Symbols of the world's religions



Meher Baba

Good as well as evil are impressional products of the evolutionary momentum. They come into conflict with each other and as such are to be recognized as separate groups of forces. Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, each in his own way symbolizes the forces of evil. However, it is a mistake to think that evil is an irreducible active force by itself. Both good and evil are abstractions and have to be seen in their true perspective as inevitable phases in the subhuman and human evolution.

Evil is the lingering relic of earlier good. Some impressional tendencies, which were necessary and inevitable at a particular phase, are carried over to the higher phase of evolution and they persist in their existence due to inertia. They hinder harmonious functioning in the new context and appear as evil.

Good as well as evil have an undeniable relationship with the circumstances. No judgment can be passed on the goodness or other aspect of any action without considering the concrete context in which the judgment is called for. An act which is normally undeniably evil may under special circumstances be not only defensible but praiseworthy.

Take for example the following exceptional case. Suppose a mother has given birth to a baby and has not her own milk to feed it. The baby has to be fed on cow's milk, which is very difficult to obtain. A neighbor may have some cow's milk but the other knows that he will not part with it for money or for any philanthropic consideration even though he does not need it himself. Under such circumstances, if a person steals the cow's milk and feeds it to the newborn baby in order to keep it alive, the act of stealing is in this case not only justifiable but definitely good.

Of course an exception of this type does not make stealing a good act under all circumstances. Normally stealing continues to be evil but in the exceptional case above it has become good. The illustration proves how considerations of good or evil must, in their very nature, be dependent upon circumstances in all the variety of detail which obtains in concrete situations. Good is relative to a concrete context of actual circumstances and so is evil. But for many practical purposes certain trends of action have to be classified as good while other trends of actions have to be classified as evil.

Everything happens according to divine will, and it is a mistake to think that God has a rival in the form of a Devil. Accentuation of the forces for good is necessary for releasing divine life in its fullness. But evil itself often plays an important part in accentuating the forces for good; and it becomes an inevitable shadow or counterpart of the good. Like other opposites of experience, good and evil are also in a sense opposites which have to be withstood and transcended. One has to rise above the duality of good and evil and accept life in its totality, in which they appear as abstractions. Life is to be seen and lived in its indivisible integrity.

Nevertheless there is an important factor in the opposites of good and evil. Evil is to all appearance the converse of good yet at the same time it is capable of being converted into good. Thus generally speaking, the path lies from evil to good and then from good to God, Who is beyond both good and evil.

If any suffering comes to a Perfect Master or Avatar, it should not be interpreted as a temporary victory of evil. It happens by divine will and is a form of divine compassion. He voluntarily takes upon himself the suffering of others in order to redeem those who are engulfed in gnawing cravings, unrelieved hatred and unabated jealousies.

1958 © Sufism Reoriented, Inc.


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