Archive for the ‘evil’ tag
Yes, this is what I looked like the summer I got married. I was a flower child, not a hippie (distinctions lost somewhere in the mists of time). As I look at this image which has not stood the test of time, I see a person so much different from the person I am today. Yet, at the same time, I see so much that is still the same. I remember having my French-Canadian grandmother see me looking similar to this (beard was a bit longer) and her response: “Mon Dieu! C’est Jésus Christ!” In a way, she wasn’t all that far off as I was trying desperately at that time to be as Christ-like as possible.
The attempt to be a holy person, a saint if possible was a response, my response to a history of abuse that had been the gift from my parents and others to help form the character that I live with today. Out of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse I transformed into a decent father, husband and grandfather. I took the modelling as what not to do in the roles of parent, spouse and grandparent. But of course, like all “wannabe” saints, I found myself to be as un-saint-like as possible. Today, I accept the fact that I am not a saint, nor will I ever be a saint.
No I am not a saint. But still, the urge to avoid darkness and evil remains strong within me. If I think about it, the words of this blog site are all spoken in an attempt to bring light into the darkness. It would have been easy, too easy for me to have given up in my youth, given in to darkness. I could have travelled many different paths to the present. Each path would have not yielded me the love and family that the path I chose through the dark and trackless wilderness in which I had found myself as a young man. One of my brothers chose death, a fate I had often thought would have been best for me. In truth, the only choice I found myself confronted with was always death or light. The options for addictions, for crime, for any other path refused to present itself to me. Darkness or light – which would I choose?
And like all good saint “wannabes” I chose and continue to choose the light.
This is a scene that I love to see over and over again when I go for a walk in Hong Mei Gong Yuan in ChangZhou. With the sun out and being in a “sunny” mood, it is easy to buy into the illusion created in the park, an illusion of a time and place that has existed only in the heart of the people, a place dreamed about and wished for as the people went about living in a world that never matched the illusion. But still, the illusion is taken as a reality of a golden era from the past and celebrated as “heritage.”
Ever curious, I wondered how this illusion would look from the other side. I know that there must be balance which has to lie somewhere between the two versions of reality. I think of myself when all is right in my world and the sun is shining and all of my needs have been met. At that point in time, there are no blemishes, no ugliness in the world. People smile and embrace me and I smile and embrace back. Yet, when I am in a depression, the world is dark and colour is almost non-existent. I am alone and the world looks a forbidding place that is ready to destroy me, to swallow me up.
When somewhere in the middle, I see both beauty and ugliness. The world is a shifting mass of conflicting colours and ideas. It is impossible to find right or wrong, the perfect good or the perfect evil. Yet, evil is present. But somehow, even in the evil there is goodness. And in the good, shadows are present. I think here of the world today where the Arab world is viewed with many different lenses with some seeing it as a dark pit of evil while others see it as the hope for a new world. I also think of America which is also viewed with so many different lenses which cast it in the role of demon and of angel. The truth is, somewhere in between.
Though knowing this, I am guilty of wanting perfection, wanting to be an angel of truth, deathly afraid of being a demon in disguise. Perhaps the greatest fear is being a nobody trapped in between, invisible to my self and others.
I stopped at Hoi Van Pass en route to Hue from Da Nang this morning. There is no question in my mind that the clouds and darkness of the morning well suited the scene that met my eyes and heart. This image shows one of the defensive emplacements used by the forces of “good” versus the forces of “evil,” at least as it was experienced by those who manned this and similar bunkers during the Vietnam War, or as it is called in Vietnam, the American War. Seeing the terrain, I could almost feel the terror and the fear that must have been experienced by those waiting for the enemy, an enemy that didn’t want to play by the same rules of war.
“With no human consciousness to reflect themselves in, good and evil simply happen, or rather, there is no good and evil, but only a sequence of neutral events . . . ” (Jung, cited in Jung on Evil, p. 7)
Both sides seeing the other as enemy, as forces of evil. Both sides following orders trusting in their leadership. Both sides fighting with their god(s) on their side. There is no room for consciousness in a war.
Taken on an individual level, this image becomes more about how an single person feels surrounded by enemies, surrounded by the vast unknown that is, for the most part, out to get you. Each of us gains just enough consciousness to know that death lies around some corner in our future. We grasp at anything or anyone who promises us life. We huddle in collectives rather than venture into the dark unknown regions. We make ourselves victims of our own fear. And so, we remain unconscious of our own acts of unconscious, acts where we hurt others and hurt ourselves.
