind Check, a biweekly effort to prove that we are what we think and that clear thinking leads to effective action and to a better world. Mind Check is intended to serve as a bridge between the realm of the human spirit, that center of our energy, mental and physical, and our rationality, of which the scientific method is an excellent example. Mind Check is also intended to prove that the ideas of right and wrong are innate, not exclusively inherent in the situation or the whim of the moment.

To communicate with the author of Mind Check, please write to For examples of the writer’s other writings, see the website

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen Alan Saft

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