Today's broadcast, Ultimate Evil, is about the root of evil, or the essence of evil. The broadcast is now available immediately for download or steaming directly on my website:
I mention two authors in the broadcast who have overwhelming influence in how we perceive ourselves - Dante and Shakespeare. There shall be ample opportunity to discuss Shakespeare in other contexts, so I'd like to comment on Dante this time.
According to Dante's Inferno, In the Ninth Circle of Hell is reserved for the treacherous and traitorous. This is perhaps the first place, outside of the Quran, where Satan is depicted as defiant and an enemy of God, which is the ultimate betrayal. Next to Satan, with their feet encased in ice, for Satan's wings continously flap a frigid wind from the void at the center of the earth, are two other ultimate betrayers - Judas and Brutus. In Dante's world-view, these characters epitomise the evil of betrayal, turning on great and virtuous men in their life-times for a pittance of power or flawed principles. If written today in America, our values might place less effective betrayers like Benedict Arnold or Richard Nixon there. However, that betrayel should occupy the ultimate evil space, I think, is appropriate. Every great human endeavor depends on the complicity of others. Even notoriously reclusive or solitary individuals must be afforded time and space to do their great work. A betrayer, someone who interferes with someone else's work after promising to assist them, can therefore always undermine progress. Other evils seem less intelligent and vindictive than the conscious denial of loyalty required for betrayal. So in this, I think Dante was correct. The ninth circle of hell, which is a reflection of our most damning judgment, is reserved for the treacherous and disloyal.
Incidentally, that means that the dog, among the most loyal of God's creatures, is also one of the most virtuous.
- F. F. White