This page contains the Table of Contents, Editor’s Foreword, Foreword, and Introduction to Paul Levy’s new book Awakened by Darkness: When Evil becomes Your Father.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Cast of Characters
1. Setting the Stage
2. Telling the Story
4. Bad Man
5. Background Presence
6. Malignant Narcissism
7. No Boundaries
8. Pale Criminal
9. Aunt Helen
12. Participation Mystique
13. The Abuse
15. Going out of my Right Mind
16. The Shadow and its Projections
17. Out of this World Guilt
18. Protecting the Abuser
19. Spiritual Awakening
22. Control System
24. True Psychiatric Hallucinations
25. The Psychiatrist Who Could have Helped but Didn’t
26. Wetiko Part V
27. American Dream – Not!
30. Murder in the Field
31. The Negative Father
32. Wanting to Possess Me
33. False Apology
34. Blind Rage Syndrome
35. Black Magic
36. Identifying with the Archetype
37. Possessed by Demons
40. Soul Rape
41. The Scream
42. After-effects of Abuse
43. Inverted Aggression
44. Acting Out Abuse on those You Love
45. Negative Symptoms
46. The Extended Family
47. Don’t Contact Me in Any Way Ever Again
49. Psychiatric Performance Art
52. Father, Son and Holy Ghost
53. Active Imagination
54. Healing Trauma
56. The Wounded Healer
57. Dispelling Wetiko
58. The Tibetan Book of the Dead
59. The Precious Bodhicitta
60. Dreams of Compassion
About the Author
EDITOR’S FOREWORD, BY MARK
This book that you hold in your hands is a remarkable artifact rich with valuable data for those interested in exploring the nature of the human psyche. Within its pages lies a tale of strength and triumph as well as a portrayal of the resilience of the human spirit against crushing and shattering forces of opposition and adversity. Though it is a deeply personal account of one man’s encounter with the forces of darkness as they showed up in his own life in an utterly unique and challenging way, in a very real sense it is everyone’s story, resonating throughout with the relentless challenge of being true to one’s self and authentically human, thereby having deep relevance as well as providing potential inspiration for all of us.
Having known Paul as a close friend for over two decades there has been a chief feature or a recurrent motif arising within his personal process to which all of his close friends can attest, namely a consistently strong and dedicated commitment to tell, explain, describe and understand as clearly as possible the extreme ordeal that he underwent in relation to his father—what his friends and Paul simply call his “father process”—and how it has affected him in dramatic and traumatic ways. The reason behind this insistent resolve that Paul has to express and communicate what happened with his father and then, later on, with psychiatry is not simply coming out of a neurotic need to be understood or because he is stuck in a pattern that is perpetuating a victimhood dynamic as some who first encounter Paul and his work may initially and mistakenly assume, but instead has a vaster and more sublime impulse and intent behind it.
This has to do with the fact that not only was Paul’s ordeal with his father and psychiatry abusive to an extremely heart and soul shattering degree, but most importantly, it was also initiatory. The sense of urgency Paul attaches to people understanding what he endured with his father (and subsequently with psychiatry) is driven by a desire to share something important with us, not just something about what he went through personally, but something that was revealed to him—through his modern day shamanic descent into the underworld—that has profound import for all of us. This story of a tragic breakdown of relations between Paul and his father (and later, with his mother) is not being told merely to recite a personal tragedy but to reveal a subtle and nearly invisible dynamic that is actively at work in innumerable forms within each of our lives. In Paul’s life this process took such a relentlessly tragic form that he was forced to recognize this hidden dynamic and gradually came to see how it insidiously pervades human affairs and is thereby enormously important for us to learn to see its operations within ourselves and others. Paul’s work as a whole is an invitation into this new world—practically a parallel universe—that he, along with an increasing number of others, has discovered, yet hopefully without having to go through the same amount of pain and suffering that he had to endure. This book is his personal story of how he was led to discover this new vision of reality that reveals a universe shimmering with an expanded spectrum of human possibilities that becomes available to us once we are able to see and overcome the relentless tricks by which our own mind deceives us into buying into a limited, impoverished and fear-ridden view of both ourselves and the world.
Encoded within Paul’s story lies evidence for and an opening into a radically different and redeeming worldview—an enchanted universe imbued with intrinsic sentience—a vision that can function as an antidote to the dangerous epistemological dead end that reductive materialism, with its view of a meaningless universe composed of separate parts mechanically interacting, has led us into. The abuse that Paul underwent eventually transformed into a portal through which he was introduced to a new way of seeing, an enhanced mode of perception that led to a profound series of insights and cascading revelations into the deeper nature of reality. Paul began to see with increasing clarity the hidden dynamics by which human interpersonal interactions are being transpersonally orchestrated by an invisible underlying unified field that without our knowledge or awareness influences, shapes and informs our thoughts, perceptions, judgments and mental states in ways which we are generally only dimly aware. Paul, in the course of the narrative that is his life story, has undergone a profound ontological shift from an ordinary awareness that sees the surface of things, to a deeper, more lucid awareness characterized by a trenchant transcendent insight into the deeper nonlocal field dynamics that organize and coordinate everything with everything else. Like a secret initiatory curriculum uniquely designed for him alone, this insight was revealed to him with ever-increasing degrees of lucidity, gradually revealing a transformative vision of the world that corresponds precisely with the heart-essence of the world’s great spiritual and mystical traditions. This kind of realization is not merely mental or intellectual but requires a phenomenological transformation of the entire fabric of one’s immediate experience. This transformed perspective was directly revealed to Paul, often in the most painful and crazy-making ways, through the course of the ordeals that he describes in this book. For us, as the reader, to realize what Paul is pointing to requires an openness to a similar transformation within ourselves.
