The Origins of Evil: The Story of Human Spirituality and Belief Systems

The Origins of Evil: The Story of Human Spirituality and Belief Systems

Evil is as old as humanity. We live in a world of duality. Darkness and light. Good and evil. Up and down. In and out. Heaven and Hell. But which came first—or did these dual concepts evolve side by side as our primitive understanding of the world around us became more sophisticated over time?

The concept of evil has changed over time to mirror our own evolving behavior as human beings.

The History of the Word

Looking first at the etymology of the word “evil,” we find that it has its roots in the English (Middle English evel, evil; Old English yfel), German (Old High German ubil, ubel) and Dutch (evel) languages. The first known use of the word “evil” dates back to the 12th century, and is used as an adjective (evil life), adverb (gone evil), noun (evilness) and idiom (thy evil one, Satan).

In Old English and older Germanic languages other than Scandinavian, the word is an adjective expressing disapproval, dislike or disparagement. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used for bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm (n.), crime, misfortune, disease (n.). In Middle English, evil was focused more on moral badness, with goodness and purity as its opposite.      


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