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Only an infantile person can pretend that evil is not at work everywhere, and the more unconscious he is, the more the devil drives him.  It is just because of this inner connection with the black side of things that it is so incredibly easy for the mass man to commit the most appalling crimes without thinking.  Only ruthless self-knowledge on the widest scale, which sees good and evil in correct perspective and can weigh up the motives of human action, offers some guarantee that the end-result will not turn out too badly.”  Dr. Carl G. Jung, Aion, ¶255.

It remains quite natural for men to quarrel and to struggle for superiority over one another….  As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through.  The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us.  Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself.  But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worth while for each of us to ask himself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us.” Dr. Carl G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, P. 91-92. 

A friend recently asked me to write on good and evil.  What a daunting task!  Theologians and philosophers have filled libraries with the topic for millennia, so a writer must first ask, “What could I possibly add to the discussion?” 

Each of us straddles a chasm, with one foot on the good side and one on the evil side.  The apt title, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was a 1994 best selling novel, and a 1997 movie.  We are all lost in that garden, and we could re-characterize that garden as our own conscience. 

There is no way to sugar coat the dilemma.  Sometimes we have to make a choice between the two extremes, but whatever that choice, we have to live with ourselves ever after. Nowhere is that dilemma starker than in the matter of Death itself. 

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

 

With those words, J. Robert Oppenheimer launched the nuclear age with the explosion of the first “atomic bomb” on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico. 

Imagine the moral dilemma for everyone involved in the project!  They knew what the potential for death and destruction was.  They did not know whether a nuclear explosion would strip the atmosphere (our 20-mile thick bubble) off the Earth, thereby destroying everything. 

They knew that using the weapon would at least destroy cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people.  They knew that an invasion of Japan to end World War II would have cost 1 million casualties.  They also knew that they had materials for just two bombs—the two they actually used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  If they did not end the war, more deaths would surely ensue.

Oppenheimer later said,

The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable.  It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.” 

He believed that the use of the bomb on Japan would end man’s taste for war, because the use of nuclear weapons would seem so horrible.  That just goes to show how wrong you can be!  

Their bet in 1945 paid off, but it set off a nuclear arms race featuring the MAD (mutually assured destruction) concept, and the unintended consequences persist to this day with the possibility of a new nuclear arms race threatened in the Middle East.  There men with different value systems are in control of the ultimate consequences. 

We are always and forever at the mercy of the consciences of individual human beings.

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The World hangs on a thin thread, and that is the Psyche of Man. Nowadays we are not threatened by elementary catastrophes.  There is no such thing as an “H-bomb” [in nature].  That is all man’s doing.  We are the great danger.  Psyche is the great danger.  What if something goes wrong with the Psyche?... And so it is demonstrated to us in our days, what the power of the Psyche is of Man.  How important it is to know something about it.  But we know NOthing about it.”

But these decisions of life and death are not out there, for our leaders to make.  They are moral dilemmas, which we all face.  Many of us face the decision of when to euthanize our pets.  When I had pet Collies, and I watched them play and they shared my life, I always knew the agonizing fact that one day I would have to put them to death.  We can sugar coat it, by saying we are “putting them to sleep,” but that does not change the stark reality.  

Karma the Collie

For me, that decision always turned on suffering.  When the cure of the veterinarian was more painful to me psychologically than the knowledge of certain death anyway, the timing of the decision was easy to make. 

The decision becomes even more complex when it involves a parent or another loved one.  We have euthanasia in the United States, but we don’t call it that.  Our religious teachings say, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”  But the reality is that it is very likely that you will be called upon to make the decision on the timing of your parents’ or spouse’s death for them.  And you will have to be able to live with your conscience for the rest of your life.  No one can make that easier for you. 

I remember the first time this problem came into my consciousness. My mother had gone to attend at the death of my grandmother.  When she returned she told us that she had gone into her mother’s room and told her that it was all right to “let go” and die.  A few minutes later, while the family was having dinner downstairs, she did.  To my young mind, it seemed to me that my mother had been complicit in my grandmother’s death, and it made such an impression on me that I feel compelled to include it in this essay today.

My father’s death is another case in point.   My father had been in the hospital for three weeks, after a collapse.  At one point his condition improved enough for him to be sent to a nursing home, but that only lasted a week, and then he was sent back to the hospital. 

