CHRIS LANGHAM is a gifted scriptwriter and actor, who has been found guilty of downloading child pornography. His professional life as an actor is over. As the PR adviser Max Clifford said: “It would be better for him if he was a murderer.” Is this true?
On one level, this is clearly nonsense. Mr Langham was someone who liked to look — but there is no evidence that he ever acted on what he saw. Surely it is better that people look at pictures than do the deed? This is the level the law generally works on. “As long as I only plan on stealing an old lady’s pension, legally I remain a free man.”
Most parents would say the same about paedophiles. Given the choice between someone looking at a picture of their child, or actually assaulting them, there is really no debate. Looking is not great — but it is better.
There is another level, however, on which words such as “better” and “legal” disintegrate. To think is the same as to do. You may hold back from the deed, but if you enjoy the thought of something, your internal make-up is no different from that of the one who acts.
Perhaps you lack the courage, opportunity, or manipulative qualities necessary. Perhaps some measure of guilt holds you back. But the inner chemistry of the active paedophile, who excites such public hate, is your inner chemistry, too.
On this level of truth, it is not what you do that matters, but why you do it. On this level, we understand that it is our being that creates our life, and this being is twisted.
Yet there is a further level, and, on this level, we are all one. Here, we are aware only of the hollow sound of every judgement we make. We may sit in our den, blaming all the usual suspects, but we know that if the light was shone on us, the distorted energies of the paedophile would be quite as evident in ourselves.
We may abuse people in different ways, but we certainly abuse. I have never met a non-abuser. On this level, I am both St Francis of Assisi and the Nazi who closed the oven door at Auschwitz. We are one.
The first level is the territory of the law, moral religion, and populist sentiment. The second level is that of psychology and reflective religion. The third level is that of the contemplative. Behold the moralist, the psychologist, and the contemplative, each with their place in the pursuit of truth. Each makes a point, and it is usually a good one.
Jesus also makes a point. He was not keen on those who put stumbling blocks in the way of children. He said it would be better for them if they were drowned in the sea, attached to millstones. He was not referring to sexual predators, of course.