Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How evil works (and doesn't work)

A friend of mine, Sandi in Chicago, is also a Star Wars aficionado. :) And she's found some interesting parallels between the plot of the most recent episode and this passage from Mary Baker Eddy's writings (can you find the similarities?):

Animal magnetism, in its ascending steps of evil, entices its victim by unseen, silent arguments. Reversing the modes of good, in their silent allurements to health and holiness, it impels mortal mind into error of thought, and tempts into the committal of acts foreign to the natural inclinations. The victims lose their individuality, and lend themselves as willing tools to carry out the designs of their worst enemies, even those who would induce their self-destruction. Animal magnetism fosters suspicious distrust where honor is due, fear where courage should be strongest, reliance where there should be avoidance, a belief in safety where there is most danger; and these miserable lies, poured constantly into his mind, fret and confuse it, spoiling that individual's disposition, undermining his health, and sealing his doom, unless the cause of the mischief is found out and destroyed.

Other minds are made dormant by it, and the victim is in a state of semi-individuality, with a mental haziness which admits of no intellectual culture or spiritual growth. The state induced by this secret evil influence is a species of intoxication, in which the victim is led to believe and do what he would never, otherwise, think or do voluntarily.

--First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, 211:12-3


Sandi writes in a group email:

In Revenge of the Sith, it's as though George Lucas has read [the passage above], and then produced his entire screenplay based on those two paragraphs. Would you believe that the intended hero has allowed himself to be manipulated by evil until he felt he was in too deep, thought he no longer had a choice? Aggressive suggestions, one after another, distorting and perverting his sense of high purpose.

The villain speaks of hate, lust, revenge, deceit as needed in order to understand good (just as the serpent said of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil); Lucas portrays these negatives literally as troops -- who may seem to be on your side for awhile, but whose loyalty is unreliable, and who are ready to destroy good in an instant. Mary Baker Eddy aptly describes them as an army of conspirators.

So, animal magnetism. What's that all about? It's a term used in Science and Health specifically to mean evil or error, but it's more intensely focused. It's the Tempter, the Adversary, the Evil One, more or less, but it also inhabits the same space as the rest of error or mortal mind -- and that is nothingness. I've found it essential when wrestling with the effects of animal magnetism to keep straight on the course that it's nothing. There's no other way to see through it. To give it power is to admit defeat.

At the end of Star Wars Episode III, I felt something surprising -- sadness for he who became Darth Vader. Some quick arithmetic brought me to the conclusion that he's got about 18 years ahead of him before his redemption begins. And until then, what a life of emptiness he must lead. Growing up, of course, I thought of Darth Vader as in control, malevolent in his own right, power hungry, etc. But now, I see that all along he is trapped in the existence of servitude to evil. Frankly, this must be hell.

Star Wars -- okay, it's just a metaphor. I don't think Lucas was trying to be metaphysical or in any way profound. But the story touches us where we are, that's the interesting universal nature of it. And to me, it's become a morality tale of how evil germinates, how it grows, and how empty it becomes even when it seems at its most powerful.

And this recognition is a good thing.

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