The Concept of Evil
In principle, the concept of evil and its close relationship to suffering would not present a problem were there no concept of the good. The philosophical problem of evil has been addressed throughout the ages in both philosophy and religion’s most fundamental writings. Hinduism, for example, treats all reality monastically. Evil only appears evil, yet it participates in the good of cosmic reality of the divine.
Evil is necessarily a relative term, its meaning becomes dependent on the kind of good which it negates or excludes. The problem which arises is the presence of contradictions on experience. The terms good and evil seem to be contradictory. The hypothesis resulting: How can we sense reality in such a way as to account for its seemingly contradictory manifestations of good and evil?
If one looks at evil as an incomplete good, we begin to have a basis for philosophic inquiry. One aspect or group of aspects may be offensive (Evil) whereas the whole is good. The problem that results is that from incompleteness alone, the goodness of the complete cannot be inferred; some implied goods are in turn parts of an evil whole. This demonstrates that the proposed view can be granted only partial validity.
Evil, if seen as a necessary segment needed to serve an unknown good is conceivable but how can we know that the unknown is good? If in fact we have this unknown, does this unknown good make the known evil less evil for man? “The difficulty of accepting evil as a necessary ingredient of reality leads directly to concepts of malevolent supernatural forces. If evil need not be and should not be, if things have somehow gone wrong and evil has intruded into a world which could have been free from it, who could have been responsible” (Cavendish, 1993, p. 3ff Since evil is seen as lying outside of man’s human capabilities, its origin must he outside of the human domain. This origin therefore must reside in some supernatural manifestation, either the gods and goddesses of forgotten realms or the devils and demons of established religions. “At a deeper level, the powers of evil have not been thought out as much as recognized. …evil impulses which stir and whisper in the brain may feel alien to the person … as if they have been insinuated into his consciousness by something from outside” (Canvendish, 1993, P. 3).
Yet what if these assumptions on evil are erroneous, if in fact evil, and the sinister aspects of evil are just an illusion? The reality of evil may in essence be the product of the inner workings of the mind, projected into conscious reality. The collective unconscious of Jung, although a psychological type, contains a definite psychological nature with a language. Images, symbols and fantasies are the vocabulary of the language of the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious manifests in culture as a universal motif with our degree of attraction. In describing the collective unconscious, Jung stated that it consisted of mythological motifs or primordial images which he referred to as archetypes. Archetypes are not a priori ideas, but “typical forms of behavior which, once they become conscious, naturally present themselves as ideas and images, like everything else that becomes a content of consciousness” (Jung, 1969a, par. 435). The archetype’s presence is felt as numinous that have a profound spiritual attribute. This mythological manifestation in turn must be given some meaning by the individual. “But, the discovery of meaning is at the same time an experience attended by numinosity and accompanied by a sense of the awesome, the mysterious and the terrifying which always connected to an experience of the divine, in whatever lowly, unacceptable, obscure or despised form it may appear” (Samuels, et al. 1987, p. 92).
Jung described numinosum as “a dynamic agency or effort not caused by an arbitrary act of will. On contrary, it seizes and controls the human subjects, who is always rather its victim than its creator. The numinosum — what ever its causes may be — is an experience of the subject independent of his will. … The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness” (Jung, 1969b, par. 6).
The fact remains that evil has presented the twentieth century with the same questions that have perplexed humanity form the beginning of time: ‘From whence did it originate?’
In man’s attempt to progress, he has ignored the basic aspects of his humanity. Good and evil have become just another by-product of our technological society, an illness that’s roots are no longer important. Society has projected all its negative side effects as the cost one must pay for advancement. Material success is justified at the expense of ethics and morality. Yet the question stills remains if evil is caused from within or by some supernatural force. If in fact it is mankind that has perpetuated the evils of the world, then to heal humanity one must first heal man.
Evil Defined over Time
Throughout the centuries, the enigma of evil has occupied the main stage in the human experience. Evil knows no boundaries of time and space.
“There has probably never lived a human being who did not at some time in his life wonder why the world, for all its beauty and wonder, should also be so replete with grief, sorrow, conflict and with madness” (Anders, 1994, .p. 2). In mans search to find the answers for these human frailties the concept of evil evolved. “For thousands of years, in other words, man has attempted to solve the mystery of evil by means of myth, legend, and philosophical speculation, leaving his progeny with little more than a legacy of lies and empty conjecture” (Anders, 1994 p. 2).
Dr Paul Carus states that there are no religions in the world where pain, misery or destruction are not represented by some demon or monster the shadow of darkness or evil (1996). In Egyptian literature we find Seth, Bess and others that represent the dark powers. In Buddhism Mara the tempter is the personification of evil. The Chaldeans see chaos (Tiamat) as an evil monster. The tension between the existence of evil and the concept of good has plagued philosophers and theologians through out time. In their attempt to define evil they developed three types of evilness in the universe. First, there is natural evil, the natural world and its fallen state. Second, there is moral evil. This type of evil is the result of the will of moral being. Finally, according to Peterson, there is metaphysical evil, consisting of the Devil and demons (1986). Every great writer of literary fiction has his or her own definition of evil and how he or she alone decides it will be presented to the reader. The evil represented in a novel may be as flagrant as murder or rape as in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov or as the psychological manipulation of another character as in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
“Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a novel in which his protagonist and other characters are confronted by an almost endless array of emotional and moral choices that the reader must ultimately define as good or evil” (Northrup, 1977, p. 225). To create the fingering, ever ominous theme of moral and psychological dilemma cast upon his characters, Thomas Hardy introduces the human attributes of greed, lust, pride, philosophical ideas and religion. He uses themes that require the reader to take a critical look at the character’s situation, the character’s thought process and its impact of the character’s decision making.
In order to better understand the concept of moral and physical evil, it must first be defined and separated from natural evil. Natural evil refers to events linked to natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Moral and psychological evil refers to the “evil things that people do to each other and themselves” (Alloway, 1974, p. 214). Natural evil can be easily explained away by relying on religion or natural forces of the universe. Moral and psychological evil are not that easy to rationalize. Human beings make choices that affect every person around them. As Hardy has so aptly pointed out in Tess of the D’Urbervilles these are moral and psychological choices which can lead to not only physical, but psychological destruction as well. As Lyall Watson explains in his novel Dark Nature, “My intuition is that ‘evil’, for all its dark and threatening aspects, is inevitable a sort of black hole in nature” (1995, p. 24). As Rousseau puts it: “God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil…. [a]ll wickedness comes from weakness. The child is only naughty because he is weak; make him strong and he will be good; if we could do anything we should never do wrong” (Rousseau, 1986, p. 5 p. 33). That the failure is internal is expressed in Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, many [but not all] Christians, and Spinoza in modem terms it is expressed by Norton and Midgley (Kekes, 1990). “As Rousseau says, our weakness is the cause of the evil we do” (Kekes, 1990, p.125).
Kant refers to the predisposition of human nature, which he divides into three forms. According to Kant, the first is the predisposition for one to satisfy his basic physical and psychological. The second is the rational evaluation of one’s satisfaction of the basic and culturally conditioned needs in relation to one’s happiness. Kant’s third predisposition is to submit his will to the moral law. “All of these predispositions are not only good in negative fashion (in that they do not contradict the moral law); they are also predispositions toward good (they enjoy the observance of the law). They are original, for they are bound up with the possibility of human nature. Man can indeed use the first two contrary to their ends, but he can extirpate none of them” (Kant, 1960, p. 23).
Although Kant indicates that the individual’s natural inclination is for good, he also makes it clear that there is also “…the propensity to evil in human nature…” (Kant, 1960. p. 23). The good according to Kant is acquired whereas the evil is brought upon ourselves. “Evil is possible only as a determination of free will, and since the will can be appraised as good or evil by means of its maxims, this propensity to evil must consist in the subjective ground of the possibility of the deviation of the maxims from moral law” (Kant, 1960, p. 24).
Therefore, individuals have a propensity to good, but through the exercise of free will one chooses between good and evil. “Kant believes that human nature is basically good evil arises because we choose to subordinate our moral predisposition to that of self love” (Kekes, 1990, p.131).
