I am a great contender for the world as it is—the ill along with the good,
I look to reflect, to stand for, fact,
Not pleasant fact only, but fact,
And fact means all tempests, horrors, hoggishnesses—everything, whatever.
I leave the reader what the serpent left the woman and the man—
The taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, never to be erased again.
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the sounding and resounding, keep on!
We stand amid evil and good,
All swings around us, there is as much darkness as light,
The dark problem of evil forming half of the infinite scheme.
O to be relieved of distinctions!
To divide not the righteous from the unrighteous!
To make as much of vices as virtues!
If once the conventional distinctions were dispelled from our eyes we should see just as much, or more. I do not expect to dispel them by arguing against them. I sweep them away by advancing to a new phase of development, where they fail of themselves.
What is prudence, is indivisible,
Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous,
Not the right only justified, what we call evil also justified.
I do not doubt that shallowness, meanness, malignance, are provided for—
The devilish and the dark, the dying and diseas’d,
Venom and filth, poisons, serpents, newts, crawling things in slime and mud,
The barren soil, the evil men, the slag and hideous rot,
The specious, the unjust, the cruel, and what is called the unnatural—
Not only permitted but in a certain sense, like shade to light, inevitable in the divine scheme.
My gospel of the divinity of evil:
Great is wickedness,
I often admire it just as much as I admire goodness,
I love what you call vice just the same as I love virtue.
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect,
All is clean forever and forever.
I say there is in fact no evil—
Or if there is I say it is just as important to you, to the earth, or to me, as anything else—an essential of the cosmos.
What you call sin and what you call goodness, to think how wide a difference,
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
Yet do you suppose wickedness also does not mean something?
I am more and more persuaded that the ill, too, has its part to subserve—its important role. I wish someone—I’ve often thought of doing it myself—would crack up the good of evil—how it helps us along—how it all fits in. What you call evil is all part of it. If you have a hill, you’ve got to have a hollow.
I am more firmly than ever fixed in my belief that all things tend to good, that no bad is forever bad, that the universe has its own ends to subserve and will subserve them well.
My message to the young authors:
Employ not evil for its own sake; make it a foil for purity,
It is strange how, out of evil, good continually comes.
In the silence and darkness,
Among murderers and cannibals and traders in slaves,
Stepped my spirit with light feet, and pried among their heads and made fissures to look through,
And there saw folded foetuses of twins like the foetuses of twins in the womb,
Mute with bent necks, waiting to be born—
And one was sympathy and one was truth.
Roaming in thought over the universe, I saw the little that is good steadily hastening towards immortality,
And the vast all that is call’d evil I saw hastening to merge itself, and become lost and dead.
So the utile, so truth, so health are the continuous-immutable laws of the moral universe,
And vice and disease, with all their perturbations, are but transient, even if ever so prevalent, expressions.
Evil is not a law in itself,
But a sickness, a perversion of the good, and the other side of the good;
Nothing in its place is bad, nothing out of its place is good.
Out of the bad majority,
Electric, antiseptic yet, cleaving, suffusing all,
Only the good is universal.
The sun shines, shines, shines,
It has no question to ask of whore, of murderer, of anyone,
It gives what it has, yielding to each after its necessity.
All of us are parties to the same bargain,
The worst, the best, the middling—all parties to the same bargain.
So my philosophy sees a place and a time for everybody—even Judas Iscariot—yes, for all.
Man is such a scamp, such a wickedee, so essentially an ignoramm, that it is hard often to stand him—
Yet it is but right that the scamp should be represented.
The worst man—if studied fully, exhaustively—would be found to deserve pity or compassionate affection,
So much depends on circumstances—often hereditaments.
Man, whose folly and wickedness are in nothing else existent,
This nineteen-twentieths of us all—low and evil, crude and savage, horrible, rank, malignant—
What can be its purpose in the God-scheme of this universe, and all? Every precious gift to man is linked with a curse,
And each pollution has some sparkle from heaven.
Do you call that a paradox? It certainly is a paradox,
But not for nothing does evil play its part among us,
If ill did not exist, it would be a hopeless world and we would all go to the bad.
What would we do without the sinners?
(Take them out of literature and it would be barren,)
There can be no greatest and sublimest character without having passed through sin.
And what a chance it offers yet for being translated,
There is always a manifest streak of the good side by side with the bad.
Though man is in some ways a devil of a fellow, he is not all devil or even chiefly devil. I have seen in the later years of my life exemplifications of devilishness, venom, in the human critter which I could not have believed possible in my more exuberant youth—a great lump of bad with the good. But these to me, in the ensemble, the whole, of our life, are small specks.
In old times the idea was that humanity couldn’t be trusted. Perhaps the disparagement acted as a sort of spur to make men do better than they would have done otherwise. If I were a young man, I probably should not go preaching to mankind that they are a good deal better than they’ve been taught to believe—but as an old man that’s my firm belief. As I grow older I am more and more ready to take the good there is in men without concerning myself about the bad.
Humanity always has to provide for the present moment as well as for the future. That is a tangle, however you look at it. Why wonder, then, that humanity falls down every now and then?
But the bottom fact of all is the inherent good nature, integrity, sanity of man;
Residing below, underneath all venoms, poisons, evil wills,
Men are, in the main, decent, pure—or want to be.
Tell the truth about the people—about the nobility of the people, the essential soundness of the common man. There are always a thousand good deeds that we say nothing about for every bad deed that we fuss over.
Think of the things in everyday life—we see them everywhere—that never are exploited in print. Nobody hunts them up—nobody puts them into a story. But let one base thing happen and all the reporters of all the papers are on the spot in a minute. That doesn’t seem to give goodness a fair deal. Though I don’t know, maybe goodness doesn’t need a fair deal; maybe goodness gets along on its own account.
I trust humanity—its instincts are in the main right. It goes false, it goes true, to its interests, but in the long run it makes advances. Now I put my faith in humanity.
NEXT: PERFECT MIRACLES