What is Evil?

What is evil? In his insightful book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Dr. Peck provides us with an psychological description of evil as it manifests in personality.

  • consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.
  • excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.
  • pronounced concern with public image and self-image of respectability, continuity to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or revengeful motives.
  • intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic like disturbance of thinking at times of stress.

We have all met people that meet the above personality description, yet these lying, manipulative, sanctimonius, angry people of the lie are not the type of evil that was encountered by Carl Brahe (read the article "A Deal With The Devil" for more information). We can by a stretch of the imagination include Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, etc. in this definition, but in some way their "total regard of anyone else" type evil oversteps this definition. We might choose to label these persons sociopathic, being without the normal controls or conscience that seems to keep the rest of us in check. They are driven by a need for power, control, hoarding, and often quasi-religious goals. They seem to be stuck in one of the early stages of Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Infant like, they can only see and focus upon their own immediate needs. They seem like monsters, charactertures of evil.

We seldom encounter the people of the lie in CRST, because at the subconscious level, lies are not possible. What we do encounter however, is the projections of embodied and disembodied relatives of these people of the lie. Throughout history we have described these influences as satanic, demonic, evil incarnate. We have visualized and painted them as demons, dragons, gargoyles, harpies, dark and forbidding, with horns and various natural body armor. Disemboided egregores and creatures from the lower astral planes that feed upon our fear and anger and take on semi-individuated forms and possess the bodies we inhabit. Creatures from extraterrestrial environments that are both physically and psychically parasitic,with goals and agendas so foreign to us that we do not know whether they are for the freedom of all live (life) or evil and for the control of all live (life.)

We describe their influences as stemming from places labeled as hell, the underworld, the region of the damned, the lower astral planes. They come from a place that we can only imagine is a place of punishment. We are told by the New Thought churches that evil is only a misperception in our thinking. It is the reflection of our fears, our judgments, our egos, illusions, our lack of spiritual evolution. Change your thoughts and you will drive away the evil.

I felt it would be instructive to look at the commonly accepted notions about evil.

One encyclopedia definition of EVIL is:

"that which is morally bad or wrong, or that which causes harm, pain, or misery. In theology, the problem of evil arises if it is accepted that evil exists in a universe governed by a supreme being who is both good and omnipotent. In a formulation of the problem attributed to the Greek philosopher Epicurus, either God can prevent evil and chooses not to (and therefore is not good) or chooses to prevent it and cannot (and therefore is not all-powerful)."

Traditional Religious Solutions

The problem of evil has been a central concern of philosophers and of all the major religions. Some of the solutions proposed have rested on a denial either of the existence of evil or of the omnipotence of God. In Hindu teaching, for instance, evil has no real existence, being part of the illusory world of phenomena. In the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism and the related ancient Middle Eastern sect known as Manichaeism, evil is attributed to the existence of an evil deity, against whom the good deity must struggle . In the Book of Job, on the other hand, after Job's comforters offer dubious explanations of Job's undeserved suffering, the demand for an explanation is ultimately made to seem presumptuous, and the scriptural writer suggests that God's ways are mysterious and beyond human understanding.

Saint Augustine

As Christian theology began to emerge in the 3d and 4th centuries, the problem of evil became particularly challenging because Christianity was committed to the existence of an all-powerful, benevolent God but at the same time acknowledged the real existence of evil. At the end of the 4th century St. Augustine formulated the solution that has had the greatest influence on subsequent Christian thinkers. As a young man, Augustine had accepted the dualistic theology of Manichaeism. The later influence of Neoplatonism prepared him for his conversion to Christianity and his theological reconciliation of the Christian belief in a benevolent God, the creator of everything that exists, with the pervasive presence of evil in the world. According to Augustine, evil has not been created by God, whose creation is entirely good. Evil is the privation, or absence, of good, as darkness is the absence of light. It is possible, however, for something created good to diminish in goodness, to become corrupted, and evil has crept in when creatures endowed with free will i.e.angels, such lesser spirits as demons, and human beings turn away from higher, or more complete, goods and choose lesser, partial ones. Furthermore, according to Augustine, what at first appears to be evil may be understood as good in the context of eternity. From God's eternal perspective, everything is good.

