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Mike Shreve was a teacher of yoga at four universities. (The portrait above was drawn by one of his students in 1970.) Then a spiritual rebirth brought him into a real relationship with God and drastically changed his heart, his life and his belief system.  Read his story here.

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Site Completed–10/15/01
Major Revision—5/28/03
Last Updated–03/19/09

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©2002 copyright
Mike Shreve.
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What is the origin of evil?

According to the Bible, evil streams from three main sources: (1) The ‘Original Sin’ passed down from Adam to all his offspring, which results in a sin nature resident in our human flesh (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12, Ephesians 2:3); (2) Sinful choices that we, as human beings, make (John 5:14, James 1:13–14); (3) Demonic powers that are constantly tempting the inhabitants of this planet, seducing them to commit evil. Most biblical theologians believe evil spirits (demons, devils) were originally righteous angels until they joined Lucifer (Satan) in his rebellion against God in the beginning. (See Isaiah 14:12–19, Ezekiel 28:12–19, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, Revelation 12:1–9.) Events that result from their influence cannot be attributed to God, since they do not work in submission to his will. The Bible clearly states that God is so holy that he "cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." (James 1:13 NIV) Logic dictates that if God does not "tempt" human beings, he certainly did not "tempt" the angels to turn against him in the beginning. Neither did God purposefully create demonic powers with an evil nature. The true Creator would never influence demonic beings to do anything evil. Instead, their evil nature is a result of their original free-will choice to oppose the Creator and his laws.

In Eastern religions, evil is primarily the product of illusion or maya. It is considered essentially unreal. (See Question #21.) Liberation consists, not so much in conquering evil, as it does in conquering ignorance. Experiencing Ultimate Reality enables one to be free from the domination of that which is unreal, including the evil that abounds in this world.

Buddhism especially emphasizes that to experience Nirvana, a person must ignore evil and suffering, because these things are alien to the consciousness of true existence. Years ago I met Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, a well-known leader in Hinduism. He explained the Eastern View, "There is no intrinsic evil. All is good. All is God. No force in the world or in man opposes God, though the veiling instinctive-intellectual mind keeps us from knowledge of Him."1 The New Age Movement has inherited this mindset from Hinduism, its spiritual parent. An avid New Ager, Shirley MacLaine, quotes her spirit guide as instructing, "Until mankind realizes that there is, in truth, no good and there is, in truth, no evil, there will be no peace."2

Strangely (yet logically, if the related concepts of monism and pantheism are to be upheld) Brahma, the Creator god in Hinduism, is identified as the Source of both good and evil:

"Formerly, all creatures were virtuous, and by themselves they obtained divinity. Therefore the gods became worried, so Brahma created women in order to delude men. Then women, who had been virtuous, became wicked witches, and Brahma filled them with wanton desires, which they in turn inspired in men. He created anger, and henceforth all creatures were born in the power of desire and anger." (Mahabharata 13.40.5–12)

The perspective of Taoism, with its yin-yang theory, also maintains that evil is a manifestation of the Tao (the Universal Force). Both evil and good stream from the same Source, the primal Cause of all causes. Evil flows from the yin aspect (the negative principle) of the Absolute, while good flows from the yang (the positive principle). Because the Tao is eternal and ultimate, the harmonizing aspects of yin and yang are eternal and ultimate as well, necessary for spiritual equilibrium in the universe.

Though accepting the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, neither Islam nor Judaism promote the concept of the "Original Sin" being passed on to the offspring of these parents of the human race. In these two religions, man is intrinsically good, and able to live a righteous life if he so chooses. Only Christianity admits this inherited spiritual dilemma facing the inhabitants of this planet. One scripture warns, "through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin…" (Romans 5:12)3

Kabbala, the esoteric offshoot of Judaism, proposes something altogether different. In the Zohar (the "Book of Splendor"—one of the two main sources of Kabbalistic doctrine), it is "implied that the evil in the universe originated from the leftovers of worlds that were destroyed."4 In Scientology evil originates in the ‘reactive mind.’

With regard to demonic spirits, most religions admit their existence, but they differ greatly concerning the origin of these dark entities. According to the United Church of Religious Science (Ernest Holmes), the "devil" is not an actual entity; "the only devil we shall ever know will be that which appears as the result of our negative thinking."5 It is "anything which denies the unity of good, the allness of Truth, or our oneness with Spirit."6 In Ernest Holmes’ belief system, evil spirits are reduced to "discordant and chaotic thought patterns consciously retained which tend to influence the conscious faculties negatively."7 In a similar way, the Bahá’í faith dismisses the idea of Satan and evil spirits as mere superstition. Any reference to something being ‘satanic’ is metaphorical, not literal.

According to Hinduism, evil spirits came forth from Brahma’s side, created with an evil nature—or they could possibly be human beings who lived evil lives or failed to follow their dharma. According to Zoroastrianism, their existence is traceable to Ahriman, the god of evil, who possesses the power to create. Taoism teaches that evil spirits (kuei) may actually be disembodied human spirits: those who suffered violent deaths, or those who were buried without the necessary, prescribed rituals. The Qur’an of Islam teaches that these corrupt beings were created out of fire. Only the Bible relates the origin and nature of evil spirits correctly. Much of the ministry of Jesus involved casting out evil spirits and delivering people from their diabolical influence. So it should be still in the ministry of a true man or woman of God.

Thankfully, it is also foretold in Scripture that all demons will ultimately be exiled forever from the presence of God.

1 Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, How to Become a Hindu (Himalayan Academy, sec. ed., 2000) p. 243.

2 Martin Gardner, "Issues is Her Business," New York Review, 1987; quoted in Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1990, from Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light.

3 See "Christianity" under The Origin and Nature of Man, pp. 68-69.

4 "Kabbalah," Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971) vol. 10, column 583.

5 Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind, p. 584 (page citation is to reprint edition).

6 Ernest Holmes, A Dictionary of New Thought Terms (Marina del Rey, California: DeVorss Publications, 1991) p. 34.

7 Ibid., p. 41.

"In Search of the True Light" ©2002 copyright by Mike Shreve.
All articles unless otherwise noted are copyright by Mike Shreve.
Personal Stories are the work of the individuals.
All Rights Reserved.

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