The Theosophical Forum – August 1941


We may well ponder over this question of evil when we see such a prevalence of hatred and destruction in the world today. Fundamentally, evil is caused by the "conflict of wills," of evolving beings. Its powers are fed by such weaknesses of character as ambition, selfishness, and ignoble thoughts and passions of every kind. In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (p. 56), it is stated that "evil has no existence per se and is but the absence of good, and exists but for him who is made its victim." Before we can alleviate the causes of evil, we must as individuals, seek to work in harmony with nature's laws, and to lift our hearts and minds to the loftiest planes of being.

Duality in nature is the great instructor, the great necessity, for the opposition of forces produces balance in the Universe, produces life itself. Man would not recognize light, as light, unless he had witnessed darkness; so, in like manner, it would be impossible to realize the inherent value of good, if one never knew the nature of evil. This does not mean, however, that we should deliberately follow a course of evil action, should succumb to evil habits in order really to know life. Evil arises from imperfection, and as long as there is manifestation, there is imperfection. We are beings in manifestation, therefore we are imperfect. The great battle in life consists of learning to recognize imperfections, to be conscious of the duality in life, and thence to seek to rise above the snares of illusion. It is beneath the dignity of man's divine heritage to follow any other path than that of noble service to his fellow men.

Extending good and evil beyond mere human limitations, we may consider evil as relative imperfection, and good, as relative perfection. This applies to the vast range of beings infinitely above and infinitely below man, for there is no limit to progress — good and evil are the eternal ways of manifestation. The influence of these forces becomes an involved circle, because just as we, by our thoughts and deeds, impress all entities below us in the evolutionary scale, from the atoms in our bodies, on up to the various kingdoms in nature: mineral, plant and animal, and are responsible for both the beneficent and harmful elements existing therein, so the Hosts of Light and the Brothers of the Shadow have a still more powerful influence on the thoughts and lives of men; the Dark Forces constantly seek to play upon men's weak wills. We never stand still on the evolutionary scale: every moment of the day we are adding to the forces of light or darkness. Our responsibility to all beings is tremendous, for our destinies are so interlinked and interblended. We are as many spokes in the great wheel of life; all rooted in Boundless Infinity.

The contributing causes towards human evil had their primal origin eighteen million years ago when those great divine beings, the Manasaputras, symbolized by Prometheus in Greek mythology, brought the fire of mind to infant humanity, gave us a part of their divine selves, thus activating our power of reason, and endowing us with free will, the power to choose between two pathways. At this point man was gradually released from his Divine Instructors, and in exploiting his so-called freedom, at first drifted far afield from his spiritual home. At cyclic intervals spiritual teachers have come to direct man along the true course of life, to teach him of his essential divinity and the karmic law of retribution, thus demonstrating that Will exerted by desires for self results in false freedom. With the coming of mind, not only the latent power of choice was awakened in man, but his egoic consciousness was set in operation, the "I am I" part of his being. From this point man's ultimate duty has been to raise the personal to become one with the divine, to blend his individual consciousness with the universal. This quest will continue to be ours for ages to come. We are still lurking in the illusory halls of false freedom. Mankind has yet to realize that true liberty is not brought about by the imposing of the will of one upon another, but by becoming true Servants of the Law, Co-workers with the Gods. One powerful contributing factor towards evil which has undermined the strength and morals of men for centuries and still continues to do so, is the degrading influence of the many religions and creeds based on only partial truth — A little knowledge is worse than none. In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (p. 58) reference is made to the Irish, Italian and Slavonian peasant who would leave his family poverty stricken, in order to support his padre and pope; then, to India, where for two thousand years the Brahmans were the only privileged class; and again, to the followers of Christ and Mahomet, who for centuries have caused bloodshed in the name of their respective Saviors. Creeds and dogmas invariably breed selfishness and stagnation of thought. To quote the final significant lines:

Remember the sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, morality, and universal charity, the altars of their false gods.

The eternal battle of good and evil has been pictured in allegorical form in many of the ancient writings, and can be traced in all the various sects, no matter how corrupted they may be. In the ancient epic of India, the Ramayana, Ravana, the demon, is finally conquered by Rama, symbolizing the conquering of evil with the sword of the spiritual will. In Greece, knowledge was at one time brought to the people through the medium of the drama, and Aeschylus" trilogy, the Oresteia, one of the greatest tragedies of all time, is really a profound study of the operations of good and evil in human nature. Of particular significance is the Eumenides, the third of the trilogy, where we see the potential forces of good and evil, the Eumenides, transformed from darkness into light, through the exercise of the will of Orestes. In the Christian religion itself the forces of good and evil are represented in the much distorted belief of God and the Devil. It is fear of God and the Devil which has done much to destroy the very purpose of man's existence on earth — to become an individually and ethically responsible entity.

Deep in the hearts of men is the yearning to end the misery and suffering in the world, yet effort in that direction is not strong enough. Progress is a slow and uphill grind. Brotherhood still remains a precept rather than a living power in men's lives, in spite of the noble efforts of the Great Ones to instill sympathy and compassion into the hearts of men. The fundamental importance of this teaching cannot be better expressed than in these few words of H P Blavatsky:

With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbors will no more work to hurt us than we would think of harming them, two-thirds of the world's evil would vanish into thin air.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition