Notes to Poem:

"The Most Evil Man in the Universe"

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: On Sunday, March 15, 2009, around 3 pm, a friend took me grocery shopping at Safeway at 2580 California Street in Mountain View. Most of the frozen foods were sold out because there was a $10 rebate for any $25 frozen items purchased. As I had less than 15 items (eggs, granola bars, nacho corn chips, orange juice, stringed cheese, and skim milk), I went to the Fast-Checkout Lane. In front of me was a brawny guy buying a six-pack of beer. But he had one of the most graphic images on the back of his jacket— THE MOST EVIL MAN IN THE UNIVERSE with a menacing coiled serpent on top of a skull. I summoned some courage to chat with him and wove our conversation in this poem written two weeks later. When I learned that Professor Jean-Pierre Dupuy was given a seminar FRENGEN 265 on "The Problem of Evil in Literature, Film, and Philosophy" at Stanford on Monday 3:15-6:05 pm, I did a web page with web links on his syllabus on April 1 as well as completing my poem. When I went to his first class on April 6, I told him about meeting "the most evil man in the universe" and that I want to learn more about the problem of evil. He welcomed me to audit his class. There were so much reading material and film screenings that I didn't have time to write the Notes to this poem until June 8.

Commentary on "The Most Evil Man in the Universe"

The Most Evil Man in the Universe

When I searched in Google for "The Most Evil Man in the Universe" to see if it was the name of some film or music that I didn't know about, I found neither. However, one suggestion was quite convincing— Emperor Palpatine the fictional character in George Lucas' science fiction film saga Star Wars (1977). Palpatine, portrayed by Ian McDiarmid is the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, an aged cowled figure, who rises to power in the prequel trilogy through deception and treachery as a middle-aged politician of the Republic. Secretly, Palpatine is Darth Sidious, a Dark Lord of the Sith who initiates and manipulated the Clone Wars to destroy the Jedi and usher in the totalitarian Galactic Empire. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Palpatine takes advantage of Anakin's emotionally drained mind to submit him to the dark side and becomes Sidious's new apprentice, Darth Vader. Vader became one of the most iconic villains, and was listed as the third greatest movie villain on the American Film Institute's list 100 Heroes and Villains. In Scales of Good and Evil, "The Top Ten Evil" people of history are listed: Tomas de Torquemada, Vlad Tepes, Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Adolph Eichmann, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan. Other evil men include Attila the Hun, Caligua, Emperor Nero, and Osama bin Laden. The British occultist Aleister Crowley, who summoned up demons through ceremonial magick has been called "The Wickedest Man in the World", (Time, Oct. 13, 1952) & World's Most Evil Man (Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, 1964).

jacket with a skull and coiled serpent

After much search in Google Images for "Most Evil Man in the Universe, jacket, skull, coiled serpent", I came up empty. The best sample I found was a "Men's Hooded Leather Jacket Punk Skull in Olive" priced at $658, on sale for $329. However this 2"x4" image was too small to add a serpent and type. It didn't have the bulky feel of the jacket worn by the "Most Evil Man" I met at Safeway. When I found this "Retro Jacket Back" with a lion, the 6"x7" image size was large enough to work with. So I decided to create my own jacket design in Adobe Photoshop. The clone stamp was used to erase the lion image. Searching through Google Images, a skull and coiled serpent were found and resized in layers before pasting them to the jacket. A 24-pt font size of Hobo Standard Medium was use to type "THE MOST EVIL MAN IN THE UNIVERSE". The whole process took around an hour and half. See illustrated step-by-step process in Evil Jacket Design.

α-bungarotoxin and cobra venom
used now in medicine for stroke patients

    α-bungarotoxin is one of the components of the venom of the elapid snake Taiwanese banded krait (Bungarus multinctus). It binds irreversibly and competitively α-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the brain, and as such has applications in neuroscience research. Bungarotoxin was discovered by Chuan-Chiung Chang & Chen-Yuan Lee of National Taiwan University in 1963.
    Cobra venom while deadly in large doses, have occasional medicinal uses— some are used as painkillers in cases of arthritis or cancer, and some serve as coagulants for people with hemophilia.
    Snake Venom Extract Fights Stroke— An experimental drug derived from the venom of the feared Malayan pit viper shows promise for the treatment of stroke, an analysis of six studies involving over 4,000 stroke victims suggests. The drug, known as Viprinex, may double the time window during which victims can be treated following the onset of symptoms, researchers say. (WebMD Health News, Feb. 8, 2007).
    Snake venom could cure stroke— Researchers claimed the experimental drug, called Ancrod, made from rattlesnake venom, lowers levels of a blood-clotting substance in the blood and may be able to reverse the effects of a stroke. It could also protect against further strokes and is less likely to cause internal bleeding than existing clot-busting drugs. In a study of 500 stroke patients it helped 42% recover their physical and mental abilities within three hours. Of those given an inert dummy drug, 34% regained their previous faculties. (BBC News, Feb. 4, 1999)

Asclepius, son of Apollo, whose serpent-entwined
staff healed everyone, even raising the dead

Asclepius is the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek mythology. He was the son of Apollo and Coronis. His mother was killed for being unfaithful to Apollo and was laid out on a funeral pyre to be consumed, but the unborn child was rescued from her womb. From this he received the name Asklepios "to cut open". Apollo carried the baby to the centaur Chiron who raised Asclepius and instructed him in the art of medicine. Asclepius learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another (which Asclepius himself had fatally wounded) healing herbs. Asclepius was depicted on the reverse of the Greek 10,000 drachmas banknote of 1995-2001.

Zeus got so jealous and killed him with a thunderbolt
Zeus killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt because he raised the dead and accepted gold for it. Other stories say that Asclepius was killed because after bringing people back from the dead, Hades thought that no more dead spirits would come to the underworld, so asked his brother to remove him. This angered Apollo who in turn murdered the cyclops who made the thunderbolt for Zeus. For this act, Zeus banned Apollo from the night sky and commanded Apollo to serve Admetus, King of Thessaly. After Asclepius' death, Zeus placed Asclepius among the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus ("the Serpent Holder"). In close proximity in the sky to Ophiuchus is the constellation Sagittarius, which was believed to represent Chiron, mentor tl Asclepius and many Greek heroes, though Chiron was originally associated with the constellation Centaurus in the southern sky.

kundalini— the serpent asleep at the base
of our spine that is awakened by meditation

yogi, chakras Kundalini in Sanskrit means "coiled". In Indian yoga, it is a "corporeal energy" envisioned as a sleeping serpent coiled at the base of the spine. Sir John Woodroffe translated this in his book as The Serpent Power (1919). Kundalini is considered a part of the subtle body along with the chakras (energy centers) and nadis (channels). The overall concept has many points in common with Chinese acupuncture. I was fortunate to attend Joseph Campbell's lecture & workshop on the "Kundalini" at Harvard University on January 8, 1982, where he outlined the first three chakras— the 1st at the spine's base for survival, the 2nd at the genitals for sex, and the 3rd at the navel for power. Joseph Campbell says that most people are stuck at the lower three chakras, blinded by their survival, sex, and power instincts. He then showed a slide from an Egyptian papyrus (19th Dynasty, 1405-1367 BC), The Book of the Dead— the judgment scene, the weighing of the heart of the deceased against a feather. In terms of the kundalini, the message is clear: if the aims of the deceased in life were no higher than those of Chakra 3, the Swallower claims the soul; whereas, if love had been heeded in the lifetime (Chakra 4), Thoth will conduct the blessed soul (light as a feather) to Osiris's throne by the Waters of Eternal Life. (Kundalini Bibliography)

ascending the chakras like a fountain of light
Yoga and Tantra propose that this energy may be "awakened" by breath control, visualization and chanting. It may then rise up a subtle channel at the spine (called Sushumna) to the head, bringing psychological illumination. When Kundalini Shakti is conceived as a goddess, then, when it rises to the head, it unites itself with the Supreme Being (Lord Shiva). The aspirant becomes engrossed in deep meditation and bliss. A visualization exercise is to imagine a fountain of light arising from the base of your spine percolating up the spinal column to the top of the head. As it flows down your body let this light energy swirl around any part of yourself that you feel pain so it may be healed. (See Seven Chakras & Web link: Fountain of Light Exercise)

to the top of our head's crown chakra
as the thousand-petalled lotus—

Crown chakra or Sahasrara is the 7th and highest chakra in Hindu tradition. It is situated four finger-breadths above the top of the head and has 1000 petals, arranged in 20 layers each of them with 50 petals. Also called Brahma-randhra, it is the meeting place of Kundalini Sakti and Siva. The petals bear the total sound-potential represented by all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, 50 in each layer. The chakra synchronizes all colors, encompases all senses and all functions, and is pervading in its power. The Crown Chakra symbolizes detachment from illusion, and experiencing Cosmic Consciousness, seeing everyone and everything as oneself. When a yogi raises his or her kundalini, energy of awareness, up to this level, Samadhi, or union with God is experienced. It is often related to the opening of the third eye or pineal gland and related to the color violet and the thousand-petaled lotus. The Crown chakra image shown here was scanned from C.W. Leadbeater's The Chakras (1980 paperback copy of the original 1927 edition).

halo you see around Buddha and Christ
The Halo is a ring of light surrounding a person in art. It is often depicted on Buddha, Christ, angels, saints, and sacred figures. The halo is shown in the form of a golden, yellow, or white circular glow around the head. Round "solar discs" surrounded by a serpent above the head are seen on Ancient Egypt deities Ra and Hathor. Symbols resembling later haloes, such as the sun cross, are found in many ancient religions, especially in connection with sun worship. In Adoration of the Magi (1306), Giotto paints haloes around the infant Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Angel, and the three Kings. Psychics claim to see haloes and auras around spiritual people. The clairvoyant C.W. Leadbeater, author of Chakras (1927) saw the largest aura around the 14-year old boy Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1909 on the beach in Adyar, India. He was groomed by the Theosophical Society to become the future World Teacher. But in 1929, Krishnamurti disbanded the Order of the Star which he headed, saying "truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect." He returned all monies and properties donated to the Order of the Star, including a castle in Holland and 5,000 acres of land, to their donors. He refused to be a guru and accepted neither followers or disciples. His public lecture tours on spiritual quest and truth for more than 50 years have been taped and published in books. It is interesting that in his later years, Krishnamurti called Leadbeater, the one who discovered him "evil".

Hippocrates, Father of Medicine chose
the caduceus as the physician's logo—

Hermes, Mercury, caduceus The Greek god Hermes (Mercury) carries this serpent power in the form of the caduceus, which Hippocrates (460-377BC), the father of medicine adopted as the physician's logo. We may see the twin serpents as the DNA double helix, the genetic messenger of life, or the serpent power rising from the base of the spine to the crown chakra of enlightenment symbolized by the wings at the top. Mercury received this winged wand from Apollo in exchange for his lyre. Thus, Apollo became the god of poetry with the nine muses dancing to his music on Mt. Parnassus. But Mercury became the messenger of the gods. The caduceus's rod corresponds to the axis mundi or sushumna (central column of the spinal cord), and the serpents to the ida & pingala (right & left spinal nerves). The yogi's goal is to awaken the kundalini (serpent energy) at the spine's base (lower instincts), so the inner fire ascends to the upper chakras (higher consciousness) as symbolized by wings. The caduceus should remind physicians of their higher calling—to care for their patient's physical as well as their emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

twin snakes on a winged rod resemble the DNA double
helix carrying the genetic chromosomes of life.

The spine is called in India the Brahmadanda, the rod of Brahma, and the drawing at left in Fig. 4d shows that it is also the origin of Mercury's caduceus, the two snakes of which symbolize the kundalini or serpent-fire that is set in motion during yogic meditation. The wings typify the power of conscious flight through the higher planes which the development of that fire confers. Fig. 4a shows the stimulated Ida after the initiation into the First Degree of Freemasonry; this line is crimson in color. To it is added at the Passing the yellow line of the Pingala, depicted in Fig. 4b; while at the Raising the series is completed by the deep blue stream of the Sushumna, shown by Fig. 4c. (from C.W. Leadbeater, The Chakras, 1980, pp. 32-33). These three subtle channels Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are known as Nadis.

"You're telling me that I'm not evil but good"
In Christianity, Satan is identified as the serpent who tempted Adam and Evil (Genesis 3) to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2.17) resulting in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Revelation 12.9 "the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan deceives the whole world". In serpent symbolism, the association of serpent with evil derives from the forked tongues of snakes. Human tongues have one tip and represents truthful speech, while the serpent's forked tongue represents disunity and deceitful speech. In Hinduism and Buddhism, Nagas are giant serpents with god-like powers that are revered. Since serpents cast off their skins, they symbolize rebirth and are represented in cosmic cycles. Ningishzida is a Mesopotamian deity of the underworld. He is the patron of medicine, and a god of Nature and fertility. His name in Sumerian means "Lord of the good tree". The design from the Libation Cup of King Gudea of Lagash (Sumeria, 2000 B.C.) shows two gryphons or "lion birds" with scorpion tails. They draw back the portals of a shrine to reveal the Sumero-Akkadian serpent-god Ningishzida in dual aspect, as a pair of copulating vipers interlaced along a staff. It predates Mercury's Caduceus, Rod of Asclepius, and the serpent staff of Moses by more than a millennium. A case in literature of an evil character who turned good is Goethe's Faust. The magic spells and incantations that brought him pleasure (over Gretchen and Helen of Troy) and power did not satisfy his soul. Faust found that only by helping others (draining a swamp for better sewage in the community) gave him a feeling of bliss. Real life cases include Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) who led a hedonist life in youth and adopted a monastic lifestyle becoming a priest in 391 AD (age 37) and canonized as a saint in 1298. In my chat with the brawny guy, I tried to focus on the serpent's symbolism of goodness in healing rather than the evil symbol of death and violence. Perhaps he was surprised at this revelation, as shown by the smile in his eyes when he gave me the hearty "high-five salute".

"You've made my day!
The phrase "You made my day" or "You've made my day" means that someone has done or said something that made you very happy, and it made the day more special for you. However, I was thinking this tough guy saying those words of Clint Eastwood "Go ahead, make my day!" when playing Harry Callahan ("Dirty Harry") in the 1983 film Sudden Impact (see Video). No doubt he must have beaten up many of his opponents to submission or scared them off with his menacing "Most Evil Man in the Universe" jacket. But on this day, I encountered him without fear and we both opened our hearts not to evil but goodness. I guess he made my day too!

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (6-9-2009)