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The Riddle

Recently I was talking to a friend who had been experiencing a difficult moment in life. He mentioned that he’d gone to see people who read from purportedly ancient Tamil scriptures and revealed to him that he was under the influence of negative energies; dark forces that made him do unpredictable things. He wondered whether the answer for his uncharacteristic behaviour lay in his being possessed.

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He asked me for my opinion on stuff like this. I told him that I was an active disbeliever. That I would always look for empirical or cognitive evidence to see whether these stories would hold true.

I also mused to him that I preferred not to externalise blame for my behaviour and that I preferred to look within.

The Musing

As we talked, I realised that a lot of the stuff that we struggle with is on account of us not learning critically important life skills like emotional regulation, practising restraint, carefully choosing our thoughts, leading a balanced lifestyle etc.

The Garbage In – images (1)Garbage Out formula works with human lives as well. If you sleep 9 hours, eat right, exercise, practise some form of stress management or relaxation, educate yourself on emotional control etc., your life will be good. If you sleep less, eat wrong, don’t exercise, don’t spend time on emotional regulation or relaxation, then your life will not be good. The chances of uncharacteristic behaviour with the former lifestyle are far lesser than with the latter.

I’ve heard people equating thoughts and emotions to “energies” or “forces”. Makes sense as “forces” drive us, propel us. If we also take into account the fact that in olden days anything negative was referred to as “dark” then we can suggest that negative thoughts and negative emotions are the same things as “dark forces”.


When people say that the universe has dark and light forces battling each other, they aren’t talking about anything esoteric; they could merely be suggesting that the way people think and feel affects outcomes in the universe. To my mind, it’s all brain science, psychology and emotional and interpersonal intelligence.

The Answer

I would like to propose that this confusing of “negative thoughts” with “dark forces” arose due to one or both of the following two factors:

  • The evolution of language: The difference in the way words were used then and now.
  • The tendency of poets (ancient and modern) to use metaphors that allude to something rather than being specific about things.

180px-Jacques_barzunThank God for those who wrote elaborate prose instead! Thank God for the left-brained, engineer type who look for and provide details and specifics all the time! Imagine the confusion this world would be in without them! Imagine receiving performance feedback in metaphors, in allegorical verse! Performance too then would be symbolic!

I propose that all of us stretch our cognitive abilities a little or apply the filter of reason whenever we are presented with talk of the esoteric or the occult or the vague.