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A Wiccan perspective on good and evil

Page history last edited by Yvonne 13 years, 1 month ago

The problem of good and evil


How can I be substantial if I fail to cast a shadow? I must have a dark side if I am to be whole. (Carl Jung)


It seems that the main difference between Wicca and Christianity is in the interpretation of the problem of good and evil, and by extension, the notion of sin. To Christians, the existence of evil stems from the two Falls, the angelic fall and the fall of man. And these two falls were caused by disobedience to the will of God. There may seem to be an inconsistency here with the doctrine of free will, but in fact it is resolved by the idea that true freedom is to do the will of God1 (in Pagan terminology, to act in harmony with the universe). Apparently the Jewish view of the Garden of Eden2 was that it is somewhat inevitable that if you leave something tempting lying around, people will break the prohibition against taking it (but then this may simply be post-Fall human nature rather than pre-Fall). In addition, Christianity posits the existence of a personification of good (God) and a personification of evil (the devil). Wicca does not include this concept, nor a legend of the Fall (except perhaps the story of Pandora's Box). Indeed, the whole notion of a fall runs counter to the ethos of Wicca.


Can a person ever be purely evil, or purely good? Are evil people possessed by some demonic influence? Overshadowed by an archetype? Or merely unbalanced? What kind of psychological dysfunction could produce Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot? Or should we look beyond the individuals to the culture that produced them? After the Holocaust, psychologists and sociologists wrestled with this question, looking for individual pathologies, or trying to identify the source of the evil in the culture. Theologians further developed the concept of theodicy, the problem of how a benevolent deity can allow the perpetration of evil. These are urgent questions deserving serious consideration.


The origins of evil (the Fall)

In Wicca, the view is usually that evil is caused by imbalance between the two main forces in the universe, the feminine and masculine principles (yin and yang or inner and outer if you prefer). Matter is not fallen but deeply intertwined with spirit: “For behold, My love is poured out upon the Earth” (Charge of the Goddess). Pagans also tend to believe that everyone is a mixture of good and evil impulses. Even dictators have some good impulses, otherwise letters of protest from Amnesty supporters against their atrocities would have no impact. They know they are doing wrong, because they hide their deeds and are ashamed. They may continue to torture and kill, but on some level they know it is wrong. (Nick Hanks, pers. comm.)


I share the view of CG Jung that the pursuit of Good and the attempt to eradicate evil will ultimately result in evil, as we are currently seeing played out in George Bush's policy in Iraq. Maybe this is because he is "using the weapons of the enemy". This is Tolkien's shorthand way of saying that if you use the methods and technology of the oppressors, you yourself become the oppressors. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, Elrond and their allies realise that they must not use the Ring against Sauron, because it will corrupt them, and they will become like Sauron. It is notable here that the "weapons" of the good side are humility, friendship, love, patience; and the war at the gates of Mordor is a smokescreen for the casting of the Ring into the Crack of Doom.


Another important idea implicit in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion is that evil dissipates itself in the effort to dominate the wills of others, whereas good doesn't have to dominate as it is the natural thing to do 3. This is illustrated by the way Morgoth cannot create anything of his own, and thus has to expend all his energy in controlling others. The same happens in the Harry Potter series of books, where Voldemort has to control his followers with a culture of fear and reprisal, whereas people follow Dumbledore out of love and respect, a desire for freedom, and an inclination towards good.

I regard the 'fall' (or change in consciousness from using both hemispheres to mainly using the left hemisphere) as being consequent upon the unthinking use of technology and the resulting creation of an imbalance between humans and Nature. The initial shift to left-brain consciousness was probably caused by the first use of technology, in other words the first use of a tool. The next shift in consciousness was perhaps the division of mind from body by the Cartesian split (the idea put forward by Descartes that mind and body are separate). Later, the split between Nature and humanity was widened by the Industrial Revolution, so eloquently summarised by Blake as “those dark satanic mills”, and by Tolkien as “works of Mordor”.


Most Pagans would agree that out-and-out materialism is a bad thing, particularly consumerism and the commodification of everything (including spirituality). When even spiritual experiences become a commodity to be bought and sold, it spells trouble. This is (in my opinion) the problem with much of the New Age movement: it is the ultimate form of consumerism, packaging and selling spiritual experience as if it were available in discrete modules, instead of empowering people to find it for themselves.


