The Reign of Evil: A Spiritual Perspective
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Calling a spade a spade is a common American idiom for facing facts. The problem comes when one disagrees on what the facts are. For example, one can argue whether the NeoConservative Movement is evil and whether we should admit this by calling a spade a spade. One can argue further that failure to call anyone or anything evil may show lack of sensitivity to the power of politically correct people to be evil. Opponents and apologists for NeoConservative policies can counter such arguments by contending that the NeoCons are ignorant, not evil, and that, in fact, ontologically evil does not exist.
The argument that NeoCons are not evil because they are merely ignorant of justice compounds the problem. One can argue that the hate-crazed terrorists in the caves of Afghanistan and within all of the world religions are easy to spot as evil, but that those who are more sophisticated in the worship of power as a false god and who have succeeded in gaining access to great material power are epistemologically more illusive, which is why they are more dangerous.
Six hundred years ago, in his Prolegomenon or Introduction to his masterwork on the rise and fall of civilizations, Ibn Khaldun concluded that justice is the secret to the rise of civilization and that injustice presages its collapse. My own conclusion from four decades of studying the phenomenon is that the NeoCons in their frantic fear of global chaos and their desperate attempts to impose order are the major threat to global civilization because they deny Ibn Khaldun’s wisdom. They invert the dynamics of the cause and effect relationship between justice and order. Those who preach, either in thought or action, that order precedes justice, rather than the reverse, are evil because they are claiming that falsehood is truth and that truth is falsehood.
This reversal or truth and falsehood, or even the relativistic denial of either one, is the almost universal metaphysical definition of evil. This has nothing to do with hatred, but rather stems from respect for truth and for the mission of every person and community to carry out what Muslims call the amana or trust from God to translate truth into justice and oppose all false gods. This concept of trust is basic to the English common law, and perhaps was borrowed from the principles of Islamic law introduced by the Norman kingdom in Sicily, though it is also basic to the Jewish and Christian concept of the shepherd. Locke based his whole concept of governance on trust.
Jeremy Henzell-Thomas defines the problem in terms of what one might call Gnosticism at the top and Reductionism at the bottom in an octave of either regression or progression. At the top of reality is love, known in Islam also as illumination and tawhid. This can regress into the duality of faith vs reason, which can regress further into doctrinal belief versus logical rationality in the attempt of each to trump the other.
Syed Hossein Nasr in a talk he gave on April 23, 2004, entitled “The Question of Evil,” said that, in the discipline of esoteric metaphysics, evil is separation from God and that such separation is the definition of existence, which means that to exist is to confront evil. Christian metaphysicans say that we live in the existential world. This is distinct from the world of Being, which Meister Eckhart and Hans Kung call the level of the Trinity as distinct from the still higher level of Beyond Being, which some Christians call the Godhead, Jews call Jehovah, and Muslims call Allah.
Since God is absolutely good, His creation can be only relatively good. Privation from absolute good is the definition of evil. It does not exist in itself but only as an absence of good. To deny evil in this sense is a utopian denial of reality that can lead to oppression by those who claim they can win a war against evil. Nasr calls such utopianism a “demonic tendency.” He says that one should focus one’s energies not on eliminating evil, which is ontologically impossible, but on transcending it by pursuing the good.
Only by recognizing that we are separated from God can we follow the never-ending road toward the Divinity, recognizing that we in this world can never escape the duality between good and evil Our task is to see goodness, which those on a spiritual path in each religion understand as seeing the Divine Presence in all things.
Most people who are aware of good like to personify it, as Christians do in what Muslims call going beyond the limits in revering Jesus, and as many Muslims often do in revering “saints.” They also personify evil or the separation from good, which is why Tibetan Buddhists put images of demons in their temples as representative of the samsaric elements of existence but also as reminders that when we escape from imprisonment in the relative world we will be able to understand that ultimately there is no evil. Only then can we understand that to deny the Devil on the human level creates the danger that we will lose our awareness of the imperative Reality of God and of our responsibilities as carriers of the divine Amana.
As Nasr explains it, “It is like the sun and its shadow. ... So there is both a vertical and a horizontal relationship. Horizontally there is a constant battle between the forces of good and evil that exist in the world and that is real for us, not only on the plane of moral action but on the spiritual path itself. ... Then there is the vertical relationship wherein good is superior to evil, and is ultimately always victorious. Finally there is the world of unity wherein the duality of good and evil is transcended.” Until we reach the level of understanding required for such realization, however, we must regard evil as just as real as we are ourselves and as a force that we can transcend only by reliance on God for the spiritual power to overcome it both in ourselves and in society.
For Ramadhan, 2008, Syed Nasr used the analogy of Lailat al Qadr or “the Night of Power” so explain this further. The “night” is chosen rather than the “day” in this analogy because understanding of higher truths can come only when we have emptied ourselves of our immediate perceptions and can no longer see. The term Qadr is usually understood as destiny and even as the false concept of predestination, but its primary meanings are the power to know and value the good, and then to apply balanced measure in understanding and applying the good and opposing the bad. This is the purpose of all traditionalist education and of all normative jurisprudence, which, in turn, are the two primary methodologies required for the pursuit of justice.
The prophets in every religion have always reminded us of these truths, but we tend to forget them. As the externals of religion, or what Muslims call the zahr, have replaced the inner core of all religion, which Muslims call the batin, the regression in Christendom (known as the “West”) has taken the shape of a philosophical and political conflict between State and Church, whereby the State replaces God as the ultimate power. In Islam there is no concept of state in the western secular sense as an ultimate ideology, but de facto secular rulers and their fraudulent religious advisers in Islamdom have invented something similar in the concept of the political Caliphate. This is really the same thing as a secular ideology of “might makes right” under a religious cover.
The concept of a political caliphate, as distinct from a moral consensus on justice by the scholars and spiritual leaders, as Ibn Taymiya understood the caliphate, is much worse than the secularist concept of the State as a substitute for God, because such a concept of the caliphate is fraudulent, just as are the modern ideologies of Communism, Nazism, Zionism, and NeoConservatism, which are all perversions of their origins in divinely revealed religions.
These ideologies have been the most virulent ones in an age dominated by closed ideologies. One can argue that Neo-Conservatism is a perversion of every major religion known to humankind since our emergence a few million years ago and that its very attractiveness qualifies it therefore as the most dangerous threat to global civilization. Whether this is true or not, we must recognize that ideas are power and that countering ideologues and their resort to terrorism and terroristic counter-terrorism cannot be countered by waging a war against evil.
We can win the Fourth World War against terrorism only by pursuing the open search for truth and justice, by perfecting the institutions of society to facilitate both economic and political justice through broadening access to individual property ownership, and by relying on the spiritual power of love as the most powerful motivating force in pursuing the fruits of compassionate justice, which are peace, prosperity, and freedom.