Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Fritz Eichenberg

Evil

The image/symbol for this theme is Smerdyakov from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, an image fitting because of his complexity. Though guilty of one of the most heinous crimes—killing his father—his story is much too involved to fit neatly into a bad vs. good category. His convoluted psychology and mysterious history expose the inter-relatedness of the culpability for his actions and validate one of Dostoevsky’s favorite themes, the responsibility we all share “to all, for all, and for everything.”

The problem of evil perhaps poses the greatest challenge to theistic tracitions. Most often, “God” seems to be a projection in human terms and this brings about searing contradictions. The pre-Socratic philosophers debated this. They questioned the discrepancy between the idea of a benevolent God coexisting with evil in the world. If God is omnipotent and benevolent, why doesn’t he prevent pain and suffering? Epicurus reconciled this by proposing that the universe is so large, He doesn’t have time, humans aren’t the priority. But beyond that, doesn’t the reality of evil imply an incompetent “Creator?” The theistic interpretations of “God” all seem to fall apart because of the reality of evil.

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Quotes (86)

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for... surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

King David 1000 – 920 BCE via Will Durant, Shan Dao
"The baffled king composing Hallelujah!"
from Book of Psalms

Themes: Evil Fear

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil”

King David 1000 – 920 BCE
"The baffled king composing Hallelujah!"
from Book of Psalms

Themes: Evil

“He does mischief to himself who does mischief to another, and evil planned harms the plotter most.”

Hesiod 846 – 777 BCE
“History’s first economist”
from Works and Days

Themes: Evil

“Man’s duty is three-fold: To make him who is an enemy a friend, to make him who is wicked righteous; and to make him who is ignorant learned.”

Zarathushtra زرتشت‎‎ 628 – 551 BCE via Dawson
(Zoroaster)

from Avesta

“An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth

Themes: Evil Friendship

35. The Power of Goodness

“When a student asked Confucius about returning good for evil, he replied: 'With what then will you recompense kindness? Return good for good, and for evil, justice.'”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Brian Brown
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

“It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who an thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Lionel Giles and James Clavell
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

“For men to get all they wish is not the better thing; it is disease that makes health pleasant; evil, good; hunger, surfeit; toil rest”

Heraclitus Ἡράκλειτος 535 – 475 BCE
(of Ephesus, the "Weeping Philosopher")
A Greek Buddha

“No intelligent man believes that anybody ever willing errs or willingly does base and evil deeds.”

Protagoras 490 – 420 BCE
“The wisest man alive”—Socrates

62. Basic Goodness

“I count it madness and know no cure can mend
The evil man and his evil way.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Vellacott
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

Themes: Evil

“One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

79. No Demands

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot, or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are both able and willing. I they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can, but will not, then they are not benevolent If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from Maxims

Themes: God Evil

“No evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE via Edith Hamilton
(of Citium)

“No evil is honorable: but death is honorable; therefore death is not evil.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE
(of Citium)

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity.”

Xun Kuang 荀況 310 – 235 BCE via Fayek S. Hourani
(Xún Kuàng, Xúnzǐ)
Early Confucian philosopher of "basic badness"

“If we may find anything that approaches permanence in the midst of change, it is the lasting power of goodness. Evil destroys the doer, but good endures.”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE via Burton Watson
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians
from Shiji, Records of the Grand Historian, 太史公書

Themes: Impermanence Evil

“Men suffer the worst evils for the sake of the most alien desires.”

Philodemus Φιλόδημος 110 – 35 BCE via Giovanni Indelli
(of Gadara)
from On Choices and Avoidances

Themes: Desire Evil

“All wicked men are slaves.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE via Mortimer J. Adler
from Paradoxa Stoicorum

Themes: Evil Slavery

“Politicians and generals who treat people like animals to be driven and sacrificed are the ultimate expression of man’s inhumanity to man.”

Yang Xiong 揚雄 53 BCE – 18 CE via Michael Nylan, Shan Dao
from Fayan 法言, Exemplary Figures or Model Sayings

“He who takes up the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that evil can be overcome by evil, or violence by violence?”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Didymos Thomas
from Gospel According to Thomas

30. No War

“Do not leave alive a single soul, completely destroy them—the Hittities, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you”

Rabbinic Sages 20 – 200 CE via Deuteronomy 20:16-17
from Hebrew Bible, The Tanakh

Themes: Evil Aggression

“How do you think you can help mundane beings with gold? It will only cause greater conflict and strife, greater sin and evil.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन c. 150-250 CE via Keith Dowman

“He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.”