There's some truth in the old saw that “money is the root of all evil” - not just because people want it to buy things, but also because the notion of gift exchange is thereby weakened. In most traditional cultures (e.g. Celts, Norse, Anglo-Saxons, Turtle Islanders 4), the giving of gifts is what holds society together. A person who has a lot to give away is regarded as wealthy, whereas a miser or a hoarder is regarded as poor, indeed poor in spirit. The introduction of money, by inserting a delay into the process of bartering, removed the link created by the exchange of gifts. It is commonly said among Pagans that it is inappropriate to charge money for spiritual services (such as Tarot reading or healing). This is because it would be more appropriate for the receiver of the service to do something in exchange, or to give the service provider a gift. In this way the balance of energies is maintained; if the receiver of the gift was left with an obligation, it would create an imbalance. Paying money to the service provider severs the connection, whereas the exchange of gifts creates a bond of mutual obligation and good feeling. (Nowadays this is corrupted by measuring everything in monetary terms, as people tend to panic if the birthday present they received from someone was more expensive than what they gave them for their birthday.)


The notion of sin

There is no concept of sin in Wicca. There is, however, the idea of being out of balance, losing your connection to Nature. Wiccans have an ethic of avoiding harm to others, although we know that sometimes this is impractical, as you can never calculate all the consequences of an action. If one harmed another person, I suppose one might be deemed to have 'sinned' against that person, and to need their forgiveness. This is a natural human impulse. The forgiveness restores the balance between the two people. However, the idea of sin is raised to a whole new level when any bad action (or disobedience to the will of God) is regarded as being an offence to God. It's not far from this to the notion of original sin, the idea that we are all born sinful because we are descended from Adam and Eve. The notion of original sin is completely alien to Wiccan thinking. To most Wiccans, one is born innocent and becomes damaged by circumstances, which cause an imbalance in the psyche and cause one to harm others as a result.


Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days 5

Hesiod's writings are the main source of Pagan equivalents of the myth of the Fall. It is perhaps significant that Hesiod was a shepherd who became a poet, and was by all accounts rather misogynistic. In the Theogony he writes of the strife between the Olympians and the Titans (lines 617-643); Cronos eating his children (lines 453-491); the theft of fire by Prometheus (lines 561-584), and the creation of women as a punishment for this (lines 561-612). In Works and Days, he writes of the creation of Pandora, the first woman (lines 69-82), and the five World Ages, describing them as five generations, each more degenerate than the last, and heartily wishing that he had not been born in the last generation (lines 170-201).



Hubris is generally defined as excessive violence and overweening pride. It was trying to usurp the role or glory of the gods, and in so doing, harming the community at large. Hesiod frequently warns against it, and illustrates its consequences in his writings. Zeus punishes Menoetius (brother of Epimetheus and Prometheus) for his hubris by striking him with a thunderbolt and sending him to Erebus, the underworld (Theogony, lines 507-543).


The Five World Ages

Hesiod describes five World Ages, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and Iron. Clearly each is more degenerate than the previous age, and more violent. It is interesting that he chose metals to symbolise each age, as in some mythologies, metals are associated with the planets, and in Orphic myth, the soul descends to earth through the planetary spheres, acquiring the qualities associated with each planet. It is probable, however, that Hesiod was referring to the relative purities of the different metals rather than their planetary associations. The names of the ages used in modern descriptions of pre-history (Stone, Bronze, and Iron) were chosen to reflect Hesiod's names for the ages. It is worth remembering, however, that whilst Hesiod's tale of the successive ages seems somewhat pessimistic, he is actually telling it to emphasise that “the gods and mortal men sprang from one source” (Works & Days, lines 106-108).


The Golden Age


First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Cronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils. When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods. (Works & Days, lines 109-120)


The Silver Age


But after earth had covered this generation -- they are called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds, givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received; -- then they who dwell on Olympus made a second generation which was of silver and less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body nor in spirit. A child was brought up at his good mother's side an hundred years, an utter simpleton, playing childishly in his own home. But when they were full grown and were come to the full measure of their prime, they lived only a little time in sorrow because of their foolishness, for they could not keep from sinning and from wronging one another, nor would they serve the immortals, nor sacrifice on the holy altars of the blessed ones as it is right for men to do wherever they dwell. Then Zeus the son of Cronos was angry and put them away, because they would not give honour to the blessed gods who live on Olympus. (Works & Days, lines 121-139)


The Bronze Age


But when earth had covered this generation also -- they are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honour attends them also -- Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. Their armour was of bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron. These were destroyed by their own hands and passed to the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name: terrible though they were, black Death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun. (Works & Days, lines 140-155)


The Heroic Age


But when earth had covered this generation also, Zeus the son of Cronos made yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-men who are called demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout the boundless earth. Grim war and dread battle destroyed a part of them, some in the land of Cadmus at seven- gated Thebe when they fought for the flocks of Oedipus, and some, when it had brought them in ships over the great sea gulf to Troy for rich-haired Helen's sake: there death's end enshrouded a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of Cronos gave a living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of earth. And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them (5); for the father of men and gods released him from his bonds. And these last equally have honour and glory. (Works & Days, lines 156-169b)


The Iron Age


And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men who are upon the bounteous earth. Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth (6). The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. There will be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And then Aidos and Nemesis (7), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil. (Works & Days, lines 169c-201)




{Zeus} would not give the power of unwearying fire to the Melian race of mortal men who live on the earth. But the noble son of Iapetus outwitted him and stole the far-seen gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk. And Zeus who thunders on high was stung in spirit, and his dear heart was angered when he saw amongst men the far-seen ray of fire. (Theogony, lines 561-584)


In some traditions, Prometheus was honoured as a culture-bringer. In Ye Gods, a novel by Tom Holt, what Prometheus stole from the gods and gave to men was actually laughter – an even more subversive gift than fire. Holt puts forward the idea that without laughter, humans would be completely subject to authority, and life would be very dull.


Pandora's Box


For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils and the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took away speech from them. So is there no way to escape the will of Zeus. (Works & Days, lines 90-105)


So, according to Hesiod, Pandora was responsible for releasing evil into the world. He also says that women are responsible for men's sorrow. In another version of the story, she was told not to open the box, thus putting the story in the same category as the Garden of Eden (the protagonists are told not to do something, so naturally they do it out of curiosity, and then get punished for it).


Cupid and Psyche

In the story of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche marries Cupid but he forbids her to try to see him. Overcome by the jealous promptings of her sisters, she takes a peek at him while he is asleep. Immediately he withdraws from her. Eventually, after much effort and many trials and tribulations, she regains her bliss.


Many traditional stories have a motif of curiosity being punished by withdrawal of the divine presence, but ultimately leading to growth and transformation. Another example is the story of The Black Bull of Norroway (an English folk tale). It is possible that the Garden of Eden story was originally a story of this type (certainly the Jewish interpretation of it would seem to indicate this).


No personifications of good & evil

There are no personifications of good and evil in Wicca, but there are personifications of destruction, disorder, etc. (Loki, Kali, Eris, etc.), but these are regarded as part of the natural cycle: agents of chaos or destruction, bringing change so that renewal may take place. There are also personifications of growth, life, and light to balance the agents of chaos and destruction.


There are obviously evil entities, people or beings who have given themselves mostly or wholly over to evil (defined as the unbridled pursuit of destruction, domination and control); but there is no ultimate personification of evil in the Pagan worldview.


According to some of the more extreme Christian doctrines, the old Pagan gods were actually demons (because they were regarded as false gods luring people away from the true God). When Christianity arrived in Europe, many of the gods and goddesses were assimilated as saints. Those that could not be assimilated were turned into demons; usually these were the ones associated with unbridled sexuality. The Horned God is an obvious example here, and it is probably this that gives some Christians the impression that Wiccans are devil worshippers. This is impossible, as the existence of the devil is a Christian doctrine, and Wiccans do not believe in an ultimate personification of evil, and would certainly not worship one if we did.


Dealing with evil

In folk tradition, people have often dealt with manifestations of the evil or the uncanny by making fun of them, referring to the devil as “Old Nick” and other light-hearted epithets. This technique is used in the Harry Potter books, with the Ridikkulus charm. In the Defence Against the Dark Arts class, the students are given a boggart to deal with. Boggarts like to transform themselves into your darkest fear, so they are given the Ridikkulus charm to defend themselves. This transforms the Boggart into something silly. So when Neville Longbottom sees the boggart as Professor Snape, he visualises it with his grandma's hat on when he uses the Ridikkulus charm.


In discussing this with Nick Hanks, he suggested that we need to absorb harm, neutralise it, and then send it out again as good. Rather like the transmutation of the Water of Life by the Bene Gesserit witches in Dune.


Dion Fortune makes the same point; she says that we "cannot deal with evil by destroying it, but only by absorbing and harmonizing it."



