Linda Neale's Blog

The Problem of Evil

Linda Neale - Sunday, January 05, 2014

    A  close friend of mine had a handicapped brother who was recently brutally murdered.    Another friend has a beautiful son who is unable to function, or even walk, because of chronic fatigue syndrome.  Adolf Hitler annihilated one million Jewish children during the Holocaust of World War II.  I was sexually abused by my own father.  At age 8, my husband Rod was told by his boarding school teachers that his Pima traditions were "of the devil."  In 1968 American troops massacred 504 men, women, and children at My Lai in Vietnam.
   The "problem of evil" is everywhere, and is one of the most serious objections to the existence of God.  Simply stated, the problem goes like this:  If God is all-knowing, all-benevolent, and all-powerful, why does He/She let bad things happen? 
   I don't pretend to have an answer, but I do think we should all at least consider the question, because eventually we will be faced with some horrible situation that we consider evil.  Or, some very good person in our lives (in my case, Rod) will get seriously injured, or die prematurely, or  be killed. Because shit happens in life.  We can't get away from it.  When very bad things happen, lots of questions arise, like, "Why did God allow this?", "Am I being punished for something I did?",  "Didn't the Great Spirit hear all those prayers for protection?", "Do I believe in the wrong thing?"
   Because of recent events in my friends' lives and that of my own, I've been re-examining my understanding and feelings about evil, and have learned some more about various Native American and Christian beliefs that I want to pass on for your consideration.   I'm going to start with a series of quotes, and then continue this discussion in another blog.  You're welcome to chime in with your stories, opinions, quotes, or beliefs about evil in the "comments" section. 
   Please think about it.


...for he (God) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.     Jesus of Nazareth

Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.   
Plato

 

Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil. 

Marcus Aurelius

While the Iroquois belief system centered around the idea of a benevolent Great Spirit, it did not ignore the existence of evil in the world. Evil is represented by the brother of the Great Spirit, "Ha-ne-go-ate-geh", or "the Evil-minded" (1954,147). This evil spirit exists independently and controls it's own inferior spiritual beings. These agents of evil also exist in the material world and are place there in an attempt to bring about evil. According to Morgan, the Great Spirit does not have any type of positive authority over the Evil-minded, except for the power to overcome him when necessary (1954,148). The red race is left to choose either obedience to the Great Spirit or submission to the Evil-minded.      David Ruvolo

Some Christians believe that God disciplines us just as a human father might discipline his children. Our suffering, therefore, is God's punishment, and is a sign to us that we should repent. Others believe that God uses suffering to test our faith in divine providence and that suffering is an opportunity to make faith stronger and more constant. Another belief is that our suffering in our earthly life is only temporary and will add radiance and joy to our eternal life.   Beth Davies-Stofka

... The Navajos believe that life is a kind of wind blowing through you. Some people have a dark wind, and they tend to be evil. How do you tell? People who have more money than they need and aren't helping their kinfolk -- that's one symptom of it. Along with this tendency toward evil, if they're initiated into a witchcraft cult, they get a lot of powers. Depending on the circumstances, they can turn into a dog; they can fly; they can disappear. There are many versions of a skinwalker, but that's basically what it is.   Tony Hillerman

The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual -- for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.   M. Scott Peck

 

Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.     Sitting Bull

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

January 17 and 18   Elliot Cowan speaker event and workshop at Earth & Spirit Council's Natural Way program.  Click HERE for more information on the January 17th speaker event, and HERE for information on the January 18th workshop.

January 19th, 2014  Women's Medicine Wheel Ceremony Organizational Gathering.    Click HERE for more information.