Augustine ɔːɡəstiːn 354 – 430 CE
(Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Augustine of Hippo)

69. No Enemy

“Buddha means awareness, the awareness of body and mind that prevents evil from arising in either.

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 5th-6th C. CE
(Daruma)

“Return evil with Kindness.”

Muhammad محمد‎; محمد‎; 570 – 632 CE
from Koran

Themes: Kindness Evil

“Give tidings of painful doom to those who disbelieve... Slay the idolaters wherever you find them... and fight until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.”

Muhammad محمد‎; محمد‎; 570 – 632 CE via George Seldes
from Koran

Themes: Evil Aggression

“Evil has its evil reward. Even the clever cannot escape… its retribution is ingenious and beyond the reach of human plans. It never lets evildoers slip through its net.”

Wu Cheng 吴澄 1249 – 1333 CE via Red Pine
"Mr. Grass Hut"
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

“Never suppose that either the evil or the good that you do will remain secret, however strict may be your enclosure.”

Teresa of Avila 1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

Themes: Deception Evil

70. Inscrutable

“I am more afraid of people terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself.”

Teresa of Avila 1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

Themes: Evil

46. Enough

“Good without evil is like light with out darkness which in turn is like righteousness without hope.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from All's Well That Ends Well

Themes: Paradox Evil

“Friendship multiplies the good life, divides the evil, guards against misfortune, and brings fresh air to the soul.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via John Blofeld, Shan Dao
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Evil Friendship

“Virtue is its own reward, vice its own punishment.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, #90
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

69. No Enemy

“Be more careful not to miss once than to hit a hundred times… Evil news carries farther than any applause… All the exploits of a person taken together are not enough to wipe out a single small blemish.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Success Evil

60. Less is More

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

Themes: Religion Evil

“All the excesses, all the violence, and all the vanity of great men, come from the fact that they know not what they are”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”

Jonathan Swift 1667 – 1745 CE
"Foremost prose satirist in the English language"

Themes: Evil

“The Inquisition is well known to be an admirable and truly Christian invention for increasing the power of the popes and monks, and rendering the population of a whole kingdom hypocrites.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE via Raymond Naves,
from Philosophical Dictionary

Themes: Power Evil

“There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils,”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“Society [culture] is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness. Society is a blessing; government even in its best state a necessary evil, a tyranny; and because—even in its best state—an evil, we should have as little of it as the general peace of human society will permit.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

“Expect poison from the standing water.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Evil Water

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!”

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796 CE

Themes: Aggression Evil

“No one chooses evil because it is evil; we only mistake it for happiness, the good we seek.”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist

Themes: Evil

“A moment's realization of the luminosity of one's mind purifies the accumulated evil deeds and obscurations of countless aeons.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Flight of the Garuda

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“The chief source of the serious evils which affect man is man himself: homo homini lupus.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from The World as Will and Idea (1819)

Themes: Evil

“Man cannot spend all his time doing evil, and even in the company of pirates there must be some sweet moments on their sinister ship when you feel as if you were aboard a pleasure yacht.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)
from Human Comedy

Themes: Evil

“Adverse conditions are spiritual friends… Illness is the broom for evil and obscurations. Suffering is the dance of what is.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

Themes: Suffering Evil

18. The Sick Society

“You may either win your peace or buy it; win it by resistance to evil, buy it by compromise with evil.”

John Ruskin 1819 – 1900 CE
from The Two Paths

Themes: Peace Evil

“People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Evil

“If the evil doing of men moves you to indignation… understand that you, too, are guilty, for you might have been a light to the evildoers who might have been saved by your light.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett, Shan Dao
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Evil

“The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their own borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need o being saved.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Memories and Studies (1911)

“The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly has made the world evil and ugly.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Evil

“The irresistible natural truth which we all abhor and repudiate: the greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty, and that our first duty is not to be poor.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Major Barbara, 1907

Themes: Wealth Evil

“The living forces of evil are to be found in the living ideals of to-day”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

Themes: Evil

“To call war the soil of courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love... the glories of war are all blood-stained, delirious, and infected with crime; the combative instinct is a savage prompting by which one man's good is found in another's evil.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason

“I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity... The rulers may have our land and bodies but not our souls... You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE
from Letter to Hitler (1940)​

Themes: Evil

“We suffer not only the evils that actually befall us, but all those what our intelligence tells us we have reason to fear... forethought averts physical disaster at the cost of worry, and general lack of joy.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Strategy Evil

“an uncertain hypothesis cannot justify a certain evil unless an equal evil is equally certain on the opposite hypothesis.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Evil

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from The Magic Mountain (1924)

“Since we now know what a terrible evil war is, we must spare no effort to prevent its recurrence.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE
from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Themes: War Evil

