That “the world lieth in evil” is a complaint as old as history, even as old as the older art of poetry; indeed, just as old as the oldest poetry of all, the religion of the priests. All allow that the world began with something good: with the Golden Age, with life in Paradise, or an even happier life in communion with heavenly beings. But then they make this happiness disappear like a dream, and they spitefully hasten the decline into evil (moral evil, with which the physical always went hand in hand) in an accelerating fall, so that now (this “now” is, however, as old as history) we live in the final age; the Last Day and the destruction of the world are knocking at the door, and in certain regions of India the Judge and Destroyer of the world, Rutra (otherwise known as Shiva or Shiwa), already is worshipped as the God now holding power, after Vishnu, the Sustainer of the World, grown weary of the office he had received from Brahma the Creator, resigned it centuries ago.
More recent, though far less widespread, is the opposite heroic opinion, which has gained standing only among philosophers and, in our days, especially among the pedagogues: that the world steadfastly (though hardly noticeably) forges ahead in the very opposite direction, namely from bad to better; that at least there is in the human being the predisposition to move in this direction. But surely, if the issue is moral good or evil (not just growth in civilization), they have not drawn this view from experience, for the history of all times attests far too powerfully against it; and we may presume that it is, rather, just an optimistic presupposition on the part of the moralists, from Seneca to Rousseau, intended to encourage the indefatigable cultivation of that seed of goodness that perhaps lies in us, if one could only count on any such natural foundation of goodness in the human kind. Yet this is also to be said: Since we must assume that the human being is sound of body by nature (i.e., in the way he is usually born), there is no cause not to assume that he is equally sound and good of soul by nature as well. Nature itself would then be promoting the cultivation in us of this ethical predisposition toward goodness.