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Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor


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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

It is possible to construct a polytheistic mythos wherein Darkness is, at least some of the time and to substantial parts of Creation, a benevolent power.

 

Darkness is the Protector of the Helpless, concealing them so that the ravenous mighty cannot find them to devour. All beginnings come from the Dark, because the living prey upon the new and helpless. Is there a womb or an egg where one can see the bare start of any life? No.

 

Darkness is the Knower of Secrets, that which knows everything that no one knows. The Light exposes the Truth, but the proud and mighty create their own Truth and wield it and the Light as an unconquerable weapon. What the mighty do not want known lies in Darkness, and from the Darkness comes hopes and beginnings of their downfall.

 

Darkness is the Great Mercy, where a mind broken by horror and body riven with pain can find relief from the agony of its existance. In relief can come healing, as woes are held at bay, the packs of thieves and looters pass unknowing. In rest comes renewed strength, restored will, and eternal hope.

 

Darkness is the Great Unconquerable, for who can destroy the Void? The mad beast of Destruction and Death may annihilate the whole world and all that is in it, yet Darkness receives it all and exists after. When the king stands over the last of his slain enemies, mighty in his power and pride, he, too, will come to Darkness in the end.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

As has been said before, Darkness is usually considered bad because it has been ingrained in us while light is good. the symbology is very strong in western cultures. Because of that it might be difficult to get over the ingrained process. However, it might be easier to combine the suggestion of the Tao with the Western view.

 

The universe is set up as the Tao, light and dark are balanced, neither is good, neither is evil, they simply are. The light gods (or their followers at least) decided they wanted the whole pie, and pushed the gods in the dark half out and tried to bury their memory. Now the gods of light 'rewrite' the history (as Robyn pointed out) and make Light = Good, Dark = Bad. But the universe needs balance, without the dark gods, the light gods are out of balance, as is the universe (or at least the planet). The PCs need to discover the true nature of the dark gods and work to re-establish the balance.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

In my fantasy campaign, the "good" gods contain a god of light AND a god of darkness, as well as a goddess of "order" (happens to be the same one as light) and a god of chaos.

 

The "evil" gods also have a god of order and a god of chaos; the difference is that the good gods have order-as-structure and chaos-as-flux, whereas the the evil gods have order-as-stifling-and-lifeless and chaos-as-discord-and-meaninglessness.

 

Regarding light/darkness as good/evil, you can ask the Dark Elves, who live in the desert. They'll be able to tell you about the bad aspects of light and the good aspects of darkness.

 

I'm going to stop now before I describe my whole setting.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

It is possible to construct a polytheistic mythos wherein Darkness is, at least some of the time and to substantial parts of Creation, a benevolent power.

 

Darkness is the Protector of the Helpless, concealing them so that the ravenous mighty cannot find them to devour. All beginnings come from the Dark, because the living prey upon the new and helpless. Is there a womb or an egg where one can see the bare start of any life? No.

 

Darkness is the Knower of Secrets, that which knows everything that no one knows. The Light exposes the Truth, but the proud and mighty create their own Truth and wield it and the Light as an unconquerable weapon. What the mighty do not want known lies in Darkness, and from the Darkness comes hopes and beginnings of their downfall.

 

Darkness is the Great Mercy, where a mind broken by horror and body riven with pain can find relief from the agony of its existance. In relief can come healing, as woes are held at bay, the packs of thieves and looters pass unknowing. In rest comes renewed strength, restored will, and eternal hope.

 

Darkness is the Great Unconquerable, for who can destroy the Void? The mad beast of Destruction and Death may annihilate the whole world and all that is in it, yet Darkness receives it all and exists after. When the king stands over the last of his slain enemies, mighty in his power and pride, he, too, will come to Darkness in the end.

