Tuesday 20 April 2021

Why categorize evil? Why categorize Good?

 A couple of profoundly-clarifying posts by WmJas Tychonievich have led to the following thoughts. 

Good and evil are not symmetrical - not mirror images - because Good is positive divine creation; while evil is 'various ways' of being opposed to divine creation. Thus Good is primary, and evil cannot exist without Good. 

(This is why I habitually capitalize Good, and make evil lower case - subliminally to emphasize their qualitative difference in kind.)

The reason that I have suggested considering evil as Luciferic, Ahrimanic and Sorathic is a matter of expediency - it need not reflect and actual categories or distinction in the real world. It is a (more, or less) useful way of understanding evil. 

The reason for doing it was becuase Ahrimanic evil was not being recognised consciously as evil. I think most people spontaneously feel that Ahrimanic evil is indeed evil - i.e. the modern workplace and mass media makes people feel bad (e.g. afraid, resentful, despairing). 

But they do not consciously recognize it as necessarily evil by nature and motivation because they do not understand that Good is rooted in God and divine creation; and even if Christians have become transfixed by ancient lists and exemplars of Luciferic sins (murder, torture, rape, arson, theft etc) which are not what it at issue in a totalitarian Matrix of omni-surveillance and micro-control. 

OK so much for evil; but why divide and differentiate Good? I think that a categorization of Good ought to reflect actual, natural reality - rather than being merely expedient. 

And this seems especially important in this Ahrimanic age, when we so often categorize to kill: categorize in order to destroy that which is alive, organic, conscious, purposive...

Lists of virtues, laws of behaviour... these Now (however it was in the past) function to short-circuit thinking from our real and divine self - and to make us bureaucratic functionaries, being instructed by checklists and flow-charts. 

All language, and all concepts, are merely 'models' of real-reality; but we should only be categorizing Good in so far as this is really based-on the categories of real-reality. 

Good is rooted in divine creation, which is rooted in love - so Good is ultimately a unity of motivation. For a Christian Love is Good and it is the single Good.  

Indeed, the purpose of Jesus making possible our resurrection to eternal life is that we may each become able to contribute, each in our unique way - from our unite nature, to the single harmony of many unique goods - to help-make a creation that is always (but always differently and changing) Good. 

But WmJas reminds me that (as we both know, from our acceptance of Joseph Smith's Mormon revelations) behind the integrated harmony of divine loving creation are Two divine beings: our Heavenly Father and Mother

God is a dyad, and the single harmony of creating comes from the love of our Heavenly Parents; who are therefore, two qualitatively-different kinds of being that is Good. 

In a sense Heavenly Father and Mother can each be understood (i.e. can be abstractly modelled in language) as what Wm terms Ahuric /Seeking-Good  and Devic Avoiding-evil; or active versus passive* Good - or (as I now think of them) man-good and woman-good.  

Mormon theology has it that sexual difference (male and female) is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. God the Father is not a self-sufficient 'monad' of Goodness. Instead - God is two kinds of Goodness. 

Instead "God" is a dyad of Heavenly parents, a man and a woman. It is their love (and love is always between Beings) that is the cause of creation: thus all creation is loving-creation. 

(I will now modify, summarize and expand on some comments from Wm Jas.) 

This implies that there are two complementary types of good. No being, no person (not even Jesus) can fully embody both. And, as Wm says, Jesus was indeed an exemplar of positive, active Good - but not so for the negative, passive* kinds of Good (which are instead represented in Catholic Christianity by the figure of Mary his mother). 

Since sexual difference is an essential pre-mortal characteristic. This difference comes before observable chromosomes, hormones, genitalia, motivations, abilities and behaviours. Sexual difference therefore reflects a fundamental division of primordial Human Beings - into promordial men, who are (insofar as they individually are Good) are orientated towards positive Good; and women who are orientated towards the avoidance of evil.

And that causal primary division of ultimate nature is usually reflected, or approximated, in the 'sexual dimorphism' of anatomy, physiology and behaviour of mortal incarnate humans. 

(...Remembering that this mortal life is individually tailored for our unique personal learning requirements - so no specific generalizations apply universally.) 

In sum: it is legitimate to state that really there are two qualitatively different kinds of Good - and that these are the two characteristic Goods of our Heavenly Parents. These are reflected in their Heavenly Children as we observe them - mortal men and women; and will be reflected in Heaven. 

That is the reality - and we can then summarize, model, and in general try to capture these reality-differences in language - but these linguistic descriptions will never be more that partial and distorted representations. 

The reality is in the distinction between the two persons of our Heavenly Father and Mother.

