The Origin of Evil
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, June, 1922
Christian theology states that evil came into the world through the sin of the first man’s eating of the tree of forbidden fruit. All men sinned in Adam; because of Adam’s sin, every other being is and has been a sinner. Strangely enough this first man was made by a Superior Being in His own image, or, in other words, perfect; yet, he was not able to restrain himself from doing those things which he had been forbidden to do. In the very first being created in the image of the “Supreme,” there was a tendency to do wrong!
We have, then, in this creation, out of nothing, a very limited Creator, as it is perfectly patent that any being must be. A being could be neither infinite, supreme, nor omnipresent; for there is That in which all beings, however high, or planets, or solar-systems, have their existence—Space, which exists whether there is anything in it or not; which has no beginning nor ending; which always is; which is outside as well as inside of every being. Any being must be less than Space; could the Absolute be less than Space? Illimitability and infinitude are not in relation to any being whatever; hence creation from the point of view of a Creator has to be abandoned.
But the existence of all beings—not only of mankind, but of beings of every grade and everywhere—has to be accounted for: what is the basis of all existence? We have to go back of all form, back of every kind of being, to see that all beings and all forms spring from One Source, which is not different in any. It is in deed the Supreme which lies within and behind every being; every being of every kind in the universe is in its innermost essence a ray from and one with It. It is Life. It is Spirit. It is Consciousness. Each is God in his innermost Essence.
Taking this basis for our thinking, let us ask the question: under what process do things become? What brings about the operation of all the different forms that we see? Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all recognize the fact that Law rules in this universe, but what we have to understand is that Law is merely the inter-relation and inter-action and inter-dependence of all the acts of all beings concerned in the universe. The one inclusive law is the law of action and reaction—a law not outside of, but inherent in the nature of every being. From the very Source there is the power to act, but there is no action unless there is a being to act and feel the effects of the action. If I act, I get re-action. If the highest archangel acts, he gets the re-action of his action. There are two kinds of re-actions produced from acts: those that are good or beneficent; those that are evil or maleficent. The whole responsibility of every action rests upon each and every being. So, if any being finds himself in any given state, good or bad, it is because of his thoughts, words and deeds—his own, and those of nobody else. We get some good and we get some evil, all of our own reaping; but all the time, every single moment of our existence, we have the power of choice in the direction of good or evil.
Good has no existence by itself; evil has no existence by itself. The two terms relate to matters of conduct and of impressions we receive. They merely characterize the effects produced upon us: a thing is “good” to us if it benefits us in any way, and “evil” if it does not benefit us. Who is it that judges between good and evil effects? In every case, it is the man himself. One man will say such and such things are good for me, and such and such things are evil; while another man, with a different point of view and different relations to things, will perhaps say the exact contrary about the very same matters. So it always resolves itself into the individual point of view: in the last analysis each man is himself the sole director and final authority as to what is good and what is evil, so far as he is concerned.
We need to ask ourselves if we have always followed that which seemed to us to be the best course to follow; and, then again, if we have, did we consider that course from the point of view of personal self-benefit, or from the point of view of benefit to all others. For if we moved along the line of that which at the time seemed best for us personally, we must have acted in a way that afflicted others; we must have done evil to others, whether consciously or unconsciously, by obstructing their path. There we sowed evilly, and we either have reaped or will reap evilly. The very first act that was selfishly done was the origin of evil so far as that being was concerned. Likewise, wherever there was an unselfish act, there was the origin of good for him. Let us remember, too, that the Tree of Knowledge mentioned in the Bible was the knowledge of both good and evil. Good and evil are not to be considered separately, but together. You cannot tell good except by its opposite, evil. Goodness would speedily cease to be such, were it not for the operation of its contrary.
There are many things in life regarded by us as evils—like sorrow and death—which are not, in fact, evils. They are merely stages and conditions through which we pass in our progress up the ladder of development. We need not be afraid of death, for death will never touch us at all. We pass on out of life, and on. One of the Great Teachers said that death ever comes to the Ego as a friend. There is no need to fear anything, for there is nothing in the universe, high or low, that can ever destroy us—our consciousness, or our acquired individuality. Mistakes occur, for many of our actions are performed through ignorance, and evil results follow. Even so, it is through those very wrong actions that we learn. It is through the operation of vice that virtue is seen as a resistance to vice.
