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Paul Levy: Shedding Light On Evil

Shedding Light On Evil

by Paul Levy

Whether we see evil in the terrorists or in George W. Bush, I simply cannot imagine anyone would dispute that the face of evil has emerged in this world of ours. There is something about looking at evil, however, that is very different than when we passively witness something that we remain unaffected by. No one can see evil and stay untouched. To quote the great doctor of the soul, C. G. Jung, who to my mind has the deepest insight into the nature of evil of anyone I've encountered, "The sight of evil kindles evil in the soul- there is no getting away from this fact...the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts." In dealing with evil we have to recognize that it is not something we can see and remain separate from, as if we are safely in the audience, out of harm's way. When we see evil, something inside of us gets ignited and set aflame.

At the sight of evil, to quote Jung, "Indignation leaps up, angry cries of 'Justice!' pursue the murderer, and they are louder, more impassioned and more charged with hate the more fiercely burns the fire of evil that has been lit in our souls." When we see evil, if we react with moral indignation, cocksure of our own innocence and righteousness, this itself is an expression that we ourselves have become infected by evil and have become a conduit for evil to act itself out through us. To quote Jung, "True, we are innocent, we are the victims, robbed, betrayed, outraged; and yet for all that, or precisely because of it, the flame of evil glowers in our moral indignation."

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When we see evil it triggers a resonant darkness inside of us, as if we have secretly recognized a part of ourselves. It is important to recognize that we could not look at the face of evil and see it unless we had that very same evil in ourselves. We wouldn't be able to recognize it otherwise.

It is then a question of whether we can integrate what has gotten triggered in us, or do we inwardly dissociate from our own darkness, imagining it to be separate from ourselves, and project the evil 'out there' onto some 'other.' Projecting the shadow like this, to quote Jung, "strengthens the opponent's position in the most effective way, because the projection carries the fear which we involuntarily and secretly feel for our own evil over to the other side and considerably increases the formidableness of his threat." The nature of this world is such that if we project out our own darkness, the world will shape-shift and provide convincing evidence that the evil really does exist out there, which simply confirms to us our delusion in a never ending, self-generating feedback loop.

To the extent that any of us have withdrawn our projection of the shadow 'out there' we have begun, to quote Jung, "the only struggle that is really worthwhile: the fight against the overwhelming power-drive of the shadow." For as Jung points out, every person "harbours within himself a dangerous shadow and adversary who is involved as an invisible helper in the dark machinations of the political monster. It is in the nature of political bodies always to see the evil in the opposite group, just as the individual has an ineradicable tendency to get rid of everything he does not know and does not want to know about himself by foisting it off on somebody else." Both the individual as well as the body politic have a tendency to project the evil outside of themselves. An individual projecting the shadow outside of themselves actually feeds into, supports and helps to create the shadow projection of the greater body politic.

We are all complicit in what our country is doing in Iraq. We all share in the guilt. The bombs dropping on innocent civilians have our names on them. We are not separate but interconnected and interdependent beings, all part of the greater world community. To quote Jung, "Since no man lives within his own psychic sphere like a snail in its shell, separated from everybody else, but is connected with his fellow-men by his unconscious humanity, no crime can ever be what it appears to our consciousness to be: an isolated psychic happening." This collective guilt, what Jung calls "guilt by contagion" belongs to everyone, there is no getting away from it. To again quote Jung, "the murder has been suffered by everyone, and everyone has committed it..we have all made this collective psychic murder this way we are unavoidably drawn into the uncleanness of evil; no matter what our conscious attitude may be. No one can escape this."

The evil that is playing out on the world stage is something all six billion of us are mutually creating and 'dreaming up' together. This is to say the evil that is incarnating in our world is something we are not separate from but are all playing roles in and collaborating with. To quote Edmund Burke, "Evil can only happen when good people do nothing." By being a 'dreamed up phenomenon,' the evil that is appearing in our world is a full-bodied reflection, in living, breathing color of the evil inside of ourselves. It is as if an inner process happening deep within the collective unconscious of all of humanity has gotten externalized and projected outside of ourselves, which is to say that it has gotten 'dreamed up' into materialization. If the evil that is manifesting prompts enough of us, however, to recognize that it is a mirrored reflection of a part of ourselves and we self-reflect, we can collaboratively metabolize the evil in such a way that it catapults us into a collective expansion of consciousness.

Jung says it is only those among us who are self-reflective who have "the realization of the immense and overwhelming power of evil, and of the fact that mankind is capable of becoming merely the instrument [italics mine]." The realization of our potential susceptibility to self-deception that could lead to unwitting acts of evil serves as a psychic immunization, so to speak, and creates true humility which itself is a safeguard against evil. This is why, to quote Jung, "The true leaders of mankind are always those who are capable of self-reflection." Jung points out that "only relatively few individuals can be expected to be capable of such an achievement, and they are not the political but the moral leaders of mankind." Compared to the moral leaders of humanity, Jung points out that the "so called [political] leaders are the inevitable symptoms of a mass movement." When there is a mass unconsciousness, such as there is in our country right now, the political leaders literally get 'dreamed up' to be the embodied outer reflection of this collective inner unconsciousness.

If we refuse to look at our own darkness and continue to try and destroy the evil we perceive to be outside of ourselves, we fall prey to it and unwittingly become an agent of evil. If we fight evil in our habitual way, which is to try and murder it, we ourselves become a murderer. (Interestingly, one of the inner meanings of the word 'Satan' is 'murderer') By fighting evil we become possessed by it. Is this the meaning of Christ's teaching "resist not evil"? It is like in wrestling with the devil, the devil penetrates into our body, pulsates through our very cells and incarnates itself in, through and as us.

