Evil?

“He who speaks evil only differs from him who does evil in that he lacks opportunity.”–1st century rhetorician, Quintilian

While skimming through the new non-fiction books at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library I noticed another edition of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I didn’t bring it home because I have a personal copy of the book at home, which I’ve read a few times. However, seeing that there is another edition of the book caused me to contemplate upon the subject of evil.

Evil is a concept that has been pondered and written about throughout human history. It is addressed in every holy book and scriptures regardless of religion or any belief system. Philosophers have written numerous treatises on the subject. It has been deified into such characters as the Devil or the Greek Goddess, Atë. Whiro is the lord of darkness and evil in Māori society. The Aztec culture has Mictlantecuhtli the male co-ruler of the underworld and Mictecacihuatl the female co-ruler of that realm. There are counterparts in nearly every culture on Earth.

I used to believe that nobody chooses evil because she or he is evil but that they mistake it for happiness. That belief has evolved to include the idea that some unfortunate individuals deliberately choose to think and do evil because it is part of their personality or a character trait. I stress that this is only my opinion. This opinion is not based upon any medical or psychological findings. My opinion has come about through first-hand observations of acquaintances and personal adversaries, as well as news reports about crimes and wars.

Some sort of sadistic switch was tripped in the minds of Hitler, Pol Pot and similar tyrants, as well as in the minds of their enablers and avid followers. Some people believe such malevolent people sold their souls to the Devil. I don’t think that is the case. It seems to me that people who derive enjoyment by committing evil acts suffer from severe mental and psychological issues. Researchers have been studying this problem in clinical settings. I am unaware of any definitive conclusions of their studies. Regardless of any root causes of evil, it persists and manifests daily in our world.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”–Blaise Pascal

Regardless of stated motivation, the horrors of pogroms, holocausts, and ethnic cleansing have brutalized various ethnic groups and minorities throughout the ages. Certain individuals use tenets of belief systems to justify cruelty, torture, and murder. It is difficult and improbable to sway such people away from such thinking.

What is especially noteworthy is that inside all of us are the makings of evil and good. It is taboo to admit this, but we know in our heart of hearts that it’s true. The dichotomy of good and evil exists in our psyches. The struggle between good and evil goes on and on. The truth of the matter is that good cannot exist without evil. It seems that evil is the lack of goodness in the mental sphere in the way that cold is the lack of warmth in the physical world.

There are at least two types of evil–the evil of thought and the evil of deeds. The mental form of evil injures the thinker of it and her or his relationship with the world. The physical manifestation of those thoughts into deeds injures and kills others. When the notions to do harm pops up in our heads we have the choice to decline or follow through.

This battle between good and evil is present in everyone. Ironically, when we decide that any means are permissible to fight evil, our good becomes indistinguishable from the evil we wish to subdue. In my opinion, a good woman or man is someone who is fully aware of their limitations–both their strengths and limitations. They realize there is no goodness without evil.

The mind has an amazing capacity to rationalize thoughts and behavior. Whatever we think and do can find justification in our personal beliefs. The division zone between good and evil is quite narrow.

Ciao
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century mathematician and physicist, Max Born. “The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil in the world.” 

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, History, Meanderings, philosophy, religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Evil?

  1. It is ironic that many of those we consider the most evil thought the evil they did benefitted society.

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