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Essay on Theodicy



The Scandal of Evil ?

pothen to kakon

Where does evil come from ?

by Wim van den Dungen

"The Devil's greatest triumph
was convincing the modern world
that he does not exist !"
Chesterton

"I will not eat faeces for you {gods},
I will not drink urine for you,
I will not go upside down for you ..."
Coffin Texts, Spell 173 (III.47-48)

Theodicy : definitions & logical core

Theodicy (from Greek theos, "god"; dike, "justice") is the reasonable justification of the nature, structure & goal of evil in an order of things considered to be created by God, considered as the transcendent author of righteousness and all good things (an eternal, absolute object or "Being" before all things).

Instead of considering evil as a mystery, theodicy tries to explain the reasons for its presence and seeks to unveil its principles. In this way, the civilizations of good will are in possession of the tools to make (if possible) constructive use of evil, or to avoid it altogether. All handlings with evil have to be from the side of understanding, and true justice always gives the last word to compassion.

"All who take the sword will die by the sword."
Matthew, 26:52


In view of the historical track-record of human civilization on Earth (starting with the Cro-Magnon, the Homo sapiens sapiens, some 40.000 years ago) and if our intent is to remain constructive, creative and open to new opportunities, such a reasonable justification of evil is at all times more than necessary. What is this dark inclination ?

"Then Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let's go out in the fields !'. When they were out in the fields, Cain turned on his brothers and killed him."
Genesis
, 4:8

In a religious context, theodicy always implies a diabology, for the presence of evil is personified as the Devil (cf. Zoroastrism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). Such a personification will not be rejected, for in the discourses developed by the religious theodicies of the world religions, the figure of "the Devil" plays a major role.

"He said : 'Get out of this, despised, driven away : whoever of them will follow you, I will certainly fill hell with you all.'"
Koran
, 7:18

Whether, in a metaphysical context, a formal & ontological "principle of evil" can be maintained is doubtful. Diabols run against the linear principles of rational thought and its formalities. Formal logic does not apply, for a non-Fregean logic is at work here. Indeed, ordinary ontology is impotent. In a complex phase-space, a lot of chaotic movements occur. These chaotic variables (a legion) are not without some organizing form, although "order" is not applicable ("I am a legion").

"Meta-order" is too explicitly orderly. The "strange" attractors in such a chaotic space are mathematical objects of great beauty (cf. my Dutch Chaos, 1996). They are doorways to "higher" levels in the organization in dissipative, non-linear chaotic systems. The Devil may then be viewed as the personalization of the underlying non-Fregean, chaotic form of these strange attractors. Of course, instead of leaping to a higher plane, it is more likely chaos leads to annihilation, for entropy rules supreme. Life is then a borderline phenomenon.

"The methodology I have chosen shows a definable development of historical tradition, which asserts, at a minimum, the existence of a principle of evil."
Russell, J.B. : The Devil, Cornell University Press - London, 1977, pp.259-260.

Walking this difficult path of religious theodicy, the question may be rephrased : how to understand the Devil (the personification of the principle of evil) in God's creation ? Of course, we need to accept "creation" and "God" to work theodicy. Buddhist would ask : how to understand suffering ? How to irreversibly stop it ? So, for the sake of argument, this theodicy accepts "God" and His Creation. Is, given these, a reasonable theodicy possible ?

Traditionally, three avenues are explored :

* natural diabology : 

(1) we experience a morally biased world ;
(2) the psychological experience of good & evil is inherent in young children unless society eradicates it ;
(3) massive collective destructiveness is quantitatively & qualitatively radically different from limited individual destructiveness ;
(4) depth-psychology teaches the distinction between the personal Shadow and the collective Shadow (the latter comes close to a principle of evil) ;
(5) chaos-theory describes the "strange attractors" existing in turbulent phase-spaces ;

* metaphysical diabology :

(a) the massive amount of destruction & suffering may suggest that evil is not working randomly in creation ;
(b) the intelligence with which evil sometimes operates suggest the presence of evil entities in creation (possessing memory, intelligence & will) ;
(c) if the cosmos is created, is then the creator not responsible for the evil which happens in it ?

* revealed diabology :

The world religions and their scriptures bluntly state the existence of a power of darkness (as well as some kind of life after death and the possibility of salvation in this life or the next), but they do not always clearly explain the ramifications of evil.

Philosophical theodicy is concerned with reconciling the goodness and justice of God with the observable facts of evil and suffering in the world. The word "theodicy" was invented by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1673 - 1716). In his Theodicy (1710), he defended the justice of God in spite of the existence of evil. God, the highest monad, is almighty (omnipotent) only in that He is able to do that which is logically possible according to the limitations of His own logic. Certain factors may each be independently possible but mutually incompatible, and, because God created the world under these explicit logical limitations, the created world is indeed "the best of all possible worlds." He just could not have done better ...

Traditional theodicy made a choice between situating evil in God (uniting evil with God) or exorcising evil altogether out of God, i.e. evil (considered as unsubstantial absence of being).

Situated ad extra, evil had to be fought at all times and will be mercilessly destroyed at the Day of the End or locked away in the "valley of death" (cf. the Books of Enoch). In this option, the Divine order is called to become an eternal, irreducible dyad ("damnation" in Judaism, "eternal hell" in Christianity and "requital and the fire" in Islam). These ideas (influenced by the Neo-Platonic "privatio") became orthodox in (late) Judaism, (early) Christianity & (Sunni) Islam, although in all these religions "of the book",  significant mystical counter-currents were actively at work, and they spoke of angels, demons, altered states of consciousness, and record magical and parapsychological events (cf. the qabalah, contemplative theology, Sufism, Hermeticism).

These spiritual theologies emphasized the essential unity of God and hence the irreducibility of His omnipotence & omniscience (reducing evil to its minimum minimorum : a bad tool used by God for His Divine Reasons). But most, if not all, confirm the scholastic definition of evil as "privation" (or "absence of being"), a notion rooted in the philosophy of Plotinos, Plato, Orphism (see also the use of the "alpha privativum" in the "apeiron" of Anaximander's cosmology). Indeed, in the ascetical enclosure of his cloister, a monk like Ruusbroec could meditate about spiritual astrology, but his Magnum Opus, the Spiritual Espousals, was condemned and burned.

"The arcanum of alchemy is one of these archetypal ideas that fills a gap in the Christian view of the world, namely, the unbridged gulf between the opposites, in particular between good and evil. Only logic knows a tertium non datur ; nature consists entirely of such 'thirds', since she is represented by effects which resolve an opposition - just as a waterfall mediates between 'above' and 'below'."
Jung, C.G. : Mysterium Coniunctionis, 1955, § 674.

"If evil exists in God, the desire to struggle against that evil also exists and is manifest in the life and work of many people. This desire too, God has made ; this, too, is part of God. Thus the totality of God includes not only evil but resitance to evil. God creates the cosmos with evil in it, and with the struggle against evil also in it. Deeper than the ambivalence of God is the love of God, which generated the cosmos in love and summons it to return in love."
Russell, J.B. : Lucifer, Cornell University Press - London, 1984, p.310.

The fundamental logic of a coherent theodicy comes down
to a moral choice between :

I. EXCLUSIVE goodness :

God is omniscient
omnipotent
only good
Pothen to kakon ?

