What can the Hero and his Monster Tell Us About Fighting and Overcoming Evil: Reflection from the War Zone

Avi Baumann
Jerusalem, Israel
Israel Institute for Jungian Psychology

As you all know, the region I come from and especially my country, is very eventful. This is a country in which many monsters have been born and flourished and new monsters are continuously bursting forth and growing, but where at the same time new heroes are emerging daily. For this reason, the subject of the hero and his battle against the monster appears suddenly so real, relevant, applicable, and intriguing, and therefore I will focus on it in this presentation.

But first let’s have another look at the situation of the region.

The Land of Israel – Palestine – was for many generations an object of yearning as the land promised to a number of peoples. As such, this land was always steeped in wars, conquests and oppressions of nations. And in this country, into which I was born as a Palestinian (which was the citizenship granted to residents of the country under the British mandate prior to the establishment of the State of Israel), I belong to the Jewish People, which has experienced a very difficult history, whether in Europe as my family did, or in the Arab countries, as did many others of my countrymen, and therefore one can say, they got a lot of complexes. It is common knowledge that we began our present stage of independence as a people returning to its land, its home, its past, and took a space that also belonged to others. To our sorrow, things did not work out as we had hoped; as Heronimus in the Crusade period wrote to Saint Augustinus: we came to Jerusalem and did not find what we expected. The same people finds itself today in the position of a conqueror, treating another people with little mercy. That persecuted people has been dragged into a vicious cycle of expulsion, control and war with a people that were supposed to be their brother, like Ishmael to Isaac. In all this turmoil, the vocation I have chosen for myself brought me to treat many patients whose personal histories and traumas have to do with being refugees, immigrants, or refugee’s children, and their lives are loaded by cultural complexes of two kinds. On one hand, such as the victim, the expelled, the exiled and the survivor; and on the other hand, such as the National home, the Promised Land, the Redemption and the Hero.

When our state was founded, symbols such as “ingathering of the exiles,” “conquest of the land” (in the sense of redeeming the swampy and barren earth), “revival” and “scrolls of fire” were our daily bread and always constituted our faith in our righteousness, a faith that gave us strength and determination. But as time passed, the picture changed and that faith became blurred. A polarity has been created that is splitting the nation, a split and escalation in the face of the enemy, and all this is creating a sense of division and anxiety in its wake. The polarization, the distress and the anxiety are weakening, bringing new-old complexes to the fore, and even changes for the worse (a deterioration) in the connotation of old, moderate symbols. Symbols such as “settlement of the land” and “conquest of the desert” have changed into fanatical settlements and outposts. Holy sites that were a place of pilgrimage for believers of different faiths have become symbols of messianism and zealotry. Symbols of work and socialism have become irrelevant and such higher symbols as “love your neighbor” are looked upon as a betrayal. Such an exalted symbol as “struggle for independence and sovereignty” has turned into “shahidism” and the sanctification of suicide and murder.

This present article was written at a most difficult time of my life and grew out of continuing suffering and helplessness. It has evolved out of anxiety in the face of terror and the experience of frustration and anger caused by the cruelty of occupation and control of another people. The writing and research became especially important and crucial for me with the increase in suicide terrorist acts, the unrecognized feelings of hatred and vengefulness on both sides, the overwhelming feelings of guilt mixed with shame and anger at ourselves and at the world, and the painful collapse of the world outlook, our ethos. I see in this collapse of faith in the righteousness of the path the cause for the extreme vulnerability to the situation.

This paper was influenced also by the therapeutic work I am doing that, synchronically, as it always is, presented me with new therapeutic challenges, and especially the necessity of finding a different way to face revelations of shadow and evil, which are increasing at this time. In my personal life, as well as in my clinic and with colleagues in the Jungian Association, I was forced to deal with new expressions of shadow and evil I had never experienced before – not among my patients, not among my colleagues, and not in myself and in my capacity as therapist. All these, together with what has been happening around me in my city and in my country, in the Association and in the treatment room, combined into one madhouse while, in the background, I was preoccupied daily with the danger facing my younger son who was doing his army service in a combat unit. New dangers and fears that re-awakened my memories of participation in wars and past traumas, that had for years been buried in the depths of repression, now came pouring out from inside.

