The Face of Evil – a Testimony - Listen! I have a story to tell
In October 2011 I saw the face of Evil. It was cold, relentless and utterly indifferent to any suffering it caused or was party to. It chilled me with an almost desperate hopelessness and I realised it was an infection that is in the very DNA of the entire Universe. I realised it was a disease that infected all living beings including all humanity. I saw it in the face of gun carrying militias, in the faces of hard nosed financiers, armament designers and manufacturers, in the faces of politicians and people of authority. And worst of all I saw it as a stream of sharp cold pitilessness in the centre of my own being. I was infected as much as anybody else and if I was to overcome it I needed a powerful antidote.
I was in Hereford County Hospital in the early stages of recovering from major surgery for bowel cancer, when I was assailed by this horrific vision, if such it was. After the operation I was in the intensive care unit when, having feasted on my first meal, I became violently ill and thought I must be dying. Indeed so bad was it I really wanted to die. I prayed to die. I had had a good and fulfilling life, I was 76, many of my friends were already dead, what reason, apart from the pain it would cause my wife and family, had I for remaining here on earth. No I have not yet finished what I thought is my life’s work but what was the likelihood I would finish it, for I suspect that my ambition far outstrips my reach?
I was under the influence of the heavy morphine based painkillers and I suppose this vision could quite properly be called a very bad drug induced trip. But that is not how it seemed to me at the time. Horrific it certainly was but I was conscious and when I opened my eyes to escape, the ward and nurses were there about me. Indeed the nightmare images invaded that space but I did not conclude that they were physically there. This was no hallucination, but intensely real it certainly was. Now I am a man who has had, in the past, insights into a transcendent world which I have accounted as from that truth that underpins our world of the five senses and this vision had characteristics I recognised as from that dimension. That is, I felt, I was being shown something that I should report back on to a waiting, frightened and confused humanity. As an artist I have long seen my vocation as having something of the prophet about it. I think most artists have such a sense, for why do we do what we do which often involves hard work, psychological pain, disappointment and very little financial reward.
I was in extremis, I wanted to be gone. I did not want a new creative challenge. My heart felt cry was, ‘Let me go Lord!’
But I was held by a familiar hand who urged me to look at the horrors being displayed before me. And what horrors they were, though in trying to describe them they will appear as quite banal. I was assailed by groups of armed militia, standing, immobile with blank impenetrable faces. Behind them there was a multitude which only later I discerned as arms dealers, politicians, munitions manufacturers, financiers, leaders of society including institutional authorities in church, temple, mosque and synagogue, media people and myself. Whenever I closed my eyes, - and I so wanted to sleep, - they would stand before me. The source of the pictures was obvious, they were from the news reel footage of the struggles in Libya of both freedom fighters and Gaddafi’s men. It was the blank cold indifference in the eyes, the utter hopelessness of their condition that chilled my spirit, though, strangely, they were images that were monochrome grey and two dimensional yet still substantial and full of menace. I was in Hell with the damned. Yet, oddly, I felt safe. I was being held in some sort of embrace that reassured me that I was being shown a vision for some reason. But I wanted out, I wanted to die. I could no longer bear the suffering, not just my own but all the pain, bereavement, grief of a humanity born to suffer. No, more than that, of a universe created with suffering and destruction at its heart. A cosmos destined to death by the second law of thermodynamics. A reality that in the end signified nothing. Entropy, that condition that meant all things would decay and die leaving nothing. As the long night hours passed I could not escape that vision of cold indifference to suffering. The conviction grew that I was being shown this so that I should report back what I had seen and so my desire changed from let me die Lord, to let me live that I can report back to my wife, my family, my friends and indeed to everyone who might listen. A bit like the Ancient Mariner, I suppose. But the vision was not over yet for I saw my own body/soul being opened up and looking into its depths, I saw a thin, brilliant, sharp ice-cold stream of evil there at my centre. The vision was mercifully brief, for I saw the real horror of my own sins, sins of selfishness, lust, hate, pride, sloth, greed and envy and under them all that chilling indifference to the suffering of others that I had seen in the faces of my armed militia. I was allowed no excuses; I was condemned by what I saw. And then I was sown up as by a zipper. It had been mercifully brief and to the point. I was infected by the disease of evil at my very core. I needed forgiveness. Slowly, as the days and sleepless nights went by so the frequency of these visions, with which I was tormented, diminished. I had had a very bad trip on morphine, except it was a real trip. I had been on one of the most real journeys of my life. I had visited the heart of darkness and now I must write up my report for others.
Long, long years ago, - I was about fourteen at the time, - I was discontented with the Christian world picture as it is enthroned in the Lord’s Prayer which describes a Universe divided into three distinct layers; Heaven where God lived, Earth where I and the rest of humanity lived and Hell peopled by the damned. I decided it did not form a logical whole. I was very much into philosophy at the time, reading Descartes and Plato, and have been ever since. There was this inconsistency of an almighty omniscient God outside of whom creation had its existence. He was a pagan god sitting on the top of Mount Olympus playing his games with his little earthlings, and cruel games they could be. Later, lying in my bed daydreaming of deeds of daring do, I realised that ‘I was in God’s Daydream’. Yes, I suppose you could call it a revelation but it happened quite matter of factly. Over the years I have returned to this idea and have found it particularly enriching, contributing to a very down to earth prayer life. I feel I am very much his companion and He mine. In the light of that inspiration I can understand how those who reject the existence of God can do so quite reasonably if their idea of God is based on that old tradition of God in his heaven and separate from ourselves, making us out of clay and presiding over a world full of pain, consigning the wicked to a separate place called Hell and the righteous to live with Him in heaven and He claiming to be a god of love. What nonsense! However this new understanding I had made an all loving God a real possibility, because, amongst other things, He has given us a freewill. We can play our own part in His Daydream and that presents the astounding possibility that we can play at being God making up our own scenarios for our own and other peoples lives. We have a lot of power in this daydream and that must be given us by a God who delights in us, loves us. In the daydream there seems to be some sort of plot in which we are all of us involved and in which we are co-authors and that is surely a most astounding discovery which I will be exploring in the rest of this testimony.