 

Comments
elizabeth therault commented on 05-Jan-2014 06:05 PM
Thank you for this reflection and food for gleaning inner clarity Linda. Resonating with the Iroquois belief/perspective, as it was also revealed to me personally in the 'waking up' time from a dream years ago. It is a subtle moment of choice often, to join or merge with dark energies. once taken the spiral can be fast and strong, therefore also a long road back out of the darkness. By having an ongoing practice that includes a good amount of silence deepening our connection with Spirit we can prevent alot with stillness, breath, and listening. Also, simultaneously I do feel we have both good and the potential for evil within each of us as well, it is part of the learning... and why it is important to spiritually cleanse on an ongoing basis, join with others in life and in ceremony who walk a path of light. Collectively we help each other be more prepared for whatever comes at us or put in our path, or serve to help with reminders.... And having said all of that, which is doing our part, I still find it useful to surrender to Great Mystery, because there is always so much more going on then we can ever really know!
Joann Albrecht commented on 07-Jan-2014 05:49 AM
I've heard that evil occurs when one has lost their light.
Matthew Fox commented on 07-Jan-2014 08:17 AM
Do you know i wrote a (rather big) book on evil called "Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Lessons for Transforming Evil in Soul and Society"? You might want to check it out. (it's out of print now but i'm sure you can get a good used copy on amazon and it will probably be back in print pretty soon).

Blessed New Year!
Peter Wright commented on 07-Jan-2014 09:16 AM
The only evil is the belief in evil.

If a person believes that he is good, and that someone else is evil, then everything the 'good' person does to the 'evil' person, such as shoot him or burn him at the stake must be 'good' because the other was 'evil.'

If a person has a faith or belief-system that tells him he is 'good' and others are 'evil', then the 'good' person's faith assures him that what he does to the 'evil' people must be 'good' because those others are 'evil.'

People who believe that evil exists do not think of themselves as evil. They think others are evil. The belief that others are evil allows a person to commit atrocious crimes (concentration camps, ethnic cleansing), and afterwards to feel perfectly good about the atrocities.

Belief in the existence of evil leads to evil deeds.
Hise Sandy commented on 07-Jan-2014 09:40 AM
I have struggled with the evil that lives within me all my life. I used to think I was a bad and unworthy person. I am a good person. One who loves life and the happiness and gifts that comes with it. Judgment and evil thoughts made my life dark and stressful. A few years ago I found a new place of peace in my life by striving to find something good, something to love, in a person or situation that troubled me. My evil thoughts and actions made me unhappy, and those around me. I wanted to heal that and bring more light into my life and into the life of others. When an evil or angry thought comes to me, it becomes a warning signal for me to step back and reflect on the situation. This has become a powerful learning tool for me to reflect on a negative situation and find a more compassionate way to handle it. I am becoming somewhat better at this as time goes on. I recognize it as a life’s work.
Bernhard Bach commented on 07-Jan-2014 10:13 AM
I am not convinced of the exsistence of evil. Yes bad things happen.
people commit acts that hurt other out of twisted need of power and control. Also, some people do not have sympathy or empathy with their fellow humans, and do whatever it takes to advance their "cause".
I think the concept of evil is a christian invention, to polaries a certain world view.Differend actions have differen concequenses. I belive that my life of over- abundance causes some misfortune to somebody else. things are not in balance, that couses somebody to suffer .
Lou Gold commented on 07-Jan-2014 10:42 AM

Lou Gold posted on your timeline
"Linda -- I can't get past the image verifier at your blog so I'm posting my longish response here:

Thanks for this challenging question which I too have puzzled over -- A LOT. I think it is really the toughest question. I have no answers but I can share a few gleanings that have remained from my own struggles. Perhaps they might hold some meaning for others as well.

When I first arrived in Oregon, some 30 years ago, I hung out with a backwoods elder who was sort of an I-Ain't-No-Damn-Guru kind of a guru. One day, I was puzzling over how God might be infinite and NOT include evil -- after all, infinite holds everything. My friend took out a piece of paper and wrote LIVE and asked me to concentrate on it. After a minute, he told me to read it backwards -- EVIL. He just said, "Same four letters. Just depends on how you see it. Meditate on it."

This led me away from the "whys" toward the "whats" -- what does one do in the face of the reality of evil? TERRIBLE EVIL. I remembered the stories of a very small group of Holocaust survivors who had emerged from that horrendous experience not looking like emaciated hollow-eyed zombies but as relatively radiant beings. What was their secret? They were studied in depth. They told similiar stories. Each had seen their predicament clearly as a living hell over which they had absolutely no control.

