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Psychopaths Are Isvara, but Isvara Is Not Psychopaths
Simon: Dear Sundari and James, so I sit here with much love and gratitude for you and James in my heart, equally so for Isvara.
I am reading a fabulous book at the moment from a Dutch academic man named Jan Storms about psychopathy, the main characteristic being people in whom conscience is literally absent or profoundly impaired. We know them primarily by the famous cases like serial killers, but he makes the point that psychopathic people in less dramatic form make up about 6% of the population and are often found in positions of power, influence (financial or otherwise) and of course political, spiritual and religious leadership. He says this is a phenomenon much neglected in psychology because it is so hard to recognize (the psychopath is a master of disguises). Interestingly, this Jan Storms is a Vedantic scholar and he sheds a light on this condition by constantly referring to Vedantic knowledge. His articulation is just beautiful. The book is in Dutch and has not been translated. I am not used to reading books in Dutch, it is very beautiful. I am fifty pages in. It just makes me think how Isvara sets no limit to the expressions of light and dark in human beings in this constant pull of evolving life towards the recognition of our innate wholeness. I am interested in this and I think it could be important knowledge for me because in this jiva’s life Isvara repeatedly places me in proximity of other jivas with psychopathic qualities, Andrew [Cohen] being a case in point.
Sundari: Recently I have spoken about the issue of dharma and how it is upheld by the majority of people on the planet, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. It is only ever completely absent in fully fledged psychopaths and mostly absent in sociopaths. I would find Jan Storms’ Vedanta take on this topic interesting. Of course it is not Isvara per se “allowing” this condition by not setting limits for good or bad. The gunas have to have the ability to express both extremes or they would not function at all. That’s just the only way a reality based on duality can function – there can be no good without the potential for evil – and it is why Isvara has built dharma into the matrix or life would be utter chaos. A good example is a place like Syria where one can see the effects of the total breakdown of dharma.
Statistics of whatever kind are a record of the “big picture.” Regardless of seemingly endless statistical evidence to the contrary, the dharma field can only function as a dharma field if the majority upholds dharma. Otherwise, it functions as an adharma field. Of course the field is just consciousness; it is not instrinsically dharmic or adharmic; it is the way the gunas play out in the field that creates dharma or adharma. It is only a small percentage of adharma practised by the minority that creates evil in all its forms, from the worst brutality and violent to petty crime; from social, economic, political, environmental abuses to spiritual abuses. Psychopaths, for the most part, fall outside the spectrum of natural inbuilt laws, as they have no ability to evaluate their actions according to dharma. For some reason that function does not operate in the mind – and of course it’s not their doing.
The other issue that comes to play in this (as in all things) is the inexplicable way karma plays out. Take the innocent victims of psychopaths (including the psychopath seemingly a victim of their own mind) and any other way adharma is experienced or inflicted – who can explain it? Again, Isvara is not doling out punishment by inflicting psychopaths onto us; the mechanism at work is impersonal, always. The psychopaths are suffering too – it’s not like it’s that much fun being one, I am sure!
Of course when adharma and bad karma touch innocent people, especially if it comes too close to home, we are appalled by it and immediately personalise it; it is hard not to when it cuts so deep or presents such a dark and dangerous threat. What to do but apply the knowledge of the gunas in all situations and work on keeping the mind pure? We can only say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Simon: I have finished Jan Storms’ book. I am sure he knows the impersonality of the gunas, yet he certainly does not write from this perspective. The aim of this book is to inform the reader about the deceptive nature of how psychopaths function. And he certainly portrays it as entirely personal. He does not place this phenomenon in the light of an understanding of the impersonal functioning of Isvara, gunas, etc. He does do a great job of dissecting the functioning of the psychopath and how we can recognize, deal with and extricate ourselves from these destructive relationships. He says about 6% of the population has minor to major psychopathic qualities, and that psychopaths are often found in positions of authority, leadership, CEOs, clergy, even governmental childcare institutions – horrible examples.
It is an impacting read because the subject matter is so disturbing. It was personally disturbing for me to read too because of my close association with Andrew Cohen, whom I have grown to see as suffering from this condition. There was a period of time of about two years that I let him push me close to the edge of madness, if not over it. I cannot tell you how intensely confusing this period was. I am basically fine with all of it; I have done my work, but it is like in the last months the residue from this period that is still lodged in my cells energetically has come to the fore.
Sundari: It is quite amazing that someone can come so close to a non-dual perspective yet still entirely miss the boat! Thank you for going to the trouble of translating key points from Storms’ book.
