Summary of Meeting the Shadow by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams

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  • Post last modified:October 11, 2023

Part 7: Devils, Demons, and Scapegoats: A Psychology of Evil


The experience of the collective shadow is an objective reality (and it’s evil). It cannot be changed by personal efforts, which can lead to the alienation of those who seek to integrate it.

As a result, some find refuge in the religions which provide protection against ideological threats, aka evil. Each society has a specific definition of evil. In the Western world, the conception of evil is seen in the Bible and Greek mythology.

Evil is the delta between what we hope life would be and what it is. We want life to be beautiful, which leads us to ignore the evil that exists. The collective shadow can compel people to identify a group of people as the archetypal evil in society when a leader or ideology gives expression to the societal’s fears.

When a minority carries the projection of that which a society rejects, the potential for great evil is activated.

In order to avoid being duped, we need new ways to think about evil. Most of the time, we just avoid and deny it. Doing so, we create even more evil.

One way to avoid it is to individually realize our own evil.

Chapter 35: The Problem of Evil Today by C.G. Jung

The Christian myth began to lose its appeal in the 11th century when a new psychological transformation started.

Unrest and doubt increased because of a threat to consciousness called gigantism: the idea that nothing is greater than man and his deeds.

The Christian world is now confronted by pure evil as its doctrine is no longer embodied.

Evil is a reality, and we must learn to deal with it. We can no longer succumb to anything, even to good, as it then loses its ethical character.

The only way to avoid catastrophes in the future is to get people to know themselves better, including knowing the evil they are capable of.

The reason why our myth has become silent and gives us nothing is that we stopped to develop it. Christianism itself has not much to do with it, it’s us.

Chapter 36: The Dangers of Innocence by Rollo May

Since life is joy and pain, it is normal that our nature is good and evil. You have to do your best to understand that evil is your own, rather than project it onto other people.

Ethics in the Bible evolved from eye for eye to love your neighbor. Unfortunately, love, in the case of enemies, is a matter of grace, not love itself. Loving an enemy would entail ignoring reality. Not good.

Christian ethics suited well the individualism that developed during the Renaissance. Being ethical meant remaining true to your own convictions.

It is a considerable boon for a person to realize that he has his negative side like everyone else, that the daimonic works in potentiality for both good and evil, and that he can neither disown it nor live without it.

Life consists of achieving good, not apart from evil, but in spite of it.

Chapter 37: Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck

Evil cannot be separated from good as they define each other. Many assume that the world is good and has been contaminated by evil. However, the world looks more like an evil place that has been contaminated by goodness -> the origins of goodness are more mysterious than the origins of evil.

How do you define an evil person? By the frequency of their sins. We all sin, but we don’t do it on purpose, or as frequently as evil people. They also scapegoat because they think of themselves as beyond reproach. So they sacrifice others to preserve their own image of perfection.

Scapegoating works through projection. Projection means perceiving others as bad to deny one’s own evil -> evil is done through scapegoating. The cause is that they do not recognize their own evil. They hate others rather than hating their own evilness. They run away from the knowledge that they are evil while deep down, being aware that they are.

The most significant reason we know so little scientifically about human evil is simply that the evils are so extremely reluctant to be studied.

Chapter 38: Redeeming Our Devils and Demons by Stephen A. Diamond

Rollo May talks about the daimonic, same concept as evil except that daimonic entails that evil comes from inside rather than outside.

Evil was thought to come from outside with the representation of demons. Demons often bore the responsibility for bad things and were scapegoated as a result.

Jung thought demons were interruptions of the stream of consciousness from the unconscious.

When Descartes ended the idea of demons, witches, elves, we lost ways to name our psychological problems, which impoverished our lives.

Our world became disenchanted; and it leaves us not only out of tune with nature, but with ourselves as well.

Rollo May

Originally, demons were a force of nature that was both good and bad. They became “only bad” during the Christian era.

Modern people failed to understand that these demons can never be destroyed, and must instead be integrated – something the Natives managed to achieve.

We modern post-Christians — with our “gods” of science and technology, and even our newly found religions—are poorly equipped [to integrate our demons].

Today Satan is a concept devoid of meaning, the sign of a rejected religious system because unscientific.

Evil, it seems, is everywhere—most visibly in the form of pathological anger and rage, hostility, vicious interpersonal savagery, and so-called senseless violence.

We need a new concept of evil that also integrates its creative side.

The Jungian vision of the shadow is a bit dangerous as it can lead one to say “my shadow made me do it”. The shadow isn’t a split personality, but an integral part of ourselves.

Psychotherapy is one way to integrate our demons, by voicing them, and transforming them into allies.

We realize that the things we were running from turned into sources of vitality, creativity, and spirituality.

Chapter 39: The Basic Dynamic of Human Evil by Ernest Becker

The cause of human evil is the following: what man wants above all is to endure and prosper, so he denies death. As soon as he gains power, he takes revenge on those he used to be with as they remind him of his own weakness.

Men fear both life and death. These fears are buried in his shadow. Reich said that all ideologies, wars, and sadism were caused by man denying his own animalistic nature. Leaders who get elected are those who promise to engineer the world and elevate man above his nature.

That man is an animal is a part of the shadow. The shadow is man’s inferiority which he wants to get rid of as he feels guilty. The best way to not feel guilty is to look for evil in other people. This leads to scapegoating.

Chapter 40: Acknowledging Our Inner Split by Andrew Bard Schmookler

The central defect of evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.

Scott Peck

What we cannot face will catch up with us. The only way to be free from demons is to face them.

As long as we believe that all of the bad is in others and none in ourselves, we’re on the wrong course. The tension stops once we understand our own capacity for evil.

To do so, we need to stop demonizing him. It’s a painful spiritual task, but it’s also an opportunity for peace.

We demonize so-called monsters as it helps us make space between us and them. We should do the exact opposite.

Ghandi explains that we shouldn’t demonize our enemies but rather appeal to their better selves. This almost sounds like integration.

However, as he strived to become perfect in his public life, Ghandi’s relationships with his close ones became tyrannical. He hadn’t embraced his own dark side.

Gandhi was at war, and war means dividing good from evil. The key is in fact, to reunite them.

Goodness will reign in the world not when it triumphs over evil, but when our love of goodness ceases to express itself m terms of the triumph over evil.

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