 

I really like that. I'm going to add that to my notes for the Twilight People and their view of The Dark.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

But the universe needs balance' date=' without the dark gods, the light gods are out of balance, as is the universe (or at least the planet). The PCs need to discover the true nature of the dark gods and work to re-establish the balance.[/quote']

 

Hmm . . . see The Guardian Of Neutrality.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Plus' date=' in Arda, there was a goddess of the night and starlight that was worshipped by the Elves.[/quote']

Well, a 'goddess', anyway. ;) But that's semantics, don't mind me. Effectively the same thing for these discussions, it just buys into what I was saying in the other thread about how worshippers interact with the 'deities'.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

In my own game, one of the characters has the power of the Evil Eye -- both for cursing and for seeing. She can hex her enemies, see in darkness, and read minds... and generally, sees bad things. There's one character, the paladin, who she simply can't read. He's too bright. Through her, I'm instilling a distrust of the light -- because, as her mentor said when she found her, 'the light can hide things even better than the dark'.

 

Light can be bad. As said earlier, the Egyptians at various points saw the sun as a killer. It's hard to make light in general bad, because, well, we need it to see. It could simply be that what's bad is an excess of light (easy to see in the case of an alpine/nordic civilisation, because of snowblindness... well, not easy to see, but you get my drift).

 

Alternately, it could be fire that's bad -- see Zoroastrianism for that. Might run into problems with torches there, unless there's some light-emitting substance in your world that glows without heat. Particularly good if it glows some non-reddish shade (green for nature, or bluish-white for stars are particularly good, even if they've been done before).

 

Of course, even if dark is good and light bad, it doesn't mean that people have to shy away from the touch of the sun... darkness is 'bad' in many earth mythologies, yet we still usually sleep in darkness, so people in this world might live and work in light... they just return to the darkness, where it's safe and cool, at night, and might favour dimly-lit surroundings (particuarly if not lit by fire).

 

Don't really have anything useful to add past that, sorry. :)

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Want your crops to grow? Better pray for sunlight. Where I live, crops grow much faster than in the United States during the summer months because the days are so much longer. If it were not for that, the deadly long months of cold and darkness would turn the area into a virtually uninhabitable wasteland. It is for that reason that the Norse admired Freyr and Baldur, the gods of light and summer. But...for an evil sun-god you need to look further south. The Aztecs did not love the sun. They feared him, and sacrificed to propitiate him, holding off the inevitable time when he would burn us all. While Ra was sometimes revered, he was eventually toppled from his position of dominance, stories being told about how he had gone mad or senile and been replaced by Osiris and Isis, the rulers of the Earth and the cool dark underworld. Central African mythologies diminish the sun to a relatively minor element much the way that Roman religion paid little attention to Jupiter's nocturnal counterpart (who was no more evil than his brother, but just didn't attract much attention)

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Alternately, it could be fire that's bad -- see Zoroastrianism for that. Might run into problems with torches there, unless there's some light-emitting substance in your world that glows without heat. Particularly good if it glows some non-reddish shade (green for nature, or bluish-white for stars are particularly good, even if they've been done before).

 

:)

 

I've read that in Ethiopian culture, fire is associated with the Devil so strongly that people who have to work with fire as part of their jobs form a class of "untouchables" - not quite as extreme as being low caste in India, but definitely looked down on and avoided.

 

Which is really weird when you consider that this includes smiths, potters, and cooks!!

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary tells me I'm out of ti

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

I've read that in Ethiopian culture, fire is associated with the Devil so strongly that people who have to work with fire as part of their jobs form a class of "untouchables" - not quite as extreme as being low caste in India, but definitely looked down on and avoided.

 

Which is really weird when you consider that this includes smiths, potters, and cooks!!

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary tells me I'm out of ti

Wow. :) Yeah, have to hope it's not as extreme as India... otherwise you couldn't eat cooked food, because it was prepared by one of those guys!

