Good Vs Evil
By Leo Gura - May 30, 2014 | 41 Comments
Why your model of good and evil is all wrong and how it hurts your life
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this video I’m going to talk about good versus evil.
Good versus evil — the classic battle, right? Let’s dig into this and talk about what good and evil actually are. This is going to be more of a philosophical video, not going to be as immediately practical and applicable as some of my other videos. At the end, I’m going to tell you why this is an important concept for you to understand properly.
The problem I see is that most people don’t really understand what good and evil are, and how they actually operate, and what’s really going on in reality. Because of this, it can lead to a lot of dysfunction. It creates an adversarial relationship with reality, which leads to closed mindedness and does not get you the kind of results you want in your life.
It keeps you from being happy. It is practical, you just have to bear with me to see how it all interconnects. Here, it’s going to be a little more philosophical. Why is this topic even interesting to us? All of us have heard of good and evil. Many of us tend to believe good and evil are out there somewhere.
We ask ourselves questions such as “Why do evil things happen to good people? Why does evil sometimes prevail over good in this world? Why does that seem to happen? Why are there good people, and why are there evil people? If that’s the case, how do you convert a good person into an evil person, and vice versa? IS that possible?”
Open Your Mind And Proceed
All these interesting life questions start to come up. The critical thing here is that I have to warn you that this video requires an open mind. It requires an open mind because what I’m talking about here challenges conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom on this subject is wrong.
Conventional wisdom is what you get from the media, the culture, society, what you were raised to believe, what your religion told you to believe — all of those views, generally speaking, are wrong on this issue.
I’m going to talk about why that is, all the little details, and how you can start to get your life and your mind aligned with more of the way it actually is, rather than the way we want it to be in some of these cartoon character versions of morality that we receive from various sources in society.
Before we get there, we have to ask, because I’m really challenging your notions of how life is and how the world works. I’m really challenging your worldview here, with some of these ideas, and I have to ask you to be able to step aside and separate yourself from your beliefs.
Separate yourself from all the things you were fed as a kid growing up, or as a young adult, or even that you experienced in your own life. Really open your mind to some of the possibilities that are here. The way I’m going to do this is by asking you have you actually, yourself, really looked in and investigated this question of good versus evil? Have you actually done that?
Most people believe they know what good and evil are. They believe that they’re very smart about this subject. What I find is that none of them have actually gone and done a personal investigation. Be very careful about what this means. A personal investigation does not mean you’re simply believing what you were told when you were a kid.
It does not mean that you believe whatever your society, your culture believes, or whatever people want you to believe. It means that you didn’t read it in a book somewhere. You didn’t hear it from somebody. You didn’t see it in the news or on the television. It means i actually sat own, by yourself, unplugged yourself from all those external sources of information, and actually started to think, philosophize about what good and evil are.
Maybe started doing some research on this topic, started studying, started reading various books to look at different points of view. It’s very important that you answer this question honestly. If you’ve never done this — I would say ninety nine percent of people have never done this — what is your opinion of good and evil really worth?
It’s OK if you haven’t done this, but if so, I encourage you to keep your mind especially open. That means you haven’t really investigated it for yourself. I’m going to help you do an investigation here. You don’t have to believe everything I tell you, but just use this as a launching point to do your own investigation.
I think that if you do an honest investigation by yourself, you’ll come to a lot of the same conclusions I’m sharing with you here, that I’ve come to.
The next thing I want to do is a little demonstration. This is also a very important thing, to get you to start to see how tricky the human mind really is. The way I want to do that is by showing you an image. I’m actually going to show you two images. I’m going to show one, and then after it, a few seconds later I’m going to show a second one.
We’re going to see if your interpretation of the first image changes after you’ve seen the second image. Then you’re going to come back here and we’re going to discuss it. Here it is. Here’s the first image.
What did you see there? You saw two images, right? The first one of a plain wall socket. The second one of a little addition I made to a wall socket. What is the relevance of this? What does it have to do with good and evil? The wall socket’s not good, it’s not evil. Here’s the important point.
