The Light of Reason
Edited by James Allen
Vol. III. March 1st, 1903 No. 3
The expounding of the laws of being and the higher life.
—W. H. Gill
The problem of evil is a subject which has a always occupied, and must necessarily occupy, the minds of earnest and thoughtful men and women, for when one is fairly roused from the animal sleep of indifference, and awakens to a sense of the suffering which is associated with life upon this earth, he naturally looks for some solution of what at first appears to him as a dark, mysterious and awful enigma. Nor can such a soul again rest in selfish ease, for wherever he goes, the dark shadow of the world's woe will follow him, and he must needs find out its secret.
The eyes of the world are red with weeping; its body is ravaged by numerous diseases; its heart is heavy with the burdens of sorrow, and its hands are stained with violence and strife and bloodshed. Whence comes all this? What is its meaning? It comes from the human heart, and its meaning is only to be found by each one in his or her own heart.
No man can understand evil whilst he is involved in it. When a man is caught in a burning building, it is impossible for him to cope with the fire, or trace its origin and cause; to do this he must make his escape; for whilst he is involved in the fire, he is so choked and blinded by smoke and flames, as to be powerless to do anything but seek a way of escape, and when he has reached a place of safety, he can then cheek the fire, and find out its cause. It is so with the flames of evil; a man must rise above them in himself, and then he will be in a position to comprehend the whole problem.
Whilst a man is partially or wholly involved in lust, hatred, covetousness, self-indulgence, pride, vanity and dark belief, although he may frame theories about evil, he will never understand it; and it is these self-same sins within a man which cause him to see evil in others, and to resist it by condemnation and retaliation. The evil, therefore, which a man believes to exist in others as a malicious power to do him harm, independently of his own thoughts and actions, does not exist. The sins mentioned above, and the sufferings which originate from them, constitute evil. Everyone is acquainted with those sins by the experience of his own heart, and he who will conquer them within himself will comprehend the whole problem of evil.
The only evil that exists is misapplied power, and this evil obtains because men are, as yet, ignorant of the Law of Life. A man may kill himself with a knife, but there is no evil in the knife, which is framed for useful ends, the evil exists in the application of the knife to a wrong issue. Even so, all the forces and powers within a man, nay, in the universe, are good, but man, being ignorant of their true use and direction, applies them to harmful ends, and so brings upon himself injury and suffering.
Evil exists, therefore, only as ignorance and misunderstanding, and if a man will cease from judging and condemning others, and from guarding himself against imaginary evils without until he has overcome all the sins of his own heart, he will then see that there is no evil outside him to be resisted, but that there is much ignorance and suffering which will call forth in him the spirit of compassion; and hatred, suspicion and retaliation will pass out of his life.
Men, not understanding themselves, not knowing the divine Law of life, and not apprehending the true purpose of existence, are everywhere engaged in resisting (imaginary) evil in each other—in each other's politics, each other's religion, and each other's views and actions; and in the midst of all this darkness there looms, in the sin-clouded human imagination, the horrible form of an organized Evil Power, slaying and devouring indiscriminately.
And so the piteous nightmare goes on—for nightmare it is—and must go on whilst men hug their own darling sins to their bosoms, and will not let them go, believing them to be good. There is no organized evil; there is no evil Power, except the power of sin in a man's own heart, and nowhere are there any evil forces ranged against a man except the impure and erroneous inclinations of his own soul. The problem of evil, therefore, can only be solved by practice and experience in overcoming self; and in a pure and sinless life and, as a result of such life, an enlightened comprehension of the Universal Order, devils, evil spirits and black magicians (ghosts to frighten children!) can have no place. Let a man cease from all sin, and there is no power in the universe that can touch one hair of his head to do him harm. Let him become just and merciful and good, and he shall find that the Law of the universe is just and merciful and good; so will he pass, awakened out of the nightmare of evil, unscathed and peaceful, strong and self-possessed.
More in this issue| Through the Gate of Good »
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.