But before going on I want to clear some philosophical ground. We say man is a rational animal and then tighten the meaning of rational to that consistent with logical thought assuming our reasoning is indeed consistent with logical thinking being somewhat lazy in subjecting our reasonings to logical analysis. When Wittgenstein did just that he came up with some surprising conclusions one being that you could not build a holistic philosophy of life on the bare grounds of human experience. You cannot extract new information, new facts logically unless that new information or facts are in the original base statements. You cannot prove the existence of a transcendental God using logic; equally you can not disprove the existence of God either. Pessimistically he says at the end of his Tractatus; ‘That of which we can not speak we should remain silent.’ I think by narrowing reason down to the tramlines of linear logical thought patterns we do rationality a disservice. Logical thought or reasoning is strictly linear; statement follows statement in an ordered linear sequence. It is governed by our spoken and subsequently written way of expressing our thoughts and experiences. It is necessarily of a single dimension. However, as an artist painting pictures, I am aware of thought processes that are of two and even more dimensions. In thinking of composing a picture I am aware of images and patterns that make sense and others that don’t. We can think in more than one dimension and that thought can be described as rational in its broader sense. I hope that what I write subsequently in this testimony will reflect that broader meaning of rational.
Problem with the word God
However before I go on I want to rid myself of the contaminated word GOD. In its place I wish to use the more neutral term Creator Mind for I have no means of describing who or what it is who is thinking me, day-dreaming me other than those revelations He/She or It gives me. I am not outside this Creator Mind and cannot therefore have an objective view point and I must humbly accept that situation. But there is a significant record going back thousands of years in which millions of men, women and children have recorded revelations that speak of a loving, forgiving and caring Creator. So I am not alone in my experience from which I take comfort.
But I am still left with the problem of where evil came from? As a result of much reflection I am going to speculate that it came from an anomaly at the very beginning of creation, at the very birth of the universe. Leonardo da Vinci advised young artists who were short on inspiration for a new work to gaze at a paint spattered wall looking for meaningful patterns. Out of the chaos of marks on the wall something beautiful would occur to the creative eye. That is good advice and I often respond to accident and random gestures with a creative insight in my own work. There needs to be a looseness, a letting go of tight control that allows the imagination to take wing. Then the unexpected can take place that can result in beauty. Gazing at the universe as modern science reveals it through telescope and microscope it seems to me that there is evidence of such an approach in the Creator Mind. There is a random lumpiness evolving as the Big Bang takes place that cannot be explained by strict mathematical laws and this lumpiness gives rise to the stars, galaxies and planets in all their rich variety. We need to use a statistical approach based on observed and calculated probabilities to predict the motion of sub-atomic particles. All very frustrating for science which assumes a mathematically ordered universe. So I speculate that at the very moment of birth of the dream of the universe the Creator Mind introduced a maverick seed that would stimulate His, Her or Its imagination. An essential randomness, chance that would enable beauty to result. Some years ago there was an enthusiasm for mathematically developed patterns, especially those generated by computer, that were claimed to be perfect beauty, - and they were fascinating - , but after a time appeared boring, bland and ultimately pointless. Let me make it quite clear I am not opposed to science and in particular mathematics, for after all I have a mathematics degree and taught maths for many years. I had an early and have still a continuing love of that subject even if it is an occupation from which I have retired. None-the-less I still find mathematically developed patterns, if intriguing, essentially bland and I suspect the Creator Mind does too. The challenge of the unexpected is a real spur to creativity!
However it is a risky approach. It can all blow up in your face. Something might happen that you really did not want. It may be a disaster and you have to start all over again, or it might be a considerable challenge that you decide to work with in the hopes of making something worthwhile. I am projecting very human characteristics onto the Creator Mind and may be completely wide of the truth for I am very much aware of the absolutes credited to Him, Her or It by noble philosophers and theologians, men and women far more learned than I. But I will press on, for revelation, as it has evolved down the centuries gives us a God/Creator who does indeed have very human characteristics to the point of allowing Himself to be called Abba, Father or just simply Daddy. How more human can you get than that! And that is the way I experience His encounters with me. However I recognise that many other people have different transcendental experiences that do not have that deeply personal feeling, e.g., Buddhist, agnostic and even atheist for whom, while they have strong sense of beauty and the sublime, a sincere ability to love their fellow human beings and a sense of wonder in the Universe, none-the less have no such feelings of a personal relationship with a god or divine being. I do not understand that but have to accept that that is the case and respect them and their sincerity and goodwill. I don’t deny that I have had long periods of doubt, black holes close to despair and deep questionings, yet when I eventually return to touching those transcendental experiences I find them convincing and warmly supportive.
