This topic would not be the conversation starter around any dinner in my experience of eating, but it is critical to what it means to be a human.
REFLECTIONS ON WHY WE HAVE THE CHOICE OF GOOD OR EVIL
Does good or evil originate with humans? Within humans? Outside of humans? With God? With society? I had a few thoughts while doing Lectio Divina on this subject in my Lectio (Philippians 2:5).
I use the Rule of Threes to examine most ideas, in this case, the origins of good or evil. Remember, The Rule of Threes is my attempt to look at one reality having three distinct and separate universes simultaneously, so you don’t see the differences.
THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — This is the universe of the physical world, composed of matter, energy, time, space, and living species, including humans. The rule of this universe is a natural law. It is good with no evil or good in it. It acts according to its nature. Stephenson 2-18 is not good nor evil but acts its nature. Animals are not evil but good by nature. Humans are good by nature, but with a difference. They control what is good or bad for them with their free will.
THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — The fact that we can look at the physical universe with our human reason and choices and increase our knowledge, meaning, and seek the purpose of life, differentiates us from all other living species. Humans alone can ask the Interrogatories (WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and SO WHAT? The mental universe depends upon the physical universe for its existence, so humans inherit traits and characteristics of animals for preservation, needs for security and safety, and power. What individual persons place at their center is what they hold as meaningful. Humans can’t keep their center centered without struggle each minute, day, and year. Humans wake up or begin to discern the environment around them, then make choices that they think will make them happy and fulfilled. St. Paul says that “sin came into the world through one man (Adam and Eve)” Evil is not outside of us, like stepping in a pool of water and getting wet. Genesis, the great archetypal story of why humans act the way they do, gives us a hint. Evil is not the ability to choose but the actual choice of good for us or bad for us, which is within us. It is not within us but the result of the sin of Adam and Eve, the possibility of choosing what God says we need to become fully human, even though it goes against our human inclinations of pleasure, power, desire for adulation, ego, and
THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE- This is the universe created by The Christ Principle, which became human to show us how to fulfill our humanity and become what we were meant to be. Christ is the answer to the interrogatories of the physical and mental universes. The problem is that the language used to define what it means to be human is love. We measure that against how humans act. Love is authentic when it resonates with the physical and mental universes. When we place something unauthentic at our center (power, fame, fortune, greed, envy, jealousy, lust, lying, sexual coveting of persons and things). In the Old Testament, God gave the people the core beliefs that would allow them to have morally good choices. (The Ten Commandments). Unlike the other two, the problem with this universe is that it takes reason and free will to enter it. You must choose a way of life that is nearly the opposite of what the world says is authentic for being human. Jesus came to SHOW us how to love others by dying to the false self and replacing it with an incorruptible self, using the energy of God.
WHY ARE HUMANS PRONE TO BOTH GOOD AND EVIL?
It is no coincidence that the archetypal story of Genesis 2-3 is about what it means to be human. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the various authors of Genesis looked around at their world and asked, “If humans act this way, what is good and what is bad?” or, put another way, “Why do good people do bad things and bad people do good things?” I struggle with the notion that God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall; therefore, human nature is good, then something happened within that nature, and it was good, but flawed or prone to make choices that are reasonable for them but actually may be detrimental to the fulfillment of their human nature, being adopted sons and daughters of the Father and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
If humans do evil, who determines what is evil and what is not? I believe the environment in which a person grows up and assimulates the values around them is an important indicator of why someone chooses what others consider evil.
Characteristics of Fallen Human Nature
God is not the cause of good or evil but the source of knowledge, love, and service. If humans are the source of good and evil because of their individual ability to reason and their freedom to choose what they think is good for them, here are some possible indicators of why this might be so.
A great question for you to ponder when you have a moment to focus on The Christ Principle is to ask yourself, “Is evil the opposite of good like darkness is the opposite of light?”
Evil can exist in the human mind and heart. Butterflies are not evil. The birds of the sky are not evil. Humans are not evil by nature but are susceptible to a choice that is not consistent with their human nature. We call that sin. St.Paul’s famous line in Romans 5 tells us how sin came into the world and its relationship to goodness. Human nature is not evil but rather good, yet humans offer a choice of good or evil because of what it brought over from its animality. Animals do not have a choice between good and evil.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.
13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i
14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j
Grace and Life through Christ.
