It is, however, true that much of the evil in the world comes from the fact that man in general is hopelessly unconscious, as it is also true that with increasing insight we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves, in the same way that science enables us to deal effectively with injuries from without.” ~ C.G. Jung. “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man.” CW 10, par. 166.
Of all the obstacles to spiritual maturity, dualistic thinking about God’s moral code is perhaps the most difficult to deal with and the most dangerous to humanity. For many seekers, the classic conflict between good and evil is the name of the religious game, and everything—including human life and the fate of our planet—depends on who wins. If my God has a different conception of right and wrong than yours, then the hell with you! You deserve to have your brains blown out.
In this way of thinking, the highest priority isn’t to live and act with compassion but to have correct beliefs. Right there you know you’re talking about the Epoch II ego because you’re all about mental abstractions and either/or judgments.
Unlike the majority of their peers, the men who founded the great patriarchal religions had evolved beyond Epoch I physical consciousness. Ever since Eve ate the apple there have been serious seekers who consider heady issues like what is right and what is wrong, what is God and what is Devil. The founding patriarchs had developed self-aware egos and acquired consciences. And because they were trying to hard to be the good guys, they reasoned that evil must exist somewhere out there in the dark world of otherness. It couldn’t be in them.
Based on their growing self-reflective awareness and the dualistic thinking it spawned, they chose what they considered to be the good in every pair of opposites and formed their God-images around these words, qualities, and concepts. This kind of thinking was inevitable if humanity was to become more conscious and morally responsible. But they misused it when they assigned the label of evil to the rejected opposite. This tendency of every Epoch II ego is the reason for Jesus’s notable and widely ignored suggestion [Matthew 7:4, 7:5 and Luke 6:41, 42] to look not for the mote in thy neighbor’s eye but for the log in thine own.
Instead of seeing the Great Mother as an opposite but equally valid aspect of Creation, the early patriarchs portrayed her as as a threat to growing consciousness. Goddess represented their former Epoch I condition of instinctual behavior and morality, whereas the new solitary masculine God symbolized their hope to evolve toward a “higher,” more perfected and enlightened consciousness. Terrified of losing the ground they had worked so hard to gain, many of them believed they had to destroy Goddess’s worship and replace it with their new bias toward God. And since they feared their own feminine sides, they demonized Goddess. This is why femininity is still associated with the unconscious and, for some people, dangerous and evil aspects of the psyche.
But before she was a symbol of evil, Goddess represented something very good indeed: loving and creative partnership between the opposite energies of life. By demonizing her we subvert our hopes for wholeness. By integrating her we can break out of the dualistic prison that bars our growth.
So if evil is the opposite of good, and if we’re supposed to integrate the opposites, are we supposed to condone evil as well as good? Absolutely not. We are to integrate the evil within us into our awareness. This is the only way to defuse it. We are to stop pointing fingers and scapegoating others and start recognizing our own capacity for evil: the critical and judgmental thoughts, the desires for revenge, the small lies and subtle deceits, the betrayals of those who trust us, the blame we heap on others while excusing ourselves, our prejudice against people who are different, our cruel and thoughtless acts, our indifference toward the pain and misfortunes of others, our secret selfishness and sense of superiority. Seeing the evil in ourselves humbles us and replaces blame with understanding, hatred with tolerance, fear with trust.
There are two sides to every conflict, and there is self-serving as well as mature reasoning on both sides. Evil is real, but it is not located in a supernatural entity, a particular person or nation, or one side of an argument. Evil resides in an ego that is implacable in its certainties, ignorant of its destructive tendencies, and closed to further growth. As the Rt. Rev. Larry Maze says, “The God-Satan duality exists within our own being where there is a constant conversation going on between Self and ego, between what lies in the shadow and in the light. It is that conversation alone that transforms the dark shadow.”
A conventionally moral god is not a deity of wholeness, but one that identifies with good and casts off evil. A pious attitude of “Get thee behind me Satan,” gives us no chance for dialogue between our inner opposites, no hope for reconciliation or peace. Tolerating the tension of dialogues between our inner opposites is our key to moral maturity. We have good reason to hope that is it possible for us to develop mature moral reasoning. But to do so, we must accept that just as surely as evil resides in others it also resides in us.
What part did conventional religions play in your early ideas about good and evil? Right and wrong? How have your ideas changed?
Read more about your spiritual journey in Healing the Sacred Divide. This copyrighted material is from pp. 53-60.
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Dear Jeanie we’re having internet problems. I can use my phone funnily enough but can’t get connected on computer. I will respond to your lovely post when I can, hopefully tomorrow- love, susan.
Oh dear! So sorry you’re having internet problems! That’s the worst!
No worries. I always love to hear from you, but you don’t need to comment on every post, unless you want to, of course.
‘We are to integrate the evil within us into our awareness. This is the only way to defuse it.’ When will we recognise that it resides within ourselves? When will we know that we are capable of dastardly deeds? We see people such as ourselves committing dreadful crimes… one has to know it could easily have been me or us. History tells us so … just a thought, as I think it – we always blame the other. Is that other not within ourselves as well.
Thanks Jeanie, it’s a powerful post. Love, Susan
Thank you, Susan,
Yes, history shows us that anybody is capable of anything given the right conditions. And it shows us that scapegoating others only cements our innocence and ignorance of the darkness in ourselves. But until we experience it we’ll do everything in our power to deny it. We’ll never be rid of evil because the potential for it lives in us all.
I think of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve (of course, you know it very well, having written about a part of it in your wonderful book In Praise of Lilith) in which their son Cain killed his brother Abel to get his inheritance. And I think of the ancient Greeks who told similar tales about the first family in their creation myth. Gaia created Uranus and they had several children. Then their son Cronus castrated his father and feared his own children would betray him too, so every time his sister/wife Rhea had another child, he ate it!
This theme of murder and betrayal is archetypal. It has always been with us and always will be. But I keep hoping that given enough time, the majority of humanity can acquire enough self-knowledge to make a difference. Of course, no one else can make that happen for anyone else. We each have to do it ourselves. But maybe as our knowledge of the psyche evolves, more people will seek help to explore their inner darkness.
I know. Just call me a dreamer! 🙂
Much love, Jeanie
P.S. I’m glad to see that you appear to have resolved your internet problems!!