In Kant’s synthesis, then man is not corrupt. He is “…still capable of improvement. for man, therefore who despite a corrupt heart yet possess a good will, there remains hope of a return to the good from which he strayed” (Kant, 1960, p. 39). Evil then becomes a condition of the soul, which is in part a result of its unbalanced and incomplete quality. The incompleteness is a result of mans inability to keep the ego in balance with his true inner self. The extension of the ego is seen as the individual is being immersed in self love. This self love is in reality a state of emptiness in degree, an emptiness in inner being, a shadow (self love) and no reality of the soul itself This evil state then is a state which is negative, relative and transitory. It implies the absence of completeness, which is acquired during the souls evolutionary process, the knowing self.
The metaphysical concept of evil concerns the contradiction between the religious assumptions in the good and omnipotence of God or supreme essences, and the reality of evil experienced in the world. The classification of the religions of the world addressed this problem with three possible solutions. The first is seen in the teachings of Hinduism, where a monistic approach is offered according to which the phenomenal world is but an illusion or Maya. It is in Maya that evil exists — an evil which is only illusionary. In the Western world we see a mirror image of this concept in the teachings of Christian Science. “Evil is but an illusion, and it has no real basis. Evil is a false belief'( Eddy, 1934, p. 480:23,24). This may address the problem of evil, but makes no attempt to solve it. It leaves its consequences as unexplained. The second explanation is seen in Persian Zoroastrianism, where we find a dualistic approach to good and evil centered in two deities Ahura Mazdah and Angra Mainyu. Zoroastrianism expresses this concept in its most extreme form as Cosmic struggle between these deities. This approach to the concept of good and evil is not unique. Plato’s Timaeus use this dualistic approach as does J.S. Mill in ‘Attributes’, Three Essays in Religion (1874) and Edgar Brightman in his A Philosophy of Religion (1940, chap. 8-10) The third explanation is found within Christianity. “In the first centuries of Christianity there raged a battle over the integration of evil into the image of God” (Ribi, 1989, p. 26). For an answer to this anomaly Christianity developed a distinctive combination of monism and dualism, a dualism which is posed as ethical within the framework of metaphysical monism. “Beneath the surface of monotheism lies a concealed dualism of good and evil, and beneath that, even a polydemonism” (Ribi, 1989, p. 26). In this attempt, the early Christian writers hoped to answer the main objection created by the introduction of evil in the world. “To many, the most powerful positive objection to belief in God is the fact of evil” (Hick, 1982, p. 330).
The problem of evil creates a theoretical problem. “If God is perfectly loving, he must wish to abolish evil; and if he is all powerful, he must be able to abolish evil. But evil exists; therefore God cannot be both omnipotent and perfectly loving” (Hick, 1982, p. 330). In answer to this problem, one can accept that God is not powerful enough to create a world that does not contain evil, or he may state that God created only good so that evil must have been generated by some other power. He may still find this inadequate and may state that God is all powerful but morally imperfect and made a decision to create an imperfect Universe. Most Christians would find this solution objectionable in the fact that it ignores the basis of religious belief “Thus the problem of evil is both real and acute. There is a clear prima facie case that evil and God are incompatible — both cannot exist” (McClosky, 1982, p. 315).