15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k
19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l
21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.nhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
2. The Battle between Good and Evil: The titanic battle is not one between Russia and Ukraine but takes place each day as I approach whatever comes my way. I choose how I react to my environment by my choices. I can choose what I think is good for me or accept that God, as a loving Father, wants me to walk the minefields of human nature without stepping into it.
Baptism is when God gives me the gift of being an adopted son (daughter) of the Father and heir to the kingdom of heaven. Baptism means that I must proclaim that I use power outside of myself to help raise me up to being fully human each day. Baptism means accepting that the spiritual universe is the power and glory, not me. Baptism means I must be humble and realize that, although I communicate with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, God doesn’t fit into my agenda, but I must wait in silence and solitude to listen with “the ear of the heart” to feel what the heart of Christ wants me to know. St. Thomas Aquinas says knowledge precedes love. This knowledge is not ordinary but the energy of the divine nature in me. It is conversio morae, or the emptying of self and filling my heart with the love of others as Christ loves me.
Baptism means I have turned reality upside down and have embraced a series of norms that do not fit or make sense to those of the world. It is no coincidence that we receive the sign of the cross on our hearts in Baptism, one that marks us indelibly with the contradiction that to be fully human, to fulfill our destiny as a human, we must die to that very humanity on which we tenaciously hold, and die to self. We must let go of our lives in that former universe of physical and mental corruption to possess an incorruptible universe. The problem for all those Baptised is that we still live in and are subject to the world’s seduction. Being a Lay Cistercian is one way in which I can not only address the challenge of the sign of contradiction but have the power (from the Holy Spirit) to sustain me at the moment. Each day the process repeats until I die. I call it a struggle to be resonant rather than dissonant, incorrupt rather than correct. Christ gives me the power to be an adopted son or daughter through the Holy Spirit’s power, but I must fight the good fight and take up my cross each day to love others as Christ loved us. It is a happy fault, as celebrated in the Pascal Mystery of the Resurrection.
I encourage you to listen to both of these ancient chants and take some time to ponder the words. I usually take two or three days to keep coming back to the melody, particularly the texts. Let the words sink into the softness of your life and sit there. Be with Christ and ask for wisdom and love as you allow the words to become one with how you think.
That contradiction of dying to self is a way of thinking, loving, and serving others, the opposite of what we learn about being human from living in a world without God. That voluntary commitment is one where we must put to death the idea that evil is good, that we listen to movie stars and politicians are arbiters for what is moral and what is not. Society is never a good center to have in my life. It blows with the winds of who shouts the loudest or has the most votes. In Baptism, we inherit the kingdom of heaven not only later on in heaven but right now, each and every day. The problem with dual citizenship in the world and the spirit is that the two are incompatible.
In the kingdom of heaven on earth, you cannot serve two masters.
If evil does not exist in God, nor does it reside in me, and it doesn’t exist apart like a juicy piece of Sumo orange, how does any of this make sense? If you want to have a love present, you must put it there, says the Scriptures. If you choose what is evil, even though you may not know the unintended consequences, you must bring it into your temple of the Holy Spirit. Evil is not the ability to choose, but rather what we take into our hearts that does not lead to enlightenment or fulness of our humanity, but rather death. This is not the death to self that is a process of daily conversion to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-12), but rather the fulfillment of corruption of morals instead of grace, the choice of disobedience to what is resonant in all of reality. Love and hatred cannot exist in the same space. Christ and Satan cannot exist in the same room. The Devil always flees. You and I are the crucibles in which this battle of choices is contained. The YES you made at Baptism when you became an adopted son (daughter) of the Father is not a one-time event to impress others. It is the beginning of your interior battle to keep yourself centered on Christ in the midst of all the false promises and allures of the World.
Baptism not only takes away Original Sin but paves the way for us to be called adopted sons (daughters) of the Father.
Baptism is the beginning of a process to keep The Christ Principle as your center. For the rest of your life, you are tempted to worship false gods, first and foremost, yourself.
Good must be replenished each day, or there are consequences.
God has the power to sustain us as we wait for the end of our life. Prayer is how those signed with the cross place themselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the source of energy. One of the charisms of a Lay Cistercian is to convert oneself from being reliant on what the world says fulfills you as a human being to making room for Christ in your heart.
To be a follower of Christ takes humility and obedience to God’s will.
When Christ speaks of the poor and those suffering hardships, He is talking about each of us overcoming our weakness with Faith and making all things new each day.
God does not cause evil.
Human nature is good.
Evil exists as a choice that we make with our free will.
The choice is conditioned by how we are brought up, what values we place at our center, and the companions we keep.