Paul’s story is a human tragedy that, through the unconscious, often uncanny behavior of his “loved ones,” remarkably revealed to his trauma-tenderized mind the same general conclusions about the deep structure of reality that the founders of Quantum Physics were inexorably drawn to by the equally bizarre and counterintuitive behavior of the quantum world. This is to say that despite all the apparent diversity and measurably separate, separable and solid-seeming nature of matter composing the physical world, that all things—including people—in actuality are seamless expressions of a singular, unitary indivisible wholeness that is orchestrating the whole display of the material world in a nonlocal way that transcends time, space and linear causality.
Paul has been sharing these insights into what he has been calling the dreamlike nature of reality through his writings, talks, interviews as well as his Awakening in the Dream Groups for years, but the full story behind how he arrived at these transformative insights has remained obscure because the full story of his personal ordeal of awakening had never been told in full. He has been telling his story in pieces to his friends for decades, but because the story is so long and has significant complexity to it, it is not generally easy for others to comprehend the whole picture of what led Paul to become the uniquely gifted teacher and vision-holder that he is today. <em>Awakened by Darkness</em> represents the whole story laid out so that its most essential features are told in a way that allows the inner thread connecting the whole narrative to be seen.
This book is likely to trigger a variety of reactions and judgments in its readers. I respectfully ask the reader to put their judgments of Paul that may arise as this narrative is read in brackets—i.e. to temporarily suspend their judgments that may come up while reading the text—because it is to this very process by which we may be triggered to form judgments and become convinced of their “rightness” to which Paul is hoping to draw our attention. These triggers arising within our minds are actually opportunities for us to self-reflect, to ask ourselves what within <em>us </em>is being touched in our reactions. This very process whereby we receive information from our experience and then interpret it in the particular way that we do, is a process taking place within our mind and this is precisely the locus where this invisible nonlocal field can operate on us in very subtle, insidious and potentially divisive ways, ways that are more thoroughly explained in Paul’s previous book <em>Dispelling Wetiko</em>. Paul makes great efforts to be vulnerable and bare his soul by presenting unflattering situations that occurred in his life as a vehicle to reveal the perverse and maladaptive workings of wetiko within his own mind and life. He invites us to subject our own lives to a similar fearless investigation in order to detect the covert operations of these same aberrant psychological dynamics within the reactions of our minds to his story. This is not a typical book, in that Paul is inviting the reader, through the unvarnished telling of the abusive drama that he lived through, to actively marshal a greater degree of self-reflective meta-awareness so as to creatively participate in, rather than unconsciously react to, what is being touched—and potentially illumined—within us by his story.
<em>Awakened by Darkness</em> provides the reader an intimate first person case study of how, through an excruciating ordeal, the author was initiated into being able to see and map out with increasing acuity the insidious ways that wetiko deviates our minds, convincing us of things that are not so and then, based on these delusions, leading us to act out behaviors based upon these erroneous convictions, often with a sense of self-righteous conviction, that have seriously problematic consequences, both for ourselves and others. This process collectively adds up, feeding upon itself to produce the pervasive patterns of madness, misunderstanding and conflict that characterize so much of our world today.
This book is a remarkable testament describing and exposing important aspects of the deep psycho-spiritual dimensions of human trauma. Paul’s experience of trauma resulting from the abuse he endured from his father reveals that under the right circumstances a severe trauma can cut so deep that it wounds the soul and approaches soul murder. His story illustrates that such forms of severe emotional abuse can inject and transmit a toxic psycho-spiritual complex that characterizes the psyche of the abuser into the recipient of the abuse in such a way that the dynamics of the abuser literally becomes installed into the personal psychological operating system of the recipient as a pernicious form of psychic malware that can require enormous efforts throughout a lifetime to repair and transform. The soul-crushing trauma that Paul received from his father—abetted by psychiatry—cut through the level of the personal human shadow, contacting the deeper realm of transpersonal archetypal evil. This is one of the things that makes Paul’s story—and this book—unique; it is not just the story of one man’s confrontation with his own personal shadow, but is an encounter with the seemingly cosmic forces of darkness themselves. In somehow managing not to become destroyed by this experience, but rather, being able to communicate and shed light on what he has lived through—in the form of this book—Paul is truly offering a gift to each of us.
Paul’s story is also a valuable contribution in helping us understand the seemingly other-worldly power and sway with which the archetypes of the collective unconscious operate in and through our lives. This is accomplished by Paul’s capacity to look at his own personal trials through the eye of symbolic awareness attuned to the deeper archetypal patterns that are informing the personal events in his life. In particular, he powerfully elucidates the archetype of the negative father, which is an enormously active force in our world. This is a deeper, underlying mythic pattern that is being enacted unconsciously by countless men, fathers, male (and sometimes female) authority figures, institutions and nation-states in our world today. In the course of his unfolding drama constellated around the archetype of the negative patriarchy, it became increasingly clear to Paul that he was being shown something extraordinarily profound, the sharing of which with the world was to become his life’s work.
A rich knowledge of the work of Carl Jung, present in all of Paul’s writings, is another of the valuable aspects of this book. By using Jung’s own words to illustrate and illumine the dynamics of his own lived-through experiences and how he has worked to transform, integrate and overcome them, this book contributes to our knowledge and appreciation of the depth and breadth of Jung’s work in a unique way that goes far beyond the mere abstract scholarly study of Jung’s writings. With this enhanced insight we can potentially be inspired to re-contextualize our experience in ways that can help us feel less isolated and alone by seeing our day-to-day challenges as part of a collective mythic evolutionary struggle in which our entire species is involved. We can thereby find new ways to connect with each other, empowering us to take more effective action in our personal lives—as well as collectively—to help us overcome, heal and transform ourselves into people better able to contribute positively and share our gifts with the world. Our doing so adds an even deeper meaning and significance to Paul’s story, which has a universal dimension to it, as it involves the sacred quest to follow the calling of our inner voice no matter what obstacles may appear on our path. This is a never-ending story we are all writing—and dreaming—together.
Mark is Paul’s best friend and a life-long student of physics, as well as the world’s spiritual wisdom traditions.
FOREWORD, BY LARRY W. BERRY
Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes your Father is no ordinary book. It is a tome, an opus, an alchemical labor, the culmination of a gifted writer’s searching, profound, and vulnerable explorations; a work over thirty years in the making. It is both personal and chillingly transpersonal; one man’s story, and something beyond. In Paul’s vision, as in the vision of our esoteric ancestors, the microcosm reflects the macrocosm and vice-versa. As a story unfolds here of abuse and family tragedy, we are likewise invited to envision its macrocosmic iteration, our own history writ large, a time in our macro-world of crises and, hopefully, of kairos, the time for crucial action, the opportune and decisive moment.
This story is a multidimensional one, oracular, personal, and archetypal. Paul’s previous book, Dispelling Wetiko, published in 2013, examines in some detail the cannibal virus afflicting our species, and that publication has invited a companion volume, a further fleshing-out on the personal and individual level of the Wetiko material. To do so, and to provide insight into what has mentored and authorized him to write so intimately and vulnerably about Wetiko’s horrors, and to enable us to envision and delineate the cartography of these frightening narcissistic and borderland regions, he has volunteered the intimate and anguished experiences of his own story.
Paul shares his family of origin account. There is wonderful early promise; a beginning and not atypical early life of childhood sports, friends, academic promise and mother love. This is later progressively shattered by an ever-increasing turbulence and violence of the Wetiko-sort, transmitted through a father who becomes increasingly domineering, rageful and hurtful—a most toxic and horrifying legacy transmitted to a very sensitive and openhearted son. One great gift among many in this narrative is the providing of an example and guidance to others who may have felt themselves forever isolated by various outrages of abuse. This account comes from a fellow “decent” human being who has experienced a tsunami of nearly unbearable evil from those who would be expected to carry forward a sacred trust of caring and protection. This is a level of evil that can be imagined to exceed, perhaps, what is ordinarily thought of as the human level. Some readers may be reminded of Alice Miller, and the call for compassionate witnesses. How can one describe adequately abuse transmitted primarily through the invisible realm of psyche that lacks the horrible and more visible evidences of physical abuse? And what is to be said of the field phenomena that can non-locally rally a totally irrational and unjustified defense for the perpetrators? A great deal can be said, and Paul says it.
So much awaits the reader, with intense illuminating lessons and observations regarding wounded healers, shamans, artists, Kabbalists, Jungians, Tibetan Buddhists, esoteric Christians, and quantum physicists. Yes, the spiritual dimension, frequently omitted from these investigations is quite present and most powerfully included. One such resource might notably be mentioned: Carl Jung seems a sort of loving and supportive godfather, upon whose shoulders Paul can climb familiarly, returning again and again armed with amazingly clarified and illuminated understandings. And the dreams, scattered throughout, can be jaw-dropping. They call to mind Richard Russo’s anthology title: Dreams Are Wiser than Men. The various repasts are too rich to fully encompass here. One cautionary note: If you are looking for a surfacey self-help book, or a book averse to confronting evil, you have been misled in choosing this title. The journey that this book calls forth and invites us to is multidimensional and of the depths; it weaves conscious and unconscious, integrating itself into, not a sterile perfectionism, but a great work redolent with wholeness. The end of the book calls us to deep compassion and the awakened heart; quite a long and transformational journey, perhaps a pilgrimage.
An ending note: I have been graced not only with the depth of these multidimensional illuminations, but also by meeting and coming to know the author personally. One not so benefitted may be unaware of the man in his personal self. Paul is one well-acquainted with the darker-toned colors of evil, both personally and through wide-ranging studies, yet he is filled with a gentleness and welcoming warmth. His humor could readily place him in front of an opportune microphone as a stand-up comic. He is a man with whom you could easily share a kind word, a cup of coffee, a smile of friendship and a shared greeting of humanness.
