Now we are getting somewhere. Here we see Pike narrowing his discussion about evil just a little more. He does not come out directly say there is no adversary; rather he said that man himself is the cause of much of the evil in this world, “The maxim still holds good; for the worship of idols, that is, of fanciful conceits, if not the source of all evil, is still the cause of much:”
The oldest notion of Deity was rather indefinite than repulsive. The positive degradation was of later growth. The God of nature reflects the changeful character of the seasons, varying from dark to bright. Alternately angry and serene, and lavishing abundance which she again withdraws, nature seems inexplicably capricious, and though capable of responding to the highest requirements of the moral sentiment through a general comprehension of her mysteries, more liable by a partial or hasty view to become darkened into a Siva, a Saturn, or a Mexitli, a patron of fierce orgies or blood-stained altars. All the older poetical personifications exhibit traces of this ambiguity. They are neither wholly immoral nor purely beneficent.
No people have ever deliberately made their Deity a malevolent or guilty Being. The simple piety which ascribed the origin of all things to God, took all in good part, trusting and hoping all things. The Supreme Ruler was at first looked up to with unquestioning reverence. No startling discords or contradictions had yet raised a doubt as to His beneficence, or made men dissatisfied with His government. Fear might cause anxiety, but could not banish hope, still less inspire aversion. It was only later, when abstract notions began to assume the semblance of realities, and when new or more distinct ideas suggested new words for their expression, that it became necessary to fix a definite barrier between Evil and Good.
To account for moral evil, it became necessary to devise some new expedient suited both to the piety and self-complacency of the inventor, such as the perversity of woman, or an agent distinct from God, a Typhon or Ahriman, obtained either by dividing the Gods into two classes, or by dethroning the Ancient Divinity, and changing him into a Dev or Dæmon. Through a similar want, the Orientals devised the inherent corruption of the fleshy and material; the Hebrew transferred to Satan everything illegal and immoral; and the Greek reflection, occasionally adopting the older and truer view, retorted upon man the obloquy cast on these creatures of his imagination, and showed how he has to thank himself alone for his calamities, while his good things are the voluntary gifts, not the plunder of Heaven. Homer had already made Zeus exclaim, in the Assembly of Olympus, “Grievous it is to hear these mortals accuse the Gods; they pretend that evils come from us; but they themselves occasion them gratuitously by their own wanton folly.” “It is the fault of man,” said Solon; in reference to the social evils of his day, “not of God, that destruction comes;” and Euripides, after a formal discussion of the origin of evil, comes to the conclusion that men act wrongly, not from want of natural good sense and feeling, but because knowing what is good, they yet for various reasons neglect to practise it.
And at last reaching the highest truth, Pindar, Hesiod, Æschylus, Æsop, and Horace said, “All virtue is a struggle; life is not a scene of repose, but of energetic action. Suffering is but another name for the teaching of experience, appointed by Zeus himself, the giver of all understanding, to be the parent of instruction, the schoolmaster of life. He indeed put an end to the golden age; he gave venom to serpents and predacity to wolves; he shook the honey from the leaf, and stopped the flow of wine in the rivulets; he concealed the element of fire, and made the means of life scanty and precarious. But in all this his object was beneficent; it was not to destroy life, but to improve it. It was a blessing to man, not a curse, to be sentenced to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; for nothing great or excellent is attainable without exertion; safe and easy virtues are prized neither by gods nor men; and the parsimoniousness of nature is justified by its powerful effect in rousing the dormant faculties, and forcing on mankind the invention of useful arts by means of meditation and thought.”
Ancient religious reformers pronounced the worship of “idols” to be the root of all evil; and there have been many iconoclasts in different ages of the world. The maxim still holds good; for the worship of idols, that is, of fanciful conceits, if not the source of all evil, is still the cause of much; and it prevails as extensively now as it ever did. Men are ever engaged in worshipping the picturesque fancies of their own imaginations (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 689-691).
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