The Many Axes of Evil
There are subjects that seem to fascinate the mind and yet make us so uncomfortable that we don’t really want to think about them deeply. Mainstream media is full of horror movies, but it’s rare we hear the problem of evil addressed directly in intellectual discussions. Paul Levy’s, Dispelling Wetiko, Breaking the Curse of Evil, takes what is perhaps our biggest boogeyman, head on. He brings it home with so much power that it has truly changed the way I personally now view both my political and spiritual work, (which is the focus of this blog).
I wrote the following review for the book at Amazon:
“This is a dangerous book. That is, it is advisable to only read it if you are willing to have your life changed in a very fundemental way. Paul Levy, clearly writing from his own experience, brings front and center that which is bugging us all and threatening to take us (humans) from being an endangered species to being an extinct one: our inability to face evil within or without. Having done and still doing his own work in this regard has unleashed an astounding creative ability to turn words and phrases into koans that free the reader to see the reality and unreality of the Demon. “Paradoxically, autonomous complexes like the demon of wetiko only are real when they are not recognized as real.” This is a courageous book that shifts the focus of political and spiritual work in the world. May more people have the courage to read this book all the way through.”
Levy honors Native American author and activist, Jack Forbes, (who wrote Columbus and Other Cannibals), for leading him towards a deeper understanding of the Native American term, “Wetiko,” that which we humans experience as evil in the world. The word ‘evil,’ to a great extent, has been taboo amongst progressive and liberal minded folk, both for psychological and also political reasons. Our secular psychological thinking is inclined to see human behavior, even the worst of it, from the perspective of understanding its roots in ignorance and abuse. Politically, the word evil has been captured by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney and George Bush and appears to be a part of a simplistic, reactionary view of the world. While there is truth in all this, is it possible that there is a force, larger than our individual psyche, that pushes us to commit acts of unspeakable horror?
The author is not the first to make the case that what is going on in the world is a manifestation of what we must face in ourselves and vice versa. As he says, “..we realize that, just like in a dream, (Wetiko’s) full-bodied manifestation in the world theater is a reflection of a process going on deep within our very soul.” Also, “The less evil is recognized, the more dangerous it is. To the extent we have not rooted out the wetiko bug within ourselves we are complicit in the co-creation of the evil playing out in the world.”
Yet, while Dispelling Wetiko presses us to do the inner work, (the psycho-spiritual practice), to face what Levy describes as the Wetiko virus, he certainly does not ignore the need to act in relationship to the external political reality. “If we keep these two inner figures - spiritual practitioners and political activists - separate within ourselves, this is an expression of our inner fragmentation, and nonlocally feeds the wetiko psychosis in the field.” Here, he is calling on spiritually minded folk to avoid the New Age pitfall of only seeing the light of Spirit, and at the same time calling on the activist to not take the bait of seeing only the enemy outside oneself.
The spiritual perspectives offered in the book are sophisticated and challenging. Levy explores the possible roots of Wetiko in the illusion of separateness of egoic identity, but expands the view to examine how we collectively create something larger and more powerful, something that acts independently of any individual’s mind. Levy frequently draws from Carl Jung and the notions of archetypes and the collective unconscious. Quoting Jung, Levy shares, “Only an infantile person can pretend that evil is not at work everywhere, and the more unconscious he is, the more the devil drives him.” Yet, the journey of the book takes us through dualistic thinking and beyond and back around again and again, fostering an experience of the non-local, non-linear nature of reality and how evil may exist and yet not exist at the same time. As Levy says, “Paradoxically, autonomous complexes like the demon of wetiko only are real when they are not recognized as real.”
This book is not an intellectual or academic study of notions of evil in human history. It is an active, experiential process to read it, pressing you to look more deeply inside and out. I truly believe it can be a transformative force in the ongoing struggle for a better, more just and healthy world and certainly, of understanding one’s own role in that story.
For more on Paul Levy’s work, see http://www.awakeninthedream.com/wordpress/.