Instead of fussing over it, they turned their attention toward simple acts of caring. One person oftered her shoulder for ayone to cry on. Another took care of a little plant. Small simple things done with persistence and attention -- just being present for someone or something beyond themselves. It did not change their world but it was transformative for their health and spirit and helpful to others nearby.

Surely, this can be extremely difficult -- I think of the dying or starving or tortured or wounded on the fields of famine, disease, war or catastrophe. Or what about the general angst over death or the difficultes of all of us in this everyone-is-suffering world to which Buddha and Jesus gave their great compassion?

Serving others is not what we think of when mired in our own pain, when we are bearing our own cross. The Wise Ones say that suffering is unecessary. One suffers only to realize it. As passion pushes through to compassion everything changes. The beauty of birth transcends its labors.

Anyone who has embraced ordeal can tell us that this is easier said than done. But when the pupose is charity -- for others or for future generations -- there does seem to be a profound change. The old "whys" transform into questions of "what can I do for others?" The old world remains AND a new one emerges.

Perhaps this is how we let go of our angst and find our best path through the shit that happens.

David & Louise Gleason commented on 07-Jan-2014 10:58 AM
Writing from the perspective of one who is evil, I think this conversation has it backwards. What is considered "good" is simply the natural expression of the human spirit. Humans are designed in our core to be caring, helpful, nuturing, and generous (some guidance required in youth). Yes, there are seemingly random horrors which occur on both the individual and collective scale such as illness, loss, weather events, etc., but these are natural to life, too.

I have to make a choice to be evil and it is usually alot of work! At least it was at the beginning. It does get easier with practice. The work part is something those evil SOB's who trained me neglected to mention. In my quiet moments, I have to wonder whether this is worth the effort- it doesn't seem to make me any happier!?
Dolores J. Nurss commented on 07-Jan-2014 11:49 AM
When I was 7 I had a Big Dream that dealt with this question. Among other things, I was taken to seven places in my world where seven tragedies took place. Some came of manmade evil, some of natural misfortune. In each case somebody stood up in defiance of the harm and did good. Sometimes they solved the situation, and sometimes they just upheld one, small, good thing despite everything. Sometimes they led others, and sometimes they acted alone. Sometimes they were hailed for it, and sometimes they died unknown. But each time the beauty of what they did blazed so brilliantly that it surpassed anything wrong. I wept at the overpowering beauty of these acts of courage. And I realized that bad things existed so that good things could shine, as the stars shine against the night sky--we look up at the stars; we do not look up at the vast blackness between the stars. The stars, though smaller, are greater.
Beverly commented on 09-Jan-2014 06:59 PM
One of the many definitions of evil is unbalanced. Walking the Red Road is about balance.
I always believed love,goodness,compassion could stem the tide of corrupt,vile and intentionally hateful destructive behavior.
Not so apparently. Me, the eternal optimist! My older sister has consistently abused,lied & generally made my life as miserable as she could since I was born. Guess she wanted to be an only child. She is unbalanced.
I was unbalanced trying to make her love me. Gave that up long ago.
Life is unbalanced. We are fragile short-lived incredibly wonderful human beings.
Whilst we are cognizant on the Mother, we love each other,be good to ourselves & do our best to light the Darkness as much as possible.
Evil cannot live in the Light.
Andula commented on 09-Jan-2014 10:49 PM
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!UNbelievable how much energy is being spent on the negative stuff!! What you pay attention on grows. "Evil" must be very happy about this disscusion.And now I gott cought into it also.Bit the hook.Well.....getting out of it....rathet fast.........sorry.................
Quincy commented on 16-Oct-2014 09:55 AM
This reminds me of a a teaching I recently heard from an elder, who said:

The devil is the chief clown. Everything he says is backwards. So when we hear these things that sound evil, we just laugh at them because we know we can change the vibration at any time. You just twist it upside down. That's how you deal with the reptilian energy - grab the alligator part of them, twist em upside down and rub their belly - the "Buddha rub."

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