Long before Vedanta became my life I have been interested in the unconscious; I briefly studied psychology as one of my majors when I enrolled for a correspondence BA degree years ago. I changed course when I realised that although the field is very interesting, it misses the true cause and nature of the mind. Without self-knowledge, all understanding is dualistic and has no real or permanent solution. The definition for psychopathy is debated by forensic psychologists, psychiatrists and criminologists, who use the terms sociopathy and psychopathy interchangeably. Leading experts in these fields disagree on whether there are meaningful differences between the two conditions, although much research shows that there are clear and significant distinctions between them. Both sociopathy and psychopathy fall under the larger cohort of antisocial personality disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioural traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:
• A disregard for laws and social mores (no connection to dharma);
• A disregard for the rights of others (dispassion is an inability to feel);
• A failure to feel remorse or guilt (no moral compass);
• A tendency to display violent behaviour (highly rajasic/tamasic minds).
In addition to their commonalities, sociopaths and psychopaths also have their own unique behavioural characteristics. Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They exhibit much less dispassion and are volatile, prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of anger, even rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. Many sociopaths are able to form healthy bonds to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules. In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be anything from mildly neurotic to very disturbed, crazy even. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous (emotional) rather than planned.
A fully fledged psychopath, on the other hand, is incapable of forming emotional attachments or having real feelings, although they often have likeable and even alluring personalities. As Storm points out, they are often to be found in positions of authority and power, being magnetic and charismatic. Psychopaths are usually able to gain people’s trust because they are so masterfully manipulative. They may not be capable of genuine emotions but they quickly learn to mimic them. They most often appear normal to unsuspecting people, even powerful. They can easily gain control over any mind that does not have genuine self-esteem. Psychopaths are often well-educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature because they are so good at camouflaging it. Cohen resonates very well with some sociopathic and psychopathic traits. We often say that psychopaths seem so close to being enlightened – however, their apparent dispassion is, in truth, a complete inability to feel and not dispassion at all. Both sociopaths and psychopaths need not have violent tendencies (or commit crimes) to qualify as such in either category.
The “cause” (from the mithya point of view) of psychopathy is different than the cause of sociopathy. It is believed that psychopathy is the largely the result of “nature” (genetics) while sociopathy is more likely the result of “nurture” (environment). What is interesting is that psychopathy is related to a physiological defect that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions (frontal lobe). Sociopathy, on the other hand, is more likely the product of childhood abuse or some kind of trauma at a young age. Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy in certain limited circumstances but not in others, and with a few individuals but not others. It seems very possible that Cohen also fits into this cohort as it is quite likely that he was abused as a kid and suffers from terminal low self-esteem as a result. His relationship with his mother sounds quite bizarre. First, this relationship with her was so close, then they became enemies. It does not pan out unless he truly is a psychopath.
Either way it is all Isvara and no one is to blame for this. Certainly it is true that no one decides to become a sociopath or a psychopath, and there is probably little that to be done about permanently healing these conditions. The qualifications for moksa just cannot develop in such a mind, although it is quite capable and usually intelligent enough to immitate them. This tendency would explain why Cohen, while seemingly repentant and assuming the mantle of humility, is really working his way to taking back his power over the minds that were once under his control. What amazes us is that without fail all the ex-Cohen students who have contacted us are dedicated and genuine inquirers. Characteristics common to all these people is that they are highly refined and cultured, most with obviously low self-esteem as the underlying cause of their seduction by Cohen and subsequent indoctrination. He clearly had a powerful impact on all those who crossed his path, possibly not all of it negative. It certainly is very clear that he had and still has power over you, a hook buried deep in the psyche. I think that this is the hook that Isvara is twisting and turning because it must come out for Simon to have lasting peace of mind.
Because of the way psychopaths dissociate emotionally from their actions they present the most dangerous of all antisocial behaviour, usually, much more so than sociopaths. I agree with Storms’ assessment that there is a significant portion of the population that fit to a greater or lesser degree into either category of mental dysfunctionality on a sliding scale of psychosis. Although many prolific and notorious serial killers are unremorseful psychopaths who view their innocent victims as inhuman objects to be tormented and violated for their amusement, many of their crimes may be seemingly innocuous. They don’t always exhibit violent or criminal tendencies but are nonetheless highly damaging – as our dear Mr. Cohen has been for so many. The most dangerous and damaging people are the ones that are the most damaged.
~ With much love from us always, Sundari