Evil is as Evil does
The existence of Evil is the problem for most people and should be for all, though it seems to me, it is a problem many believers in God tend to ignore or about which they confess bafflement. In my own case I have tended to push the question aside by saying; ‘I know the Father is love and the existence of evil is simply beyond my poor human mind to grapple with.’ I simply console myself with the words of Julian of Norwich; ‘All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well!’ and move onto other more pressing concerns. After my experiences of early October 2011, no longer. Evil is real and has to be faced up to.
That essential randomness that I have called the ‘maverick seed’ has given rise to a stupendous, breathtaking richness of varied bodies, atoms, subatomic particles, stars, galaxies, the list seems endless and in the end life itself with all its rich variety. However hanging over all this is the second law of thermodynamics which predicts ultimate decay and meaninglessness. But is there not another law, more difficult to define that says things will become more complex. Neutrons, protons, electrons and all the other subatomic particles will combine, first to make hydrogen, then as the temperature dropped so other more complex atoms, elements were formed, then molecules, then life itself? This a law directly opposed to that of the second law of thermodynamics. A conflict, a creative tension perhaps? That other law that in the end gives rise to life in all its richness and forms has a much more positive ring to it. Could it be a law rooted in love, creative love? I believe so. That it was present at the very beginning is both consoling and challenging. Much recently has been made of the, so called, Anthropic Principle, which sees a sense of purpose in the formation of the universe, that has as its end self-consciousness, an attribute we associate with man, indeed, is the defining attribute of what it is to be human. So was and is the universe alive? Again I believe so.
In the red corner we have Love and in the blue corner we have Entropy/Evil; the battle is joined. Is it as simple as that? I doubt it, but at least it is a start to trying to understand the Daydream in which we are playing our small parts. Just as creative love is a real human experience so too is evil and, most agree, it must be fought. The only weapon we have as human beings is that creative love which animates the whole of the universe. But that is a pretty strong force. However before we can put it to effective use we need to understand the nature, motivations and attributes of our enemy and that is why I think I was given my vision of the face of evil in early October 2011. The defining characteristic of evil, for me, was that cold indifference to suffering that I saw in the faces of the armed militia. I saw the same cold indifference to suffering in my own heart that gave rise to my selfishness, lusts, pride, gluttony, greed, hate, sloth. These are not just little human failings to which all men and women are prone. No they are serious faults which can threaten our very lives and purpose and we need to recognise that. We can be so conscious of our little peccadilloes that we miss the main currents in our lives as being coldly indifferent to the suffering we might be inflicting in our lives of work and leisure. For example the scientist who is designing an improved ballistic missile is too often oblivious that the end result of his work is likely to be the deaths and maiming of people. Or is he coldly indifferent to such intended outcomes?
Other less obvious examples are accountants who pursue balancing of books and ignore the effects their decisions may have on a workforce. Those who let the markets dictate their selling policies in spite of the suffering it may cause. For example in 2011 I was taken to visit a pig farm in France where the pigs were kept in tight pens in the dark, fed automatically as a way of ensuring a cheap supply of pork – industrial farming. The suffering of the pigs was all too evident, but the woman farmer seemed indifferent to their suffering, rather she was proud of the efficiency of her set up and the way it required little hands-on interference except the movement of pigs from one pen to another as the industrial process demanded. But when we go to the supermarkets for our bacon and sausages, are we not equally showing an indifference to suffering. But it is not just indifference to the suffering of animals but also the indifference to suffering of people, workers in industrial production lines which treat them as non-creative robots forced to reach production targets. I remember my time, long years ago as a student, working in a pea canning plant. God help the workers who had to do that as their normal way of paying the bills.
Then, of course, there is soldiering. A soldier has to be trained to kill and to kill without emotional torment, to kill with cold indifference to the suffering of his enemy. It is what we, as national states require of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. We are implicated. However let me make it quite clear I have great regard for the heroism displayed by our armed forces in areas of conflict. There are many good men and women who feel they are serving their country with loyalty and devotion to their motherland. It is we the citizens who demand their service, their dehumanising service. If something goes wrong, a rogue soldier commits an atrocity, we are to blame. This is not the place to talk about just war but wars are fought by soldiers who have been trained to maim and kill with a cold indifference to their enemies suffering. On that basis all war, just or otherwise, is condemned. We cannot demand of another that he or she commit an evil act without ourselves being condemned for that same evil act.
While all mankind are infected because humankind is sociable, a contagion can take place that reinforces the evil in each person’s heart, unless each individual in a social group addresses the problem in him or her self. For instance in a family where a parent is indifferent to a spouse the effect on the rest of the family can be profound and contaminate the relationships the children will have with their future spouses and children. An all too familiar scene. In an institution in which there exists an indifference to the needs of those the institution seeks to serve, setting profitability as the primary aim of that institution, a contagion of that indifference can result in actions by employees infected by that indifference which the rest of society will find abhorrent, e.g., the abuse of elderly patients in a care home. Businesses are not exempt from this top down contagion. The usual business model is one that sets the making of profit as the primary aim of a business. That sets as secondary the aim to provide a product or service to a buying public, even if that product or service is of a caring kind and something that is good for the public like Care Homes for the elderly. I don’t think a business plan based on profitability as its first priority is a good idea. I am inclined to think that businesses based on providing goods and services that are good for the buying public are more likely to succeed in providing a profit simply because the buying public are more likely to buy from such firms. Anyway that is a personal view which is not the subject of this report. I am minded of the tobacco industry. When first suspicions arose as to the addictive and harmful nature of cigarettes the industry went into denial. Profit was more important than the harm caused to smokers. In such big industries it is the share holders who basically hold the control and it is their concern for fat dividends that starts the rot. The alcoholic drinks industry is now having to decide between profits and social responsibility and they are not showing too much social consciousness at the present time.
Even institutions like the Church are not exempt from this top-down contagion of evil. The sexual abuse of young people by priests is a result of centuries of corruption at the very top which abuses the laity by its cold laws and hierarchical triumphalism.
This contagion works horizontally in social groups where an indifference to others of different race or sexual orientation can lead to atrocities perpetrated by members of those groups.
In the case of governments the contagion can spread through society from top-down government policies that vilify certain sections of society, like the Jews or Gypsies or asylum seekers and that can lead to the wide spread horrors of the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the massacres of Rwanda and the slaughter that took place in the break-up of former Yugoslavia. The contagion was both top-down and horizontal and few can claim innocence.
Then, of course, there is the media which claims a moral neutrality which is frankly hypocritical. We have only to look at the tabloid press in the UK to recognise a duplicity of intent. Driven by the basic business model that says business must be profit led so the media are primarily concerned by circulation, the number of people who buy into their papers, broadcasts and web sites. So exclusives, salacious gossip help sell their products. They help with the spread of evil through opinionated and slanted views that help sell their offerings. It is a platitude to say bad news sells where good news does not. One effect of evil is fear and a feeling of insecurity and news that confirms that feeling of insecurity helps spread the contagion. No, I am not saying all media are bad I am just concerned that there is a deep and unacknowledged hypocrisy in much of our media that should be challenged.
Idolatry; the Justification for Power
These days the idea of idolatry seems a sin long outgrown except for the triviality of pop idols, the adulation of celebrities and the all consuming religion of football. Yet it is a deeply entrenched idea in the human psyche that pervades all our life activities. We continue to create gods which we seek to worship but these days they are more likely to be ideas rather actual images. Masks that we apply to power structures that dominate our lives like the concepts of Freedom, Democracy or simply the corporate ideology of a business company or corporation. Humanists worship at the shrine of rationality. Christians too often worship at the shrine of Church or Bible. None of us is exempt from some sort of idolatry, some idea to which we offer obeisance. However our idolatry can too often lead to a justification of the use of power to oppress our fellow man. Democracy too often leads to the majority ignoring the rights and aspirations of minorities like Gypsies for instance. Hierarchies often predicate their assumption of power on an idolatry that justifies the abuse of members such as the assumption that men are superior to women and should therefore assume headship in a marriage and the denial of rights to women as we know only too well today. Finally, after thousands of years, that particular idolatry has been seen as one that can be safely set aside. But there are many more such idolatries that justify power structures. For instance when living in Portsmouth we found an ingrained idolatry that justified the social separation of Naval officers from ordinary seamen. We had to be very careful in inviting people home if they included mixed ranks. The same social separation obtains in the army, indeed in all the services, justified that it would be detrimental to discipline. The Idolatry here is one that assumes the superiority of one class or group of people over another as a natural thing and to be, therefore, recognised in our social structures. That it leads to abuse is obvious, despite protestations to the contrary, often from both sides of the social divide. In businesses it is often the case that there are separate dining areas for staff and managers. In schools and educational establishments the social separation of students and staff is endemic and rarely questioned. While I will come to the consideration of the role of leadership in communities later, I do admit that there is to be found in nature a natural ordering of roles in a group or herd that would seem to underpin the assumptions I have castigated above.
One last group I wish to include in this section is religious organisations such as churches, synagogues and similar institutions. Though in many cases their founders sought to recognise the equality of all men and women none-the-less their followers too often formed hierarchies to control the followers and interposed an idolatry to justify their actions. Mohammed, as I understood was opposed to a separate priestly caste and sought to engender an equality of all male followers certainly. His championing of women’s rights was compromised by his accepting the world view prevailing at the time that women were in some way inferior to men. However his reforms were short lived with an outbreak of infighting to secure the leadership of the Islamic Umah. Also a sort of priestly caste was set up of Imams that interprets the Quran holding sway over the believers. Likewise Jesus sought to create a community of equals with different talents in which there was no hierarchy of roles. That did not last long. Of all religious groups I can think of only the Quakers who, to this day, have held to their founder George Fox’s desire for equality between all believers. In order to justify the setting up of hierarchies slanted interpretations of the founder’s words have been made and insisted on. These new masks used to cover the intentions of religious founders are an example of the idolatry of ideas replacing the true faith as perceived by the founders. A dangerous game that encourages the contagion of evil in those new religious communities. There is a very good description of the dangers in the gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 23.
Evil; Self- conscious Entropy
But what is evil? My vision, if that is what it was, revealed it as a disease, a poison that infects me at the deepest level. A sort of cancer that will grow if it is not stopped and that will ultimately lead to my destruction. When I was diagnosed with bowel cancer it was a total shock. I just never thought it could happen to me. It was diagnosed late. It had been growing within me for something like a year, but the malignant cell that lay at its heart may well have been there since I don’t know when. Perhaps I was born with it. So it is with evil. It is a malignancy that we are born with. A disease at the heart of me that will grow unless I do something to combat it. Like my cancer it will grow and spread within me, infecting my motivations, poisoning my basic desires, in-forming my thoughts and actions, ultimately taking me over and robbing me of that central unique humanness that is/was me. To what extent, then, is the responsibility for my evil thoughts and actions really mine? A difficult one certainly but the facts seem to suggest that that responsibility has indeed been imposed on me by an omniscient being who holds me in reality in His imagination. What game is He up to I can’t help wondering!
