Miracles 4.14 "It is true that Dualism has a certain theological attraction; it seems to make the problem of evil easier." ... " ... I think there are better solutions to the problem of evil."

There are only two views that face all the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other is the view called Dualism. Dualism means the belief that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war. I personally think that next to Christianity Dualism is the manliest and most sensible creed on the market. Mere Christianity, chapter 2, paragraph 4

Dr Joad's article … suggests the interesting conclusion that since neither 'mechanism' nor 'emergent evolution' will hold water, we must choose in the long run between some monotheistic philosophy, like the Christian, and some such dualism as that of the Zoroastrians. I agree with Dr Joad in rejecting mechanism and emergent evolution. Mechanism, like all materialist systems, breaks down at the problem of knowledge. If thought is the undesigned and irrelevant product of cerebral motions, what reason have we to trust it? As for emergent evolution, if anyone insists on using the word God to mean 'whatever the universe happens to be going to do next', of course we cannot prevent him. But nobody would in fact so use it unless he had a secret belief that what is coming next will be an improvement. Such a belief, besides being unwarranted, presents peculiar difficulties to an emergent evolutionist. If things can improve, this means that there must be some absolute standard of good above and outside the cosmic process to which that process can approximate. There is no sense in talking of 'becoming better' if better means simply 'what we are becoming'--it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as 'the place you have reached'. Mellontolatry, or the worship of the future, is a fuddled religion.

We are left then to choose between monotheism and dualism--between a single, good, almighty source of being, and two equal, uncreated, antagonistic Powers, one good and the other bad. Dr Joad suggests that the latter view stands to gain from the 'new urgency' of the fact of evil. But what new urgency? Evil may seem more urgent to us than it did to the Victorian philosophers--favoured members of the happiest class in the happiest country in the world at the world's happiest period. But it is no more urgent for us than for the great majority of monotheists all down the ages. The classic expositions of the doctrine that the world's miseries are compatible with its creation and guidance by a wholly good Being come from Boethius waiting in prison to be beaten to death and from St Augustine meditating on the sack of Rome. The present state of the world is normal; it was the last century that was the abnormality.

This drives us to ask why so many generations rejected Dualism. Not, assuredly, because they were unfamiliar with suffering; and not because its obvious prima facie plausibility escaped them. It is more likely that they saw its two fatal difficulties, the one metaphysical, and the other moral.

The metaphysical difficulty is this. The two Powers, the good and the evil, do not explain each other. Neither Ormuzd nor Ahriman can claim to be the Ultimate. More ultimate than either of them is the inexplicable fact of their being there together. Neither of them chose this tete-a-tete. Each of them, therefore, is conditioned--finds himself willy-nilly in a situation; and either that situation itself, or some unknown force which produced that situation, is the real Ultimate. Dualism has not yet reached the ground of being. You cannot accept two conditioned and mutually independent beings as the self-grounded, self-comprehending Absolute. On the level of picture-thinking this difficulty is symbolised by our inability to think of Ormuzd and Ahriman without smuggling in the idea of a common space in which they can be together and thus confessing that we are not yet dealing with the source of the universe but only with two members contained in it. Dualism is a truncated metaphysic.

The moral difficulty is that Dualism gives evil a positive, substantive, self-consistent nature, like that of good. If this were true, if Ahriman existed in his own right no less than Ormuzd, what could we mean by calling Ormuzd good except that we happened to prefer him. In what sense can the one party be said to be right and the other wrong? If evil has the same kind of reality as good, the same autonomy and completeness, our allegiance to good becomes the arbitrarily chosen loyalty of a partisan. A sound theory of value demands something different. It demands that good should be original and evil a mere perversion; that good should be the tree and evil the ivy; that good should be able to see all round evil (as when sane men understand lunacy) while evil cannot retaliate in kind; that good should be able to exist on its own while evil requires the good on which it is parasitic in order to continue its parasitic existence.

