In earlier essays on the Good and The One and the Many I explored that ability that resides in humanity that allows it to reach out beyond the confines of the mortal world, and grasp the perfection of God which resides in it; and which further allows it to form its will in accordance with the divine plan of God, and thus form a communion with all other humans in a human society. I also mentioned that a narrowing of this portal to perfection results in what humans call Evil. I will now reflect in more detail upon the mortal world and the ultimate production of evil in humans.
The mortal world consists of both the animate and the inanimate forms of matter. The animate are all the living organisms that populate this world. Within these creatures is a combination of the inanimate, which produces life. This life force, which resides in the protoplasm (the living stuff) of the cell I will call spirit. It is a wholly mortal effect of matter that disappears with the death of the organism. It results in certain behaviors, which allow the cell to be what we call “alive”. Now this term “alive” is as elusive in meaning as is the term “life” itself; yet we all know what we mean by this, but the meaning resides more in our own connotes 1 than in any particular denote we may put together. The important thing is that this life force or spirit is mortal. At some particular point along the evolutionary tree, organisms became more like us humans, but this point is hard to determine. Of course the change is dramatic in the human. A Human exhibits a purpose or design in its life, its will, and of course it can communicate with others like it through language. Although at first we may seem to see something in the human’s ability to reason and communicate as being not mortal, on further reflection we see that these are part and parcel of the mortal world, in that they are tied to the perceptual apparatus of the body, wholly relying on the sensations and the mortal representation of the world. But the will of a human is different.
Is there a will or design or purpose outside of humans? The great apes, the highest species excluding humanity seems to exhibit a primitive will, but on the whole it is still fully dictated by the survival instinct, and there is no choice present as there is in a human. The will of all these lower animals seems to be dictated by circumstance and instinct, and exhibits no real choice. All lower animate matter shows purpose or will only as mechanism – the instinct – most importantly the survival instinct.
This free will of the human is probably the most distinguishing characteristic of humanity. In nature, or the mortal world, the only real show of purpose (in the lower forms of life) is the instinct of survival and the parental instinct. Both are blind mechanisms without true purpose, in that they are built in, to further procreation, and overall survival of the species. Even the primitive will of the great apes is only a more pronounced and refined version of this mechanism. But a human’s will is absolutely free of any mortal constraints. Because of reason and the symbolic mechanism of speech, the human is capable of ordering its world, and it can derive an overall perspective of itself as a part of this order; but even beyond this, the Good allows a human to represent other beings like itself in this order, and give equity to this order without the prejudice of survival clouding its viewpoint. Thus a human can form purpose from a viewpoint, which is beyond the mortal world of instinct, and in line with the perfection of its soul, which reflects perfection itself 2 (in God) and the rule of heaven.
When the Perfect (we can think of the Perfect as God) comes to balance the will of man through the Good, we ignore or minimize the promptings of the mortal instincts which separate mankind into separate selfish entities bent on mortal survival. The Perfect is the One, and as such, sees the Many only in terms of the benefit of all. A human can obtain this view through the Good, but since a human is indeed mortal, it can never fully grasp it as a perfect being like God can. But it can indeed approximate it very closely in the Good.
Having said all this in preface, we can now approach the origins of evil. We have essentially two forces working in opposition to each other in a human. Firstly, the Good tends to bring all humans together, and thus fosters a will, which favors no particular individual, not even the will’s owner; and secondly, the mortal instinct of self-preservation, tends to make the individual the only concern of his will. Thus, mortality itself is the prime mover towards evil.
As we mentioned in the essay “The One and The Many” Evil is the narrowing down of the portal to perfection which instills in us the balance of the selfish instinct of survival. This comes about during the process of the making of the Ego in the human (see the essay on love for a description of the Ego). The pressures of society and the family on the forming Ego, can offset or accentuate the primal force of the survival instinct in the Id. The internal forces “repressing” the force of the survival instinct allow the Ego to be formed in a balanced condition; and a strong Super Ego (or conscience) is built to enforce the rules of the Good in the personality. A good analogy to this internal process is stated in the second hexagram of the ancient book “The I Ching”. In the top line (line 6) there is a battle between two dragons fighting in the field, their blood runs black and yellow. Here the dragons represent the battle between Heaven (the Good) and Earth (Mortality). The blood is Black (the color (actually Dark Blue) of Heaven) and Yellow (the color of Earth and the Mean). There is no winner but the color of Yellow also symbolizes the color of the Mean, which means a balance is reached. So also a balanced Ego is formed in most humans, who live in society as good citizens with the Good forming the central purpose of their lives.
Fear accompanies all mortal insecurity; it is engendered as a reaction to the separateness of the organism from its own kind in the mortal body. It is countered by the love and perfect innocence in the human heart, which is a remnant of its once perfect nature. The perfection of God dispels all insecurities through the totality of its all-encompassing existence. During the creation of the Ego, which is in essence a battle between the two forces, that of mortality and that of perfection, the balanced Ego results through the nurturing and love of the parents, which provide a way of shutting down the fears engendered. In humans where this nurturing or love is either absent or not felt due to the absent or ambiguous display of affection by the parents, the portal which is the conduit to the Perfect (God) can become narrowed resulting in an Ego which is overly concerned with the worldly, or mortal. This individual feels constant insecurity or lack of trust in everyone around him; the fears which engender this state, are buried in the Id and become the cause of the behavior of the warped Ego which results. The resulting behaviors are totally bound to the world (mortality) and allow this person to feel security only in material possessions, or the passions of the body. The motivations are thus twisted to comply with a moral ethic ruled by passion and cupidity, which replaces the normal Super Ego with a defective one. Duplicity and treachery override honesty and honorable behavior, so that any of the old “seven deadly sins” can be exhibited. Of course all of this occurs in a wide spectrum, from the most fully formed to a minimally formed portrayal. This is what we refer to as evil. Its occurrence during the birth of the Ego is the most definitive occasion of its growth in a human, but it also occurs all through life.
We can see from this that all of us are affected by this in greater and lesser ways, and that the threat of this happening occurs continually through the life of an individual. This is the occasion to sin that is mentioned in religious doctrines and the bible. The temptation of sin is held out to all of us throughout the life of every individual. The brutality of mortal existence weakens the will in its struggle to continue in the path of the Good, especially in the light of very horrendous life circumstances, which often occur. This continual and inevitable seesawing of life through travail, bliss, and everything in between, is the very stuff of mortal existence, which can never be avoided. The story of Job in the bible is the supreme example of this mortal existence, which can never be avoided or bought off, and the goad to us to always persevere as the warrior does in battle, in a purpose, which does not give in to the temptations of mortality. The character of Satan in the story of Job is indeed mortality itself, challenging perfection with the continual persistence of fate to tempt man to throw off the code of the Good, and the beguilement to blame God for the travails of mortal life.
Thus the occasion to evil is forever with the human, contained within the very mortality it is wrapped in. Is it then no wonder that the code of the warrior is the only code which can forever guide a human’s will in the path of the Good? The very same code in the Ten Commandments, the sermon on the mount, and the ancient warrior’s duty to his leader.
All life is vanity, the old saying goes, but living it as a warrior dedicated to the path of the Good, binds us continually with all others, and in turn with the oneness of Perfection – God himself.
1 See my essay on "What is Truth?" for more on connotes.
[Added: November 4, 2007] I add here a further comment on mortal life. Science shows us that life itself is an enigma in that it is something, which shouldn’t really exist. If any of you have studied thermodynamics in school, you will remember there is a concept called entropy.
Thermodynamics is a study of the concepts of energy systems, based on certain assumptions found through experiment. It is a statistical science that assumes that the total amount of matter and energy in the universe are constant, and that a measure of the “spontaneous change”, the entropy, occurring in the universe, tends to increase (i.e. the probability of spontaneous change tends to decrease). In other words the universe is slowly running down, like a wind-up clock, that every so often needs to be rewound.
Another way of looking at entropy is as a measure of disorder in a system. This shows us that the universe is tending in the direction of greater disorder or chaos. Matter itself is a kind of order, a bringing together of structure to the chaos of free molecules. Beyond this, life creates a type of matter that is self-regenerating, and self-perpetuating. In other words, life goes against the grain of Nature. While the universe around life tends to gradually wind down to a chaos, life actually defies the odds; and it has found a way of rewinding itself, of persisting in a world where nothing really persists. But the immortality of life is only ephemeral, because it still must reside in a world, which will in time self-destruct, and take all life with it.
[Added November 6, 2007: Note that the immortality of life is its generative aspect, that is, it's able to reproduce itself. The individual organisms die, but they are immortal through allowing their genes to continue in another individual organism. So there is only an immortality of the spiecies, not the individual. But even this, so called immortality is ephemeral since it is relative to the mortal world, and it will eventually end.]
Now, the human who is the epitome of life in the universe, has found a way to even go further, in persisting his ideas through his generations. His reasoning and symbolization abilities have brought this about. But the human can reach even farther out toward a grasp at true immortality through the agency of the Good.
2 In a perfect world, the concept of survival is meaningless. It is mortality itself, which gives meaning to survival, in that the mortal necessitates an end (or death). Humankind cannot grasp the perfect, or immortal, but it can fathom it in the Forms of Plato. These “concepts” are not the perfect, but a human’s conception of the perfect in a mortal world. They are, as Plato described them, “forms” or perfect patterns of mortality.