Having had the benefit of a psychiatrist father who was involved early on in what was then known as Post-KZ syndrome, now generally known as PTSD - post traumatic stress disorder, I was always fascinated by the stories from the concentration camps, and by attempting to understand the psychological need of the nazi-butchers to keep on killing. The books of Corrie ten Boom, as well as some other accounts I've either read or heard contain haunting descriptions of the total despair in the eyes of the butchers who could not stop killing. The real underlying despair is that the killing doesn't work, for the spirit cannot be killed. Only forms can be killed. Only effects can be killed for they're already dead. So life always escapes our deadly anger, and yet we imprison ourselves (or get shot and killed, and hanged, etc. for our "misdeeds"). Here is the ego's repetition compulsion at work. This is the ego's logic at it's most extreme insanity: it didn't work, therefore let's do it again. The Course frequently alludes to the issue of the ego's being nothing, wherefore there is nothing to give up... e.g.: "5 This is the only "cost" of truth: You will no longer see what never was, nor hear what makes no sound. 6 Is it a sacrifice to give up nothing, and to receive the Love of God forever?" (ACIM:T-24.II.6)
This is very evident in the Course's presentation of the tiny mad idea. Had we laughed at it, it would have just evaporated, but by taking it seriously, we then keep on repeating the same error, and in the end we believe we are in this world, imprisoned in the consequences of our own decision which we the project out and accuse God of instead. So we've then replaced God with our own God, who represents the insane thought system we've made up, and the fear of God now protects that thought system from examination, whereas it would dissipate in the light of reason. So in the process the ego thought system has completely obfuscated that we did it by ascribing the creation of this world to God, and teaching fear of him as our proper religious behavior.
The world of course has the need to make scapegoats out of kz-butchers and serial killers, and to emphasize the point of how insane they are, thus again covering over the insanity of the ego system in ourselves, and protecting it from examination. With the Course in hand we arrive at the contrary position, namely our brothers who are acting out these thoughts, are our teachers, and deserve our forgiveness, for through true empathy with them (and note that for eminently practical reasons under the laws of this world they may still "deserve" an appropriate punishment for their actions), we can come to understand the insanity within ourselves and the ego's desperate fear for its own survival, which only makes us kill again and again, and again. For such is the choice for the crucifixion which we make daily by choosing the ego yet again, meanwhile the Course quietly holds out the alternative position that we can ALWAYS choose again, and make the other choice.
In recent literature we have seen the interesting example of Gore Vidal's efforts to understand, and (God forbid!) humanize Timothy McVeigh. The resistance to this is so great because the ego thought system compels us to judge others for the insanity and thereby protect it in ourselves. (What we deny we must project!). Trying to understand the reactions of McVeigh by recognizing any rational validity of his views on the sickness of society is not enough however. This is where the Course's teaching of true empathy comes in, for it allows us to see that the other is truly our brother in Christ, who just happens to be acting out a thought-system that we believe in too, and which can only be healed by forgiveness, as much as it is sustained by judgment. Which of course still does not mean that we should not apply appropriate measures to stop or prevent a recurrence of the behavior, if such is our role.
We can only be grateful then for every opportunity of recognizing the true emptiness of the ego thought system, which strives through the constant repetition of judgment to sustain the illusion of an identity separate from everything, always choosing nothing over everything, and deluding itself that at least it is something, because it isn't something else. In truth the only thing that sustains the hollow emptiness of this prized identity is nothing else but our repetition compulsion of separation, separation, separation. And the serial killers and KZ-butchers just act this out in a specific way. But truth is true in spite of our judgment, and therein lies the despair of the ego: it cannot ever change reality. That is the hollow fears in the eyes of the the murderers, and it is the hollowness of the very idea of the ego itself.
This is depicted in detail in the section titled "The Anti-Christ" in Chapter 29:
An idol is established by belief, and when it is withdrawn the idol "dies." 2 This is the anti-Christ; the strange idea there is a power past omnipotence, a place beyond the infinite, a time transcending the eternal. 3 Here the world of idols has been set by the idea this power and place and time are given form, and shape the world where the impossible has happened. 4 Here the deathless come to die, the all-encompassing to suffer loss, the timeless to be made the slaves of time. 5 Here does the changeless change; the peace of God, forever given to all living things, give way to chaos. 6 And the Son of God, as perfect, sinless and as loving as his Father, come to hate a little while; to suffer pain and finally to die. p620
Likewise the section "The Last Unanswered Question," in Chapter 21, contains some very strong language to help us see these issues, which could make us look at the fear mongering of the marching SS-troops etc., in quite a different light, as a desparate call for help:
No one believes the Son of God is powerless. 2 And those who see themselves as helpless must believe that they are not the Son of God. 3 What can they be except his enemy? 4 And what can they do but envy him his power, and by their envy make themselves afraid of it? 5 These are the dark ones, silent and afraid, alone and not communicating, fearful the power of the Son of God will strike them dead, and raising up their helplessness against him. 6 They join the army of the powerless, to wage their war of vengeance, bitterness and spite on him, to make him one with them. 7 Because they do not know that they
Ultimately all of the aggression in the world then acts to help us see but one thing, our own choice for the ego, and how it is a choice for powerlessness, and thus give us an opportunity to choose "another way," when it finally dawns on us that all the murderous ferocity gets us exactly nothing, while we give up everything. The Course merely offers an installment program to do this, one forgiveness lesson at a time, dissolving the Karma which uphold the world as we see it today.
Copyright, © 2006 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.