  • Radical Dualists : the good God and the Devil are two opposed principles :
    * teleological : either the good God or the Devil is triumphant (the principles are reducible) ;
    * nihilist : the battle between Light & Darkness is in itself eternal & pointless (the principles are irreducible) ;

  • Semidualists : the good God makes use of His creatures, also the Devil, and has His Divine Reasons for doing so, with three variations :
    * divisionist : the redemption of the Devil is impossible ;
    * unitarist : the Devil can be saved ;
    * liberal : evil is caused by the wrong free choices of superior forms of life (like angels & humans) and the chaotic, higher-order movements present in nature.

II. INCLUSIVE wickedness :

God is omniscient
omnipotent
but also somehow evil
Pothen to kakon ?

  • Radical Monists : everything, all evil included, is an expression of the Will of God, who's goodness outweighs His wrath :
    * (neo)determinist : all evil is known & willed by God before it happens or God knows all that happens when it happens ;
    * liberal : evil is caused by the wrong free choices of superior forms of life (angels & humans) and the chaotic, higher-order movements present in nature ;
    * apophatic : God's Goodness is unlike anything "good" we know, hence everything except God is evil (the evil God creates is part of His existence, not of His essence). God Wills good and evil, but He only Wishes the good for humanity to which He reveals the path ;

  • Radical Satanists : the evil in God is greater than His goodness, hence God is Satan.

    The theology of the Problem of Evil

exclusive
goodness
semidualism
liberal unitarism
inclusive
wickedness
evil is absence of goodness evil is chaos and bad choice evil is absence of goodness
God is good
not evil
the good (God) limits evil God is good
and evil
Platonizing
metaphysics
Christianity
chaos is a real
entity to be transformed
Islam
Judaism
Hinduism

"I invite You to consider Satan as a reflection of how we perceive ourselves and those we call 'others'. Satan has, after all, made a kind of profession out of being 'other'."
Pagels, E. : The Origin of Satan, Vintage - New York, 1995, p.xviii.


French existentialists such as Sartre saw the existence of the Christian God refuted by the crashing presence, since the start of human civilization, of evil in the world. The morbid dictators of modern times confirm the activity of evil despite two hundred years of radical political, economical and technological innovations. If God is good, then a priori evil does not exist, but evil is a historical fact, ergo, the good God does not exist (cf. Sartre's argument).
Neurology added a constitutional fact : older neuronal computers like the reptile cortex or the limbic system contain much potential chaotic turbulence and communicate poorly with evolved systems such as the prefrontal cortex.

Is a Supreme Being (or "God"), conceived of as the creator of light, love & goodness (at the exclusion of darkness, hate and evil) able to coherently justify the massive & historical presence of evil in the world ? In fact, Latin & Greek Christian dogma has treated the subject as a mystery (cf. the "mysterium inequitatis"), which is rather strange considering the utterly cruel & bloody Passion of the Christ has become the cornerstone of its salvic model (cf. Paul's insistence in his authentic letters that faith & hence salvation is accepting the Cross). In the Orthodox Church, evil is rooted in the will, and so even Satan may change his perverted mind. Evil exists only insofar it is done, not in any other way. Its foundation is a movement of the will. This comes close to the Buddhist conception, situating good and evil in the subject and its mental constructions.


Is the exclusive goodness of God illusionary ? Is He the cause of extreme evil ? So perhaps the good God does not exist ? As most existentialists -attacking Christianity- equated the Divine as such with goodness per se (i.e. the "summum bonum"), to them the evils of history -the continuity of suffering- sufficiently proved the Divine as such did not exist. Christ died for nothing. Today, this argument is often heard in atheist circles. It fails to understand why a good God would create a free creature, for it pictures the relationship between creator and its creation in a Greek, reflective way (like an artist and his creation, somehow connected by necessity). The free, living God, limiting His infinity to allow (by His gift) the other-than-Himself to possess the free choice to turn away and return to Him, eludes them. And this is a very strong point, raised in Eastern Orthodoxy. To allow His creature to be free as He is, He must allow bad choice to enter the game. If not, the salvic intentions of God become confused, which is (given omnipotence) a priori imposssible. All other solutions end up attributing their own free choices to God.

Those inclusivists who argue God Wills good and evil, but Wishes the good for humanity, fail to understand the important benefit of the Platonic "summum bonum", a good God. Without the latter, philosophy may become disconnected from the practical, ethical, political and economical realities, all of which necessitate the idea of the good. Hence, there can be no evil in God, not in essence and not in His Names. His transcendence is beyond all affirmations and denials. Notwithstanding natural chaos, in the moral order, all evil is the result of bad choice, and only understanding and wisdom may equip us ...

Accepting evil in God brings in the danger of accepting evil as willed by God and this enables one to "explain" every horror possible. This is nothing more than an invalid justification of human wickedness. Moreover, if evil is part of God, then how can God be called "good" without loss of credibility ? This leads the believers to protect themselves with God against God, reducing religion to an outrageous absurdity.

To avoid this, inclusive wickedness has to be rejected, implying God does not will evil, bringing us back to the fundamental question : Pothen to kakon ?

The suffering of Job & the Judaic concept of evil

"Up to and including the time of the great writing prophets like Isaiah, God is viewed as an absolutely sovereign God from whom comes good and evil."
Schwarz, H.. : Evil, Fortress Press - Minneapolis, 1995, p.57.

We first turn to Job, who expected help from the Divine against the Divine ! Job feels how the Divine allows the adversary (Satan) to give him more and more pain, but does not loose faith. He does not understand what happens to him, is mocked by ordinary humans, considered evil by most. Of course ! They all desperately need scape-goats. When his friend Elihu the Buzite does not believe the injustice of the Lord ("Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked ?" - 34:12), Job cannot give up his faith in His Divine Justice but admits that no one except the Lord is doing him injustice and violence.

This is paradoxical. Suffering Job trusts Divine goodness while at the same time aware nothing evil could have hurt him without the consent of the Lord. This situation leads Job to become very wise. For according to Job, wisdom is the key of suffering : "And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom ; and to depart from evil is understanding." (28:28). So all possible future evil is the outcome of some wrong choice in the past (an idea returning as "karma" in Hinduism and Buddhism).

If man suffers, man is still unwise. Understanding what happens to a suffering human, is knowing his past wrong choices, his impotence to fear the Lord. However, was Job not a good man ?

"If I had called, and He had answered me ; yet would I not believe that He had hearkened unto my voice. For He breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause."
Job, 9:16-17

This apparent deep attitude of Job, leading up to his restoration, is not without a major theological problem (left unsolved) : Why did the Lord allow Satan to torture Job ? Job feared the Lord. He was just & innocent ! So why did He put him on trial ? Hopefully not for the sake of the reader ? Have not all spiritual traditions witnessed how the just suffer & the evil ones triumph ? Even in Ancient Egypt, the theme was familiar (cf. the slaying of Osiris by his brother Seth). The Lord does not defend Job. He does not unmask the malicious slanderer. Satan is not rebuked or disapproved. Is this not an outrageous scandal ? Does it not show the impotence of the Abrahamic concept of the Divine ?

