Source of goodness and wickedness
1. God being the origin of all things, and his nature being all wisdom, justice and goodness, all which proceeds from him, must be imbued with these attributes; for that which is infinitely wise, just, and good, can produce nothing unreasonable, wicked, or wrong. The wickedness which we observe cannot then be derived from him.
2. If wickedness was the province of a special being who is called Satan, he must be either equal to God, and for all eternity as powerful, or he must be his inferior.
In the first case, there would be two rival powers in constant contention, each one seeking to overthrow the work of the other, and constantly thwarting each other. This hypothesis is irreconcilable with that unity of purpose which reveals itself in the arrangement of the Universe.
In the second case this being, being inferior to God, would be subordinate to him. Not being able to exist for all eternity like him, without being his equal, he would have had a commencement. If he has been created, God must have been his creator. Thus God would have created a bad spirit, which is impossible if he be infinite goodness. (See “Heaven and Hell” chap. X, “The Demons”)
3. However, evil exists, and it has a cause.
Evils are of many kinds; there are firstly, physical and moral evils, then the evils that men can evade, and those that are independent of human will. Among the latter are classed the natural plagues.
Man, whose faculties are limited, cannot compass or understand all the designs of the Creator. He studies things at the point of view of his personality by artificial interests, and by conditions that he has created, and which are not in the order of nature. That is why he finds oftentimes wrong and injustice in that which he would know to be just and admirable if he could see its cause, its end and definite results. In seeking the reason for being and utility of everything, he will surely discover that all bears the imprint of infinite wisdom, and he will bow before the wise power even in things which he fails to comprehend.
4. Man has received a share of intelligence by which he can avert, or at least greatly palliate the effects of all natural plagues. The more knowledge he acquires, the farther he advances in civilization, the less disastrous these plagues will be. With a wisely provident social organization he will be able to neutralize the consequences of them, and in time, evade them entirely. Thus for these plagues which annoy us now, but which have their use in the general order of nature, God has given to men, in the faculties by which he has endowed his mind, the means of paralyzing their effects in the future.
It is thus that he renders healthy insalubrious countries; that he destroys pestilential miasmas; that he fertilizes waste lands and applies himself to preserve them from inundation; that he constructs healthier habitations, stronger to resist winds so necessary for the purification of the atmosphere; that he is sheltered from the inclemency of the weather. It is thus that necessity has created science by the aid of which he improves the condition of the habitable parts of the globe, and augments the general well-being.
5. The evils to which men are exposed by ignorance are a stimulant for the exercise of their intelligence, for all their moral and physical faculties, by inducing them to seek for means to shelter themselves from them. If man had nothing to fear, no necessity would incline him to seek for anything better: he would become benumbed in the inactivity of his mind; he would invent nothing and discover nothing. Pain and suffering are incentives which spur men onward, in the march of progress.
6. But the most numerous evils are those which men create by their own vices, - those which spring from their pride, from their selfishness, from their ambition, from their cupidity, from their excess in all things. Hence the cause of wars, calamities, dissensions, injustice, oppression of the feeble by the strong, and of the greater part of diseases.
God has established laws full of wisdom, which are only for the good of men. All that is necessary to man’s welfare is his obedience to them. His way is traced out for him by his conscience. The divine law is engraved upon his heart. Moreover, God reminds him incessantly by his messiahs and prophets, by all incarnates who have received the mission of enlightening him, of moralizing him, of improving his condition, and in these latter days by the multitude of discarnates who manifest on all sides, - if man conformed himself rigorously to the divine laws, he would evade, without doubt, the severest evils, and would live happily upon the Earth. If he doesn’t obey them, it is by virtue of his free will; and he must submit himself to the consequences. (“The Gospel According to Spiritism,” Chap. 5, items 4, 5, and 6)
7. But God, full of goodness, has placed the remedy by the side of evil; that is to say, he brings good out of its opposite. There comes a time where an excess of moral wickedness becomes intolerable, and makes man realize the need of a change of life. Instructed by experience, he is impelled to seek a remedy in goodness, always by the effect of his free will. When he enters the better path, it is by the influence of his own desire, and because he recognizes the inconveniences of the other way. This necessity is a compulsion to improve himself morally, in view of being happier. This brings with it the natural consequence of bettering his material condition also (see item n°5).
