Balance Between Good and Evil: Strongly averted in eldraeic theology, the Flamics preferring to espouse the notion that good (i.e., light, the Flame) should cheerfully extirpate evil (darkness, Entropy) from the universe and feel jolly happy about it. Good Needs Evil for contrast, forsooth! The thing about light, you see, is that it comes in many different colors.
A question asked on the conculture mailing list:
How do our various cultures — especially the non-human ones, and also especially the non-terran ones — view this Problem of Evil? Or do they even recognise it as a principle? Or do they see Good as the Problem…? Also, is Evil a “real thing” or a by-product of cultural evolution in a people?
The eldrae don’t really think of Good and Evil as contending cosmic principles. Those would more accurately be described as Light and Dark – on the one hand, the Flame, the cosmic positive principle of volition, creation, excellence, and energy, and the Darkness, the negative cosmic principle of chaos, destruction, and entropy. But while Dark may be Evil, in many if not all of its aspects, Light is not exactly Good (and nor is it, well, terribly nice – at least by human moral standards). Unless you happen to identify the good really strongly with beauty, excellence, negentropy, obligation, the inevitable march of progress, and remorselessly enforced free will, anyway.
Neither of them is personified, strictly speaking. Light arguably is in the form of the eikones (personifications of concepts) as a whole, but none of them represents the Light itself; they’re shards of it seen through a prism, individual colors derived from the light of the Flame. Meanwhile, Darkness —
Well, that gets into beginnings. The fundamental tenet of eldraeic theology is that the universe is fundamentally broken. It obviously shouldn’t be, but something went wrong at some point, and we’re stuck with it. (Explanations vary; the Church of the Flame doesn’t really have a consistent creation myth. One common postulate is that it’s down to Aldéré, Divine Ignition, creator goddess of the eikones, being mad as a hatful of badgers inasmuch as creation is the only thing that matters, and what happens afterwards is “not her department”, which is why she coos every bit as much over the creation of say, Ebola, as the creation of a magnificent work of art; but there are many alternative cosmogonies.) The Darkness is this brokenness; it’s entropy and its consequences, the reason we live in an imperfect universe in which energy dissipates, destruction doesn’t always lead to new creation, information can be lost, people die, flaws go unamended, and assorted other offenses against The Way Things Ought To Be In A Proper, Perfect Universe persist in happening.
(And that, of course, is just physical entropy. Mental-spiritual entropy is also responsible for choice-theft and parasitism and envy and sloth and cacophilia and destructionism and humility and most of the other sins in the book.)
It’s almost gnostic, in a way, except that while the gnostics would claim that matter and the material world are inherently evil, the Flamics would claim that matter itself strives, self-organizing into stars and worlds and galaxies, crystals and snowflakes, and life, life everywhere, in one great outcry against the deathward fall of the universe, until eventually it produced sophont life, whose purpose, such as it is, is to continue to strive to make the universe better, and eventually fix it completely, restoring it to the flawless state it always should have had.
“Anything that is broken can be repaired.”
So, to return to the original question, evil (or Darkness, rather) doesn’t have an independent existence per se; it’s merely inherent in the flawed nature of the universe and everything within it. In sophont terms, it’s that little inner voice that encourages people to take short cuts, to be satisfied with less, to be less than they can be, to bring others down rather than raise themselves up (relative status systems are, they would say, very entropic), to not strive, not achieve, not improve, and to prevent others from doing so. That’s the hole in the world trying to suck out your awesome; good, or Light rather, consists of not letting it. But it is a distinctly identifiable concept you can point to, and say “that’s it”.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Very much averted in one sense, even by local standards (see: Blue and Orange Morality) of goodness. It is perfectly true that the eldrae and the other Imperials are an extraordinarily Beautiful People. But by the same processes, so are the Renunciates. And so are the Renegades – even the Renegades who are very, very bad people indeed, by anyone’s standards.
Quite appropriate, really. After all, even fallen angels are still angels.
In another: yes, one of the qualities they esteem is beauty, as a form of excellence. But this does not imply, simple-mindedly, that the beautiful are the good. Rather, the dogma holds that it implies that the good deserve to be the beautiful, and therefore that beauty ought to be promoted by the sophont in those places where blind nature and random chance got it wrong again.
To expand a little on the degree quantifiers mentioned in the previous post, these are a set of words which permit the Eldraeic speaker to quantify the degree to which a particular predicate applies with reference to its subject argument. There are six of these in common use:
nonexistent, absolute absence, zero
to a small degree
to an average/usual degree
to a large degree
absolute presence, completely, extremely
The definition of qaneth is, of course, somewhat subjective; a coffee cup or drinking glass which is qaneth olmanár is rather more than 50% full! One can also use qan as a prefix with the syllabic numerals 1-11 to specify a particular degree, by twelfths, of a predicate’s applicability before having to resort to the more precise quantification systems in the language.
This also reduces linguistic redundancy in some ways. As seen in the previous post, something which is full is quor olmanár (“containing as much as is possible”), and something which is empty is simply ulquor olmanár (“containing absolutely nothing”), and that’s all the linguistic expression those concepts need.
This applies equally well to most other concepts. Good, in the moral sense, for example, is expressed by the predicate teirquelár (“be ethical, be honorable”); a good man in the common sense is simply described by teirquelár, or qaneth teirquelár; the uncommonly virtuous by qanlin teirquelár; and a saint by quor teirquelár; but equally, a common villain may be described as qané teirquelár, the uncommonly bad as anqan teirquelár, and cosmic evil as ulquor teirquelár.
There are, of course, an adequate quantity of specialized terms to properly taxonomize evil in both terms of practical result and in terms of motive, but I take a moment here to consider and note the way in which the language reflects the eldraic conception of evil as flaw, defect, or absence (evil as entropy, or miscreation) rather than as an entity due consideration in its own right.
(Even if some of we earthlings might find it a little creepy to discover that their word for evil is, quite literally, ungood.)