All this awakened a powerful need to study the subject on all levels. At the collective social and political level, as at the personal level, we see how difficult experiences of oppression, discrimination, humiliation, and dispossession of a group or a people, as a result of conquest, expulsion or disaster, can breed hate, anger, jealousy, and a need for revenge. But we can also see contradictory survival mechanisms and even different world views in the face of evil and the anxiety it awakens. We often can see survival mechanisms of identification with the evil or its projection onto the enemy and a need to use force to overcome it, and these can lie at the base of a right-wing world view. In contrast, we see that those who use mechanisms of denial of the evil of the enemy need to believe in the goodness, with the subsequent projection of the evil onto the other sector of the nation instead of onto the enemy. Of course, this mechanism can be the basis for a left-wing outlook. So the picture becomes: the left blames the right and projects onto it all its frustration, anger and feeling of revenge, while the right is convinced that the left, by denying the evil perpetrated by the enemy, actually increases that evil, weakening the nation and perpetuating the problem. One can also see that some of the mechanisms typical of relationships within the people also include identification, projection and even projective identification of one group towards another.

As we see at the individual level, so also at the collective social level, it is distress that leads to the taking-over of cruel, vengeful and destructive elements. And questions arise how to tolerate all that. In politics, as in the individual approach, we face the dilemma of how to stand up to these elements that were created out of distress. How best can the subject be dealt with? We wonder how much force to apply or invest against the evil foundations created out of the distress. How much understanding and empathy for the situation of the other is important and what should its limits be, when the shadow and the evil erupt? How much, when faced with it, should we relate to the distress and how much to the danger of the eruption of the destructive forces? How much to fight, how much to understand! What to fight against and what to be careful of? How to identify the inherent archetypal evil, that which poisons and endangers, and how to recognize those destructive emotions and deeds which are the result of suffering? As you all know, such dilemmas exist also in the therapeutic setting, especially in borderline cases and serious personality disorders, where in our treatment of them we almost always come up against possessions of evil such as uncontrollable jealousy, a need to take revenge and inflict cruelty, a need to express anger and to challenge the therapist’s goodness or even to destroy him. In these cases we walk a tightrope between two positions: how much to understand and when to stop and stand on the other side.

On examining my instinctive gut reactions to both the frightening terror in the streets or the destruction of homes, occupation and targeted killings, and to the rages that erupted in the frame of the split in the Jungian Association and extreme expressions of anger and jealousy in my therapeutic work, I understood that the psychoanalytical concepts of splitting and projective identification which are mainly defenses are not sufficient. Those concepts are not always helpful for our understanding and we need to continue searching within the archetypal approach. I was not satisfied with the explanation that the patient, as a defense, projects onto me his angers, jealousies, or deprivations, to which I respond. There is a need for a better understanding of what causes us to be vulnerable and exposed to such expressions that emerge from within us and to recognize the conditions in which this happens.

I was most intrigued with the question of why in the presence of certain patients we find ourselves angrier or even vengeful, either fighting the monsters to the bitter end or ourselves becoming monsters. Many questions arose: do these patients have some power that shifts us, draws us close and even causes us to fall with them into the archetypal dimension, in this case, its bad side? To what extent are there poisonous people under whose influence we will more easily cross the barriers of the personal dimension? These dilemmas led me to study the character and form of the influence of monstrous evil. Since fighting evil is very archaic, I was interested in how mythology views the development of such evil and its place. Second, I wanted to know whether mythology offers means of discerning such evil, and whether it provides means for overcoming it. To what extent does mythology relate to the danger of being caught in the web of evil? And, above all, how will all this assist me in coping with my belief in goodness?

To delve into the depths of archetypal evil and trace its evolution, let us first examine the creation stories in the Greek world of mythology and the birth of those archetypes that appear in the monster form.

