I know that in the last post, I said that I would skip straight to good, but I have found there is more to be said of evil still. I will begin by posing a question: can an action be evil in of itself? If so, what is it that makes an action evil?
First, I will attempt to make the distinction between the action and the perception of the action. When an ant colony goes out from its nest, and destroys another by way of genocide, do we consider this action evil? The most reasonable answer would be no, of course not, for the action of the ants committing anticide is part of nature, which is outside the realm of good or evil. Most of the time, when one observes a predator taking down prey to eat it, it is not considered evil but natural. Why is the distinction made in human behavior? It lies in the necessity of the behavior at any given moment. When a man kills another, he is not doing it for food, nor for necessity, but out of emotion, most commonly, out of rage. So is anger then evil? Perhaps. Though I would argue that no emotion is itself evil, it is only evil in the eye of the beholder, which is not restricted to the man other than the one committing the evil act. The man committing the act which is evil, will often know that it is so but will commit it anyway, because he is motivated by a human ideal. Whether the ideal is to acquire money, or material value, to rise up in the respective dominance hierarchy, or even to satisfy the inner human urge to kill without measure, he is doing it for motives which are unnecessary, but natural nonetheless.
An action in itself cannot be either good or evil, it is only when it is perceived as such by the human mind that it becomes good or evil. Evil, is an extension of what is wild and malevolent and vicious in human behavior, (what Jung would call the shadow) and all which is preformed under the pretext of evil, is a reflection of what is natural human behavior, but on a larger scale. It is our self awareness which allows us to begin to create with thought the next extension of nature, perception. Perception is the ultimate factor in determining what is good or evil, though of course there are some things so horrible, that we cannot help but call them evil. The holocaust is an excellent example of such action, which in nature, I would see as an ant colony purging infected or diseased ants from the hive. The crucial difference is that when a human commits such an act, he is acting out what he perceives, not what is true. Animals, in having no perception (so far as we can tell), would be incapable of employing such self deception as humans do. Though of course there are exceptions, such as primates of the higher class, who easily employ malevolence against themselves and other primates. In other self aware species, or species which are capable in having a social hierarchy, there is this sort of malevolence exemplified everywhere. Is the hierarchy itself then, evil? I would argue that it is not. The structure of which self aware species set themselves up in, is not evil, it is the perception of the evil actions preformed while within that structure, that is evil.
So then, the natural conclusion is this. Evil would not be possible, were it not for perception. Thus, to be evil is to be human, for it is the human that has the highest capacity for perception that we know of, and the most destructive means to act out its evil. However, perception itself is not evil, it is the potential for it that has allowed for evils conceptual existence. Perception, is the potential in which evil can thrive, meaning, all human beings are capable of whatever they perceive to be evil, because they have the ability to perceive it in the first place. I will amend my initial statement. The potential for perception, not only of the outside world but of the inner and immaterial worlds, is what births the potential for evil; thus, to be evil is to be human, because to be human is to perceive.
So then, an action can be evil, as the perception, and thus the potential for evil, is within the committer of the evil. It is the perception of the intention behind the action which creates the concept of evil and its potentiality in the observer. This is why when one observes the actions of a serial killer for example, there arises a deep sense of dread and fear. The obvious source of this fear would be the fear of oneself being killed, and the potential of such. However the underlying fear, is that of ones potential to commit what is perceived to be an evil act. It is a fear of oneself. This is why Jung stressed that in order to become a complete soul, one must encounter face to face his potential for evil, and accept it in such a way that he can be aware of his own shadow.
Now that we have decided if or not an action can be evil, we will now attempt to define what it is that makes an action evil. Evil, as we said before, is in the eye of the beholder, and requires perception in order become evil. What one perceives to be evil, is what makes an action evil at all. Are there actions however that can be viewed as unequivocally evil, no matter the individuals perception of the action? That would depend on the collective perception of an action. For example, it is those who deny the holocaust was evil that are viewed collectively as evil. So, what is considered to be collectively evil, is often what is absolutely evil, such as rape, pedophilia, and genocide. It is with good reason; however, that the collective consensus is that such actions are evil, that is why they are considered evil at all. So, what is it that makes an action evil? An action is evil when the perception of the potential for it outweighs that which is perceived to be the potential for good in the action. However, it is still a matter of perception of the individual beholding the action, whether it is he committing the act, or he witnessing it.
Evil then, is the perception of the potential for evil both in oneself and in the other. And what acts are considered evil are entirely dependent on the perception of the observer, whether it be the culprit, or the witness.