Chances are, you’ve long since ceased to believe in a malicious entity who battles for your soul. But the alternative is to take full responsibility for your lousy choices and their repercussions. Ouch! Feelings of shame can be toxic and debilitating. It can also mean investing a lot of time and effort into processing/changing behaviour.

Maybe things were easier for our ancestors. Sure, their self-control sometimes failed them. They let their appetites for sex, high-calorie food, others’ property/mates, or dominance cause them to do things they later regretted, just as we do. But they had someone else to blame: Lucifer, the guy with the wicked-looking horns.

In other words, they saw themselves as good people temporarily led astray by a malevolent trickster. By repenting they could get a fresh start for their psyches, even if they still had to clean up the mess, pay their debt to society in prison, or make restitution.

No evil no problem? Um…

Apart from having no one to take the blame, there’s another problem with ditching ole Beezlebub. Dismissing him from our cosmology encourages us to rationalise. If there’s no devil behind our powerful temptations to do short-sighted things, then why shouldn’t we just “Do it! Do it! Do it till [we’re] satisfied,” as the old B.T Express song urged?

Believers who assumed that urges to do stupid things came from the devil had a reason to pause and reflect before yielding to them. In contrast, we more enlightened folk no longer believe evil is at work. Perhaps that makes it harder to tap the brakes in the face of compelling urges.

Truth is, we might be better off believing in (and resisting) a devil of the Mephistopheles kind* than implicitly trusting our impulses. Not because our drives/appetites are malevolent, but because they simply don’t have our wellbeing at heart.

They evolved to do a different job entirely. Our wellbeing is not their goal. Our biological impulses arise from primitive mammalian software that runs on neurochemical shifts (think of them as temporary neurochemical imbalances, like those that cause cravings for caffeine if you quit too suddenly).

This software evolved with one job to do, which is to increase our odds of passing on as many genes as possible. This infernal programming is the reason we often instinctively grab calories, resources, mates, sexual opportunities or anything we believe will improve our chances of snagging any of them. These uncomfortable appetites efficiently drive us to seek immediate relief…and thus nudge us toward our software’s goals.

Of course, we may sense that our grab will entail risks of long-term chaos. Yet we often rationalise grabbing anyway. “Act in haste, repent at leisure.” That’s an old saying “custom-designed for the case of tattoos.”

In short, although our mindless primitive instincts lack the malice of a Prince of Darkness, their ability to create chaos is just as impressive.

What’s at stake?

Obviously, a clear understanding of how our primitive software uses our appetites to shove us around means it’s wise to question these loud, insistent signals. Ideally we endeavour to hear “the still small voice” before choosing a course of action. For some of us that may mean pausing to think things through before acting. For others it may mean making the more ambitious effort to hear from our inner sage, however we do that.

It is important too to prepare for the unexpected by building resilience to stress. When we’re tired or hungry for instance, or otherwise under pressure, those mammalian instincts work at lightning speed. It can be much harder to steer for what serves us best.

Intriguingly, the implications of “not running on impulses” may be far broader than we generally realise. Our mammalian drives/appetites function by generating feelings of scarcity. Think about it. Whether horniness or hunger, such feelings are sensations of lack. They drive us by making us feel like we must have something from outside ourselves to feel okay. They work at a subconscious level and can feel like a threat to our very survival, a matter of life or death.

But what if our collective thoughts, feelings and expectations shape our experience of the material plane? If so, our collective feelings of lack would inevitably show up as a downward spiral, despite occasional advances. In this way, we would inadvertently create stagnation and chaos, a sort of hell. Hmmm….

The antidote of wholeness

Practices like Synergy and meditation help counter the spiral of collective deterioration. Deep feelings of wholeness (freedom from feelings of lack) sculpt a very different experience of materiality. Better yet, the more you practice them, the quieter your mammalian impulses, and the easier it is to steer for your true wellbeing.

So, do everyone a favour including yourself. Find a Synergy partner and generate powerful feelings of contentment and serenity. Do that until you’re satisfied.

And remember: the devil is merely our collective personification of mindless mammalian impulses. Don’t be deceived.

* The main character in Goethe’s Faust was tempted by Mephistopheles, who promoted ‘desire’ for material things. Goethe recognised that untrammelled desire, i.e., giving in to appetitive cravings and fantasies, was the root of “evil”. The big question in the book was whether humans would stop chasing their appetites and seek reunion with the divine instead. At the start, Lucifer said he’d win. God had no concern that in the end everyone would choose reunion. That’s what free will is all about.