What is it that we are referring to when we use the term Evil? Or rather, what is Evil? We will explore the conceptual realms in an attempt to get at the root of this question. At the heart of the issue, it appears that the concept of evil lies somewhere within the domain of ethics; which is to say it concerns itself with human Values rather than it being property of nature. In this way, values can be considered preferences concerning judgements one way or another. For example, a volcano erupting and killing everyone in a village seems more unfortunate than it does evil. On the other hand, a genius who triggers off a volcano with the use of explosives as to kill everyone in a village seems to be quite evil. With such an example, there is a certain property of agency that is associated with what we may consider to be evil. If we accept the case that evil carries within it an element of agency, then a great deal of unfortunate things ceases to fall in the domain of evil but certainly death alone would not constitute a property we consider to constitute evil. Since in both cases above, death was involved but only one may be deemed evil – if one is to consider agency. In fact there is a supposition within that formulation that, it is only human agency that can be deemed evil; after all there are elements in nature that possess agency as well.
Humans are not the only living creatures on Earth and certainly animals set out to intentionally kill other animals all the while, we mostly refer to those cases as an ‘acts of nature’. But, aren’t we all as humans part of nature and if it is that we accept the preying of a lion upon a dear as natural rather than evil, how more different is it for a man to prey upon another? Certainly both cases are entwined in the circle of survival- which is life! By the very nature of the Earth, to live one must at some point kill. More so, only the living may die since death does not exist without first there being life. Therefore if evil is constituted of death then it must also be constituted of life. In fact this was a commonly held view of ancient civilisations. For this narrative, I wish to submit that Evil is not exclusively within the domain of ethics at all and does not concern itself primarily with human agency. That in the previous cases where a genius explodes a volcano to kill a village, were in referring a moral element – the Bad; but the bad is not evil. Evil is a far more abstract terms referring to an archein structure rather than a concrete pattern of behaviour.
There are some implications that may immediately come to mind with a conception of evil that is not bounded by just ethical concerns. For one, it would suggest that one can live within a domain of evil yet still possess all moral faculties. The implication here is that Evil is a more general conceptual construct that concepts of good and bad may fall into. Evil is a systemic construct – an arrangement of things. Thing that may not be immediately apparent and only sometimes can be examined historically in hindsight once such a system has changed. Here I say that Evil is a property of systems not a state of being. Evil is a part of the order of things.
In expounding upon this, let us begin with the construct of chaos. Chaos is a primordial construct, out of which all order arose. Think of it in modern terms as the state from which the singularity emerged. Chaos is a construct with only possibilities and potential, no actualities. In the ancient mythic stories all the Gods emerged from chaos. Chaos is the darkness from which the first order referred to by some as light emerged. In this way, one can think of Gods as the first conceptual constructs of order. To continue the analogy, the modern equivalent of a God – the ineffable whole – would be the modern construct of the singularity – that single undefined primordial atom. My point here is, these are constructs, and they do not exist in the real world as such but aid in our understanding of things. Similarly, evil is a construct and in the same manner, a very useful construct just as how the construct of a singularity and Gods are useful to people. As such, here I distinguish evil as a construct distinct from chaos. Evil then would be one of the possibilities born from Chaos. With such a conceptual framework, the question what exactly is Evil, becomes an examination of the type of order that exemplifies it.
The notion of evil as a type of order can be found in classical philosophy. In those instances there was a duality concerning the nature of existence itself. Case in point, the distinction between two orders Plato called ‘substance’ and ‘form’. Plato’s Substance is what we may now refer to physical reality while his Form is spiritual reality. Gnosticism had a similar idea with that of the Demiurge and the Monad. The Demiurge was considered the creator of the physical universe and the physical aspect of humanity while the Monad was considered the intangible and ineffable – the superior God, the first God. In both cases, evil was associated with lower order constructs (that which comes after) like Substance and the Demiurge. This meant that the conception of evil in those classical cases was constituted by physical reality. What I would like to emphasize with such a conception is the structural gradient of conception from first order to second order, from a higher order to lower order; the highest order being the undifferentiated whole (the monad) or The One, while lower orders are a descent into a series of gradations or differentiations. As such the values of ancient societies can be seen as an arrow pointing towards the One – the great return to the ineffable and away from the Many – the great differentiation. However, the values I extol points into the great unknown of gradations, into what is yet to come – what is still left to be differentiated. As such, this examination of evil shall concern itself to the differentiated Earth and the emanations therein. This is to say we are dealing with an Earthly conception of evil and not a cosmic conception.
To begin, let us contrast two kinds of orders that we can divide all things that exist on Earth; the animate and the inanimate or in other terms, the living and the no-living. With such a division we can preserve the gradient of conception of higher order to lower order. That way, non-living would be deemed higher since it came first, while living would be a second order conception since it emerged from the non-living. By non-living I do not mean something that is dead, I mean something that was never alive to begin with. In this case, a cell would constitute an embodiment of the animate while an atom would be inanimate. Unlike the first example of gradation from first order to second order, the value of our era is not reflected since our preference of judgement places the cell (concrete) above the atom (abstract) as opposed to ancient cavitations that valued the abstract (monad) over the concrete (substance). To properly reflect the value of our age conceptually, we need not do any inversion of values but rather simply invoke a modern conception. This is the conception of complexity. The more differentiated a system gets, the greater its complexity. With our modern understanding of these structures comes also the understanding that the greater the complexity of a system, the more effort (work) is needed to maintain it. However, complexity is not order, but rather a process – a process that finds equilibrium between two different types of order: the order of One and the order of Many. The values of our age is reflected in our appreciation of a process philosophy resulting in an exaltation of the living above the non-living – the cell above the atom – despite both being physical. To the extent that we understand the Monad and the Demiurge described as higher and lower order conceptions respectively, likewise complexity can be either greater or lesser. Both constructs however are not commensurate in its orientation of values since higher order entails a lower complexity, while greater the complexity the more differentiated (lower order) a system is. With this in mind, the discourse on evil that shall be undertaken is not one subsumed in a duality of values where lower complexity is deemed to constitute evil or lower order. Rather, the discourse is one where the values of ancient traditions and the modern era are brought to a synthesis.