In Christianity, the goodness and the greatness of God and the reality of evil are affirmed, but the origin of evil is still a mystery. “Whatever is relegated to the unconscious, whatever is without some kind of representation in consciousness, threatens to become a demon” (Ribi, 1989, p. 3 0). One affirmation is through Theodicies. A theodicy is a rational attempt by theists to exonerate God as the source of evil. Basically, these attempts try to modify one or more of the problems of evil. There are two different foci that could be viewed in this situation. The first one is those who modify the nature of God. They believe that God is limited, and evil is a reality. This view is known as Process theology and is found in liberal Protestantism and liberal Judaism. This view sees God as finite and in the process of struggling with evil. The other view is from those who re-define the nature of evil. These people see evil as being good. Evil and suffering bring out the good in people; therefore, evil is good. They also believe that evil comes from Satan. This results in dualism, which teaches that good and evil are equal. These are two different views, but both are considered a solution in the problem with evil (Silvester, 1981). Christians give many reasons why God has allowed evil, even if the reasons are a mystery of their own. “Every communication with the divine and every religious feeling comes to consciousness only via the psyche. The psyche is thus the bearer of the imago dei (image of God), although we are not in a position to affirm scientifically what causes this image” (Ribi, 1989, p. 20). Christianity and other religions usually have five basic answers to the question concerning evil. The first one is that there is not a God at all. This a common answer, but not a ‘Christian’ answer. The next answer is that evil is not actual. In other words, everything evil that has been done has brought some good somewhere and somehow. The next solution is that evil is just one big mystery. These are the people that feel that evil should not be questioned. Then there is the solution that God is not in fact all powerful. God has many enormous powers, but there are powers that roam the earth that God has no control over. The last solution is that God is not always entirely good, God, Eke humans can also have a negative side (Silvester, 1981). “Theodicy, as many modem Christian thinkers see it, is a modest enterprise, negative rather than positive in its conclusions. It does not claim to explain, nor to explain away, every instance of evil in human experience, but only to point to certain considerations which prevent the fact of evil (largely incomprehensible though it remains) from constituting a final and insuperable bar to rational beliefs in God” (Hick, 1982, p. 3 31).
Christian rationale has always considered evil in its relations to human freedom and responsibility. Since man is a finite center, he possesses relative freedom, which in turn makes him/her a self-directing agent responsible for his/her decisions. “Free Will is not a constant or a priori quantity; rather it is that libido charge that is at the free disposal of consciousness” (Jung, 1969a, p. 201-204).
Evil — A Theoretical Foundation
At this point it becomes necessary to lay a foundation for the discussion of evil in purely theoretical terms.
If one begins with the Pythagorean Y which signified choice (Free-Will), it becomes evident how the concept of good and evil takes on meaning. The central stem concept of good and evil takes on meaning. The central stem separates into two parts: one section flowing to the right and the other section flowing to the left. The right branch signifies Divine Wisdom and the other symbolizes Earthly Wisdom. Man (Being) in his growth (Becoming) symbolizes the central stem of Y. It is at the junction of the branches, where man must choose or not choose his path. The left-hand path follows the dictates of mans lower nature (Earthly Plane) — which leads to stagnation or remaining at the same level of development. The right-hand path, signifying Divine Wisdom, leads to the ultimate regaining of unity with the superior sphere or Totality.
Given that individuals are governed by the Law of Free Will, in that every person has absolute freedom of choice and that decisions on those choices make an individual responsible for the results, then individuals, if they were not meant to make mistakes, would not subscribe to the Free Will system. It is the existence of Free Will which helps one to grow. “Free Will is mankind’s main tool in each incarnation for learning lessons for evolvement” (Bletzer, 1986, p. 844).
The solution to the inquiry of good and evil then lies in the understanding about the truth in human nature. According to Robert Ellwood in theosophy — “Human nature has a destiny that is only tangential to external nature, though at present painfully intertwined with it” (Ellwood, 1986, p.151).
The Stoic Chrysippus maintained that good and evil being contrary, both are necessary since each sustains the other. The idea is not that good and evil were created in some past time in static form, but that their growth is a continuous process, a continuous process and evolution from imperfection to perfection, from worst to best. Therefore, one cannot say that beings are essentially evil, they are merely less perfect or evolved. We now begin to see the gradient of imperfection. If one is on a certain level, then everything below that level must be imperfect, less desirable. To lower ‘standards or submit to desires is then a loss of perfection and therefore becomes a state of evil.
The state of evil therefore becomes a state of imperfection in growth. “Imperfect beings living in an imperfect state because of their imperfect evolutionary unfolding, or their imperfect development — while this is so; giving constant hope to imperfect beings to grow better, nevertheless hearken: this does not mean that imperfect things or beings are essentially good” (Purucker, 1973, p.154). In reality, one can rationalize on a conscious level ‘”evil’ thoughts, actions, or lack of actions, yet karmic law requires justification. Karma adjusts each effect to its cause. It gives back to each individual the actual consequences of his own actions. We become responsible for these actions, and karma impartially returns their results to us.
