Madness, Illusion & Evil

Saturday, August 20th 2011

Many of our emotions seem alien to us; as if they are caused by external forces.

I feel this way because of this person ... because of that ... because of the other.

Shadow Thoughts

In this way we render parts of our mental worlds off-limits, immutable, beyond the will and beyond volition. We project them outward, connect them to outward forms. The connections seem inextricable. Thought is bound to the real world; as apparently material and unyielding as the external world we connect it to.

It is, of course, mostly illusion. The limits of the more deliberative, conscious mind; unable to control other parts of the mind it labels them alien.

Indeed, the very notion of the "real world" is one such outward form we project thought into. Indeed, many of the dichotomies, categories and idealistic structures we live with seem unyielding because we have bound them to real experience, to outward forms, to habit, to fears and hopes. But under closer examination they are illusions, tricks of the cognitive light. Held closely they turn out to be semantic dust.


Sometimes these illusions have diabolical consequences. And I don't use the word diabolical lightly. Lyall Watson writes:

We need enemies. Without them, we would only have ourselves to blame. With them, we have a convenient receptacle for all the qualities that we find it hard to tolerate in ourselves. [...] Self-righteousness feels good. We are right; they are wrong. We are innocent; they are guilty. We tell the truth; they lie. We have a defence department; theirs is called a Ministry of War. We make enemies of them, not because we are inherently aggressive; but because striking out at them brings us closer together. Being close feels good, so we do what seems necessary to be good. We make more enemies. We manufacture evil. (Lyall Watson, Dark Nature, p. 247)

The apparent outward manifestations of evil stem from an inner form. We see evil in the outside world to conceal it in ourselves.

So far so obvious.

But thoughts are real, in the sense that they are real in themselves. Thought has its own form. It exists in flux, to be sure. It is constantly changing; forming chains of related notions and memories, moving from habit to novelty, from obvious patterns to intuitive, fleeting, mysterious glimmers we only dimly communicate to one another.

But there it is. Thought. And its shadow form, the things we deny in ourselves that we inject into the world around us, as if they have an exclusive form beyond ourselves.

These are the demonic forms. The demonic shadow thoughts. The fount of evil. It is very human. And it is very, very real.

But this seems inadequate, somehow. At best, a partial explanation.

Transcendent Evil

We would like to think the demonic form is human. A failing we can remedy, perhaps? Or at least something we can explain.

But what of the inhuman shadow? Transcendent evil? Something beyond us, but deeply in us? Seen truly, is it the ineluctable mystery of existence interpreted via the shadow forms and thus ascribed a diabolical character? A deep mystery that has evil injected into it by fearful human brains? A projection of our own deep, atavistic fears?

You'd like to think so.

But that ominous feeling that rattles about in the deep recesses of the mind, that thing creeps in the deep, subterranean world of incomprehensible forms, is that something we can take the blame for?


From the movie the Thin Red Line:

The evil, what is it? Is the world as it seems, or is it illusion? How did it steal into the world, what seed, what root did it grow from? Is this darkness in you too?

Those half-remembered forms are more ancient than the brains they torment. They come from seeds sown long ago. From things conjured into existence long before the minds that could vaguely sense them could behold them in twisted nightmares. They have a form that never quite give us the satisfaction of manifesting itself as cogent thought. Just hints. Intuitions. Our own ascriptions. Shadowy figures forever just out of sight.

These are the nightmare that haunt the ruins countless dead civilisations. That inhuman darkness which is both terror and beauty. That darkness which is nothing and everything. That darkness over which man has no dominion. That darkness that has existed since time began and will exist long after the last light of the human soul is extinguished.

H.P. Lovecraft:

Yet now the sway of reason seemed irrefutably shaken, for this Cyclopean maze of squared, curved, and angled blocks had features which cut off all comfortable refuge. It was, very clearly, the blasphemous city of the mirage in stark, objective, and ineluctable reality. That damnable portent had had a material basis after all [...] yet now, as we saw that real source, we thought it even more hideous and menacing than its distant mirage. (At the Mountains of Madness, HP Lovecraft, part V).

And weirdly, I shall add a smiley face: