In yesterday’s daily meditation I stressed that we ought not to project all evil on to someone else—not even Hitler.  We need to look deeper into our own souls for its possible complicity in evil. 

A reading of Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, “Please Call Me
by My True Names, from Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
Read by Georgi Y. Johnson in Juneau, AK, 8/2014.

We also need a continuous examination of our cultural institutions that, if not examined and updated, draw the powers of evil to them and offer them a home-base from which to operate.

This is why spiritual practices the world over consist in examining one’s own conscience, one’s own choices, when Evil asserts itself. 

“Eye of the Storm.” Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

Evil is not “out there.”  It is not a thing.  It is round and about, inner and outer, psychological and social, in me and you and us and them potentially. 

It is spiritual therefore.  And it outlasts us—it has an immortality about it–which is one reason every generation has to wrestle anew with the presence of evil in its midst. 

Racism, sexism, homophobia, arrogance, greed, narcissism, power-over, denial of truth, violence and the thrill it delivers—these do not disappear but morph anew and reappear generation after generation. 

Sometimes they are checked by making and enforcing good laws.  But sometimes they hang around and find new ways to penetrate both soul and society.

Alt-right members preparing for the “Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, VA, 8/12/2017. Photo by Anthony Crider, cropped by Beyond My Ken, on Wikimedia Commons

Let us consider the Holocaust. The Holocaust is about expiation, scapegoating (a ritual act), rituals, propaganda, the media, technology, racism, religious bigotry, and sins of omission.

Old forms of hatred and resentment, racism and religious competition, take on a new evolutionary power when married to cyanide ovens, panzer tank divisions, modern railroad boxcars, submarine warfare, V2s, bombings of cities, nationalism, suspension of civilization, reward of sadism.

1942, Toulon, France: “Enterprise Purple”, a Panzer IV in the city port in front of a burning French ship, the “Colbert.” Photo uploaded to Flickr by ww2gallery from the Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-027-1451-10 / Vennemann, Wolfgang /

Modern creativity in the sciences, technology and warfare take us into uncharted waters of evil and collective guilt and ultimately to questions of responsibility.

In the Bible Cain got into trouble for killing one man, his brother. Hitler, who killed 20 million German brothers and sisters alone, was heralded as a hero in the media of his land for fifteen years. The war he unleashed killed 42 million people. 

Hitler  killed untold Catholic brothers and sisters, but was never excommunicated by the head of his church, the Pope.

Adolf Hitler laughing with Adolf Wagner, Nazi Party leader of Munich and Upper Bavaria, 1935. Photo taken by German art broker and war profiteer Heinrich Hoffmann; uploaded to Flickr by ww2gallery.

Hitler, who exterminated six million Jews in concentration camps, as well as homosexuals, the mentally ill, socialists and anyone labeled as “unfit,” never wore an “X” on his forehead as did Cain for killing a single brother.

As we prepare to take a harder look at Evil, be sure to fill up on goodness; beauty; gratitude; generosity and those heroes and sheroes in our midst or in our past who practiced all that.  The Via Positiva precedes the Via Transformativa.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 389f.

Banner image: Members of the covert ‘White Rose’ resistance group against Hitler, including Hans Scholl (left) and Sophie Scholl, in Munich, 1942 (From Times of Israel; Public domain)

Queries for Contemplation

What lessons have we learned from the Holocaust?  What does it tell us about our powers as human beings to deceive ourselves and to project on others?

Recommended Reading

Fox makes the point that religion has so often oversold the concept of “sin” that it has left us without language or power to combat evil. Through comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.

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13 thoughts on “Hitler and Evil”

  1. Avatar
    Fr. David Watkins, Ph.d

    To be sure, if there is an object of evil, I.e. The devil. It resides in us! We can project our evil,thoughts,manners, and actions, upon others. What we reject in ourselves, we project on others! It by transforming our pain,anger, and fear, into forgiveness that evil is transformed into good.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear David,
      Thank you for adding it the power of forgiveness to our conversation about the dynamics of confronting evil. Once the door to evil has been opened, then forgiveness is the way to bring the sacred back into the mix. Most difficult, of course, is forgiving ourselves.