The mythology begins by telling us about the resistant and permanent evil born of mother earth, Gaea, as revenge upon the forcefulness, discrimination and cruelty of the sky father towards some of their offspring. These evils are the new monsters she bore with the help of Tartarus, the world beneath, and they were born out of her need for revenge against her husband, the father Uranus. Mother earth, in her anger, does something more: she incites her children to castrate their father. From this castration are created the goddesses of revenge, the Erinnyes, who have, from time immemorial up to the present, been part of the world in the form of anxieties, guilt, thoughts and visions of persecution. Since the first castration and the birth of the primary vengeance, sky and earth stopped meeting each night to produce, together, creatures for the world.

Among the first monsters created out of the mother’s vengeance were Typhon on the dry land and Echidna from the sea, and together they created various monsters that dispersed through the world in order to confuse man, to challenge him, and sometimes to punish him. Their descendants include, among others, the Gorgons, the Hydra, Cerberus, the Chimera, and the Sphinx.

We can see these dark creatures as representatives of personal complexes, or complexes on the interpersonal level, or those that grab the person at the internal emotional level, but I will relate to parts of them also as archetypal creatures of tangible presence when the times require us to face a real enemy and fight him. One monster is the terror and her face of acts of revenge, overwhelming vengefulness resulting in the random and sweeping use of any and all frightening and murderous means against any civilian, child or infant of the opposite side. Another monster is that of occupation and her face is the obstinate need to control and hold on to lands that belong to another people, an obstinacy of possessiveness, imperialism, and a wish for power and strength. A no smaller monster is that of messianic religious fervor, an archetypal inundation, an emotional hanging on to God’s name, the Holy Land or holy war, in order to achieve political goals. This monster has adherents on both sides, among religious and nationalist Jews and among the Palestinians. Another monster of a totally different color can come through fully and totally worshiping a certain illuminating ideology without seeing anything else. This monster can be fanatically aggressive and mostly hidden, but whose exposed face is one of self-righteousness, false saintliness and self-persuasion, as the West can find in itself. Those persons who hold progressive ideas can be caught by this monster, they can be cut off from the primitive level of their psyche, they are in denial of their deep fears, angers, and feelings of revenge. They can be caught even in betrayal of their own self or their own people.

To deal with this painful subject, two points require emphasis: First, these monsters are not imaginary; they have turned into beasts that attack and swallow the individual human soul, whole population sectors, and even entire nations. Second, as you see they first sprouted out of positive drives, such as a struggle for independence, a desire for a home, and a return to one’s roots, or religious enthusiasm or a will to tolerate thy neighbors. But they have long since detached from their primary source and twisted into a new and terrifying form of existence.

An important distinction must be made between the personal evil of the individual, which is part of his shadow or his personality complexes, and between that evil of supra-personal, archetypal powers that the individual or a group may find themselves caught in when it passes through their shadow and personal or cultural complexes. Just as the innate moral archetype exists beyond the acquired personal morality (Von Franz, 1986), we have no reason to think there is no innate evil beyond the personal evil that develops in a person as a result of his personal life. The eternal, unconquerable evil evolving in the world, evil that lies in wait, sticks to one, and threatens to erupt out of the archetypal level at any opportunity. It can feed the personal complex that develops in the individual as a result of a human condition of hurt, suffering, humiliation, deep envy or anxiety and helplessness. The latter, that develops out of a state of human distress, is liable to be the opening, the unnoticed opportunity for that ambush set by the archetypal evil to erupt and completely take over the individual’s humanity, especially in a time of distress or when he is part of a group in distress.

To achieve a finer distinction between what we call the archetypal, eternal, unconquerable evil and the human quality that has become negatively emotional complex, it is important to use the individual story of the monster: which gods are responsible for its birth, how it was born, who its siblings are, the context of its creation, and the tools for its redemption, if that is possible. Such a distinction and understanding will also help us to know what approach is needed to be taken by the hero in his struggle to overcome the evil in an appropriate way. The hero must know what he is fighting for and whom he should be fighting; he must be convinced that this is a winnable battle and he must distinguish what and whom he must let go of, in order to avoid falling into the trap of demonizing the other, because that is evil from the archetypal layer. If this is a battle against invincible immortal monsters, if it is a dangerous and unending war, then it is a war rendered superfluous through hubris. This is a war that can lead only to destruction.

