Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joseph DillardDr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: and his YouTube channel.


Letter to a young friend about Middle East violence

Joseph Dillard

A highrise in Gaza burns after being bombed by Israeli planes. Photo: AAP
I wrote this to a young friend who is horrified by the atrocities recently committed by Palestinians:
When collectives… endorse violence they do much more harm potentially than can any individual.

“While I think that amorality, immorality, and even evil are intrinsic potentials within every human, and that can forever be evoked given the right combination of circumstances, I do not think that is intrinsically a bad thing.

The reason why is that adaptation requires flexibility and the capacity for as wide a range of possible responses as possible. On a cosmic level, negentropy and growth/development, even in molecules, requires entropy, chaos, an an incessant pull into non-beingness and inertness. Systems theory clearly shows how matter and form increases in complexity in order to better dissipate energy - that is, to allow the incessant pressure to move into a state of permanent stasis. I believe this finding is one of the most powerful, foundational, and important realizations ever made by humans.

That in no way justifies violence or injustice, however. One of the major reasons for collectives and states are to channel and control the worst potentials that exist within individual humans. Therefore, one of the worst crimes against humanity is when states no longer do so: instead of channeling and controlling the worst potentials within us they aid and abet them. This includes religions. This is a basic reason why I strongly disagree with the Baghavad Gita and Wilber in their justification of "holy war."[1]

I understand the motives, intentions, and justifications behind the stance; I cannot say they are never justified. What I can say is that when collectives, that is states, religions, and other powerful collective actors endorse violence they do much more harm potentially than can any individual.

To translate that into the here and now, regardless of what atrocities individual Palestinians commit, or even atrocities committed by Palestinians as collectives, such as Hamas, they are not state actors like Israel, the EU, and the US. What that means is that the potential of individuals for severe, chronic violence that does lasting damage to generations as well as individuals is much less than that of entrenched, established collectives. One person, like Jack the Ripper, can torture and kill a number of people; states, particularly when using religion or “democracy” for justification, can kill thousands or even millions. Therefore we have to remember to strictly discriminate between the severity of the criminality of individual humans and small collectives and that of large collectives of humans.

The conclusion of that is that the crimes against humanity done by Israel, as a state actor, are much more severe than those of individual Palestinians, regardless of how atrocious those individual acts are. However, that does not mean that individual Palestinians should not be held accountable and punished to the full extent of the law for crimes they commit. They absolutely should.

Regarding the existential question of what to do about the worst potentials within all of us, we can learn from dogs. Ha ha ha ha ha. Any dog can be trained to be a snarling, biting, dangerous police dog. The Nazis loved to train up German Shepherds in such a way, and to this day, as a breed they carry that onus. However, in the same way, any dog can be trained to be a docile, obedient, and loyal companion, and German Shepherds make some of the best, because they are vigilant and smart.

Of course, it's not just dogs. Until recently humans believed foxes could not be altered in their basic, wild nature. However, fox breeders in Russia found that within something like five to ten generations of breeding that they could create foxes that were as docile and playful as dogs.

I am not arguing that every animal can be turned into a poodle or that every human can be turned into Mahatma Gandhi. What I am arguing is that every being has a range of healthy and destructive potentials and that individuals and collectives get to decide which they want to support, develop, and amplify.

So that is my answer to the existential dilemma of what to do about the evil latent in all of us: Be constantly aware and vigilant regarding its existence; don't underestimate it. However, don't allow that awareness to generate guilt, shame, or nihilism, because such responses are not healthy or conducive to negentropy, although they may indeed be adaptive in the short run - as all addictions are.

Life has an inborn tendency, even necessity toward growth, development, and adaptation. Therefore, it is not unjustifiable optimism or woo to bet on the innate decency of humans and humanity to win out over the innate evil in all of us.”


[1] Joseph Dillard, "Critiquing Wilber's Defense of Krishna's Justification of Murder in the Baghavad Gita", June 2021.

Comment Form is loading comments...