#3: Evil and Non-Being
So this one is much more in the works and is more a set of ideas. It’s from the final chapters of the novel which haven’t been written yet, so the odd style it’s written in will probably change. I wrote it when I was thinking about the nature of non-being and evil in Athanasius. I’m trying to do a paper on Athanasius and Maximus on non-being that was inspired by these thoughts. The idea was to create a devil-like figure but who is consistent with the idea that evil is non-being and ultimate absence. This devil-figure has been the long running antagonist in the story, but in fact is only made up of the evil choices that the protagonist characters in the novel have made. I may include a second post on this topic, because I had some interesting ideas on how such an antagonist would be ‘defeated’.
I talk a little about Athanasius’ understanding of evil here. The fantasy element here is the notion that the reality of evil could have personhood, but there has always been a confused indication that people like Athanasius and Maximus might in principle attribute a metaphorical personhood to evil. I haven’t done enough work on this to say so for certain, but I was more interested in bringing a traditional western view of the devil into contact with early Byzantine notions of non-being and evil. Also below is a reference to the logismoi, which are the ‘outside’ thoughts that fly to our mind and tempt us to evil. This is in Maximus, but I’m pretty sure is an already existing ascetic traditional term probably inherited from Evagrios of Pontos.
I was going to include a picture I drew of this figure but I realised its probably a bit disturbing. Its a six winged thing with a noh mask face for those who want a mental image.
He is nothing, but nothing is real because it has been chosen. And if there were no reality to those choices, then there would be no choice. So every choice must result in something, even if that something is nothing.
And he, or rather it, is that nothing. Nothing collated and made strong on the choices of millions to choose nothing. And in his strength he has extended himself beyond his own domain to course as whispers through the world and to blow seeds of himself into the minds of all. And ever the choice becomes more difficult with his temptations blowing where they will and his power to manipulate – never to force, only to tempt – becomes stronger and more cunning. His only desire is to be something, even though he is nothing. But he desires more and more real nothingness. The spread of chaos, the spread of death, the annihilation of all things, especially annihilation without purpose, all this feeds him and gives him strength. And he is the adversary of all things, because he is the absence of all things. He is their opposite and has no being and has no person, he is only present when chosen, he is only brought into existence through the will of others, and so is a slave to their choices, and above all desires to be a master of their choices, and to be a master of others.
And being nothing, he has many forms and shapes, but all are an illusion and behind them all is nothing. And he puts on natures as we put on clothes and gives himself limitations to appear as though he is one of those he craves. And he crafts for himself personalities and words and languages but all of them are hollow and can not stand up to anything but a surface scrutiny, and all too quickly his insatiable and only craving for all to be nothing becomes apparent. And at the same time he has no craving, because he is no one and he is dead to pleas, and dead to compassion, and dead to the lusts and loves of the world, because he has no kindred with them.
All his reality is bent on trying to remember what he is from moment to moment, much of his power is gone in trying to remain consistent from second to second. And it is already so difficult because he is the disparate choices of many and is their darkness in the world. And he is the manifestation of the many secrets that many keep and whilst he knows those things intimately, he has no comprehension of anything else and so does not understand their natures or whatever it is that they choose when they choose not him.
He has grown strong in this age, he has bound to himself servants and plied them with promises of power. They look upon his changing form and envy and he smiles with his stolen faces and plays the master, all the while he hates them even more passionately than any other, because they are close to him and have reality and form and nature which he does not. They bewail their solid form and being and look upon his insubstantial form with lust, and this of all things is an eternal mystery to him who must at every moment consciously recall what he has tried to make of himself for every fraction of a moment, lest his own reality of nothing lapse back into the void which he is.
He works through his servants which are much better at remaining consistent and convincing others, because they move and live in time and know the minds of others, and are familiar with those things which are utterly foreign to him, and so have a much greater advantage when it comes to manipulation. And in this age he has set up schools of deception and corruption and extends schemes and ploys far and wide, and wrapped himself in the history and subtleties of beings. Ever he desires to bring them to chaos and nothing and so to consume them into himself, and ever he is lonely, because as soon as he succeeds they are gone and they are him and they are nothing. And so his fury and rage is insatiable.
He has walked with princes and kings, with travellers and children. He has taught secrets of nothing to those who have used this knowledge to tarnish natures and bring them to the brink of non-existence. He has walked alone and unharmed in the smoke of dragonfire and stood upon the ice of the sea as it cracks and breaks from the cliffs of the world. He looks upon all with nothing in his heart which does not exist, and nothing in his eyes which do not exist, and nothing in his body which does not exist.