Description: We become evil by trying to get things from the world and things
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
How Do We Become Evil?
by Ernest O’Neill
We’re discussing on this program these days the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. You probably know what that is in
your own experience, though you may not know it by that title. The title comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s
novel, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. In the novel, you will remember, Stevenson describes the
life of a certain Dr. Jekyll who is well-known in a certain area of London as a kindly, generous
philanthropist who does all he can to help the poor and needy.
Inside his own heart and personality he discovers a different kind of creature exists. He discovers within
himself an attitude of lust and hatred and violence and selfishness that is utterly different than the Dr.
Jekyll that everybody knows about. You will remember how he decides to give real release to the ugly, cruel
part of his personality, so that he can relieve himself of the strain of holding it down and can therefore
have freedom and liberty to express the kindly Dr. Jekyll. He devises a drug that produces the kind of
physical appearance and experience and expression that is appropriate to this ugly, cruel part of his
character. This ugly, violent creature is known in that part of London as Mr. Hyde. He does, of course, all
kinds of violent deeds. His victims are in terror of his roaming the streets at night.
Then, you will remember that Dr. Jekyll eventually commits suicide, and describes how he eventually came to
possess this double personality. What we have been saying, of course, is that most of us know the reality of
that Jekyll and Hyde existence. The most respectable among us have experienced a dark side of our
personalities that probably Joseph Conrad is getting at in his novel, “The Heart of Darkness”.
Most of us have experienced a “heart of darkness” that even our closest friends and often our closest
relatives do not know. They experience part of it at times, when we lose our temper, or when we at times seem
to be out of character. But they don’t know the depths, and the strength and the force of that desire to do
evil at times.
You will remember that it was expressed by Boswell, who wrote the famous “Life of Johnson” in the 18th
century, and he said he would find himself sitting in church thinking most holy thoughts and suddenly it would
occur to him the idea of “having a woman” , as he says. Most of us have experienced within us an ugly, cruel
side of our personalities that seems to get utterly out of control.
Many of us have even entered into the extremes of the experience of Dr. Jekyll where we find that the unclean,
evil part of our personalities seems to take over completely from what we think of as the good and the normal
side of our personalities. Where does that come from? Because probably every one of the five billion of us on
this earth have experience of it.
Well, it does really come from the explanation of reality that we have been discussing now for some months.
You remember how we said that this man, Jesus, that lived in the first century explained to us that we were
created by the Maker of the Universe, who also is His own Father. We were made by the Creator of the universe
to love Him, and for Him to love. That’s why we were made! That’s why you were made!
You were made by the Creator of the universe to love Him and so that He could love you. That is the highest
experience that you and I are capable of. Loving! That’s why we were made. We were made, of course, capable of
love because we were given free wills. That is why the Creator of the universe gave us a free will, because
you cannot love unless you have a free will! You cannot love unless you are free to love or free not to love.
So He created us like Himself, in His own image, and with mind and emotions like He has, but He also gave us a
free will. Unless we had a free will, we wouldn’t be able to love. We would be just a bunch of robots that
loved because we were puppets and marionettes. So, He gave us a free will that enabled us to love Him or not
to love Him. But His intention was that we would live this life in a friendship with Himself.
In other words, that we would go through each day thinking of what He would like us to do, and trusting Him
for the ability and the strength to do it. In response to that, He, of course, would give us the love that a
Father would give His children. He would provide us with the food, shelter, and clothing that we needed as we
pursued the jobs and the occupations that He planned for us.
He would give us the sense of value and self-worth that comes from the Creator of the Universe knowing you
personally and from you knowing Him. He would provide the satisfaction and the happiness that a love
relationship with the one significant Other in the universe would provide. That was the plan that He had for
us. We were free, of course, to follow that plan or not to follow it. We decided, “Forget it! We’re not going
to depend on some invisible God. We’re going to get what we need from this world by our own power and our own
The amazing generosity which we find in Him is that He gave us the strength to do even that, even though it
wasn’t what He had planned. So, we determined as a race to concentrate on getting from the world itself the
kind of things that would have come naturally from His love for us.
We found that we did need to ensure ourselves of security, because after all, there were five billion of us on
the world’s surface, and there was only so much food for so many, so we had to ensure that we got our supply
of it. We began to be preoccupied with getting enough food for ourselves, getting enough shelter for
ourselves, the right kind of house, then trading it up to a different kind of house, and trading it up, so
that eventually we could have a vacation home as well.
Then we concentrated on getting enough clothing for ourselves, and that became a preoccupation with getting
not only clothing but with the right kind of clothing and, of course, getting the latest fashions so people
would not only see we’re well provided for as far as warmth and dry experience was concerned, but well
provided for as far as our reputation was concerned, because we had no sense of worth or self-esteem or value.
Once we gave up respecting Him, we lost then the sense of His love. We started to find a substitute for that
love in other people’s opinions and we gradually came under enslavement to the opinions of our peers and to
the praises and the criticisms of our colleagues. So we gradually changed from being a people that depended on
the love of the Creator of the Universe to people who depended, strangely enough, on the love of the world.
The love of the world of things that we use to try to establish our security, the love of people for an
opinion and a sense of self-worth to establish our sense of significance, which of course, we would have
received far better from the love of our Creator. And a sense of experience of happiness from circumstances
which we were meant to get, of course, from a love relationship with the one significant other in the
So we changed from being a people who depended on the love of the Maker of the Universe to people who depended
on the love of the world of things and people and circumstances. So right there is the basis for this Jekyll
and Hyde experience. Let’s talk about how it is worked out in our lives tomorrow.