The important point is that what this is called is — this is a phenomenon in human psychology that’s called apophenia. What is apophenia? Apophenia is the human tendency to recognize shapes and patterns where no shapes and patterns inherently exist. That’s what happens in this example.
If you saw the first image of the wall socket and thought it’s just a simple wall socket, but then you also saw the face in the wall socket, you also noticed that even though you knew it was just a wall socket, but you also saw the human face in it, then that was you seeing a pattern that wasn’t really there.
The second image helps to highlight that. It makes it really clear, makes it glaringly obvious what’s going on there. This is a phenomenon called apophenia. What does this have to do with anything? This has to do a lot with good and evil, because what I’m going to tell you here is that good and evil are really a creation of your mind.
Just the way this pattern of the face in the wall socket isn’t inherent to the wall socket, it’s not that the wall socket looks like a face, it’s simply that your brain has certain wiring in it that gives you image recognition, especially with human faces.
The human mind — this has been proven in various psychological studies that they’ve done — is very good at image detection, even just as a baby. A baby is able to instantly recognize simple facial patterns, even something as basic as two dots and a little horizontal line. The human mind will immediately interpret that as a face, even though you’ve just got two dots and a little line.
The human mind will see it as a face, or a smiley face, or a sad face. The same is really the case with good and evil. I really want you to ask yourself this question: What is good and evil? What is the substance of it? Have you ever asked yourself that? What actually is it in the world? How is it in reality?
Is it like a physical object? Does it have that same kind of physicality and reality to it? Is it the same as an emotion? Is it a thought? Where does evil and where does good exist? Does it exist out there in the circumstances of everyday life, or does it exist up here in the mind? It’s a very important question.
You might say “Well Leo, there are clear examples of evil that exist out in the world. If we saw it, we would all recognize it. We could point our finger at it.” You might see a scene where something is happening in life, and you clearly know that’s wrong and evil.
Maybe you see somebody getting murdered. Obviously, that is wrong and evil. The question is — OK, I agree with you on that kind of basic level, but then, is the evilness of that act, where is it actually located? Is it in the person? Is it inside the person who’s doing the murdering? Is it the combination, the whole scene of the murder and the victim?
Where is the actual evil happening there? What complicates this even further is then consider some other scenario, where you have the same scene, one person murdering another person, killing another person, but this time it’s done in self-defence.
Now, it being done in self-defence, is that act no longer evil? Most people would say it’s no longer evil. But what’s the difference? Is it the physical arrangement of atoms that has changed? Is it the circumstances, the intent of the person? Where is that actually, physically, substantially located.
What you’re going to find if you look at these scenarios and really dig deep and ask yourself honestly what’s going on, you’re going to agree that evil doesn’t actually exist out there. You can’t’ actually point a finger at evil. Evil is not a physical, tangible thing.
What Evil Really Is
What evil is is a thought. Evil is an interpretation. Evil is a judgement that you’re making on reality. Very simply, evil is this, and good is this. Good is simply what you prefer, and evil is simply what you don’t prefer in life. That’s it. There’s nothing complicated here. There’s nothing deep or metaphysical to it.
The problem is that something even as simple as this, such a simple truth, for most people doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t resonate well. It seems like it’s not true, or that there must be something more to it. “If that was the case, Leo” you might say “then all these sorts of problems start to come up in my worldview.”
We’re going to start to address those right now. This is the general thesis I’m throwing at you here — good is simply what you prefer, and evil is simply what you don’t prefer. You have to be extremely intellectually honest to see this, to admit this to yourself. There are various ego-defence mechanisms at work here.
There’s also a lot of social conditioning at work, because you grew up in a society where you’re fed with all sorts of different theories and information, and different worldviews and beliefs, which are now running on a subconscious layer in your brain.
This idea that good and evil are just a personal preference, ultimately, what does that make it? That makes good and evil completely relative. It means that if your mind didn’t exist, if you didn’t exist, if humanity didn’t exist, then there would be no good and evil in the world.
This means that the world and reality itself is entirely neutral. It’s devoid of any meaning. It’s devoid of any good or bad characteristics. It just is. This is a Buddhist concept, really. This is a powerful concept. I love this concept. This concept is so beautiful to me, that reality is neutral.