The origin of evil is to be found in ignorance of our own true natures. There are no afflictions put upon us by any being other than ourselves. We are afflicted just to the extent that we make ourselves open to affliction. Things affect some people terribly. The same things affect other people very little or not at all. Why? Because of their point of view. Attitude towards things makes the suffering or the not suffering, the pleasure or the pain—not the things in themselves. If we knew ourselves to be divine beings merely going through a school of life—our whole purpose to learn—what would there be to fear, or even to be anxious about? If it were not for the obstacles in life—if life were one happy, placid dream—we never would make the motion or the effort that would arouse the highest characteristics of thought and action. It is by reason of the obstacles we have to overcome that we become stronger and obtain nobler traits. There is no such thing as a divinely created being, for everything that exists becomes.
Is it not true that now we can look back upon and smile at anything that ever happened to us in the past? It looked awful at the time, but it has passed, and we can see that from those very things came something of gain, of strength and wisdom. Under the law no one can meet with an obstacle which he is not able to overcome; the obstacle is but an opportunity for him to get rid of some defect which he now possesses. Often the very things which seem the most difficult for us prove to be the most beneficent.
Those who stand the greatest chance of loss in the future are those who have the easy times. When one has Karma—that is, when everything is coming his way—he is prone to take the ease of it and flow with the current of the river, missing many an opportunity to do good. Through these errors of omission, which are as bad as any errors of commission, he fails to under stand that he has diminished his own stock of good Karma and must of necessity share in the evil which flows from his lack of appreciation of the situation and his opportunity. We need never fear our opportunities, but should always act up to them, relying on the law of our own spiritual being to carry us through any thing and everything. The Path is within ourselves, not outside; each of us is the stair to his own development.
We have so long been ruled by political and religious man made laws that we have come to believe in them. Yet, goodness does not need laws. Our laws are based on the ignorance and selfishness and wickedness in men’s natures; they are made to restrain the evil which we think is ineradicable and incurable because ‘we all sinned in Adam and cannot help it.” Then, too, because we think we know what is good and what is evil, we are very anxious that everybody else should be made to think in the same way. We want to prohibit those things which we do not desire ourselves; we want other people to eat what we think they ought to eat, and to clothe themselves as we think they should be clothed. We talk much of the “rights” of men. But we have just one right, and that is the right to do right. No man was ever made “good” by law; no man was ever made moral by law. Each man must be a law for himself, both moral and spiritual.
Are we proud of this civilization, made by the collective thought and action of every individual in it? Have our telephones, automobiles, airplanes, and radiographs made us any more divine? Do they measure our true progress? No; because ignorance and selfishness still lie in every human heart; because men, according to the vicarious atonement idea, blame their parents for their wrong attributes and tendencies, and accept only the good as their own. They are unjust, for both good and bad are their own earnings. If we have good, let us be happy that at some time we earned it; if we are in bad case, let us be glad, claim it, understand it and correct it. If we want a civilization better than the one we have now, we are the ones to start right now to make it. No one else will make it for us. We have to set the lines in motion towards a true civilization from a true basis; but if we think we are not able to do much and are not now doing what we can, it is certain we never can do more. As we do what we can, greater opportunities arise to do. Until we do what is before us, never will any greater opportunities arise.
When we get the right attitude of mind—and that is what discipleship is—there is not a quality in us, not a force, not an at tribute, but can be put to the best and highest use. We do not get off this plane. We do not cut off any part of our being. We do not destroy the usefulness of any part of us, but put all to the proper use and for the proper end. Herein is seen the difference between one who knows and one who does not know. One who knows does not get off to the Christian’s heaven, nor to any other heaven. He works right here where he finds himself and does the best work he can with the instrument he now has, fearing nothing, trusting the Law of his own being. If any being will trust the Law of his own nature, if he will work on with nature by helping all others in every direction possible, then all nature will turn and help him. It never was otherwise. It cannot be otherwise.