Evil and Misfortune
By Jean Baudrillard / Translated by Chris Turner
This essay was originally published as part of Jean Baudrillard's "Le Pacte de lucidité ou l'intelligence du Mal" (2004), translated into English in 2005 as "The Intelligence of Evil or The Lucidity Pact".
Of evil in the pure state it is impossible to speak.
What one can speak of is the distinction between evil and misfortune, the reduction of evil to misfortune, and a culture of misfortune that is complicit with the hegemonic culture of happiness.
The ideal opposition between good and evil has been reduced to the ideological opposition between happiness and misfortune. The reduction of good to happiness is as baneful as that of evil to misfortune, but this latter is more interesting because it shows up our humanistic vision more distinctly, that vision which sees man as naturally good, and evil and misfortune as mere accidents.
It is here, in the idea that man is good, or at least culturally perfectible, that we encounter our deepest imaginary conception, and with it our most serious confusion. For if misfortune is an accident and, ultimately, like sickness and poverty, a reparable accident (from the technical standpoint of integral happiness even death is no longer irreparable), evil, for its part, is not an accident. It misfortune is accidental, evil is fatal [Primarily in the sense of destined, fated to occur. -Tr]. It is an original power and, in no sense, a dysfunction, vestige or mere obstacle standing in the way of good.
The sovereign hypothesis, the hypothesis of evil, is that man is not good by nature, not because he might be said to be bad, but because he is perfect as he is.
He is perfect in the sense that the fruit is perfect, but not more perfect than the flower, which is perfect in itself and is not the unfinished phase of a definitive state.
Nothing is definitive -- or rather everything is. Every stage of evolution, every age of life, every moment of life, every animal or plant species, is perfect in itself. Every character, in its singular imperfection, in its matchless finitude, is incomparable.
This is what evolutionary thought tends to suppress in the name of a finality that can only be that of Good, to the -- perfectly immoral -- advantage of some particular species, for it is in evolutionism, in the idea of progressive succession, that all discriminations are rooted.
If one takes each term in its singularity -- and not in its particularity, referred to the universal -- then each term is perfect; it is itself its own end.
In this way every detail of the world is perfect if it is not referred to some larger set.
In this way everything is perfect if it is not referred to its idea.
In this way the nothing is perfect since it is set against nothing.
And in this way evil is perfect when left to itself, to its own evil genius.
Such is man before being plunged into the idea of progress and into the technical imagining of happiness: he is both evil and perfection -- like the Cathars, who, while recognizing the singular power of evil and its total hold over creation, called themselves perfect: the "Perfecti".
Ceronetti, in L' occhiale malinconico, writes: "I find the philosophical idea of the fundamental misfortune of the human race quite alien. In Leopardi, the inalterable innocence of the victim is always presupposed and nature then strikes them down as though with some malignant tumour. ... I do not see innocence anywhere. I know men are base by nature and not by accident, but when I think "human condition", I lose any notion of happiness or misfortune -- the night carries it away, all that remains is a hopeless puzzle."
Or, again: "I feel misfortune as a marginal burning sensation, which does not correspond to a vision of evil, of which it might be said merely to be an accident, a belated event."
At bottom, the dogma of misfortune is too clear and too verifiable an idea to be fundamental. Evil is a confused, impenetrable idea. It is enigmatic in its very essence. Now, a tiny confused idea is always greater than a very big idea that is absolutely clear.
The idea of misfortune is, then, an easy solution.
Just as the idea of freedom is the easiest solution to the impossibility of thinking destiny and predestination, just as the idea of reality is the easiest solution to the impossibility of thinking the radical illusoriness of the world, so the idea of misfortune is the easiest solution to the impossibility of thinking evil.
The impossibility of thinking evil is matched only by the impossibility of imagining death.
Hence the question how an entire people was able to follow the Nazis in their enterprise of extermination is one that remains hopelessly insoluble for a rational thought, an Enlightenment thought that is incapable of thinking beyond an ideal version of man, incapable even of envisaging the absence of a response to such a question.
Unintelligence of evil, absence of insight into things by evil and therefore always the same discourse on the "foul beast" and the same naïveté in the analysis of present events.
Our whole system of values excludes this predestination of evil.
Yet all it has invented, at the end of its burdensome therapy on the human species, is another way of making it disappear, that is to say, of ironically carrying the possibility of happiness to its opposite term, that of the perfect crime, that of integral misfortune, which was somehow waiting for it just at the end.
For you cannot liberate good without liberating evil, and that liberation is even more rapid than the liberation of good.