The core of all ethical aspirations is simply this : our suffering must know good reasons. In Job, no "good" reasons are given. Indeed, the early Semitic concept of the Divine incorporated evil

"I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me :
I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me :
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, 
that there is none beside Me.
I am the Lord, and there is none else.
I form the light, and create darkness :
I make peace, and create evil :
I the Lord do all these things
."
Isaiah, 45:5-7

In the qabalah, this notion was further refined. The advanced qabalist would be able to "restore" or "repair" the evil. In Luria's system evil is an eternal feature in God's essence or "Ain Soph". Although this thought was considered as heretical, it translates the capacity of "YHVH" to express both "good" and "evil". Unfortunately, the qabalah runs against the apophatic postulate of its own theology, for one can hardly maintain ineffability (regarding the essential, precreational, pre-existent essence, face or level of God) and confirm that a pre-existent duality is the cause of evil. Absurdity again.

"YHVH"
Evil "ALHYM"
the "Elohim"

the "gods & goddesses" or the Divine Shekinah
Good
He creates
 the dark
He forms
the light
Left Path

Severity

Tree of Death

Damnation
battle between
good & evil
tikkut by
the Elect One

Middle Path

Tree of the
Knowledge of
the Difference
between
good & evil
Right Path

Compassion

Tree of Life

Salvation

Clearly "YHVH" should always be situated above "good" and "evil", for the essence of God is properly speaking "beyond Names". Nothing of the Divine Essence is ever given, known, understood, prehended, revealed etc. Only the "ALHYM" are associated with the problem of "left" & "right", "chaos" & "order", "night" & "day"... So God is good nor evil.

The savage nature of pre-prophetic Judaism reflects the wandering, conquering Israelites. Moderation became necessary as soon as they got more settled. Then God became more remote and absent, for He had his priests & prophets. Mercy and the social responsibility of the individual came to the fore. The savage "YHVH", the antinomy of opposites, became the "good" Lord, who's Compassion (Chesed) is always stronger than His Severity (Geburah). Eventually, God became wholly good and evil was alien to His nature. The malignant aspect was subtracted from "YHVH" and projected outward upon a negative spirit (cf. the scape-goat and the developments of this theme in apocalyptic literature - the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Books of  Enoch, Revelation). Of course, why the good God would make deals with the Devil (a theme returning in the Koran) is beyond rational grasp, leaving Abraham's religions in the darkness of irrationality.

A fundamental and irreducible tension between explicit (masculine, paternal, exoteric) monotheism and implicit (feminine, maternal, esoteric) semidualism (between "light" & "dark") became a major feature of Judeo-Christian spirituality. It is also prominent in Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. For Ibn Al-'Arabi, the attributes of imperfection are part of God's "Most Beautiful Names" mentioned in the Koran. Does this radical and consequent return to a concept of God resembling the "YHVH" of pre-prophetic Judaism (and its adjacent determinism, predetermination and fatalism) not invoke the confused and outdated persona of a terrible and (?) compassionate God ? Had Judaism, under the pressures of Hellenism, not abandoned this ante-rational mindset ?
 
"There is only one God, but we limited mortals seem to see him as a double figure, willing both good and evil. Since evil is, it must be the will of God. Yet God also wills the good against the evil. Thus it can be said that God wills evil ; God wills good ; God does not will evil ; God does not will good. To our limited understanding, some things appear good and others evil, but ultimately all evils are good, since all that God does is good."
Russell, J.B. : Mephistopheles, Cornell University Press - London, 1986, p.36.

However, if all evils are ultimately good, then how is morality possible and why should people refrain from loving (their) wickedness ? Is this movement towards the exclusively "good God" fulfilled by Christianity and the Messianic age of Jesus Christ ?

The Christian theology of evil

evil is non-being and God is ultimate goodness and being

Although, in a text probably wrongly attributed to First Clement, we read he taught God rules the world with both hands, the right hand being Christ, the left Satan, later Christian theology (cf. Augustine) firmly adopted the Neo-Platonic concept, which viewed evil as "privation boni", i.e. as non-being devoid of goodness.

"We need not define God as absolute good and absolute being and equate goodness with being. When we observe the cosmos we intuit the immediate reality of evil just as much as we intuit the immediate reality of good. Suffering is, just as joy is ; pain is, just as contentment is ; ill will is, just as goodwill is. It may be that God prefers joy and harmony and good will to suffering and ill will ; it may be that the former draw things closer to him, and that he has put resistance to evil into his cosmos as well as evil itself. But none of these possibilities means that evils do not exist."
Russell, J.B. : The Devil, Cornell University Press - London, 1977, pp.282.

Plato's own views on the "Idea of Ideas" were completely focused on the goodness of the highest possible Idea, the limit of limits. His was the ideal of a transcendent moral order. This led to a positive theology ("kataphatic") which affirms the most excellent qualities of God. In the ontologies of Greek philosophy, evil had no real being at all, but consists in a lack of perfection (privation). The world of ideas is perfect, wholly real and exclusively good. Hence, as mere defect, as the holes of the Swiss cheese, evil does not exist.

"The absence of food is a mere negation, but considered in relation to its surroundings, as an empty stomach, it is hunger ; and hunger is a positive factor in this world of ours. Sickness can be considered as a mere absence of health, but sickness is caused either by a disorder in the system or the presence of injurious influences, both of which are unquestionably positive."
Carus, P. : The History of the Devil, Gramercy - New York, 1996, pp.454.

Plotinos conceived evil as privation. In Ennead II 9, posthumous given the title "Against the Gnostics", Plotinos links the essence of goodness (the Platonic "Idea of The Good") with the Divine, called "the One". The idea of an "evil creator of the world" is rejected. Although Plotinos is aware that to "deny Evil a place among realities is necessarily to do away the Good as well" (Enneads, I.8.15), he is unable to define evil from within and initiates a negative interpretation of evil exclusively based on what is known about the good, i.e. from without, ad extra.

"If such be the Nature of Beings and of That which transcends all the realm of Being, Evil cannot have place among Beings or in the Beyond-Being ; these are good. There remains, only, if Evil exist at all, that it be situate in the realm of the Non-Being ..."
Enneads, I.8.3.

According to Plotinos, absolute, primal evil is below all forms, shapes, measurements, limits, "has no trace of good by any title of its own", a lawless void, never at rest & ever-undefined. We can try to arrive at some conception of it by "thinking of measurelessness as opposed to measure". Evil is the absence of good ("privatio boni"). This negative theory on evil became part of Christian theology and was also adopted by Islamic philosophy.

"If evil is merely deprivation of good, why should morally free agents choose it in preference to good ? If evil is the absence of good, whence comes malicious evil, deliberate rebellion ?"
Young, F.M. : "Insight or Incoherence : The Greek Fathers on Good and Evil.", Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 24, 1973, p.122.

The privation-theory of evil was adopted by Augustine & Thomas Aquinas and deeply affected the theodicy of most Christian thinkers of the West. Plato's theology was inconsistent. If there is a God, this God is remote and hidden. The creator is a demiurge, a being inferior to God, not a figure of worship but an abstract principle of goodness ("agathon") responsible for the creation of an imperfect material world (contaminated by evil). This lack of perfection is explained by the motion caused by chaos (existing before or with cosmos - cf. the Ancient Egyptian Nun), i.e. disorder and random, erratic movements. They exist but are not created and so the good creator is not responsible for them. In Christian theology, this argument did not work out, for God created the world "ex nihilo".

