In this essay I will further investigate philosophical questions concerning the aims of the individual as opposed to the aims of society. This is the question of the One and the Many. And it is ultimately, I believe, the question of the existence of Evil. It would benefit the reader to read the essay on the Good before reading on.
In the book I present a scene in which a fictional Athenian philosopher, Timenes of Tyana, of the old Greek schools, answers Caius’s question as to the existence of absolute evil. He responds in the classic Socratic dialectic way of posing questions which he in turn answers. Here I will merely state the conclusion reached, and probe further into the grounds for this conclusion. The conclusion reached was that there was no such thing as absolute evil. Further: only the will of the human can be perverted into an evil will, and this evil will is what we perceive as evil. The spread of evil through a society occurs through the gradual narrowing of the Good, which exists in each of the members of this society. This happens through the fostering of the vices of greed and selfishness, to the point where the Good is consequently excluding all other viewpoints, but self-interest, as the only real purpose of existence. Since this perverted ability once called the Good has been altered to exclude the rest of mankind, it has become the real essence of the evil will it produces, and as such we will call it Evil, as opposed to the Good, which it once was.
The creation of Evil in the individual, in effect mimics the fall of the human, as related in Genesis in the bible. Lets take a look at the biblical origin of the human.
God originally created the human in its image; this means that like God he was in essence perfect. He was not mortal. He was not of the earth. One way in which one might tend to conceive of this is, that this human was of pure soul (some might put the word spirit here, but I have reserved this word for the meaning: life-force, see Essay on the Architecture of man). We tend to think of things in terms of matter; when we think of things not of matter, like God, we name them, but don’t really contemplate their essence except by saying they are of a different nature than us. Mathematicians are use to this, since they tend to deal with insubstantial things like quantities. So they might tend to say that God is of another dimension, and that soul resides along with God there. Another dimension is another way of saying that it is outside of our perception, in other words, a sophisticated way of skirting the problem. 1
Perfection means to us without flaw, but it also has many further connotations. It also connotes without beginning or end. We can never perceive directly a perfect object, since we are part of an imperfect universe. Mortality means with flaws, and also it has a beginning and an end. We can think of mortality as the opposite of Perfection. But we can conceive of perfection through analogy.
When an imperfect object ceases to be, or ends, it loses its organization as an individual object. In essence it changes. When a human dies we can think of this as a change from one form into another. He or she, in essence, goes back to the elements of the earth; he or she has lost his or her organization as an object called a human being.
But perfection is an attribute only of God. A human perceives his universe as an infinite hierarchy of objects; although all are imperfect they are all assembled and disassembled from a few elemental objects.
Objects are things, made of matter or energy, which have attributes. They are mortal since they reside with us here on earth. But we are able to conceive of them as concepts, in our minds, so that they exist without being made of matter. This idealized mental concept of an earthly object we might say is perfect, because it carries none of the mortal baggage, of the “real” worldly copy, the object itself (we can think of the concept of the object as the “form” or pattern of the real object). Plato conceived of these patterns, or “Forms”, as he called them, as perfect and existing apart from the world.
From this we derive the concept of the one and the many 2 . This concept at once allows us to perceive the universe as the many objects we conceive of, but at the same time allows us to see an all-pervading oneness through which all else is derived.
By analogy we may also apply this to God who is the one and only object of perfection. Within God there can again be created this infinite hierarchy of perfection similar to our mortal universe. Plato conceived of this as the elements of the forms, we have mentioned above, which were perfect models of the concepts we perceive.
In Genesis, in the bible, God originally created man (this includes woman) as a perfect creature in its image, and placed him in Paradise, or the Garden of Eden. Since man was perfect like God, he must have been a part of God, as was Paradise. Although perfection can exist as the Many, it can only exist within the One, God. So man was wholly a being existing as a part of God, and at the same time, within God 3 .
God then gave him a choice. It gave to him free will. This in essence made him not only a part of God, but actually gave him the potential to become a God. In choosing to defy the will of his creator, by choosing to break the law of God (not to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil), he became separate from God, and was cast into the mortal universe, apart from God. But God gave him a second chance, in leaving within his heart an ability to once again be one with God; that ability is the Good. This ability allows him to reach out to God through reaching out to all other beings like himself. In accepting his fellow humans he again becomes God-like. Through the unity of mankind, and the rejection of greed and self-interest, he accepts the redemption of Christ.
This redemption has always existed in humankind, even before the birth of Christ. But it was awakened only in a very few, usually through extreme misery and suffering, or paradoxically, through the vicious confrontation of man against man in war.
The life of Christ allowed this redemption to be made known to all, through the spread of his words into the affairs of men. But the individual affirmation of redemption was left finally, as always, in the heart of the individual. Here he chooses his fate: to become a follower of Good, and to finally reside again with God, or a follower of Evil, and be forever apart from God. God had indeed left the human with the burden, and responsibility of being a God, it allowed him forever to choose his own fate.
1 It skirts the problem of our perception, but not our imagining. Indeed we can even imagine other kinds of perception.
2 The paradox of “the one and the many” pervades our whole existence as human beings, at many and varied levels. The mortal world is one of total uniqueness, of many parts none of which are in any way equal or identical. Yet our reality of this world is of one of total unity, a Gestalt, or single multidimensional perception, of which we ourselves are a part. Yet again to find our way within it, we must recreate the many parts by which the unity of our will can bring sense to this reality. And yet again within us lies the ultimate unifying force which brings the many together in society and in a unity of outlook. Finally our conception of God is the final unity of all things within himself, where even the concept of separateness is alien.
3 We may think of God as being a universe unto itself. It is the ultimate oneness, Nothing really exists outside of it, but then again, it may shut off parts of itself, as it shut off mortality from itself, although not fully; It left a part of itself in the heart of each individual. See ERRATA for more comments.
Originally Published:October 11, 2007
Revised:July 4, 2014