It is, in fact, no longer exactly a struggle between good and evil. It's a question of transparency.
Good is transparent: you can see through it.
Evil, by contrast, shows through: it is what you see when you see through.
Or alternatively, evil is the first hypothesis, the first supposition. Good is merely a transposition and a substitute product: the hypostasis of evil.
Good definitively scattered among the figures of evil. Anamorphosis of good.
Evil definitively scattered among the figures of good. Anamorphosis of evil.
It is only through the distorted, disseminated figures of evil that one can reconstitute, in perspective, the figures of good. It is only through the dispersed and falsely symmetrical figures of good that one can reconstitute the paradoxical figure of evil.
As it is only through the dispersion of the name of God in the labyrinth of the poem that you can sense the original figure running through it.
This way evil has of showing through in all figures of good, this occult presence, is the matrix of all perverse effects and, singularly, of the fact that everything which stands opposed to the system today is merely an involuntary mirror to it.
So it is with all these developments in human rights, humanitarianism and all these things "sans frontières" that merely hasten the circulation of the New World Order for which they stand surety. Without that being anyone's strategy.
In this sense, the hypothesis of evil is never that of a determined ill-will, but the hypothesis of a rational concatenation, of normality on the move -- a teleonomy that is particularly tangible in all the recent wars where the right of humanitarian intervention clearly takes over the role of extending that New Order. The Kosovans were not just human shields for the Serbs; the whole refugee drama served as a humanitarian shield for the West.
An entirely synchronous disconnect: the refugee drama was treated as a "humanitarian" catastrophe, while the "surgical" air strikes were unfolding just as implacably. Thus the apotropaic figures of good ensure the continuation of evil, just as (in Macedonio Fernández's writings) the vicissitudes of meaning and value keep the Nothing in being.
As Ceronetti says, "Concrete salvation takes the form of an accelerated destruction." But, in a way, it is not evil, but good that is manifestly at the controls of the suicide locomotive.
Thinking based on evil is not pessimistic; it is the thinking based on misfortune that is pessimistic because it wants desperately to escape evil or, alternatively, to revel in it.
Thought, for its part, does not cure human misfortune, the terrible obviousness of which it absorbs for purposes of some unknown transformation. Pessimism excludes any depth that eludes its negative judgement, whereas thought wishes to penetrate magically beyond the fracture of the visible. The rays of the black sun of pessimism do not reach down to the floor of the abyss.
Absolute depth knows neither good nor evil.
Thus the intelligence of evil goes far beyond pessimism.
In reality, the only genuinely pessimistic, nihilistic vision is that of good since, at bottom, from the humanist point of view, the whole of history is nothing but crime. Cain killing Abel is already a crime against humanity (there were only two of them!) and isn't original sin already a crime against humanity too? This is all absurd, and, from the standpoint of good, the effort to rehabilitate the world's violence is a hopeless exercise. All the more so as, without all these crimes, there simply wouldn't be any history.
"If the evil in man were eliminated," says Montaigne, "you would destroy the fundamental conditions of life."
Everything comes from this confusion between evil and misfortune.
Evil is the world as it is and as it has been, and we can take a lucid view of this. Misfortune is the world as it ought never to have been -- but in the name of what? In the name of what ought to be, in the name of God or a transcendent ideal, of a good it would be very hard to define.
We may take a criminal view of crime: that is tragedy. Or we may take a recriminative view of it: that is humanitarianism; it is the pathetic, sentimental vision, the vision that calls constantly for reparation.
We have here all the Ressentiment that comes from the depths of a genealogy of morals and calls within us for reparation of our own lives.
This retrospective compassion, this conversion of evil into misfortune, is the twentieth century's finest industry.
First as a mental blackmailing operation, to which we are all victim, even in our actions, from which we may hope only for a lesser evil -- keep a low profile, decriminalize your existence! -- then as source of a tidy profit, since misfortune (in all its forms, from suffering to insecurity, from oppression to depression) represents a symbolic capital, the exploitation of which, even more than the exploitation of happiness, is endlessly profitable: it is a goldmine with a seam running through each of us.
Contrary to received opinion, misfortune is easier to manage than happiness -- that is why it is the ideal solution to the problem of evil. It is misfortune that is most distinctly opposed to evil and to the principle of evil, of which it is in denial.
Just as freedom ends in total liberation and, in abreaction to that liberation, in new servitudes, so the ideal of happiness leads to a whole culture of misfortune, of recrimination, repentance, compassion and victimhood.
