This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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We all participate in evil

We have said that we will need to touch on all categories of evil, and here we must speak to the reality of metaphysical evil and its consequences.

We all participate in metaphysical evil, simply as a fact of our being creatures. Any limitation whatsoever is an imperfection in the metaphysical sense. Christ was speaking as a metaphysician, and not a moralist, when he exclaimed: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”[1]

The Fall is a thing far too complex to address here, but we can say that it involved (but was not limited to) the introduction of the moral dimension into the human experience, hence the ‘knowledge of good and evil’. From this moral point of departure, physical evil ensued (aka: death, hunger, daily toil), but the Fall could not have involved the introduction of metaphysical imperfection, since imperfection in this sense is present even at the earliest stage of creation, as soon as the distinction between Creator and creature comes into being. The Creator possesses Absolute perfection, while the creature is always, by virtue of status, metaphysically imperfect. The creature is, however, capable of a relative perfection, hence the ‘perfection’ of the saints, which could not possibly be identical to the perfection of God.

Again, any absence of perfection implies the presence of imperfection, which is to say, of some type of evil, since evil is precisely this privation of the good. This privation, however, is bound up with metaphysical evil and is not the same thing as moral culpability. As we’ve said already, the individual is not considered culpable for every imperfect act, although we must admit that this imperfection manifests evil in some way and that we are always involved.

Short of a total realization of the good, we find evil. One need not be committing genocide to be guilty of evil. Every inconsiderate remark, every hasty or unjust generalization, is an evil.

This will sound pessimistic to some, since it paints a picture of man that is far from humanistic and implies that everyone is responsible for evil in some sense. But again, we did not say that every person is fully culpable for every imperfection, and this is the key.

Part of the problem is that evil tends to be conflated with guilt and sin, and although these things overlap, this equivocation is not precisely accurate. To say that people are susceptible to evil and that evil colors all our actions, or even that evil is present in our hearts and motivations at all times, is not to say that we are all condemned for it. It only means that we are not perfect. The more aware we are of this fact, the better off we will be, since this awareness is what makes spiritual education possible.

Contemporary sentimentality cannot bear to admit that we are less than what we ought to be, and that moral improvement is universally mandatory. This is what happens when imperfection is considered equivalent to sin and blame: either imperfection is denied or the blame for it is denied. In order to have a balanced concept of justice, both must be admitted. This is why there can be no humane concept of justice without an adequate doctrine of the Fall.

The religions are realistic because they accept man’s fallen nature. They can afford to be ‘pessimistic’ in this sense because they also possess the means of salvation from this unfortunate state. Secular humanists cannot accept man’s fallen nature because, in the absence of any theory of salvation, if they were to accept the doctrine of the fall, man would simply be doomed.

What we wish to emphasize for now is that even our more mundane activities are tainted with imperfection, and it is only a question of degree. Evil is omnipresent, and to ignore this is dangerously naïve, even if it is more pleasant.

[1] Mark 10:18.

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