Before getting into that question I need to continue my exploration as to the nature of evil. There are many who hold that it is our desires that are at the root of evil and it is our desires that should be suppressed, or overcome with a detachment from things of this world. Buddhists seem to teach this and I recall a comment from a Buddhist relative of mine who complained of the tacky personal relationships that confronted him. I was somewhat disturbed for that was not how I had read Buddhism in my early days being reassured by its commitment to compassion for all living creatures. But there is a strain of Christianity that sees in our desires the source of our evil actions and so sees the need by heroic self denial as a way to overcoming those desires. I think such attitudes are wrong and miss their target by a long margin. For me, it is those very desires that make us human and who we really are. They vary from person to person and contribute to our uniqueness as whole human beings. Rather we should be aware how a cold indifference to suffering infects their fulfilment. Take, for instance, my very strong desire to be creative. If I allow that ambition to determine how I treat my nearest and dearest, putting their interests as secondary to my own, then it is not the creative desire that is wrong but rather the indifference with which I treat those around me. We can see such attitudes in the lives of so many famous artists, writers and composers. Again if I see a pretty young girl and desire to couple with her, it is the indifference to how she feels, or my wife feels, that condemns the thought and possible rape that might occur. Lust and sexual desire are not the same thing. A recent Pope suggests in his writings that the true Christian marriage should be one in which sexual desire is absent. If he wants babies then how is the man to get an erection so a successful outcome is accomplished if the husband has no sexual desire? Such nonsense. No, desire is good and makes us what we are as ‘fully human fully alive’ (St Iraneus). It is the evil of indifference to those we might affect in pursuing our desires that condemns. Running away from desire in our lives either by suppression or by self training an indifference to desire by meditation is I believe a mistake and can only lead to a dehumanisation of self.
A good paradigm for evil and its cold indifference to suffering is, of course, cancer. The cancer I am fighting as I write is completely indifferent to my suffering. It is faceless in the way that evil is faceless, as entropy is faceless. It grows as evil grows and can only be overcome by drastic measures. In my case by radiation, major surgery and chemotherapy. But it is the faceless, cold indifference to my suffering and the suffering of those around me caring for me with so much love that strikes me as so like that of the face of evil that I saw in my dream/vision. In the Middle Ages evil was depicted as devils set on our destruction but what I saw was essentially faceless. Devils have personalities however horrendous. What I saw was without personality and it was intent on the destruction of personality, it was intent on destroying our humanity, the good creatures humankind were meant to be, fully alive, fully human with strong vigorous and unique personalities. But just as cancer can be beaten by an array of treatments so evil can be overcome.
Getting back to the big question of why did the Creator Mind allow us to be infected by first entropy then evil. It is a question that has challenged many and my own contribution to answer it is meagre indeed. But here goes!
The battle between good and evil is probably the most archetypal plot to structure stories down the centuries and seems ingrained in the human psyche. It is the plot in the cosmic drama in which we are too obviously involved. There is no escaping it, it is fundamental to our humanity. But was the whole invention of the cosmic drama by the Creator Mind necessary to His purposes? Entropy is necessary to the successful creation of the elements out of which every thing is made. It was necessary that the initial temperatures of the Big Bang should reduce according to the second law of thermodynamics so that fundamental particles could coalesce to make first Hydrogen then, as the temperature dropped, Helium and in due order the remaining elements. So entropy was necessary in the beginning for the creation of the universe as we see it now but unless entropy can be overcome it will mean, as has been said before, with the universe simply dying to nothingness and ultimately meaninglessness and that is not how I see the Creator Mind’s vision of the future of the universe ending up. I am convinced He has something much more permanent in mind.
A Cry for Forgiveness
The treatment of cancer begins by accepting I have cancer, only then can I begin treatment. So it is with evil. I have to acknowledge that I have the cancer of evil within me, only then can I start treatment. I ignored my symptoms believing it was the side effects of the tablets I was taking for prostate problems. For cancer was what other people had, I was healthy with an inconvenient bowel condition. Similarly we often ignore the evil within us, usually by distraction. Filling our lives with noise to silence the nagging doubts that occasionally disturb our consciences. Evil is what other people are. We are otherwise. Yes we have our little peccadilloes, our short bursts of temper, our lusts, our laziness but who doesn’t? No, evil is what tyrants do, criminals do and we are certainly not like them. But evil is what courses through our veins as well as the good that we are. Maybe not as strongly as in others, never-the-less it is there and needs to be acknowledged so that we can be cured of its predations. One sometimes meet people who are crippled by a bitterness and loneliness that cries out to us and we want to take them into our arms and warm them with our love but they shrug us off. The problem isn’t theirs its what other people have done to them, that’s where the bitterness comes from, the aching loneliness. They are in denial that evil has a hold on their hearts and we are able to do little about it. This denial of evil is the hardest to reach out to, but acknowledgement is the essential first step.
But there are many ways in which we can be in denial of the infection that leads us to a cold indifference to suffering. We can protest that what we are doing is right and justified. We can be flagrant in our acts of evil and challenge those who object. We can be simply obstinate and even obdurate in our denial, but in the end we need to acknowledge our evil actions if we wish to be healed. Others can forgive us our wickedness but unless we acknowledge the evil we do we will not feel forgiven and the poison will still course in our veins.
