The main traits of evil

I will begin with an excerpt on evil from Coleridge’s The Statesman’s Manual:

But in its utmost abstraction and consequent state of reprobation, the Will becomes satanic pride and rebellious self-idolatry in the relations of the spirit to itself, and remorseless despotism relatively to others; the more hopeless as the more obdurate by its subjugation of sensual impulses, by its superiority to toil and pain and pleasure; in short, by the fearful resolve to find in itself alone the one absolute motive of action, under which all other motives from within and from without must be either subordinated or crushed.

This is the character which Milton has so philosophically as well as sublimely embodied in the Satan of his Paradise Lost. Alas! too often has it been embodied in real life! Too often has it given a dark and savage grandeur to the historic page! And wherever it has appeared, under whatever circumstances of time and country, the same ingredients have gone to its composition; and it has been identified by the same attributes. Hope in which there is no cheerfulness; steadfastness within and immovable resolve, with outward restlessness and whirling activity; violence with guile; temerity with cunning; and, as the result of all, interminableness of object with perfect indifference of means; these are the qualities that have constituted the commanding genius! these are the marks that have characterized the masters of mischief, the liberticides, and mighty hunters of mankind, from Nimrod to Napoleon. And from inattention to the possibility of such a character as well as from ignorance of its elements, even men of honest intentions too frequently become fascinated. Nay, whole nations have been so far duped by this want of insight and reflection as to regard with palliative admiration, instead of wonder and abhorrence, the Molocks of human nature, who are indebted, for the far larger portion of their meteoric success, to their total want of principle, and who surpass the generality of their fellow creatures in one act of courage only, that of daring to say with their whole heart, “Evil, be thou my good!”

h/t: The Norton Anthology of English Literature

I’ve been meditating on this and have found that one of the biggest problems with the occult, gnosticism, transhumanism, and different philosophies who advocate a “beyond good and evil” worldview, is that whosoever reaches the state of being an ideal example of a self-made deity/Übermensch is repulsive to meet. The gnostic is supposed to transcend good and evil, beauty and ugliness, by an act of unifying opposites through an act of one’s own will to power – but such a creature is perverted, repulsive, sick, it can get close to being sublime but in a way that it won’t attract too strongly a human, who would want to run away and save oneself if he had some sense. Without collapsing into a state of illness, man’s own body and mind can hardly go on without an act of self-surrender to the good and the beautiful – which is what almost all gnostics, transhumanists, Byrons, Razkholnikovs, etc. do in the end of the day. As Chesterton wrote, “Every man who will not have softening of the heart must at last have softening of the brain.” Though, of course, a less intense “softening of the heart” can be produced for the selfish reason of simply filling oneself with intense sensations for one’s own well-being.

On the other hand, meeting a saint is that which quasi-automatically urges us to fall on our knees in front of such a creature, that creature that in our eyes looks down on us exactly because in its own eyes it looks up towards us, with humility and infinite love.
As we say in our age, our “guts” tell us that there is something bizarre and not okay with the Übermensch, and that there is something ineffably lovely and beautiful about the saint; and we can’t reprogram our standards in a way so as to be 100% ready to embrace or become an Übermensch – and this reprogramming of standards is precisely what the one absolute motive of action” described by Coleridge requires to be fed.

Our existence is ontologically contingent, we cannot desire something which, ontologically, does not already exist in God – everything good, true, beautiful, just, lovely, takes its origin from the universal logoi, or ideas, which themselves are eternally contained within the Creator. Our wills can only want, invent and do so much, because there can be nothing else. Our brain, our conscious and our subconscious, our language, cannot grasp the “one absolute motive of action” because that motive is God – both as our Designer and as our ineffable utmost desire.
Even our most erroneous ideas, our most base desires, our most repulsive ugliness, contain a minuscule amount of (respectively) truth, goodness and beauty. Evil is Privatio boni, its sustained existence and its powers come from the eternal communion of love, the Holy Trinity, against which it rebels. Thus, absolute falsehood is impossible to be communicated in language, absolute evil is impossible to be done by any being, absolute ugliness cannot be “emitted” nor experienced. This is why all is about “less good“, “good“, “better” and “best“, not about the union of opposites in a monistic whole – if a union of opposites of some kind is desirable, its desirability makes it good (because the good is that which is desirable) and thus eliminates the “evil” part.

Morgoth can only disrupt the song of Eru Ilúvatar and his Ainur by not taking his inspiration from the gifts of Eru, but ultimately the song is Eru’s, and Eru will make the best of it.

A hacker can only hack his energy provider’s website if he is provided electricity by them.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain:

They wanted, as we say, to ‘call their souls their own.’ But that means to live a lie, for our souls are not, in fact, our own. They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, ‘This is our business, not yours.’ But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives.


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