Whenever imperfection imbalance is produced in the self, there is no quantitative duration for this experience; each is dependent upon the individual. Therefore, “evil abstractly consists of transitory states or conditions — however long they may last — in which monads pass during certain phases of their endless peregrinations upwards and outwards” (Purucker, 1973, p.155).
Within this context, Karma is seen as the law of readjustment which even works to restore equilibrium in the physical and harmony in the moral world. Karma is then the limitation set for individuals at their present level — the level at which we have to speak of “choice” between alterations. Individuals then must make choices — certain of these become constructive — thus future oriented, while others are destructive or evil. To refuse to move forward and grow is stagnation. Evil is essentially the refusal to move toward evolvement. “It is to accept the repetitive inertia of past choices as inevitable or too powerful to oppose. It is to succumb to karma, instead of using what the past has produced…” (Rudhyar, 1981, p. 48).
Within the individual resides the human being species seed or the pattern of a perfect human being. This essence motivates the human fife cycle and becomes one of the perpetual evolvement towards totality. The whole of nature is one, a unity. Man therefore becomes the inner universe, the essence of being, becoming — unfolding to unite with the whole in an unending progression from imperfection to perfection.
‘Any being who or which is insufficiently evolved to have brought out divinity from within itself, at least to some degree, can be called “evil”| by comparison with beings much more perfect” (Purucker, 1973, p. 551).
The development of this principle becomes evident through the following: taken the relative positions of good and evil, the first consideration to be examined is the absolute value of each. Since good is not and cannot be an absolute value due to the law of free will, and that if good was absolute, its opposite evil must also be absolute; they become offsets and balances in nature, one being relative to other, arising out of the conflict of wills.
That the polarity of opposites is important can be demonstrated, considering that without the positive aspect we would not have a scale to judge the negative. The law of free will and the law of polarity are dependent, one upon the other. If man did not have the ability to make or not to make choices, he would not need alternatives. Therefore polarity would have no function. Man would no longer need opposing principles and each contrasting principle would not need to contain the potential of the opposing principle. Since all would be ruled by a universal force of determinism, no one could be other than what he is. Therefore, individuals would be justified in their actions, decisions, and fife cycles resulting from the premise that for them there could be no other. In maintaining this structure, one’s actions could not be compared to another because such a comparison would be non-existent. As a result of determinism, the Being (man) would have a structure, a blur print, if you like, to follow. Since this structure would be the only existence, therefore an opposition of polarity could not exist since non-being cannot create being. “What is permanent must remain forever the same. It is what it is, and to become something other than this would involve the contradiction that it became what it is not” (Popkin and Stroll, 1956, p. 71). The changing world, therefore, must become that which the permanent world is not. The only aspect of the universe, if determined, is that it exists. In reality then, the changing aspect (polarity) cannot be part of existence since it does not belong to the real unchanging aspect (determined) and must, therefore, be non-existence. As William James insisted in his essay on “The Dilemma of Determination,” there are striking features of our moral experience which can be known only if we assume that men are free agents (Free Will). The attribution of responsibility for our actions makes no sense if we are governed under the law of determinism. If one is predetermined to act in a given manner then responsibility for that action is not his, and the action can therefore not be judged on any standards available. The individual therefore would be incapable of manifestation, for as long as there is manifestation, there is imperfection.
“To illustrate: Take any one of us, a human being, we are beings in manifestation, therefore we are imperfect, and throughout beginningless and endless time we shall in various hierarchies and in different degrees of imperfection, on lower or on higher planes, be running the external cyclical round of developing and unfolding ever more and more” (Purucker, 1973, p.157).
Polarity therefore becomes imperative for if imperfection is a given, so then must its counter part, perfection, be a given.
Free will and the concept of evil take on a new meaning. Although free will always allows the individual the opportunity to change their future course, this does not mean acting contrary to the future because that is an impossibility. Free will allows one to modify their own conduct in regards to that future which is the unity with totality.
