Evil is a construct which figures prominently in determinations of ethical behaviour as well as in emotional pathology and religious hysteria. Its definition is less important than its presence as a conception. Evil has been considered a side-product of many causes, coming not from one principle and having no unity in itself. When a body of any kind is infected with evil many of its elements do not keep their relative and just proportions; and to the extent that each part then strives to control the whole, disharmony prevails.
Anything that is, or causes distress, calamity, loss, damage or sorrow is an evil. As a hypothetical universal power said to bring such events, evil is raised to the level of metaphysics when it is counted among the primary forces. It is also raised, by many, to the level of theology when it is anthropomorphized, personified, or conceived to be God, viewed from 'behind'.
Evil, in one form or another, is a major concern of most religions. In 1993 the Pope published a new encyclical, Veritatis Splendor in which sex before marriage, contraception and homosexuality were labelled as intrinsically evil. In many cultures there is concern to guard against evil (including the "evil eye") and to avoid provoking evil spirits. The importance to the international community is reflected in a widely publicized perception by the President of the USA that the communist bloc of nations constituted an "evil empire".
Evil is the counterforce in nature which is related to order, form, purpose, will and similar tendencies and powers. Evil produces notable deficiency, such as disorder, shapelessness, uselessness, and inertia, but it also produces excess, so that excessive order as found, for example, in a crystal, if applied to society, renders it lifeless. Excessive form, excessive purpose and will in life or society account for numerous evils. For those who believe in evil as a real force in itself there are taboos and ritual behaviour patterns that do not lend themselves to rational defence, such as exorcism, wearing of protective amulets or particular colours, and other magical acts including the sacrifice of birds and animals, and the ringing of church bells.
Evil may be considered as a symptom of a problem rather than an essential feature of human nature. As such it may be essentially the product of of numbing or repressing access to primary positive emotions, rather than any basic defect in human makeup. Such an example of societal evil is inherent in all large institutions with specialized departments, where there is a tendency for the group conscience to become so compartmentalized, fragmented and diluted as to be non-existent - the "I'm not responsible for the use of napalm, I only manufacture it" syndrome.