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Good and Evil

It was not strange I saw no good in man,
To overbalance all the wear and waste
Of faculties, displayed in vain, but born
To prosper in some better sphere: and why?
In my own heart had not been made wise
To trace love's faint beginnings in mankind,
To know even hate is but a mask of love's,
To see a good in evil, and a hope
In ill success.
—Browning
Nothing is foreign; parts relate to whole;
One all-extending, all-preserving Soul
Connects each being, greatest with the least;
Made beast in aid of man, and man of beast;
All served, all serving; nothing stands alone;
The chain holds on, and where it ends unknown.
Has God, thou fool! worked solely for thy good,
Thy joy, thy pastime, thy attire, thy food?
—Pope
Light is positive and radiates.
Darkness is negative and absorbs.
One is powerful, the other powerless.
We underestimate the power of good.
So with good and evil.
We exaggerate the power of 'evil.'
Evil is the weakest thing in life.
It is a mirage, a temporary appearance only, and contrary to all the tides and currents of the universe.
Good has all the forces of the Infinite behind it.
Its power is incalculable. It never fails.
—Charles B. Newcomb

At the very outset of life man is confronted by the greatest of all mysteries: the problem of good and evil. Within this problem is contained the solution of all the lesser questions of life that vex and perplex the mind. It is not only this problem that is the first thing to demand man's attention, but when he has solved it the world and the things of the world have lost their hold on him forever; for he has risen triumphant over sin and death; so that we might say that his solution is the Alpha and Omega of all the wisdom of the world.

In the first stages of man's life begins the personification of good and evil, and he has many gods. Whatever affects his life in a beneficial way becomes a god of good; whatever has harmful effects, becomes a god of evil.

In his worship of the gods of the good, the qualities corresponding to those he worships, come into a living existence in his own nature. In the same way the attributes with which he endows his gods of evil, find expression in his own life. He is thus constantly between two forces; one making for good and the other for evil; the one calling out for love and reverence, the other, hate and fear.

As he allows his mind to come under the sway of the one or the other, so his whole life is influenced and he becomes what his gods are. As his knowledge increases, the number of his gods decreases, until at last he has but two—a god of good and a god of evil; but his state is no better than before. The many personalities of the past have resolved themselves into the attributes of these two gods. At the very heart of man's life is the divine ideal which is eternally steadfast, which knows naught of anything save good. To some degree he is conscious of this; and instinctively he places the evil of life outside himself so, when he is guilty of any evil thing, he attributes it to the influence exerted over him by the god of evil. He shifts the weight of responsibility from his own shoulders, and the devil is made the scapegoat for his sins. When, however, he conforms to his higher ideals of good, he attributes this good to himself rather than to any external being.

The reason for these two conditions might be summed up as follows: There being no evil at the heart of life, it follows that evil must be external to the life; therefore, the responsibility of evil-doing must be placed elsewhere. But the sense of good being an innate quality of the life does not require any external being to account for it. Evil does not reach further back than the imaging faculty of the mind of man, and it comes from man's failure to comprehend the true relation of things in life; it comes from man's inability to grasp the unity of life; it comes from partial vision and undeveloped knowledge, wherein things are seen not as they are, but rather as they seem to be. There is a law of contradictions which governs the true knowledge that distinguishes between the real and the unreal; a law which eventually makes clear that "all is of God that is or is to be, and God is good."

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil shows us that the reality of good is only made evident to us through that which contradicts it—evil; that evil is not something in and of itself, but rather the dark background which brings out life's perfect picture; that it has only power as we believe in it and give it power; that it is the absence of light and of knowledge. Just as darkness is the absence of the light of the sun, so evil is the absence of the knowledge of the law of God, and exists, as darkness exists, not as a reality, but as an unreal something which shall pass away before the coming of the light of truth.

No matter at what point on the surface of life we start, no matter how evil a thing may seem to be, in the final analysis of the underlying thought or motive we find nothing but good. Good may be diverted into wrong channels, and so fail in positive expression. When the ideal is not perfectly expressed, as the law demands it shall be, the perverted good becomes apparent evil. Because of perfect law and order throughout the universe, any failure on the part of man to bring his life in accord with this law and order violates his intuitive recognition of the harmony necessary to his well-being, and results in a discordant condition which is termed evil. Let us hold clearly in mind this thought: Everything is good. Let us consider the universe as a perfect whole composed of many parts, each part having its perfect office. When, however, a part is made to do duty for other than that for which it was intended, the law is violated and an element of friction and discord is engendered, which constitutes what is termed evil. Some time it will be recognized that whatsoever man does which results in harmony and peace of mind is in reality the fulfilling of the law. It makes no difference one way or the other what the conventionally minded think, harmony is, after all, the key-note of existence.

In the life of man there is a constant process of development, each stage being perfect within its limitations, just as the unripened fruit is perfect in so far as it has developed. To the more highly developed mind, when there is knowledge of law and order, looking back on the stages below and failing to find knowledge equal to its own, it conceives such conditions as being wicked or evil.