Before creation, so Christian theology affirms, concepts such as the "outside" or "inside" of God have no meaning. They are posited by the Will of God creating creation, separating "before" and "after", "inside" and "outside". Nothingness has no existence of its own. The "nihil" in "creatio ex nihilo" merely indicates nothing but God's Will rose creation. God's creative Will is not bound by any necessity, but lawless (not random) and absolutely indeterminate (but not disorganized). Clearly incomprehensible.

The "Name of Names" in Christian theology is the Father of the Holy Trinity, Creator of all possible goodness : love. In the Christian tradition, any incorporation of evil in the concept of the Divine is refuted. The Divine Father explicitly does not create and is not the cause of evil. Christianity moralizes evil : it only exists in the will (of fallen angels and wicked humans). In the early Judaic concept of the Divine, right (day, good) & left (night, evil) were both created things. Theodicy was linked with cosmogony. Chaos was an expression of the Divine. In the later Judeo-Christian concept, goodness belonged to the Divine (cf. Plato) and wickedness remains eternally separated from the Divine in the "valley of death" (cf. Enoch). On the Day of the End, preluding the New Age, the corroded shell of evil is returned to the pool and its contents neutralized. Satan is not restored but destroyed according to the formula of Mordechai : (- 1) + (+ 1) = 0 !

Christians believe that during a "sacred night", the Incarnation of the Saviour, the Son of God, was signaled by the hieratical rising of the conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn in Pisces, ending the power of darkness. The redemption offered by the Son of God terminated the association of darkness with the Divine (sustained by the "Old Convenant"). Good & evil, day & night were for ever divided for the sake of Divine goodness, redeeming all possible evil of those who accept to be baptized and accept the Cross.

At the End of Time (when the Day of the End ends), the qabalah and apocalyptic literature imagine a "Jubilee of Jubilees", the New Age of the New Jerusalem, integrating all possible aspects of the Divine both Transcendent and Immanent, both Left & Right. However, in the Catholic and Orthodox version of the "Last Day", a duality is left over (Paradise versus Hell) for Purgatory is emptied. This runs against the logic of a final restoration, which has to end with a monad, not with a dyad. How can a good God accept eternal torture in hell ? If He does, then clearly His "goodness" is not "good" at all. If we escape by stating His goodness is hyper-good, then how to understand the latter. It must include some "hyper-evil" to explain eternal torture !

Alternative views, like Origen's "apokatastasis" (or final restoration based on the idea of Paul that "the Son shall at the last deliver up the Kingdom to the Father and God will be all in all" (1 Corinthians, 15:28) were considered as heretical. Satan cannot be saved. Why, if evil is rooted in the will, can Satan never change his mind ? For the theologians of the Early Church, bot Latin (Rome) and Greek (Byzantium), it was clear that although God is good, the process of His Messianic redemption would not go on and on untill the Divine had won back all souls, including the Devil, understood as a fallen angel. They expected Christ back soon (cf. "the parousia" in Jewish Christianity), and things would be settled once and for all with the Apocalypse and the Day of the End, leading to the New Jerusalem. The "prince of the world" (actually the ruler of those outside the Christian convenant - "the others") is left behind or destroyed and can not be repaired on the Last Day. The projection is not retrieved and an unsatisfactory eschatological dualism ensues. Satan is conceived as doomed for ever and ever.

"Leur péché est sans retour, car les anges n'ont pas l'ambiguïté, la malléabilité, la convertibilité qui caractérise l'animal raisonnable, ni ses capacités de renouvellement à travers la condition temporelle et matérielle. Le péché de l'être purement spirituel est entier, tout d'une pièce. Il engage définitivement sa liberté et sa destinée entière."
Laurentin, R : Le démon : mythe ou réalité ?, Fayard - Paris, 1995, pp.102.

If God created Satan as unable to return, then obviously this cannot be the "fault" of the Devil, but of God as Creator, inviting inclusive wickedness. An exclusive good God would not create creatures able to do evil but unable to be morally restored. If He is good (or hyper-good), then the Day of the End ends with unity (not duality). If the price to pay for exclusive goodness is final duality, it seems as if the Devil has won after all.

Origen, Pelagius, Augustine, Luther & Erasmus

Origen was correct when he considered a split "eschaton" to be a solution which imposed a final limitation on infinite goodness. If the Divine is Good, then nothing should escape God's Mercy. For humanity, the Incarnation of the Son initiated the possibility of complete redemption and restoration (in the Holy Spirit). In order to defend God from the charge of injustice and arbitrariness, Origen correctly defined the hierarchy of being as a diversity resulting from free choices. However, like Clement of Alexandria before him, and in Neoplatonic style, he muddled the ontology (how things are - descriptive) with morality (how things should be - normative).

Also, insofar as the Devil (fallen because of lust or pride) is given to evil (which is almost completely the case), he is almost wholly non-being. Nevertheless, to fundamentalists, Satan is the most powerful force of evil in the cosmos ! So, how this may be the case, without the Devil being out of control enough to hurt monism, is not explained (cf. the "mysterium iniquitatis"). 

"Lucifer ne se pense plus par rapport à Dieu ; il se pense par rapport à lui-même ... Il n'a jamais vu Dieu et voilà qu'il se voit, lui. Et il s'éblouit ; et il se complaît dans cet éblouissement mensonger et trompeur. Son coeur s'enorgueillit de sa beauté."
Bernet, A. : Enquête sur les Anges, Perrin - Paris, 1997, p.45.

Essentially linked with these issues is the problem of free will and the question whether humans could help their "theosis" (deification).

Pelagians indeed stressed the fact that without free will, it becomes totally nonsensical to speak of redemption. If creatures have no choice (everything being predestined), then ontologically nobody is able to make a choice for the good. But, if we wish to exercise our free will, then we have to be fully reponsible for the result of our actions. God may help and assist, but He should not do the job.

Finally Augustine rejected the Palagians insistence on free will and left us with another one of his inconsistent answers. The possibility of free choice is the result of Divine grace, a meager result. Salvation is therefore a matter of predestination and not of the free movement of the will, as ethics demands it should be. His theodicy fails. For Augustine (the Synod of Orange of 529 - article 23) we do good because we fulfill the will of God. Rejecting His help makes us do evil. So without God, humans will inevitably choose for evil. Free will is only necessary to reject evil. But although Augustine insists on the accountability of the individual, ultimately God distributes good and evil, and we do not know why some receive the one and others the other ... So we could end up as Job : good but nevertheless tortured by the Devil with the consent of ... the good God !

An identical discussion took place between Luther & Erasmus. In his Heidelberg Disputation (1518), Luther is clear : the free will exists in name only and when "it does what it can it commits sin". Here Luther (cf. The Bondage of the Will, 1525) stands in alignment with Augustine and the Synod of Orange. This position has cast a dark shadow on Protestant theology. Without the help of the Spirit of God, there is nothing of the human in the human able to turn him or her toward the good, on the contrary, left alone they all turn toward evil only. This solution reduces reflects a poverty-mentality with regard to humanity.