There came a time when a doctor came to me and said, “I can do this procedure, which will extend your father’s life for a day or a week.  Or, if the family asks me to do it, I can reduce your father’s discomfort by giving him morphine, which will have the side effect of speeding up his death.”  I looked at my father, who was unconscious at the time, with his mouth open in a grimace, and I said, “My father looks like he is in pain.  Please give him some morphine.” 

Was my decision good or evil?   You can have your opinion, but I live with my decision every day, and it is likely you will have to face such a decision someday.  Similar events could be described about the deaths of both my mother and brother.  

But moral dilemmas don’t only involve life or death.  We face them daily.  I have traveled to India 44 times since 1994.  India is a country where the 21st Century is overlain over the 12th Century on almost every street.  Beggars are very common, and their plight is difficult to face.  One may be missing an arm or a leg, while a mother may have a babe in arms. 

On one hand, I know that these beggars have handlers, and that giving money to a beggar is simply giving money straight away to one of these handlers, which in turn produces a demand for more beggars with even more horrific physical deformities, like blindness.  And still, a compassionate heart aches at the sight, and wants to help. 

I asked a Buddhist teacher once, “What should you do about a beggar in the street?”  I went on to explain the dilemma.  He answered, “Do what your heart tells you to do in each case.”  I have always followed this sensible advice, and it has served me well.

Jung Quote about each being in need of alms.

India is sometimes very difficult to face for westerners, who have been sheltered from the horrors faced by billions of less fortunate human beings around the world.  I know of one case where an executive I knew came to the door of the Mumbai airport terminal, took one look at the noisy throng of beggars and people awaiting arrivals of loved ones, and turned around and bought an ongoing ticket to Singapore, without ever stepping out into India at all.

When I started to travel to India, I thought I could stay in a normal “business hotel” used by Indian businessmen.  I was surprised to find that there was no mirror on the wall of my bathroom, so I had to shave without looking at my face, and on the second night a rat ran across my feet in the middle of the night.  I knew that if I was going to succeed in business, I would not be able to continue staying in such places.  When I was a U.S. Marine, living in a bunker with cockroaches on the wall and rats scurrying about on the path to the outhouse, I had no choice, but this was different. 

Since then I have stayed in five star hotels, with all of the most comfortable western amenities.  A typical trip has cost 15-20 times the average annual wage of India.  But, I know in my heart of hearts that very few of those trips would have been made if I had been forced to stay in one of those “business hotels” I stayed in on my first trip.  This is just human nature. 

Since the business I created employed 6,000 Indians before I retired from it, and the government of India estimates that each job created supports 10 people, it has always seemed to me that staying in five star hotels in the face of such poverty has been a moral decision, but others may disagree.  Personal morality, the balance between good and evil, must be made within each heart. 

One of the criticisms of Dr. Carl Jung has been that he had several love affairs, lasting decades and well known to his wife, Emma.   His affair with Sabina Spielrein is depicted in the movie A Dangerous Method, with BDSM overtones.  It seems quite probable that this affair contributed to his professional break with Sigmund Freud, and to the genesis of his “Confrontation with the Unconscious,” which is chronicled in The Red Book and was one of the seminal incidents in the development of modern psychology, as we know it today. 

His affair with Toni Wolff went on for over forty years.   She became, in effect, Dr. Jung’s personal analyst.  One can only imagine the scenes that occurred in the Jung household in the early years, but his wife Emma Jung ultimately accepted Toni as part of their household, saying that she was thankful to Toni because she could not have guided Dr. Jung through his “Confrontation with the Unconscious” as Toni did in these very early days of the development of modern psychology.  

Emma was an analyst before marrying Dr. Jung, and she wrote The Grail Legend with Marie-Louise von Franz, another protégé of Dr. Jung.  Emma said of women, 

“The real thinking of woman ... is pre-eminently practical and applied.  It is something we describe as sound common sense, and is usually directed to what is close at hand and personal.”

Perhaps that is the best way to end this meditation on good and evil.  Not everything that our parents and theologians taught us were sins is evil, per se, nor is everything we’re told is good actually good for everyone.  It is a matter of conscience, and in the end we all must find our own way through our midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. 

Skip Conover is an international businessman, author and artist. He is a Founder of the Archetype in Action™ Organization.  You can follow him and his work on Twitter using @skip_conover   or on Pinterest.  Skip's latest book is Political Psychology: New Ideas for Activists.  He is also the author of Tsunami of Blood.  

