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Good and Evil

Jan 05, 1994 06:20 PM
by Gerald Schueler

Eldon,  You asked for views on good and evil, so here goes my own
2-cents worth.

I believe that good and evil are relative terms period. There
simply is no such thing as "good" or "evil" in reality. They
only exist in our minds and then only in a relational sense. Our
values, morals, and sense of ethics change with time and culture.
Having said this, let me address some of your specific thoughts:

<When we speak of a holy man, or someone with a special sense of
goodness, we don't describe him by saying that he is just an
ordinary person, with a particular gift or advantage.>

     True. When I think of such a person, I think of H.H. the
Dali Lama. But we must remember that many other equally "holy"
men and women exist/live, or have lived, who are amoral rather
than moral. The H.H. Dali Lama is the head of a religious
organization, and thus part of the role he is playing in this
life is to act as a religious leader and thus must be pious and
holy. But other "holy" people take on different roles, and they
act differently accordingly.
     Messengers sent out from the Lodge take on behavioral roles
in accordance with their specific mission. More than a few pious
religious folk would find some of these downright immoral, but I
think of them as rather amoral being above good and evil.

<We are not being nice to someone that is bad, to describe things
in such a way as to not hurt his feelings, if in doing so, we
allow him to go along in life, hurting himself and others,
perhaps unaware of what he is doing. Certainly we should have
more responsibility to him!>

     The problem with this view is that we must put ourself into
the role of a judge. Who am I, or who is anyone else, to judge
another human being? Let me remove the mote in my own eye before
I worry about the splinter in my neighbor's eye. Certainly we
want to help our fellowman. But we must be careful to refrain
from helping those who don't want our help (albeit most of these
likely need it the most). Helping someone who doesn't ask for it
first is a form of manipulation and will likely do more harm than
good. Psychology now recognizes a mental disorder called a
"borderline personality disorder."  One of the traits of a
borderline is manipulating others in the guise of helping them.

<It is not really possible to separate the person from his

     I strongly disagree. In fact, psychology now recognizes the
importance of such a separation in rearing children. When
punishing your child, for example, you should always be sure to
let the child know that you love him or her, but don't like their
behavior. If they understand that your hatred or anger is
directed toward their behavior rather than themselves, they can
readily adjust and stop the bad behavior without feeling
rejection. To hate a person because of their behaviors has been
a major cause of man's inhumanity to man for centuries. Such a
separation is not only possible - it is essential. I can
honestly say that I don't hate anyone. However, there are a lot
of behaviors in people that I hate.

<It is not possible to say that this is a man that *does evil*,
whereas that is a man that *does good*.>

     While I think that saying something along these lines is, in
fact, possible (heavens knows, many do this), I would question
any need for doing so. Why should we want to wrap a label on

<We are what we do, and in the processing of doing good or evil,
we are good or evil people.>

     This is your definition. Probably many would agree. I do
not. I would never label a person good or evil because of what I
see them do. Who knows, for example, their motives for doing it?
Perhaps it was a tumor exerting pressure on their brain? Perhaps
in their shoes, I would have done the same thing? Good and evil
are seldom clearly black and white. There is a terribly wide
"grey" area in between, where most actions actually fall. When I
see someone doing a very good thing, how do I know their motive?
Maybe they figure such action will get them into heaven? Maybe
they are unconsciously making up for past deeds in another life?
Sould such people be judged as good? How can we ever really know
enough to judge someone? HPB says that the *only* difference
between white (good) magic and black (evil) magic is the motive.
Unless we know the motive, how can we judge someone's actions?
The true of the matter is, we seldom are conscious of our own
motivations for our own actions.

<Now it is possible to change, over time, to be an evil man that
turns for the good and changes himself. It is also possible for a
good man to become corrupted. Change is possible.>

     You can often change from a good person to a bad person or
vice versa just by moving to another country or locality where
the definitions are different.

<But the personality, whatever it is, is the sum total of what it
has done. The personality is the totality of actions taken, and
relationships established, in this lifetime.>

     Again, I strongly disagree here. This is far too
simplistic. I have taken enough psychology courses to know that
modern psychology would disagree with your definition of
personality too. Personality develops not so much from what we
do, but primarily from what is done to us as well as our genetic
makeup (i.e., what we bring with us from our past lives).
Personality develops according to both genetic and environmental
factors, all of which are very complex. Our actions are quite
often the result of our worldview and our perception of the
events (usually somewhat distorted) at the time. Sometimes we do
bad things with good motives (i.e., whenever we believe that the
end justifies the means. Hitler, for example, honestly thought
he was making the world a better place to live!). It is not
sufficient to simply look at one's actions. It is also
insufficient to just look at one's motives. We should walk a
mile in another's shoes before we make judgements.

