Good and evil – and beyond

Author: Gunter Friedrich
Category: Philosophy
Issue No: 89

Good and evil are undeniably part of human existence and yet they are relative. For only with our knowledge of good can we name and define evil. Paradox, isn’t it? In doing so, the author poses the question of whether there is an overarching perspective. To answer this complex question, he draws on the writings of various wisdom traditions, which give indications that it is precisely the non-knowledge of the Absolute, the Divine, and thus of ourselves, that drives confusion on earth.

Is there a point to this never-ending game of good and evil? Since time immemorial, people have tried to look deeper into what is good and evil. Great teachers have arrived at insights that lead beyond our world.

Some people often use the words, “Everything is good.” One of the good things is to relax in the evening and read a mystery novel or watch it on TV. On the cover of a mystery novel (a No. 1 bestseller) I recently read the words “just fine: perfidious, abysmal, multi-layered.” That resonates with readers.

What is it about such advertising that fascinates us? What fascinates us about crime novels? Do they tell us something about ourselves? Do they find a correspondence in us? Do we unconsciously want to learn to deal with what we feel inside us?

“I cannot imagine a crime that I have not also committed in my mind”,

is a sentence attributed to Goethe. Evil forces its way into the thoughts and feelings of every human being. In the New Testament, Jesus declared to a young man who addressed him as “good master”: “No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17) Encroachments on other people, interventions in the lives of others have been taking place since time immemorial. Often it begins quite harmlessly. One only meant well, perhaps joked. But then the events suddenly change. People get carried away with deeds that are sometimes so monstrous that they cannot be described in words.

What is it about us?

If you would like to learn more about the relationship between good and evil in people and in the world, you can order and download the full article as a Pdf below.


A philosopher in the 20th century, Hannah Arendt, has – in the aftermath of National Socialism – intensively dealt with the question of what evil actually is. She comes to an astonishing and important conclusion:

“The greatest evil,” she writes, “is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots, it has no limits, can develop to the unimaginable extreme and spread over the whole world.”

  • Hannah Arendt, On Evil. A Lecture on Questions of Ethics
    Not radical, without roots, this means: evil does not reach into the deepest interior of man. Despite its horrors, it remains in an outer realm, to which our thoughts and feelings also belong. There it can take on monstrous forms. It can seize almost all people and yet has no relation to the deepest inside of man, to that which actually constitutes him.


But what is good? And what is evil? The terms are interrelated, they are related to each other, they define each other. One only knows what evil is if one knows what good is.

Good and evil as we know them are relative.
What is good for one person may be bad or evil for another. We cannot reliably know from our perspective what is good and what is evil.

Here is an example from the Koran: There, in the 18th sura, it is described how a person gifted by God commits deeds that must be called evil from our perspective. He punches a hole in the bottom of a ship so that it sinks, and he kills a man (Sura 18: 65 ff.). Moses accompanies him and protests against it. But his eyes are opened and he realizes that a positive development for the future was made possible by these deeds.

However, besides the relative, there is also the absolute. And that means that there is a superior perspective. We also have a relationship with the absolute. The mysterious central center of man belongs to the Absolute. It is the divine element in man. It is, as the wisdom of nations says, the absolute good, the good alone, of which Jesus speaks. A reflection of it in the relative world is our conscience, at least if the access to the Absolute in us is still a little open.

From our perspective, we cannot see any deeper meaning in evil. However, it is different from the perspective of the Absolute.

In the mysticism of Judaism, the Kabbalah, it is emphasized that the Godhead allows such a development. We find here the statement that God always creates space and withdraws so that the creatures can come to themselves, to their true self. God respects the freedom of his creatures. He surrenders them to himself to a certain extent. Everything they do affects them back. Until the veils that prevent them from seeing the Absolute are torn.

Ephraim Moses Lilien, Job, 1922



The New Testament also confirms this view. Jesus became the Christ through the baptism in the Jordan, and immediately afterwards the Lord of this world meets him. The two speak to each other. The adversary suggests that Jesus, the Christ, transforms the stones of this world into bread. The world would thereby, as it were from below, come into a better state. Suffering would be taken away from the people. Jesus, however, does not follow this invitation. For man would then not find himself.

About the author: Gunter Friedrich

He was an administrative judge by profession. He has been a member of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum since 1976 and is involved in the Rosenkreuz Foundation, which is a forum for dialogue between science and spirituality and spiritual directions among themselves. Publications in the series of the Rosicrucian Foundation on its symposia.

This article appeared originally on the German Homepage of Tattva Viveka:

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