8. One can say that evil is the absence of good, as cold is the absence of heat. Wickedness is no more a distinct attribute than cold is a special fluid. One is the negative of the other. Where good exists not, there is necessarily evil. Not to do wickedly is already the commencement of good. God desires only good; from man only comes evil. If there were in the universe a being charged with evil, man would not be able to evade him; but man, having the cause of wrong-doing within HIMSELF, having at the same time his free-will, and for his guide the divine laws, he can avoid it if he desires to do so.
Let us take a common fact as a comparison. A landowner knows that at the extremity of his field is a dangerous place, and those who might venture there would be wounded, or perish. What means does he employ to prevent accidents? He places near the place a notice forbidding people to pass there on account of danger. Such is the law: it is wise and provident. If not withstanding the warning, an imprudent person pays no heed, and passes beyond it, thereby injuring himself, whom can he blame if not himself?
Thus it is with all evils; man could evade them if he would obey the divine laws. God, for example, has placed a limit to the gratification of wants: man is warned by satiety. If he passes beyond this limit, he does it voluntarily. The illness, infirmities, and death, which may be the consequence of it, are then occasioned by his own fault, and not that of God.
9. Wickedness being the result of imperfections of man and man being created by God, will they not say that God had at least created, if not evil, the cause of evil? If he had made man perfect, evil would not exist.
If man had been created perfect, he would be carried by fate in the way of goodness. Now, by virtue of his free will, he is carried by fate neither to the good nor bad; God having decreed that he should submit to the law of progress, and that this progress should be fruit of his own labor, in order that he should have the merit of it, as well as be responsible for his evil deeds, which he can always avoid by the use of his will. The question then is to know what is in man the source of propensity to evil.*
* The error consists in presuming that the soul leaves the hands of the Creator already in a state of perfection, whereas it is the opposite: God wants our perfection to be the result of our own labor, through a gradual purification of the Spirit. He further wishes the soul - which is endowed with free will - to be able to choose between good and evil, and that its final goals should be attained at the price of activity, and by resisting evil. If He had created the soul as perfect as Himself, by securing its eternal beatitude right from his hands, he would have created it not after his image, but after his own self. (Bonnamy, “The Reason of Spiritism,” chapter VI).
10. If one studies all the passions, and even all vices, one sees that they have their origin in the instinct of self-preservation. This instinct is strongest with animals, and with primitive men, who approached nearest the animal existence. It governed them entirely, because they had not the moral sense for a counterpoise, having not been born into the intellectual life. The instinct is weakened in proportion as intelligence is developed, because the latter rules matter.
The spirit is destined for the spiritual life: but in the first phases of its corporeal existence it has only material needs to satisfy; and to this end the exercise of the passions is a necessity for the preservation of the species and of the individual, materially speaking. But, passed beyond this period, he has other needs, - needs at first partly moral and partly material, then exclusively moral. It is then that the spirit rules matter. If he throws of the yoke, he advances on his providential way; he approaches his final destiny. If on the contrary, he allows himself to be ruled by the senses, he is held back on his upward progress by assimilating himself with the brute. In this situation that which was formerly good, because it was a necessity of his nature, becomes an evil, not only because it is no more a necessity, but because it has become hurtful to his spiritual well-being. Similarly, that which is considered a good quality in a child becomes an imperfection in the adult. Evil is thus relative, and the responsibility therefore proportionate to the degree of advancement.
All passions have thus their providential utility; if not so, God has made some things intrinsically useless and hurtful. It is only abuse which constitutes the evil, and man abuses by virtue of his free-will. At length, awakened to the knowledge of his own share in it, he chooses freely between the good and the bad.