 

Is very strange. I wonder if that has links to Zoroastrianism, or something else.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Alternately' date=' it could be fire that's bad[/quote']

 

Or, to reverse the externalization of these things, it is not darkness that is bad; it is what causes the darkness. Look not to the shadow for your evil, but at what casts that shadow . . . :eg:

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Stephen Erikson' date=' [i']Mazalan Books of the Fallen[/i].

 

In these books, at least one culture considers the darkness to be welcoming, comforting, warm and good rather than sinister, forbidding, cold and evil.

 

Is there a particular book in the series in which that culture prominently features?

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

The idea of "Darkness=Evil" in Christian imagry at least (as well as the focus on angels and whatnot)' date=' comes in through Judiasm, who in turn picked it up from Zoroastrianism.

 

Wikipedia is nothing more than a blog. Please provide a peer reviewed and accepted source for the assertion that Judaism picked this metaphor up from Zoastrianism. This article makes several bold assertions, proivides cites for only some of them, and essentially puts forward an opinion that is not widely accepted in the academic world without bothering to note that fact, or to present a counter-point, or competing (and more widely accepted) academic theories on the subject. And I'm not referring to religious bible scholars, either. Most secular Bible scholars, including the athiests among them, would throw the guantlet down over what you just said.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Where in Judaism are Darkness & Evil associated? I don't recall anything -specific- that says so; I'm not arguing, I'm just curious if you could cite it so I can go reference it. Regardless.

 

Well, you could try the first chapter of Genesis. It clearly states light is good. The opposite of light would therefore be? Also, its clear the metaphor exists throughout the text, even without it being explicit. The 9th plague, after all, was darkness. One generally assumed "plague" with "bad." And the prophets use darkness as a metaphor in several places. On the other hand, in most ancient midrashim (the authentic ones), and aggadatic sections of the Talmud, darkness is generally treated as the absense of light, and metaphorically, the absence of good. Good and evil, while having very clear connatations, are not understood the same way in traditional Judaic texts as they are in the modern western (hellenized/christianized) world - nor does it reflect the belief pattern of the Zoastrians or the gnostics. On the other hand, Lurianic Kabballah does reflect Gnostic and Zoastrian beliefs (more Gnostic than Zoastrian), which is disturbing in the extreme. Its been a bone of contention in the Orthodox world for centuries - and not a pleasant one.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Wikipedia is nothing more than a blog. Please provide a peer reviewed and accepted source for the assertion that Judaism picked this metaphor up from Zoastrianism. This article makes several bold assertions' date=' proivides cites for only some of them, and essentially puts forward an opinion that is not widely accepted in the academic world without bothering to note that fact, or to present a counter-point, or competing (and more widely accepted) academic theories on the subject. And I'm not referring to religious bible scholars, either. Most secular Bible scholars, including the athiests among them, would throw the guantlet down over what you just said.[/quote']

 

There's a tenacious notion out there that an idea is only originated once, and then everyone else has to pick it up somehow as a spread idea instead of as their own idea. So, if the most famous light vs dark dichotomy is from Zoroastrianism, some people will assume that everyone else got it from them.

 

There are two claims I've read that would support the particular idea in question, but I won't pretend to be an expert myself, and I can easily see how the idea would be wrong.

 

Claim one: Zoroastrianism is significantly older than the approximate 600 BCE date and predated the man by whose name we now know it. This would mean that its beliefs were already established before the "Babylonian captivity".

 

Claim two: The writing of the Torah and subsequent books of the Tanakh began during the Babylonian activity, and there were some changes in the Jewish faith during this time.

 

However, it's quite possible that both religions share a comon, older origin for the metaphor, or that they have entirely seperate origins for the metaphor. While they share a common space during the Captivity, both are older -- Judaism significantly older, Zoroastrianism probably significantly older.

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Re: Darkness and Evil -- Examing the Metaphor

 

Is there a particular book in the series in which that culture prominently features?

 

I know they make an appearance in the first book, near the end. The people in question live in a floating mountain. I think they're called the Tiste Andii.

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