Unwelcome or calamitous events are often said to be due to the presence of an evil spirit or to be inspired by the personification of all evil in the figure of a chief devil or Satan. Such a figure is a source of terror in innumerable societies and, as a conception alone, may be at the bottom of many mental disorders.
The authority of the major faiths, and of primitive religion; and the testimony, as well, of occultists and clairvoyants, are uniform on agreement as to the existence of evil spirits. The records of the Society for Psychical Research show that ordinary people can experience a manifestation of evil in an individual form. In addition to being personified as an invisible being or as a living person, evil can be objectified. That is, evil can be said to be materially present in the universe, not only as a being or as evil incarnate, but also as an object, as substance, a source, a power, or force. For example, all instruments of death are evil, from the gun to nuclear weapons. Polluting filth and narcotics are evil. And those bent on domination also give evil an embodiment.
There is no central office for evil in the universe, and no chief bureaucrat who is in charge of its dispensation. Good and evil are inherent in everything, not as moral qualities but as tendencies and potentialities, in themselves or in the use to which they are put, to move towards development or support of a system or order of reality, or away from it. Good and evil are embodied but not personified, only in the individual will of living things. They exist as a duality so that there can be no evil present but that there is potential good as well. Failure to recognize this leads to attributing wholly evil characters to one's natural political, religious, economic or personal opponents, dehumanizing them by divesting them, in one's belief, of any good will or capacity for toleration or cooperation. This reification of an abstract concept, materialized as the label 'evil', and affixed to rival cultures or ideas and their proponents, leads to intra-societal witchhunts, religious persecutions, concentration camps and genocide; and internationally, to war and the threat of nuclear war.