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Is the Devil purely Evil?

According to the Greek philosopher Leibniz, the Devil is a spirit “who always wants evil, but always creates the good.” This world of ours is not simply a world of opposites. There isn’t simply light and shade, heat and cold, good and evil, or God and the Devil. Our world is a vicious string of duality, where nothing can be distinctly characterized as one or the other.

By looking at writings from different religions, Adelbert von Chamisso, and other philosophers, it will be shown that Leibniz’s picture of the devil isn’t so simple. Although the main goal of the devil is purely evil, most of the time, pure good develops from his actions.

Satan, Shaitan, the Devil by any other name it is still the same. What the devil encompasses is supposedly the true embodiment of evil. But what is evil? Hate, Pride, Greed, Lust, all of these things make up what is generally part of being human. The belief in evil spirits led naturally to the acceptance of a single supreme evil deity, conceived as embodying all that is bad, destructive, and immoral. So how can such an evil thing create good?

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Human beings often blame all of our own weaknesses as the acts of the devil. For example, Christian preachers like Dale Robbins states, “The devil is the personification of all that is evil and is the author of every despicable work. Satan has targeted you as a victim, he desperately hopes that you will, as many Christians, remain ignorant of his reality so that you’ll blame his assaults on somebody or something else.” By creating this evil entity, we have something to blame rather than ourselves for our bad actions.

Both good and evil are needed for the balancing of energy and life. Since evil is a force, good and evil are part of the whole, and therefore are ultimately the same thing. Therefore the Devil must possess both good and evil in order to exist. According to Deepak Chopra’s best-selling book How to Know God, “Good and evil are two sides of the same force. God created both because both are needed; God is in the evil as much as in the good.” Therefore, the devil must be in the good as much as in the evil.

In the sacred writings of Kabbalah it is quoted that, “even the heart of Satan has a divine spark; Evil has a divine nature within it…” The darker sides of life, or the work of the Devil, are not necessarily all evil. It is a struggle for the human mind to seek balance and understanding in the universe. In the dark or ugly side of human nature lies the seed of true spiritual integration.

Therefore, devil could not exist if he was purely evil. Although he may not create good intentionally, it is beyond his powers to prevent it from happening. The idea of duality, or polarity is shown in the yin-yang symbol. One side is black with a white dot, the other white with a black dot. Most people believe this symbol is representing opposites, but then why are the different colored dots in the center of each side? The symbol actually represents polarity. The two sides are constantly changing and merging with eachother, thus becoming each other.

The duality of the human being is shown often in the works of Charles Baudelaire. In To the Reader Baudelaire suggests it is “the Devil who pulls the strings that move us!” Yet, we also have the desire to strive towards what he calls ‘the ideal’. Our minds are the only things that we value enough to rescue from evil. We slip completely into the hands of the devil only when our soul is not bold enough. When we crawl into indifference is when the devil has control.

Chamisso shows the duality of the Devil in “The Strange Story of Peter Schlemiel”. Contrary to many stereotypical devils, the one portrayed is that of an old man in a grey suit. The grey man is cunning and manipulative, making Peter act on impulse rather than with his own mind. While the devil is attempted to do pure evil, he becomes Peter’s friend and companion. With one meaningless impulse, Peter sacrifices his shadow to the Devil. Without realizing it though, the Devil, in return, teaches Peter the value of his soul.

Through the Devil, Peter becomes a more understanding person and learns the value of self. Peter accepts that a life of solidarity exploring the world is the only place he can be himself. So although the Devil initially wanted evil- the possession of Peter’s soul, he only gained a shadow, and unintentionally, taught Peter a good lesson.

Like the famous saying, we learn from our mistakes, the “impulses” or actions that we’re blaming on the devil end up teaching us something good. From these mistakes in our lives, we learn to value something else. For example, Peter Schlemiel lost his shadow but gained his self-value. In “To the Reader” we see the duality of the human being that’s pulled by the Devil but strives for the ideal. And though various religions like Kabbalah and Christianity we see the good that is created by the Devil. So although there may be this evil entity in existence who only wants evil, he doesn’t get his way. From his evil desires, good is created.


Baudelaire, Charles. Flowers of Evil

Chamisso, Adelbert von. “The Strange Story of Peter Schlemeil”

Chopra, Deepak. How to Know God

Montenegro, Marcia. “The Dark Side Beyond Good and Evil”

Robbins, Dr. Dale. “Defeating your Adversary, the Devil”, Victorious Publications

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