KosherTorah School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies
By Ariel B Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Evil exists! We all know this! Yet, something that we do not know, and something that all too few ever bother to contemplate is just what exactly is evil, in the first place? Why does it have to exist?
We recognize evil today by its contrary position. Evil is the opposite of good. But, of course, herein lies the problem. One person's definition of good can be radically different, and even the opposite of another. The same applies to evil. What is evil to one is not evil to another.
The definition of evil changes as does human culture, norms, and customs. What was accepted normative practice a thousand years ago today is considered barbaric, and evil. Yet, a thousand years ago, the people practicing what we consider to be barbaric and evil were certainly not evil people, and they would never dream that their behavior could ever be considered evil by anyone. We today think the same way. It is curious to contemplate how the best of our behaviors today will be viewed and judged by those a thousand years from now. Will we be considered as barbaric and evil a thousand year from now in the same way that we view those from a thousand years ago?
Evil exists, and evil is a constant. But evil is not an object, or a thing. Evil has no finite construct. Evil can never be destroyed, defeated or overcome. And how can this be? This is because evil is a subjective, relative construct of variable comparison. Then again, this definition also defines good.
In the classic book of Jewish metaphysics, the Sefer Yetzirah, good and evil are considered to be an independent dimension of reality. The Sefer Yetzirah divides the universe into the six dimensions of space (east, west, north, south, up and down), two dimensions of time (past and future), and two dimensions of mind (good and evil). Actually, the original Hebrew term is Nefesh, which literally translates as, “soul.” The soul is considered a living, thinking entity, with emphasis on thought. Therefore, I translate Nefesh to be “mind.”
Thus, according to the Sefer Yetzirah, good and evil are part and parcel of the fabric of reality. However, they do not exist independently in either space or time. Good and evil reside in the mind, and from the mind, they can permeate space and time, all in accordance to an act of thought. This is the underlying meaning of a saying attributed to R. Eliezer, the Ba'al Shem Tov, “where one thinks, is where one is at.” If one thinks goods, then there is good. If one thinks evil, then there is evil.
The Talmud also taught this same lesson with the example of R. Nahum, Ish Gamzu. With regards to R. Nahum, the Talmud relates, that whenever something bad would befall him, he would respond with these words, “Gamzu L'tova” (this too is for good). And by reinterpreting the nature of the reality before him, he was actually able to transform that reality before him from evil into good. In other words, however bad something looked, his positive outlook somehow generated a positive outcome. Maybe this is an ancient example of the modern psychological concept of “positive thinking.”
Good and evil are both subjective, relative constants of variable comparison. They are both always in a state of flux. Both are constantly changing. Both exist and are very real. Yet, the form each takes is always different, and subject to the laws of quantum physics. The law states that the act of observation effects what is observed. It is only when deeds are defined, and given attributes that they become good and evil. Think about this! It is not necessarily the act that is either good or evil, but rather the interpretation of the act.
Let us take the act of murder for an example. Society readily acknowledges that murder is evil. Yet, when is the taking of a life evil, and when is it good? And even if murder is justified under the circumstances does it then become any less evil, or any more good?
Let us extend the example to an actual circumstance. Let us say we observe a suicide bomber. He is about to detonate his bomb killing all those around him. You have a gun, and have the opportunity to stop him, to kill him, before he will kill anyone else. Under such circumstances, would we all agree that killing the bomber would be the right, and good thing to do? We would all agree with this, no? Well, those who sent the bomber, and the bomber himself would not agree. They would say no! They would say that they are performing a higher good.
We obviously would strongly disagree, and condemn their action as bad, and evil. But is our killing the bomber, is our taking a life, any less an evil? I, for one, would say yes! I, for one, would say that to stop the bomber would be morally obligatory, and any thought to the opposite would be wrong, and evil. But, like I said, not everyone will agree. Good and evil, even under circumstances like this, is subject to the eye of the beholder. We have a quantum conundrum in the most practical of moralistic examples. The observations, (and individual point of view), define the reality.
Evil exists in the world around us for one, and
only one reason. Evil is a projection, an acting out of an internal state. But
this is only step one. Step two is the defining of the act. For like I said
above, evil is defined within its context to good. This and that are relative
states. Being that this is so, evil can no more cease to exist than can good.
After all, how can a point of view cease to exist?
What can cease to exit is the view that one thing or another is evil. In this way evil can be transformed into good. Another way for evil to cease, from our present point of view is for the present circumstance defined as evil to cease. This, can and does happen all the time. Yet, when this occurs we say that this present form and expression of evil has ceased (been killed, defeated, or whatever). However, evil, in and of itself, still survives to come back to plague us on another day, and in another form. Thus the form of evil can change, but evil survives. Then again, all this applies equally to good. This is the never-ending nature of a psychic duality.
If, according to the Sefer Yetzirah, good and evil exist universally as polarities of sentient consciousness, and that this domain of mind actually serves as a fifth dimension above and inclusive of all space and time, then we need to redefine our fundamental understandings of the two concepts. If we accept as fact that good and evil are polar representations of a higher fifth dimension of conscious mind, then we must ask what are the parameters, and limitations of consciousness. In other words, who, or what, is alive?
According to ancient understandings, both philosophical and mystical, almost everything is considered to be alive. Maimonides, even writes in his famous law code, the Mishneh Torah (Y.T. 3:9), that the planet Earth itself, and the stars, are each conscious, sentient, thinking beings, each with a self-aware soul, each with an awareness of its higher self, and of the Creator. Such considerations stretches modern scientific understanding to its limits. But, if such a definition of life is true, then entire planets and stars think? And if they can think, then they too can shift from the one pole of evil, to the other pole of good. Like human beings, all sentient life forms have the potential for good and evil. Yet, how do we define these terms outside of the human context? We understand the concepts of good and evil within the contexts of human morality, but how do we apply the concepts outside of anything human, where there is no absolute presence of either morals or ethics?
The answer to this takes us back to understanding one of the original teachings of the Bible. In the beginning, we learn of the existence of darkness. Yet, nowhere in Genesis does it speak about the creation of darkness. Only centuries later does the prophet Isaiah say in God's Name that God, “formed light, and creates darkness, makes good, and creates evil” (Is. 45:7). Light is formed, and good is made, but both darkness and evil are created. In Kabbalistic understanding this difference of terminology is highly significant.
Essentially, darkness and evil are placed together, whereas light and good are categorized separately. Darkness is the period opposite light, darkness is the period where creation did not move forward. Darkness has long been considered associated with death. Life is associated with light. We see now the understanding of cosmic good and evil. Life and everything that heads in its direction is good. Death and everything that heads in its direction is evil. Every constructive force is good. Every destructive force is evil. This is a simplistic way of understanding certain complex forces in the universe.
When we apply this definition to the cosmos, we see exploding stars. Their destructive forces are colossal. Yet, in their destruction lies the seeds of life. In other words, we have cycles. Death leads to life, and life leads to death. This is the never-ending cycle of everything in the entire universe. This we know is science fact. It is as true here on Earth as it is true anywhere else in the universe. Life leads to death and death leads to live. Thus, if we apply our concepts of good and evil to life and death, we conclude that good will lead to evil, and that evil will lead to good. Is this indeed true? Judging from a review of all human history, we may be forced to acknowledge that it is indeed very true! The cycles that we see governing the cosmos very much so rule and dominate here too on Earth.
We must conclude that the ways of nature and nature's Creator are fascinating, and unfathomable. Good and evil are cosmic forces. Both are creations of God. Both serve Him as tools in the never-ending cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. Now we can understand how evil must be a universal constant, and how it is same coin as good, but only its flip side. One needs the other in order to be whole.
Good and evil are thus two forces that motivate the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. These lead to re-death, which leads to re-birth, which again leads to re-death, and on and on goes the cycle perpetually throughout space and time, as we know it.
Yes, evil exists, but it exists to serve a purpose. No, we are not to surrender to evil, anymore than we surrender life to death. On the contrary, we fight for life! But alas, as much as we fight we know that ultimately, in the end, we all die, everything will die. But let us take solace in knowing that death ends nothing! Life is reborn, it is always reborn! Light always follows night, for this is the order of things.
When we evolve to the point of understanding, we will come to see how evil is nothing more than God's creation. It is a tool in His cosmic Hand. He uses it to serve the Divine purpose. When we see this, know this, and understand this, then we will begin to see the higher reality in the eyes of the Divine. We will understand how evil too ultimately serves the purpose of good. Long ago, Nahum Ish Gamzu perceived this subtle cosmic truth. He embraced it, and used it to his advantage. His attitude and behavior serves us as a role model for today.
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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright (C) 1997 - 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.