Surveying the mythological stories of heroes and their battles, we find two types of heroic battles. Sometimes the hero fights animals, such as the lion, the bull, the doe, or the boar, his task being to overcome, subjugate or sacrifice the animal to one of the gods. In these missions, the hero must develop a restraining and sublimated strength. He must know how to exploit the animal’s strength for higher purposes. But when the hero battles these half-animal, half-human monsters, or those that are formed as combinations of animals that do not exist in the real world, such as the sphinx, Cerberus the dog, the Minotaur, the Hydra, or the Medusa, he is in a battle of an essentially different significance. He is in a fight with the twisting impulses, the distortion, and the mutation of the psyche. Those creatures do not symbolize the raw and unstructured instinctual energy but the contortion of the psyche, parts of which are twisted because of hurt, destruction, or oppression and have turned into evil creatures that kill parts of the soul, swallow and devour others, and are therefore poisonous and dangerous. The struggle against such archetypal destructive powers will not be resolved by the mobilization of ego strength for sublime purposes because these are not simple instinctual forces.

I will touch three of the myths about monsters and the stories of how they were overcome. Each myth will demonstrate to us one aspect of the hero’s battle that I would like to stress.

The first hero is Heracles, the bravest of the brave. We will focus on the labor in which he grapples with the Hydra squatting in a terrible stinking swamp, into which he must fall. This water (emotional) monster, with its nine heads that spew dangerous poisons and venom that pollute the surroundings, is the daughter of Echidna and Typhon. The distressed, possessive and power-obsessed Hera has sent her to earth in her vengeful jealousy at the birth of Heracles, her human stepson. Heracles must fight this monster, which has only one mortal head, while the removal of the other eight only leads to greater troubles in the form of multiple replacements. First, the myth tells us that Heracles acts in this task with the assistance of another person who helps him to light up the space. He certainly could not do this on his own. Heracles, whose actions are a punishment for his uncontrolled crazy deeds and who is himself in distress, must light the swamp with the help of burning arrows, jump into the marshy reeking muck, stoop and identify the correct head that is hiding in the water. Only then can he strike at the right head.

The venomous, poisonous evil that is hard to get rid of can symbolize for us the hatred, vengefulness and even the urge to murder that is created by deep irreparable hurts. This poison is contagious and encroaching and therefore the hero’s entry into the swampy morass of evil is most dangerous and unavoidable. In such a situation, the light of consciousness is crucial, and the hero achieves it through the illuminating arrows. Identification of the correct hidden head, the one in which one can recognize the human hurt and suffering, is carried out from a crouching position. In order to complete the labor, it is also important to awaken from the inciting hubris and the pummeling, which will be achieved with the help of another person.

The myth gives us a clear picture of the need to examine on which head to focus: the human, the “mortal head,” the one that we can only recognize when we act without forgetting our own humanity, even when we are in a state of war. The policy of targeted killings that has been sometimes implemented by my country does not sound right in light of this myth. The attempt to rein in the terror by destroying certain heads is like cutting off the head of an immortal creature. The destruction of one leads to the birth of two new ones. Targeted killing itself has a murderous and random connotation. It heightens the feeling of humiliation, hate, and also vengeance. Paradoxical as it may seem, the removal of the monster’s power will be implemented by a path that acknowledges the humane, and the humane is that which is connected to the suffering and distress in any existing evil. The myth reminds us that it is not always easy to persevere in this requirement, to identify it, and especially when we are striking out and belligerent.

At the time I am speaking about, I had been treating, for some years, a woman, forty-five, suffering from borderline states, recurring depressions and anxieties. The patient is an extremely creative talented person of many skills. In the course of her treatment, she developed a very intensive emotional relationship towards me and an attitude of possessiveness and jealousy directed at me: what could be termed dense transference, sometimes even psychotic. The more this transference developed, the more it began to feed also on various stories she had heard about C.G. Jung’s treatments and connections with his patients. She would sometimes complain that “Jung also did such and such, why isn’t that possible here …” Situations arose in which the therapeutic relationship led to huge frustrations, rages and battles, feelings of being victimized and unbridled jealousy that were always there but grew up mostly at this period.

The patient would sometimes bring an artwork to the session and “sweetly” shared a secret with me – that she had long been writing a book with illustrations that described the therapeutic relations and the entire process she was undergoing. At first, writing about the treatment seemed to me therapeutic, and in my naiveté I related to her work as an honest and reliable personal journal. I quickly realized that the patient was planning to publish this book that would contain mainly her fantasies and wishes and that in her imagination she saw the book as a baby shared by the two of us, in an expectation of cooperation. As time passed, it became clear that there was another dimension to the matter of the “book” – that every time there was some hurt or frustration and a desire for revenge, the patient tended to use this writing in a manipulative manner. She tried to sense and absorb my feelings and concerns in every way possible and enjoyed the accumulation of power and new status through the book.

I began to feel that every so often a furious many-headed monster was entering the treatment room. She sprayed poison, she stank, and she encroached, and tried in every way possible to sabotage the therapy. Sometimes I felt helpless, anxious about the consequences of publicity and I was therefore aggressive, even insulting. I felt ingratitude, a sense of being exploited, and that something was taking control of my life. I moved nervously from side to side. As a rule I thought that perhaps the work was part of the healing, an emotional working through and integration, but suddenly an attack would come and then I was convinced that only force could resolve the anger and vengeance. I tried destroying head after head but I only caused more hurt, and to no avail. It was necessary to calm down and search for a different approach that would lead to the monster’s annihilation. I had to shed some light and understand more profoundly what was happening. Simply labeling things, for instance her borderline status, would not resolve the situation. I had to bend, to relinquish the superior position of the therapist. It was crucial to identify the place of the pain, her fear of abandonment and the overwhelming need of the borderline person to unite and, if not, to destroy. In a parallel discovery, I learned about my naiveté, the fears that were surfacing, and later about the anger that brought about the desire to destroy, to drive out. The angrier I became, the stronger the monster came on.

Although it was quite clear to me that I had to clarify my positions on the publication of her book, should she reach that stage, I realized that until such time I must relate to her writing differently. I must understand it as a personal journal and a wish to perpetuate the painful relationship between us, even if on paper, and in this I was unsuccessful. I also needed to distinguish between the infantile rages resulting from the terrible hurt she had suffered and those places where the anger was due to the hurts I felt and the lack of trust created in me. The identification, the bending, the departure from places of concern with honor and power, finding the place of the hurt with determination and fearlessness, and sometimes using the assistance of others’ ideas – all these made it possible to continue the therapy.

I will mention briefly only the classical hero, Perseus, who also undergoes a journey and struggles against a monster, the Medusa, but not before being given tools and helpful guidance by super-human personalities – the gods, and especially Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Medusa’s human body was mutilated, her tresses became snakes, she was placed between her eternally monstrous sisters, and all who looked at her eyes turned to stone. She turned into a pitiful and dangerous creature, but at the same time, one that awaited redemption and release from the paralyzing ugliness that had taken hold of her.

Perseus the hero, whose name means “the destroyer,” must, when setting out on his journey, receive important information about his task from a trio of old ladies, the Graeae, who are also three monsters that shared one eye and one tooth between them. It was by no mean easy to get the information from them, and in order to force them, he stole the “public eye” while it was being passed from one to the other. The wise Athena’s shield served him as a mirror, enabling him to view the monsters from a distance through a third means, a sort of reflection. He looked into the eyes of the Medusa and fell neither into a paralyzing fear, nor weakening pity, nor sweeping confusion between her and her sisters who represent the archetypal dimension – the dimension he must beware of. It is she, this “human” monster, twisted human being, who is the object of his battle. The hero achieved this ability to move out of the stereotypical public eye, the monstrous sight that creates generalizations, collective opinions, and rigid principles of black and white. The hero also gained the ability to discern, to maintain a distance, to use sophistication and thought rather than aggressive feelings, the over-excitement of battle, and of course, the paralyzing fears. He overcomes the monster awaiting redemption and an end of the new pregnancy. At the severing of her head, Pegasus spreads for him his blessed wings, emerges from her neck, and is born for the world.

This myth that takes place under the umbrella of Athena, goddess of justice war, provides us with some extremely important understandings about the qualities and tools we need to acquire in our effort to draw close and overcome. First, we must avoid repression and rejection of the shadow and our own personal evil, as Neumann mentions in Depth Psychology and A New Ethic. The need to overcome the “witches’ public eye” is important also in our approach to the collective issue in the warring attitude towards the enemy. The encompassing opinions about who and what the Arabs are, the Arab mentality, the Arab anger, the primitiveness – “they only understand force … ,” every relinquishment is an expression of weakness … ,” “this is their nature and a positive attitude will make no difference … ,” can be compared to our need as therapists not to make generalizations about things, as we tend to do in times of pressure during treatment. I have brought my experience here, in situations where I made diagnoses, expressed all-encompassing opinions about jealousy, infantile rage, psychotic transference, and impersonal and unempathic attitudes. Work on the contents of shadow and evil requires the ability to reflect and distinguish between archetypal forces and human emotions deriving from hurt and a sense of humiliation. The shield, the third helpful dynamic, symbolizes the ability to observe from a distance: in the present case, the patient’s third factor was her creative ability, while for me it was my dreams and inner-directed examination of the paralyzing Medusa inside me. And when the two protagonists are caught up in a shared evil we must realize that we are being influenced by something greater than ourselves. It is not that the patient is projecting his vengeful parts, his hate and destructiveness, while we are merely “caught up” in it. Both sides are trapped in forces out of the collective unconscious that dwells in each and every soul.

The third myth brings the story of Jason who, after a long, wearying Argonaut journey, has to bring the Golden Fleece which was lost in the country of the barbarians on the shore of the Black Sea. This was Cholchis at Ayetes, ruled by the father of the princess Medea. The Greek Pellias, a violent aggressive king who stole the kingdom from Jason’s father, sent Jason on this difficult mission. When Jason (the healer) reaches his destination in order to extricate the Golden Fleece, he has to fight a dangerous dragon that is guarding it. His task is to overcome the dragon, sow its teeth in the field and battle whatever should grow out of these seeds of evil. According to the earliest version of this myth, one of the dangers is that the dragon will swallow Jason and only princess Medea, who is familiar with the secrets of dragons, can save him from such a fate. Jason is indeed swallowed by the dragon, and it is Medea who helps him to free himself from the monster’s jaws and continue to sow the teeth and to fight against those warriors who sprout from them. Of particular interest is the swallowing by the dragon and the rebirth with the aid of the woman Medea. The hero must be swallowed, pass through the dragon’s stomach, temporarily feel trapped, touch his fears, acknowledge the loss of self, the dragon-like rage and all the most primal and profound feelings of evil.

There are insights that can come only after one has experienced one’s own feelings of evil. Sometimes transformation and true overcoming can be achieved only after being caught in a complex. To sow the dragon teeth from which warriors have sprouted sounds like a sort of practice of war against evil forces that you yourself have sowed. The myth in its ancient version emphasizes the need to descend into the depths of the problem in the company of a partner who understands the intricacies of evil. It also emphasizes the need to trust and to be capable of being led. Finally, it is necessary to take responsibility and to know how to fight the results of the evil that you yourself have sown.

