The Origins Of Evil
The experience of pain and suffering is universal and it is therefore part of man’s nature to inquire as to why. For many people, pain and suffering is equated with evil and accordingly theologians and philosophers have debated endlessly about the origins of evil and the related implications concerning the existence of God. Over 2,000 years ago, Greek philosopher Epicurus asked some really tough questions about the God/evil dilemma. He wanted to know if either (1) God was willing to prevent evil but was unable – in which case Epicurus stated that God wasn’t really omnipotent, or (2) God was able to prevent evil but not willing – in which case he would be malevolent, or (3) God was both willing and able to prevent evil – in which where did evil come from, or (4) God was neither able nor willing – in which case why call him God. Today, those questions remain largely unanswered.
An Historical Perspective
Plato, for one, believed that a lower creative force fashioned the material world, as opposed to having created it from scratch. He referred to this lower creative force as the Demiurge. The Gnostics, one of the early Christian groups, adopted the demiurge concept and referred to him as Ialdabaoth. Now, Ialdabaoth was considered to be an abomination (think beast), with the head of a lion. They believed that he had the intent of trapping the divine in materiality. Thus, they considered that both the material world and Ialdabaoth were evil, and Ialdabaoth would even be referred to by some as Satan or Lucifer.
Early Jewish Midrashic texts and gnostic literature talk about two separate bloodlines (different genetic backgrounds) that sprang out of Eve, including an evil bloodline down through Cain which some refer to as the Serpent Seed. The reason that this bloodline was considered evil was that Cain’s father was said to have been the evil Ialdabaoth himself and so, in terms of genetics, his descendants would have been predisposed to being evil. The Bible, in the Book of Revelation, perhaps gives a clue that refers to this bloodline when it states that the mark of the beast is 666 and that the mark of man is also 666. Scientifically speaking, man is a carbon-based lifeform and the carbon-12 isotope has exactly 6 protons, 6 neutrons and 6 electrons in each atom…which equates to 666. All of which would mean that man was made in the likeness of his creator just as the Bible says, and that symbolically the mark of man could therefore be equated with the Mark of Cain (man’s genetic heritage).
The reason for mentioning Plato and the Gnostics is that I believe that their belief systems were based on very old stories, from some 30,000-50,000 years ago, when homo sapiens sapiens was created (as opposed to first man who came much earlier). Some historians/researchers believe that homo sapiens sapiens was just another in a series of genetic manipulations of man’s DNA, the memory of which has been preserved in the biblical story of the Fall of man. This means that modern man was not so much created as he was made from already existing lifeforms – which harkens back to Ialdabaoth and how he fashioned the material world, including man.
Based on the above, one could say that the origins of evil go back to man’s creator god and that, therefore, a predisposition for evil has been passed down genetically from generation to generation ever since. Epicurus would probably agree then that this lower creator god was both willing and able (option 3 above) and, therefore, the source of evil.
Back to Epicurus
The only problem that I have with Epicurus is that he framed the debate. By that, I mean that he listed four options, and only four options, as to God and the origins of evil. In so doing, he controlled the dialogue. I, for one, would have answered Epicurus by saying that God is not a human, in any sense of the meaning, and so all of your questions are moot. Of course, that requires at least a little explanation. Let’s examine the terms that Epicurus used: willing, omnipotent and malevolent. Those are all words that one would use to describe man. So, tell me, why do we reduce God to human terms and why do we arrogantly assume that we can even define him at all?
The problem is that man tries to understand and rationalize the Absolute with his finite mind and relate to him from his own human experiences, as if there’s any other way. I refer to it as the humanization of God. What we wind up with is something that makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I call it the First Cause, he who is in need of an attitude adjustment.
All of which, perhaps, creates more questions than it answers. For starters, who really was Ialdabaoth? Since he was presumably a carbon-based lifeform, it’s not likely, in my opinion, that he was divine. Rather it appears that he was some form of advanced being that was involved in the creation of man (through genetic manipulation) – even the so-called missing link in man’s evolution. So what then do we make of God (the First Cause) and what of Epicurus’ questions about God and evil? Well, I believe that God should be looked upon as a cosmic force from which all creation sprang and that he is not active in his creation except by virtue of a set of universal laws (call them the physics of the quantum world) which govern all lifeforms. Accordingly, Epicurus’ arguments are interesting to debate, but in the end somewhat irrelevant. God simply is and needs no further explanation… in any likelihood, certainly not one that we are capable of formulating.
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home.”
– Australian Aboriginal Proverb