The Existence of Evil

Q. In New Thought spirituality, such as Unity and Science of Mind, theyMadame Blavatsky often make statements such as “Only God exists and therefore only love and good exists.” I agree that only God exists but I can’t understand how it can be claimed that “only love and only good exists” when it is plainly obvious that both hate and evil are definite objective realities in this world. But they insist that “There is no evil” and “It’s all God, it’s all good.”

A. The New Thought movement, although well intentioned, are also proponents of hyperidealistic and unphilosophical teachings and this is one of them. They use the phrase “New Thought, Ancient Wisdom” to imply that their teachings are firmly based on the Divine Wisdom of the Ages but the fact is that they are not. Read and study the Ancient Wisdom contained in all the world’s religions and great philosophies and I guarantee you will never find anything in any of them that resembles such central New Thought ideologies as the thing you’re talking about.

Theosophy too holds firmly to the notion of non-duality and universal oneness but it has enough common sense as to make the necessary distinction between absolute existence and manifested existence.

As you say, it’s obvious that hate and evil are definite objective realities, along with many other unpleasant and awful things, and the fact is that they will always objectively exist to some extent as long as the objective universe, the manifested universe, exists. The New Thought people may try to fervently deny the existence of such things, through their “affirmations and denials,” but it is futile to do so.

Theosophy teaches that:

Evil and all its aspects are the automatic natural byproduct and result of the existence of MATTER.

Evil is really “imperfection” because perfection belongs only to pure Spirit.

The manifested universe is pervaded by duality; the duality of spirit and matter, subjective and objective, etc. The universe cannot become manifest or remain manifest without the existence, interplay, and contrast of these two opposite poles. “Manifestation” itself implies and involves duality and naturally this gives rise to all the “dvandvas” or “pairs of opposites” such as those things which we call good and evil, love and hate, joy and sorrow, male and female, young and old, health and sickness, life and apparent death, and so on ad infinitum.

But this duality applies solely to the manifested universe and there is no ULTIMATE duality.

Why? Because the manifested universe is not the Ultimate Reality. The One Absolute Ultimate Reality is neither manifested nor manifestable and IT alone is eternal, while the universe, as we said, is only a temporary and impermanent phenomenon and thus little more than an illusion, a passing appearance. But it is always the case that where there is matter there is “evil” or “imperfection.” A slightly crude but memorable way of putting it would be, “Spirit = Good, Matter = Evil, Good = Spirit, Evil = Matter.” This is not saying that matter itself is inherently evil or devilish – since ultimately it comes from the same Source as spirit – but that the manifested existence of matter inevitably gives rise to imperfection.

More than one New Thought person has previously admitted that all this seems far more reasonable and sensible than the accepted New Thought stance on the matter.

Or, in the words of H.P. Blavatsky herself:

“Archaic philosophy, recognizing neither Good nor Evil as a fundamental or independent power, but starting from the Absolute ALL (Universal Perfection eternally), traced both through the course of natural evolution to pure Light condensing gradually into form, hence becoming Matter or Evil.”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 73

“The problem of the origin of evil can be philosophically approached only if the archaic Indian formula is taken as the basis of the argument. Ancient wisdom alone solves the presence of the universal fiend in a satisfactory way. It attributes the birth of Kosmos and the evolution of life to the breaking asunder of primordial, manifested UNITY, into plurality, or the great illusion of form. HOMOGENEITY having transformed itself into Heterogeneity, contrasts have naturally been created; hence sprang what we call EVIL, which thenceforward reigned supreme in this “Vale of Tears.” …

“The Eastern pantheist … believing but in One Reality, which is eternal Be-ness, the “causeless CAUSE” from which he has exiled himself into a world of forms, he regards the temporary and progressing manifestations of it in the state of Maya (change or illusion), as the greatest evil, truly; but at the same time as a process in nature, as unavoidable as are the pangs of birth. It is the only means by which he can pass from limited and conditioned lives of sorrow into eternal life, or into that absolute “Be-ness,” which is so graphically expressed in the Sanskrit word sat. …

“In his personal case, Buddha left us an example of fortitude to follow; in living, not in running away from life. His doctrine shows evil immanent, not in matter, which is eternal, but in the illusions created by it: through the changes and transformations of matter generating life – because these changes are conditioned and such life is ephemeral. At the same time those evils are shown to be not only unavoidable, but necessary. For if we would discern good from evil, light from darkness, and appreciate the former, we can do so only through the contrasts between the two. While Buddha’s philosophy points, in its dead-letter meaning, only to the dark side of things on this illusive plane; its esotericism, the hidden soul of it, draws the veil aside and reveals to the Arhat all the glories of LIFE ETERNAL in all the Homogeneousness of Consciousness and Being. Another absurdity, no doubt, in the eyes of materialistic science and even modern Idealism, yet a fact to the Sage and esoteric Pantheist.

