Part 2: The Problem of Evil in Mythology
Since the beginning of time, cultures and their religions have tried to account for the presence of evil and its destructive forces in nature. Turning on the news leaves little doubt that there are destructive forces in the world and it seems as if sometimes seems as if some are possessed by a devil. Sanford writes that both Analytical Psychology and mythology share a common view: that autonomous psychic factors beyond conscious control afflict persons or groups which are both destructive to themselves and others. Also, outside of physical reality there is an inner spiritual reality. This line of thought runs counter to the prevailing world view based on sensory experience which limits itself to the material world. Instead, present day culture believes that the evils of our time do not exist in the human soul or spiritual sphere, but have political or economic causes, and could be eliminated by a different political system…does not want to see that the enemy is to be found in the devils and demons in himself.
The late Morton T. Kelsey, Episcopal Priest corroborates Sanford’s premise that at the origins of evil and the reality of a destructive principle: …secular man in this century has been brainwashed by materialistic thought. In a rational and materialistic world, there is no place for such a principle of destructiveness. It is neither rational nor material, and so it cannot exist. If one is to consider the possibility that evil is something more substantial than just the absence of good, then he has to overhaul his whole world view, and this is a very painful and difficult task. It is better simply to deny the reality of any such principle out of hand.
Early Christian heresies of Gnosticism and Manichaeism project a split between good and evil, the spiritual as good and the material world as evil. American Indian mythology was perplexed at the Christian idea of a satanic being. They accepted it as a fact that human beings combine in themselves both good and evil, and did not need to invoke the idea of a devil to explain why some people had a bad heart and some a good heart. Mankind has a dual nature. Most mythologies have two assumptions: the autonomous power of evil that is beyond man’s control and there is a balance of opposites in life or polarities, such as light being opposed by darkness.
In-depth psychology accepts the reality of the dark side to human nature that can refuse to be assimilated into the good. If we deny the possibility of evil in ourselves by trying to be better than we are (loss of humility) then we risk that evil may run rampant through us because what we are unconscious of can control us.
Next: Evil in the Old Testament