I can certainly admit that in the course of the therapy presented in this paper I fell into the jaws of the dragon more than once and felt myself to be a monster and a fire-spewing dragon. I learned to admit that sometimes I need the help of the patient who is more expert than I about the intricacies of dark motives. The patient imagined herself to be Medea the enchantress and sometimes the witch, who would help me or bewitch me with her charms. It was she who caused me to enter places in myself I had never dreamed existed. On the other hand, there were situations in which, with her help, I extricated myself, even if it is still difficult for me to admit it. This patient did not rest until she saw the barbarity in me. She was hurt by it but in conversations held later in a different ambience she admitted that despite the hurts from me she got a lot out of seeing me step out of the therapeutic position, take responsibility, and work with this material during the treatment. At the collective level as well, I can admit that the situations in which I reached murderous rage against the expressions of evil on the part of suicide bombers or the lynchers in Ramallah taught me a lot about myself and about human beings. I understood, out of my personal experience, that the most primitive level exists in each and every one of us and we must always be careful and wary of it. This level is not the property of the Palestinians, or of the extreme right or the extremely religious; it exists in all of us and anyone can fall victim to it. This experience made me be aware that there are those who are cut off from this level and project it freely in all directions. One of the important discoveries was that I recognized the monster in me, hidden behind the false saintliness and self-righteousness lurking in the background of lofty ideologies. Sometimes I regret having lost them, because I am not sure of the good for which I have done so.

The three myths I have presented demonstrate the importance of strength, courage and determination, but these lofty qualities that developed in our heroes because of their skills, but also out of their distress, do not suffice to battle the monster. The hero does indeed conquer his instincts but also uses his head and learns to distinguish who his enemy is and with what and who he must not get involved with. He creates a discerning reflective distance, he knows when to bend in order to recognize the humanity in the other and in himself, and knows how to take care of the thread of love. The final myth shows us that he is also prepared to rely on the other when he himself is swallowed up inside the evil and reaches a higher level of awareness after this experience. Without his awareness of all these, there is a danger of being swept up, of over-enthusiasm, excitement or hubris, all of which constitute a danger for the hero. The battle will be lost either because his powers are dissipated in unnecessary wars, or because the heads of the snake he wants to destroy keep reproducing and multiplying, or because of confusion and loss on the paths of the great unknown.

Drives and qualities of evil or counter-evil develop in every society and are transmitted from generation to generation, like other qualities. They take control in the presence of situations of powerful human distress, such as hurt, insult, destruction, great famine, falling prey to the greediness of the other, imperialism or the uncontrolled emotional or religious incitement of instincts. To be a hero means, among other things, to know how to maintain a tie with humanness, to know as well the story behind the appearance of the evil, not at the cost of pity that weakens but from the vantage point of knowing the border between the potential for eternal evil that exists in each and every one of us and that evil which is born of human hurt. To remain a conscious hero means to identify the enemy with as much knowledge of his background story as is possible. To recognize the human part of the monster facing you, you must remain human – a human hero not without blemish but a man who recognizes a human being in his enemy as well. If not, there is a danger of integrative loss of the hero and the monster will devour him.

The myths I have described have been very helpful to me in understanding the processes in our region but mainly they are useful for a clearer conceptualization of processes I have undergone in my own individuation, both past and present. Following Jung’s approach and Neumann’s expansion of it in his conceptualization of the new morality, we must face the shadow and the evil, acknowledge their existence, and study them as part of this process. We need first and foremost to recognize our own shadow and evil, that of our patients and that of the surroundings in which we live. Even if one grows up, as I did, in an idealistic atmosphere that believes in goodness, peace, the value of human beings, and a strong sensitivity to the suffering of the other, the terrible reality places us face to face with evil – our patients’ reality, the difficult political reality, or the reality that life brings to us. There is no escape, we must take a stand, face different moral dilemmas and abandon positions we grew up with. The processes I have been through in recent years have forced me to examine time and again my attitude to evil and to the suffering that exists behind it. I had to acknowledge that our archetypal reservoir contains a not negligible arsenal of monsters we inherited from our ancestors. I had to understand that this inheritance might erupt at any given moment, if it finds a personal or societal corridor to pass through. I had to accept that the most primitive forces of evil, such as envy and vengefulness, a desire for strength and aggressiveness, ideological or religious fervor, are liable to take hold of us at any time. They may be hiding behind self-righteousness and false saintliness. They exist on their own in a dark hidden corner, waiting for the right moment to come out into the light of day.

References

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