How to Tell Good from Evil

"Renaud's world is black and white. He thinks this makes things simple. In fact, all his black-and-white thinking does is harden hearts, fix prejudice and blind good folk to the harm they do.

"And if something happens to challenge the way in which they see the world, when black-and-white thinking at last dissolves into a million shades of grey, men like Reynaud are left floundering, grasping at straws in a hurricane."

From "Peaches for Father Francis" by Joanne Harris (57)

Is nature evil?
Is nature evil? | Source

The Nature of Good and Evil.

"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-25)

What is good in the world is often defined in opposition to what is evil, for most earthlings agree the appearance of evil exists. We observe that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people; that that individual vices affect the welfare of others; that "the good I would do, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."

Religious organizations have tasked themselves to explain why evil exists and philosophers have shaped conflicting arguments regarding the nature and purpose of evil.

Systematization of the concept "evil" appears in many forms:

1. Emest Valea classifies world religions into three categories, and each hosts a unique definition of good and evil:

  • Pantheistic religions believe "Human suffering is a product of spiritual ignorance gathered in previous lives and distributed in the present one according to the dictates of karma."
  • Dualistic religions consider good and evil to be "eternal and rival principles" separate from each other, with natures particular to each.
  • Monotheistic religions believe evil "has a personal identity" (i.e., Satan), who fell from grace, in opposition to God, the source of all good.

2. Professor Philip Pecorina teaches CUNY students that there is moral evil willfully committed by human beings and there is natural evil, such as natural disasters.

3. Bertrand Russell wrote an extensive examination of philosophical arguments regarding good and bad and concluded,

"It is evident that among the things that exist some are good, some bad, and that we know too little of the universe to have any right to an opinion as to whether the good or the bad preponderates, or as to whether either is likely in the future to gain on the other... Complete suspense of judgement in this matter is therefore the only rational attitude."

4. Socrates told Euthyphro that defining the good was dependent upon foundations beneath his question. When his friend declared, "Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them," Socrates requested further clarification, "Is that which the gods love good because they love it, or do they love it because it is good?"

5. Carvaka questioned what was good in 600 BCE, asking,
"If a beast slain as an offering to the dead,
Will itself go to heaven,
Why does the sacrificer not straightaway offer his father?"

Carvaka asked this question because beasts were being sacrificed as an offering to the dead, even as many living nearby starved.
"If our offering sacrifices here gratify beings in heaven,
Why not make food offerings down below
To gratify those standing on housetops?"

6. David R. Hawkins conducted extensive research on the study of truth and concluded, "... consciousness research reveals that the capacity of the human mind to comprehend and understand the levels of truth depends on an individual's level of consciousness, which itself is in a state of continuous evolutionary development. This process has been continuous not only over preceding eons of evolutionary time, but also continues on in present time and during maturation." From "Truth vs Falsehood, How to tell the difference."

Or, as many have observed, "We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are."

7. Economics has been called both a religion and a philosophy. "We economists are trained to avoid normative judgments and opinions as to what is good and bad. Yet, contrary to what our textbooks say, economics is predominantly a normative field. Economics not only describes the world, but is frequently about how the world should be...," writes Tomas Sedlacek in Economics of Good and Evil. He continues...

"Everyone has some internalized ethics according to which we act... It is like that with economics too, as John Maynard Keynes puts it: 'Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist... Sooner or later, it is ideas, not vested interests , which are dangerous for good or evil.'"

Is it possible to settle on one definition of evil or to encapsulate the meaning of the good?

The shape of evil.

A rough representation of the evil I experienced.
A rough representation of the evil I experienced. | Source

An instinctual fear response requires no discussion.

Last night as I slept, a clear liquid jell suddenly appeared above my body: a sinister, amorphous being the size of a plate glass window.

I immediately understood that this shapeless entity was evil. My heart raced with terror. This Thing meant to merge with my body-- to control or kill me.

The unfriendly gelatin ghost moved to a position inches from my prone body and hung there: a shimmering deception of blueish light.

"Abwoon D'Bashmaya," I prayed, instinctively.

These first words of the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic gave this transparent lava pause. I'd memorized the translation by Neil Douglas-Klotz ten years ago, when I taught middle school Sunday school at a local Episcopal church.

"Abwoon d'bashmaya," I repeated. I could not think beyond these words. I did not speak them aloud, they fluttered inside my head.

Douglas-Klotz teaches that an Aramaic word or phrase translates into seven levels of meaning:

1. "O Birther! Father/Mother of the Cosmos,
you create all that moves
in light.

2. "O Thou! The Breathing Life of all,
Creator of the Shimmering Sound that
touches us.

3. "Respiration of all worlds,
we hear you breathing--in and out--
in silence.

4. Source of Sound: in the roar and the whisper,
in the breeze and the whirlwind, we
hear your Name.

5. "Radiant One: You shine within us,
outside us--even darkness shines--when
we remember.

6. "Name of names, our small identity
unravels in you, you give it back
as a lesson.

7. "Wordless Action, Silent Potency--
where ears and eyes awaken, there
heaven comes.

1. "O Birther! Father/Mother of the Cosmos!"

I thrust this phrase at the creature. The shimmering entity gathered itself, lingered a fraction of a second, then disappeared.

"Thank you, Yeshua," I whispered, stunned that this prayer had repelled the enemy; shocked that I had thought to speak the healing words.