In the mindset of Erasmus, the foreknowledge of God is not determining (for God does not foreknow something so that it will occur but only because it occurs) and so free will is really possible. In his On the Freedom of the Will (1524), Erasmus argues that Judas could have changed his will. The foreknowledge of God could not have been compromised, for God would have foreknown even this and changed his own Will accordingly to realize His goals, and this despite Judas potential turn of mind ... Although Erasmus conceded the grace of God is the primary factor while human free will remains a secondary cause, Luther moved towards determinism.

the problems of traditional Christian theodicy

(1) The good Mercy of God is not fully acknowledged, for on the Day of the End, at the "End of Time",  the Devil is not restored, but allowed to limit the grand finale of the Divine, namely God being all in All. One should never pray for the souls of the damned (for they are beyond help) and demons cannot be saved.

The most important quality of Divine goodness is missed (cf. Origen).


(2) The evils of the world are not understood from within but derived -through enantiomorphism- from the qualities of goodness ("Diabolus est Deus inversus"). The rest is the "mysterium inequitatis". An incomplete picture of evil is dangerous, for chaos is not suspected or minimized. No creative & sustainable solution for the presence of evil in the world is given. The unknown is inflated and demonized. If no clear model of evil is available, we never know when we do good.

The mindset fostering ethical intent, namely to know in order to avoid, is absent.

(3) By allowing the Devil (as Set, Mara, Satan, Iblis, Lucifer, Loki, Mephistopheles, etc.) to play an important role in the understanding of the massive presence of evil in the universe, traditional Christian theodicy harvested the opposite of what was intended (instead of glorifying God they cripple Him). For firstly, life (which is never without some chaos - cf. postmodern chaostheory) is not grasped as important (instead the return to the "house of our Father" is stressed and an unworldly & anachronistic mentality is fostered) & secondly -far worse- Satan is pictured as somehow out of control. Hence a manicheistic element creeps in (Satan is eternally separated from the rest of creation) and so the omnipotence of the Father comes under attack (He kicks Satan out & is unable -even at the end- to change the rebel's heart). Christians prefer to invent a terrible monster outside the Divine (able to challenge Him) rather than to accept
evil is the outcome of bad choice and hence repaired by a change of mind ("metanoia"). When the Day of the End is past, there are no good, merciful reasons to deny Satan his restoration and subsequent integration (as an angel of light) in the New Jerusalem. This entails a change of mind of the wicked one.

Evil Christian Trinity Goodness
absolutely absent continuous battle
 between good & evil
final restoration
is an eternal division
between heaven and hell
purgatory is emptied
absolutely present
hell of Satan
eternally separated from God
communion of Saints
Paradise

Catholic and Orthodox Christians prefer to maintain the "mysterium inequitatis" instead of accepting the logic of God's incomprehensible essence and the accompaning notion that in the end all turns out to be for the best (cf. His unlimited Goodness beyond good & evil, restoring evil). On the contrary, the proposed "final end" is a state of eternal division between goodness & evil. This is a very unsatisfactory solution from the point of view of the mystics (i.e. those who experience Him). Also, evil not properly understood is bound to control us.

The original nakedness (cf. Jan of Ruusbroec) of the soul has the qualities of Eden : purity, freedom & nobility (cf. Beatrice of Nazareth). As freedom of choice is illusionary without a real possibility of turning away from the good, it must be acknowledged God tolerated the possibility of the rise of evil by making in His Grand Plan potential anti-spiritual, immoral choices possible. This is not the same as creating evil or sustaining it. To explain the Fall, both Philo of Alexandria as Origen suggest the spiritual beings (angels) became sated with the adoration of the Creator and fell by neglect, gradually cooling in their love. This is unclear. How can a true God ever invite boredom ?

So the presence of evil is explained in terms of past choices & future expectations of damned angels & wicked souls. Evil is always moral, not theo-ontological : evil exists in the will. Because in the Christian concept of the Divine, evil is completely exorcized, the Divine has no shadow. The "Convenant" is "new and eternal". Righteous Christians slain for Jesus Christ are called "martyrs" and "saints". The logic of Christian sanctity is precisely this : when the good suffer and the wicked triumph, God is asking the good to suffer for the sins of the wicked. Why would a good God ask this if evil cannot be restored ?

moral evil = freedom without responsibility

Genuine freedom always implies responsibility (cf. Behaviours, 2006). Although Christians may affirm God is our "Father", they should not expect He is there "just to put things right for us". Because we are born to be free & exert our will, we pay for all eventual factual damages (like slowing down God's abstract Plan).

Although freedom through responsibility is a workable model to tackle the moral issues concerning most cultural (moral) evils of this world, it can not explain natural disasters, unexpected accidents, innocent death or the chaos in most systems (except if demons are called in to explain the unexplainable or confuse the confused).

Evil in Islam

Evil ALLAH
The God
Goodness
absolute evil is nothing nothing is like Him unlimited good
(nobody is as good as Him)
loss, wrong, other than The God His Self-disclosure : good, evil & beyond benefit, right, The God alone
Fiery Path of Iblis
made a deal with The God
Man & the Pharaonic Pretence
the sublime harmony between all the Names in the Perfect Man the "second command" or the revelation of the Koran and the tradition of Muhammad

"Good" or "khayr" is positive, useful, profitable, beautiful. But, "there is no good but Allah". The opposite, "sharr", is evil or lack of goodness. Hence it is nonexistence (cf. Ibn Al'Arabi). Good only emerges from good. All what is good exists. Existence is goodness. Evil results when creatures fail to share in existence, i.e. do not become what they were before they became (cf. Junayd). Because evil is nothing, the proposition "there IS no evil but Allah" is nonsense. Hence, "Allah" is unlimited Goodness, for no creature is as good as Him, for there is nothing in creation like Him. His Essence is not revealed, known or sensed.

"In reality, one does not say that the Real is 'free'. One says that He is not a slave, since He can only be known through negative descriptions, not through positive descriptions of self. However, the loci of manifestation exercise a property upon Him in respect to the fact that He is the Manifest. Then all things attributed to the locus of manifestation are attributed to Him, whether these be what are commonly considered attributes of imperfection or attributes of perfection and completion."
Ibn Al'Arabi : al-Futûhât al-Makkivva, II 502.21, translated by W.C.Chittick, 1989.

The disclosure of Allah is given with His 99 most beautiful Names. All of these Names are "good", meaning they are the manifestation of The God's unlimited goodness (but for each Name X the rule "there is no X but Allah" still applies). Each Name deals with one of the 99 root-manifestations of "Allah", and belong to His immanent order or revelation. The supreme (first) engendering command which ignites these Names is : "Be" and through them the Cosmos is created. Some of these Names deal with the essence of "Allah". The Name "Allah" refers to the all-comprehensive unity of all possible Divine Self-disclosures (through 99 Names).

From the point of view of "Allah" (as the totally other) the cosmos is evil & unreal. Inasmuch as He displays His signs in the cosmos, the cosmos is good through His unlimited goodness. All creatures are a mixture of evil & good. Only "Allah" is absolutely good and absolute evil does not exist. The Real is never fully absent from the cosmos (His immanence) nor ever fully present within it (His transcendence). The God's Essence however is His transcendence.

