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The Battle Between Good & Evil

A random thought while listening to Philosopher Alan Watts

I was listening to a talk by Alan Watts on his admiration for Carl Jung and some of his most prominent ideas — one of which was the notion that Jung didn’t believe in absolute good and evil.

According to Watts:

“His resistance, to what is in my mind, the disastrous and absurd hypothesis that there is in this universe, a radical and absolute conflict between good and evil, light and darkness that can never be harmonized.”

Watts goes on to describe, what I interpret as, a relativistic position on good and evil characterized by atrocities committed by various people in history.

He makes an attempt at imagining himself in the shoes of a person who has to go through these atrocities — stating if he were trapped in such a situation he would fight it to the end. But despite this thought experiment, he retains the position that:

“But at the same time, I would recognize the relativity of my own emotional involvement. I would know that I was fighting a man like Eichman, in the same way, shall we say as a spider and a wasp, insects which naturally prey upon one another and fight one another, do so. But as a human being I would not be able to regard my adversary, as a metaphysical devil that is to say as one who represented the principle of absolute an unresolvable evil.”

If there is such a relativistic stance on good and evil, where does that leave us?

But who’s to say we can trust others to evaluate the darkness within themselves, and to a greater extent, others?

From a Jungian perspective, this leaves us with the notion that evil is a function of the degree to which we are conscious of the darkness within. And the ability to reconcile this evil or darkness is to, not become enemies with it, not repress it, but to shine the light of conscious awareness on it.

If we continue with the logic of Jungian psychology, we then see that people project their darkness onto others, unconsciously, then use that as an excuse to harm others.

This forces us to wrestle with Watts’ notion:

“I think this is the most important thing in Jung, that he was able to point out: that to the degree you condemn others and find evil in others, you are to that degree unconscious of the same thing in yourself.”

But who’s to say we can trust others to evaluate the darkness within themselves, and to a greater extent, others? What is the basis by which we evaluate morality or “good and evil?”

I do know that morality is certainly not “subjective” — that’s for sure.

Is there a battle between good and evil? And if there is, can it be “harmonized” in such a way that evil is abolished altogether?

I write at the intersection of self-improvement, psychology and leadership development from the perspective of a union steward. | byanthonyboyd.com