*Passive and negative are wrong terms - for reasons described in the comments. In truth, I think the distinctive complementary qualities of good in a man compared with a woman are irreducible; because this sexual difference of human Beings is primary (hence irreducible). 


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I'm not altogether happy with the characterization of Devic good as "passive" or "evil-avoiding," which is why I wanted to give it a non-descriptive name ("Devic") that doesn't presuppose any abstract schema. "Avoiding evil" seems like it could be perfectly accomplished by not existing at all, so the essence of Devic good must be something other than that.

Colin said...

Thankyou Bruce. Helpful.
Male as doing good and female as not doing evil - or perhaps being good?
I have a sense of two Heavenly Parents for the first time (which I have hitherto skipped). It feels very different to just the one ...

I am reminded of William Arkles chapter Atomic Field at the end of Geography where he describes the two ‘Pulsing waves’ Wi(involutionary masculine) and We (evolutionary feminine). And how the same creative dynamic is at play at all frequencies - sub atomic, human, divine.
Well that’s what I took from Arkle but I would not dare offer it as any sort of summary of his amazing work.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - You are right. Good is creative, which is active - love is active. So, a different term is needed - women-Good is how I actually think of it; and probably anything more specific is too narrow.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Colin - Yes, Arkle has some valuable things to say about this. He goes into it further in Hologram and Mind. https://williamarkle.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-hologram-and-mind-by-william-arkle.html - Unfortunately, he uses quite difficult metaphors drawn from physics - but they may be helpful for some people.

Colin said...

Thankyou Bruce I will have a go. Several months working through Geography has developed a capacity to carry on reading Arkle while knowing I am not fully grasping what he is saying but wanting to try. He sees connection between the patterns and principles at all levels of frequency. And yes his merging of metaphors and physics and graphs is a lot.

Colin said...

@Wm @Bc
May I suggest Being Good for an expression of devic evil-avoidance? (I understand them to be identical).
It has a close to home quality of beauty and goodness in the female domain.
Thus Doing Good and Being Good.

And on Earth as in Heaven. Our Heavenly Father and Mother.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Colin - It doesn't really communicate much to me, I'm afraid. And I'm not even sure whether it is on the right lines.

I once suggested man-creating and woman-procreating - but I'm not happy with that either.

On the whole, I think the matter is too deep to encapsulate in any definitive fashion. Like defining Love, or describing a married relationship or something like that. It may be something like love in that if one is capable of knowing, one knows - but some are not capable or reject their knowledge.

Lucinda said...

Long absence. Among other things, caring for my very beloved mother while she faded and passed away due to cancer, and as I awaited the birth of my 12th child.

Evil-avoidance strikes me as the true feminine essence. I sometimes wonder why so many women avoid children so vehemently, and this is why. In my own case, I have been in the belief that new-life-avoiding is more bad than unplannedness, which is a biological evil for women. But many women think unplannedness is more bad. Women-planning is evil-avoidance, and is entirely different from men-planning, which is a matter a good-seeking.

Marriage is so vital for this reason, this polarity. It is unfortunate that so many are blind to this important idea. But I suppose it is not surprising since women must necessarily appropriate men-ideas and men-language to function in the world. Men marry to seek something inherently good about the woman, women marry to avoid evil men and women. There is something about that which gives men the feeling they are not valued as individuals, it feels unfair. Which is, I suppose, why men prefer to think of women "being good" instead, which leaves open the idea of women being primarily motivated by attraction rather than repulsion. And women go along, to avoid evil-tending attention.

So I might suggest: Attraction Good and Repulsion Good?

Lucinda said...

Maybe Safe-seeking Good? I see what you mean about the limits of language. Maybe Lullaby Good, or something like that that invokes the feeling of maternal nurture and protection?

Alex said...

Wisdom is sometimes a feminine entity in the Bible.




Bruce Charlton said...

Welcome back Lucinda! You always seem to come up with a different angle on things than us blokes.

Doc said...

Ran it by my wife "Men do good, women avoid bad."

She said it's more "Women protect good from harm."

Bruce Charlton said...

I think it is pretty clear that it is difficult to 'capture' the difference between men's and women's Good in a word or a phrase - and that word or phrase would not be comprehensible unless you *already knew* the difference for yourself.*

This is why I regard the sexual identity as both fundamental and irreducible.

*But isn't that the case for much of the most important things in life. Could you *briefly* describe your love for your mother, wife, child? Or *why* you love somebody? Can we even describe a piece of music, art or poetry?

We can say *something* to the point, yes - but always comprehension (or direct knowing) relies upon the prior capacity to experience and recognize what we have said.

Lucinda said...

Thanks for the welcome Bruce.

In peril of being tiresome here, but one of my background musings recently was about thoughtful men valuing honesty (truth-seeking) and good women valuing politeness (avoiding the evil of interpersonal warfare, or protecting the good of relationship, both work).

I believe the current society-wide failure of honesty is because of the disconnect between the sexes, and because mothers inculcate a politeness without its former companion honesty, stripped by the loss of an honesty-centered religion. Experience has made me question whether women can comprehend honesty/truth as something outside group-shared-value because of relationship's necessary centrality in a woman's life. I do not find in myself a concept of honesty outside the context of particular relationships. The fashion of correct pronoun use being considered rude, among other fashions, supports my belief that it's not just me.

The mischief seems to happen at the level of language motivation. My anthropology-studying mom told me long ago that chattering is a defense mechanism for gatherers but planning-talk must be followed by silence for a successful hunt. So in feminine politeness we find avoidance of relationship harm and in masculine verbal honesty we find solution-seeking.

Anyway, I do find some enjoyment in categorizing verbal interactions, and now this can be added to my inventory:
Man: Let's seek some undiscovered Good.
Woman: But we will not avoid some known evil.
Man: But we cannot miss the chance to have this potential Good. Trust me.
Woman: Are you sure such and such evil thing won't happen.
Man: No, but it will be worth it.
At which point the woman decides to trust the man or not, depending on whether she thinks it's more evil (important-relationship-harming) to trust or to not trust the particular man.

Bruce Charlton said...


"Experience has made me question whether women can comprehend honesty/truth as something outside group-shared-value because of relationship's necessary centrality in a woman's life. I do not find in myself a concept of honesty outside the context of particular relationships."

I have asked myself this same question. There is certainly a different motivation for honesty in men and women; and (as in several respects) the nature of modern life - especially the loss of a realist religion - has damaged women more than men in this respect.

To some extent evolutionary biology may be at work here:


Lucinda said...

The imagery that I'm thinking of now is that a man is like an accelerator and a woman like the brakes. This explains why it's easier for women to believe they don't need a man. Obviously an accelerator needs brakes, but do brakes need an accelerator? Well, if they want to get anywhere.

And this is part of why I think modern life is so hard on women, because they don't see the dangers of too-much-braking, for instance of deferred reproduction becoming permanent, until it is too late. They only seem to be able to perceive acceleration dangers? Men see the too-much-braking danger, more-acceleration-needed.

This imagery is helping me and my husband make sense of some things, which is always good. It's funny, when I was a young driver, I thought it would be a good idea to put some kind of signal on a car, similar to brake lights, to let observers see that the car is accelerating. I don't remember what my reasoning was, but its kinda funny in light of this analogy.

Steering... is maybe where individual personalities comes into play.

Lucinda said...

In order to be good, men must learn to properly channel their predispositions that can become Lucifer. Analogously, women must learn to channel their predispositions that can become Ahrimanic. Men must cultivate a distaste for violence without becoming cowardly, staying ready for righteous war. Women must cultivate a distaste for fear/disgust without becoming a "modern woman", staying ready to ... exercise righteous selectivity and patience? Like Penelope?

Lucinda said...

What I really like about the evil-avoidance delineation of Good is that it clarifies why inversion divided the sexes. When Good is called good, and evil is called evil, then men, in their good-seeking, and women, in their evil-avoiding, cooperate. If what is really Good is called evil and evil is called good, then women will be avoiding real Good and men will be seeking evil. And it's incoherent, has no ability to bind the sexes together. Indeed, they are driven apart.

Women love cautionary tales. I've always been a little bewildered by male responses to cautionary tales. But when I consider the idea that men are not evil-avoiding, it makes more sense.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - "If what is really Good is called evil and evil is called good, then women will be avoiding real Good and men will be seeking evil. And it's incoherent, has no ability to bind the sexes together. Indeed, they are driven apart."

That's very interesting.

The lack of any strong, positive, long-termist motivation is a deep problem in modernity; and this is an aspect of why.

Lucinda said...

Being the avoiders is already the less fun-oriented participation. But, especially during birdemic, women are so adamantly and dutifully avoiding the things they know to be Good because it has so effectively been inverted.

I myself have long been skeptical of the real benefits of socializing with other women, wanting to avoid being sucked into female hive-minded leftism. But my actual sisters regarded isolation an evil worst than leftism, and to see them suffering, having to give up the cheerful socializing which was the one thing that made it worth being in the hive, while still being emotionally jerked around, it's just so miserable.