Can Absolute Evil Exist?

Sri Aurobindo addresses the issue of “absolute evil” to respond to the obviously extreme manifestations of falsehood and evil that are evidenced in monstrous cases, which we can identify in historical events such as the manifestation of someone like Adolf Hitler. “It may then be questioned whether it is not a mistake to deny absoluteness to evil; for as there is a drive, an aspiration, a yearning in man towards an absolute truth, good, beauty, so these movements,–as also the transcending intensities attainable by pain and suffering,–seem to indicate the attempt at self-realisation of an absolute evil.”

Sri Aurobindo goes on to point out, however, that evil has no ultimate self-existence as an absolute principle, and that even if we are unable to plumb the depths with a fixed limit or measurement, this does not imply that it is or can be unlimited in nature.

“To this absoluteness pain and evil cannot attain, they are bound to limitation and they are derivative. If pain becomes immeasurable, it ends itself or ends that in which it manifests, or collapses into insensibility or, in rare circumstances, it may turn into an ecstasy of Ananda. If evil became sole and immeasurable, it would destroy the world or destroy that which bore and supported it; it would bring things and itself back by disintegration into non-existence. No doubt the Powers that support darkness and evil attempt by the magnitude of their self-aggrandisement to reach an appearance of infinity, but immensity is all they can achieve and not infinity…”

He concludes by pointing out: “Self-existence, in essence or by an eternal inherence in the Self-existent, is the condition of absoluteness: error, falsehood, evil are cosmic powers, but relative in their nature, not absolute, since they depend for existence on the perversion or contradiction of their opposites and are not like truth and good self-existent absolutes, inherent aspects of the supreme Self-existent.”

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

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