"Each Qliphah arose primarily as an emanation of unbalanced force in the course of the evolution of the corresponding Sephirah. The solution of the problem of evil and its eradication from the world is not achieved through suppression, or destruction, but through its compensation and consequent absorption back into the Sephirah from which it came." (6)


If the evil becomes separate, it may become an autonomous thought-form. If a person has committed an evil deed, you deal with the outcome of that but then try to link with the good in the person – appeal to their conscience, for example. It's better to refer to evil as imbalance, otherwise it grows out of all proportion and becomes “The Great Dark Lord and his Evil Plot”. If evil is referred to as a process, it is in the social context (which we are also in) so we are connected with it, and can do something about it. It is all too easy to project evil onto others and fail to recognise that our own society has the potential to commit the same atrocities (e.g. blaming “the German character” for the Nazis, and failing to notice that there were and are fascist tendencies in British society also).


People and entities who are damaged and imbalanced want attention (e.g. terrorists, serial killers, sex offenders, and things from the dungeon dimensions) – feed them and they grow, like gremlins, or the carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors. If the evil is not named, there is a possible danger of it becoming the unspeakable horror (or, in the case of Cthulhu, the unpronounceable horror). The power of malevolent entities can be reduced by giving them a silly name, like “oogly-booglies”. Unfortunately this does not work with physical manifestations of evil like serial killers etc.


In Religion without beliefs (1997), Fred Lamond puts forward the idea that repressing and denying sexuality and the feminine principle is the cause of most of the evil in the world.



“Let us be quite clear that 99% of all the evil in the world is caused not by deviant individuals but by state power, especially in wars....

“The Pagan solution to the problem of evil is to re-establish the worship of the Earth Mother Goddess and her daughter/aspect: the Goddess of Love and Sensuality. The more that people feel free to love and be loved without guilt, the fewer will be driven to acquire more goods than they need to live comfortably, which will lead to a fairer distribution of the Earth's resources. The fairer resource distribution is, the fewer will be tempted to redress the balance by criminal activities.

“The greater the proportion of people who have been loved and love themselves, the fewer the number of psychopaths driven to seek more power over others, to climb to the top in politics, and, having got there, to use state power to unleash predatory and destructive wars.”


Balance and complementarity

In Wicca, darkness does not symbolise evil. The darkness is necessary for rest, growth, and regeneration. Death is not evil, but a necessary adjunct to life. If there was no death and dissolution, there could be no change or growth. The cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth is part of the interaction of the polarities. Suffering is also part of the process of growth; just as a tree is shaped by the wind, we are shaped by our experiences. It is only by experiencing suffering that we acquire sufficient depth to know the fullness of joy. It is then that the full light of consciousness dawns in us, and we achieve mystical communion with the divine.


But what if we never emerged into the light? What if we were always suffering? This would only be the case if time were linear and not cyclical. In the Wiccan worldview, we go through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth, but not in an endlessly repeating, always-the-same kind of way, rather there is change and growth. The pattern is an ascending spiral, not a treadmill. We pass through light (spring and summer) and descend into darkness (autumn and winter). But just as the seasons are not the same each time, nor are the greater cycles.


Good, in my scheme of things, means balance, and evil means imbalance. Otherwise you get into a terrible mess with people like George Bush claiming to have a hotline to God, and to represent the forces of Good fighting the forces of evil.


In the Wiccan worldview, humans are not inherently sinful but inherently divine; the rest of the universe is also inherently divine; space-time is curved; the sphere, the circle, and the spiral are the primary geometric forms; linearity (e.g. tunnels) crystallises from these. (This formulation is from Alan Rayner, but it neatly expresses Pagan ideas about cyclicity.)


Patriarchal values and repression of the feminine values are responsible for a lot of the problems in society; the balance is only just beginning to be restored, hence we are in a period of transition (see Starhawk's writings, especially Truth or Dare (7), for a longer explanation of this). Balance refers to dynamical balance, not stasis and/or stalemate.


Any quality balanced by an opposite quality is not cancelled out but creates a third quality. Balance is often assumed to mean cancelling out, but if you think about two equal weights in a scale, they do not cancel out each other's weight, they only cancel out each other's impact on the scales. In a complex system, such as climate, high pressure in one area will result in comparatively low pressure in another area, so the flow will be from the high pressure area to the low pressure area. But as it is not a closed system, this will create another flow due to another difference in pressure, so you might say that the system was in dynamical balance (like the concept of Equilibrium in Ursula le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea trilogy). Equilibrium means (presumably) 'equal degrees of freedom'. Ted Lumley's concept (8) of possibility space is apposite here - when we act, we sometimes limit someone else's freedom to move (possibility space). In some cases, the possibility to move is so limited that people feel trapped, and they lash out, with terrible consequences.