We go on discarding elements of freedom in all kinds of ways, while continuing to speak up for it.
We go on dreaming of perfect happiness, while sensing the potential boredom of paradise. For we know what Hell is like and those burning in Hell, since Hell is never being able to do anything but evil. But how is it with those in Paradise who will no longer have any idea of evil? God alone knows what awaits them.
It is here and now, however, that we are confronted with the tedium of artificial paradises, with ideal living conditions. And it is by hypersensitivity to these ideal conditions that we abreact and tend towards misfortune as the most sustainable solution -- a kind of escape route from the terrorist happiness plot. The despair of having everything.
Yet we do not, for all that, move closer to evil or to the essence of evil. On the contrary, we move further away from it, for the closer you get to the comfortable obviousness of misfortune, the further you move from the invisible continuity of evil.
"Bis Gottes Fehle hilft," says Hölderlin. "Until God's absence comes to our aid."
The death of God is, in fact, the deliverance from all responsibility to another world. But our responsibility for this world then becomes total, and there is no longer any possible redemption.
Or, rather, redemption changes meaning: it is no longer the redemption of man and his sin, but the redemption of the death of God. That death has to be redeemed by a compulsive effort to transform the world. One has to ensure one's salvation at all costs by realizing the world for better or for worse.
A performance that tops off the one described by Max Weber in The Spirit of Capitalism: that of transforming the world into wealth for the greater glory of God. But it is no longer a question now of his glory; it is a question of his death and of exorcizing it. The point is to make the world transparent and operational by extirpating from it any illusion and any evil force.
And so, under the hegemony of good, everything is getting better and, at the same time, going from bad to worse: no hell any more, and no damnation. Everything becomes susceptible of redemption. From this point on, good and evil, which were still opposing powers, but linked to each other in transcendence, are to be dissociated for the purposes of a definitive realization of the world under the banner of happiness.
In fact, this idea of happiness bears merely a distant relation to good. For if good is moral in essence, happiness -- the performance of happiness -- is in essence perfectly immoral.
It is to such an evangelization that we can ascribe all the manifest signs of well-being and accomplishment offered to us by a paradisiac civilization subject to the eleventh commandment, the commandment that sweeps away all others: "Be happy and show all the signs of happiness!"
We can see this demand for universal redemption in the way all current violence and injustice is being put on trial, and also, retrospectively, all the crimes and violent events of the past: the French Revolution, slavery, original sin and battered wives, the ozone layer and sexual harassment. In short, the investigative process for the Last Judgement is already well under way and we are doomed first to condemn, then to absolve and whitewash the whole of our history; to exterminate evil from even the tiniest interstices, so as to offer the image of a radiant universe ready to pass over into the next world.
An inhuman, superhuman, all-too-human undertaking?
And why fuel this eternal repentance, this chain reaction of bad conscience?
Because everything must be saved.
This is where we have got to today. Everything will be redeemed, the whole past will be rehabilitated, buffed up to the point of transparency. As for the future, it is better and worse yet: everything will be genetically modified to attain the biological and democratic perfection of the species.
The salvation that was defined by the equivalence of merit and grace will be defined, once the fixation with evil and Hell has been overcome, by the equivalence of genes and performance.
To tell the truth, once happiness becomes the general equivalent of salvation, pure and simple, then heaven itself is no longer needed. From the point when everyone is potentially saved, no one is. Salvation no longer has any meaning.
This is the destiny that beckons for our democratic enterprise: it is stifled at birth for having forgotten the necessary discrimination, for the omission of evil.
We need, then, an irrevocable presence of evil, an evil from which there is no possible redemption, an irrevocable discrimination, a perpetual duality of Heaven and Hell, and even, in a sense, a predestination of evil, for there can be no destiny without some predestination.
There is nothing immoral in this. According to the rules of the game, there is nothing immoral in some losing and others winning, or even in everyone losing. What would be immoral would be for everyone to win. This is the contemporary ideal of our democracy: that all should be saved. But that is possible only at the cost of a perpetual inflation and upping of the stakes.
And this is reassuring, since the imperative of salvation, of the individual state of grace, will always be thwarted by some challenge or passion from elsewhere, and any form of personal beatitude may be sacrificed to something more vital, which may be of the order of the will in Schopenhauer's terms or the will to power in Nietzsche's, but which, in any event, retains the fateful quality of that which, in opposition to any happy finality, is predestined to come to pass.
