Evil in both a philosophical sense and a practical sense was something with which Augustine struggled considerably in the formative years of his life.
As a student in Carthage during his final years of adolescence, he was attracted to Manicheanism.
One reason for this was because of its proposal of dual principles of good and evil.
In Manicheanism, he was able at least partially to absolve himself from the personal evil he saw in his life. He could attribute much of it to some external force of evil for which he was not responsible.
On his pathway to conversion to Christianity in Milan and at Cassisiacum, he came to reject the Manichean notion that evil was an active force in front of which goodness was essentially helpless or passive.
By accepting the consequences of his misuse of the gift of free will, Augustine came to appreciate that evil is something each person has to contend with personally.
There exists no conscious or intelligent external force of evil has control over any person.
He realised that evil was not a controlling external power. In fact, evil was nothing more than the absence of good. It is the graveyard of the human spirit.
Human nature is by definition good. It is a spark of the Divine Being. It is the creation of a God Who created it is goodness and in no way touched by evil.
But, Augustine said, by the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the first human beings succumbed to temptation, and evil – the absence of good – entered the human spirit.
In this, Augustine focused not only on the commission of sin by individuals but also on the broader picture of creation by a good God.
Augustine rejected the notion that God created evil either as a malevolent force existing in itself, or as a dualistic partner in direct opposition to goodness.
To seek the creation of evil, Augustine turned his attention not to God but to humanity.
The human person, from free will, commits a sin and germinates in himself or herself that which we describe by the word evil.
(Continued on the next page.)