From acknowledging evil there usually results an opening of the heart to be healed, a cry for forgiveness. A cry from the very depths of the heart to be reconciled with those we have hurt, those we have treated with cold indifference, with Him/Her for whom we have failed in reaching the high expectations He/She has for us. We seek forgiveness for the evil we have inside us from the whole universe of consciousness, and we get it! It is guaranteed we will be forgiven by the Creator Mind who made us the beautiful beings that we are and He/She loves us unconditionally. He/She knows that in the core of our body/soul we are essentially good but bleeding from a poisonous wound and He/She wants to heal us. However we can only feel forgiven if we forgive all those who have harmed or slighted us. We need to forgive not only those who acknowledge their faults but those who don’t. Especially do we need to forgive those in denial for only then can they be healed and we feel the full benefits of that healing process. It is a tricky area for it is sometimes very difficult to forgive someone who has done a particularly heinous act like child abuse or murder. But for our sake and for the sake of the person responsible we need to forgive whole heartedly. Only then can we roll back the infection in us and find that peace that results from knowing we are reconciled to the Creator Mind. That reconciliation is at the heart of the forgiveness process. It is what gives us peace and opens our hearts to love.
Forgiving, Caring and Creative Love
In my vision/dream I was made aware of the centrality of love to the creation. I was shown that the universe was conceived out of a caring and creative love that once faced with the fact of evil introduced forgiveness as central to the Creator Mind’s relationship with humankind. We are conceived out of love and therefore what we are is essentially good. The Creator Mind loves us with an infinite love and He/She surrounds us with a caring embrace, which I admit is sometimes hard to discern. But that He/She does love us of that I am as sure as I humanly can be. I have experienced that encircling, comforting love for as long as I can remember. Of course there have been dark nights when I have seriously doubted its truth, sometimes for quite long periods of months and even years but I have always been rescued and confirmed in His/Her love. That I am in love with the Creator Mind is not in doubt, at least as far as I am concerned so let me describe and explore this love that floods the universe. It is a forgiving, caring and creative love. As an artist I am very aware of its creative dimension in my own work and I can see how all of mankind is called to creativity but it must be a caring creativity. A creativity that enhances and improves the human condition. A creativity that reaches out to a suffering humanity. A creativity that is responsive to peoples needs. Often that creativity can be collaborative as it is in the family and the building of communities.
Sometimes it can be solitary as in my case. I paint in silence and alone but I do feel that that is what I am called to do and that the resulting work really does enhance, does contribute to the richness and variety that is so special to our self image as human beings. None-the-less I still feel a bit uncomfortable at my aloneness though I frequently feel the touch of His/Her hand on my brush and there comes a flush of excitement and feeling of intense privilege that seems to justify my work. I don’t know whether I am deluding myself but I must carry on.
We are all called to be creative and that creative love will enrich our lives, but we are not all called to the kind of creativity typified by the artist, poet or composer which tend to be solitary occupations though I have to confess to being intrigued by the collaborative public art that is much in vogue at the moment though its not for me. No, the creativity that I think most people are called to is in the area of relationships and this can be very enriching both in the family and in the broader community. It is usually a caring creativity which should be celebrated. However it is unfortunate that for some people their creativity becomes competitive and there is an opportunity for evil to rear its poisonous head. There is creativity in sport and many recreational pursuits which is enriching but it must have a caring dimension to it if it is to be the creativity born of love.
Then there is the collaborative creativity in which we are invited to partake by the Creative Mind Him/Herself. This is a real invitation and is, I believe, at the heart of the creation project.
The Drama of Creation
I think we are involved in a cosmic drama, orchestrated by the Creative Mind in which we, as humankind, have an important role, possibly a crucial role in which we are all invited to engage. I can crudely see the Creative Mind as the author of a great novel in which the characters actually have a creative role. It is a collaborative novel, a creation that calls on us all to take part creatively and while its plot seems at first rather the simple and classic theme of good versus evil it is I suspect much more complex, more richly complex than a God and fallen angels. Our parts are small, but do seem to be crucial. Given the expanse of the universe our role would seem to be miniscule even negligible so I wonder at the enormous effort that the Creator Mind puts into our role, convincing us that we are important and should take our purposes seriously.
The story begins with the Big Bang. Interestingly, apart from the maverick seed mentioned above, the initial physical constants were such that eventually intelligent carbon based life could form after, admittedly, a very long time indeed and had the constants been just slightly different such an occurrence would have been impossible. Sometimes this is called the Anthropic principle which argues that the universe was intentionally created with intelligent life as a consequence. However another argument is that these primary physical constants were accidental and down to mere chance. You take your pick. Obviously I think it was all part of the great plan. Another interesting question is whether there is any substance in the Universe. Is the universe made out of hard matter or are those primary particles simply whirls of energy without hard divisible stuff? Is the Universe real or just imaginary and the only reality is that of the Creator Mind itself?
However I am still left with Kelvin’s second law of thermodynamics. The entropy rule was there from the beginning and is an iron rule. It states: in a closed energy system energy will go from a higher state to a lower and not the other way round. Temperatures will drop not rise. The big question then is: is the universe a closed energy system. The current astronomical evidence is that it is not. The universe is actually increasing in size at an accelerating rate and so evidently energy, new energy and the mass of the creation is increasing. Is this new energy the result of creative love? I believe so, though it is difficult to show the connection in a scientific way. In fact science has no place here because we are talking about revelation. I find in my own creative work a very real love for the paints, brushes and canvas and the work upon which I am working. And I can imagine a similar love occurring as the Creator Mind works on the materials of his imagination. Another question we should be asking is: is the Creator Mind a mathematician? Does He/She feel He/She is constrained by mathematics as we understand the subject? I used to argue to my students that whatever God was he was not a mathematician. Mathematics is a human invention a human creation. But I am now inclined to think mathematics has a more arcane source for while it has to conform to the restrictions of the human thought processes which are essentially linear there does seem to be an element of discovery to its invention. It does have a life of its own and though the railway lines down which it rolls are tight indeed they do lead to some fascinating places. I still have a great love of the subject.