Shakespeare uttered a great truth when he said there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so; and Paul a still greater one when he said he was persuaded that all things are good, but to him who thinketh a thing to be evil, to him it is evil. At every stage in the development of man, wherein there is lack of knowledge and conformity to law, such development is brought about through many and varied experiences and these cause sorrow of mind and pain of body. If man cannot see and choose the higher way, there remains no other way for his purification save through the fire which burns out the dross of life. While passing through the experiences needful to the working out of his salvation, and failing to see the good, he looks upon his trials and sufferings as being evil.

There are no mistakes in God's plan; God did not make some people good and others evil, neither did He foreordain some to everlasting life and others to everlasting death. His perfect thought is wrapped up in every soul, and there is nothing that can nullify it.

Man is not good or bad; knowledge and right use of mental faculties tend to make him harmonious. Lack of knowledge and consequent disobedience of law result in discord so that the chords of life are not harmoniously played. But as with the musician, experience and practice make perfect. Whether a man is consciously and actively engaged in discovering and conforming to law and order, or whether his eyes are blinded to the light, the force of life pressing outward from the center brings with it unfoldment of innate qualities. Where consciousness of the truth of this exists the real joy of life comes through the knowing and the doing.

In our study of good and evil, we must approach it from still another standpoint; that is, that every inner ideal is seeking outward expression, and in this effort there is the resistance which one form of life offers to another. In the great economy of life up to a certain stage in the development of man resistance seems to be a necessary qualification to growth. When the resistance becomes too great, growth is thwarted; when there is little resistance there is comparatively little mental or physical development. An illustration of this may be found among the people who live in the Frigid Zone where the outer resistance is so great it becomes a struggle to maintain physical existence, and the sensibilities of the people are blunted, while in the Torrid Zone, where physical existence is so easily maintained, there is a consequent sluggishness of mind and body. Only in the temperate zones do we find the more perfect development which comes from resistance being neither too great nor too little, showing us that between extremes man finds his point of balance. The balance on one plane differs from the balance on another.

The resistance and competition on a. lower plane, when transferred to a higher plane, would no longer prove beneficial; so the law of resistance, as understood by the physically and intellectually developed, would make way for the law of non-existence, when man unfolds to a knowledge of his true relationship to God and man. One might ask, Does the law of God change? No: the law is eternal and unchanging, but man's perception of it changes. At one stage of life we are only able to perceive the most external manifestation of law, so that it seems to be physical in its inception and action. At another stage, thought and reason reach a still higher conclusion. Law here has its beginning in mind and its manifestation in the material; but in both cases there is failure to recognize the perfect law, for sin, sickness, and death continue to be real conditions rather than conditions which have an existence that passes away with the coming of the fuller knowledge of the law of the spirit of life which frees from sin and death.

In reality there is neither sin, sickness, nor death. God's law can neither be broken nor set aside, and when man knows this of a very truth then will come the real freedom of life. The belief in the personal self is one of the causes of much of the seeming evil of the world. The thought of personality separates man from God and from his fellow man, and personal existence and well-being become the leading motives of life. This condition generates selfishness and the many evils which flow from it. If we could know that there is no separation from God or man in all the great universe, that God is in all, that life is in all, that man is one with the Source of his being, that men are as closely related to one another as they are to God, that we are nothing apart from God, that one's neighbor is himself, the thought of personality would fade from our minds forever.

Selfishness is the greatest devil one has to contend with in life. It not only retards one's own progress but also stands in the way of the development of others; in that whatever one habitually feels or thinks is constantly acting upon the lives and minds of others, helping to generate similar conditions. The selfish thought and feeling can go out from one who indulges in it adding to the density of other minds who to some degree are living selfish lives. Our thoughts can become imps of darkness or angels of light—just as we choose to make them. False thoughts and false emotions engendered by selfishness are the seeds of sin and sorrow, disease and death. The one, however, who lives the unselfish life is through such living protecting himself from all adverse influence, for selfishness can no more enter the mental atmosphere of an unselfish person than darkness can come while the sun is shining. Selfishness is the father of lies, whose place is in the outer darkness. Nothing is ever gained by a selfish person, save the experience which leads him in the end to see how unprofitable selfishness is and the necessity of leaving it behind him. As one presses forward in his quest of light and truth, the life becomes a constant overcoming, wherein all the shadows and unrealities are left behind; one wherein all that is partial or incomplete becomes whole and complete and the knowledge of the real self comes: then all is changed and our thoughts, inspired by our deepest feelings, become messengers of light and life and love to bless and do good to all. All the evil is gone: God and His Creation is all there is and man is at-one with God and his fellow man.

To the pure in heart all things become pure. When man looks with God's eyes on the world about him, he will pronounce all things good, he will know that from first to last all things have been working together for his perfect development, and that God's law when fully understood is the law of love. Having thus risen to a knowledge of the true law, the real inheritance of life is made known: that we are sons of God and joint heirs with Christ, that we have passed from death unto life into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917
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