      Somehow, we expect to be able to circumvent evil by nature, by being a loving person who seeks to do good. But it takes attention and vigilance to avoid getting sucked in inadvertently. Its like walking through deep mud on a rainy day. We can get caught up the reveling in the rain, or the rainbows and forget to look where Our feet are taking us. Soon enough, we are mired in the muck, unable to maneuver. We need vigilance to avoid evil, and forgiveness once we are stuck.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    Dr Fox
    Thank you. This was the most helpful explanation of “ why is there evil” in the world and how to address it. We do not always Realize our capability for evil as well as for good, and our complicity in it sometimes.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Ellen,
      Thank you for writing and reminding us that we can too easily participate in evil without even knowing it. It can rise up out of us, just like the Sacred, to take us over and cause harm. Life is not for the weak hearted! We were given these messy lives and challenged to be love warriors!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar
    Anne Marie Raftery

    Thank you for the peaceful meditation, ” Call Me by my True Names” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
    The political news today reminded me of how swiftly Adolf Hitler transformed the German Parliament into a Dictatorship in 1933, Reichstag. My daily prayer is that we will learn from history!

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Anne Marie,
      You are not alone is finding comparisons between Germany in the 1930’s and America today. We have seen the effects of evil as a communal force in racism, law enforcement, legislated greed, white supremacists and hate baiting between communities of differing needs and world views. As is the Sacred, evil’s opposite, evil is a force much larger than a person, a community, or an idea. But the Sacred is nonetheless stronger and more powerful. We have to remember that and invite in the light whenever we sense evil at our door, or in the eyes and words of another.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  4. Avatar

    A world renowned yogi syncretized his Hindu understanding of evil with the Christian biblical scriptures.  Paramhansha Yogananda, widely regarded as the father of yoga in the West, wrote: Maya is the principle of relativity, inversion, contrast, duality, oppositional states; the “Satan” (lit., in Hebrew, “the adversary”) of the Old Testament prophets; and the “devil” whom Christ described picturesquely as a “murderer” and a “liar,” because “there is no truth in him”. – (John 8:44) … Yogananda also wrote: Maya is Nature herself—the phenomenal worlds [the material universe], ever in transitional flux as antithesis to Divine Immutability. Scientists declare that, despite its vast size, the universe is finite. The Infinite, God, is the ultimate cause of all finite creation. Being infinite, God cannot be limited to any form, human or stone; yet He is manifest in all forms. Beyond the gross vibratory boundaries of matter [or beyond the finite creation], the Immutable Infinite reigns in all His majesty and vastness.  

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      ….and thus, despite the power that we observe and experience in the workings of evil, God being the immutable infinite will always outlast and overpower in the end. Your comment leads me to fear evil less and call in the light more. What a power we have on the side of the Sacred!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  5. Avatar

    I think we need to be reminded that evil dwells within us all. The massive denial going on in the U.S. about climate change, women’s rights to choice, and the destructive forces concentrated in the white house is a result of this willful unconsciousness of one’s own evil and projection on to the “other”–whether the “other” is defined as immigrants, the media, “Dems” or any other group or individual being targeted, I believe. The scapegoating is a means of denying one’s own evil.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Sue,
      You have described this moment in the struggle between Evil and the Sacred very well, in my book.

      I am intrigued with the proposition that we all have Evil within us. While we each have the capacity to be influenced by Evil and the capacity to refuse its temptations (temptations to be right, to be safe, to be more important, to be more wealthy, to feel powerful, to scar and abuse others….) evil is more than the sum of each of us. It is a powerful force moves among us that can cancel out our best intentions and catch a host of unwitting souls in its wake. Mob psychology is a potent tool. – All the more reason we should stay alert to its rising and ready to invoke the Sacred.

      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  6. Avatar

    Over twenty-five years ago, I was reading and responding to journals written by eighth grade students in a midwestern public junior high school. The students had been reading Night by Elie Wiesel. Many commented on the horrors of evil they found in these pages. One student’s response stood our so strongly, I still remember it today. “I wonder what my capacity for evil is.” Perhaps that’s the question we should always be asking ourselves.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Carol,
      What a wise student you have taught – and what a wise teacher to allow her students to explore evil in this way. I appreciate the phrase “capacity for evil”, particularly, as if we have the potential to choose how much it might influence us. According to Matthew, that is right on.
      Gail Sofia ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  7. Avatar

    Love is and always will be – the Answer.
    The book Mary Magdalene Revealed speaks to the Gospel Mary wrote 2,000 years ago.
    The aspect of Christianity that Jesus has never been tried is LOVE. Unconditional love
    Now is the Time to cultivate it, embody it,
    Share it,
    Be it.
    Love yourself, love your food, love your family, neighbours,
    Love so much and so big, that your heart is Bursting with gratitude that you’ve come to this awareness, this Power of God within you.
    Love everything free. Love equals Liberation.

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