With regard to the man, this book, and his vision, one recalls the poet Theodore Roethke’s words:
In a time of darkness, the eye begins to see. I meet my shadow in the deepening shade
Larry W. Berry
To cut to the chase and get right to the point, I have had an intimate direct encounter with unmediated, unadulterated archetypal evil that has radically reconfigured both my psyche and my life forever. I am not talking about the personal shadow stuff that we all unconsciously act out in our lives every day, nor am I talking about the relative level of evil that we can easily imagine; I am talking about absolute evil, the dark side of God, the stuff which in-forms and gives shape to mythologies the world over from time immemorial. My saying this is not some sort of literary device or marketing strategy to grab the reader’s attention; on the contrary, it is nothing less than finding the right words to name my experience. The great doctor of the soul C. G. Jung writes that “it is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil.” I encountered this face of absolute evil in the form of my very own father and I have been shattered by the experience.
I was in my late teens and early twenties during my “close encounter of the evil kind.” I was an innocent and naïve college kid, completely unprepared for what had come my way; at this point in my life, evil was the last thing on my mind, something I knew nothing about. As contrasted to the relative evil of the human shadow, when we experience absolute evil, there is no one who can tell us otherwise or talk us out of it. Encountering archetypal evil necessitates our full emotional engagement; it is not something we can distance ourselves from through abstract philosophical speculations. Experiencing absolute evil is a self-validating experience that leaves us speechless, takes away our breath, and leaves not the slightest shred of doubt that what we have encountered is none other than what the word “evil” signifies.
No one is able to define what evil is in itself. Jung has a very simple and interesting definition when he writes, “Evil is and always remains the thing one knows one should not do.” The dictionary definition of evil is “morally wrong, harmful, characterized by suffering.” Evil is not something abstract; it is an existential reality that has to be approached and understood in the personal context of the suffering that it induces in those who experience it. And yet, encountering pure evil, once we sufficiently recover from the experience over time─if it’s even possible to speak in terms of “recovery” from such an encounter─we are changed forever, as if we are no longer who we once were. The question then is: who do we become after our close encounter? As if being touched by something from the beyond, encountering evil has a fate-determining quality to it. What do we possibly “do” with what we’ve encountered?
Though there was some physical abuse, the main channel through which the forces of evil intruded themselves into my life was in the realm of psyche. Psychological abuse by its very nature is challenging to verbally describe in a way that gets across to others what actually took place in the intangible realm of psyche. Attempting to elucidate the subtle but very real energetics of so invisible and elusive a process pushes us to the outer envelope of our abilities to express the ungraspable nature of the inner and personal experiences of our own mind. Jung writes, “The internal is invisible and seems always to be impotent. In reality though, it reigns secretly and pervasively and its power is as great as the sun’s.” Psychological trauma is typically outside the realm of normal human perception, like a distant galaxy beyond the reach of even the most powerful telescope. Abuse in the realm of psyche, which always involves unseen forces, places particularly unique demands on us to find our voice, as the abuse invariably severs us from it. Because our body doesn’t turn black and blue from psychological abuse, we typically lack “hard evidence” to prove to other people the truth of our claims. Though emotional abuse is different from physical/sexual abuse, in some way they are similar, as they both can potentially disconnect us from our natural selves in the most unnatural of ways. I am in no way saying one is worse than the other, as they are both experiences off the radar of acceptable human experiences, while at the same time tragically being all too common.
How do I possibly begin telling a story that by its nature is hard to believe, impossible to understand, horrifying and liberating all at the same time? I literally have no idea. And yet, a day has not gone by that I have not imagined trying to creatively tell my story. This book is my attempt at trying to find the words for what is beyond words. Though it has taken me a year to put the words on paper, this book is the fruition of an ordeal that has transpired over 35 years. It is written as one piece that hopefully holds together as a coherent and unified whole. This book is truly my story; it is the story of my life. It is a narrative with many different chapters, written in a fashion that builds on itself as the story unfolds. Each of the chapters fit together in the mosaic of my life, all of the pieces hopefully shedding light upon each other. All of the chapters of this book go together in a way such that an image emerges that I hope is greater than the sum of its parts. The image that crystallizes from this book is, at least in my imagination, something I’ve been thirsting to get across to people for years, make that decades, though it feels like forever.
I imagine this book will trigger just about everyone in one way or another. I ask one thing from the reader: if you are to read this book, please read the whole thing from beginning to end rather than skipping around, reading bits and pieces here and there. Why I ask this is that it’s easy for me to imagine someone jumping around and reading certain parts of this book and being left with questions, judgments or concerns that might have been allayed from what I say in other sections. Of course, this is an expression of my concern that in making myself so vulnerable by sharing what really goes on for me, I will be misunderstood, judged and pathologized, which would simply be a recreation of the very trauma from which I’m trying to heal. In telling my story I am trying to heal from “the trauma of being misunderstood,” and then being judged based on that misunderstanding.
There are certain key characters who played prominent roles in what became practically a theater of the absurd; the two most prominent figures being my father and the psychiatric system. In telling my story, it is impossible to talk about one without the other, as if the roles that my father and psychiatry played in my life were interwoven and quantum entangled in such a way so as to become indistinguishably inter-related. The evil that came through both my father and psychiatry wasn’t limited in scope nor contained within their limited sphere of influence, however, but like deadly nuclear radiation that rippled out and poisoned the surrounding environment, created immense collateral damage as it destroyed my relationship with my beloved mother, the rest of my family, and my closest friends.