To deal with evil as it manifests in the world we have to be able to look at and embrace the evil inside of ourselves. To quote Gandhi, "The only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts- that is where the battle should be fought." If we refuse to look at the evil inside of our own heart, however, our refusal itself just feeds the evil. If we look away and allow evil to get acted out, thinking that we are innocent, we are unconsciously colluding with evil. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, "One who passively accepts evil [by allowing it to happen] is as much involved in it as the one who perpetuates it."

The evil that is playing out in the world today is a deeper, archetypal energy that has been re-enacted many times throughout human history. Yet what is unique about our current situation, to quote Jung, "is not that present-day man is capable of greater evil than the man of antiquity or the primitive. He merely has incomparably more effective means with which to realize his propensity to evil. As his consciousness has broadened and differentiated, so his moral nature has lagged behind. That is the great problem before us today: Reason alone no longer suffices." It has become clear that our rationality alone cannot resolve our world crisis, something else is needed. It is like we are at an event horizon in the process of the expansion of consciousness itself. To quote Jung, "we need the illumination of a holy and whole-making spirit- a spirit that can be anything rather than our reason."

We are living in an extremely dangerous time, but it is also a time of great opportunity. To quote Jung, "We are living in what the Greeks called the Kairos- the right moment- for a 'metamorphosis of the gods,' of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science." The unleashing of atomic energy, Jung continues, "..has given the human race the power to annihilate itself completely. The situation is about the same as if a small boy of six had been given a bag of dynamite for a birthday present..the danger that threatens us now is of such dimensions as to make this last European catastrophe [World War II] seem like a curtain-raiser."

To quote Jung, "For, as long as Satan is not integrated, the world is not healed and man is not saved. But Satan represents evil, and how can evil be integrated? There is only one possibility: to assimilate it, that is to say, raise it to the level of consciousness..[this is a state] in which the devil no longer has an autonomous existence but rejoins the profound unity of the psyche. Then the opus magnum [the 'great work' of alchemy] is finished: the human soul is completely integrated."

Evil can't stand to be seen, though, for once it is seen and made conscious it loses its omnipotence and autonomy, as it can no longer act itself out through us. Our task, as Jung reminds us, is "making the darkness conscious." As each of us recognizes and integrates our own darker halves, we liberate the energy that was bound up in the compulsion to unconsciously act out and dream up our darker side in the outside world. Instead, this archetypal energy of the shadow gets assimilated into the wholeness of our personality and becomes available for the expression of creativity and love.

We need to understand the nature of the "beast" we are dealing with when we are confronted with evil. The fact that the way we are dealing with evil is itself the very thing that propagates evil is showing us something. Evil is revealing something to us. This is why Jung refers to Satan as "the godfather of man as a spiritual being," by which he means that Satan can activate in humankind a process of spiritual awakening that would have been impossible without his intervention. Similarly, Jung points out that Lucifer was "necessary and indeed indispensable for the unfolding and completion of the divine drama." Interestingly, one of the inner meanings of the word 'Satan' is the 'shadow of the Lord.' As Jung points out, "We like to imagine that God is all light, but St. John of the Cross has the truly psychological notion of the darkness and the seeming remoteness of God as an effect of the divine presence." In other words, shadows are an expression that light is nearby.

Whether the evil that is wreaking havoc on our planet right now will destroy us or further the evolution of our species and awaken us to deeper levels of our being is totally up to us. The key is if enough of us become the aforementioned moral leaders of humanity and look in the mirror (whose inner meaning is 'shadow holder'), self-reflect and recognize our complicity with the darkness that is playing out in our world. Self-reflection is the very best service we can do for the divine and the highest way for us to love God. Self-reflection is a true retrieval of our soul- it has an integrating effect, as it is a gathering together and a re-collecting of what had previously been projected out, divided and separated by the dis-integrating effect of evil (the inner meaning of the word 'diabolos' is that which separates and divides). To quote Jung, "Self-reflection or- what comes to the same thing- the urge to individuation gathers together what is scattered and multifarious, and exalts it to the original form of the One, the Primordial Man. In this way our existence as separate beings, our former ego nature, is abolished, the circle of consciousness is widened, and because the paradoxes have been made conscious the sources of conflict are dried up."

Jung recognized that whenever evil appeared in an individual's personal process, some deeper good always came out of the experience that wouldn't have emerged without the manifestation of evil. Could the same thing be true on a collective scale? Could the evil that is coming out of hiding in the shadows and becoming visible for all who have eyes to see be the harbinger of a deeper process of collective realization that is becoming available to us because of its emergence? Jung openly wonders whether "in this very power of evil God might not have placed some special purpose which it is most important for us to know."

With the appearance of evil it is like we are invited and even prodded to participate in an evolutionary quantum leap in and of consciousness itself. A doorway has opened up for us to collectively snap out of our imagined identities as 'separate beings' and realize that we are all interconnected, on the same side and part of a greater whole.

The inner meaning of the word apocalypse is 'something hidden being revealed.' We are experiencing the revelation of the hidden God, the deus absconditus, the dark side of God. Will we not recognize what the 'shadow of the Lord' is revealing to us and continue to unconsciously act it out and destroy ourselves? Or will the evil propel enough of us over the edge to self-reflection, precipitating a mass spiritual awakening unimaginable until this moment in history? Evil is a true quantum phenomenon, in that it contains both of these possibilities in potential, and how it will manifest depends on how we interact with it. Fighting the devil is radically different than loving God. The choice is truly ours.


Paul Levy is a spiritually-informed political activist. He can be reached at Please visit his website at, where his article "The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis" is available. Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. © Copyright 2004.

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