The Relative Status of Falsehood and Evil

Sri Aurobindo continues his review of good and evil by pointing out that while human values of interpretation of these terms are indeed relative, subject to change from time to time or from place to place, such that things that are considered “good” in one place may be considered “evil” in another, this is not based on the absolute values, but the mental interpretations we put on the events or circumstances. Similarly, “We find too that what we call evil results in good, what we call good results in evil.” This result is due to the intermixing of true consciousness and ignorance in the human mentality and its limitations. He makes it clear that this is not a “fundamental” principle of what many have called the inextricably intertwined action of the “dualities” but a circumstance of the limitations of consciousness at play in the human mentality. Even the experiences of pain and suffering are not essential: “It might be objected that physical evil, such as pain and most bodily suffering, is independent of knowledge and ignorance, of right and wrong consciousness, inherent in physical Nature: but, fundamentally, all pain and suffering are the result of an insufficient consciousness-force in the surface being which makes it unable to deal rightly with self and Nature or unable to assimilate and to harmonise itself with the contacts of the universal Energy; they would not exist if in us there were an integral presence of the luminous Consciousness and the divine Force of an integral Being. Therefore the relation of truth to falsehood, of good to evil is not a mutual dependence, but is in the nature of a contradiction as of light and shadow; a shadow depends on light for its existence, but light does not depend for its existence on the shadow. The relation between the Absolute and these contraries of some of its fundamental aspects is not that they are opposite fundamental aspects of the Absolute; falsehood and evil have no fundamentality, no power of infinity or eternal being, no self-existence even by latency in the Self-Existent, no authenticity of an original inherence.”

In conclusion we might say then, that evil, pain, falsehood, error are not absolutely required as conditions for the existence of good, truth and right; and that the concept of inextricably intertwined dualities, required one for the other, cannot be the ultimate law of existence.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 14, The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil