Empathy: A Conversation
December 2003

Shakta 1[S1]: You are many people rolled into one. All the archetypes -except the villain. Though once or twice you must have been that too.

Shakta2 [S2]: Yes indeed. It's important to remember that, other than inthe movies, villains are rarely pure evil. They might be heroes on the wrong side of history; or misguided idealists. Or simply thosewho have - whether permanently or temporarily - lost the ability to feel EMPATHY. That's the real divide.

S1: What is?

S2: I really believe that the missing element in so many people -whether you're speaking of Saddam Hussain or George W Bush;terrorists for any and all causes; in fact, all back through theRogue's Gallery of history. What they're missing, to one degree or another, is EMPATHY.

S1: Okay?

S2: I've been thinking about the idea of empathy. What do you think:The presence of empathy is the source of all happiness; the absenceof empathy is the source of all that we call evil. At least that isthe hypothesis I'm working with now.

S1: [Long pause] You know, I agree. In fact, I recognized it onlywhen u said it.

S2: Your agreement is encouraging to say the least! But it reallydoes seems to apply to everything so far! Even the great epics.

S1: Yes, that is so. What is the one possession Mahisha lacks? Empathy. What is the quality that Devi represents in spades? Empathy. It's the essence all the great teachings: all the heroes of Hinduism; and Gandhi's teaching, or Buddha's, or Christ's.

S2: Not to over-simplify ... but I think that this formula cuts veryclose to the heart of things. Empathy: its presence is the source ofall happiness; its absence is the source of all that we call evil.

S1: Yes, and of course there are shades and shades of lack ofempathy. Or the same person will have empathy in some circumstancesand no empathy at other. Or there maybe empathy, but at different levels.

S2: How about this; a dictionary definition: "Empathy is theimaginative projection of one's own consciousness into anotherbeing." ... Is that not also a valid definition of SriVidya?

S1: It is indeed.

S2: But let's continue with the longer definition: "Rather thanperceiving something as outside and separate from yourself (which isduality), empathy is the ability of being that which is perceived,and becoming that which is beheld. It is the unification of objectand subject. So that when you talk to someone, in essence, only twoparts of the greater Self are talking, and of course they are both equal. Empathy is not limited to only people, but can be a way oflife. It can be a way of interaction with and reception of, theworld."

S1: Hmmm … "it can be a way of interaction with and reception of,the world." That gets you thinking, doesn't it?

S2: Interesting, eh? Empathy as a continuum from the mundane to the sublime.

S1: Damned interesting. In fact, I now know how to put some conception SriVidya into understandable "Westernese"!

S2: Well as I say, it's still just a hypothesis - we just keepapplying it to different situations until it's either proven or disproven. Which - by the way - I think is very similar to how youhave described the function of the Tantras.

S1: Yes I agree. But I have understood.

S2: Okay. Now here's a final spinning-out of the empathy idea: "Empathy is the skill of active listening - of approaching aninteraction with an open mind. It is the understanding that regardless of a person's appearance, personality, or history, there exists a common thread." That describes something of the dynamic of our conversations, wouldn't you say?!

S1: Yes it does, m'Lord! [Laughs]

Eric Otto

This is quite an insight. In my readings the psychopath or the sociopath have no sense of real empathy. The best can appear to have empathy but really don't. The ones that I have met - con men mostly - they have no concept that the other person is real so it doesn't matter who or how they hurt the other person. They are really quite odd and the best of them never get detected by the way.

One of the problems with a lot of the New Age stuff was the idea that reality was absolutely ones own's creation. I think the term is called solipism. Nothing outside of their skin exists or matters. I know that they would disagree with this but it is true for many of them. I like the idea that empathy is something that exists beyond the duality. It certainly explains a lot of the problems that I have had with being too empathic. :-) This separation between self and world has created a lot of hurt and pain in this world.

Yes, I like the idea that lack of empathy drives many of these people.

Thank you for sharing.

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