The consequences of neglecting this are serious. It means believing that bad men like badness as such, in the same way in which good men like goodness. At first this denial of any common nature between us and our enemies seems gratifying. We call them fiends and feel that we need not forgive them. But, in reality, along with the power to forgive, we have lost the power to condemn. If a taste for cruelty and a taste for kindness were equally ultimate and basic, by what common standard could the one reprove the other? In reality, cruelty does not come from desiring evil as such, but from perverted sexuality, inordinate resentment, or lawless ambition and avarice. That is precisely why it can be judged and condemned from the standpoint of innocent sexuality, righteous anger, and ordinate acquisitiveness. The master can correct a boy's sums because they are blunders in arithmetic--in the same arithmetic which he does and does better. If they were not even attempts at arithmetic--if they were not in the arithmetical world at all--they could not be arithmetical mistakes.

Good and evil, then, are not on all fours. Badness is not even bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Ormuzd and Ahriman cannot be equals. In the long run, Ormuzd must be original and Ahriman derivative. The first hazy idea of devil must, if we begin to think, be analysed into the more precise ideas of 'fallen' and 'rebel' angel. But only in the long run. Christianity can go much further with the Dualist than Dr Joad's article seems to suggest. There was never any question of tracing all evil to man; in fact, the New Testament has a good deal more to say about dark superhuman powers than about the fall of Adam. As far as this world is concerned, a Christian can share most of the Zoroastrian outlook; we all live between the 'fell, incensed points' of Michael and Satan. The difference between the Christian and the Dualist is that the Christian thinks one stage further and sees that if Michael is really in the right and Satan really in the wrong, this must mean that they stand in two different relations to somebody or something far further back, to the ultimate ground of reality itself. All this, of course, has been watered down in modern times by the theologians who are afraid of 'mythology', but those who are prepared to reinstate Ormuzd and Ahriman are presumably not squeamish on that score.

Dualism can be a manly creed. In the Norse form ('The giants will beat the gods in the end, but I am on the side of the gods') it is nobler by many degrees than most philosophies of the moment. But it is only a half-way house. Thinking along these lines you can avoid Monotheism, and remain a Dualist, only by refusing to follow your thoughts home. To revive Dualism would be a real step backwards and a bad omen (though not the worst possible) for civilization. 'Evil and God' Part 1, Chapter 1 of God in the Dock.

I should begin, I think, by objecting to an expression you use: `God must have a potentiality of His opposite - evil.' For this I would substi­tute the idea which someone had in the Middle Ages who defined God as `That which has no opposite' i.e. we live in a world of clashes, good and evil, true and false, pleasant and painful, body and spirit, time and eternity etc, but God is not simply (so to speak) one of the two clashes but the ultimate thing beyond them all - just as in our constitution the King is neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the Opposition, but the thing behind them which alone enables these to be a lawful government and an opposition - or just as space is neither bigness or smallness but that in which the distinctions of big and small arise. This then is my first point. That Evil is not something outside and `over against' God, but in some way included under Him.

My second point seems to be in direct contradiction to this first one, and is (in scriptural language) as follows: that God `is the Father of Lights and in Him is no darkness at all'. In some way there is no evil whatever in God. He is pure Light. All the heat that in us is lust or anger in Him is cool light - eternal morning, eternal freshness, eternal springtime: never disturbed, never strained. Go out on any perfect morning in early summer before the world is awake and see, not the thing itself, but the material symbol of it.

Well, these are our two starting points. In one way (our old phrase!) God includes evil, in another way he does not. What are we to do next? My beginning of the `next' will be to deny another remark of yours - where you say `no good without evil'. This on my view is absolutely untrue: but the opposite `no evil without good' is absolutely true. I will try to explain what I mean by an analogy.

Supposing you are taking a dog on a lead through a turnstile or past a post. You know what happens (apart from his usual ceremonies in passing a post!). He tries to go the wrong side and gets his lead looped round the post. You see that he can't do it, and therefore pull him back. You pull him back because you want to enable him to go forward. He wants exactly the same thing - namely to go forward: for that very reason he resists your pull back, or, if he is an obedient dog, yields to it reluctantly as a matter of duty which seems to him to be quite in opposition to his own will: tho' in fact it is only by yielding to you that he will ever succeed in getting where he wants.

