Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Evil is unknowable - and you should not even attempt to know it

From "The Devil" in Meditations on the Tarot by Valentin Tomberg (published anonymously in 1980):

"One ought not to occupy oneself with evil, other than keeping a certain distance and a certain reserve, if one wishes to avoid the risk of paralysing the creative elan, and a still greater risk - that of furnishing arms to the powers of evil. One can grasp profoundly, i.e. intuitively, only that which one loves. Love is the vital element of profound knowledge, intuitive knowledge. Now, one cannot love evil. Evil is therefore unknowable in its essence. One can understand it only at a distance, as an observer of its phenomenology."

This striking and wise passage contains two important assertions:

1. Profound knowledge requires love. I think this is correct. Of course most knowledge, almost all of it, is superficial - but where there is profound knowledge it seems always to have required a sustained attention to the phenomenon. And sustained attention is motivated by love.

2. Deep understanding of evil would therefore require you to love evil, to give it sustained attention. This is ultimately impossible, but the attempt to do it will harm you and aid the work of evil.

These insights negate one of the primary pseudo-assumptions of modern media and arts, and the news; that we 'need to understand' evil before we can effectively deal with it. This is not only false, but deeply morally hazardous... which is, of course, exactly why so many people in charge keep saying it.