Behind its euphoric exaltation, this imperative of maximum performance bears within it evil and misfortune in the form of a deep disavowal and a secret disillusionment.
Perhaps performance is merely a collective form of human sacrifice, but disembodied and distilled into our entire technological machinery.
In this strange world, where everything is potentially available -- the body, sex, space, money, pleasure -- to be taken or rejected en bloc, everything is there: nothing has disappeared physically, but everything has disappeared metaphysically. "As if by magic," one might say, except that it has disappeared not so much by enchantment but by disenchantment.
Individuals, such as they are, become exactly what they are. Without transcendence and without image, they carry on their lives like a useless function in the eyes of another world, irrelevant even in their own eyes.
And they do what they do all the better for the fact that there is no other possibility. No authority to appeal to.
They have sacrificed their lives to their functional existences. They are one with the exact numerical calculation of their lives and their performance.
Summoned to get the greatest efficiency and pleasure out of themselves, human beings are suddenly at odds and their existences dislocated.
An existence realized, then, but at the same time denied, thwarted, disowned.
Wherever humans are condemned to total freedom or to an ideal of fulfilment, this automatic abreaction to their own good and their own happiness seeps in.
This imperative of maximum performance also comes into contradiction with the moral law, which dictates that everyone shall be put on an equal basis and everything set to zero in the name of democracy and an equal division of opportunity and advantage. From the perspective of universal redemption no one must stand out.
For justice to be done, all privilege must disappear: everyone is called on to shed any specific qualities and to become once again an elementary particle -- collective happiness being that of the lowest common denominator. This is like potlatch in reverse, each outbidding the other in insignificance, while zealously cultivating their tiniest difference and cobbling together their multiple identities.
Recrimination means going back over the crime to correct its trajectory and its effects. This is what we are doing in going back over the whole of our history, over the criminal history of the human species, so that we may do penance right now as we await the Last Judgement.
Hence the immense syndrome of repentance and rewriting (historical rewriting for now, but with the genetic, biological rewriting of the species yet to come) that has taken hold of this fin de siècle, from the perspective still of deserving salvation and of offering the image of an ideal victim at the last.
A "clean-up" of all the violent events of past centuries, in order to bring them under the new jurisdiction of human rights and crimes against humanity. The latest episode of this revisionist madness is the proposal that slavery and the slave-trade be condemned as a crime against humanity.
The rectification of the past in terms of our new humanitarian awareness. Or, in other words, in the purest colonial tradition, the imperialism of repentance! The idea is to allow the "populations concerned" to carry out their mourning and draw a line under this page of their history in order to enter fully upon the path of modern history. Perhaps the Africans will even be able to turn this moral acknowledgement into damage claims on the same terms that have been granted to the survivors of the Shoah.
Then we shall see no end to compensating, redeeming and rehabilitating, and all we shall have done will have been to add to the traditional exploitation the hypocritical absolution of all violence.
A victim economy, a political economy of misfortune: a positive tradeable stock, which, in all its forms, has substituted itself for the impossible exchange of evil.
A differential of victimhood that nowhere pays off so well, is nowhere so lucrative today, as in the negotiation of oneself as waste (something magnificently illustrated by contemporary art).
An inexhaustible seam, since this negative affect is the most widely distributed of all. We can always count on this denial of self that smoulders within each of us, much more than on pride, self-regard or self-love. Much more even than on pleasure or the taste for pleasure, we can count on this wallowing in misfortune.
Many people's only talent in life is to mobilize this affect and this alternative solution. "After hatred, the fundamental enemy of the human race is remorse," says Spinoza. But hatred and remorse are one and the same: it is remorse at individuation and at the breaking of the symbolic pact that engenders self-hatred and Ressentiment.
Rendered official in this way, self-criticism and repentance have even become a mode of government: politicians constantly offer up the mirror of their uselessness for the assent of their fellow citizens, who can thus continue to live in contempt for themselves, through the contempt they feel for the political class. For, if the love of others is the path taken by one's own self-love -- La Rochefoucauld virtually made a set of rules out of this -- one may also detest oneself through the hatred and contempt one feels for others.
Everyone counts on deriving the secondary gains from this vicious circle and misfortune is exchanged on the Stock Exchange of Values, whereas evil is inconvertible.
Immediate conversion, in the name of the law, of misfortune into earnings -- the pay-off for an accident or for depression, the commercial equivalent of any setback, any handicap: rape, sexual harassment, even birth itself, regarded as a congenital affliction (for example, the blind, deaf, mute and mentally retarded child who was recently granted life-long compensation for the fact of being born).
Today this chronicle of recrimination and compensation covers the entire "social" field, which is now merged with the fields of insurance and security.
And this model of repentance and reparation of all wrongs has been shifted on to a quite other level: the genetic reparation of all the deficits of the human species.
All this shows a very mediocre idea of oneself -- always imputing misfortune to some objective cause.
Once it has been exorcized by causes, misfortune is no longer a problem: it becomes susceptible of a causal solution and, above all, it originates elsewhere -- in original sin, in history, in the social order, or in natural perversion. In short, it originates in an objectivity into which we exile it the better to be rid of it. Once again, this bespeaks very little pride and self-respect.
In the past, what struck you down was your destiny, your personal fatum. You didn't look for some "objective" cause of this or some attenuating circumstance, which would amount to saying we have no part in what happens to us. There is something humiliating in that.
The intelligence of evil begins with the hypothesis that our ills come to us from an evil genius that is our own.
Let us be worthy of our "perversity", of our evil genius, let us measure up to our tragic involvement in what happens to us (including good fortune).
In a word, let us not be imbeciles, for imbecility in the literal sense lies in the superficial reference to misfortune and exemption from evil.
This is how we make imbeciles of the victims themselves, by confining them to their condition of victim. And by the compassion we show them we engage in a kind of false advertising for them.
We take no account of what degree of choice and defiance, of connivence with oneself, of -- unconscious or quasi-deliberate -- provocative relation to evil there may be in AIDS, in drug-taking, in suffering and alienation, in voluntary servitude -- in this acting-out in the fatal zone.
It is the same with suicide, which is always ascribed to depressive motivations with no account taken of an originality of, an original will to commit, the act itself (Canetti speaks in the same way of the interpretation of dreams as a violence done to dreams that takes no account of their literalness).
So, the understanding of misfortune is everywhere substituted for the intelligence of evil. Now, unlike the former, this latter rests on the rejection of the presumption of innocence. By contrast with that understanding, we are all presumptive wrongdoers -- but not responsible ones, for, in the last instance, we do not have to answer for ourselves -- that is the business of destiny or of the divinity.
For the act we commit, it is right we should be dealt with -- and indeed punished -- accordingly. We are never innocent of that act in the sense of having nothing to do with it or being victims of it. But this does not mean we are answerable for it either, as that would suppose we were answerable for ourselves, that we were invested with total power over ourselves, which is a subjective illusion.
It's a good thing we don't possess that power or that responsibility. A good thing we are not the causes of ourselves -- that at least confers some degree of innocence on us. For the rest, we are forever complicit in what we do, even if we are not answerable to anyone.
So we are both irresponsible and without excuses.
Never explain, never complain.
One must never confess to being unfortunate or claim to be unfortunate, and hence in some way innocent and a victim.
There is no presumption of innocence and it is better to be part of evil than party to misfortune.
So, to say of a woman she is an innocent victim of seduction, that she has no part in the fact of being seduced, is an offence to femininity itself.
In this way, beyond good and evil, that dual relation is played out in which the victim ceases to be a victim by an active complicity with his/her misfortune.
The extreme case of Stockholm Syndrome is like this, where the hostage ends up going over to the hostage-taker's cause -- an incomprehensible turn of events if one cannot conceive that this complicity of the victim equates to a symbolic transference and forms part of the ironic essence of evil.
Which means there is nowhere a definition of Good or for anyone a clear definition of happiness -- and that nothing is for the best in the best of all worlds.
The paradox may extend as far as the moral obligation of gratitude to the other for the evil he has done you, as illustrated by the following Japanese story, which is sublime, but difficult for our Western morality to accept, in which a woman decides not to save the life of a drowning child since, she says, "You would owe me such a debt of gratitude that your entire life would not suffice to pay it back."
Is there not also the profoundest pleasure in bitterness? No satisfaction, no victory, will ever be the equivalent of the bitter plenitude of the sense of injustice. It revels in itself. It draws on the very roots of an inner revenge on existence. Who, in the light of that, could claim to give a definition of happiness?
Complex as is this entanglement of good and evil, so too is it difficult to pass beyond good and evil when the very distinction between the two has disappeared.
One may reject all this.
The fact remains that the hypothesis of evil, of the lack of distinction between good and evil and our deep complicity with the worst, is always present, rendering all our actions impenetrable. But it is itself a principle of action and doubtless one of the most powerful.
I am playing devil's advocate here.
