The Archetypal Enemy
Based as it was on an Old Testament morality, the Christian injunction to 'love one another' came to be linked with the imperative to repress those qualities in our nature that were thought to oppose spiritual love - sex and aggression. Moreover the division of the Godhead into two morally opposed principles - the Divine and the Satanic - became a cultural actualization of the need to dichotomise. The historic split between Good and Evil became incarnated in the divided Self, the repression of the 'bad' inside us, the Shadow.
We are programmed to distinguish between right and wrong, an enemy from friend and the strange from familiar. All human communities display an impressive agreement on the kinds of behavior to be included in each category. The incest taboo, for example, is apparently a universal phenomenon in human communities, as are ideas that there is a fundamental distinction between murder and killing in warfare, that parents are obligated to their children, that it is wrong to seize your neighbor's property or his wife, and so on. Guilt acts as a powerful inducement to the maintenance of social cohesion. Moreover, placing moral prohibitions in the realm of the sacred, sanctified by religion, established their absolute authority and heightened the sense of remorse experienced by sinners so misguided as to break them. The Ten Commandments not only describe the main features of the Judeo-Christian Superego but are, when broadly interpreted, a good approximation to the moral sensibility of mankind. Our parents activate this system and shape the Superego - the ethical complex - that results, in the light of their own upbringing, religious beliefs and moral standards.
As a defense against the catastrophe of abandonment, the Superego is established as the inner watchdog whose function is to monitor our behavior so as to ensure relative conformity to the values of the culture into which we happen to have been born. The personal price we pay for acquiring a Superego is a serious loss of freedom for the Self; for this watchdog - the 'censor' of the Preconscious - also bugs the inner lines of communication along the ego-Self axis, and cuts the wires when he hears anything deemed dangerous or subversive; he also makes sure that appropriate memories are reactivated that will instil fear and guilt.
The propensity for cruel, obscene and brutal acts is in all of us; that it is usually not much in evidence in 'polite' society is due to the supervision of the culturally installed Superego, that insists that it be kept hidden and under control, locked away in the unconscious - the Shadow. Yet we know it is there and the fear that it might somehow 'get out' is one of the oldest fears to haunt mankind. However, by closing off the link to the Self, the opposite qualities of kindness, decency and compassion, also native to the Self, may not be actualized. Fear of the shadow of the Self becomes identified with fear of the Self.
Despite its liabilities the Superego plays a necessary role in the unintegrated, field-dependent person. There appears to be an archetypal instruction 'to learn the rules'. Thus, every child is born with the built-in assumption that his community will not only possess a language that he will quickly pick up, but also an inter-related system of beliefs and values that he must acquire and conform to. The success and continuity of any society depends on the readiness of new members to learn the rules. The alternative is social anarchy and a collective incapacity for competition or defense. If societies fail to codify themselves efficiently, or lose faith in their doctrines, they are gravely at risk. For in addition to the social tension that this conflict creates, parents no longer know how to bring up their children, and their children in turn fail to actualize the spiritual and ethical potential of the Self. The barbarism that succeeds cultural disintegration arises from within, since the abandonment of civilized values exposes us increasingly to possession by the worst elements of the Shadow. The barbarian takes over, driven by his ego-centered lusts and greed.
The barbarian is one whose Superego has failed to mature: he has not 'learned the rules' because his 'culture' has few rules to learn, and as a consequence, moral distinctions do not concern him. His personality remains unpolarised between Persona and Shadow. For such a man, integration of the Shadow - the beginning of true moral responsibility - is not possible because he is his Shadow and has no conscious (objective) viewpoint from which to begin its integration. If one is to come to terms with the Shadow, a conscious orientation with a firm ethical foundation is indispensable; otherwise Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde. For this reason, those working on themselves in Transformational Psychology are required to make a pledge, that in absolutely no circumstances whatsoever will they adopt an insane identity, injure themselves or attack another, i.e. to allow the primal drives of the Id to manifest without censure. This is called 'Shutting the escape hatches', for when secondary rationalizations and defense mechanisms are stripped away, the primal drives, the essence of the Shadow, are starkly revealed. Seeing through the defense mechanisms (projection, scapegoating, rationalization, intellectualization, repression and denial), and understanding how they have been adopted as 'safe solutions', is more than half the battle in making the Shadow conscious and discharging the power of the primal postulates.
If the romantic view of man as a fundamentally good, peaceful creature were correct, we might flaunt the rules of our culture with impunity, pull down the law courts and jails, fire the policemen and politicians, disbands the armed forces, share all our belongings equally with one another and create Paradise on Earth. In fact, this wonderful dream is incapable of realization because the archetypes prevent it. Utopian fantasies have only brought benefits to mankind when those responsible for the implementation of political ideals have respected the archetypal needs of those for whom they have legislated. Too single-minded a pursuit of Utopia results in a wholesale repression of the Self, and ultimately in triumph for the Shadow.
Socialist visionaries, for example, have consistently attempted to impose societies in which dominance hierarchies are abolished; invariably their efforts have resulted in the creation of party-dominated bureaucracy as rigidly hierarchical and more brutally conservative than the social system that it replaced - and all in the name of egalitarian ideology. In Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, the story has been the same. The whole point of hierarchical social organization (civilization) is, despite appearances to the contrary, to remove us from the lethal, unfettered competition of the jungle - the evils of anarchy, disorder and the ultimate disintegration of the group. What matters, after all, is not that we are aggressive, xenophobic, sexual, hierarchical and territorial but what attitude we adopt to these inbuilt aspects of our nature. It is the ethical orientation that counts.
However, in order to be ethical, one must be conscious, and consciousness means awareness of things as they really are. Conflict is the product of duality. Since duality exists throughout nature, the opportunities for conflict are infinite - as are the opportunities for peace. Dissonance and harmony, opposition and concordance, balance and imbalance are conceivable only in the pretence of polarity. Destruction, like creation, arises from the juxtaposition of opposing forces, and so basic are these contrapuntal oppositions to the fabric of our universe, that consciousness and life itself would be inconceivable without them. Deprived of the coordinates - above and below, left and right, back and forth, past and future - who could achieve orientation in space and time? How else could the human soul ever become incarnate?
Coming to terms with one's own evil is the first and indispensable stage in conscious realization of the Self, because on that condition alone can an individual become responsible for the events of his life and render himself accountable for what he has projected onto others. Awareness of the Shadow means suffering the tension between good and evil in full consciousness, suffering one's own guilt and, through that suffering, participating in the guilt of mankind. If one can bring oneself to bear the psychic tension that the opposites generate, the problem is transcended: good is reconciled with evil and a new synthesis follows between Persona and Shadow, and between ego and Self. Free of an other-determined Superego, of field-dependent belief systems, reason and logic determine ethical freedom. Further, when reason and logic are free, rather than bounded, the psyche may transcend them, for it sees no problem in the simultaneous perception of incompatibilities. As the great spiritual disciplines of the East affirm, wisdom lies in a profound awareness of the contradiction in all things, including our Selves; that they are two sides of the same coin, that behind the appearance of every dichotomy there exists a unity - the Body and the Mind; the Persona and the Shadow; the implicate Higher Self and the manifested Real Self.
Move on to Towards the Real Self
Return to Transforming the Mind - Contents