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A Recent Report on Schelling

Three passages from Schelling's Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom (1809) and an all-too-Christian interpretation.

Question: Does evil end? Is there a purpose to creation? 
Will it reach perfection? If so, why was creation not perfect at the beginning?

“If it [evil] were conquered sooner, the good would remain concealed in it together with evil. But the good is to be raised out of darkness to actuality in order to dwell with God everlastingly; and evil is to be separated from goodness in order to be cast out eternally into non-being. For this is the final purpose of creation, that that which could not be in itself, shall be in itself through being raised out of darkness as a depth independent of God, elevated into existence. Hence the necessity of birth and death.” (85)

1.       Goodness is born so that it may introduce itself to the world.

2.       But in order for goodness to be recognized, evil must be “posited” if only to give goodness definition. If there was no evil, goodness will not be known as what it is; or God will not be able to show himself—as goodness, as love—if hatred and anger did not “exist.” For good to be, evil also has to be.

3.       But to be clear, evil only serves as a “contrast” to goodness, its negative, as it were, from which goodness can be seen as its positive.

4.       Example of a camera. Italian camera obscura or a “dark room.” When a picture is taken (when the shutter opens and lets light enter), the light chemically interacts with the film, and this reaction is recorded, making an image. The film contains the actual image in reverse, or what is the negative, where lighter spots are dark, darker spots are light. Only when the film is processed and developed can the positive image appear, where light is light, and dark is dark. It’s a stretch, but this may mean that darkness is necessary for light to enter it so that things in the light—goodness, God—may be seen. But only after a process or development, only in the proofs, as it were, can the positive, or the good, emerge from the negative, or evil.

5.       Evil, therefore, has no being in itself, or it is non-being. Light has being, while darkness has no being in itself, or precisely, darkness is the void. And perhaps God cannot create nothing?

6.       The “positing” of evil against goodness accounts for opposition between the two which man witnesses in the world and experiences in his soul.

7.       Such opposition and strife only end in death.

8.       But death is necessary: if there were no death, there would also be no birth, no existence, or no Being. (“Being is only aware of itself in becoming” (84)). And thus goodness again would not come to be, God’s existence again would not be made manifest. And “because God is a life, [and] not a mere being,” and since “all life has a destiny and is subject to suffering and development,” God through Christ also had to die in order to achieve his destiny.

“As Scripture says of Christ: He must rule until all enemies lie underfoot. [I Cor 15: 25-28] The last enemy which is transcended is death [Mark 12: 36] (for death was necessary only for the separation; the good must die in order to be separated from evil, and the evil in order to be separated from goodness). But if all will have become subject to him, then the Son himself shall also be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all. For not even spirit is supreme; it is but spirit, or the breath of love. But love is supreme.” (86)

1.       The opposition between light and darkness, or between good and evil, wherein one and the other try to destroy each other, but in doing so only making both stronger (because definition is sharpened in every confrontation)—this opposition brings about the possibility of suffering. These are those moments when goodness is contested by evil, overpowered by it, and at times conquered by it.

2.       We see goodness suffering from evil most clearly in the agony of Christ in his Passion.

3.       As a person, Christ suffered from evil—something that God cannot experience alone or within himself because of his goodness and light. And because he became man in the person of Christ, God suffered death—something unthinkable for an infinite and eternal being.

4.       But death is “necessary for the separation” of good from evil, lightness from darkness: “the good must die in order to be separated from evil, and the evil in order to be separated from goodness.”

5.       If Christ did not die, he could not have resurrected from the dead, which would then mean that, first, evil triumphs in the end; and second, that death is the last word.

6.       But precisely, the promise of Christ’s resurrection is this: that, first, goodness shall eclipse evil; and, second, that death itself—“the last enemy”—will be transcended.

7.       Only then can God “be all in all.” The purpose of creation is for goodness to become or to be: so “that that which could not be in itself”—goodness, because goodness, like love, does not wish to be alone—“shall be in itself through being raised out of darkness as a depth independent of God, elevated into existence.”

8.       Or: the final purpose of creation then, its supreme end, is love—that we may ourselves choose love to love without his determining us to (“independent of God”), and that we may return and be united with God in love out of our own free will.

“. . . this is the secret of love, that it unites such beings as could exist in itself, and nonetheless neither is nor can be without the other." (89)


  1. Anonymous1/22/2011

    In addition, some thoughts from the old but wise man named Aquinas: S.T. # 50 (on Christ's death)and S.T. # 48 and 49 (on evil).- pat

  2. Hey, Pat. Thanks for this. Wow, isn't Thomas just to the point?

    Funny you should mention him because I've recently just dipped into some of the questions of the ST again. Thought I'd give him another try, for he had always been opaque to me. And he never fails to amaze. Wish I could only understand him. I guess, like his master, he's one of those thinkers that I feel I need to be older before I really converse with.

    Thanks, and I hope you're doing well.


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