Where as evil for some ancient civilisations was a cosmic construct of lower order emanation, such conceptions in our modern era is not necessarily useful in our day to day lives. As such the conception needs to be brought down to Earth so to speak. In doing this however, we will build upon the ancient mythological structures instead of discarding them. In particular, the Kemetic myth of Apep is particular insightful into the nature of evil. Apep was a rival sun God that was dethroned by the Sun God Ra at one point or another. Principally, the conflict between Ra and Apep is an eternal one in which each time Apep is slain he is resurrected to fight again another day. Apep represented a demonic impediment to the daily resurrection of the sun. However, Apep was considered an inherent part of the created order – a Black Sun so to speak – that came out of the primordial chaos. It was in essence another kind of first order construct. In this way, this ancient myth represents symmetry in existence itself. Similarly in Mesoamerican mythology, notably with the Aztecs, exist stories that there are two suns; the young Day Sun and the ancient Dark Sun. Principally the point here is that there is symmetry in first order constructs; there are two types of first principles. Earlier we described the first principle as Light and it the case of the mythological symbolism just used this light would be the Day Sun. What kind of Light would the Black Sun therefore be? Interestingly enough, the modern understanding of light and existence in itself also has a profound symmetry. Commonly we express this symmetry in terms of particle-antiparticle duality. Light (photon) in this sense is its own antiparticle. What this means is that a photon pair can ‘destroy’ each other if they are out of phase, likewise if they are both in phase the pair can create a new particle. In both instances of destruction and creation more photons are also created. An interpretation of this could be that the myths of death and rebirth also play out in our modern understanding of photon (light) interactions.
Earlier it was said that evil was a type of order – on the cosmic level it is an order that came from the primordial chaos just like any other. Likewise, a type of order was described as Light – the first order. This can be thought of as existence in its entirety, the ineffable and undifferentiated whole – the One. Upon later exposition it was established that the structure of this oneness carries with it symmetry. The kind of symmetry that would have us saying that light is its own antiparticle since light and ‘anti-light’ in this regard would be indistinguishable. In essence talking about such a thing as ‘anti-light’ would be meaningless since we would be referring to the same thing as light. Given these points, evil on the cosmic level is merely as inherent as existence itself. On the other hand, it becomes a more distinguishable construct as one further move into the realms of differentiation – the order of the Many. It is the symmetry that exist in the oneness of things that makes it possible for One to become Many. Day sun and Black sun together – the battle of Apep and Ra is the mythological equivalent of a process philosophy. In that way, Ra and Apep are one; the Day Sun and Black sun are one, just as how light (photon) is its own antiparticle. Unlike before, this oneness is not just simply just existence but existence and non-existence together – it is Chaos and Order together. It is a synthesis of everything (thesis) and nothing (antithesis) into ontology of process we call Becoming. This is still a first order principle since to exist something must come into existence; it is this coming into existence which is referred to as Becoming – a movement from Chaos to Order; from many into one. This movement of many-into-one (adunation) and one-into-many (differentiation) represents a preservation of the symmetry of existence. The primordial atom that was the singularity by the process of Becoming manifested as light; light became particles; particles became molecules and molecules became the Sun. In all instances the One begat the many and the many again became one, forming a new entity in its emanation. In this manner, the Cell is just the adunation of molecules. Starting from this conceptual position and not from the cosmic level, we have a more modern mythical conception of evil as anti-life or unbecoming. In this way, evil is deemed a tendency of order at the cellular level to revert to the atomic state. Likewise as cells coalesce to a form tissue there is a tendency to revert back to a cellular state; each level requiring greater complexity to maintain that level of order. To transition from the many into the one or from the one into the many requires effort to overcome the given order. It is this resistance that is the true nature of evil. Resistance is what stands between what is and what could be. The battle against evil is therefore an eternal battle in any evolving system. For continued evolution there must be in effect a battle against things falling apart; the battle to maintain complexity and drive it to a new adulation – symbolically represented by the ancient stories of rebirth and resurrection. In this view, evil is not simply the Black Sun, evil is not death but it is the aspect that resists. Noting that the Black Sun and Day Sun are one; that only the living may die and that light is its own antiparticle. With such this conception evil, we can see that evil may take many forms in the emanation of things. Resistance is always invisible and internal, woven into the very fabric of the system one is embedded in. Evil is a property of nature itself, a possibility that can occur with or without conscious agency. However, in the domain of human values those that resist the system they find themselves in may be regarded as evil. This is understandably so since they embody resistance as rebels or terrorists. It is only when such a resistance manages to transform the system that the values change with said transformation and with that, rebels become heroes. It is important to realise that Becoming also involves resisting. For who was the Christ but a rebel? And was not the first rebel the devil? After all, the hero embodies the oneness of above and below, of uniting the many into one and making the one into the many. As an incidental occurrence of an individual’s eternal struggle for existence there exists evil. One of the great ironies of history in the regard of human values is that Justice almost always comes from evil.