<We may look at an evil man, and choose not to associate with
him. Looking at his personality, we may not be able to pass
absolute judgement on him, because we do not know the totality of
the person, the person's individuality and karma from previous
lifetimes, karma that did not find its way into expression in the
current life. We may not know the limits of good or evil that he
could aspire to, and become, as a personality, based upon what he
carries within. But we do know his current self, his current
personality, and it is a very real part of him, something that we
have to face and deal with.>

     I doubt that anyone really knows anyone else's current
personality very well. Stephen King (the horror writer) once
wrote a book called "the Blind Zone" (or something like that)
which had a guy who always made correct predictions about other
people. One day this guy saw a young man who he "knew" would
grow up into a Hitler and kill millions of people. The book
poses the question, should he kill the guy and save the world
from horror, or should he leave the guy alone and hope his
prediction was wrong? What to do? Is the good of the many to be
preferred over the good of the few? This kind of moral question
must be faced so long as we insist on judging others by their
actions. I personally think that when anyone looks at a person
and sees evil, he/she is really seeing the darkness that lies in
their own heart. If your own heart is full of light, you will
see no evil in anyone because you will see everyone as a child of
God with an inner nature as divine as your own.

<We learn to distinguish the real from the unreal, to preceive
through the maya and illusion that surrounds things and perceive
them correctly. We can also learn to distinguish the good from
the evil, the right from the wrong, to perceive through an
ethical and moral maya that surrounds things, and judge the
character and nature of things.>

     Good luck with this one. Virtually every Christian I know
thinks that he or she can correctly judge others in this way.
Judge not that ye be not judged, is my motto. Whoever thinks
that they can truly tell the difference between good and evil is
a dangerous person.

<The ability to tell right from wrong is considered a sign of
adulthood in our society. It shows that one is responsible for
his own actions. It is one sign that the childhood is over, and
the higher nature is fully incarnate in the personality. And it
is a quality that we need, for in order to know what is good,
virtuous, and moral, we need to know what it is not.>

     Wrong (at least I hope so). "The ability to tell right from
wrong" is only given to God, not to people. "Justice is mine,
sayth the Lord."  I really hate to have to quote the Bible, but
in the case of judging others, the Bible is right (unfortunately,
few Christians subscribe to it). Who is the supreme judge who
knows for certain that all of the adults are judging right from
wrong correctly?

<There is a certain type of consciousness that we mostly lack,
one that will grow and evolve in the future. It is a *moral
consciousness*, where we are aware of the full impact and
implications of our every action in the world.>

     Moral consciousness will follow nicely if you obey the
Golden Rule of doing unto others as you want them to do to you
without judging or labeling them.

<This buddhic consciousness is what distinguishes us from those
on a path of evil. It is that which not only allows us to be
spiritual, but to be good as well. It contains the sense of
compassion and caring for other lives, and it is that which will
one day make of us Buddhas!>

     I have a lot of problems with this too. First of all, we
all are already spiritual. Second, who exactly is on "the path
of evil?"  I'll wager that they don't think so! Personally, I
would rather not be distinquished from those on a path of evil.
I don't consider helping others "good" nor do I consider not
helping "evil."  And I certainly would not care to cast stones at
others for not agreeing with me as to what "good" is. The first
sentence here sounds a lot like a fundamentalist who says "The
Bible, the Word of God, is what distinguishes us from those on a
path of evil."  What, pray tell, is the difference?

Final Note. I have read a lot over the years, but so far the
best essay on good and evil that I have read is on pp 35-57 of
(Oxford University Press). Evans-Wentz was a theosophist but I
fell in love with his view of good and evil before I heard of
theosophy and before I knew that he was one. I have never found
anyone to equal what he has to say. In his essay, he quotes from
the famous Sri Ramana Maharshi as saying, "There are no two such
things as a good mind and an evil mind. It is one and the same
mind."  I highly recommend this short essay to anyone interested
in the true esoteric viewpoint of good and evil.

                                       Jerry S.

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