Evil as Good


In an experience with a shaman in Cuzco 2 years ago, one of the insights I gained from that little glimpse into the great unknown was that there is nothing to fear in all of the vast, seemingly demonic forces arrayed beyond our understanding in the cosmos. That all is of the light, a part of the entire. I’ve been kind of sleeping on that window of intuition, but I re-remembered it the other day as I was reading a section in The Life Divine, wherein Aurobindo is grappling with the question of the existence of evil and suffering in the world. And I then realized that this little insight I had was perhaps deeper in significance than I had originally thought. For me, personally, the recognition that everything in existence is a part of a greater whole, including the “bad” and evil things, was a stepping beyond my upbringing. I was raised as a Protestant Christian, and as everyone knows, the Christian theology, in a nutshell, is arranged around the concepts of good and evil as represented by God and Satan. The presence of evil and suffering is explained as the meddlings of the fallen angel in our material world, allowed by a distant God to challenge and torture us in our den of sin. But there is, of course, a strange paradox in such an explanation of evil, for it renders a supposedly omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God as suddenly reticent and detached from humanity and their suffering. This means either that this God is cruel, or that he is not in fact all-powerful, or both.

I’m quite certain that Christian scholars and mystics have grappled with this question throughout the ages, and have more than likely come up with some insightful answers based within the Christian dogma. As I no longer adhere to any religion myself, I am not all that interested in theological answers, but rather in a unitary spiritual, metaphysical vision. The deeper mystic, in any religion, recognizes the unity of all existences as an extension of God. For if God is omni-everything, if it is Brahman, if it is all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, then it must necessarily include all of what we perceive as bad, in addition to all of the good.

This has led me to the idea that the very concept of “evil” is a necessarily human construct. After all, animals and plants do not create religions, laws, and codes of ethics for their behavior. If you agree with the principle of evolution, then you necessarily regard human life as an evolved form of life with a level of consciousness which goes beyond that which it has evolved from. As such, we have evolved into this perception of suffering and evil, and it is thus a mental construct, a product of our evolved mentality. And therefore, our conceptions of evil, though formed from fear and ignorance, are in fact an essential recognition of that which we must defend ourselves against, and ultimately transcend, in the effort to evolve. What we perceive and regard as evil are in fact powers beyond ourselves that threaten to overwhelm or lead us astray in our aspiration towards divinity. But in the bigger picture, these forces, so seemingly arrayed against us, are in fact a form of cosmic devil’s advocates that push us and nudge us and batter us towards perfection, honing us, challenging us. And when we recognize this greater truth, when we overcome our fear and ignorance, we get that much closer to transcending the existence and persistence of evil in our lives. In the light of this greater awareness, what was once perceived as evil and in opposition to ourselves transmutes into something with broader implication and potential, even a deeper good. All of this suffering, all of this evil, could be seen as teachers, bearers of painful lessons that we must learn. We must answer and overcome their challenges, and realize them as a part of the whole of existence. Both negative and positive, united, represent the entire picture. There is, therefore, nothing to fear. All is of the light, for all comes from the light and returns to the light, and has always been and will always be the light within itself, and of itself, and beyond itself. This is not to explain away your suffering. This is to say that perhaps you suffer because how else will you recognize delight? And this is not to explain away evil, and give it reason to perpetuate, but instead to say, for what other cause and purpose will we battle for what is right, and thus find our eventual, stumbling way into higher modes of existence, where evil is no longer what it was to our fractured, self-embattled minds?

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

8 thoughts on “Evil as Good”

  1. It may not be that evil is like good. They are both two side of the same coin, but most people seem to disregard the coin for the ons side or the other, when in the end their only the coin, that’s what is real.

    I think good and evil has more to do with our personal choices and intentions. In some parts of samurai culture, when it was heavily influenced by Zen, some believed that killing should not be done in anger or with hatred because it tainted the work of the samurai. And part of the work of the samurai was killing.

    Is killing evil or wrong? It happens in nature all of the time. Except in nature, we do not see murder or killing with bad intentions. We mostly see killing for defense and for survival.

    This post will make me think a lot. I’ll have to read it again.

  2. I agree with what you’re saying, that evil and good are two sides of what are essentially just one and the same whole coin, and that is in fact exactly the point that I wished to make, but I don’t think I did it very clearly.
    That’s an interesting point about the Zen approach to warfare. I think that perspective is also echoed in the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna gives a lengthy poetic, philosophical-metaphysical treatise on why Arjuna should go to war and kill people that he harbors no ill-will towards.
    Thanks for your comment, and keep commenting!

  3. Hi, Im from Melbourne in the land of Oz.
    Please check out these references which deal with the issues (mostly confusions) raised in this posting.

    1. http://www.dabase.org/dualsens.htm
    2. http://www.dabase.org/unique.htm
    3. http://www.dabase.org/2armP1.htm#ch1
    4. http://www.adidam.org/death_and_dying/index.html

    Plus references on the unspeakably dreadful politics & “culture” created in the image of the deluded/darkened dreadfully sane every person described in your posting.

    1. http://www.dabase.org/coop+tol.htm
    2. http://www.ispeace723.org/youthepeople4.html

  4. John, I’m a little confused as to what “unspeakably dreadful politics and ‘culture'” I have conveyed here, and as to what “deluded/darkened dreadfully sane every person” I have described. If these are confusing issues I have raised, then you are only further confounding me.

  5. Bubbler, “unspeakably dreadful” is a phrase the author of the references I posted has used.
    I would think that the contents of the last two references point to why this phrase is used.

  6. Thought you did a fine job of explaining it, Bubbler. As for the Bhagavad Gita, yes I think that is what Krishna supports Arjuna to do, to act without any self-serving interests.

    Are we like characters in a game that have to play? Random thought.

    I’m wondering exactly what we’d be left with if we stripped away every construct we put up to amuse/distract ourselves with? Would we be bored out of minds or is the problem that we cannot be satisfied with what we already have?

    Think I’ve got what I’ll be writing about in my next post now, thanks.

  7. Guignole: I don’t think the “characters in a game that have to play” thought is random at all—it’s a logical extension from the line of questioning “what is real? what is existence?” And Indian thinkers have developed the concept of Maya based on that very thought. I don’t want to keep harping on about Aurobindo, but as I am half-way through The Life Divine at the moment, I necessarily keep thinking about what I’m reading, and he’s got some deep thoughts based around the concept of Maya. He refutes Maya as a conception of the material universe as that of illusion or trickery. His reasoning—in a nutshell—is that if Brahman is supposed to be the one true reality, and to thus be the basis of everything that exists, then Brahman must include all the seemingly opposed material, detached existences.
    I’ve got to go hop on a bus, and then catch a train, but I’ll proffer some more thoughts on your other questions when I’ve settled down again.
    Thanks for your ponderings—and post a link to your blog so I can check what your further thoughts have been.

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