“Nevertheless, the root idea that evil is born and generated by the ever increasing complications of the homogeneous material, which enters into form and differentiates more and more as that form becomes physically more perfect, has an esoteric side to it which seems to have never occurred to the modern pessimist. …

“The seeds of evil and sorrow were indeed the earliest result and consequence of the heterogeneity of the manifested universe. Still they are but an illusion produced by the law of contrasts, which, as described, is a fundamental law in nature. Neither good nor evil would exist were it not for the light they mutually throw on each other. …

“As mankind multiplies, and with it suffering – which is the natural result of an increasing number of units that generate it – sorrow and pain are intensified. We live in an atmosphere of gloom and despair, but this is because our eyes are downcast and riveted to the earth, with all its physical and grossly material manifestations. If, instead of that, man proceeding on his life-journey looked – not heavenward, which is but a figure of speech – but within himself and centred his point of observation on the inner man, he would soon escape from the coils of the great serpent of illusion. From the cradle to the grave, his life would then become supportable and worth living, even in its worst phases.”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Origin of Evil”

* Some related articles include It’s all Illusion – but how?, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, The Impersonal Divine, The One Eternal Thing, Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom, An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, and “My Law” – Theosophy in a Poem.

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4 thoughts on “The Existence of Evil

  1. Hi, I’m really interested in Eastern philosophy and religion, so I’ve been reading Ms. Blavatsky’s works for some time now. They’re brilliant, as Eastern philosophy is brilliant in general, but there are concepts I still don’t totally grasp.

    Eastern philosophies insist on the importance of doing Good (loving, sharing, helping others, etc). Yet they believe the Absolute Principle can’t be given any quality, and therefore is beyond concepts like Good and Evil which exist only in the manifested world. If the goal of life is to reunite with our Atman (which is the same as Brahman, if I’m not mistaken), that’s to say with a “qualityless” entity, why is it necessary to choose one of these qualities (“Good”) over another to approach it?

    It would imply there’s a great scale of spiritual evolution, where there is a “right thing to do” and a “wrong thing to do”, (i.e. obeying our animal urges, satisfying our Ego etc.) otherwise we’re stuck with the karmic consequences of our karma, the same pain and sorrow we caused to other people. If we ultimately have to do good to evolve, how can you say the “Designer” of that scale wasn’t biased?

    I’m sorry if expressed myself badly or if my interrogations are pointless, these considerations have just come to my mind, and I’d really like your opinion on the subject. Don’t be mistaken either, I’m not an Evil worshiper (on the contrary!) nor am I a “there’s-no-good-no-evil” atheist.

    Best regards

    1. Hello John, you have asked a very profound and worthwhile question, not a pointless or badly expressed one at all!

      Why is it necessary to choose good in order to make real progress on the spiritual path, when pure eternal Spirit itself is absolutely transcendent, infinite, Nirguna (i.e. without qualities, attributes, or characteristics), and beyond all the “pairs of opposites” of good and evil, right and wrong, love and hatred, and so forth?

      The answer Theosophy offers to this question is that although the Absolute is non-dual and beyond all qualities, characteristics, distinctions, etc., the qualities which we can apply and practice here such as goodness, love, compassion, altruism, purity, etc., are those which bring about a more universal, impersonal, selfless, refined, and elevated state of consciousness within us, and that thus they approach more closely to the eternal state of Brahman, which as you rightly say is the same as our Atman, for our Higher Self IS the Supreme Self, the ONE Infinite Divine Life.

      So in other words, although the Absolute is beyond all qualities, there do happen to be particular qualities which somehow and in some way are much more closely related to It than others.

      But if you ask why this is, I can only say that I don’t know but that it’s something worth thinking and meditating upon!

      1. Hello again,
        Many thanks for your response! Indeed it would be worth meditating upon. Perhaps the beginning of an answer regarding that question would be that Spirit actually preceded Matter, and we all know, in all fields of science (whether it be in physics, metaphysics or science) how great it is to prefer the Source of something to any following degradations. For instance, the Ego is only an interface so the experiences we have with our environment can teach us, it’s useful but it is a mere downgrade of consciousness, and so are the attitudes feeding it (ignorance, selfishness, greed…). To me, having compassion and helping others is like going up back to the original form of the creation process i.e spirit (not of creation itself, since nothing is born that has not already been, as wise men of India demonstrated), while having a cold, selfish attitude is going down the path humans created for themselves. Water is always purer in high mountain than in the river’s mouth.

        Again, maybe I’m deeply mistaken. Anyway I’m glad to have this conversation, since Eastern philosophy isn’t a subject of the everyday world. The simple mention of the word “soul” make people look at you as if you were some kind of alien (talk about “downgrade”!)

        Best regards

  2. I add one idea to the explanation. (sorry, I do not master English).
    not only do (good) but the river flows quietly (evolution) and if we put an obstacle in his way (evil) the Evolution would be disrupted.
    involved (good) means track and let it run the law of nature and the cosmos, it is no longer a question of good or evil. evil does not exist, it is the negation of good.
    a man falling from a mountain, I do not help him, he falls, he dies, is what I have done wrong? yes, not because I have done wrong in itself, but because (I did not do well).


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