Beyond Good and Evil

The notion of going beyond good and evil appeals to the rebel within us. There is something satisfying about breaking away from the restraints that hold us to social norms. For some this might be a lessening of the weight we may feel through a guilty conscience, or the freedom of overturning our inhibitions about seducing others into sex. It could also mean the power of selling shit to others and making a fortune in the process. Perhaps for some, like Friedrich Nietzsche, it is a matter of shaking off culturally based morals in order to evaluate them, and then choosing a specific moral set of values that are life-affirming and enthusiastic.

I chanced upon one of my old diaries (1998) while riffling through storage the other day. Many of my entries were laced with cognitive distortions. There was so much negativity and lamenting, one might think that my writing was a form of self-flagellation. Now that the gap between that version of my person and my present self has over 20 years of separation, it is clear to see that there has been a significant degree of transformation, which is largely due to my change in beliefs.

What initially made my transition possible was in part due to the adaptation of Buddhist principles. At that time it felt as though I was being overly rebellious in my desire to break away from Christianity. Her dogma lost its bark so to speak, and something within wanted to rid myself of her hold. So in a sense Buddhism was my first viable attempt at going beyond the good and evil tenets of my Catholic upbringing.

On the other hand one might interpret my experience as simply exchanging one pasture for another. Yes, the grass was greener in some areas, but all in all my soul was still grazing with the herd. Instead of holding love and self-sacrifice upon a pedestal, now it was compassion and altruism, which is more or less the same thing. It was the same kind of game but with different masks; another costume party. Instead of pin the tail on the donkey it was Simon Says sit your ass on a cushion.

There’s nothing wrong with using clichés, if your goal is to sound inane; just as sitting down wasn’t getting me anywhere, but enshrining both suffering and pain. In other words my meditation practice wasn’t enlightening at all, but became another way to escape reality. My heart was set on reaching some metaphysical notion of nirvana and every sit was like a merry go round of bewildering thoughts.

“There is also an abundant, over-abundant enjoyment at one’s own suffering, at making oneself suffer—and wherever man allows himself to be persuaded to self-denial in the religious sense… he is secretly lured and pushed forward by his cruelty” – Nietzsche

It’s no coincidence that Siddhartha spent 6 years torturing himself through extreme ascetic practices before he woke up & became a Buddha. Our need to self-mutilate runs deep into our psychology, hardened with generations of cultural heritage. Men continue to make donkeys of themselves to this day. We allow ourselves to be swept away into the bewilderment of seduction & create all kinds of romantic expressions to act out on our instinctual drive to be vicious. From playing video games to the way we gossip about one another, we unconsciously act out on our deep rooted impulse for war.

Stepping back from our cultural conditioning – as in removing the harness of good and evil – can be felt as though we are committing a hideous crime against humanity. To side step this snare of dichotomy, of good & evil, does not mean that we are giving ourselves over to anarchy. On the contrary we may find ourselves entering into a stream of consciousness which can allow us to see things anew. It may provide a degree of freedom and space so that we might observe a situation from multiple perspectives, rather than strictly through the narrow lens of duality, of white or black, good or evil, right or wrong.

About Jason Youngman

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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9 Responses to Beyond Good and Evil

  1. Nice Jason and to the point. According to Kabbalah God creates by separating. Like we see in the Bible light, from darknes. waters above from waters below, water from land, sun and moon, day and night, air animals, sea animals, man and woman – so the returning towards the Creator could be by uniting what is split appart 🙂 My main focus in practice is to find the split in every persons life and heal that – so you can understand this article is spot on for me!

    • Thank you Andreas, I believe your reference to the Kabbalah makes good sense here. Creating through separation puts me in mind of the genesis of a cell. For instance Mitosis is a cell division that is essential for growth and development.

      Seeing that the Kabbalah draws upon the Torah for revelation, allow me to direct your attention to the first book of the Bible, namely the first chapter of the book titled Genesis. The first two verses reads like thus:

      “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

      So before God said, “Let there be light” in verse 3, there was a formless earth, darkness, the deep, spirit, and water. Why do you suppose these elements existed before “there was light”?

      • Very good question, and sorry I did not see it earlier.
        From the BigBang theory this could be an analogy to the dark age, before light appeared in the universe.
        From the Kabbalistic perspective it is reflecting a stage before the “solar” or light stage, a stage where there was creational energy more like warmth that we can see the reminder of in the centre of the earth and many planets and the bone marrow – was this to short to understand?

  2. Dot says:

    For me, meditation is not a means to nirvana – it is nirvana itself. Whatever practice we end up adopting, if we don’t consider it as a means to an end, but the end in itself, it becomes a pleasant experience – some might even call it enlightenment.

  3. An interesting read Jason. Thank you. Re-reading old diaries can be deeply cathartic.

    • Thank you Deborah, I am glad you find my personal experience to be of interest. Reading my old depressing diary doesn’t feel all that cathartic to me, nice thought all the same.

  4. JC says:

    This was a very good read and in it, I could see myself and my coming to Buddhism and then the flood gates opened and I couldn’t get enough of what others believed and way which formed my own beliefs. And I’m still on that train. …jc

    • Thank you, and in response to your experience it’s as though a subtle voice with its own volition urged me to say: There’s no doubt about it, the West is ripe and ready for Buddhism, but keep an open mind, the fire has only begun, and there is still much to be elucidated in the age to come.

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