Now if the dog were a theologian he would regard his own will as a sin to which he was tempted, and therefore an evil: and he might go on to ask whether you understand and `contained' his evil. If he did you cd. only reply `My dear dog, if by your will you mean what you really want to do, viz. to get forward along the road, I not only understand this desire but share it. Forward is exactly where I want you to go. If by your will, on the other hand, you mean your will to pull against the collar and try to force yourself forward in a direction which is no use - why I understand it of course: but just because I understand it (and the whole situation, which you don't understand) I cannot possibly share it. In fact the more I sympathise with your real wish - that is, the wish to get on - the less can I sympathise (in the sense of `share'
or `agree with') your resistance to the collar: for I see that this is actually rendering the attainment of your real wish impossible.'

I don't know if you will agree at once that this is a parallel to the situation between God and man: but I will work it out on the assump­tion that you do. Let us go back to the original question - whether and, if so in what sense God contains, say, my evil will - or `understands' it. The answer is God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my evil - the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. With these therefore He cannot sympathise or `agree': His sympathy with my real will makes that impossible. (He may pity my misdirected struggles, but that is another matter.) The practical results seem to be two.

1. I may always feel looking back on any past sin that in the very heart of my evil passion there was something that God approves and wants me to feel not less but more. Take a sin of Lust. The overwhelming thirst for rapture was good and even divine: it has not got to be unsaid (so to speak) and recanted. But it will never be quenched as I tried to quench it. If I refrain - if I submit to the collar and come round the right side of the lamp-post - God will be guiding me as quickly as He can to where I shall get what I really wanted all the time. It will not be very like what I now think I want: but it will be more like it than some suppose. In any case it will be the real thing, not a consolation prize or substitute. If I had it I should not need to fight against sensuality as something impure: rather I should spontaneously turn away from it as something dull, cold, abstract, and artificial. This, I think, is how the doctrine applies to past sins.
2. On the other hand, when we are thinking of a sin in the future, i.e. when we are tempted, we must remember that just because God wants for us what we really want and knows the only way to get it, therefore He must, in a sense, be quite ruthless towards sin. He is not like a human authority who can be begged off or caught in an indulgent mood. The more He loves you the more determined He must be to pull you back from your way which leads nowhere into His way which leads where you want to go. Hence Macdonald's words `The all­-punishing, all-pardoning Father'. You may go the wrong way again, and again He may forgive you: as the dog's master may extricate the dog after he has tied the whole lead round the lamp-post. But there is no hope in the end of getting where you want to go except by going God's way. And what does `in the end' mean? This is a terrible question. If endless time will really help us to go the right way, I believe we shall be given endless time. But perhaps God knows that time makes no difference. Perhaps He knows that if you can't learn the way in 60 or 70 years on this planet (a place probably constructed by Divine skill for the very purpose of teaching you) then you will never learn it anywhere. There may be nothing left for Him but to destroy you (the kindest thing): if He can.

I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion - which raises its head in every temptation - that there is something else than God - some other country (Mary Rose ... Mary Rose)55 into which He forbids us to trespass - some kind of delight wh. He `doesn't appreciate' or just chooses to forbid, but which wd. be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn't there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as He can, or else a false picture of what He is trying to give us - a false picture wh. would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. Therefore God does really in a sense contain evil - i.e. contains what is the real motive power behind all our evil desires. He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts: He is longing to give it to us. He is not looking on from the outside at some new `taste' or `separate desire of our own'. Only because he has laid up real goods for us to desire are we able to go wrong by snatching at them in greedy, misdirected ways. The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. You know what the biologists mean by a parasite - an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.

Thus you may well feel that God understands our temptations - understands them a great deal more than we do. But don't forget Macdonald again - `Only God understands evil and hates it.’56 Only the dog's master knows how useless it is to try to get on with the lead knotted round the lamp-post. This is why we must be prepared to find God implacably and immovably forbidding what may seem to us very small and trivial things. But He knows whether they are really small and trivial. How small some of the things that doctors forbid would seem to an ignoramus.
I expect I have said all these things before: if so, I hope they have not wasted a letter. Alas! they are so (comparatively) easy to say: so hard, so all but impossible to go on feeling when the strain comes.

Collected Letters, to Arthur Greeves, 12 September 1933