Prey species

I would say that humans in general, and people in the West in particular, have a very strange way of understanding evil. For instance, decades ago I played with the Star Wars lore when explaining certain spiritual concepts, and stated that Darth Vader was the “avatar” in that context, the one who did whatever had to be done in order to defeat evil, and that he wasn’t actually evil – he’s an extremely brave person that handles dangers personally instead of sending his minions to die while hiding in his far away fortress, for instance. If I recall correctly, I made that analysis somewhere around 1997-1998, which means it predates the prequels. Lo and behold, now the official Star Wars canon supports my interpretation; Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader is indeed “the chosen one”. To me, this interpretation was completely obvious when watching the original trilogy, but I honestly never found anyone else with the same interpretation, because, apparently, the fact that someone wears black, speaks in deep ominous voice, is profoundly threatening, and kills and tortures people whenever he deems appropriate, is simply too much of an obstacle for them to be able to see that person as, fundamentally, something God brought into existence to re-balance things. Apparently, the things God creates to re-balance things need to be “good”, and “good” beings are basically the fluffy bunnies of the world, never the eagles. It is here that I got the first inklings of the idea that humans don’t really have any concepts of right and wrong, or an understanding of the actual God. It’s all genetics, a projection of fears and desires of a prey species that imagines God as someone who will save them from the predators. The fact that something that is obviously and inherently a prey species grew to become the world’s top predator through use of tools doesn’t seem to change the way they internally perceive themselves. Christianity, obviously, is largely at fault here, because I can’t really see this mentality in the Roman Empire, for instance, but the fact that such an ethical system was so widely adopted makes me believe there’s something genetic there, especially when I perceive how the humans tend to emotionally identify with and root for the prey animal when watching an eagle or a lion hunt. Perhaps it is because in a normal human society, most humans are deprived of any power, and only the small number of rulers acts as a predatory subspecies.

I found a more recent example of this in the Witcher games (spoilers and in-game lore ahead). There’s a character there, Gaunter O’Dimm, who is generally accepted to be the devil of some sorts, “evil incarnate”. At the first glance, that checks out – he apparently tricks people with wordplay and “fine print” when fulfilling their wishes, which turn out to doom them. He is also known to kill people who annoy him and curse others. However, at a deeper inspection, this interpretation falls apart, because he seems to be very picky about his targets, and very obviously fails to exploit an opportunity to trick and ensnare Geralt, flat-out refusing to grant a wish that would have deadly unforeseen consequences, and his trade with Geralt is inherently fair; he saved his life in exchange for help, and he helped Geralt succeed and literally adhered to the terms of the deal. Also, the advice he gives to good people is actually very good; at a wedding party he teaches an old woman about time as an essential ingredient of a cookie, gives Geralt good and accurate advice when he needs to find Yennefer, or when he seems to come to an impasse with Shani, or when he asks how to save Ciri. There’s no trickery involved; the advice is very straightforward and helpful. When I tried to categorise the character, I had to categorise him as “lawful good”, which came as a surprise to me. Another surprise came when I tried to identify similar characters in the game, and I came up with the Lady of the Lake. They both seem to have their own rules which they both impose on the world and personally obey; they promote what they see as good and punish what they see as evil. However, since the Lady of the Lake looks cute and sexy, apparently nobody else saw that she’s the same category of entities as Gaunter O’Dimm, the “devil” of the in-game world. However, let’s see the facts. Olgierd von Everec was a nobleman who surrounded himself by a gang of cutthroats and thugs, and studied black magic. He tried to marry a good and beautiful woman, but since he “ran out of money” (which doesn’t look like an accident for someone who roamed the world with his thugs rather than tend to his estate) her parents chose to give her to another, an Ofieri prince. He then proceeded to curse the Prince, and sell his soul to the “devil” in exchange for wealth and eternal life; he then proceeded to destroy everything he touched, including his wife, and proceeded to feel sorry for himself all the while destroying everything he touched. We see his gang setting fire to some people’s estate which they took by force and terrorized the owners, and we see him planning to destroy more people who didn’t “show hospitality” to his gang. Basically, he’s scum of the earth in every conceivable way, and if not for Gaunter O’Dimm, Geralt would actually die as a consequence of doing a contract for Olgierd; he was captured and would have been executed.

The second known victim was the spotted wight of the Trastamara estate in Toussaint, who used to be a beautiful arrogant noble woman whom Gaunter O’Dimm tested by pretending to be a beggar and asking for alms, and she responded that she would rather give the remains of her feast to the dogs than feed him, at which he cursed her to basically become an ugly creature that can’t eat.

See a pattern there? Guess who is also known to curse people for very similar reasons? Lady of the Lake. Remember the Golyat, the giant Geralt and his guides kill when first entering Toussaint? To cite Witcher lore: “According to legend, Golyat had once been a knight who violated his vows, for which he was punished by the Lady of the Lake.”

So, when Gaunter O’Dimm punishes the arrogant noblewoman for violating the ancient rite of hospitality by turning her into a monster, he’s the devil, and when the Lady of the Lake punishes a knight for “violating his vows” (we can assume he did something particularly cruel and ugly) by turning him into a monster, she’s what? The protector-saint of the five chivalric virtues? In my analysis, both are “lawful good”. They have rules under which they act, they help the good characters and punish the evil ones, under their rules. For instance, Gaunter O’Dimm kills the pestilent useless drunkard who annoys him by preventing Geralt from reaching his table to talk to him, and he “shows particular interest” in a mage who made him the object of his study, and it’s hard to tell whether he cursed him to die when leaving a circle drawn in a room, or simply foresees this as a future event, considering his mastery of time.

It’s interesting that both Gaunter O’Dimm and Lady of the Lake see Geralt the same way; they understand that he’s someone who is wise, compassionate, brave, honest and extremely competent, and is essentially someone who keeps reducing people’s suffering and removing evils from the world, but this reality is not something that is either widely known or obvious to people; you need to be able look beneath the appearance and into the reality of things. Also, they are both some sort of a predator that selectively attacks cruel, arrogant and evil people, thus motivating others to adhere to moral principles, because they show by vivid example the dangers of being a callous bastard – you can cross paths with someone who will really end your career.

As a comparison, look at how the Crones of Crookbag Bog do things, and I categorise them as “lawful evil”, because they follow certain rules, but the end-result is that Velen, which is “under their protection”, is a hell on Earth. For instance, when a crone says a “prophecy” to Geralt, it’s a lie that consists of enough elements of truth to make it really dangerous, which is an attribute I would associate with Satan. They also have the ability to appear beautiful in order to seduce and deceive; the humans in Velen pray and sacrifice to them as if they were protective deities.

All in all, I would say that humans as a species are very much obsessed with good and evil, but they also have a terrible track record at being able to define those two in terms that have any bearing on the actual reality. When I heard someone state that all legally sane people can tell the difference between right and wrong, I started laughing. People couldn’t tell the difference in case of Jesus, which one would expect to be as obvious as it gets. One would expect equal propensity for mistaking saints for devils, devils for saints, and all kinds of dubious characters for either/both. Or, as I would put it, if one isn’t firmly founded in the darshan of God, everything he knows about reality amounts to shit.