Good & Evil
For human thinking it is particularly difficult to connect the antagonism in its human world, in its moral sphere, with the basic knowledge of the unity of all existence. Religion speaks of duality, of God and the Devil, ethics teaches us the opposition of good and evil and the traditions of the legends of our ancestors speak of Baldur and Loki, of Lucifer, Satan or Mephisto, but also of Pan, Cernunnos, Bafomet, Lilith, Hekate and others as the personification of the evil principle (in the whole universe).
Philosophically and dialectically, this obvious contradiction can be easily overturned.
Subject & Object
For the subject the object becomes the antagonist and adversary, for the ego the you becomes the antagonist and finally the enemy, as long as the equality of essence and unity of all appearance is not recognized or forgotten in the last One. If the object of its own accord opposes the subject, if the creature turns away from the creator, in the erroneous opinion that it exists of itself and through itself, although it is only the product, the creation of the one subject, then the object that you are with yourself personifies itself. It asserts its own self-consciousness, which is, however, only a madman’s delusion. The little ego mistakenly believes that it can exist without the big ego alone. This personal “ego delusion” or “ego craze” that something outside of unity, the one subject, has existence, life and self-consciousness, independent of the deity, is the cause for the polar opposition that is expressed in myths and legends and which we in our cultural circles call the cosmic opposition of God and the Devil.
The Devil in Religions
The religious tradition reports that Lucifer was also an angel, even an archangel, but a fallen or rejected one. Lucifer’s mistake was based on the fact that he did not respect God, that he denied God and thus denied his own origin, his own creator and attributed himself to self-existence. In addition to its cosmological significance, this legend is based on a deep philosophical content. For the opposition as such has no enduring existence. At the end of the world day, it will also disappear into nothingness, just as the shadow disappears when the light goes out.
In his “Flying Dutchman” Richard Wagner (1813-1883) dramatized this event: “Satan, Lucifer or the Devil are only personifications of the negative power in the universe, of the contradiction par excellence, which in itself has neither permanence.”
Religiously with this term all ideas and forces are summarized, which are consciously not God or want to be God, and which regard their own individual existence and their materiality as primary; in short: everything what we understand by materialism, atheism, nihilism and conditionally satanism. However, we cannot say that Satan in and of itself is evil in and of itself. Evil, too, is merely a manifestation of God’s polar nature. Just as there is a constructive force in the universe, there is also a destructive force. Both are lawful and necessary, i.e. by definition independent of good and evil. They are only the two sides or poles of the one being or subject, which appears and works polarly and periodically, but which also disappears and rests again.
Apart from the philosophical insight into this polar form of revelation of the one deity, which represents both the constructive and the destructive principle, the manifestations of this evil principle are to be differentiated. The figures of the Devil or Satan nevertheless possess a relative reality and a certain astral and mental existence as the mental creation of man. They move in the intermediate realm of the spiritistic, which is currently beginning to be systematically explored by parapsychology as a science.
Black Arts – Black Magic
The term “devilish” or “satanic” is sometimes also used to describe human figures who, in their conscious turning away from the divine origin, dream their individual self-delusion in excessive exaggeration (Homo et Deus vs. Homo est Deus). They possess all the lower principles of human personality and lose the three higher principles of monadic individuality. They can also embody themselves in the human kingdom – at repeated times – until their life force expires.
They are the so-called “black magicians”, of whom we have writers like Gustav Meyrink (1868-1932) in works like “The Green Face” or “The Golem”, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) in “A Strange Story”, or Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) in his “Là Bas”, and who did not only do their mischief in the Middle Ages, like Klingsor in Richard Wagners “Parsifal”.
These are personifications of destructive, negative forces, which are effective in all realms and spheres of the universe as the ferment of decomposition, in fact natural and necessary. In the human kingdom they also fulfil their task according to world law as the “power that always denies”, “as power that always wants evil and yet creates good”, as Goethe characterizes in “Faust” or “Mephisto”, who in the end must pass away.
Good And Evil: A Moral Problem?
Just as duality in the universe and the negative effects of God have always filled people with reverence or fear, so this polarity in the human kingdom repeatedly confronts us as the problem of good and evil. Religions, cults, social and societal reforms, ethics and philosophy have devoted all their attention to this central problem. Divine and state laws sought to find a norm to determine what was good or bad.
There are many definitions and advices, maxims and regulations, but every human being is always and constantly confronted with the task of solving this question individually and under his own responsibility. No law has made men better or worse, no doctrine of salvation has freed them from the responsibility and choice between good and evil. In order to examine the question of good and evil as a polar and world-legal manifestation, we must first distinguish that this problem is completely unknown to both superhuman and subhuman beings.
Of all superhuman beings, including the Godhead, we imagine that they are good. “An evil God” contradicts our reason; we also think that angels, if we speak of them, are good. With the concept of angels and God we – i.e. Christianity – naturally associate the quality of goodness. In the case of subhuman beings, animals, plants, minerals, atoms, however, we do not speak of good and evil. We do not attach these attributes to them. As a rule, we do not condemn a predator that eats humans as evil, because we know that it only acts according to its “animal nature”. The subhuman beings do not know our problem. They have no moral consciousness, just as they have no individual ego-consciousness. They are neither good nor evil, but act according to their nature, without any consideration, moral intention or commitment.
