Evil is born in the gap. The gap isn’t anyone’s private possession. The gap contains collective responses and collective themes. When an entire society accepts the theme of “the outsiders” who cause all the trouble, then evil has everyone for a father and mother.
Yet in every case of mass evil, there were thousands of people who didn’t identify with the collective impulse – they resisted, escaped, hid, and tried to save others. It’s individual choice that determines whether you latch on to the collective theme and agree to play it out.
The second question, “How could innocent people become the victims of atrocities?” is more difficult, because almost everyone’s mind is already closed. The questioner doesn’t want a new answer. There is too much righteous anger, too much certainty that God turned his back, that no one wanted to risk their own lives to stop the enormous evil being done to others.
As long as I am overcome by anguish or righteous anger or horror, my ability to choose has been shut down. What I should be free to choose is purification, a return to innocence made possible by the shock of what happens when innocence isn’t nurtured.
You and I are responsible for our participation in the elements of evil even though we don’t act out those elements on a mass scale. Believing in them keeps our participation going. So it’s our duty to stop believing in “harmless” anger, jealously, and judgment of others.
Is there some mystical reason why an innocent person becomes the target of evil? Of course not. People who talk about the karma of victims as if some hidden fate is bringing down a rain of destruction are speaking from ignorance.
When an entire society engages in mass evil, outer chaos reflects inner turmoil. The shadow has erupted on a mass scale. When this happens, innocent victims are caught in the storm, not because they have some hidden karma but because the storm is so overwhelming that it engulfs everyone.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).