On Monday, James Edward Raggi IV (who still has the coolest name to say in gamerdom) tackled the question of supernatural evil. Faced with the broad panoply of evil perpetrated by humanity, he asked how anyone could really get their mind around an evil worthy of demons, fey, or other supernatural wickedness?
There have been some particularly creative and horrible ways people have devised to inflict pain on each other. These, however, have always been limited by the laws of physics and our own poor understanding of them. Is it more evil, for instance, to kill a person or, as Circe did, to transform them into a pig? Is it more evil to shoot a man's children in front of him, or to inflict him with lycanthropy so that he tears them to pieces himself? Once you introduce magic, the possibilities for evil expand to include what was once only imaginable.
I mentioned before the deal with the devil, where evil is embraced in order to achieve good (something which I think has some bearing on Mr. Raggi's example of the Normandy landings in his discussion of good today). There's also the evil that comes from granting a wish. The appearance of doing a good thing that is, in fact, evil (and possibly in order to promote a good outcome, just to add another twist to the braid) is something that fits my concept of the fey very well. Things like Stephen King's Thinner or the Midas touch, where a wish is granted, but in such a way that it becomes a curse.
There are deeper evils, I think, that go beyond the evils of the flesh and afflict the spirit. And this is where we get to the realm of demons and devils. Inflicting horrendous pain is certainly evil, but getting other people to simply not care that it's happening, or, even worse, to actively take part, seems even worse to me. The viral power of evil to spread itself to others, to expand simply by creating fear, apathy, or even more willing accomplices seems its most horrific aspect. This is why the succubus remains my favorite demon. Yeah, kinky sex is fun, but more than that, the ability of the succubus to appear to be anyone makes her the best tool to create a situation where the forces of good embrace the “necessity” of evil or despair, either through deceptive information or extreme emotions.
The triumph of evil in “Revenge of the Sith” wasn't the slaughter of the Jedi children, but that a champion of good was corrupted to the point where he would do such a thing without question. (I don't buy the journey that Anakin took to get there, but that's beside the point.) Granted, we see that in the real world, where mothers actively participate in the torture and murder of daughters who dare to date the wrong sort of boy. But if you want to get at the essence of supernatural evil, I think this is the heart of it. Pain and physical torment are only means to an end, and that end is the despair and hate necessary to corrupt a soul into embracing evil.
Photo Credit: Frau Bucher, and CobraVerde.