Though his malady wasn’t recognized by mainstream psychiatry, my father was an extremely sick man. Though he died in 2002, his sickness left an on-going legacy. The abuse I received from his psychic hands was the reason why I was in the psychiatric system in the first place. In addition to being in recovery from a psychopathic father, I am also a survivor of severe psychiatric abuse. This abuse isn’t only something that happened over thirty years ago when I was in the midst of a potentially life-transforming spiritual awakening and was locked up in psychiatric hospitals, mis-diagnosed and medicated out of my mind. It is something that is happening current day, with real people involved, and not just in my imagination (thought it’s happening there, too). The present day enactment of psychiatric abuse has been the very catalyst for igniting an (al)chemical reaction within myself that has resulted in me going over my edge and, after years of imagining and dreaming about writing this book, finally doing so.
At a certain point, the abuse from my father and the abuse from the psychiatric system become so inextricably entangled that they seem to be threads woven on the same loom, as if they are manifestations of the same underlying pathology. The abuse from my father and psychiatry are both iterations of the same deeper fractal, simultaneously complementing and shedding light on each other’s madness. Just like a unique image becomes visible in a hologram when it is held at a particular angle, a deeper underlying madness that informed both my father and psychiatry, not to mention myself as well as the collective human psyche, becomes visible when this situation is contemplated in certain ways.
I like to think that this is not the typical book about abuse that someone has suffered, but maybe I’m just dreaming. What I’ve gone through is initiatory and revelatory, and I am of the opinion that if I am up to the task of translating what I’ve experienced into communicable language, it can be helpful to other people, for so many others have experienced something similar, each in their own way. I’ve felt a responsibility and had a knowingness for a long time that one day before I died I would have to put all of this down in writing as my personal testament. I always envisioned writing this book in the future; that future is now. I don’t want my story to be lost; my dream is for it to be instructive and helpful for others.
It is an interesting—and integrating—process to take a psychic inventory and recapitulate events that have happened in one’s life. Writing about these experiences has been quite an illuminating experience for me. One of the things that I’m struck with as I reflect upon what happened in my life is how absolutely UNNECESSARY the abuse actually was; it was truly “senseless violence.” Telling the story about what I’ve been forced to endure has even more brought home to me how innocent and undeserving I was of such abuse, mirroring, I suspect, the situation of a substantial number of readers of this book.
The evil that came through both my father and psychiatry crossed over the line of the unthinkable, and was truly “unspeakable.” The word “unspeakable” does not just refer to the impossibility of being expressed in words, but it also means the “inexpressibly bad.” We tread on the realm of the unspeakable when we encounter the void, a void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said. “One of the awful facts of our age,” monk and author Thomas Merton writes, is that “it is stricken indeed, stricken to the very core of its being by the presence of the Unspeakable.” Evil, or what the British writer Ian McEwan calls a “malign principle, a force in human affairs that periodically advances to dominate and destroy the lives of individuals or nations, then retreats to await the next occasion,” has become an inescapable problem. We all experience its effects, but our culture doesn’t supply the adequate vocabulary necessary to describe, express and thereby expose it. It is as if evil has dumbed us down, as we no longer seem able to talk intelligently about the subject.
Evil’s inability to be languaged—for years it left me practically speechless—is one of the things that allows evil to get away with the murder it does. Psychological violence, by its very nature, is very challenging to describe in words; it doesn’t easily lend itself to language. The rules of narrative do not apply well to describing ruptures of the moral order or radical breaks in the shared social consensus; experiences of evil destroy the threads of narrative the moment we try to weave them. Experiences of unmediated evil are different in kind, as if from a different order of the universe from all other experiences. Whenever I’ve tried to communicate the utter perversity that my father or psychiatry acted out, words fail in their function to transmit meaning. This very ineffability in translating my experience invariably leads to the trauma of potentially being further misunderstood. The sight of evil literally takes away our words, as if our words are suctioned out of our mouth, falling flat on the floor, obscuring and distorting rather than illuminating what we are trying to say. The subject of evil is like a black hole, in that every written or spoken word about it is drawn into its gravitational collapse. No matter which words I choose, there seems to be an elusive and never-ending disparity between my experience of evil and my persistent attempts to describe and fully comprehend it; the phenomenon of evil eludes, transcends and ruptures our categories of understanding. Evil, like quicksilver, slips away as soon as we try to grasp it in language.
As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein points out, the limits of language are the limits of reality; this implies that if we want to understand and illumine whatever reality is—and whether what we call reality includes the reality or unreality of evil—we have to find and/or create some form of language to reference and represent it. The writer Julian Jaynes once remarked that language is “an organ of perception, not simply a means of communication.” Trying to language evil involves confronting again and again the limits of language to create meaning out of the incomprehensible. Not only does evil take our ability to language our experience away from us, it also seems to have a magic power that insures that whatever words we do use will be psychic flypaper for projections and endless misunderstandings, particularly from people who have not had any comparable direct personal encounters with archetypal evil, as well as with some who have.
