We probably all did some kind of activity in elementary school that required us to match a word with its opposite. Since then,the idea of opposites, opposing ideas, opposing forces, has been a constant part of our thinking. The reality is, though, opposites only exist in words. Opposites do not exist in reality.
We may say that the opposite of hot is cold. We imagine that hot and cold and two competing forces, the stronger of which will eventually be victorious. In reality though, only heat truly exists. Cold is not the opposite of heat, but the absence of heat. A complete lack of heat results in a temperature of −459.67° Fahrenheit. This absolute cold is not the triumph of cold. It is simply the utter lack of heat.
Likewise, darkness is not the opposite of light, but the absence of it. Short is not the opposite of tall, but the the absence of height. Slow is not the opposite of fast; it is only the absence of speed.
These concepts that we often imagine to be realities are not real at all. They are only ideas. Darkness is not real, but only a convenient concept. Cold is not real, but only an idea that we use for descriptive purposes.
Is it not possible, then, that evil is a concept similar to darkness or cold? Not a reality in itself, but only the absence of another reality–Good.
We often imagine that good and evil are opposing forces. We imagine some sort of eternal, cosmic conflict for the universe and for the soul of humanity. This idea of opposing forces, though, is only a myth. The cosmic conflict is a myth. The power of evil is a myth. Evil is the absence of good. Good is powerful. Evil is not.
Evil possesses no power.
Many of us prefer to give evil power though. We prefer for evil to be the powerful opposite of good because it makes us less responsible. If we admit that the problems of the world occur because of a lack of good, then we must accept some culpability for not bringing goodness to the world. If evil is real, then it is not our fault. It is the devil’s fault.
This understanding of good and evil requires us to view the world without the dualistic lense that many of us have inherited from religion, philosophy, or culture. It requires us to distribute blame for the world’s problems differently, and it allows us to see new potential for participating in the creation of a good world.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke