Self-deception and evil

The refusal to recognize fundamental aspects of reality does not absolve us from the laws or authority that govern them, just as stepping off a ledge with the belief that one may not fall will prove catastrophic.  Ignorance of the rules of the world can be pleaded by children, but in adults, it is rank insanity.

There are so many whose moral imagination denies any foundational substance.  Encased in the insular will, they deny the ripples of decay that flow from error and absolve themselves with an appeal to a specious definition of freedom.  This is moral solipsism of the garden variety, and the Earth is paved with the graves of those who tried to beat God and the Devil by closing their eyes and declaring, "All is permitted me by the force of my existence."

Aristotle holds that men act from the pursuit of a good, but often this is a good sought by a wrong motive.  A man may desire wealth, but it is the manner of his action in attaining his end that accords him the status of good or evil.

I am sure that men who act from unabstracted evil exist – men who actively know the good and who, like Satan in Paradise Lost, invert the moral universe from some poisonous root they nourish.  It is these men who are most certainly lost, since they act from the soul that has embraced evil and shunned the Light and its works.

Milton writes in Book 3:

The first sort by their own suggestions fell,
Self-tempted, self-depraved: man falls deceived
By the other first: man therefore shall find grace,
The other none.

Milton's Satan in his pride has actively chosen rebellion over service and has made his peace with the consequences flowing from his self-corruption.  He has looked upon the face of God and has still turned his back – not from deception, but from a malevolence that will not abide anything short of full sovereignty, and if he cannot rule over his enemy's Creation, then he will at least rule within himself.

It is here that Milton's Satan issues his famous quote:

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.

Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Calif.  He can be contacted at and followed at

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