Good & evil are part of everything created by the engendering command : "Be". All Divine Names demand loci of manifestation in the cosmos. All Divine Names are good when conceived as essentially belonging to "Allah" alone. Because they are the "formula" of creation itself, these Names also contain "imperfection", in that they demand what we normally look upon as lacks and deficiencies, like "the Avenger", "the Humiliator", "the Dishonorer", "the Slayer", "the Punisher". But since "Allah" is named by them, man to be perfect must also be named by them. But, to the extent he does assume them (being part of his innate disposition) he must take care to display them in the manner set down in the Law, i.e. the "second", prescriptive command (given with the Koran). Otherwise, he risks to turn into Pharaoh and say : "I AM THE GOD". This is why servitude is the supreme "adornment" (or to become qualified by the Divine character traits).

The Law directs all traits into proper channels, so "Allah" is satisfied. Although everything coming from "Allah" is good (following the engendering command & by reason of His unlimited Goodness), in the cosmos good & evil are relative factors, dependent of the Law, agreeableness & individual desire. Moreover, in order to allow creation to unfold, these "imperfections" are necessary. If they were not, there would be nothing "other than Allah". Then there would be no cosmos. Hence, without imperfection, the perfection of existence could never become. So evil is in essence good (serves the purpose of The God's creation). Perfection however, is the essential attribute of every creature, while imperfection is an accident whose essence is again perfection.

Three problems arise here :

(1) if all actual events are pre-determinated at the level of the Divine Names, then there is no real free will and so no moral sense (no justice and true care) ;
(2) the danger of moral permissiveness is great (all evil being essentially a higher good, we can always say : "Inshallah !") ;
(3) the return of a confused concept of God is clearly present : how can a supremely good God allow Himself to be adorned with imperfect Names ? Is this not a scandal ? Blasphemy ?

Evil in Chaostheory

Evil Good
function of non-linear motion, randomness and formlessness function of form, linearity & architecture
loss, destruction, entropy gain, creation, negentropy
process =
from evil to good-in-evil to good
process =
from good to evil-in-good to evil

natural chaos is a function of dynamical properties

Besides existing in the perverted free will, chaostheory puts into evidence disorder and unbalance are natural, dynamical properties of a system, i.e. chaos is restless, ever-changing and present as soon as three independent cycles are present. In the factual, natural realm of actual things, order & chaos cannot be separated. Order, goodness, sanity & balance are defined by a strong static architecture and its linear movements (symmetry). Especially complex living systems are characterized by order & chaos. Life itself can not be properly defined without the presence of non-linear, aperiodical, complex, irregular, not quite predictable, not completely erratic, more or less determinable movements (introducing symmetry-breaks). Often these movements are completely chaotic but can be characterized by a strange attractor in the phase-space depicting the route of the movement. This strange attractor is one of the gates to "new order" present within a  chaotic system. Hence, chaos is ruled by a higher-order calculus. Natural chaos is a form of order (demons were fallen angels). Traditional theodicy remained too dependent of privation. Chaos is indeed a something, namely a positive type of movement expressing the rule of a higher-order, a meta-form. This is more than holes in a Swiss cheese.

in the natural realm of actual things
order & chaos work together

Chaostheory breaks away from a modern picture on being with its emphasis on a linear approach. This is rooted in the scholastic notion of "chaos" as "privatio". In such an approach, order-within-chaos and chaos-within-order were unthinkable. A superdynamical interaction between order & chaos was out of the question. As a result, no realistic interpretation of evil was presented. The good resulting from complex systems learning to steer chaos well was not appreciated (the formula of Esther ignored). Non-linearity taboo.

In the traditional (modern) view on the process of change, chaos was situated between two homeostatic levels : level 1 > chaos > level 2, etc ... Balance, equilibrium, stability, immobilism & continuity were seen as fundamental. In the dissipative theory of Prigogine, this equilibrium is rejected. The theory of non-equilibrium explains the processes of life, whereas the traditional view applies to physical systems only. The equation relevant for highly intelligent systems is therefore : non-equilibrium 1 > chaos > reequilibration 1 > non-equilibrium 2 > etc ...

distinguishing between order & chaos
in the factual side of actual things (manifest being)

The realm of (nominal) being (the world of facts or actual things) is a compound of order & chaos. As we know, life on Earth is not limited to constructive, stable & predictable forces (cf. the normal stresses operational when various natural cycles confront each other). Evolution evidences the tenacity with which intelligent systems overcome massive turbulence. The choices we make -as free actors and co-creators of being- will define our ability to steer chaos well. Excessive order & excessive disorder destroy the fabric of life.

Modern culture & conditioning is based on the dyad. So most choose for their little order and reject, repress or discard chaos. They do not implement a conscious attitude towards chaos (the "tertium comparationis" needed) and make this grand chance of evolution-through-crisis unconscious, causing the periodical emergence of unwanted, non-evolutionary chaos with its turbulent, barbaric, horrific & terrific features. Because at this point the strange attractors are unknown, nothing of the emerged chaos can be integrated into consciousness, stored into memory and used for later confrontations with this or other types of unstable & unpredictable chaotic movements. So repression (the 'wrong' kind of silence) is never a creative solution and will never allow a system to understand the chaos at hand and move to an even higher level of conscious functioning, with better knowledge, better understanding and more awareness.

distinguishing between factual actual things
& the abstract interventions of God

"Divine actuality" (God's immanence or presence in His creation) is the best part of created being. It is as it were a permanent trace of the purity, freedom & nobility of the Creator. As nominal being is the actual, factual existence of the things objectified by our rational mind and our senses, Divine existence & its hierarchy can metaphysically "be" nothing more than a world of abstracts able to serve the Creator at work in the actual world. These particular abstracts co-determine the flow of events which constitute nominal existence and this by influencing the probable outcome through their respective form, code, information (cf. God as the Lord of Possibilities - cf. Whitehead). So although seemingly separated from the factual actual world, the Creator (cf. the "superforce" or ultimate abstract) weighs certain probabilities, allowing them to manifest as a change of affairs in the state of actual things.

The presence of evil in the factual realm is to be expected. The natural kingdoms of Earth (mineral, vegetal, animal, human) each have their own degree of liberty. Clashed between independent evolutionary movements often occur. Those caught in the clash name it "evil". The more evolved a system is, the more capable it plays the game of survival. The cultures of humanity are proof of an excellent degree of freedom. This means the human has to stand up by his own (cf. Marcus Aurelius). Only when a paternalistic concept of the Divine is maintained can the so-called "silence" of God be interpreted as proof of His triviality. Modern atheism is based on a pre-chaotic & outdated concept of Divinity and is primarily directed against (and the reversal of) traditional Christian fundamental theology (denying evil its existence, and hence excluding it a priori, even as a mere possibility).

In fact, humanity is called to exercise its free will in concert. A confrontation with evil (both natural & moral) is necessary to understand the conditions of life on Earth. The majority of scandalous evils are the direct result of human unwillingness to face its own mismanagment and incompetence. Pride & lust indeed lie at the root of all moral sins. The most vile criminal may exercise free will without personal responsibility (cf. the dictators of the previous centuries). It is true accidental evil is very difficult to accept, but it too is part of a factual realm characterized by the ungoing movement from order, chaos-within-order, chaos, order-within-chaos to new order, etc. In the great majority of cases, humanity is called to realize it should blame nobody else for its many problems. Atheists can not disprove God by discharging humans.