The evil that played out is hard to language not only because it is so horrible, but also because it’s been so mind-blowingly “trippy”─a word that has unfortunate drug connotations, but rightfully brings to mind a psychedelic “trip” or shamanic journey. Encountering such profound evil has initiated an incredible voyage within me; it has not only been a ride beyond belief, but beyond the need to believe. What I have been forced to endure has been so intense that it has snapped me out of the consensus trance, which from my vantage point appears to be nothing other than a collectively agreed-upon hallucination—a mass hypnosis or brainwashing akin to a collective psychosis. The majority of our species is asleep and imagines—as if dreaming—that they are awake; it is as if we have fallen under the insidious spell of a malevolent wizard, fallen prey to a sinister form of collective mind-control. It is easy for me to feel isolated and alone. Thankfully, there are many other people—many of whom also marginalized by consensus reality—who are waking up from the “spell of normalcy” with whom, over the years I’ve been fortunate to connect. I see us as being called to be true “anti-psychotic” agents in the greater body politic. It is helpful to remember that the part of us that sees the madness, be it in the outside world or within ourselves, is the part of us that is sane.
“Evil” is a charged word with many associations. Some people object to the term because it defies precise definition and tends to be subjective, tied to the supernatural and laden with religious dogma; organized religions are surely the worst offenders when it comes to the ignorant misuse of the word evil. Others get triggered by the mere usage of the word and want me to use another, less controversial word. It makes me think of a dream I once had in which I had attained a degree of lucidity and was telling my other dream characters that they were dreaming. One of them responded by asking me to use a different word other than the word “dream,” for he couldn’t relate to this word, as it had all of these associations that came along with it. What could I say to that? Sometimes I feel similarly when people ask me to use a different word than “evil.” But from my point of view there is no better or more accurate word. Evil is not just a useful metaphor, it is a metaphor upon which the health of our world depends.
Some people get upset because, out of fear, they don’t want to place any of their attention on the idea of evil, as if the mere contemplation of evil evokes its effects. I would point out, however, that it is our looking away from what evil is activating within ourselves that ultimately strengthens and supports it. I am of the opinion that in certain situations there is no more perfect word whose reverberations evoke the degree of extreme transgression and cruel and destructive behavior that produces intense suffering than the word “evil.” The idea of avoiding the word reflects, in my opinion, a misguided view of what we require of language. Sometimes healing requires us to find the right word, the proper name for our experience. One of the moral needs of our species is calling things by their proper names. Knowing and naming evil, paradoxically, helps us to even more know, and establish ourselves, in “the good.”
Encountering evil can be likened to the polar opposite—the mirror image—of when someone has a personal encounter with the Most-High God or divine presence. And yet, similar to what I imagine happens when one experiences deity, encountering evil is a “conversion” experience, in that in both experiences─high and low─we potentially become radically transformed. Jung writes that “the horrified perception of the reality of evil has led to at least as many conversions as the experience of the good.” Psychologist William James also recognized the importance of the experience of evil in religious conversion; he realized in many cases it is evil itself which brings a person’s attention to a false attitude towards the world, God or themselves.
The abuse from my father literally drove me crazy. To say my experience with evil drove me out of my mind is not an understatement; this is when I encountered psychiatry, which diabolically only further served to push me off the cliff into an even deeper abyss than I was already in due to the abuse from my father. Instead of helping me, psychiatry unwittingly became evil’s accomplice. My encounter with evil, through both my father and the psychiatric system, nearly killed me. It did kill a part of me. I feel thrashed and wounded beyond belief. My encounter made me feel broken, crippling me to the point where I inwardly feel, outer appearances to the contrary, like I am operating at less than 1% of my full capacity. It has radically deformed and reconfigured my entire life. I remember thinking that 99% of other people probably would have just killed themselves; whether this is merely my own self-deluded narcissism or not, only the shadow knows.
Directly encountering evil can be beyond catastrophic—it can ruin lives, families, communities, nations, world-systems; and yet, if we are able to take into ourselves and digest, metabolize and integrate what we have experienced, we become changed, trans-figured human beings, almost as if we have become a new species. I would not recommend seeking out this experience to anyone; it is only when the experience seeks us out that we need to come to terms with it. And yet, in a very real sense, evil is more and more insinuating itself into the greater body politic of humanity, which is to say that we will all have to come to terms with it within ourselves and our world, whatever that ultimately means.
Here’s what I wrote about evil in my recent book, Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil:
When I talk about evil, I am talking about the psychological reality of evil, whose effects are all around us. I am not making a theological statement having to do with the metaphysical reality of evil, as I am not qualified to do so. Evil is, psychologically speaking, terribly real. Today as never before it is important that we not overlook the danger of the potential evil lurking within us. One must be positively blind to not see the colossal role that evil plays in the modern world. To quote Jung, “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.” Evil today has become a visible Great Power. Its effects do not diminish in the slightest by being hushed up as a nonreality. Evil is not something that, ostrich-like, we can just turn our back on or a blind eye toward. Our denial of evil is itself a manifestation of the very evil we are denying, while at the same time, our denial engenders the very evil of which our denial is an expression. Disowned and unacknowledged evil becomes inhuman, monstrous, and sadistic. We must learn how to handle evil, since it certainly appears as if it is here to stay. We are clearly being asked—make that demanded—by the universe to come to terms with evil; our very survival as a species depends upon it.
