Addressing the Problem of Evil, Part V

When you have been hurt or taken advantage of, when evil has gotten one over on you, there is a natural tendency to want to hurt back, to even the score. When you feel life hasn’t meted out a proper punishment your ego may take it upon itself to restore justice. At these times, it is important to keep something in mind: evil wants to trigger your egocentricity. If it can engage you in battles, lingering resentments, fantasies and efforts of revenge, if it can provoke attitudes of self-righteousness or idealism, it has often accomplished its goals. By keeping you focused on the injustice done to you, fueling dreams of payback or the personal quest to right a wrong, it has achieved its end. Paradoxically, trying to fight evil is just what evil often wants you to do.

No one is a match for raw or primal evil, what in Jungian psychology is called archetypal evil. Most evil is best avoided and sidestepped rather than naively and directly engaged. It is foolhardy to go out and try to fight evil in other peoples’ lives unless this is truly your station or duty in a given situation. It is dangerous to fight evil if the forces of life are not on your side. If your ego is going rogue—on a hero trip—your chances of survival are greatly reduced.

There is a twofold danger in trying to play the hero or carrier of a cause. First, there is a strong temptation to see yourself as righteous and that which you fight as all evil. In other words, you are more likely to project your darkness onto the other party. This is a dangerous perspective to have because it promotes psychological inflation and the distortion of reality. You can be seduced into a grandiose view of your own position and a distortedly dark and one-sided view of the other’s. This type of polarized thinking inhibits real communication and the development of a creative, healing response. You may bristle at an abuse of power, yet get sucked into a retaliatory power stance yourself.

Secondly, playing the hero in battles with evil often brings more evil. This is not difficult to understand. A great basketball player gets double-teamed. A great running back encounters defenses designed just for him. Why would evil be any different? Saviors and those who lead the charge of positive change are often rewarded with death or assassination (Jesus, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King to name an obvious few). Similarly, new pastors who try to do too much too soon within their congregations are often vilified or may end up sabotaging their own reputations and efforts. Evil has an uncanny way of turning zealous idealism to its own ends.

Trying to play the hero or proudly taking on a cause is a good way to get killed. Play the hero only when you have to and adopt a cause only if truly called to do so. Justifying your involvement by saying, “Well if I don’t do it, who will?” is not a good reason. Just because evil is occurring does not mean that life is asking you to join the fray. Address the evil that arises of its own accord in your life, whether it comes from outside of you or within you. Face the shadow and evil in your own life. Genuinely addressing the darkness in yourself will provide sufficient challenge, trials, and danger for one lifetime.

Ultimately, the only antidote to the soul-crushing effects of evil is your ability to learn from your experiences. If you do not grow in consciousness and insight from what you have gone through, the worm of evil burrows its way into the roots of your soul. Without learning, without growth in consciousness, evil is able to plant seeds of discouragement, bitterness, resentment, and cynicism. Wisdom and consciousness are the counterbalance to the negative sum of evil. Seeing more deeply into the nature and complexity of life is the redeeming gift we may distill from encounters with evil. We are unlikely to be victimized in the same way again. Your soul wounds become the source of new life and deepened consciousness, adding to the integrity of the personality and the development of character. With consciousness, territories won by evil are returned to the armies of the soul. The wounded are healed and return to the field of battle stronger and smarter than they were before. You will be less likely to behave or experience yourself as a victim in the future, for you will be a redeemer—someone who extracts gold from the pain, hardships, and injustices of life.

4 thoughts on “Addressing the Problem of Evil, Part V

  1. I really like your writings and the way you explain things. One of the points of contention I would have though, is the reliance on the conscious mind. I think the value of making things conscious is it shines a light on where we want to go. Beyond that I believe the conscious mind is powerless to get us there. I think it’s more about training the unconscious to get where we want to be.
    In terms of evil then, it would be more the case to gain some awareness of it and then train the unconscious to deal with it appropriately.
    Any thoughts on this?
    Looking forward to reading more of your articles in the new year
    Cheers
    Edward

    • Hi Edward,

      You say the conscious mind “shines a light on where we want to go.” I’m not sure what you mean by this. If you mean it tries to understand where our deeper self, the psyche, or God wants us to go, then I agree. If you mean the ego just picks for itself–without guidance from the deeper psyche–then I disagree. The latter, egocentric path leads to trouble. The ego is meant to serve the Self, not the other way around.

      You mention “training the unconscious to get where we want to be.” I find this a most disagreeable viewpoint. To me it suggests the ego’s (conscious mind’s) attempt to control the unconscious. From the perspective of Jungian psychology, the ego is meant to learn from the unconscious, not train it. When you direct consciousness towards the unconscious, you learn what is there. You see the positive and the negative, the creative and the destructive. Through this awareness you can then make more conscious and discerning decisions. These decisions will hopefully be more in line with the natural development of your soul and the attainment of your destiny. Consciousness of evil–both within and without–is crucial because it makes you less likely to be evil’s unwitting instrument. This is not, however, a process of “training” the unconscious but of learning from it and then striving to make the most moral/responsible decisions you are capable of.

      Thank you for your thoughts on these articles.

      Andy

  2. For the sake of clarity,

    I had a problem with anger for the longest time. Most of my life the reasons for the anger were unconscious. I then reached a stage of life where I was very conscious of what was occurring with my anger, where it stemmed from, what the triggers were etc. Being conscious was not particularly useful in helping me get to a much calmer state of being or even use anger constructively. It did highlight the problem in revealing the pattern though (this is what I called shining the light).

    To change that pattern, I then took on things like meditation, self-hypnosis. I wasn’t becoming ‘more conscious’ nor was consciousness particularly healing, it was that I was training my brain to respond differently to the triggers.

    At least that’s how I would explain it.

    None of the above lessens my appreciation for your insights and articles though. I find they stimulate my thinking on diverse areas and also may lead to new areas to explore. It’s just that I have a different outlook on change and the conscious/unconscious dichotomy.

    Looking forward to your next article

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