It looks as though this is a dead tree, but appearances are often deceiving. What is visible in this photo are simply some of the wounds the tree has received as part of “living” a full life as a tree. Nature teaches me a lot. For example, I see wounds such as this, leaves eaten off of smaller plants, road kill of animals small and big – life is not “fair” in any sense of the word. Life simply happens. And along the way as one goes through life catching diseases, suffering falls, scrapes and broken bones, life has a way of coming to an end. The who cycle of birth and death repeated over and over again in plant, animal and even at a larger level is simple a process that has no moral or ethical “good” or “evil” side.
I wonder why we humans have a tendency to ascribe the pains and joys of living to good and evil and to the gods. Life is life. In saying this, I don’t want to discount good and evil, for they are there. But as I said in my last post, they are both faces of gods, of the One God when it comes down to final definitions. I mentioned in one of my responses to comments made here about the story of Job as found in the Bible. I want to follow up on that reference with some words of Jung’s.
“Without wishing it, we humans are placed in situations in which the great “principles” entangle us in something, and God leaves it to us to find a way out. Sometimes a clear path is opened with his help, but when it really comes to the point one has the feeling of having been abandoned by every good spirit. In critical situations the hero always mislays his weapon, and at such moment, as before death, we are confronted with the nakedness of this fact. And one does not know how one got there. A thousand twists of fate all of a sudden land you in such a situation. This is symbolically represented by Jacob’s fight with the angel at the ford. Here a man can do nothing but stand his ground. It is a situation that challenges him to react as a whole man. Then it may turn out that he can no longer keep to the letter of the moral law. That is where his most personal ethics begin: in grim confrontation with the Absolute, in striking out on a path condemned by current morality and the guardians of the law. And yet he may feel that he has never been truer to his innermost nature and vocation, and hence never nearer to the Absolute, because he alone and the Omniscient have seen the actual situation as it were from inside . . . (Jung, CW 10, par 869)
So who can judge us as we wrestle with good and evil, for we do wrestle with both? Who can know the intention, the situation, the purpose of such encounters with good and evil? It becomes a difficult enough, if not often impossible, to judge. It is enough o simply bear one’s wounds and continue being present in the situation called life.
While at the family reunion taking photos to be part of the official record of the event, I took time for a few extra photos such as this one and the one from the last post. As usual, a sunset scene fills a spiritual need for me and reminds me that I am but a small part of something so much larger. And for me, this spiritual resonance alerts me to something beyond what I can hold within my limited consciousness, something I can only approach and often only obliquely.
It must be my age, but I think often of good and evil. The problem is that I only think I know what good and evil are. I am hearing a lot of frantic voices foretelling the end of the world and of rewards and or punishments for those who have either lived good lives or else lived lives filled with sin. Some people I know believe in a Rapture in which they feel the chosen good people will be taken directly to heaven while the rest of the world will have one final chance to choose goodness over evil. Others are adamant that on December 21st the world is coming to an end as predicted by the Mayan calendar (actually not predicted, but that is another story). Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, wars, famine and flood – all these things are waved as proofs of the coming end when and where good shall triumph while evil perishes. But what is this good and evil?
“When someone speaks of good or evil, it is of what he calls good or evil, or what he feels as good or evil.” (Jung, CW 10, par 858)
This jumps out at me as I hear about American and Canadians fighting for good with God on their (our) side as they fight the evil Taliban. I also see how problematical all of this is when I hear of the radical Islamic groups fighting for Allah against the evil American empire. Good and evil are held as different things by different people. What I might see as evil, another might see as an act of bravery and holiness, an act that will gain immediate entrance into some version of heaven.
“Principles, when reduced to their ultimates, are simply aspects of God. Good and evil are principles of our ethical judgments, but, reduced to their ontological roots, they are “beginnings,” aspects of God, names for God. Wherever, therefore, in an excess of affect, in an emotionally excessive situation, I come up against a paradoxical fact or happening, I am in the last resort encountering an aspect of God, which I cannot judge logically and cannot conquer because it is stronger than me – because, in other words, it has a numinous quality . . .” (Jung, CW 10, par 864)
I love taking photos in nature, about nature. For example, this photo shows a new pine cone as well as an old pine cone attached to the branches of the tree. And behind the bright greens are dark shadows as the branches filter out sunlight. The intensity of the green colour changes with the presence of sunlight. In the shadows, the green becomes closer to black, a more sombre colour. Nature celebrates both darkness and light and acts as a living reminder that life is a balance of both darkness and light. This is a lesson we rarely take to heart. Instead, we become “complexed” as we struggle with both darkness and light. And our psyche keeps pushing us to become more balanced whether we do so consciously or unconsciously. When we resist the intentionality for balance, trouble begins and it is left to the unconscious.