But if you reject this hypothesis you can always think in terms of a wager of the Pascalian type. What Pascal says, more or less, is this: you can always content yourself with a secular existence and its advantages, but it's much more fun with the hypothesis of God. With just a few sacrifices to make in exchange for eternal salvation, the advantages are much greater.
Where we are concerned, this same wager becomes: you can always get by with the hypothesis of good and happiness, but it's much more fun with the hypothesis of evil.
A variant of the same wager would be: you can always get by with the hypothesis of reality, but it's much more fun with the hypothesis of radical illusion.
We should transfer on to reality -- or rather on to the non-existence of reality -- Pascal's wager on the existence of God.
Pascal: It's to your advantage to believe in the existence of God and eternal life since, if they don't exist, you won't have lost much by sacrificing your life. On the other hand, if they do exist, you stand to gain infinitely.
Reality: It's to your advantage not to believe in it, since if you believe in it and it doesn't exist, you're duped and swindled and you will die stupid.
If you don't believe in it and it doesn't exist, you win on all counts.
If you don't believe in it and it does exist, you retain the benefit of the doubt, since there will never be any conclusive proof of its existence, any more than of the existence of God (moreover, if it exists, given what it is, it is better to be parted from it as quickly as possible).
Clearly this is the opposite choice to that of Pascal, who opts for God. But it is the same wager. And, in any event, no one is forced to gamble.
It is all down to the fact that the Devil had an unhappy childhood and one cannot accuse him of maleficence when he is merely doing the dirty work, in accordance with the providential designs of which he is merely the instrument. This poor devil, Mephisto, who always desires evil and always does good, really has no need of an advocate.
It would seem rather to be God who needed one. He who created the world and, as a result, took upon himself an infinite debt, and who has been constantly passing that debt on to mankind, the entire history of which since then is one of wrongdoing.
And worse: to that enforced guilt he added humiliation.
For mankind is faced with the impossibility of making a sacrifice to equal this gift of God's, the impossibility of making restitution and wiping away the debt. Being unable to take up this challenge, it has to humble itself and give thanks. It is at this point that God chose to cancel the debt himself by sending his beloved son to sacrifice himself on the cross. He pretends to humble himself, and, in so doing, inflicts an even greater humiliation on humanity by making it conscious of its impotence. Henceforth humanity is condemned to give thanks, not just for having been created, but for having been saved (very relatively, as it happens, for this humiliation does not mean it will be spared the Last Judgement).
This is the greatest act of manipulation ever.
And it succeeded far beyond its objective -- even beyond the death of God, since we have taken it over today, augmented by the guilt of that death (God's cunning is infinite).
We mimic here below this humiliation received from God: victimhood, humanitarianism, self-derision and self-deprecation, in this immense sacrificial effort that stands in, in our case, for redemption.
We could have taken advantage of the death of God to be free of the debt. But we didn't take that option. We chose rather to deepen the debt, to eternalize it in an endless performance, a sacrificial accumulation, as though we had already internalized God's judgement.
"God's absence" has not come to our aid -- contrary to Hölderlin's expectation ("Bis Gottes Fehle hilft").
In fact God himself is complicit in all this.
God himself is in league with the principle of evil.
We have this from the fabulous tale of Lilith and Saekina which the Kabbalah recounts (Primo Levi).
When Lilith, the first woman created by God as the equal of Adam, had rebelled, God chose to create Eve, the fruit of Adam's rib, since the first man clearly needed a companion. However, God realized at this point that it is not good to be alone and he chose a wife for himself, Saekina, who was none other than his own presence in the world (fantastic: he marries his own presence in the world!). Saekina eventually takes umbrage at God's behaviour toward the Jews (when the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed -- why did he not protect them better?). She runs off, going out into the world to do Good. And what does God do then? He takes a mistress. And who is this mistress? It is Lilith, who is none other than the principle of evil, a rebel against God and an unbeliever.
So God cheats on his own presence in the world with the -- feminine -- principle of evil! He betrays the integrality, the completeness of the world -- his union with Saekina -- for an (adulterous) union with duality, which he takes as his mistress.
Now, that mistress, Lilith, has not, like Eve, issued from Adam as a kind of by-product. She exists principio suo, entirely autonomously, which makes her the emblem of evil... Well, God makes a pact with all that. He plots against his own presence and against the reproduction of the species by allying unnaturally with the emblem of evil.
And thus, while Saekina, the wife, continues to do Good throughout the world, she, Lilith, continues to do evil with God's connivance.
And so long as she is there, says the Kabbalah, everything will go from bad to worse.