Personified evil

Diabolical action
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.
Supremely evil figures include Satan (Shaitan), Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Belial, Asmodeus, Lucifer, Moloch, Mammon, Iblis and Antichrist. In some myths and religious lore, the supreme evil was destroyed in a previous age, in others it exists still, and in still others, there is evil to come, such as the Great Beast or Antichrist expected at the second coming, before the end of the world.
1. 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.

2. What are the Church's greatest needs at the present time? Don't be surprised at our answer and don't write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church's greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil. What of the things that don't work properly in our lives? What of suffering and death, wickedness, cruelty and sin? In a word, what of evil? Don't we see how much evil there is in the world-especially moral evil, which goes against man and against God at one and the same time, although in different ways? Isn't this a sad spectacle, an unexplainable mystery? And aren't we - the lovers of the Word, the people who sing of the Good, we believers - aren't we the ones who are most sensitive and most upset by our observation and experience of evil?... The lurking shadow of this wicked presence is pointed up in many, many passages of the New Testament. St. Paul calls him the "god of this world," and warns us of the struggle we Christians must carry on in the dark, not only against one Devil, but against a frightening multiplicity of them. "I put on the armor of God," the Apostle tells us, "that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high."... Many passages in the Gospel show us that we are dealing not just with one Devil, but with many. But the principal one is Satan, which means the adversary, the enemy; and along with him are many others, all of them creatures of God, but fallen because they rebelled and were damned - a whole mysterious world, convulsed by a most unfortunate drama about which we know very little. (Papal Address: Confronting the devil's power, 15 November 1972).

3. There are many things we do know, however, about this diabolical world, things that touch on our lives and on the whole history of mankind. The Devil is at the origin of mankind's first misfortune- he was the wily, fatal tempter involved in the first sin, the original sin. That fall of Adam gave the Devil a certain dominion over man, from which only Christ's Redemption can free us. It is a history that is still going on: let us recall the exorcisms at Baptism, and the frequent references in Sacred Scripture and in the liturgy to the aggressive and oppressive "power of darkness." The Devil is the number one enemy, the preeminent tempter. So we know that this dark disturbing being exists and that he is still at work with his treacherous cunning; he is the hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortunes in human history. It is worth recalling the revealing Gospel parable of the good seed and the cockle, for it synthesizes and explains the lack of logic that seems to preside over our contradictory experiences: "An enemy has done this." He is "a murderer from the beginning,... and the father of lies," as Christ defines him. He undermines man's moral equilibrium with his sophistry. He is the malign, clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities, so that he can bring about in us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical or mental makeup, or to our profound, instinctive aspirations. Are there signs, and what are they, of the presence of diabolical action? And what means of defense do we have against such an insidious danger? We have to be cautious about answering the first question, even though the signs of the Evil One seem to be very obvious at times. We can presume that his sinister action is at work where the denial of God becomes radical, subtle and absurd; where lies become powerful and hypocritical in the face of evident truth; where love is smothered by cold, cruel selfishness; where Christ's name is attacked with conscious, rebellious hatred, where the spirit of the Gospel is watered down and rejected where despair is affirmed as the last word; and so forth. (Papal Address: Confronting the devil's power, 15 November 1972).

4. Satan has the real estate of villages, towns and cities overshadowed by ruling spirits which work unitringly at his command to bring about his malevolent will, fostering fear, violence and deception and successfully ruining lives which God intended for joy, happiness and true worship [Make Way Song Book].

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.
(F) Fuzzy exceptional problems