In relativistic curved space, as in pool, we consider not only the explicit 'actualities' but also the implicit 'possibilities'. Every time we move a ball we change the possibilities 'seen' by every ball. This 'possibility space' is termed 'reciprocal disposition' and it is a mathematically defined thing, even though it is 'implicit'. It is implicit because it is 'unbounded'. (Ted Lumley, Possibility Space and Syntropy, Montréal, February 2000, http://www.goodshare.org/jeunes.htm)


Evil itself can sometimes seem balanced, like the mutually assured destruction of the superpowers in the Cold War. This, however, is not balance in this sense of possibility to move (dynamical balance), but stalemate - there is nowhere for the opposing superpowers to go - they cannot use their weapons, and it seems to them that they cannot back down. The only way out of the stalemate was to expand the space in which the interaction was taking place, by creating an environment of openness and dialogue where it was possible for them to reduce their nuclear arsenals.


Sometimes someone (often a hero or a visionary) has to do something radical, taking events in an apparently new direction, but often this is in order to restore true balance (possibility to move, or the dynamical balance between the masculine and feminine principles), rather than the stasis (status quo, stalemate) of closed-down possibilities that existed before.


If history is considered as an evolutionary process, it consists of the opening up and closing down of possibility spaces on an epic scale. (Hence perhaps the fascination for some people of "what if" scenarios.) In this process, primacy was accorded to the "masculine" values of aggression, dominance, control, and reason, whereas the "feminine" virtues of nurturing, emotion, sexuality, and expression were regarded with suspicion, seen as needing to be controlled, or even treated with downright hostility.


The according of primacy to masculine values created a huge imbalance and a shift to war and aggression as the primary means of relating to the world. (Which came first, war or the patriarchal values? Starhawk has some interesting things to say on this, in Truth or Dare, as mentioned above. See http://www.starhawk.org/writings/truth-dare.html ) It also closed down possibility space for women, who might otherwise have brought about much good. Not that all masculine values are negative of course - reason is useful (if balanced by intuition, but on its own it is rather ruthless).


Another aspect of the imbalance between the masculine and feminine principle being the cause of evil is the cultural norm of assuming that entities are discrete and separate and can only change when acted upon directly by an external source. In other words, the assumption that we live in an Euclidian space. In inclusionality, space as a 'presence of absence' is an inductive influence. It is not an absence of matter; rather, matter is a condensation of space. This implies that spirit is real, that space is potentiality (possibility space), and that we are not entities (in a discrete and separate sense) but identities or places, complex selves comprising inner, outer and inter. Because we relate to others as part of our complex self, we cannot merely dismiss them as irrelevant, but see them as related to us through the complex self, or to put it in Wiccan language, we see them as another manifestation of the divine.



In living systems, the waveforms resulting from the necessary togetherness (distinctness but not discreteness) of inner, outer and intermediary callings may be thought of as ‘complex selves’. Rather than being unitary or binary, ecocentric or egocentric ‘beings’, such couplings represent ternary ‘becomings’, dynamic ‘threesome-onesomes’ where ‘two’ implies ‘one’ and ‘three’ simultaneously - babies combined recreationally and unpredictably with water (twoness) via skin (threeness) in the spatial commons (oneness) of the bath! (Alan Rayner 9)


The imbalance comes about when we cease to see space as inductive and cease to see ourselves as complex selves - if we begin to see ourselves as discrete entities with no interface between ourselves and others, then we begin to act selfishly. The answer to this is not return to the Godhead (or Nirvana) in the sense of dissolution in it. Rather it is an understanding of our connection with the universe - a mystical experience of communion with the divine (but not oneness, which would imply dissolution in it).



