Thoughts on the shadow

The world does seem a dark and difficult place at present though of course there are wonderful aspects too, but it seemed timely to have another look at the ideas of Carl Jung and about whether God is all good and if so what that might mean.

Basically Jung thought that the ‘shadowless’ spirituality of traditional Christianity means that good and evil have been split and so the church has denied its own collective shadow. Jung saw that failing to take its own evil into account, the community of faith frequently projects its negative side onto scapegoats and exercises the prerogatives of moral perfection at the expense of those it condemns. In other words righteous people become possessed and preoccupied by the inferiority and violence they wish to disavow.

If the world is not to be torn apart by the violent exercise of mutual projections, human beings must learn to tolerate their moral ambiguity and ambivalence. This for Jung was the aim of individuation – each person’s life journey was about acknowledging and incorporating all the different parts of themselves so that they stopped projecting out onto others all the parts that one doesn’t like about oneself. And of course this can apply to communities, societies, and countries too – there is always the personal and also always the collective.

Our hatred and dislike of others not like us and the violence that has taken place throughout the history of Christianity aren’t mere accidents, but rather the inevitable shadow side of trying to be ‘perfect’ – better to try to be whole even if that includes unattractive aspects. Jung believes in the process of becoming conscious of evil and bearing one’s own share of it – for him this includes God. To become a morally autonomous individual, Jung says is like being crucified because carrying one’s projections instead of letting them be carried by others is painful work.