I have already sketched the progress of the universe after the Big Bang as one of increasing complexity and richness until the eruption of life on earth. The question of whether there is biological life elsewhere in the universe is an open one, but one, while it may have an impact on religious speculation, is not ruled out by science or, indeed, by any seriously thinking person it seems to me. With the eruption of biological life on this earth our own story begins. After the beginnings the progress from amoeba to the first man is well documented if with a few holes and I have no difficulty with the basic evolutionary theory as drawn by Darwin. However I do find his theory of survival of the fittest suspect, i.e., natural selection, as the only determing principle of evolution as unconvincing. For instance how do we explain the robustness of widely different species that have suffered little change over hundreds of millions of years, like, for instance the horse shoe crab, the common house fly, etc...? Changes from one species to another do seem to occur remarkably quickly. I have not seen satisfactory explanations to these, I think, important questions. Anyway that is all by the way. With mankind, a so recent newcomer, the earth takes a momentous leap. In a few short years mankind has expanded to such an extent as to literally take over the world. This has, on the whole, been a good thing and creative love has been its driving force. Families have come together as tribes, tribes have come together as nations, nations are coming together as federations, as unions of states and I expect in the not too far future for all mankind to come together as one giant commonwealth and that is surely a good thing. Similarly for the past two or three thousand years humankind has been growing in kindness to one another. Apart from desperate pockets where tyrants rule, slavery, torture and even the death penalty have been outlawed. The growth of forgiving, caring and creative love seems ever upwards. The Cosmic Drama is moving towards a triumphant ending in which creative and caring love will dominate and evil will be eradicated by that love’s forgiveness. My vision is indeed optimistic but I do think the signs are there for every one to read. Yes, of course, we will see curls of evil entangling and temporarily holding back that triumphant progress but in the long term the road is ever upwards.
But just suppose the plot failed, evil triumphed, entropy defined the end of the universe would that matter? Yes I think it would. I think this cosmic drama is a real drama where the Creator Mind has every thing to play for. Failure would be disastrous for Him/Her. It would mean personal failure. The great love fest would have been betrayed. He/She would be in terminal decline. The whole enterprise would be a catastrophic disaster out from which there would be no rescue, no second chance. However I think we can be optimistic that the project is safe. There was a tipping point I believe as far as this world is concerned just two thousand years ago. Then something unimaginably wonderful happened that changed everything. A man died, loving passionately and forgiving and after death He rose up. That is what I believe. The plot of the Cosmic Drama is complex; it has to be for there is a richness in it made up of the billions of small histories of little people as they engage with the greater drama. Each story is unique, special and irreplaceable and in the final triumph will be celebrated. One of my great delights as I travelled from cathedral to cathedral to parish church with my cycle of paintings ‘The Journey’ was listening to the stories of visitors. Stories which challenged me, delighted me, enthralled me, becoming very special in my life. We each of us has a role, and an important and unique part to play in this extraordinary drama and it is important to find out how we can best fill that role.
Our Role in Creation
We are, each of us, called to play our own special role and we will play that part by forgiving, caring and creative love. That is it in the proverbial nutshell. Is it as simple as that? Well no because we are equipped with free will and that really does open up a box of delights. It means that we can choose to cooperate or not and that is quite a concession given by the Creator Mind to us tinies. It is a truly remarkable gift that makes us like gods. We are not puppets dangling from a string held by a god. No we hold our own strings which makes us gods. But with Creator Mind it goes further than that for we partake of the divine nature itself. We are sparks of the Creator Mind called to collaborate in the big idea of Creation. Wow! Getting your head round that one really does take some doing. It seems unbelievable looking at the immensity of the Universe and our abject littleness but I can’t think of another explanation for our freedom of decision. I want to explore the idea more for it seems to be at the very heart of the Creation project. Firstly it seems to indicate something about the nature of the Creator Mind, He/She is a We. The creator Mind is a community as well as being one, an entity, a single mind. This is the great mystery which it is impossible for us to wholly grasp. The glue that holds that community together is, of course, creative love and we are all part of that community. It is our community; we properly live in the community. Now this divine spark that inhabits our body is not like the evil that infects us for it is our essential selves. Who we are as free will beings is centrally divine. We are each unique but in this respect we are the same, we have the same divine spark animating us. We may be ordinary but we are extraordinary in our nature. We are simple human beings, creatures of the Creator Mind yet at our very heart we are sparks of that very divine and creative mind itself. That is the wonder of it! Seemingly trapped in our carapace of humanity we have a life in eternity with the Creator Mind. Our ordinary lives of cleaning, shopping, drinking tea with friends, doing our work, caring for children and the aged, all of it a mish-mash of activity that seems a long way from the divine nature promised us by our free will, is, in fact, part and an important part of our mission. Even going to the toilet is part of that mission. So what is our work, our mission as loyal sons and daughters of the Creator Mind? Well it is precisely that mish-mash of ordinary activity in which we find ourselves in the here and now that He/She wants us to explore and find opportunities for that very forgiving and creative love which He/She is, not just for human neighbours, but for all our neighbours, animals, trees, flowers even rocks. The whole universe is urgent for our love and we should give it with our scientific curiosity, our delight in beauty, our excitement of new encounters. Yes we are called to an extraordinary ordinary life.