In terms of this ternary, ‘dynamic framing’, complete sealing of boundaries would disrupt and stifle flow, whereas total dissolution of boundaries would end in featurelessness. So both the pursuit of absolute individual autonomy (independence) through the completion of external boundaries, and of absolute collective unity (dependence) through the obviation of internal boundaries are evolutionarily untenable. By contrast, a holey intermediary boundary provides the possibility for ‘breathing space’ and consequent energy transfer between dynamically coupled inner and outer inductive domains. Closing in (decreasing holeyness) of boundaries results in ‘information’, the constructive shaping of local ‘features’ and increased resistance to energy transfer both from outer to inner (inspiration/ in-welling) and from inner to outer (expiration/out-welling). Opening out (increasing holeyness) of boundaries results in ‘exformation’, and consequent decreased resistance to energy transfer.

(Alan Rayner, Nested Holeyness - the dynamic inclusional geometry of natural space and boundaries, http://people.bath.ac.uk/bssadmr/inclusionality/nestedholeyness.htm, September 2003)


Other traditions

Many spiritual traditions regard balance as good. Some Buddhists advocate the Middle Way:


the Middle Way (Madhyamika): staying away from the two extremes: realism/reification/acceptance (existence) and nihilism/rejection (non-existence), or between any two poles of any duality / discrimination. The Middle Way between accepting and rejecting. It represents the perfect union of dependent origination (or Bodhicitta) and emptiness; a union beyond any description or conceptualization. It means everything is not different/separate, but still not the same; that everything is non-dual: not two, not one. (10)


Esoteric Judaism has, in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (which is a diagram of God's relationship with the manifest world), the three pillars of Mercy, Severity and Grace.

In viewing the Tree as comprised of the three pillars of severity, equilibrium (or mildness) and mercy, each sefira can be classed as either negative (restrictive, passive and destructive), balancing, or positive (expansive, active and constructive) depending upon whether it lies on the pillar of severity, equilibrium or mercy respectively. It is important to realize that no value judgement is implied in the terms 'positive or masculine' and 'negative or feminine'; each is neither better nor worse than the other. Indeed, it can be said that evil is a synonym for imbalance, highlighting the vital, complementary natures of the pillars. (11)


In Kabbalistic doctrine, evil resulted from the accidental creation of the Qliphoth, the negative Sephiroth. According to Dion Fortune the Qliphoth are "aptly termed the evil and averse Sephiroth and are the unbalanced and destructive aspect of the Holy Stations (Sephiroth) themselves”. (12)  Fortune also distinguishes between “positive evil” and “negative evil”. Positive evil is a force which is moving against the current of evolution; negative evil is inertia, stasis, decay.



According to most Wiccan commentators, evil results from an imbalance between the “masculine” and “feminine” values. In inclusional thinking, the balance is between inner and outer, with the boundary as intermediary. If the boundary is closed, imbalance (evil) can result. The balance can be restored by bringing the two principles back into balance, restoring the place of honour accorded to the feminine principle, space, receptivity, and compassion (but without making the mistake of relegating the masculine principle to second place).



Whenever ye have need of any thing, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witches. There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise. For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy upon earth; for my law is love unto all beings. Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it; let naught stop you or turn you aside. For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth, and mine is the cup of the wine of life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of immortality. I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth. (13)




1. Stratford Caldecott, pers. comm.

2. "In Our Time" <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_religion.shtml>

3. Stratford Caldecott (2003), Secret Fire: The Spiritual Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien. Darton, Longman & Todd, UK.

4. The indigenous peoples of America, other wise known as Native Americans

5. Hesiod, Works and Days (832 lines), translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White 1914,


The Theogony of Hesiod, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White 1914,


6. Quoted in The Veils of Negative Existence and the Qliphoth, http://realmagick.com/articles/85/1185.html (In the Kabbalistic worldview, the Qliphoth are broken spheres of the Tree of Life, which fell away and became the abode of demons.)

7. Starhawk (1988) Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery. HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco. ISBN: 0062508164

8. derived from Poincaré's mathematical concept of phase space, which means 'all the possible values of a given variable' expressed as degrees of freedom.

9. Alan Rayner (2003), Nested Holeyness - the dynamic inclusional geometry of natural space and boundaries, http://people.bath.ac.uk/bssadmr/inclusionality/nestedholeyness.htm

See also Introduction to the Complex Self, http://people.bath.ac.uk/bssadmr/inclusionality/complexself.htm

10. The Middle Way in Religions, http://www.gileht.com/

11. The Tree of Life, http://www.meta-religion.com/Esoterism/Kabbalah/tree_of_life.htm

12. Quoted in The Veils of Negative Existence and the Qliphoth, http://realmagick.com/articles/85/1185.html

13. Doreen Valiente, The Charge of the Goddess



Yvonne Aburrow


Further reading




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