The concept of evil seems to be as old as human consciousness. Throughout the historical record, depictions of evil can be found as often as, if not more than, depictions of good. However, as mankind (meant to include womankind as well, so relax) has evolved and our understanding of the laws of nature have changed so has our concept of evil. You are hard pressed today to find anyone who believes that sundown is a battle between a giant evil alligator creature attempting to devour the great turtle egg we call the sun. Still, many today believe that the very concept of “evil” is an outdated and unnecessary misnomer. Philosophers and religious leaders have struggled with the concept of evil for centuries, so obviously it should be simple enough to cover in a blog post! Well, lets get into it.
2 Types Of Evil? How About 3!
Currently, philosophers and theologians separate the larger concept of evil into two separate types: natural evil and moral evil. Natural evils would be what we commonly refer to as natural disasters, including floods; hurricanes; plagues; tsunami; lightning; winds etc. Moral evils are the events perpetrated on humans by other humans which purposefully cause pain, terror, hardship or distress. I believe that a third type of evil is being left out of the discussion – supernatural evil. “Supernatural” is a term meaning “beyond nature” or “beyond our understanding of nature”.
Natural evil is a concept that I am surprised is still discussed. The events in this category are all scientifically explained and understood as being a part of the natural processes of our planet. Quite frankly, these events are only even detrimental due to our relative position in the scheme of the Universe. We are physically tiny, insignificant creatures when seen on a planetary, galactic or universal scale. To an ant, I am a giant god-like creature with the power to either benevolently bestow a piece of donut upon his tiny minions or to punish them with my great shoe of justice! We humans tend to have a high opinion of our status which leads us to believe that the only power greater than us would have to be the creator of all things; when in reality we are particles of dust compared to even the galaxy, let alone the vastness of the universe. So when perfectly natural events occur which cause us turmoil and show us just how little control we hold, we ascribe them to evil. These events would be occurring whether we were present or not. The truth of “natural evil” can be summed up succinctly as: sometimes Mother Nature is a bitch.
Moral evil is a much trickier concept to pin down because it’s definition is constantly changing. Morality itself is a moving target. As an example, how about a simple test? Simply choose which of the following is the most immoral:
- Cheating On Your Spouse
- Stealing a Cow From a Farm
Your answer to the above question is absolutely dependent on where you live, your religious beliefs, and your time period. All three choices are or were deemed immoral enough to call for the death of the perpetrator(s). In America today, stealing a cow is the only accepted immoral act, and certainly not punishable by death (since cattle rustling was removed as a capital crime in 1902); the other two options are simply daily occurances. However, in some Middle Eastern countries, stealing a cow is the only one today which is NOT punishable by death. So if the human concept of morality can vary so greatly just by physical location, how can we possibly ascribe any action to “evil”.
There have certainly been atrocities committed by humans upon other humans, and there continue to be. The Holocaust; rape; physical injury, death or disfigurement of a child to name a few. However, history has shown us that the principles of morality are fluid over time, so who is to say whether future generations will see these events as immoral. We may currently label rape as an evil, but will it be seen as an evil in 200 years? We can hope, but who knows! Morality, and the legislation of moral principles, is the ultimate gray area of human evolution.
Supernatural evil is a concept accepted by the vast majority of humans over time, up to the present day. The existence of evil is in direct correlation to the belief in a higher power, a belief held by 89% of Americans according a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2017.
Much like the definition of “dark” is “the absence of light”, I define “supernatural evil” as “the absence of spiritual goodness”. We can think of this type of evil as that which negatively affects the soul. It is more a force than a tangible person or object. This evil would include things like the self-depricating thoughts we have (“I am not enough.” “I am too fat.” “I am too skinny.” “I am not worth loving.” “I do not deserve better.”; suicide; the emotion of hate; demons; evil spirits; any force whose sole purpose is destruction of the life and peace of an individual. There are no redeeming qualities to supernatural evil. There is no gray area. There is literally no good which can come from this evil.
We do not need to believe in a “God” or “Goddess” per se to believe that supernatural evil exists. We need only believe that the existence of good means there is inevitably evil; where there is love, there must also be hate; where there is light, there must also be darkness. How can a person who has never experienced the dark have any concept of light. And, quite frankly, evil does not care whether or not you believe it exists. You can ascribe its effects on whatever you like, but it is still evil. This evil attacks the strong and the weak alike, exploiting any and every physical; mental; emotional; or spiritual crack to gain a foothold.
How Can We Battle Supernatural Evil
Evil is not a necessary or inevitable part of life. Battling against the force of evil begins with vigilance. If we do not recognize evil we are doomed by it. When we see an example of evil attempting to infiltrate us, as in the sudden onset of self-depricating interior dialog, we need to shut it down and shut it out. This can be as simple as acknowledging that the dialog is coming from evil and replacing the thought with positivity (repeating the exact opposite of what we hear in our thoughts). More intricate steps to removing evil from our lives includes meditation, smudging with sage, and even exorcism.
Recognizing spiritual evil is not difficult. It is any emotion, thought, or action which does not further our journey towards true joy, happiness and inner peace. I have my personal motto tattooed on my body to constantly remind myself of my motivation to search out and destroy evil before it is able to overcome me. The tattoo reads: “Protect the weakened. Reap the wicked.” That is the phrase which gives me purpose and gets me out of bed in the morning.
In conclusion, there are two official types of evil – natural and moral. However, I would propose that we use a third type- supernatural. It is my belief that supernatural evil is the greatest threat to us as natural evil may cost us our meat sack; moral evil may be seen by society as a taboo now and cost us our freedom, but taboos are constantly being rethought. However, supernatural evil aims to crush us and our soul; it looks to extinguish our light; and cost us any chance at true joy, happiness and inner peace. We must remain aware of its existence and vigilant against its attacks.
So, to answer the question posed by the headline, “Is ‘evil’ an outdated concept”, I propose that evil will never become outdated. Evil will exist as surely as light cast on an object will produce a dark shadow. However, it does not need to be, nor should we allow it to be, a present or prevailing force in our lives. Victory is in the struggle.