Later Arguments

Augustine's ideas strongly influenced later Roman Catholic theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, and Reformation Protestant theologians, particularly John Calvin. In the 17th century, the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz argued that God's power of creation was limited to logically possible worlds, and evil is a logically necessary part of the "best of all possible worlds." During the Enlightenment, these arguments came under attack by skeptics. Both the French philosopher Voltaire and the English philosopher David Hume rejected the idea that the immense amount of pain and suffering in human life can be justified because it forms part of a benevolent divine plan.

The 20th Century

The unprecedented scale of the wars and persecutions of the 20th century undermined the secular belief in inevitable progress and confronted philosophers and theologians once again with the problem of evil. In particular, the question of whether extreme suffering can ever be theologically justified has been raised with regard to the Holocaust. Some have speculated about the absence of God; others have recalled the idea in the Book of Job of the mysteriousness of God's ways. The problem of evil has thus returned as a major concern of contemporary theology.

Evil is defined in the dictionary as:

  1. morally reprehensible : SINFUL, WICKED
  2. arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct
  3. archaic : INFERIOR
  4. causing discomfort or repulsion : OFFENSIVE
  6. causing harm : PERNICIOUS
  7. marked by misfortune : UNLUCKY
  8. the fact of suffering, misfortune, and wrongdoing
  9. a cosmic evil force: something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity

The Thesaurus equates evil with:

[adj]sinful, immoral angry, atrocious, bad, baneful, base, beastly, calamitous, corrupt, damnable, depraved, destructive, disastrous, execrable, flagitious, foul, harmful, hateful, heinous, hideous, iniquitous, injurious, loathsome, low, maleficent, malevolent, malicious, malignant, nefarious, no good, obscene, offensive, pernicious, poison, rancorous, reprobate, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, spiteful, stinking, ugly, unpleasant, unpropitious, vicious, vile, villainous, wicked, wrathful, wrong

We are fairly clear that evil is bad and "live" (evil spelled backwards) or life is good. Yet how is this duality to be reconciled. Ken Wilber in his book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, suggests that the way to do this is to transcend duality, to view evil and live as part of the indivisable whole/part. The suggestion of The Right Use of Will source is that Evil is the denied, unaccepted or imperfect aspects of the creator that has been pushed out, fragmented and indiviudalized Unfortunately, however helpful they may be in our understanding of the phenomeon of evil, neither of these philosophical explanations tell us how to pragmatically deal with the dualities as they affect our lives. We have seen how the ignoring of evil in Bosnia led to more atrocities. We (collectively) now have introduced another evil, United nations sanctioned destruction of more lives, as a solution to the original evil. Yet as we look at the news and view the children and the refugees, we need a score card to tell the combatants apart.

We will not solve this dilemna here in this column. Evil as a phenomenon does exist. It affects and effects us all. How you personally define and cope with evil is a spiritual decision unique to your own personal world view. On the phonomenal level it cannot be ignored, because I believe that influence, control, possession, and power abuses do exist and they interfere in the freedom of other beings. Therefore I have accepted the right to choose one's own relationships to evil phenomenon as the basic heritage of our wholeness. A freedom to take whatever path is before us as long as we do not interfere in the paths of others. My only hope is that all of you will be moved to think deeply about evil and not to accept the easy, simplistic explanation.

Coming to grips with evil is extremely important for the facilitator of CRST for you cannot avoid the phenomenon no matter how much you might like it to disappear and I do not believe that simple cognitive solutions such as it being only an "error in thought" are useful or responsible. I cannot tell you specifically how to come to grips with evil, I only know that you must clearly know where you stand.

Written by James M. Price MSW, MPA


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