I had an interesting experience while writing this book. Every morning there was a guy who began coming to the café where I wrote this book, and after a few weeks we began saying “hi” to each other. He seemed like a really nice guy, and at a certain point we realized that we were both writers. I offered to give him a copy of Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil, but only if he was interested enough to read it. He assured me he was, so the next day I brought a copy to the café. Right as I was about to give it to him, he said to me, “I have to warn you, I don’t believe in evil.” I responded by saying this was no problem, and gave him the book. From that day on, however, the energy between us has been kind of weird, a bit uncomfortable. The sense is that he hasn’t picked up the book, and my imagination is that he’s triggered by the mere notion of evil, and doesn’t want to read a book about dispelling something that he doesn’t think exists in the first place.
I’ve imagined sharing with him that it looks like he’s playing out the very thing I’m writing about in the book (how evil feeds off of our unconscious reactions against it). I’ve also imagined sharing with him that I’m pointing out in the book that evil, ultimately speaking, has no intrinsic, independent existence, and yet, it can destroy our species. Of course, this realization requires a higher form of logic than the typical Aristotelian two-valued logic basic to Western analytical thought—where things either exist or don’t exist. I am familiar with what I imagine to be his point of view—that to contemplate the notion of evil invests it, being non-existent, with an unwarranted reality that it doesn’t deserve. He, therefore, doesn’t want to give evil the time of day, so to speak. There is some degree of wisdom to this perspective, for to think of evil as real is to literally invest it with reality. Yet, if we just ignore it—turning a blind eye towards it—we are unwittingly giving it power over us. For example, to think there is no such thing as cholera is the best means to cause a worldwide epidemic. In coming to terms with evil and its paradoxical nature, we inevitably find ourselves in a seemingly unsolvable dilemma, which simultaneously provides us with potentially useful information about evil and its underlying logic, as well as showing us something fundamental about our true nature as well.
I’ve imagined trying to dialogue with this guy about this process—I’ve even imagined showing him the previous two paragraphs—but I intuitively feel that this wouldn’t be a good idea. I find myself imagining that he feels threatened by my viewpoint that evil is something we have to come to terms with, and that he would feel like I’m trying to talk him out of something—his fixed position that there is no such thing as evil—that he holds dear. Holding the viewpoint that evil doesn’t exist can easily shield him from dealing with the darkness within himself, as after all, from his point of view there’s no such thing as evil. Of course, the insight that this very perspective is itself the workings and camouflage of evil has seemingly never occurred to him, or so I imagine. In turning a blind eye towards evil, he’s falling under the spell of the very thing he thinks doesn’t exist, unwittingly enabling evil in the process.
Paradoxically, if I play the role of trying to introduce him to the notion that evil needs to be dealt with, I imagine he would then see me as being evil. For me to try and talk with him about any of this could easily turn into a re-enactment of my abuse, as once again I’m trying to point out someone’s unconscious shadow; I easily imagine, instead of my reflections being received, it would create further separation and misunderstanding. It makes me think how Dispelling Wetiko must be a really powerful book, in the sense that merely giving it to someone (without them even having to read it) might be ruining a budding friendship. In any case, I see him as a living, fully embodied representative—a living, breathing symbol in human form—of a perspective that exists within the collective psyche of humanity. Seen as a dream, he is a dream character, an aspect of a voice inside of my own head.
As a result of my direct and unmediated encounter with evil, I feel like I have been abducted by aliens and brought to a foreign universe that looks just like our ordinary world except for the fact that it couldn’t be more different; the entire experience has been some sort of nightmare that seems to have encoded within it a revelation of something which I evidently couldn’t have realized any other way. There is much that I want to get off my chest; interestingly, the original meaning of the word “nightmare” is a demon that sits on the chest of those who are asleep, influencing their dreams. The only thing I know to do to make sense of and redeem my experience is to try to find the language so as communicate to others what I have experienced; hence, this book.
No words─malignant narcissist, sociopath, psychopath, criminal, morally insane, predator, evil, vampire, etc.─can adequately describe the utter depravity that had taken over my father’s soul. My father suffered from an undiagnosed “psychosis” in the true sense of the word—a disease of the soul in which he was living a lie. I’ve literally had to create and introduce new words to fully do justice to the extent of evil that came through him, phrases such as “psycho-sociopath” (I like the “sound” of this, a sociopath gone “psycho”), and “wetiko” (a Native American term that simply connotes “psychic cannibalism” as well as “the spirit of evil”). Simply put, wetiko is the source of humanity’s continual and repeated “inhumanity” to ourselves and others; my father was one of its “reps” in human form. The word “inhuman” connotes the brutality that arises from the lack of natural human sympathy and feeling, which is a state where we are cut off and disconnected from not only our heart, but the shared heart of humanity as well; this accurately describes the perverse state my father had fallen into.