Evil in Process Theology

In the philosophy of Albert North Whithead (1861 - 1947) and Charles Hartshorne (1897 - 2000), God's omnipotence is not coercive, but persuasive, meaning God does not exert unilateral control. The universe is a wholeness of events experiential in nature, with both a physical and a mental aspect. All events are important and contribute to the ongoing, interrelated, creative process of reality. Hence, the universe is characterized by process and change carried out by self-determined agents. Everything in the universe, not just human beings, have this power of self-expression & creativity (novelty). God cannot totally control events or any human, but, as the "Lord of Possibilities", influences the exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities to every possible event. God has a will or a say in everything, but not everything is God's will. God contains the universe all-comprehensively (surrelativism), but is not identical with it (pan-en-theism or theocosmocentrism, not pantheism or pandeism). Insofar as God interacts with the universe, God is changeable and affected by these events. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally the same and set apart from the universe. By his Divine "lure", God is the power in the universe inviting a multiplicity of free, deciding actualities to work together so goodness, beauty & truth may come about.

A real and mutual (in both directions) relation exists between God and the world. He is not an impassible ruler or "Ceasar" of the world, but an understanding Fellow-sufferer. In the realm of the finite actualities making up this universe, God is related in two ways : a primordial (eternal) and a consequent one (everlasting).

God's primordial nature is transcendent and does not touch the universe and offers to all events the possibility to constitute themselves. If not, nothing would happen. God does not decide, but lures. There is no efficient causality at work here, but a teleological pull inviting creative advance. Given the circumstances, a tender pressure is present to achieve the highest possible harmony. God is the necessary condition, but not the sufficient condition for events. God's purpose for each and every event is, given all conditions determining it, that it may contribute to the realization of the purpose of the whole universe, the harmony in diversity. God is the abstract actual entity making it possible for the multiplicity of events to end up in harmony. This aspect of God is permanent, eternal and not linked to time & space.

God's consequent nature is God's concrete presence in the universe, being near all possible events and valorizing them to bring out harmony and the purpose of the whole. God is a tenderness loosing nothing that can be saved, i.e. that wants to be saved. Hence, God's experience of the world changes. It always grows and can never be given as a whole. God is loyal and will never forsake any event. God knows all actual events as actual and all possible (future) events as possible. He does not know all future events as actual. This is a category mistake.

And evil ? As actual entities in varying degree are free to decide for themselves, there is no entity able to forsee, in concreto, what will happen. It is a matter of probabilities. God wishes the best for the creatures, but not without their own input. Evil happens at the intersection of numerous free events & choices. All entities, except God, decide without witnessing the whole. Probably the same causes eventuating the good make evil inevitable. God does not want evil, but cannot interfere. God is vulnerable. Contrary to the other entities, God has an absolute future and does not succumb under the pressure of evil.

Summary of this Theodicy

A change of perspective is necessary to allow the consequences of chaostheory to have a positive influence on the traditional tenets of philosophy in general and theodicy in particular.

The rational elaboration of the relationships between God and evil & the study of the possible "good reasons" for evil in creation, cannot ignore the factual presence of chaotic movements. Nor does their presence negate the good God, as atheist would like. At best, they show the need of a positive definition of chaos and evil. As most religions develop an ethical system to socially organize their followers, insights into their theologies of evil were more than needed. Comparative studies often reveal nothing more than a variety of outdated discourses and ignorant piety.

The Platonic idea of evil has to be firmly rejected, for these notions contradict the findings of our modern & contemporary sciences : chaos & order form a pair and no workable definition of "life" is possible without both. Moreover, if non-linearity & the non-Fregean approach (expressing some of the "logic" of chaos) are exorcized, the result is sterility, dogmatism & fossilization. In a way, both Christianity & Islam (both firmly adopting Plotinos' notion of evil as "privatio boni") contradict themselves : for if evil is a nonexistent, then clearly no active Satan or Iblis is thinkable. Nevertheless, in the legends of both religions, Satan is accused of most of the terrors of creation ... This is inconsistent with the nonexistence of evil.

Judaism, Christianity & Islam are unable to articulate a theology of evil which satisfies the findings of chaostheory, namely :

  • it is necessary to deal with evil as an "existent thing" (always tending towards the greatest possible randomness) and

  • no living process is totally devoid of non-linearity.

In the scholastic interpretation, mathematical zero (nonbeing) is equated with evil, whereas in postmodern chaostheory, the chaotic function always finds -for the time variable going to infinity- its limit in zero. There is a subtle dynamical difference between both. The first presupposes a static framework, suggesting evil (as nonexistent) and good (as being) are for ever fixed in their respective stations. The latter is devoid of such an idea, and understands isolated chaos (and order) rather as exceptions, for factual existence is continuous movement & transformation of order into chaos and vice versa. Nonbeing is then the limit-idea or mental construct of what really happens after an infinite time has elapsed. In actual fact, good & evil are always intermixed, and, for the absolutely Absolute good God, the mixture itself is evil.

To position this theodicy historically, let's distinguish between four theo-ontological models of the Divine :

  1. Semitic model : God is One and Alone. He is an unknown Divine Person responsible for good and evil alike (cf. Judaism & Islam). The advantage of this position is its universality, for natural evil and moral evil can both be understood as of Divine origin. God's will creates good and evil, although for us humans He wishes good only. We have to protect ourselves with God against God. The problem is God's remoteness, which contradicts His Presence in creation and in people, as well as His direct experience (mysticism) ;

  2. Greek model : God is a Principle of principles, the best of the best (Plato), the unmoved mover (Aristotle), the One even ecstacy does not reveal (Plotinus), impersonal and in no way evil or tained by absence or privation of being (cf. intellectual theologies, humanism, agnosticism, atheism). The problem here (as in Christianity) is the "privatio boni", which contradicts natural inquiry and chaos theory. Furthermore, as the ultimate spiritual experience (ecstacy) has no subject, it is not really an experience (cf. Plotinus and the experience of the One) ;

  3. Christian model : God is One essence in Three Persons, the Triune God revealed through Christ and completed by the Holy Spirit, never impersonal and cause of goodness (Christianity). Clearly, to the Greek disadvantage (evil cannot be an object of thought) another is added : the personal nature of God anthropomorphizes the Divine, albeit exclusively in the Person of Christ. Also its theodicy is defunct : if evil exists only in the will (cf. Orthodoxy), natural chaos cannot be explained (and hence Christianity does not favour natural enquiry and the scientific study of the world) ;

  4. Oriental model : God is One impersonal essence at work in a complex manifold of personal & impersonal self-manifestations (theophanies), in which God reveals Himself (Herself, Itself), as in Ancient Egypt, Hermetism, Hinduism, Taoism and most mystical philosophies. God is the Author of good and evil, although moral evil falls within the responsibility of man. The moral law is part of creation ("Maat", "Dike", "karma", "dharma") and retribution is as sure as are cause and effect. The personal nature of God can be directly experienced. Although the impersonal nature of God does not interfere, all Divine self-manifestations are "powers" (natural laws) regulating nature. Buddism offers an exception : there is no God but only the Dharma. Good and evil are relative and belong to the conceptual mind. There is no evil which cannot be purified.

