Friday, 9 April 2021

What is Evil?

 Bruce Charlton has written another one of his perceptive posts about the nature of the world today. In it he examines how the modern world has no proper understanding of evil and therefore has sunk deeply into it, more deeply than at any time before. He starts off by quoting someone who points out that "it is not right to say, as many do, that it has always been like this", and I commented that I constantly hear this too. But even in my lifetime it has not always been like this. I accept I have become more aware of evil as I have become more aware of the reality of God, but even so the fact is that never before have so many people, almost everyone, in fact, actively embraced ideas, thoughts, actions and systems that work directly against God and the principles of creation.

We don't understand evil because we view it purely in materialistic terms as violence, murder, rape, poverty, starvation and so on. These are evils but they are only one sort of evil and actually not the most important sort. They are evils of the body but there are evils of the soul as well and it is these latter we have succumbed to today. Evils of the soul are those that deny or downplay the reality of God and the spiritual purpose and destiny of the soul. This is Good. Anything that works against Good is evil so evil does not necessarily mean being nasty or even cruel as we see those things in a worldly sense. Some of the most evil people today are highly moral in their own terms. If that statement shocks you it means you do not understand the spiritual reality of good and evil.

This generation is fully aware of evils of the past and often exaggerates them because of its one-sided approach to life, a fear and hatred of any kind of material suffering. But this has led it into a massive blindness with regard to its own evils. These arise from an ignorance of the true good. You cannot know good if you do not know God. This is not just a glib saying. It is the fundamental truth. Good is spiritual good, it is what works to bring the human soul into closer relationship with God. Evil is what works to sever this relationship and separate Man from God and one of the ways it does this is through undermining the principles of creation, one of the most basic of which is the nature of the two sexes, man and woman. In a sense, these are the principles of creation and not just in the obvious material sense but in a spiritual one too where they represent spirit and matter whose union and interaction lies behind all manifested life. The contemporary attack on the principles of the masculine and feminine, through feminism, legitimisation of homosexuality and now the pretence that one sex can simply become another just because it wants to, is one of the more obvious forms evil takes today even though it is almost universally regarded as a good.

Coincidentally (or probably not because these things are on the minds of all right-thinking people just now),  Francis Berger has also written a very good post on how many modern Christians have bought into worldly evil. He calls these System Christians, an excellent term. These are Christians who really take their moral instruction from this world. They are too spiritually weak to see that what is good in the eyes of the world is often spiritually destructive. They may be well-meaning but they are also keen to appear right in the eyes of the established powers and are unlikely to suffer for their faith. They are really just materialists with a religious colouring who think religion exists to make us better men whereas it exists to make us entirely new men. And their idea of universal love boils down to acceptance of the world on its own terms while spiritual love means seeing the world in God's terms. I read a recent Easter message by a Church of England bishop that epitomised these people. There was no mention of what death and resurrection really means in a spiritual sense just some purely secular talk about the power of forgiveness and compassion during a pandemic. Basically, let's all be nice to each other.

What is evil? Evil is anything that works against real spiritual good. This means that even compassion can be evil if it is misdirected and supports sin, sin being defined as what separates us from God. God is misunderstood in a democratic age as being in everything equally. He is not. He is in everything as life but he is in some things more than others and our task as spiritual aspirants is to accord ourselves to that reality, always to enter more deeply into the good, the beautiful and the true. We must reject evil in all its forms, even those that dress themselves up as good which many do these days.


Francis Berger said...

"What is evil? Evil is anything that works against real spiritual good."

I like that definition very much! It also helps explain why most moderns cannot recognize or understand evil. For the vast majority, the mere concept of "spiritual good" is something akin to a fairy tale.

Tolken Cimmerian said...

Contemptibly so, one can not reach another who is so far gone into their fears that the person does not even know what it is that they fear to lose. All the world now is ordered around distractions so that the individual never feels compelled to scratch deeper than the surface of their being.

I can only describe in a basic way the traits that may reveal a true one to another. Intuitively as toddlers, will they bear traits such as bravery and innocence faced with danger, and imaginative curiosity at everything.

Bruce Charlton said...

'm quite a fan of the Marvel superhero movies and TV programs - and currently watching a rather interesting series called The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This uses the typical 'utilitarian' modern idea of evil as being (approximately) suffering and death, multiplied by number of people affected - complicated by over-arching motivation (e.g are you working for world peace, or for profit or glory?).

Anyway, the show is honest enough to depict several points of view about what counts as Good under these circumstances; and that one person's honest judgment (or prediction) of what is Good is another person's evil... And also that these motivations get subtly corrupted by concealed self-interest and personal hang-ups.

As things are at present, the situation is just a mess of competing point of view, with each party attempting to use force and guile to impose its view - which is an accurate depiction of a world without God.

I am not expecting the show to reach this conclusion, but it is an interesting depiction of how things currently work - or rather don't work; and how there cannot ever be any coherent concept of evil without God and a creation.

BSRK Aditya said...

Your definition of good is incorrect, because someone following this definition can expect remorse.

The destination of those who die remorseful is hell.