Categories: Spirituality

The question of the origin and nature of evil

The question of the origin and nature of evil was one of the main driving forces behind Kabbalistic speculation. In the importance attributed to it, it is one of the fundamental differences between Kabbalistic doctrine and Jewish philosophy, which has not made a notable contribution from original thought to the problem of evil.

The solutions proposed by the kabbalists were different. The influence of the conventional Neoplatonic position, for which evil has no objective reality and is only relative. Man is incapable of receiving all the influence of the Sephiroth, and it is this inadequacy that is at the origin of evil, which therefore has an exclusively negative reality.

The determining factor is the alienation of things created by their source of emanation, a separation that leads to manifestations of what seems to us to be the force of evil. But the latter does not have a metaphysical reality and it is difficult to believe in the existence of a separate kingdom of evil outside the Sephiroth structure.

On the other hand, we find a definition of the Sephirah Gevurah as the left hand of the Blessed Sacrament, which is blessed, and as a quality whose name is evil, which has many ramifications in the forces of judgment, in the coercive and limiting powers in the universe. This led to the conclusion that there must necessarily be a positive root of evil and death, which was counterbalanced in the unity of Divinity by the root of good and life.

During the differentiation process of these forces below the Sephiroth, however, evil became a separate manifestation. Thus developed the theory that saw the source of evil in the superabundant growth of the power of judgment, made possible by the support and separation of the quality of judgment from its usual union with the quality of love and good.

Pure judgment, not mitigated by mitigating influences, produced the other part of itself, like a container that fills up to overflow and pours the superfluous liquid onto the ground. The realm of dark emanations and demonic powers is therefore no longer an organic part of the World of Holiness and Sephiroth. Although it emerged from one of the attributes of God, it cannot be an essential part of Him.

Even in the Zohar, it is implied that evil in the universe originated from the remnants of the worlds that have been destroyed. The force of evil is compared to the bark of the emanation tree, a symbol that originated from Azriel and which became very common from the Zohar onwards. Some kabbalists call the totality of the emanation of the left the external tree.

The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge was connected in perfect harmony until Adam came to separate them, thus giving substance to the evil, which was contained in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and which materialized in the instinct of evil.

So it was Adam who activated the potential evil hidden in the Tree of Knowledge, separating the two trees and also separating the Tree of Knowledge from its fruit, now detached from its source. This event is called metaphorically cutting the shoots and is the archetype of all the great sins mentioned in the Bible, whose common denominator was the introduction of division into divine unity.

The essence of Adam’s sin was that he introduced the separation above and below, in what was to be united, separation of which every sin is a repetition, apart from the sins concerning magic and witchcraft, which according to the kabbalists unite what should remain separate. Indeed, this conception also tends to emphasize the power of judgment contained in the Tree of Knowledge of the power of love and piety contained in the Tree of life.

The second abundantly pours its influence, while the first is a restrictive force, with a tendency to become autonomous; and it can do so both as a result of man’s actions and as a metaphysical process in the higher worlds. Both conceptions appear in kabbalistic literature, without a clear distinction between them. The cosmic evil resulting from the internal dialectic of the emanation process here is not differentiated from the moral evil produced by human actions.

This post was published on June 23, 2019 10:13 am

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