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LECTURE V NOTE B.—P. 175.

DUALISTIC THEORIES OF THE ORIGIN OF EVIL.

The hypothesis of two principles in the universe finds classical expression in the Zoroastrian religion. Cf. on this Ebrard’s Christian Apologetics, ii. pp. 186–232. Mr. S. Laing makes an attempt at a revival of the theory in his book, A Modern Zoroastrian, under the name of a law of polarity.” He would have us devote ourselves with a whole heart and sincere mind to the worship of the good principle, without paltering with our moral nature by professing to love and adore a Being who is the author of all the evil and misery in the world as well as of the good”; and holds that a great deal of: what is best in Christianity “resolves itself very much into the worship of Jesus as the Ormuzd, or personification of the good principle, 437and determination to try to follow His example and do His work” (pp. 179, 180).

There is a deceptive simplicity in this idea of dividing off the good and evil of the world into different departments, giving all the good to a good principle, and all the evil to an evil principle, which may impose for a moment on the mind, yet the slightest reflection should suffice to show the crudeness and untenableness of the hypothesis.

In respect of physical evil, no such sharp division into good and evil is possible. Rather the terms are relative, and what is good in one relation is evil in another. Good and evil are often simply questions of degree; the susceptibility to pleasure is involved in the susceptibility to pain, and vice versa. Thus the same nerve which feels pleasure feels pain; the one susceptibility is involved in the other. Pleasure and pain shade into each other by insensible gradations. If, e.g., I approach my hands to the fire, I feel a grateful warmth; if I bring them nearer, I am scorched. It is the same sun which fructifies the fields in one part of the world, and burns up the herbage or smites with sunstroke in another. On the hypothesis in question, the sun’s heat would belong in the one case to the good, in the other to the evil principle; so with the fire, etc.

In respect of physical evil, a self-subsisting evil principle is an impossible abstraction. Moral evil is a term which has no meaning except in relation to character and will; and a character or will cannot be evil, unless along with the evil there is some knowledge of the good.900900“By its very essence,” says Mr. Bradley, “immorality cannot exist except as against morality; a purely immoral being is a downright impossibility.”—Ethical Studies, p. 210. Natural forces, as heat and electricity, are neither good nor evil, for there is no knowledge. Bound up, therefore, with the evil principle, there must be some knowledge of the good, else it would not be evil. But a principle which participates in the knowledge of the good cannot be originally or essentially evil, but can only have become such through its own choice. Evil, in other words, has no reality, save as the negation or antithesis of the good, which is its necessary presupposition. Abstracted from knowledge of the good, the so-called evil principle sinks to the rank of a mere nature principle, of which neither good nor evil can properly be predicated. This is ultimately the reason why in dualistic systems natural and moral evil always tend to be confounded.


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