Through a Jungian Lens

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Overcoming Evil

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Bridge over canal in WuZhen Ancient Village

This is another scene taken during a week-end trip to WuZhen, ZheJiang, PRC.  At a number of locations in the ancient village, narrow bridges arch over the series of canals that serve as streets.  With the improved economy in China, the number of visitors to sites such as this one have become tourism hot spots.  Modern China is wrestling with its identity in the modern world and finds that it needs to reconnect with its past, in a mythological way, as it embraces the heady pace of economic expansion, stock markets, real estate and private enterprise.  Places like WuZhen serve this purpose admirably.

This photo of people going “over” the water has a certain “feel” of modern man mindlessly following a path, not daring to think deeply about what and where they are going, not questioning.  The leaders of modern man promise wealth, happiness, freedom from evil.  Listening to the noise that comes out from the different corners, I hear leaders exhorting their communities to overcome evil, the evil of others that gets defined in religious terms, racial terms, political terms, economic terms, or even in class terms.  Enemies are evil made manifest.  Goodness is always the collective to which one belongs.  Bob Dylan’s song, “With God On Our Side” is a good example of this kind of belief.

But, how can one understand this “overcoming evil” represented by our enemies be they Republicans or Democrats, Communists or Capitalists, Christians or Muslims, the corporate elite or the shiftless and lazy welfare bums?  The problem shows itself in deadly terms as is being witnessed in Libya today as sides are taken and bombs are flying.  Caught in the middle, dying, are Libyans, ordinary people at the centre.  And this is just one of what seems to be an uncountable number of “conflicts” where good is trying to overcome evil with both sides of each conflict being both the good and the evil depending on which side one stands holding a gun or power or an idea.

“People speak sometimes of “overcoming” evil.  But have we the power to overcome it?  It should be remembered, first, that “good” and “evil” are only our judgment in a given situation, or, to put it differently, that certain “principles” have taken possession of our judgment.  Secondly, it is often impossible to speak of overcoming evil, because we are in a “closed” situation, in an aporia, where whatever we choose is not good.  The important thing is to be aware that we are then in a numinous situation, surrounded on all sides by God, who can bring about either the one or the other and often does.” (Jung, CW 10, par. 883)

That is the problem in getting caught in taking sides, we end up caught in a closed situation rather than being able to “hold the tension” in order to allow another possibility to emerge, one that doesn’t take sides.  Rather than following blindly down a prescribed trail, one needs to stop and step off the trail long enough to allow other voices to be heard.  Listening to voices banished into the shadows of the personal and collective unconscious allows for new possibilities to emerge where before it was only a black or white possibility.

We are a strange animal, we humans.  We want it all to be black or white.  We want it all to be understandable, to be quantifiable and provable by reason, fact and evidence.  I have been reading a historical novel set in China called Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.  Just a few moments ago, before setting down to write today’s post I read the following words:  “The World is not something to be understood.  It is vanity, illusion to even try.” (p.333)  And, these words feel right, that one needs to accept the unconscious faces of whatever God we choose to believe in, for the world will never make sense otherwise.  All would end up becoming nothing but meaningless chaos.

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One Response

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  1. “black and white” seems to be the antithesis or most Jungian psychology. B/W is not only not so but downright bad to attempt.

    Urspo

    March 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm


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