When you hear the word evil what do you think about? Perhaps, if you adhere to certain religious beliefs you would personify evil in the shape of Satan, Lucifer or the Devil himself. From a non-religious perspective evil might be defined as the “shadow self” which plays a big part in the teaching of Carl Jung. The question that arises is why humankind allows evil to become a part of the collective consciousness that we all share. Maybe it is because not all of humankind shares the same definition of what is right and good. Culture, society, religion and belief certainly play huge parts in our definition of good and evil as well as right and wrong.
We send mixed ideas to our children about good and evil. We tell them it is evil to kill one another and yet we encourage our young people to fight in wars in which killing is expected and even rewarded. We tell them that hate is evil and yet some religions actually foster fear and hatred for those who do not adhere to the same principles and convictions. The media swarms with newscasts and movies that are based upon the bizarre, the hideous and the horrendous. Do we actually teach our children that evil is something that is based upon individual or cultural criteria?
Or, is the shadow self inherent in our genetic nature? Do we choose evil out of an instinctual urge for self-preservation? Are there shades of evil? And, if so, are there shades of good as well? Could evil then be described as free will? If we act against our better nature and do something which intentionally harms another being are we actually overriding our basically good nature, even though we are aware that there will be consequences to our action?
It would seem that throughout history humankind has seen the origins of good and evil as something outside of themselves. Good deities fought bad deities for ultimate control of the human soul. Christianity teaches that God created us in his own image (good), but Satan crept in and offered irresistible temptation in order to turn souls away from good and toward evil. This scenario has been played out countless times in the process of human evolution. But, what if we are not governed by any type of deity, good or bad? What if we create our own reality by our own individual and collective choices? What if everyone on this earth was to take responsibility for his or her own actions and their consequences? How would that change our views about good and evil?
Animals act instinctively. Predators hunt down and kill their prey. They fight for territory and survival. I'm sure they do not consider this to be either good or evil. For them, it is survival of the fittest. Why then would we consider our instinctual responses to threat or danger to be evil? How much of what we consider to be evil is actually at least partially instinctive by nature. We just make it appear a bit more sophisticated than our animal counterparts. We eat other living things and wars are usually fought over territorial rights.
If evil does indeed exist outside of ourselves, then who created it in the first place? If the deity which created all of existence is inherently good, then how would that deity have the capacity to create something evil in origin?
We live in a world of duality. All of our thoughts are actually based upon opposites. We have to know what light is to perceive darkness, what love is to perceive hate, and what good is to perceive evil. Unlike our instinctually based animal counterparts, humankind does have the capacity to reason and to form conclusions based upon logic and clear thought. Or do we?