“. . . complexes interfere with intentionality, and they often trip up the best laid plans of noble and base individuals and groups alike. One wants to offer a compliment and instead comes out with an insult. One does one’s best to put an injury to one’s self-esteem behind one and forget it, only to ind that one has inadvertently paid back the insult with interest. The law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth seems to remain in control despite our best conscious efforts and intentions.” (Stein, Jung on Evil, p.3)
The shadow, the darkness within finds an out when consciousness is weak. With a breakdown in the psyche, that expression of shadow and darkness is left to run amok and often results in acts and attitudes that are best described as evil. The fear of darkness is a fear of evil. The dark shadows of a forest are thought to hide evil, an evil that is really located within. Being blind to our own shadow has us become victims of what we perceive is the evil of others.
To have this lack of consciousness become the basis for a “collective consciousness” where we are hell bent on punishing and imprisoning and even killing those who are own projected shadow is an invitation to collective evil. So how does one escape the darkness of the collective, one’s home culture, one’s home family? I think one has to become an individual and suffer being pushed out of family, culture and community on some level. The hope is that in daring to be an individual and not become a victim, one can be a beacon of light for others who would then dare to chose consciousness.
This is an Eastern Kingbird, a fairly common bird around this area of the country. The distinctive white band on his tail makes him easy to spot and recognise. The scene, a typical Canadian prairie farmland scene where the only trees to be found are those that mark someone’s farmyard or serve as planted windbreaks. In a way, this is a “plain Jane” kind of scene on the prairies, one that easily gets lost and overlooked because of its “commonness.”
I know that I am guilt of frequently overlooking that which is right in front of my face. This is a common occurrence in all of us. We tend not to notice things until the moment they do something extra-ordinary to catch our attention. A simple example: a crude oil pipeline can sit still in a field near a stream for decades so that it blends in and becomes part of the scenery until the day it springs a leak and becomes headline news on all the media; a telephone wire cuts the view from balcony for so long that one learns to focus passed the wire except when the wire holds a chirping bird that catches our eyes and ears. And I know that I have done this with people, made them disappear from my conscious presence. And, I think that this is a common happening. So many humans being overlooked until the moment that do something extra-ordinary. Unfortunately, most of those extra-ordinary acts make the news in shocking ways.
“We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the greatest danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil.” (Jung in a BBC interview with John Freeman in 1959)
I don’t blame the devil, Satan, the great deceiver for what is dark in the human psyche. I know that the darkness of my own self is not always contained. I have my little secrets of darker deeds from childhood years and life since then. I wish that I could have “believed” in a Lucifer who tricked me so that I could blame him, go to confession, say a few prayers of penance and in the process be totally absolved from those dark deeds. But that is the easy way out, and as I have found out many years later, there is no absolution to be had from an “other” when the “self” knows about the presence of that inner darkness.
Jung was right, we need to know more of men and women and their human psyche. I need to know more of my own psyche so that I can get a clearer view of who I am deep down inside, the “me” that is lost in commonness.
During the days I spent in British Columbia visiting my mother and step-father, I managed to take a number of photos, not all of them with the SoFoBoMo project in mind, including this Iris which I found on one of my walks. This iris caught my eye because of the “glow” that was gifted to it by the sun.
The translucence of the petals reassure me that the sun is present and present me with what feels like a state of grace, of holiness in the light. Yet at the same time, there is a sense of fragility. Being in a state of grace in the light is momentary. Too much light and one becomes washed out, lifeless. With the passage of time, a short time in the larger scheme of things, one wilts and returns to the earth from which one emerged. Too little light and a sickness descends upon the soul and the outer body looses its colour and vibrancy – one becomes a living ghost.
I have decided to place two photos in today’s post, one that glorifies the sun and one that thrives in relative darkness. This mushroom, like all mushrooms, thrives in dark and damp spaces and places.
Both the dark and the light are in balance. Those in tune with the universe already know this. There is no inherent goodness in light or inherent evil in darkness. We need both aspects for survival as individual humans. As we look inside our own selves, it should come as no surprise that the evil and darkness that we fear on the outside is also within. And the pure light and saintliness that we crave, that we see in rare others, is also within.
The kingdom of heaven is within. This we have often heard yet hardly dare believe. But, so is the kingdom of hell. Strange how we so easily accept this last statement.
I took this photo in La Fortuna, just a few metres from my room in the El Buho hostel. Various kinds of iguanas and lizards were all over the place and of varying sizes. This particular fellow was in a plastic box in which the owner of the hostel puts in food for both birds and the iguanas living in the tree.
