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Baha’i teachings on evil: it comes from our selves!
The spiritual teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá reveal the glorious Truth that evil does not exist. In the present environment of terrorism and war, the proper understanding and realization of the Baha’i teachings about evil, Satan, and hell, has the potential to liberate us from fear and create a joyful experience of life as being wholly Good.
Thank thou God for that by reason of which the breath of God hath awakened thee and the spirit of God hath quickened thee and raised thee from among the dead with a joyful spirit of life. (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of `Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 120)
According to the divine philosophy set forth by `Abdu’l-Bahá, the universe is made of three worlds of God: the World of God, the Kingdom, and Creation. The World of God is the Unknowable Realm of Divinity. The Kingdom is the heavenly spiritual world. The world of Creation is the material word we live in. Our material world imperfectly expresses the names and attributes of God, but that imperfection is by appearance only. Humanity has the capacity to reflect the names and attributes of God by turning towards the Holy Spirit (in the Person of the Manifestation of God). However, because we have animal bodies, we are limited in our capacity to express the names and attributes of God. To the extent that we fail to embody godly attributes and instead display animal traits, then evil appears in us. But it exists by appearance only, and not of reality. God did not create evil, and therefore it does not exist. God created our souls and that creation is perfect. We are created in His image. However, when we identify with our animal bodies, we forget our true selves, and we succumb to evil.
In creation there is no evil; all is good. Certain qualities and natures innate in some men and apparently blameworthy are not so in reality. For example, from the beginning of his life you can see in a nursing child the signs of desire, of anger, and of temper. Then, it may be said, good and evil are innate in the reality of man, and this is contrary to the pure goodness of nature and creation. The answer to this is that desire, which is to ask for something more, is a praiseworthy quality provided that it is used suitably. So, if a man has the desire to acquire science and knowledge, or to become compassionate, generous, and just, it is most praiseworthy. If he exercises his anger and wrath against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in a right way, they are blameworthy.
Then it is evident that in creation and nature evil does not exist at all; but when the natural qualities of man are used in an unlawful way, they are blameworthy. So, if a rich and generous person gives a sum of money to a poor man for his own necessities, and if the poor man spends that sum of money on unlawful things, that will be blameworthy. It is the same with all the natural qualities of man, which constitute the capital of life; if they be used and displayed in an unlawful way, they become blameworthy. Therefore it is clear that creation is purely good. (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’i World Faith, p. 320)
There exists only the appearance of evil in the material realm. This is necessarily so, because the material world is the shadow of the Kingdom; its existence is merely the reflection of the Kingdom in matter.
Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye. (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 178)
Thus the Light shines in dark places. The Light exists in Itself, while darkness is merely the absence of Light. In human terms, Satan is the symbol for the lower animal nature of mankind. Satan represents the absence of God. Of course, God is Omnipresent, and therefore there cannot be absence of God. Thus, while satanic evil appears to exist, where God is not seen, satanic evil can not and does not really exist. No thing has true existence unless God created it. God is All-Good. He did not create evil.
The reality underlying this is that the evil spirit, Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature of man. This basic nature is symbolized in various ways. In man there are two expressions; One is the expression of nature, the other the expression of the spiritual realm. The world of nature is defective. Look at it clearly, casting aside all superstition and imagination… God has never created an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing the mere human or earthly nature of man. It is an essential condition of the soil of earth thorns, weeds and fruitless trees may grow from it. Relatively speaking, this is evil: it is simply the lower state and basic product of nature. (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 294-295)
So if God did not create evil, why does it appear? The inescapable and horrible consequence of the teaching that God did not create evil, is that the seeming appearance of evil must have been created by humanity itself. We, ourselves, have created evil.
Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from yourselves. Will ye not comprehend? (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 149)