We want to believe it’s not neutral, but really if you look at it, and you investigate it, you see that it’s neutral. The meanings you’re creating, those are meanings created in your mind, by your thoughts. The meaning doesn’t exist out in the world. This is model is very beautiful to me because, first of all, it liberates us. It gives us a lot of freedom.
Second of all, this freedom has always existed. It explains a lot about how humanity works, how human beings interact with one another, why are there wars. It explains a lot of historical events, and I’m going to cover that a little bit, in detail, right now.
The idea here is that it exists only in your mind. Any meaning, but especially something like good and evil, where you’re really dichotomising that drastically. This being the case, you might now start to get objections. Here are some of your objections I want to address.
One objection that I commonly hear when someone hears this is that “Well what about things like murder and rape and theft? Clearly, Leo, we don’t’ want to say those are neutral things. Those are clearly evil things. Don’t you agree? Isn’t it silly and ridiculous to have a theory of life and the world that goes against this, this common sense notion that these things are wrong?”
Notice what’s going on there. I’m not saying it doesn’t disturb you. In fact, the fact that it disturbs you is evidence of the fact that it’s a preference. Who is being disturbed by this? You are being disturbed by this. That’s what we’re saying here. When you see an evil act, all that really means is you get a tingle in your brain.
Saying it just as a tingle makes it seem like it’s not very substantial. In fact, it can cause a very big impact on you. I’m not saying your beliefs about this don’t influence you — they do. Look at what’s going on in reality. It’s you that’s getting disturbed. It’s your ego that’s getting either offended, or when you see something good, it’s your ego that’s getting satisfied and gratified.
What else is going on besides that? Is there anything else? You have to look within yourself to see if there is anything else. If you do look, and you look honestly and remove the social conditioning, what you’re going to find is that there is nothing else. It’s just thoughts. Whatever you think is evil is going to be perceived as evil. Whatever you think is good is going to be perceived as good.
The What Ifs
The next objection might go like “OK, Leo, even if that’s the case, you’re theory here is very dangerous. What happens if everybody in the world believes this? What happens if everyone buys into this? Is everyone now going to believe that murder is OK, and that it’s just neutral, and that rape is OK, it’s just neutral, and theft is OK, it’s just neutral? Society is going to turn into a chaotic mess. Isn’t that the case?”
Let’s take a look at that. It might not be quite as drastic as you might think. How about taking a pride of lions? Have you ever seen them on the Discovery channel, or some animal channel? You see a bunch of lions, maybe ten or twenty of them, sitting on a nice little patch in the grass, on the savannah somewhere.
They’re just lying around. They’re enjoying themselves, basking in the sun. Maybe they go off and do a little hunting, but they’re just sitting there in the pride. Take this pride of lions. What about a pride of lions? Would you say that a pride of lions has morality and a concept of good and evil? Or do they not? What do you think? What would you say?
I think most people would pretty readily admit that lions don’t have a sense of morality. Lions don’t have a good and evil. They don’t understand what good and evil are. They don’t even know about good and evil. That’s outside of their cognitive abilities. They don’t have that.
Then the question is, when you have ten lions, sitting there basking in the sun next to each other, what is preventing them from tearing each other apart, from killing each other, from murdering each other? Why are they not doing that? Kind of interesting.
Your thesis is that if you get rid of my sense of morality, then the world goes to hell, society goes to hell. Yet we have this little society of lions over here, and they’re doing quite well. Sure, they fight sometimes, just like humans do. They scuffle. They might even bite each other, and maybe even sometimes they’ll get into a fight so bad that they’ll maim each other.
Maybe one of them even gets killed in a fight. But generally, it’s clear that lions coexist very peacefully together. They generally don’t have problems beyond the normal problems we would expect with any kind of creatures or organisms in a society, that were trying to take care of themselves and look out for themselves.
Morality Is A Lie
That’s interesting, huh? What does that mean then? That means that morality isn’t quite as important as you thought it was to society running and functioning well. In fact, what you’re going to find is that there is no need to have a sense of black and white morality, of good and evil. There’s no need to have that in order to be “good” yourself.
What you’re going to discover is that what’s really going on here is that it’s not a sense of theoretical morality that’s keeping you in line in society. That’s not really what’s going on. What’s really going on is that the morality you’re exhibiting, that all of us are exhibiting, the reason we’re coexisting peacefully is because that has been hardwired into our brains, just like it is with the lions.
That’s what’s going on with the lions. As part of the evolutionary process, it wouldn’t work if a pride of lions came to be and evolved to that level and they were able to just indiscriminately savagely murder each other. It wouldn’t work. They could never evolve to that level.
What happened through the evolutionary process is that wiring was installed, where they’re really not allowed to harm each other, generally speaking. They have no programming, no reason to do it, so they don’t. The same thing goes with human beings.
We generally don’t have reason to harm one another. The only reason we harm each other is when we’re put in dire circumstances, and we’re really put into a zero sum game, and it has high stakes of life and death. Then we start to get physical and nasty. Otherwise, we have no reason to.
In fact we have a lot of programming in our brain that makes us generous towards each other, that makes us friendly, accommodating and empathetic. Why is that? That’s important for a social organism of any kind. That’s how society is created. That’s how a society of bees works. That’s how a society of ants works.
They couldn’t work if they were busy slaughtering each other all the time. That’s really what’s going on here. It’s not some sort of theoretical, lofty religious morality you’re using. You might feel like you’ve got a layer of that running on you, but really, that’s not what’s keeping you in line. It’s actually a very good thing that it’s not that easy to take the morality out of you.
It’s hardwired. If it wasn’t, then it would be very easy for you or somebody else in society to change beliefs, and then they could easily go and start doing all these anti-social things that are damaging to the species as a whole. It makes sense that it’s really deeply hardwired.
In human beings, it’s hardwired. Does that mean it can never be unwired? No, you can see examples, for example with suicide bombers and terrorists, where they’re successfully able to unwire this because they do so much training, literally drilling the subconscious mind so much that eventually, they are able to get those defences down.
With most normal people, that’s not the case. It doesn’t happen. Very interesting how that works. Why, then, do people want to say that good and evil exist and that they’re clear and external, out in the real world? Why is there this need to do this? It’s very interesting.
The Concept Of Normativity
This is a philosophical concept, it’s called normativity. This is something you will encounter in an ethics class, or a psychology of morality class. Normativity means that what I believe, you should believe. What I do, oyu should do. It means that your belief or your idea has a certain need to be transfered, it has a certain universality to it.
The reason people are interested in making these morals and values, and good and evil black and white and objective, is because we make something objective, that means you can now justify to others to believe that thing as well.
It’s a really convenient way to transfer values. Here’s how it works: if you’ve got a normative idea, then you say “OK, it’s out there in the real world, it’s true. It’s a fact of life. We all need to accept it.” Now everyone looks at that and says “You know what, that’s true. That’s a real fact of life. It’s out there. All of us must accept it.”
You can go around telling people “Hey, you’re wrong. You have to accept this.” You can tell that person “Hey, you’re wrong. Look at this fact. Accept it.” That’s normativity.
If you’ve got a concept that has no normativity, then here’s how it works. Your concept has no normativity, so you tell yourself you’re believing it, but then you go and tell this person “You should believe what I believe. You should value what I value.” That person will look at it and say “You know what? That’s a nice idea, but I don’t really like it. I’m going to keep believing what I believed.”
You’ll look at him and say “You know what? If you want to keep believing what you believe, that’s OK.” This is a non normative concept. What’s a non-normative concept? A non-normative concept or phenomenon in life is something like ice cream flavour.
We usually wouldn’t go around saying “You know what? I like chocolate ice cream, so you should like chocolate ice cream.” Most people don’t do that. We tend to be honest with ourselves and say “You know what? I like chocolate ice cream because I just like it. I happen to like the taste. It titillates me in a certain way. That person likes strawberry. That’s fine with me.
I don’t expect everybody to love chocolate. I’m not going to come up with some sort of elaborate theory that says chocolate is the one everyone would like just because I like it.” What happens with morality is the exact opposite of that. With morality, whatever you believe, you want to make sure everybody else believes it too.