Evidently when faced with evil, my fear response had kicked in: "Our body reacts before our conscious mind has even registered the danger. Adrenaline floods the body preparing us to fight or run," reports a BBC program.

Fighting with unconscious prayer was my logical response when faced with an apparition. In such situations, fear is our friend, Deborah Battersby explains.

But when values are less apparent, how does one discern good from evil?

Flowering tree.
Flowering tree. | Source

Deepak Chopra and the Aramaic Jesus offer similar definitions of evil.

Deepak Chopra and the Aramaic Jesus are of similar mind, when it comes to defining evil.

Chopra writes, "I see evil not as an intrinsic property of the universe, but rather as a by-product of ignorance-- lack of self-knowledge. Evil actions are born of a deep misunderstanding of what one is and what one is not."

Jesus spoke Aramaic. Translating his words in his native tongue generates seven layers of meaning not present in the Greek. Further along in The Lord's Prayer, Jesus prays, "deliver us from evil".

In Aramaic, the word for good means ripe and the word for evil means unripe. "A ripe tree brings forth ripe fruit, an unripe tree brings forth unripe fruit." Therefore, in his prayer, Jesus is asking God to keep humankind from becoming unripe.

We become unripe when we choose:

Humans exist within an Earth School curriculum meant to help us become ripe. "Our small identity unravels in You,"Jesus tells God. "You give it back as a lesson."


White Darkness by McCaughrean

"When..White Darkness sets in...All shadows disappear..leaving nothing but a milky, trembling nothingness..like lying under a sheet on a summer morning: the presence of light without any of the usual complications- like being able to see."
"When..White Darkness sets in...All shadows disappear..leaving nothing but a milky, trembling nothingness..like lying under a sheet on a summer morning: the presence of light without any of the usual complications- like being able to see." | Source

How to tell good from evil?

From the Holy Order of Mans come these ancient, sacred ideas:

"Whatever good, O Agni, thou mayest confer upon the giver of oblations, that indeed, O Angrias, belongs to thee...

"The world has been deceived by difference of language and has mistaken words for ideas. There are numerous accounts in both Christian and non-Christian sacred books of saints and sages who have walked with God, have performed miracles, and have led their peoples out of darkness and into the light of better ways. Shall all these accounts be rejected together as hallucinations or infirmities of the mind?

"What is gained by denying that which has inspired and guided the destiny of nations? It is always the same; for after all, there is only one adversary -- spiritual ignorance. One need not journey to Asia to find these Great Ones, for they are to be located only in the vaster realms of Spirit and soul, regardless of where one is geographically; but this cannot be until he is spiritually 'ripe.'

"To reach this place, man's concern must be with his own motives; he must learn selflessness, and to express to the best of his ability the finer qualities within him... Love is the first step -- the love that is sometimes called 'charity,' but is in reality somewhere between the two. The good of mankind must be placed above his own good, to love his neighbor as himself, and live in the spirit of goodwill...

"Merely to 'be good' is not enough to qualify for spiritual assistance, as one can be very 'good' while doing nothing at all, just by refraining from evil. But in actively moving out to bring good unto others, progress is made."

Yeshua said, "... love your neighbor."

In Matthew 22 versus 36-40, Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment within the Law.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." But he went further, "And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

Douglas-Klotz translates love your neighbor as yourself to mean,

"Draw a breath of compassion for the one mysteriously drawn to live near you: love that friend as you love the self that dwells within--the subconscious that sometimes feels separate and intruding."

Shining your light on the wall of humanity.
Shining your light on the wall of humanity. | Source
Ripening.
Ripening. | Source

Questions to ask when considering a good action.

  1. Am I building walls?
  2. With this action, am I cultivating my small seed of divine Self?
  3. With this action, am I cultivating another's small seed of divine Self?

Such questions begin the process of ripening.

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Comments 5 comments

Jerry Hulse profile image

Jerry Hulse 3 years ago from Kingsport, Tennessee

I am writing a book and the thought is how do you go on when u followed what you thought was God but ended up losing everything that was dear to you? Your life is in a graveyard and your heart is in a million pieces but one thing for sure is that God has got us and if we look closely every little piece will have our dream in it. I don't know if I even need to be on here but there are souls hurting and it looks like that the sexual revolution has crept into the church with all its creeping things. I am talking about under the choir robes, yes and even in to the homes of prominent church leaders and they right now are trying to decide, do I hide it and hope it goes a way or do I expose it as the snake it is? i don't even know what I am trying to say or even if it makes sense but can we get to the place where we take a course on who our God is and let his holiness engrave into our habits and way of life? Is anybody feeling me out there in that cruel hurting world and can any body please help me pick up the pieces? I myself am not only willing to come clean before my own family but before the whole world!


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 3 years ago from Stepping past clutter Author

Jerry, thank you for sharing your story. I hold you in my heart, knowing your soul will ripen, as you do what is necessary.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

story.. what an interesting hub gonna share it :)


Darknlovely3436 profile image

Darknlovely3436 3 years ago from NewYork

nice hub


simondixie profile image

simondixie 3 years ago from Georgia

Beautiful! So insightful and meaningful to me. As I read your words, I realize how many times I have been fooled into thinking that a person, an action was all right, but the person/the act was evil. Reading these questions one can ask was eye-opening for me. I'm looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

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