Growth then is seen as the manifestation of the interplay between the polar opposites good and evil. “If a complete human being is a feeling being, then evil must be allowed to exist for this feeling nature of ours to live and grow” (Stanford, 1981, p.10). Since man (Being) is in a constant state of flux (Becoming), due to the nature of the human being species seed then all events become manifestations of a basic oneness. This does not imply that all things are equal. Opposites are abstract concepts belonging to the realm of thought and as stated earlier concerning good and evil relative.
When one becomes aware of good, he must out of necessity also be aware of evil. The ancient Chinese philosopher Chu Hsi believed, “good and evil have no existence in themselves, but are terms applied to things according to their advantage or injury to oneself or to mankind” (Standford, 1981, p. 7).
One who wishes to grow may be placed in a situation of pain and suffering, which to some may seem evil. However for that individuals growth it is a necessary good. One must be aware of the relativity and polarity of all o
pposites. These experiences of good and evil, pleasure and pain, are not experiences belonging to different categories. They are only two sides of the same reality, oppositions of the phenomenon, manifestation of the interplay of the two.
It becomes necessary therefore to see polarity as the weights placed upon the dynamic balance of karma. For true growth is not to strive for good, for good’s sake, or to eliminate evil; it is rather following the path of balance. One must strive to maintain the balance between opposites. They are never static but a dynamic interplay between two extremes. Nietzsche stated that the individual could not become conscious of the beautiful and the good without also having a conscious development of ugly and evil. In reality therefore, “Evil is purposeful inaccuracies of fife activity; man-made decisions about another individuals evolutionary growth experience, one unfolding in his or her path according to their own speed, but not in accord to another person’s lifestyle or opinion” (Bletzer, 1986, p. 218). Evil therefore becomes the Maya, or self-created illusion, by which we five. This does not deny that it exists, albeit it exists as an illusion.
Evil and Human Nature
The fundamental aspect of human nature is good, and it is evil which makes it
corrupt . that the fundamental goodness of human nature is necessarily connected with the capacity to choose; and that human worth is thus possessed equally by all moral agents” (Kekes, 1990, p.125). This position was supported by Kant during the seventeenth century. As Rousseau put it “God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil… Wickedness comes from weakness. The child is only naughty because he is weak; make him strong and he will be good; if we could do anything we should never do wrong.” (1986, pp. 5, 33), Kant and Rousseau opened the doorway to hope in their philosophical inquiries. “The scheme of things is essential good, there is a rational and moral order in reality, and we human beings, in our uncorrupted state, are part of this rational and moral order. Evil comes from our failure to conform to it. The source of this failure may be internal or external to human agents” (Kekes, 1990, p.125). The failure as noted earlier is due to internal agents. Kant would agree that evil is a corruption of one’s individual nature.
The Christian rationale has always considered evil in its relations to human freedom and responsibility. Since man is a finite center, he possess relative freedom which in turn makes him/her a self-directing agent responsible for his/her decisions. “Free Will is not a constant or a priori quantity; rather it is that libido charge that is at the free disposal of consciousness” (Jung, 1969a, p. 201-204).
Kant and others in their philosophical inquiries of evil have just touched the edge of the concept of evil and man’s relation to it. In the study of Kabbalah literature, a break-through to this relationship was slowly accomplished. It is the Being-man, the inner self which is in a constant state of becoming (growth), self-induced and independent of creation. The essence of man is contained in man. The potential for free will has given man (Being) a path or options of paths and Being must choose individually. Upon this choice the basis of man’s growth or regression is dependent. The growth or stagnation is self fulfilled by the individual. The spirit of creation doesn’t interfere, but allows one to make the decision on his own. If the individual makes a decision not in accordance with the perfection of creation the individual must re-learn or relieve this incident. It is through this process that the individual is made whole again in accordance with the perfection of creation. This is the process of becoming.
Man is the inner universe, the essence of being (creation), becoming and unfolding to unite with the whole in an unending process till perfection and union are achieved. In a discussion of the relative position of good and evil in man’s unfoldment, the first consideration to be made is the absolute value of each.
Since good is not and cannot be an absolute value in creation due to the consideration of free will, an alternative must exist which becomes known or identified as evil. The converse is that absolute evil cannot exist, for then there would be no concept of good. Based on this fact, a neutral ground must exist, a ground of balance and harmony. This neutral ground must, by the k