This guy reminds me of time before human history, a time of heat and transformation, a time of chaos for the most part. It is no wonder that our images of devils and evil are often based on reptiles.
I try hard to distance myself from the chaos and confusion and darkness of primordial past – especially as found within my own self. I don’t want to allow the inner reptile loose and have him destroy the little bit of good I try to fashion. Yet, I know that if I deny too much, this inner shadow, it will slither out and damage even more. Somewhere I need to find balance.
In my journey, I want and work hard to bring something good to those around me and to the community. I think of my children and my grandchildren and all of the good souls I see that I don’t know. I look at the children and grandchildren of strangers and know that what I do must include them. And in recognizing all this need, I ache with the regret that I can’t do enough, that I will never be able to do enough. I don’t have enough money, or time, or energy to do what needs to be done. I also know that there are forces at work trying hard to undo anything good that does emerge. Balance between good and evil.
“Many people call themselves modern especially the pseudo-moderns. Therefore the really modern man is often to be found among those who call themselves old-fashioned. They do this firstly in order to make amends for their guilty break with tradition by laying all the more emphasis on the past, and secondly in order to avoid the misfortune of being taken for pseudo-moderns. Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing good can be come into the world without at once producing a corresponding evil. This painful fact renders illusory the feeling of elation that so often goes with consciousness of the present- the feeling that we are the culmination of the whole history of mankind, the fulfilment and end-product of countless generations. At best it should be a proud admission of our poverty: we are also the disappointment of the hopes and expectations of the ages.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
I don’t want to be clumped with the pseudo-moderns, nor do I claim to be “modern” as Jung frames the word. I have no rational reason for my doubts about the New Age movement and the claims being made by those embracing this New Age. I have no proofs that they are just as lost as I am and that they are headed down a false trail. I say this, not as criticism, but simply as a reason for my not travelling down this trail, the New Age trail. Perhaps I am wrong and that is okay. I can only go with what I know/intuit/feel. I don’t have any answers, only questions.
And I worry. I worry that any good that I do create will be destroyed. I worry that somehow I will be the one who destroys that which I create. Does the way I live my life, the way I am changing, render my words worthless? Will my tendency to transparency expose too many warts and ugly shadows be seen as proofs that the small bits of good are made invisible? That is the risk I take. Now I am beginning to understand what Jung says about poverty, as I become poorer in terms of relationship the further along this road of individuation. So why do I continue knowing that in the end I will be fully alone? Well, the truth is in spite of outward appearances as I am surrounded by family and community, in the beginning and in the end and everywhere in between, I already am fully alone wrestling with demons and angels while looking at the outer world through thick lenses.
How can my children and grandchildren, let alone anyone who would partner with me, celebrate my arrival as a modern man? Rather, I do see how their response would be of mourning and of anger.
I have finished the tasks that I’ve set for myself at my middle child’s home. The last of the subflooring is done and the stairs recovered with vinyl. Having finished reading the one book I brought with me, I am reading one that I gave to my son-in-law, a book by Stephen R. Donaldson, the first book in the Gap series called The Real Story.
The book isn’t as good as I thought it might be as I remembered the old Thomas Covenant series as being powerful. Still, the book is better than nothing. Imagine my surprise when I found this in the book:
He’d never had much to do with women. In fact, he’d never doubted that he could live perfectly well without them altogether. But now his brain teemed with lust. Perversions which had nvere occurred to him before now seemed exciting, even compulsory. The more he saw of her helpless beauty, and the more he excercised himself on her flesh, the greater her hold on his imagination became – the more power she seemed to have over him. (Stephen R. Donaldson, The Real Story, 1991, p. 95)
The above quotation captures a human living in the grip of an archetype. The barriers between consciousness and unconsciousness have almost completely disappeared. The unconscious world, a huge and dark expanse of repressed evil as well as repressed positive aspects of what is possible, finds its way into the outer world through a weak ego which has somehow become too enamoured by the images that flood from the unconscious.
In a way, this is what lies at the root of most of our dysfunctional behaviours. The story of Mark Mocha is but one of many who have cracks in the ego that allow the unconscious to emerge. Each of us is a saint and a sinner. The more saintly we become, the more the sinner wants out of the closet so as to be recognized. It needs a strong ego to meet the shadow, and take on the awareness that this darkness is as much “self” as the good stuff. The work of the first half of life is to build this strong ego in order that when the second half of life enters and makes its demands toward wholeness, that one is ready. If one isn’t ready, one either retreats into rigidity, depression and dysfunction – or, one breaks down. Thank god for breakdowns. It is when one is broken that one is forced into dealing, finally, with the work of self-healing.