During my decades-long ordeal with evil as it came through both my father and psychiatry, I was taking notes and mapping this new terrain I had fallen into, actually writing a book about what I was discovering—Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil. Having the father I did “authorized” me to author a book on the darkest evil imaginable; I never would have been able to write about evil in the in-depth way I have without my own “close encounter” with it. Embodying wetiko disease in his life, my father unwittingly served as the inspiration for me to create a body of work devoted to illuminating this malady. He provided a treasure trove of endless data for teaching me through myriad direct experiences, about this virulent sickness of the soul in action. Like Don Juan counsels Carlos in the Castaneda books, the greatest gift for a would-be warrior is to find what he calls a “petty tyrant,” which I had certainly found—in spades—in my father.
As a way of “fleshing out” the ideas I’ve written about in my previous book about wetiko psychosis, I feel inspired to use a personal example to give the subject matter living form, using myself as my own guinea pig. Though my father was taken over by the mind-virus called wetiko, if I think he has this illness and I don’t, then I am unwittingly becoming an instrument for the further propagation of this contagious psychic disease, which feeds off of polarization and separation. Being nonlocal, wetiko pervades the field of consciousness, which is to say we all have it in potential. Offering myself as my own case study in wetiko disease, I am hoping that this will contribute a personal dimension, adding an element of lived experience to the ideas I speak about in my recent book. I am a living example of how the nonlocal wetiko virus plays out within a person’s mind while simultaneously being mirrored in their outer environment. In talking about myself, I can’t help but to bring into my story the particular family system as well as the human family into which I was born, for none of us exists in isolation, but rather, in relation to the whole field, which is to say the world at large.
Before starting to write this book, I thought that the process of putting down in words what had happened to me wouldn’t change me, as I intimately know all of the stuff I’m writing about all too well. These are experiences I’ve not only lived and lived with, but thought about for decades. As I go through the process of writing this book, however, I am continually amazed at how the very process of creatively telling my story is radically changing me, as if my cellular structure or DNA is becoming transfigured. Writing about my inner process is actually changing the very inner process I am writing about. Writing about my trauma has allowed me to shape it rather than let it shape me. To quote Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, “While trauma keeps us dumbfounded, the path out of it is paved with words, carefully assembled, piece by piece, until the whole story can be revealed.” It is my hope that in carefully piecing together my words I am revealing the whole story of what I’ve been through in a way that is paving the road to healing—truly a “path made by walking” (as well as writing). The strength of the written word requires the writer to stand behind their words—which I do.
After my encounter with “the dark side,” I am fortunate to have been able to creatively express my experience; if I hadn’t been able to find some outlet for what was inside of me, I would have been in deep trouble. The act of finding my words and stepping into my voice makes me think of how artists transform and re-create themselves anew through the process of creating their art. In writing this book, I feel like I am rewriting—and rewiring—myself. The process of writing has hopefully become the hermetically-sealed vessel that is helping me to transmute the dross of my inner process into something of value, to both myself and others. More and more I am not able to differentiate between when I am doing my “spiritual practice” and my writing. Writing this book has become a magical act, inseparable from my spiritual practice, transforming me in my core. Interestingly, the figure of Merlin, the archetypal wizard and magician, has as one of his aspects the role of llyfrawr, a Welsh word for wizard that comes from the Latin librarius, a master of books. Nikolai Tolstoy, a descendent of the great Russian novelist and author of The Quest for Merlin, refers to Merlin as “the patron of writing,” which points to the magical wizardry—and power of enchantment—inherent in the act of getting the right words down on paper. Having felt cursed—under a spell—after my encounter with evil, writing this book is helping me to magically break—“dis-spell”—the curse that I’ve seemingly fallen under.
The act of writing has been an “ecstatic” experience, in that it requires that I step out of the part of me that is in “stasis”—stuck—and connect with the part of me that is “beside myself.” Creating this book has helped me to objectify and externalize my painful experiences into written form such that I can contemplate them from outside myself, which has aided me in distinguishing myself from the trauma. In the process of writing this book, my mind has turned back upon itself, regarding itself in ever-novel ways. Instead of my life being a passive instrument to be “written through” by mere instinct, in finding the words, connecting with my authentic voice and producing this book, I am creatively “writing”—and actively authoring—my life. Of course, this process isn’t limited to writing; any medium—for example, verbally telling our story to someone else who does nothing other than listen—can have a similar liberating effect.
To be honest, whenever I would fantasize about writing this book, I would always imagine myself, as both the writer and topic of my self-contemplation, as being fully healed. Sadly, or more accurately, realistically, this is not the case, as I am still a work-in-progress, licking my wounds, so to speak. I have managed, however, to transform what I’ve gone through into a situation that is hopefully of benefit for others. There are many books written by analysts (which I’m not, though I am a person capable of deep analysis) who use their patients as the case study to illumine a deeper psychological dynamic/theory; I don’t know of any book by a “psychologist” (and by psychologist, I don’t merely mean someone who holds a PhD in psychology, which I don’t, but rather, someone who is a true “student of the psyche,” which I am) who contemplates their own process of abuse and the corresponding mad part of themselves in the way I am about to do. Since I went through my initiation of being wounded, with its corresponding suffering, I’ve been continually looking for a book that would help me to come to terms with the depths of my experience; little did I realize at the time that I would be the one to write it.
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013), The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis and the soon-to-be-released Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. Though he reads every email, he regrets that he is not able to personally respond to all of them. Copyright 2015.