Individuals will be aware, or become aware of what seems a special mission, a calling that changes their lives but for most of us that calling is silent and we stumble upon our own special mission seemingly by accident. Some of us simply do not seem ever to know what our special mission was, but a special and unique mission we each of us certainly have.
Stepping out of Time into Eternity
We have a place in time and in eternity. The latter idea is breathtaking I think but what does it mean? When time stops is eternity an everlasting now? Well that seems a contradiction in itself so can it mean that? The only way I can visualise eternity is by thinking of those moments when I have been surprised by beauty or grace in the Christian meaning of the term, i.e., when God seems to break through, a moment of revelation that happens in an instant but seems to fill time.
Of course time is a problem in itself. What exactly is time? It can vary between people depending on how fast we are going relative to each other. We can see back to almost the beginning of time. Very tricky stuff is time. Apparently interconnected things, like electrons, separated by vast distances can have instant effects but those effects can only be seen over aeons of time. It is difficult to get our heads round the idea that if an astronaut were to fly to a far off star at close to the speed of light, on returning he could be aged younger than the son he left behind. So we can say my time is not your time though it might vary only very slightly. Is time a matter of consciousness and peculiar only to sentient beings? The questions mount. We tend to think of time as the cord of rational thought, antecedent cause to resultant effect, but it seems to me that some effects occur before their apparent cause, the Anthropic principle being an important example. So if our hold on such a fundamental feature of our lives as time is so tenuous, our grasp of eternity is likely to be even more fragile.
I like to paint stories sometimes as a sequence of paintings but more usually the whole story in one painting so the whole tale can be seen in a glance. Mainly these story paintings are in the form of a labyrinth where the story starts at the outside and by a circuitous route winds itself to the centre in a sequence governed by time of story incidents. But recently I have been considering a different approach, seeing the time sequence as flattened with no event preceding or following any other. It is the importance of the events rather than their time sequence that determines the composition. A painting would then describe the story in a composition composed of the different events according to their importance not their time sequence. The story, of course, would have to be well known to the viewer. Is this flattened time a paradigm of eternity? I suspect it might be like that for there must be some continuity over the passing on occasioned by death. In any case I imagine that the Creator Mind is living in eternity, thinking in an eternity kind of way and it is only we who need time to get our thoughts together, i.e., our brains to work in a sequenced way, essentially linear. So I see reality, the reality of the Creator Mind as essentially in flattened out time.
A Universe made Whole
The Universe is moving to its omega point when it will transform as we see it from time into eternity and what a magnificent sight that will be though in flattened out time it and the whole prehistory will be viewable at a glance. Astonishing! Evil will have become a shadow, entropy swallowed up in infinity. Indeed entropy and evil will be seen as a good which enabled the creation to come to its proper conclusion, an eternal garden of delights.
But what about Hell? Most religions posit a place we can call hell, Hades, the underworld where people go who have lived wicked lives, a place of eternal punishment for the damned. Did I find such a place in either my visions or my subsequent thoughts? Frankly no, I found the very concept of hell, a place of perpetual and everlasting torment incompatible with my vision of a forgiving, caring and creative love. I cannot conceive of a universe made whole having any such place, but I can conceive of a place of preparation for the final vision in which all the evil in me is literally stripped away by forgiving love. I can believe in a place of purgation. I know I expect such a place to greet me after death for I want to be rid of the infection as I want to be rid of my cancer and if it takes a spiritual chemotherapy to rid me of it so be it. I think our inability to forgive totally and unconditionally has given rise to our ideas of Hell. I cannot think of anybody in history who could possibly merit everlasting and unremitting torment. There is always a spark, a weak flame of merit, a wavering light of goodness, of love and the need for love centred in that god part of our being. I hold to that because I cannot see how a universe made whole can possibly have anything negative, anything that is not founded on love.
What else do I see in this universe made whole? I see the enthronement of creativity, of loving creativity for the whole universe. We will be invited to be creative in an infinite world of possibilities in a way that is unique to our personalities. I am looking forward to more painting, more creative loving with my dear ones, making new friends from all parts of human history. Are these romantic dreams? I don’t think so for the more I immerse my thoughts into this I become more convinced that we are invited to a celestial banquet in which we are all of us special guests. A Banquet of such richness and splendour in which the whole of creation is invited to take part. The stars and galaxies of the universe together with sparrows, warthogs, flies, trees, rocks and flowers, all invited to be there. A Banquet of such variety and beauty, which will take an eternity to embrace. And oh how much we will want to embrace everything and everyone.
A tail piece
This has been a testimony of man brought to extremis by cancer who had a vision that he felt he must bring to the world of men, women and children. A vision of the dreadfulness of evil, its consequences and how it can be defeated by an all embracing, forgiving, caring and creative love. What I have written is presented to you, the reader, as no more than that. I just hope it helps. But I doubt I have given an answer to the all important question of how can an all loving Creator Mind allow such events as the tsunamis, earthquakes, holocausts and cancer that have afflicted mankind down the centuries. Oddly I feel grateful to my cancer for it has taken me on a journey I could not have made without it. Is that part of the answer? I suspect we will only understand that when we enter the promised land.