It seems to me that the question from whence suffering, darkness and evil come has the same purpose as any inquiry into Ma’aseh Bereshit (the mysteries of creation). We look into the beginning to understand the end, we study and contemplate the process of involution so that we might understand the process of evolution – for by the same path the soul enters here it will also exist here, in a manner of speaking. Thus, in mysteries of creation we find the mysteries of the resurrection and ascension in Christian Gnosticism. In terms of the origin of suffering, the origin of admixture and darkness, we seek to understand the nature of suffering and evil so that it might be brought to cessation, transformed and redeemed.
The problem of evil is a complex one, and inadvertently we can easily fall into an oversimplification, or equally, in our linear mode of communication, fall into misunderstanding by taking aspects of more holistic teachings out of context – like many subjects of metaphysical inquiry, the problem of evil is most subtle and sublime, though its manifestations can be gross and obvious. I am always struck when writing the teachings how deceptive written words can be and how limiting, and this is even more so in a medium such as this forum where only “sound-bit” editions of teachings are possible. Nevertheless it is a good struggle to communicate as we co-explore together seeking what insights we might glean from our exchange. This very limitation, however, is the play of the restrictive power that is the cause of suffering and evil – the play of a power that is most obvious in the scheme of things.
When the masters of the Tradition speak of the generation of the demiurgos and archons, and the dark and hostile forces, they point us to Da’at in the Tree of Life, that great prism through which the Supernal Light passes in the emanation/creation process; specifically Da’at of Beriyah. There is something of a great mystery in the generation of the demiurge and the klippotic influences, however, for while these are generated in the process of creation as something “new,” it is also said that there are klippotic influences that enter from previous cosmic cycles; hence from some sort of primordial karmic continuum. What this points to is a dual-truth regarding the origin of evil: on the one hand, we can look and see the origin as a natural product of the restriction of the Infinite Light in the creative process – hence the dawn of ‘cosmic ignorance’; on the other hand, in looking into the beginning of ignorance we discover that no beginning can be found – hence what is called ‘primordial ignorance.’ In other words, we can look and see a relative beginning, but we find no absolute beginning. Quite literally it naturally and spontaneously arises in the creative process, and is integral to that process, as though without the play of light and darkness set in motion the cosmic cycles would not come into being.
When Gnostic teachings propose the demiurge and archons as the source of suffering and evil in creation, or the masters of the Tradition point us to Da’at on the Great Tree of Life as the “place” where the demiurgos and archons come into being, it does not seem to me that the question “what kind of God creates evil” is actually answered. Rather, it seems that our contemplation and meditation is pointed in a certain direction and a method through which we might look and see the truth of suffering is given to us – for really, we are talking about a great mystery that cannot be spoken. However, we can speak of the Way through which suffering and evil are bought to an end, the Way through which sorrow and suffering are transformed and transcended – as has happened in this very dialogue for in speaking of the origin of suffering and evil, we have turned to a discussion of how to respond to it.
The play of cosmic or spiritual forces apparently external to us or that seems to come from beyond us is obvious. In speaking of the Many as akin to a quantum manifestation of the One we are speaking not only of human beings but of all beings, including cosmic and spiritual beings-forces; we are not only speaking of an existence in the material dimension, but throughout numerous dimensions; hence the great matrix of creation. Yet, as much as this is external to ourselves, it is also internal; for we are microcosms of the macrocosm, and the individual and universal are completely interdependent and interconnected – as mysterious as it is to us, every individual center of the One is the One.
There is no question of the influence of the admixed or titanic forces, the demiurgos and archons who serve their own self-interests, some times in harmony with the Divine will and some times opposed to it. Likewise, there is no question of the assaults of dark and hostile forces that have their own self-chosen function of putting the condition of the individual to the test, as well as the work, humanity and the earth itself, the preparedness for the spiritual advent and fulfillment. The key word is “self-interest” or “self-chosen,” which is to say an exercise of free will, only in terms of unenlightened beings this freedom of will is enacted in ignorance and the self-grasping, greed-lust and fear-hatred that ignorance produces.
“Evil exists so that we will fight it” – perhaps this is true, though it has also been said, “Resist not evil.” If I am to speak of fighting evil, then I must inquire as to how it is rightly fought to attain victory. After all, the very nature of evil is the tendency to negativity and violence – the selfish and violent inclination in us, so that if “I” am incited to violence evil has already won. The truth is, if I do fight evil, then I am bound; likewise, if I do not fight evil, then I am bound – either way I am as a fly in a spider’s web, the karmic matrix, and in the play of attachment and aversion I am bound by every action I take, including the choice not to act which itself is an action! The only answer is to realize the Divine as the doer, the Life-power, as St. Paul says, “Not I but Christ in me,” or Krishna or Buddha, or whatever we wish to call the Light-presence.
The truth that all is transpiring in consciousness is rather subtle, and in this world the illusion power is potent; yet, for all that we can point to and say, “Look, that evil is outside,” souls have entered here by way of ignorance and a karmic continuum, and soul’s remain bond to the gilgulim (transmigration) on account of this dualism in consciousness. The situations, circumstance and events of the present life are largely determined by the thoughts, speech and actions of previous lives, and so it is that now we plants the seeds, as it were, of future lives – all in consciousness. It is true that admixed and dark forces exist in and of themselves beyond us, but it is the admixture and darkness in us that first and foremost we must deal with – for by way of self-knowledge and self-mastery comes Divine illumination and mastery of the play of spiritual forces.
Here, of course, we must note that whether internally or externally appearing, titanic and demonic forces serve to distract us from the Noble Ideal (the Truth and Light) and in so doing keep us in bondage.
Indeed! The spiritual, psychic and spiritual appear divided in the dualistic state of consciousness, just as do the material and spiritual words, and it is a cause of great sorrow and suffering. Yet, if we “bring down” the spiritual into the psychic and material, if we “bring down” the Supernal Force into the mental, vital and physical, a radical transformation occurs in consciousness and we discover that the spiritual and material were never separate and apart from one another. That Light which comes from above is everywhere below – that Supernal Light into which we “ascend” and that we “bring down” is the secret center of every particle of matter; the World of Supernal Light (the kingdom of God) is within and all around us. As Lord Yeshua says in the Gospel of St. Thomas, the Light-kingdom is spread out upon the earth.
How is evil to be fought? How is the battle to be won? It seems it can only be accomplished through conscious unification with the Divine and embodying the Divine – in the terms of Christian Gnosticism, through the Risen Savior and Holy Spirit ( or the “armor of God,” as St. Paul would say). As we read in many sacred Gnostic texts the nature of the Divine is Light, and in the Light-presence and Light-power no shadow will remain – when the Light is “turned on” shadows vanish.
If we wish to speak of fighting evil then we must learn to maintain one-pointed concentration (kavvanah); hence to abide in the presence of awareness without distraction. You see, there is one purpose and one purpose only for the spiritual life and practice – union with the Divine and embodiment of the Divine, the manifestation of the Divine will and Divine kingdom. This seems reflected by Krishna’s advice to Arjuna, and it seems reflected by Lord Yeshua in the Temptation and by Lord Buddha sitting under the Bodhi Tree.
The Kabbalah says that God restrains Godself and the cause of evil comes into being; likewise it says when we restrain ourselves, the cause of evil ceases to be in our experience. Perhaps this gives us some insight to the saying of Lord Yeshua, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
These thoughts were inspired by the contemplation as it has unfolded…
Blessings & shalom!
Ecclesia Pistis Sophia