Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Short Jungian Interlude 9

Our Shared Guilt

The Parish Church of Santa Caterina dello Ionio
In the Bible we are in the heartlands of the mythothology and of the mythopoetic.  Fair enough, there is also a fair deal of history intermixed, but it is coloured by the eyes of faith, by certain cultural standpoints, biases and indeed prejudices.  One of the great Biblical mythic stories is that of Adam and Eve, the so-called First Parents of Mankind.  This is a mythological story based on other Near-Eastern mythologies.  Like all good myths, it has a message for its listeners and/or readers.  It's message is simple - evil has entered the world through humankind's fall from grace, from its sheer hubris to want to go it alone without outside help (namely that of God in this case), from its sheer disobedience to its Creator.  This is a mythical or mythological story which seeks to take into account the sheer guilt and culpability that belongs to the human race through its very humanity.

From a psychological point, Jung argues, that this mythical story reveals much truth, viz., the innate guilt and culpability that lies in human nature innately, hard-wired into our genes from the word go.  Now this position is not that extreme at all.  Any thinking and feeling human being will be aware of the "dark side" or the "shadow side" of his own nature and psyche.  In other words, Jung is arguing that Relgion has always had a role in life, namely that of alerting its adherents to the depths and heights and expanse of human nature and of the psyche.  He is arguing that the real task of Leaders in the world of Psychiatry/Psychotherapy is to alert humankind to the world of their Unconscious, to all that repressed and suppressed stuff or issues that lie there.  In arguing for this growth in awareness, Jung is pleading with mosern men and women to be open to the dark or shadow or evil side in their character because it is there anyway due to our sheer animality, that is, there in our genes from the beginning and lurking there suppressed and repressed in our Unconscious.  Let us listen to the learned and wise psychiatrist's own words here:

The evil, the guilt, the profound unease of conscience, the obscure misgiving are there before our eyes, if only we would see.  Man has done these things (all mannner of evil); I am a man, who has his share of human nature; therefore I am guilty with the rest and bear unaltered and indelibly within me the capacity and inclination to do them again at any time.  Even if, juristically speaking, we are not accessories to a crime, we are always, thanks to our human nature, potential criminals.  In reality we merely lacked a suitable opportunity to be drawn into the infernal melee.  None of us stands outside humanity's black collective shadow.  Whether the crime lies many generations back or happens today, it remains the symptom of a disposition that is always and everywhere present... [O]nly a fool can permanently neglect the conditions of his own nature.  In fact this negligence is the best means of making him an instrument of evil.  Harmlessness and naiveté... lead to projection of the unrecognized evil into the "other." (The Undiscovered Self, p. 69)
Now, the above is a weighty and profound passage which I would implore any readers of this piece to read again and meditate on it.  Jung is here getting to the real root of evil, viz., in our very own heart, in our very own soul, in our very own psyche, in the cesspit that is the unconscious, both individual and collective.  The above is also a psychological rendition of another religious myth which is at the heart of the doctrine of Original Sin.  This last doctrine can therefore be seen as a metaphor for psychological guilt occasioned by what Jung calls above "humanity's black collective shadow."

Jung has already underlined clearly many times in the present work the point that there is a split in the human soul or self or psyche, call it what you wish, namely the split between the Conscious and the Unconscious.  The real task of all psychotherapy is in making the unconscious side of the personality conscious.  This is no easy task, but it is the only way to discover the real self in its totality or wholeness.  Hence the title of Jung's book, The Undiscovered Self, refers to the fact that most of humanity blithely ignores the wholeness or totality of the self.  When humans ignore their own dark or shadow or evil side they project it onto others, and will use certain people as scapegoats for their guilt.  Hitler used the Jews and many other undesirable minorities as a scapegoat for his personally denied shadow.  Other Germans would follow suit.  The coloured races have also been victims of such scapegoatings - projections of the shadows of the white majority.  Look at war in any country: the enemies are always demonized while the local heroes are canonized.  Once again demonizations and canonizations are both wrong as they only acknowledge one side only of the duplex which humankind is.  I'll finish this post with some more words from our learned psychiatrist because they cut to the heart of the matter and really makes one think, at least certainly this reader:

Cowslips in the fields around Santa Caterina dello Ionio, Jan, 2011
... evil... is lodged in human nature itself [and] it bestrides the psychological stage as the equal and opposite partner of good.  This realization leads straight to a psychological dualism, already unconsciously prefigured in the political world schism and in the even more unconscious discicciation in modern man hiumself.  The dualisdm does not come from this realization; rather, we are in a split condition to begin with.  It would be an insufferable thought that we had to take personal responsibility for so much guiltiness.  We therefore prefer to localize the evil with individual criminals or groups of criminals, while washing our hands in innocence and ignoring the general proclivity to evil.... The great advantage of this view [the christian view of evil] is that it exonerate's man's conscience of too heavy a responsibility and fobs it off on the devil, in correct psychological appreciation of the fact that man is much more the victim of his psychic constitution than its inventor.  (Ibid., p. 69)

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