A Synopsis of Evil
Within the Pagan community, we tend to avoid discussing the topic of evil. While many of us accept the idea of at least some form of karma or retribution, we do not generally dwell in depth on it. Indeed many of us were raised within the “mainstream” religions that focused all too much on the topics of sin and Satan. Thus we try to stray from these concepts and instead focus on the “brighter” side of things.
Yet as human beings, we cannot deny that there is a certain level of evil and negativity in our world. We also cannot reject the simple truth that we ourselves often take part in such acts. So how do we, as Pagans, react to this concept? How can we come to understand it and combat it?
Now I cannot and would never tell you what to believe. Spirituality is a journey, and we must come to accept it and understand it on our own terms. Thus what I have provided here is my understanding of evil. If you agree with it, that is wonderful. If you cannot quite accept it, that is just as well. Either way it is my intention that this perspective will give you new-found strength in dealing with and understanding evil in your own life.
What Is Evil?
Over the millennia, evil as accrued many different titles, the most popular of which among the Western World is sin. However no matter by which name you call evil, its nature is the same. Evil is the conscious choice to turn ourselves away from the Divine. We hear this a lot in Christianity under the summary that “sin separates us from God.” While this is true, for Pagans it is not quite the whole of it.
Many Pagans view the Divine as being within Creation. Thus the Creator and its Creation are one. In this light, then, the meaning of evil begins to take on a new identity for Pagans. While evil separates us from the Divine, it moreover separates us from our Divine-selves. This self is the Divine spark that lies within us and connects us to the great All. Thus in choosing to commit evil, to act so that we go against this notion of solidarity, we cut ourselves off from the Divinity within us.
In accordance with this, we now have a Pagan understanding of evil: a choice that fails to recognize our Oneness and thus separates us from our Divine-selves.
How Does Evil Exist?
If we can accept that the Creator is within its Creation, therefore making it one, we encounter another puzzling question: If the Divine is perfection and the perfection is here, how can evil exist within it? In truth, the answer to this question is the same as what prompted it.
The Divine is within everything, including us. As such, the Divine seeks to work through us that we and others may come to experience it. Thus we, and all other life, are co-creators of our own reality. However we are different from other life on this planet in that we are reasoning beings; as humans we have the ability to decipher what is right and wrong.
This gives us options: we can choose to work for the betterment of Creation, or we can choose to work only for ourselves. It is when we choose the latter that we allow evil into our lives, for no longer are we working for the Whole but only the singular.
What Prompts Evil?
Only we can ultimately decide to allow evil into our lives and our world. Yet we know that there is a certain prompting, a certain push toward evil that is often involved in our choices. Like evil, this too has been known by many titles, such as Satan and demons. However I would like to present a revised understanding of this concept, one that does not view it as a being but rather as a natural human condition.
In the natural world, both energy and matter flow through the path of least resistance. The human psyche seeks to do the same. It wishes to follow by the easiest path in order to get what it desires. However this route is not always the best, and we may end up harming others. Therefore, while we are provoked to do what is most convenient, we must remember that we are reasoning beings. We must do what is right rather than what is easy. If we fail in this, then we allow evil to enter our lives.
For example, while it may be easier to steal the apple rather than paying for it, we must use our reasoning abilities to discern what the just path is.
How Is Evil Combated?
This is a question that has been tried and tested over many thousands of years. From confessing your sins to a priest to allowing an aesthetic Yogi to pay for your wrongs, religions the world over have found their own ways to eradicate their practitioners’ evil. Yet what about in Paganism? What do we have that allows us to move beyond this state and back into alignment with our Divine-selves?
Most of us would say that we have some understanding of karma and that we will pay for our evil acts. However, while this may help us recognize them, it does not necessarily get us to move beyond these actions. To do that, I believe that we must look again at a reoccurring theme in this essay: Oneness.
If we accept that the Divine is within Creation, we must accept that it is also within evil. To absolve evil from us and from our world, then, we must seek the Divine within it. If we allow ourselves to revisit our acts and instances of wrongdoing, we can invite the Divine into these experiences and look for its messages and teachings.
There is something to be learned in everything, even the most heinous of crimes. If we open ourselves up to these Divine lessons, we can pass them on not only to ourselves but to others as well; thus we can help prevent the same evil from being reintroduced into our world. And it is in this act that we leave behind our evil, our sin – for we have turned it from selfish evil to love that will benefit the Whole.
The Great Irony
There is a great irony in all of this, of course. While evil may be done, it can never prevail. Energy spent on evil is useless, for it ultimately benefits no one. As we can tell from the natural world, Creation abhors anything useless and therefore makes it useful, whether it is through the decaying of dead organisms or the evolution of a species. Thus it is with evil. It is useless, but the Divine may make it useful in the form of lessons and teachings. Therefore the only way that evil can ever win is if we, the reasoning co-creators of our reality, let it.
What I have presented here is a summary of my thoughts on and reasoning behind the concept of evil. Whether you accept all or any of it is up to you. However, this is my hope for you: take your negatives and create them into positives. Live life not by what you have done but rather by what you have learned. Above all remember that in the Divine—no matter how you perceive it—all things are possible.