You need it to be true. This is a weakness, a crack in the system. It already tells you something is going wrong there. When you strongly need to fight for something and to defend something, it usually means it’s an ego-defence mechanism of sort. Your ego needs to be validated by all the external circumstances, so that it can maintain this adversarial relationship with reality.
Ultimately, when you believe there is a good and an evil, what’s happening is that you’re not really being honest. You haven’t really introspected enough, so now you have to work really hard to keep that worldview into place. You’re going to see things and phenomena in the world that don’t make sense to you under this model.
A lot of stuff doesn’t make sense when you believe there is a good and evil. If you believe that good and evil are totally neutral, and they don’t really exist, they’re just in your mind, your personal preferences, all of a sudden, everything makes sense. It’s so simple. It’s like — why would you believe anything else?
A Stroll Through The Past
Here’s some examples: if you’re a student of history, these should start to ring bells for you immediately, and start clicking into place when you start adopting this model. For example, George Bush versus Bin Laden. Battle of the new millenium. What was going on there?
Is George Bush good and Bin Laden evil, or vice versa? What was happening there? George Bush believed he was good, and Bin Laden is evil. What did Bin Laden believe? Bin Laden believed the exact opposite of that. Which one of them is true? None of them are true. It just is what it is. Reality is just neutral, without our layers of meaning and bullshit added on top of it.
None of them are correct or right. I’m not saying I condone the actions of Bin Laden over Bush. That’s not the case. You can still have preferences for what you want. Again, we’re talking about preferences. Bush prefers one thing, Bin Laden prefers another thing, we prefer our own thing, and our own thing is hopefully in line with what Bush believes, rather than what Bin Laden believes.
We don’t want a world where there’s a lot of terrorism and violence. Some people prefer that, and they have reasons to prefer that. We don’t like it. Does that mean I’m going to accept it? No, but it just means it is what it is. It’s our own bullshit stories in our minds. There’s no need to build up this grand theory of normativity.
There’s no need to say “You know what? Bin Laden is actually evil, and what Bush tries to espouse is actually good.” There’s no need to do that, unless you’ve got some sort of insecurity within yourself.
An intelligent, open minded, intellectually honest person could say “You know what? There’s no actual normativity here, but I’m still confident in what I prefer. I prefer a life that’s happy and peaceful. I prefer society that way. That’s all there is to it. I don’t need anything more.
That’s enough for me to go and live my life, and be motivated and still have a family, go to work, do everything I want to do in my life. I don’t need this elaborate theory of why someone is actually evil. I don’t need to demonise anybody.”
Whenever you’re demonising somebody, it’s generally a very big clue that you’re off the track, and that you’re doing it for egoic reasons, not for any reason in reality. How about the conservatives versus the liberals? Same sort of thing — who’s right? Nobody is right. Everyone has their own stories and ideas, personal preferences.
What about the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Who’s right there? Is there somebody that’s objectively good and objectively evil? No. One side prefers one thing, the other side prefers another thing. That’s all there is. There’s nothing more.
You find a lot of conflict in situations where this is the case. When you believe that everybody must believe what you believe, then you’re going to be willing to go out there and fight for it. It creates a lot of tension. It creates a lot of war. It creates a lot of bad situations.
When you have this more Buddhist type of mindset where reality is neutral, then it doesn’t make you amoral. It actually makes you supermoral. It’s a very interesting idea, because look at the way that a true zen Buddhist, for example, or an Indian Yogi, how he will behave himself. He’s not out there raping and pillaging.
He sees reality as totally neutral, and that actually makes him supermoral. He’s actually extra caring because of this. Because his ego is gone, he’s shut his ego, now it’s just pure love and joy for everything out there. Why is that? That’s just simply because the human brain was programmed with that. That’s your natural state.
Except most of us don’t feel that because we’re so wrapped up in our own egos, trying to survive, trying to fight for our own security and defence. When you let those defences go, you become very peaceful. The more you put them up, the more you protect them, the more conflict you have, which is a perfect example of what’s happening in the Israeli-Palestine conflicts.
How about Hitler versus Churchill? What was going on there? Can we clearly say that Hitler was evil? No. It’s a preference. He thought he was doing good for the German nation. Do we agree with that? No. But again, that’s our preference.
How about The Roman Empire versus the barbarians? What was going on there? Have you studied that? The Roman Empire was trying to expand and dominate the whole world, in a similar fashion to what Hitler was doing from within Germany, except they were doing it from within Rome.
They were collecting all these little satellite states and nations, and they were conquering various barbarian tribes and forcing them to work and to become subjects and pay taxes. Of course, the barbarians didn’t want this. They thought they were being subjugated and enslaved. They fought back, but the Roman empire just called them barbarians, demonised them.
That’s where we get the word barbarian from. Who is right and who is wrong in that situation? Who is objectively good or evil? Nobody was. One side has its own agenda, and the other side has its own agenda. Those agendas just clash.
What about Rome versus Christianity? Similar kind of conflict happened there. The Roman empire tried to crack down on Christianity, especially in the early days. Again, who is right or wrong there? Nobody. Just preferences.
How about capitalism and communism? Same thing. If you go through history, and you’re a real student of history, you’ll see that almost every conflict, every single conflict on the social scale has happened because of this.
A lot of personal, interpersonal conflicts happen because of this as well. We demonise each other. We need a way to prove to ourselves that our judgement of the other person is somehow justified. No judgement of anybody is ever justified. There’s no reason why you are right in judging somebody.
Really think about this. This about all these examples. See if this is starting to make more or less sense than the model you may have had before. I think you’ll start to see that it makes more sense.
The Downsides Of Traditional Morality
This case being made, what is bad about having a black and white model? What’s bad about believing that good and evil are actually external facts of life? I think the problem here is, like we already mentioned in a couple of examples, that it’s an ego-defence mechanism. It’s a lack of intellectual honesty. It’s an adversarial relationship with truth and reality.
When this happens, you tend to start to contort yourself and build your life around this, and you have put yourself in this little bubble. We’re not able to accept everything that’s out there. You deny things to yourself. You become judgemental of other people. You start to believe that tension and conflict are actually justified in certain circumstances.
It tends to make you more extremist and less accepting of life and reality. It tends to lead to a certain closed mindedness. It tends to lead to this effect where you’re putting the blinders on in certain parts of your life, and you’re isolating yourself from certain realities.
Ultimately, what this is doing is creating suffering. All of your suffering is being created because you have this ego, and it needs to defend itself from everything thats going on, constantly having to defend and work. You get tired of that. You suffer. You have to concoct elaborate theories and stories about why this is the case.
You have to run around and change other people, make sure other people believe just like you do, so that it becomes a little more palatable to you to believe some of the incorrect things you believe. When you have a whole group of people, all believing in the sam wrong idea or belief, then if you’re a student of history you also know how that works.
That makes it very easy for that whole group to buy into a bunch of bullshit and to bullshit each other, blow smoke up each other’s asses, and then stay comfortable in that. Why are they comfortable? Because that person is telling me that I’m right, and that person’s telling me I’m right, and I’m telling him I’m right.
It becomes a self-fulfilling, self-serving sort of way of life and way of being in the world. I find that you can’t really become happy, and you can’t really become successful in life if you come at life from this perspective. Consider that and see where you are, relative to this. See if your notions of good and evil might need a little bit of fine tuning and tweaking.
If any of this stuff rubs you the wrong way, or you think it doesn’t make sense, I don’t’ expect you to just believe it. Don’t just take it. I’m just throwing out an idea out here. Go ahead and take it for yourself and maybe explore it. If you find it doesn’t work for you, then toss it aside. Do an honest investigation. Be very open minded in the way you do this. Be objective and rigorous.
Spend some time really thinking it through. I think you might be surprised by what you find, and also how beautiful this idea is. It’s not threatening at all. You’ll find how beautiful it is.
This is Leo, I’m signing off. This is what I had to say about good and evil. Go ahead and post me your comments down below. Please like this if you did. Click the like button right now. Share it, throw it on Facebook or wherever you like to share videos.
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