There is no moral polarity or duality in either the subhuman or the superhuman realms. Only man knows this moral polarity of good and evil, which ethics deals with within philosophy and which Kant (1724-1804), Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Hegel (1770-1831) and Nietzsche (1844-1900) examined in detail. The ability to distinguish good from evil at all is once tied to an individual ego-consciousness. This has man, but not the animal. On the other hand, it presupposes a moral capacity, on the basis of which man can distinguish good from evil by definition. From the structure of man, which is composed of the lower personality and the higher individuality, it follows that the moral capacity of man is at home in the sphere of the world of virtue or causes, in which also the seat of the soul as centre of consciousness is to be found. This sphere of the human being is now completely differently developed in him. Therefore it results that also the distinction between good and evil is quite different. To the extent that the consciousness of man unfolds and is active in the world of virtue, the virtue of his goodness will also be able to unfold. Through the more or less developed abilities of reason, mind and conscience, the soul has a direct effect on our thinking, will and thus on our actions.
That these soul functions, through which the activity of good is decisively influenced, are still weakly developed in many people can be seen from the frequent use of the words: “an unreasonable person”, “a person without reason” or “a person of low opinion”, “a person without conscience” or “an unscrupulous person”.
Little Angels – Little Devils
The distinction between divine soul and transient lower personality, which results from the human structure, still points us to a polarity within ourselves. We find two souls in our breast: we make a general distinction between soul and body; other more careful observers of themselves find two voices in our heart, one demanding good while the other tempts evil. Conscience and desire lie constantly in us in struggle with one another. We all clearly distinguish the voice of conscience and the voice of the tempter. Unfortunately, many people in our European cultural world have forgotten to observe themselves and the events in their hearts. But children in particular still have this knowledge of the two forces in an almost exemplary clarity, as attentive educators can see.
This concrete division and dichotomy of human beings is therefore the reason why there is a problem of good and evil at all.
Goethe lets his Faust lament:
»Zwei Seelen wohnen ach in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine hängt mit derber Liebeslust
Sich an die Weit mit klammernden Organen,
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen.«
The opposing forces in man could not be characterized more aptly. We humans do not extend our problem of decision between good and evil to a fundamental opposition of spirit and matter and construct a universal opposition, which does not exist at all in the essence of unity, but only works naturally, lawfully and necessarily in the world of appearance.
Early in the Bhagavad Gîtâ (13th Song) Hindu philosophy took a stand on the polarity of spirit and matter, on the duality of the two souls and on the problem of good and evil:
“Thou shalt also know
That both the spirit and the material
Are without beginning.
And that the qualities of nature
Have their origin in nature itself.
The material works through its own powers
And builds up changeable forms.
The spirit that inhabits and overshadows them
Causes them to feel lust and suffering.
When the spirit connects with the material,
It participates in the properties,
Those that belong to nature,
And with them he generates through them
Good and evil.”
So good and evil are only the expression of the one subject, the actual self. But while the reason and virtue of the soul, directed towards the abstract and ideal, wants and creates the good and strives for unity with its divine origin, of which it represents only a ray or a spark, the desire power of the soul, directed towards the concrete and transient earthly, creates and effects evil, as long as it remains attached to the ego-delusion, the beautiful appearance and the earthly world of appearance with its bitter lust – no demand – a knowledge.
The distinction between good and evil is ultimately bound only to a shift in consciousness.
If man strives for the divine, he withdraws his soul powers from his personal desire. The world becomes to him a nothing in the absolute sense; he recognizes it as appearance (Maya), deception, as shadow, without continuance and absolute value. He recognizes the laws of the world and the unity of the universe, but he recognizes himself as one with the Godhead. In this case he sees himself almost compelled to act “well” in his sense, because his nature reflects and also expresses the divine goodness.
However, if man considers the diversity of the world to be desirable, if he desires material enjoyment for his beloved person, if he holds fast to the idea of his self-existence and if he denies the unity with the deity, the unity of the universe, then he binds his ideas, soul forces and actions to the material and to the transient form. The disappearance of form is accompanied by disappointment; he is disappointed and unhappy. But to catch the supposedly valuable form, because he thinks only of himself and not of others, he will damage, disadvantage, and impair it. Such behaviour, however, we call bad, because it violates and diminishes the right to life of others. But if a person acts consciously for his own advantage and consciously to the disadvantage of others, then we call him evil.
Thus we find a further characteristic for our moral behaviour. It must happen consciously, be it as motive or intention, as conscious will or as conscious action. Only when there is a certain intention can we judge it as good or condemn it as evil. It is the motive that gives man his moral value. If life does not present a person with a moral decision, he does not deserve the predicate “good”, since he was not in a position to do evil. On the other hand, if an action does not have the desired success because resistance, difficulties and misunderstandings hindered it, we cannot condemn such a person as “evil”.
The polarity of our human existence between good and evil lies ultimately in the fact that man as the only being in the universe belongs to both worlds and opposites, in his higher part of the spiritual-divine world to which his soul belongs – in his lower part of the material world to which his body belongs. Man must seek to balance this fundamental contradiction, which is conditioned by a world law, within himself by directing his consciousness and his will towards the divine ideal and by being prepared to detach himself from the attachments to the concrete-materiality of the shadow world and the variety of phenomena. Only then will he be able to detach himself from the bond to the material world of form, which forges him like a chain to the wheel of innumerable embodiments.
But man learns the distinction between good and evil, the overcoming of the duality of being and not-being, the realization of unity with the deity as the subject and the actual I only through action. The content of every hermetical philosophy is once the realization of the unity of the universe, then the doctrine of the divinity of the human soul, and finally the demand for the right act of fulfilling one’s duty, as Kant makes in his categorical imperative on the basis of his deep knowledge of Indian philosophy.