Fascination With Evil

Fascination With Evil May 3, 2018

As the good is one with the truth and beauty, so evil, the debasement of the good, seeks to destroy that which is true and beautiful, corrupting it so that it establishes in return something which not only can be said to be ugly, but, with the denigration of truth, irrational as well. It takes what is good and ordered, something with its own internal logic, and deconstructs it, turning it into a chaotic mess without a rational center by which we can know it.

The irrationality of evil makes it mysterious. We seek to understand why things are as they are. Evil, by being irrational, forgoes rational explanation, and therefore, resists understanding. That which resists understanding draws us in, because we believe we have a mystery which needs to be solved. Strangely enough, just as in quantum mechanics, we might know either the momentum or the position of an electron but not both simultaneously, so with evil, we might know something is corrupted but we will not be able find the evil itself when we look for it.

What we find when we look at that which is said to be evil is not evil itself, but the remnants of the good which the evil deconstructed.  Evil always requires some good for its existence, showing that while good can exist by itself without limits, evil is always limited by the good for such is evil is surrounded by the good, and indeed, exists in the good. That is, when we seek to explore evil, what we find are forms of the good and beauty which such evil has yet to destroy. Evil, then, can be understood as a parasite which thrives on the good, which destroys the good itself, and if it were able to attain its proper end, the obliteration of the good, it would destroy itself as well. In the midst of its corruption, then, the good becomes fragmented, indeed, divided into parts which various people hold on to and grasp at instead of the holistic good which existed before the parts existed.

Due to the fragmentation of the good which develops, there is likewise a fragmentation of the truth, so that what is known as the object of truth is less than the truth as it is or as it is capable of being known by the human mind. Yet, because it appears true, for it contains elements of the truth, we can easily be deceived by what comes out of evil. This is because what we find is not the evil itself, but the leftovers of the good which the evil has yet to destroy. We find something in those results, some remnant of the good, truth and beauty, which is attractive, and in that attraction, we can easily become confused and think that there was no corruption of the good, no evil, in what we found and therefore end up approving the evil itself.

This is especially the risk which comes about by those who seek to explore evil in the world. Initially, they understand it to be evil, for the see the harm which it has caused. Slowly, as they try to grasp the reality of the evil, they receive the corrupted truth, goodness and beauty which has been established by such evil; they see something which appears to be rational and beautiful. They find, therefore, an illusion of the good remaining behind which, in accordance to the good which remains, it is beautiful ad attractive, those seeking to explore evil find themselves attracted to the evil itself. This is why it is always dangerous to fool around with evil, to be, as it were, fascinated in serial killers, demonology, or the like, for many who begin such explorations for the sake of understanding the evil to overturn it find themselves smitten by it and taken over by it instead (is that not one of the lessons of The Silence of the Lambs?). The fact that we find some sort of distorted logic in the evil, some sort of goodness and beauty coming out of that distorted logic, also means we find what we think we are looking for: an explanation for the evil which, by the nature of such pseudo-logic, turns us inside-out and upside-down as we accept that explanation and turn such evil into something which we call good. That there is some good in all that chaotic mess is not to be denied, but it is a wounded good which needs to be healed; those who become attracted to evil are attracted to the good in its wounded form.

And yet, knowing this, we can still find ourselves fascinated with evil. Horror stories and true crime mysteries appeal to us; we often find ourselves fascinated by the stories as they detail the unthinkable evil actions. Evil characters in novels often seem much more interesting to us than heroes because of the complexity of their personas. This, however, might be because heroes in such novels themselves are established as shallow representations of the good while evil, by being shallow representations of the good, are much easier to characterize and represent and so draw us in to the true-to-life internal conflicts: that is, good characters are often not so good after all, but evil characters are evil, and so they have all the charm of reality to them.

Such fascination does not have to lead us to evil; indeed, the reason for it, the desire to understand and establish a rational explanation for all things, itself can be the foundation by which we overturn evil and make sure we heed the good. In the pursuit for the truth, we can either allow ourselves to accept sub-rational, partial truths as the whole and turn ourselves away from the good in the process, or else, we can draw out the remnants of the good, the remnants of the truth, the remnants of the beautiful found in such evil and, drawing the evil out of it like Marduk slaying Tiamat, so to help restore the good itself. Thus, we seek the remnants of the good, and find a way to restore them to their integral, rational nature, so that the good is no longer in the chaos of evil but restored to union with the Logos from which it was established.

We love to know and understand all things. We love them for the good, truth and beauty given to them in their very existence. That love draws us to them, but that love should then follow the example of Jesus Christ who came into the world which he loved to save it from the corruption of evil which had wounded it. Our fascination for evil should resolve us to see the good in the evil and lift it up to God, becoming a vessel of God’s grace, so that the corruption of the good can be overcome and the good fully restored. Likewise, our fascination for evil should give us a glimpse as to why God loves us despite our own sins: he is fascinated with us, his good creation; he loves us; he came into the world, indeed, experienced temptation in the world, as a result of that all-merciful love. Our fascination with evil demonstrates how we are like God in his love for his creation. We too can and will be tempted by it. But like Jesus, we must negate the temptation which evil gives while saying yes to the good which remains. This is the challenge Christians have in the world, for they must not deny the world, but rather be the continued presence of Christ in the world, working to restore it so that within it can truly be found the kingdom of God.


[Image= Intarsia of the choir of Santa Maria Maggiore (Bergamo) by Sailko [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons]


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