Consider the following :

1. God transcends good and evil alike. The Platonic "summum bonum" is not placed upside down (Nietzsche), but the notion of God being outside natural chaos is rejected ;
2. Creation is always a mixture of order and chaos ;
3. As soon as three independent natural cycles emerge, natural chaos is a fact. This is a positive entity, not the absence of being. Not unlike the sigils of demons, chaos has formal characteristics, the "strange attractors". They seem to be doorways to a higher dimensional order and because of them chaos has properties ;
4. With the denial of the laws of order, moral evil enters creation because man's consciousness settles in the omnipresent natural chaos and sedimentations of moral evil ;
5. God keeps natural chaos and moral evil within a certain compass by weighing probabilities. Temptations, perversion and violence allow people to make a true, existential choice for what is the best for each one of us ;
6. Creation is a freedom-engine. God created a being other-than-Himself and gave it the possibility to trespass and transgress. If He had not done so, no greater good could be realized, namely the sublimity of a free creature returning by its own intent to God ; the greater good of a willed salvation and an even greater liberation ;
7. True freedom, as true love, is always responsible, for only the fool sees his bad choices return to him. The choice for the greater good knows the transgression it rebukes ;
8. The closed system, linear as well as elliptic, is an exception, for the transformation of differences (or energies) is crucial. Evil and chaos may be transformed into goodness and order (and vice versa). Two evils may produce a good ;
9. In order to be able to choose, like the surfer, for the natural chaos suiting one's local purposes, a human being must learn to name, understand and integrate his or her shadow (cf. Jung). Using the formula of Esther, people have to neutralize their moral evils in the "black box", and they have to firmly refuse to project or work out their own natural and moral wickedness upon others ;
10. Unitarism is the only solution of a rational theodicy : at the end of time, only God is left. The hyper goodness of God is however beyond creation, beyond good and evil.

SEMIDUALIST

To be consistent with Mediterranean spirituality since Ancient Egypt, this essay conjectures a pan-en-theism beyond tales. On the one hand, the essence ("ousia") of God is one sheer transcendent being and therefore ineffable and singular. On the other hand, God's immanence, personality, existence, energies, names or pluralities are every thing there is, except for the sedimentation of evil choices and all natural turbulences and their effects (contained by God).

The Mediterranean spiritual tradition turned the Divine into a solitary, singular "God", an eternal object/subject, omniscient, unchanging, substance of substances and also omnipotent. This is the substantialism of Western spirituality, giving rise to dogmatic theologies, adhering to different views on this God (cf. the  elitist, filial & radical monotheisms).

If we truly wish to ascribe "goodness" to God, then surely nothing is as good as God (cf. ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite & Scottus Eriugena). Hence, the Divine goodness we know of, only points to His Goodness (or hyper-goodness) we never fanthom. Hence, God is more than anything we ascribe or deny. This solitude of the monotheist God excludes direct experience, and, in its radical forms, destroys the natural bond between every individual and the Divine. How is true worship possible ?

This said, in the context of the monotheisms, God and the Devil are two different beings. The latter created by the former, who is uncreated, hence semidualism. Insofar as the Devil exists, he personifies all natural crisis and catastrophic events. He is the personified "strange attractor" present in every chaotic phase-space. He is also an intelligent sentient being who decides to be bad.

LIBERALIST

This semidualism (God and the Devil are two) is against determinism and fatalism. It defends human freedom. It is liberalist. Without free will, or a choice slipping through uncertainty, ethics and thus responsibility are impossible. Determinism and solipsism avoid the confrontation with action, either by mechanizing it (eliminating the random, stochastic factor, the uncertainty typical for natural process, in this case : human choice), or by non-action ending in quietism and a-morality ; the curse of great civilizations, destroyed because they are unable to adapt to constant change.

Freedom is defined as our non-determined ability to do evil when left to ourselves (cf. Augustine), i.e. without God. The free will is a priori defined as beyond any possible determination. God's omniscience is limited insofar the actual non-determined occurence of the coming into existence of the effects of non-determined intent is concerned, namely when a conscious agent usurps His grand natural plan of life. However, God always knows the transgressions (because they happen), and envisions all their possible effects. Moreover, without the possibility to transgress, creation would be completely determined and fated by the Will of God established before creation happened and not subjected to time (change), spatiality or material aggregation. In such a creation, novelty is excluded.

Ex hypothesi, God is the "great Spirit" totaliter aliter. A cosmos devoid of non-determined choice (the Hellenistic concept), would exist as a mere reflection of God or not exist at all. Both solutions are extremes. The first solution is Greek (cf. Plato's notion of the image and the Hermetic macro/micro sympathies), the second Islamic, for there is nothing Real except The God.

UNITARIST

The unitarist envisions God's Mercy to return all to All, implying unity in the beginning (before creation), unity in the permutations (during creation) and unity at the end (after creation). Hence, eventually all evil will somehow return to God who wants the happiness of every creature (cf. Origen's "apokatastasis" or the Sufi "cooling of the fire" - cf. Ibn Al'Arabi).

The Day of the End brings the tikkut or repair of evil by reversal, in accordance with the logic of Esther, to wit : (- 1) . (- 1) = + 1 !

Ergo, our freedom as human beings lies in not being evildoers. With His creation, God allowed our relative liberty to exist next to His absolute freedom. The difference between "good and evil" may be a sacred knowledge, set apart by God, dealing with the mechanisms of time and the solidification of the physical plane of existence. When we transgress by using our Godgiven freedom against God's natural order, then by necessity we alter the course of history and call upon ourselves the results of this undertaking. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. Without the latter, the first is only foolishness & leads to nothing constructive.

This semidualist, liberal and unitarist position is more or less logically sound, but cannot eliminate the problem of all theodicies accepting the (hyper-) goodness of God. Understanding the truth of suffering excludes accepting vague explanations about why so much evil is going on. Why does God not intervene ? Even a human father would not allow his children to play with a smoking gun. So why would God ? Perhaps Sartre was right : the presence of suffering is the best proof no "good" or "hyper-good" God exists (cf. Does the Divine exist ?, 2005). This may leads into the obscurity of inclusive wickedness and the acceptance of the Devil as the lowest degree of God, making diabolical sadism like the Holocaust the expression of the wickedness, cruelty and perversion of God Himself ! Clearly no clear concept of Divinity is possible if this is allowed.

Being mindful of Ockham's Raizor, we may ask whether natural causes, abuse of free will and its solidification not suffice to explain evil ? Is the massive amount of evil just the outcome of natural (including non-human agents of chaos) & cultural causes ? If so, then theodicy is superfluous, for evil is nature-made and man-made. Natural evil is the result of a wide range of determinations, and depends on material conditions. Cultural evil increases entropy, triggering degeneration, decomposition & destruction. Solidifying these acts of will in ego-systems and their processes is "diabolical". But as they depend on conditions, they too can be reversed.


                 

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initiated : 11 XI 1997 - last update : 20 III 2009 - version n°10