Wednesday

Our friend, the devil

Clement, the third bishop of Rome and a successor of St. Peter, is quoted as saying that God governs the world with Christ in his right hand and Satan in the left.

Why did God allow Adam and Eve to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden? Why did He allow the serpent - the devil - to tempt Eve? He certainly knew that His prohibition would only enhance the attraction of the fruit. Was His intention that our ancestral couple did eat the fruit and be expelled from Eden? Did He want our souls to grow through life in a difficult environment, a growth that would not be possible in a paradisiacal garden? How can He govern the world with Satan's help?

In Goethe's masterpiece, Faust asks Mephistopheles, who he was, and receives the answer: I am the force that intends evil but causes good. If Goethe is correct, the devil is here to help us grow. He is a benign force. Incredible!

Since I am not a theologian, I will try to approach this issues from a psychological point of view, using Jung's ideas.

According to Jungian psychology, the Self, the Image of God inside our psyche, tries to lead our life in the journey of individuation, the journey of increased consciousness. To do this, when we deviate from the correct path the Self creates problems in our life to force us into the right path. Could these actions be seem, when they hurt us, as works of the devil? If so, the title of this article is justified. The devil is indeed a friend.

Another important contribution to this discussion is the affirmation of Joseph Campbell, a leading mythologist and a Jung's follower. He said: My definition of demon is an angel that was not recognized by the ego. It is a power that you denied and repressed. So, like any repressed energy, it begins to grow and to become very dangerous.

According to Jung, one of the first tasks in the process of deep psychological analysis is the recognition of the shadow.

What is the shadow? The Shadow is a central concept of Jungian psychology. The human being is born complete; like Adam and Eve, he does not know good and evil. When he begins his process of formation of the Ego – when, in the Garden of Eden, he eats the apple, the fruit of knowledge of good and evil - he becomes potentially able to discriminate between good and evil.

In the process of becoming an adult, in the process of consolidating the Ego, the person choses certain characteristics that he/she judges correct and repress the others that he/she considers inadequate. Since this is an unconscious process, the individual is not aware of the choices he makes. Features refused, however, are not erased from the psyche, but will take refuge in our unconscious, incorporated into what Jung called the Shadow, one of the fundamental archetypes of the human psyche.

Since in the Shadow are stored those characteristics which the ego does not recognize as belonging to the individual, one would think the Shadow to be composed of only bad characteristics, the ugly side of this specific individual. This is wrong, as the Shadow encompasses all the elements that the ego considers inappropriate to the image the person makes of himself, even those who might be deemed good by a different person. A man who defines himself as very practical, an executive of a company known for his quest for results and thirst for power, can devalue and suppress good features that are not useful to those who prioritizes the accumulation of material goods, money and power. Compassion, kindness, ability to care for others are features that can be rejected by his ego and repressed, sheltered in his Shadow.

As such, the shadow can be seen, metaphorically speaking, as our devils, parts of our personality that we keep in the trash box, but that need our recognition for us to grow in conscience.

Looked at from this point of view, we can say that the devil is our friend.

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