A topic that has piqued my interest as of late and has been the geniture of many a debate amongst philosophers is that of evil. My question, however, is not that of the nature of evil or even what defines it. The answer I seek is to this question: does evil even exist?
I understand that such a question may immediately begin some murmurings regarding my moral (and even mental) state; I must ask that you please bear with me at least momentarily. You see, I do not question that an evil action can be taken, I question whether evil is truly a tangible and observable quality (or lack thereof, if you will). Now, that question in mind I feel as though you should have at least a few pertinent pieces of my background as a "philosopher".
You see, I was raised a Christian and had always been taught that anything that went against the almighty powerful god was evil. Evil was a very real thing and could happen to anyone or be committed by anyone at any given time. Until rather recently I never had any reason to question this. Like you I could see and grasp that some actions were "wrong" and should not be taken. I understood that a person could be evil just as a thought, action, or word could. It was this entire conception that would be changed when I left that belief for others.
As many of my fellow pagans have done I first rambled into eclecticism and random religions. Seeking for a resolution for the bad taste that Christianity had ultimately left in my mouth I wandered through agnosticism at first. I then moved on to mysticism and shamanism. Having been brought up with religion as a central focus in my life I wasn't capable of doubting the existence of divinity. After vague combinations of ancient faiths I came to Wicca, as so many others do. At first I was entranced by the mystical and almost whimsical beliefs of that spiritual path. However, as I researched further I learned of lineage and the pains one had to take to be popularly accepted as a "Wicca".
So, being turned off of Wicca and other more eclectic pagan "religions" I called a halt to my seeking. I focused on my work and my fiancé and forsook the path I had been clinging to. It was during this time that I remembered some experiences that I had previously discarded as the vagaries of Wicca and the after-effects of an unfortunate accident. I remembered my lifelong fixation with wolves, my resolution that reincarnation was distinctly possible, and that I had felt called to Apollo and Artemis during my attempted Wiccan rituals. This led me to wonder about those ancient Gods of the Greeks. Turning to one of my favorite sources for just such topics I looked up both divinities on .
Oh bliss! At last I found what I had been searching for! A link to an article entitled "Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism" lurking at the bottom of the information on Apollo ensnared my curiosity. I read about the modern revival of those ancient practices that I had also adored in my youth. Mythology of any kind had always held somewhat of a fascination for me. It was with childlike awe and wide-eyed acceptance that I read about the Gods of Greece, their followers of ages past, and their current believers.
Now that I had found what I would slowly solidify into my own personal belief system I began to look back more onto my writings during my seeking stage. I read my treatise on reincarnation that had been scrawled into my small journal and soon linked it (loosely at least) to Platonism. It is only more recently in the past month that I have learned more about the topic. My jaw dropped as I read the chapter of A Beginners Guide to Hellenismos on reincarnation. It nearly exactly mirrored my own belief that I had written so many months before. That was what ultimately made me certain of my true path.
Moving on out of that background that I truly hope you found at least partly interesting I make the jump to morality. Morality on the whole is a contentious topic among many religious groups. Throughout history it has sparked schisms within churches and antagonism between religions. My foray into ancient Greek beliefs and philosophy undoubtedly led to this topic as well. Learning of the Delphic Maxims (similar to proverbs if you haven't heard of them) and other moral convictions of the ancients I related well to them. Now, one topic in particular has truly interested me since I read about it in my "Beginners Guide" and that is, as I previously stated that of the existence of evil.
I have multiple points I would like to bring forward as evidences to my conclusions. Firstly I will discuss the nature of the Gods and good. Next I will move to the nature of humanity. Still moving on the topic of the soul will be breached. Finally as my last point I will go further than ever I have into an even deeper question that shall be revealed later.
Before discoursing upon those subjects I must put forth a disclaimer and state that I am fully aware that not all believe in multiple Gods and others still believe in none at all. That noted I want to reassure you that these are my own beliefs and the beliefs of some others of my religion. I am writing all of this as a discourse and expose of my convictions in the matter of morality.
The Gods are very real and exist in the world around us. They are not distant, foreboding creatures to be afraid of (though some fear of the Gods would not go amiss). Having power within this world they can, if they so choose, have direct relationships and influences upon us mortal beings. Gods and Goddesses, being in the world but still apart from physical form, are not and can never be fully understood by humans. These divines being just that are fully "good" and cannot be faulted in their actions or non-actions; having said that I can move forward to the overarching topic at hand.
My second point is that regarding humanity and animals. We, being of the making of Gods, are separate but close to the divine spirits. Having physical bodies we are limited in our pursuits. Our bodies allow us a choice. It is the apparent freedom of free-will that is at the base of the question of evil. We have a choice in what we can and cannot do because of our material existence.
Spirit is as close as the Gods can get to recreating divinity in a physical body. Our souls are of divine making but are confined to our physical bodies which are subject to err. This fact laid down gives us the reason that a soul can do harm or commit wrongs. As "A Beginners Guide" notes, a soul can only perform that which the body can. The phrase "weakest link" may well be applied here. It is the body and not the spirit that strays from a path of "good".
Evil, as I have come to comprehend it (this due in no small part to the help of Timothy Jay Alexander, the author of A Beginner's Guide to Hellenismos) is not a solitary "thing". Rather it is the lack of "good". Taking the concept of the color black being technically not a "color" and only a lack of light as a guidepost I have come to this belief. Because all things are a direct part of divinity they cannot be positively "evil".
Another sticky issue that helps me in this conclusion is the fact of the subjectivity of the word "evil" and even of "good". We all know well that what one sees as good may be evil to another and vice versa. For example, a man stealing food from a supermarket to feed is starving children is doing good for his family but is not doing good from the manager's position. This subjectivity causes a discrepancy in cultural and religious moral codes. Those reasons and discrepancies, while not being my topic herein, are enough to be noted. "Evil", therefore, exists as a concept or a lack of "good" rather than an actual object or observable aspect.
Having laid down those foundations I propose that I move ever further in my debate. Now that I have submitted my thoughts on "evil" I will now turn to the broader subject of morality and "good". Specifically, does "good" exist?
Morality, just as the view of what is evil, is a highly subjective area of philosophy. The concept of what is "good" also varies from culture to culture and even situation to situation. My conclusion based on that is that there is also no observably "positive" existence of good. What comes across as good, in my opinion, is a shadow of divinity. As we all have eternal and divine souls in our physical bodies we are all capable of emulating the actions of the Gods at least to some extent. This is what we come to comprehend as "good" in our world. "Evil" then can be seen as the opposite, that which is derived from matter and imperfect things.
It is difficult to say whether I am correct in these conclusions or not. Doubtless it is all a matter of opinion, philosophy, and subjectivity just as my topic is on the whole. I have, however, put forth my beliefs as they are at this time in plain (I hope) words. If anyone has questions or comments, please, I urge you to message me or even mention them in a review.
Ultimately, I must state again that I do not believe there to be "evil" or "good" in the world. Rather there are actions that evoke a positive or negative response to them. Such actions can begin in either the soul or the body and it is this distinction that engenders their classification.