“The highest knowledge is to know that we are surrounded by mystery. Neither knowledge nor hope for the future can be the pivot of our life or determine its direction. It is intended to be solely determined by our allowing ourselves to be gripped by the ethical God, who reveals Himself in us, and by our yielding our will to His.”
Albert Schweitzer (Doctor of philosophy; M.D. concert organist and licentiate in theology)

In the book of Job we are given a back story of a cosmic battle

There is a cosmic dispute taking place between the devil and God, with Job caught up in its web. Job’s so-called friends come along, ostensibly to comfort him, but they have no light to shed on the situation, with all except Elihu making superficial judgments about his motivation. They are totally blind to the forces that are at work outside of their consciousness. Even Elihu makes no mention of the dark forces opposing Job. Elihu has a different motivation from the others. He says “Speak up for I want you to be cleared.” Job 33:32

Throughout Elihu’s interaction with Job, although he certainly doesn’t agree with all Job has said, he is certainly not vindictive. Quite the contrary! He displays an engagement with truth, beauty, goodness, and a profound respect for the Divine Being, who he believes is listening in. Nevertheless there is no recognition of the dark but invisible shadow that hangs over the whole book of Job, which is probably as it should be, because if you’re walking toward the light the shadows will always be behind you.

This ancient book brings to the surface one of the great philosophic questions of all time, the question of the existence of evil in the world – that rational man knows to do good but is drawn to choose evil.

The problem of evil
One of the main problems for psychology and sociology is that their starting point is the belief that all behaviour is caused. In most cases this is a sound place to start, however the spiritual dynamics that lie behind evil behaviour elude rational examination. In the words of Isaac Newton, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.”

Why did the country that produced Goethe, Beethoven, Bach, Luther, Schiller, Einstein, Kant and Hegel , allow itself to be led to the edge of oblivion by a psychological misfit? Perhaps there was more to it.

Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect said, “We were all under his spell, blindly obedient and with no will of our own – I wondered what the medical term of this phenomenon might be. I noticed during my activities as architect, that to be in his presence for any length of time left me tired, exhausted and void.”

Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao and all atheistic agents of death, cannot be explained away as a problem of education. They were not an expression of an intellectual deficiency but of an ill will, a moral black hole – a void.

Evil is evidence of a moral, not an intellectual void
While some philosophers and theologians may wrestle with the topic, there are very few sociologists and psychologists who have attempted to deal with it. One of the few is psychoanalyst Erich Fromm who was touched personally by it, when as a Jew he had to flee from Hitler’s Nazi regime. Fromm spent much of the rest of his life studying the evil nature of Nazism with a large part of his study on Nazi leaders from the Third Reich and the holocaust.

It is generally accepted that he was the first and only scientist to clearly identify an evil personality type. He attempted to examine evil people in depth and suggested that even more study was needed. Not many researchers took him up on the recommendation. In his book People of the Lie psychiatrist Scott Peck attempted to wrestle with understanding some of his own most difficult cases. For him, naming some situations as evil became the only effective analysis. He observed that good people often find themselves overtaken by evil circumstances.

It is often good people that evil is most inclined to fall upon
Scott Peck wrote that “It’s often the most spiritually healthy and advanced among us who are called on to suffer from evil in ways more agonising than anything experienced by those more ordinary. Great leaders, particularly when they are wise and well, are most likely to endure degrees of anguish unknown to the common man.” It is as if evil is threatened by goodness and therefore targets good people. Job had been a very good man and was therefore an obvious target. We see him in great distress yet he cries out, “Though He (God) slay me yet will I trust Him.”

Scott Peck went on to say, ”Stress is a test of goodness, the truly good are they who in times of stress do not desert their integrity, maturity or sensitivity. Nobility might be defined as the capacity not to regress in response to degradation, not become blunted in the face of pain, to tolerate the agony and to remain intact.” Peck believes that the capacity for suffering is the clearest evidence of greatness. As he says here, “One measure and perhaps the best measure of a person’s greatness is their capacity for suffering.”

It’s what J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was alerting us to

In Lord of the Rings we see a hero going through immense suffering. Frodo, the real hero of the story, is a pure hearted little person who takes on the task of destroying the powerful ring with its evil capacity to corrupt. Frodo sees it simply as a burdensome service that somebody has to face, while it becomes clear that the others, who have ego needs for power and recognition, cannot be trusted.

Diminishing evil is not simply a question of more education as some want to believe. We have seen highly educated people lead great atrocities in our own time, one of the most notable, a trained psychiatrist who designed the atrocities in the Balkans conflict.

The late great Archbishop Fulton Sheen said “All you do when you educate a devil is make him a cleverer devil.” The apostle Paul called it the “mystery of iniquity.” Only the humble willing and spiritually aware are in a position to come to terms with it.