  

 

   

 

Only an infantile person can pretend that evil is not at work everywhere, and the more unconscious he is, the more the devil drives him.  It is just because of this inner connection with the black side of things that it is so incredibly easy for the mass man to commit the most appalling crimes without thinking.  Only ruthless self-knowledge on the widest scale, which sees good and evil in correct perspective and can weigh up the motives of human action, offers some guarantee that the end-result will not turn out too badly.”  Dr. Carl G. Jung, Aion, ¶255.

It remains quite natural for men to quarrel and to struggle for superiority over one another….  As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through.  The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us.  Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself.  But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worth while for each of us to ask himself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us.” Dr. Carl G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, P. 91-92. 

A friend recently asked me to write on good and evil.  What a daunting task!  Theologians and philosophers have filled libraries with the topic for millennia, so a writer must first ask, “What could I possibly add to the discussion?” 

Each of us straddles a chasm, with one foot on the good side and one on the evil side.  The apt title, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was a 1994 best selling novel, and a 1997 movie.  We are all lost in that garden, and we could re-characterize that garden as our own conscience. 

There is no way to sugar coat the dilemma.  Sometimes we have to make a choice between the two extremes, but whatever that choice, we have to live with ourselves ever after. Nowhere is that dilemma starker than in the matter of Death itself. 

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

 

With those words, J. Robert Oppenheimer launched the nuclear age with the explosion of the first “atomic bomb” on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico. 

Imagine the moral dilemma for everyone involved in the project!  They knew what the potential for death and destruction was.  They did not know whether a nuclear explosion would strip the atmosphere (our 20-mile thick bubble) off the Earth, thereby destroying everything. 

They knew that using the weapon would at least destroy cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people.  They knew that an invasion of Japan to end World War II would have cost 1 million casualties.  They also knew that they had materials for just two bombs—the two they actually used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  If they did not end the war, more deaths would surely ensue.

Oppenheimer later said,

The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable.  It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.” 

He believed that the use of the bomb on Japan would end man’s taste for war, because the use of nuclear weapons would seem so horrible.  That just goes to show how wrong you can be!  

Their bet in 1945 paid off, but it set off a nuclear arms race featuring the MAD (mutually assured destruction) concept, and the unintended consequences persist to this day with the possibility of a new nuclear arms race threatened in the Middle East.  There men with different value systems are in control of the ultimate consequences. 

We are always and forever at the mercy of the consciences of individual human beings.

The World hangs on a thin thread, and that is the Psyche of Man. Nowadays we are not threatened by elementary catastrophes.  There is no such thing as an “H-bomb” [in nature].  That is all man’s doing.  We are the great danger.  Psyche is the great danger.  What if something goes wrong with the Psyche?... And so it is demonstrated to us in our days, what the power of the Psyche is of Man.  How important it is to know something about it.  But we know NOthing about it.”

But these decisions of life and death are not out there, for our leaders to make.  They are moral dilemmas, which we all face.  Many of us face the decision of when to euthanize our pets.  When I had pet Collies, and I watched them play and they shared my life, I always knew the agonizing fact that one day I would have to put them to death.  We can sugar coat it, by saying we are “putting them to sleep,” but that does not change the stark reality.  

Karma the Collie

For me, that decision always turned on suffering.  When the cure of the veterinarian was more painful to me psychologically than the knowledge of certain death anyway, the timing of the decision was easy to make. 

The decision becomes even more complex when it involves a parent or another loved one.  We have euthanasia in the United States, but we don’t call it that.  Our religious teachings say, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”  But the reality is that it is very likely that you will be called upon to make the decision on the timing of your parents’ or spouse’s death for them.  And you will have to be able to live with your conscience for the rest of your life.  No one can make that easier for you. 

I remember the first time this problem came into my consciousness. My mother had gone to attend at the death of my grandmother.  When she returned she told us that she had gone into her mother’s room and told her that it was all right to “let go” and die.  A few minutes later, while the family was having dinner downstairs, she did.  To my young mind, it seemed to me that my mother had been complicit in my grandmother’s death, and it made such an impression on me that I feel compelled to include it in this essay today.

My father’s death is another case in point.   My father had been in the hospital for three weeks, after a collapse.  At one point his condition improved enough for him to be sent to a nursing home, but that only lasted a week, and then he was sent back to the hospital. 

There came a time when a doctor came to me and said, “I can do this procedure, which will extend your father’s life for a day or a week.  Or, if the family asks me to do it, I can reduce your father’s discomfort by giving him morphine, which will have the side effect of speeding up his death.”  I looked at my father, who was unconscious at the time, with his mouth open in a grimace, and I said, “My father looks like he is in pain.  Please give him some morphine.” 

Was my decision good or evil?   You can have your opinion, but I live with my decision every day, and it is likely you will have to face such a decision someday.  Similar events could be described about the deaths of both my mother and brother.  

But moral dilemmas don’t only involve life or death.  We face them daily.  I have traveled to India 44 times since 1994.  India is a country where the 21st Century is overlain over the 12th Century on almost every street.  Beggars are very common, and their plight is difficult to face.  One may be missing an arm or a leg, while a mother may have a babe in arms. 

On one hand, I know that these beggars have handlers, and that giving money to a beggar is simply giving money straight away to one of these handlers, which in turn produces a demand for more beggars with even more horrific physical deformities, like blindness.  And still, a compassionate heart aches at the sight, and wants to help. 

I asked a Buddhist teacher once, “What should you do about a beggar in the street?”  I went on to explain the dilemma.  He answered, “Do what your heart tells you to do in each case.”  I have always followed this sensible advice, and it has served me well.

Jung Quote about each being in need of alms.

India is sometimes very difficult to face for westerners, who have been sheltered from the horrors faced by billions of less fortunate human beings around the world.  I know of one case where an executive I knew came to the door of the Mumbai airport terminal, took one look at the noisy throng of beggars and people awaiting arrivals of loved ones, and turned around and bought an ongoing ticket to Singapore, without ever stepping out into India at all.

When I started to travel to India, I thought I could stay in a normal “business hotel” used by Indian businessmen.  I was surprised to find that there was no mirror on the wall of my bathroom, so I had to shave without looking at my face, and on the second night a rat ran across my feet in the middle of the night.  I knew that if I was going to succeed in business, I would not be able to continue staying in such places.  When I was a U.S. Marine, living in a bunker with cockroaches on the wall and rats scurrying about on the path to the outhouse, I had no choice, but this was different. 

Since then I have stayed in five star hotels, with all of the most comfortable western amenities.  A typical trip has cost 15-20 times the average annual wage of India.  But, I know in my heart of hearts that very few of those trips would have been made if I had been forced to stay in one of those “business hotels” I stayed in on my first trip.  This is just human nature. 

Since the business I created employed 6,000 Indians before I retired from it, and the government of India estimates that each job created supports 10 people, it has always seemed to me that staying in five star hotels in the face of such poverty has been a moral decision, but others may disagree.  Personal morality, the balance between good and evil, must be made within each heart. 

One of the criticisms of Dr. Carl Jung has been that he had several love affairs, lasting decades and well known to his wife, Emma.   His affair with Sabina Spielrein is depicted in the movie A Dangerous Method, with BDSM overtones.  It seems quite probable that this affair contributed to his professional break with Sigmund Freud, and to the genesis of his “Confrontation with the Unconscious,” which is chronicled in The Red Book and was one of the seminal incidents in the development of modern psychology, as we know it today. 

His affair with Toni Wolff went on for over forty years.   She became, in effect, Dr. Jung’s personal analyst.  One can only imagine the scenes that occurred in the Jung household in the early years, but his wife Emma Jung ultimately accepted Toni as part of their household, saying that she was thankful to Toni because she could not have guided Dr. Jung through his “Confrontation with the Unconscious” as Toni did in these very early days of the development of modern psychology.  

Emma was an analyst before marrying Dr. Jung, and she wrote The Grail Legend with Marie-Louise von Franz, another protégé of Dr. Jung.  Emma said of women, 

“The real thinking of woman ... is pre-eminently practical and applied.  It is something we describe as sound common sense, and is usually directed to what is close at hand and personal.”

Perhaps that is the best way to end this meditation on good and evil.  Not everything that our parents and theologians taught us were sins is evil, per se, nor is everything we’re told is good actually good for everyone.  It is a matter of conscience, and in the end we all must find our own way through our midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. 

Skip Conover is an international businessman, author and artist. He is a Founder of the Archetype in Action™ Organization.  You can follow him and his work on Twitter using @skip_conover   or on Pinterest.  Skip's latest book is Political Psychology: New Ideas for Activists.  He is also the author of Tsunami of Blood.  

  

 

   

 

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