“We stand face to face with the terrible question of evil an do not even know what is before us, let along what to pit against it... Touching evil brings with it the grave peril of succumbing to it... Recognition of the reality of evil necessarily relativizes the good, and the evil likewise, converting both into halves of a paradoxical whole.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Evil

“All evil is relative. Something what is evil at one level of evolution can be good at an earlier stage because it provides the essential stimulus for development.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

Themes: Evolution Evil

“they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Evil

“What is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Evil

“Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil. For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Evil

49. No Set Mind

“Never in my life had I felt so tangibly and with such astonishment that hate, by passing successively through comprehension, mercy, and sympathy, can be transformed into love. The same can happen when good wrestles with evil”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

Themes: Evil Hate

“cruelty is the memory—if only in the blood—of a time when the test of survival was the ability to kill... Pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

Themes: Aggression Evil

“The Inquisition left its evil mark on European society, made torture a recognized part of legal procedure, and drove men back from the adventure of reason into a fearful and stagnant conformity.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Age of Faith

Themes: Evil Conformity

“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

67. Three Treasures

“I want war. To me all means will be right. My motto is 'Destroy him by all and any means.' I am the one who will wage the war!”

Adolf Hitler 1889
the most immoral and cruel conqueror in human history

Themes: War Evil

“Ultimately evil is done not so much by evil people, but by good people who do not know themselves and who do not probe deeply.”

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892 – 1971 CE

29. Not Doing

“Curse all these men who come into the world to upset it with wars! and curse them for spoiling our homes and fouling our women and making our life a thing of fear and emptiness! Curse such childish men that cannot have done with fights and quarrels in childhood... Curse all women who give birth to men who make war, and curse their grandmothers and all who are their kin!”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

Themes: Evil Aggression

“When you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember that it is still an evil.”

Max Lerner 1902 – 1992 CE
(Maxwell Alan)

Themes: Evil

“Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power... The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Notes on Nationalism (1945)

Themes: Evil Nationalism

“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906 – 1945 CE

Themes: Evil

33. Know Yourself

“the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality… It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations… to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

from What the Buddha Taught, 1959

“One can clearly see here that Buddhism is strongly opposed to any kind of war, when it lays down that trade in arms and lethal weapons is an evil and unjust means of livelihood.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

“One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideals... This is the belief that... there is a final solution.”

Isaiah Berlin 1909 – 1997 CE
"the world's greatest talker"
from Two Concepts of Liberty

Themes: Fanaticism Evil

“There is evil. It’s actual like cement… It’s an ingredient in us. In the world. Poured over us, filtering into our bodies, minds, hearts, into the pavement itself.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

Themes: Evil

“He never spoke with any bitterness at all, no matter how awful the things he said. Are there really people without resentment, without hate she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it?”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from The Lathe of Heaven

Themes: Evil Hate

49. No Set Mind

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968 CE
Leading world influence for equality, peace, non-violence, and poverty alleviation

“no act is evil in itself; man puts the evil into it by the motive with which he commits it... Evil cannot coexist without the striving to 'live more abundantly' which is the ultimate aim of religion.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE
from Outsider

Themes: Religion Evil

“Every war results from the struggle for markets and spheres of influence, and every war is sold to the public by professional liars and totally sincere religious maniacs, as a Holy Crusade to save God and Goodness from Satan and Evil.”

Robert Anton Wilson 1932 – 2007 CE
from Cosmic Trigger II

31. Victory Funeral

“Henry Ford modeled his assembly line car production after visiting a Chicago slaughterhouse… and immediately saw that it was a perfect model for the automobile industry… Later, the Nazis used the same slaughterhouse model for their mass murders in the concentration camps… Ford openly admired the Nazis' efficiency. Hitler returned the admiration… and kept a life-sized portrait of the automobile mogul in his office.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

Themes: Evil Livelihood

“While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States sometimes must have
To stand naked.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

71. Sick of Sickness

“In this world there is no absolute good, no absolute evil. Good and evil are not fixed, stable entities but are continually trading places. A good may be transformed into an evil in the next second. And vice versa… The most important thing is to maintain the balance between the constantly moving good and evil… Indeed, balance itself is the good.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
from 1Q84

Themes: Evil Middle Way

49. No Set Mind

“Slavery is not a condition. Slavery is a cult. Human trafficking is a cult. Slavery got a rebrand, the Alt Right. These dazzling new plantation owners built a pipeline to take our children from school to prison quicker than a cut can bleed. And the lucky ones go from school to the NFL where they don't even let them niggahs take a knee.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

Themes: Evil Slavery

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