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THE MEANING OF THE WORD VULGAR AND THE PROBLEMS FOR CHRISTIANITY TO DEFINE EVIL
By Christopher gg. Starling





The question, what is evil, has always plagued religions who sought to assure themselves a place in paradise. Revolutions of arguments arose from this debate; and arose, and arose. The further they went, the more problems they found. What is evil and where does it come from? This question persisted to threaten the salvation of all believers of faiths. For to make it into the kingdom of God, there had to be an understanding of evil.


Until relatively recent, the word “vulgar” had the denotation of “common.” A definite line existed between good and bad, with bad being evil, or common. The spirit was good, and the only good was spirit. Moreover, everything not spirit was bad, with bad including the body, those wicked desires of the flesh, and most importantly will, the father of all evil. But evil also consisted of all materials, anything comprised of matter. Spirit is good. Matter is evil. This is the fundamental belief of Manichaeism, a dualistic philosophy which combined aspects of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Gnostic thought. Created by the Persian prophet, Manes, Manichaeism divides the world into good and evil. As already acknowledged, the spirit is inherently good, while matter is inherently evil.


The concepts of the Manichaeans became popular in Europe for about 200 years, but disappeared because of increasing tension with monotheistic religions, those that believed in just one true god. The problem with Manichaeism and monotheistic religions, such as Christianity and Zoroastrianism, was that only one God existed, who created everything in the universe. This was quite disturbing for followers of these faiths, since it implied that God had created evil. To them, God could not be the ultimate good and have created evil. The people could not have this and their dissatisfaction led to a new thinking. Thus, Negative Theology arose.


Negative Theology’s purpose was to correct the problems with Manichaeism, but also to ease the tensions of the angry Christians. Negative Theology provided a solution, saying that there now existed good and better. Evil was simply the absence of good, or more precisely, God. Therefore, Negative Theology seeks not to describe God, but to describe what God is not. It contends that God is beyond our understanding and any attempts by human beings to define God would inevitably fail. Not even God’s existence can be approved or denied. The only thing we can truly say is that God is not multiple and that God created everything, which according to Negative Theology in its response to Manichaeism, is either good or better and that evil is the absence of good. Still, once again, a problem soon surfaced: if everything comes from God, it must have some good in it, since god is the best good. This meant that Lucifer, who was created by God, must have some good in him. Was Lucifer really good, then? – possibly before his fall from God’s grace? Was not his desire to be like God the supreme evil? – an evil created by God? This became an enormous problem, since Lucifer, as they all understood, was the incarnation of evil. Yet, Negative Theology, while in practice purposely denies us a true understanding of divine forces, seems to say that Lucifer, who was created by God, was either good or better. Obviously, this did not make believers very happy. Lucifer, the symbol of evil, could in no way be good. At the same time, God, in no way, could have created evil.


This problem with Negative Theology led religious philosophers in another direction, to that of Pantheism. Pantheism sought to look beyond the simple notions that all is either good or evil, or good or better. Pantheism goes passed the understanding that God created all of the Universe and so had to have created evil. Pantheists believe that everything in the universe, all substance, all matter, everything in the largest sense of the word, is part of God. All is God and God is all. A large part of Pantheism consists of the concept of free will. God has given humans free will, yet the reasons for being given free will were not a requirement of Pantheism. Though interpretations of free will were widely discussed within the new religion, there was not a set belief to cling to, and this gave the Christians yet another problem. After all, how were they expected to better themselves to the qualifications of paradise in the afterlife if they knew not how to control themselves on Earth.


Although giving Christianity a better understanding of their dilemma of inherent flaws, Pantheism was not enough. It did not settle on a particular interpretation of man’s free will and offered Man no resolve as to how to change. Then came Augustine of Hippo (later St. Augustine) with his Perversion Theory. More than simply evil being the result of free will, Augustine contended that evil was the perversion of the good.


Augustine (354-430) was an avid speaker against both Manichaeism, which we’ve mentioned, and Donatism, the belief that the holy sacraments were not valid unless by a moral priest. Augustine is probably best known for his development of the doctrine of the Original Sin. His ideas were extreme in their take on the corruption of human nature, yet had quite a large following and his ideas are still used in present times.


According to earlier philosophers, and furthered by Augustine, humans are made up of three main elements: the animus (pronounced Ahn-uh-moos), the anima (Ahn-uh-may), and the corpus. Later, the concepts of animus and anima will be altered into theories of contrasexuality, most famously by Jung in his Achetypes. However, these things do not concern us at the moment.


The animus, as used by Augustine is the reasoning part of us, the spirit. The anima is the will, the soul. Last, and least, is the corpus, the body, which serves to hold the three together. Ideally, the animus rules the anima, which rules the corpus. To use Augustine’s example of the Original Sin, Adam and Eve’s three human elements were aligned ideally, meaning they lived without sin. But this was not for long. After giving into temptation for want of being like God, their human nature was corrupted. Now, their anima – will/soul – ruled over their animus – their reasoning/spirit. Once will overrules reasoning, Augustine said that there was a perversion of nature.


The doctrine of the Original Sin, then, as Augustine told it, says that because of the perversion of Adam and Eve’s nature, all humans are likewise pre-destined to have a perverted nature. Therefore, they are incapable of pleasing God, since willfulness is always at the head of every action. Although religion, especially modern Christianity, is largely based on doing good works to please God, it is virtually impossible to do so without having willfulness giving that ulterior motive, desire ruling reason. For even if one does good, which would please God, one would constantly have personal interest behind it. Why please God? Because it enables you for paradise. Why not sin? You don’t want to go to Hell. Why are we so fucked? Our will has taken control of our reasoning – our soul over our spirit. Furthermore, a person has to do more than merely do good. He must never do bad, never sin. But according to Augustine, this is impossible to do with a perverse nature, where even good deeds are the result of sin.


Finally, the Christians of the time settled and took up the notion that they were doomed to sin by nature. Thanks to the help of the very first man and woman, and especially the women, they had neither the choice of being free of sin nor an assurance of paradise. It sure didn’t take long for humans to fuck that one up. Of all the symbolic myths in the Bible, I find the story of the Original Sin most interesting. It did not take generations of people to screw up so bad that all humankind would pay. It wasn’t even the second generation. No, it was the very first people, Adam and Eve. Of course, this could also be seen as an early Christian’s opinion of human nature: destined to rebel, seek out knowledge, or be Godlike. Or, if you prefer, that human nature is one of inevitable selfishness and sin.


No matter how the Christians tried to turn the argument to their favor, they found the same inevitable answer. They put God in the clear of creating evil and agreed on what evil is and where it comes from, but still, time and again, throughout history, they have continuously failed to find a certainty of salvation. They will ever stop looking. In the end, nothing beneficial was done for the individual wishing for life everlasting. According to Augustine’s religious theories, there are those predestined for salvation and those who are not. Further still, everyone going to Hell belongs there and goes there by there own power, more specifically their own will. Everyone going to Heaven, goes there only be the grace of God.


Human nature is perverse and so incapable of pleasing God while simultaneously not pleasing themselves. A person may try thought rigorous discipline, such as the monks and other ascetic religious orders or faiths, to abstain from committing mortal sins, but sin he will. Subjection to Hell and Man’s evil nature is the one constant in Christian theology. The arguments temporarily ceased and settled on the preceding notions. However, theologians like Thomas Aquinas and soon after, Martin Luther and John Calvin, would begin a new era of questioning their nature to sin and the certainty of salvation in the afterlife.


Humans are doomed to sin and give into their personal will. The word “vulgar” was used to mean “common.” For example, a mother scolding her son, would have said, “I forbid you to see Caesar’s daughter, Julia. She is too common!” “Common,” or “vulgar” was used to describe the usual state of humans, where anima rules and nature is perverted. As always, poorer classes of wealth were more “common” than that of the wealthy. In fact, they were called commoners, or common people. They were most vulgar. In conclusion, the word “vulgar” these days is most used as a synonym for “obscene” or “explicit.” As in, all humans are “obscene.” Everyone is explicit, crude, indecent, improper, profane, disgusting, and yet, common, ordinary, usual, normal, typical. All are “vulgar,” as is their perverse nature, human.



Well, supposedly anyway. There may not even be such a thing as human nature, in which case, we really have no excuse for living the way we do.



------
jesuschriss; aka jimmy condomhead (of jimmy condomhead and the rubberband peanut stand, featured on myspace music); aka cgstarling; aka johnny longhead; aka lib raulphf; aka jc bibble; aka jc; aka christof gee starling; aka (jcgs); aka





Comments

The following comments are for "THE MEANING OF WORD "VULGAR" AND THE PROBLEMS FOR CHRISTIANITY TO DEFINE EVIL"
by jesuschriss

vulgarity and evil
… read this a few times. I had to before I could get the gist of it- I’m slow witted like that… an interesting piece, certainly food for thought, although the meat of the essay seems somewhat disjointed from the title or central topic- expected more about the origins and etymology of ‘vulgar’, emphasis on its evolution and interpretation in Christian texts, that kind of thing… but that’s nit-picking, essay itself was informative, and you have a fluent and accessible style…

If it were left to me- and we can all be thankful it wasn’t- I’d probably have stuck Thomas Aquinas in there somewhere. The old grace perfects nature malarkey, and how this helped shift attitudes away from the kind of dualism that split the material and spiritual world… but that’s just me… I’m weird.

On the whole, enjoyed, though probably imperfectly understood. Got the brain ticking over, in its rudimentary fashion, and for that I thank you.

( Posted by: AuldMiseryGuts [Member] On: May 5, 2007 )

...I am carnal, sold under sin...
This topic alone sparks interest and kept me going throughout the entire read...taking me in circles that are all too familiar of my own spiritual journey. Which began with the soul torturing questions laid out in this piece...

...For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I...(Romans 7:14-15)..

thanks for sharing this.

( Posted by: innarae [Member] On: May 9, 2007 )





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