What is evil?

What is evil?

The anti-thesis of good. Ah, but what is good? In fact are these useful constructs at all, or simply perceived positive and negative outcomes of random events?

Is it reasonable to equate good with happiness and evil with unhappiness? If so, where does happiness lie?

It is politically (but not scientifically) correct to assume a materialistic existence built on a series of microscopic random events unfolding in intransitive time. Therein lies the evil that we must embrace. In other words we focus on and believe in, like Thomas, only on what we see. We do that at least partially because we fear there is no meaning below or beyond what our sensory organs are capable of registering.

Surely one of the great lessons of the exploration of mind started by Sigmund Freud is that the more you avoid a fear, or abyss, the unhealthier you become. All of the mechanisms of dealing with unconscious pain (projection, avoidance, repression etc) simply lead at best to neurosis, at worst to psychosis.

It seems to me that the fundamental issue that haunts each of us is insecurity. That is the symptom of existential angst. How, then, to deal with that?

And it’s worth addressing.

The more secure a person is, the more creative, compassionate, generous, and capable of joy they be. Security leads to happiness and connection.(Happiness being life lived in the expectation of joy).

Conversely when we feel insecure we experience withdrawal. We become self-centred, and disconnected. Our horizons contract to a narrow unhappy world devoid of meaning. (Unhappiness broadly equating with isolation).

The thesis is then, that good is expressed through happiness and that lies in our interconnectedness. We feel able to reach out when we are secure. Conversely insecurity leads to withdrawal and unhappiness, which is nominated – evil.

Are we right to feel insecure? Are we simply minds floating on an ocean of random events and therefore at their mercy?

What does science have to say? Experiments on matter at the most microscopic levels shows that pre-existence is an infinite series of possibilities, potential – until observed. It is the act of observation that, in effect, crystallises out this particular existence that we experience from the cloud of possibilities. That raises the issue of observation. What is it? Surely there must be an “observer” to create our particular reality. Sure enough, what our species is really really good at is just that – observation, whether through science or the arts. We each of us spend our life in observation (or as some would call it – witness, some accumulation of knowledge). Interestingly our gathering of knowledge is escalating in a geometric progression. (Are we approaching Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point”? Is that the Mayan meaning to the end of time?)

It appears to me that our real individual human purpose is to be just this – engines of observation – crystallising existence from potential. (Or as our ancestors put it – we are three sisters of wyrd sitting at the foot of Ygaddrsil, the tree of life, spinning fate). That puts the onus on us collectively. We, the creators of life and goodness.

So if good and evil are the outcomes of our individual witness then what are God and the Devil?

I believe, and in my experience only, that God is expressed in the space between us, in the connection between all things. It is the smile shared between strangers that briefly connects and illuminates us. There have been those who with great discipline, have been able to sense directly the mass of loving connections underlying all things. Most of us however “see through a glass darkly”, it is in only in small moments and in our intimate circle – family, friends, community, even our pets – that we touch and feel the common good. Put another way, God is an emergent property of our connections each to each, and we feel that larger love in the individual links and bonds between us.

The Devil, then is absence of good – the opposite of shared experience. Our de-mergent selves.

There is also some evidence in science, not only that existence is cystallised by observation, but also that this can run backward in time, with reverse causality. Belief or knowledge of an outcome can cause – at least at the level of the electron/photon – history to be reshaped to create the experienced outcome.

So then, perhaps God – the personalisation of the emergent property of our observation and connections to each other – lies in our future. God is what we create together in the future, and this future God intervenes where necessary to ensure that the path of existence-formation will lead to him/her/it/us. (God, the word existing beyond time…)

Was this through the lives of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha?

Does that not change our world view? Good and evil as made by us. A secure future, which is God beyond the Omega Point. Let us accept that good and evil do exist, as outcomes of our collective path through life. When we embrace our joint task – to work for good effect around us. In that way our eyes open to our divine purpose. We no longer need to live with our eyes tight closed against the fear that we are floating on a sea of random meaninglessness. Face up to existential angst and it disappears. As the psychological defence mechanisms fall away – we’re left with the revelation of love behind all things and experienced in our connection, in the Ich-Du of Martin Buber.

It is by embracing evil that we puncture it and experience joy.

Spirit Levels

I was in a pub in Edinburgh yesterday. It was packed, shoulder to shoulder. We were all intent on following the British and Irish Lions in their final rugby match against Australia. At the end “we” won via a series of sensational tries.

We were, of course, intent on the television screens around the pub. I was lifted into a space and life shared with that group in that pub as each try was scored and we all cheered. We became something separate – the momentary “we” was new and different from the collection of individuals normally described as we.. I was struck by the sense of one-ness. Looking at the people, rather than the screen – we shared the same rapturous expression – but on each of our individual faces.

This is, I believe, what we are drawn to as the joyful solution to the pain and loneliness of living and dying. We can become something different and shared; living in common and on a different spirit level. As that happens we lose our sense of self, our individuality and our ego, and become something qualitatively different. (See God as emergent property, or epiphenomenon).

Whilst I have, at least to my own satisfaction, proved God. It is a proof that touches my mind rather than my real self. It turns out that rational knowledge of the existence of God is a poor friend with which to confront death and loss. In my 40’s I lived through existential angst, a dark night of the soul. I had been fed since childhood with the comfort of the knowledge of God and my friend and brother, Jesus Christ. I had though been trained as a scientist. Richard Dawkins had been something of a hero (I majored in verebrate evolution at Cambridge) and as we know he preaches that Science somehow disproves God. Who was right – my loving mother or an angry scientist? So, I decided to live in non-belief and confront that question from a premise and experience of an atheist. It turned out for me that atheism is a belief system, with internal logic and no proof beyond the opening statement. I know that now. Atheists open with the axiom – there is no God – and from that premise (and ignoring all awkward facts along the way) go on after some verbal and logical gymnastics to restate it as THERE IS NO GOD. It’s nothing more than a circus trick, and it’s only possible because NO premise can be logically proved or disproved. (Gödel, Heisenberg). Given a premise and some logic rules you can “prove” the premise. Well I can do that from the statement there is God, and to be absolutely frank it’s infinitely more likely. Here…

Let God be that which came before existence.
Time and existence exist.
Therefore God exists.


(By the way – who wrote those penetrating words in the Anglican service which define God as.. existing beyond time, both source and final purpose. Was that really written in the 16th century?)

So, it has has been a surprise and a relief to see through the ill-logic, one might say intellectual conceit, of materialists; and to move from the lonely existentialism of Sartres to the connected existentialism of Martin Buber. To perceive Whitehead’s rationale of our life in process at the ever moving edge of spiritual present as we crystalise the past out of the future.

But understanding is not the trick. It is in the moments of loss-of-self into the commonwealth of spirit in which there is intimation of immortality. The loss of our-self into the crowd in the pub, the shared smile, the surge of love for wife/mother/brother/friend/child, the rapture of connection with the countryside. Those are tangible glimpses of the next spirit level.

I have recently conceived of the moment of dying as a “fading to joy”, losing one’s identity into God. I now see that a better expression would be “surprised by joy”. Has that been used before?