In duality, there are two sides to every coin. It’s a basic law of nature. “Whatever has a front, has back.” Further, “The larger the front, the larger the back.” This explains why surface appearances are often so deceiving.
I mention the Two Sides Law here because I’ve been following a LinkedIn discussion group called The New Philosophy Network. The subject of the particular “thread” is HOW DO YOU DEFINE EVIL?
Not to worry. You haven’t missed much. Philosophy isn’t what it used to be. If there was any “love of wisdom” (the definition of philosophy), it got lost in the one-upsmanship jousting of an extraordinarily uncivil ego contest.
But it got me to thinking about the opposite, shadow side of evil. Did the negative approach influence the quality of conversation? Has anyone asked lately, HOW DO YOU DEFINE GOOD?
Come to think of it, I did awhile ago. So here, for the sake of balance, is the three-part Essay on GOOD from Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide.
Essay 30. GOOD
“The true genius of living is to carry the spirit of the child into old age. And what is the spirit of the child, but that of wide-eyed open wonder, excitement and zest, the optimistic attitude that nothing is too good to be true, that the world is literally a wonderful place?” — Norman Vincent Peale, Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
“We all want the good things in life; we all desire to be surrounded by friends; but we have no right to expect to attract any of these things except when our own lives have earned us the right to be honored, respected, and admired. . . .” — M.P. Hall, Magic: A Treatise on Esoteric Ethics
“It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants: a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow man. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” — Medical Officer, Nuremberg
The roots of good mean to unite, be associated, or suitable. The term goes through seventeen permutations in Webster’s Dictionary alone.
The first definition is a general term of approval or commendation. Good means suitable to a purpose or effect. It means efficient, producing favorable or beneficial results. It can mean fresh, unspoiled, uncontaminated. It can mean valid, genuine, or real, as in good money or a good excuse.
Good means healthy, strong or vigorous, as in good eyesight. The word is used to mean financially safe or sound. It means honorable, worthy, or respectable. It is used to mean enjoyable, desirable, pleasant or happy, as in the good life. Good can mean dependable, reliable or correct, as in good advice. It can mean thorough or complete, as in a good job of cleaning.
Good can mean excellent of its kind, as in a good novel or considered the best, as in her good china. It can mean morally sound or excellent, virtuous, honest, just, pious, devout, kind, benevolent, generous, sympathetic or well-behaved and dutiful.
It can mean proper, becoming, correct (good manners) and therefore socially acceptable (a good family). It can mean able, skilled, or expert, as in a good swimmer.
It can mean loyal or conforming, as in a good Democrat. In law, it means an effectual or valid title.
The Ten Commandments that Moses gave to the people of Israel, enumerated in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, are a generally accepted code of right conduct. They prescribe what we should and should not do to live a good life. Though the cultural context is different, in principle they are consistent with I Ching philosophy.
Revisiting them from an I Ching point of view enriches their meaning. For example, the seventh commandment has become the focus of special public attention, taking on political overtones. “Neither shalt thou commit adultery.” This one-sentence commandment has depths of meaning which span the energy continuum.
For example, at first chakra level, it includes refraining from contaminating air, water and food with pollutants. At the second, it includes not violating marital or parental responsibilities.
At the third, it includes not tampering with legislation for antisocial purposes. At the fourth, it includes not mixing compassion with sentimentality or greed.
At the fifth, it includes not misconstruing scriptures to suit political agendas. At the sixth, it includes not adulterating conscience with the ego impulses.
In addition, each level’s “shalt not” implies a positive shadow: “thou shalt.” At the first chakra level, this includes taking active responsibility for cleansing air, water and food of pollutants.
At the second chakra level, it includes fulfilling family commitments. At the third, it includes adjusting corporate and government practices to serve the common good.
At the fourth, it includes quietly serving those in need without public fanfare. At the fifth, it includes aligning personal and political goals with natural and scriptural law.
At the sixth, it includes practicing self-awareness methods to purify ego.
In I Ching context, evil violates divine and natural law. It is antithetical to the life process, tearing the pattern apart. Good and evil cannot be equated with yin and yang. Good is inclusive of the harmonious whole, both yin and yang, attainable by males and females of every race without limitation.
In moralist context, violating codes of generally accepted social or sexual conduct is regarded as bad, the opposite of good. Sages, however, define correct or incorrect behavior in terms of context and results. Right or wrong action is defined in terms of the immediate situation and the actor’s deepest, underlying motives.