Life's Good in Evil

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J. William Lloyd

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What a wonderful difference a little shift in the view-point makes!

I had always perceived that life was a battle, and had always shrank from it, praying passionately for peace, but how differently it looked when the clear thought came that peace was in the battle, and the fatal war in my avoidance of it.

To the soldier, battle is not an evil, for it is only by battle that he can prove his courage and strategy, only through battle can he win glory and distinction. Therefore, he thirsts for conflict. A soldier in peace is like a man in a pit. He may run only a dead monotonous round. But battle is to him like a ladder, let down, by which he may rise to higher levels.

So it is with life's battle everywhere. If we apprehend it mightily, it is to us a ladder let down, a flight of stairs by which alone rising becomes possible. Every evil is a step by which whosoever puts his foot on it, with springy determination, rises a grade higher in the scale. And this is no exceptional thing but a universal law. Survey life as we may, we shall everywhere see before every living creature a ladder of evil let down by which it may rise if it will, by which rise it must, by which alone can it rise.

The evils are multitudinous and infinite in procession and form,—heat and cold, drouth and flood, fire and water, starvation and surfeit, tooth and claw, blow and cut, open enmity and smiling treachery, pride and shame, hate and lust, evil and indolence, force and craft, disappointment and satisfaction, ignorance and misinformation, cowardice and recklessness, indigestion and fatness, the stupidity of asceticism and the nerve-racking of excess, temptations of beauty and repulsions of ugliness, privations of poverty and repletions of wealth,—the list goes on interminably until it is perceived that everything is potentially evil, needing only the wave of a wand to change white to black.

Surely this is not accidental; there must be deep and significant meaning in the provision for evil, its presence and proportion in every scene of life. There is such exquisite care about the management! Turn where we will, do what we may, the Serpent is always in our Eden, the due proportion of poison in our cup, the needed pain and peril come punctually to the moment. Or if to-day is all sunshine, to-morrow is thick with clouds and bereft with rain; if the years stretch on in smiling peace, suddenly comes calamity, swift and awful, with the agony of cycles in the snap of an eyeblink. In the wide swing in the needed revolution, the circle is completed and the balance holds.

And now I knew why. Attainment, complete consciousness, self-revelation, and all-inclusiveness, is the end of life, and the necessary steps are only through the gates of evil. And every time we overcome evil, and are not overcome by it, we advance one step and rise one degree in our growth and godhood. But to resist evil with hatred is to transfuse into it our own strength, our own faith, to vitalize it and clothe it with mailed terrors, so that it stands black and awful in the way. And as we strive with it, it turns cunningly, so that when we strike it, it is below us in the path, and then every step we make it retreat by force of vengeful blows carries us further away from our goal. Every fierce blow at evil, every thrill of hatred toward it, is a recognition of its actual existence, that is of its true separateness from and antagonism to good, a step toward and away from At-one-ment and the center. For we cannot strike it till it is behind and below on the path, and then when we face it, our back is turned squarely to the beautiful and every step is awayward to hell. Now all black magic deceives us; bravely we fight fire with fire, and overcome evil with evil, and see that we prevail, and that our fire retreats, but do not see that every moment evil grows more large, living and real, pain sharper, despair more knawing, and the serene heights further away. It is hard to understand that whoso conquers evil by evil is himself conquered by evil, but so it is.

Paul had the true word, "Overcome evil with good," and long before him the loving Hindoo, Siddhartha, and the quaint Chinaman, Lao-Tsze.

But resisting evil by evil applies to the spirit, not to the means or form.


  • J. William Lloyd, “Life’s Good in Evil,” Mind 15, no. 1 (January 1905): 39-41.