If I were to say that there is evil power at work in our world at a level that threatens to overcome the power of goodness you might wonder “who is this writing, and what has she done with our dear Ms. erosophy, Shannon?” But if I said that there is a great deal of injustice in the world and work toward peace and justice often seems futile since the problems are overwhelming, you probably wouldn’t blink an eye.
So what difference does it make if I frame the discussion in terms of good and evil power? Why might that rhetoric make people uncomfortable? Why does using that rhetoric make any difference at all? Well a good deal of this depends on how we define words like “good” and “evil” and, more importantly, the word “power”. And how we define those words depends upon what we believe about how the world works. What we believe about how the world works is called a “metaphysic”, the study of it “metaphysics”.
For the most part, metaphysics function invisibly on a day-to-day basis, we are rarely aware of the way we look at the world, we just assume that the world just is the way we see it. Metaphysics tap us on the shoulder when we discover a difference between how we and another experience the world, or when someone describes their experience of the world in a surprising way that we’ve never thought of before.
Our metaphysics are formed by a myriad of different forces, and for those of us in contemporary western cultures, those different forces even conflict with one another. Once force (Newtonian science) tells us that the world functions according to certain natural laws, another force (religion) tells us that supernatural miracles that disobey those laws can take place. One force (what you perceive as your senses) tells you that you are sitting on a solid chair, another (quantum physics) tells you that the chair you sit on is made up of more empty space than filled space and that there is a small but distinct mathematical probability that your chair might not actually hold its form beyond this moment.
Consciousness of this play of metaphysics allows us to make intentional choices about how we will see the world. I can say that powers of good and evil are at work in the world because I have chosen to make sense of the world using the metaphysic provided by Process Philosophy. There is a great deeal of power at work in the world, and each of us have a great deal of power at our disposal. That power can be used in good or evil ways, thus perpetuating the proliferation of good or evil in the world. Choosing a metaphysic can help us make constructive sense of the world, making space for different perceptions of events. Lack of consciousness about the way we see the world and how that affects the way we function perpetuates misunderstanding and miscommunication.
We assume that when we communicate the other person has the same worldview as we do, but this is rarely true. How do you see the world, how does it work? How does God work within your worldview? What power do humans, the environment, God have within your worldview? Until we can talk about these questions, talk about what we believe and why will be at a mere surface level, with deep metaphysical assumptions functioning invisibly underneath.