Differentiating the Shadow: Evil and the Demonic

Revisiting Evil and the Demonic

In previous installments, I have argued against the common Jungian notion that there is an archetypal or instinctual "evil" in the Self.  Without revising that position I would like to address a way in which we could say that evil has something like its own archetype.  I see these opinions as compatible, because I don't define archetype as something innate and inherited, but rather as an abstracted categorization of psychic experiences that usually suggest inherent, structural aspects of the psyche (sometimes indirectly).  But sometimes what is both "archaic" and "typical" is not so much instinctual/biological as it is cultural but always related to instinctual processes, perhaps in an emergent way.  If we observe the behavior of the Demon across numerous individuals (and especially in those who have suffered early traumas), we will note a pattern of behavior that we would certainly call amoral . . . and probably call sociopathic (i.e., in the representation of the Demon's behavior, not necessarily the individual's).  In representations of the Demon, we will see murder, senseless brutality, terrorizing, absence of empathy, sadism, dehumanizing and vicious hatred, etc.  Generally, these are classic (and probably typical) figurations of what we would call evil.  Of course, we also tend to call violations of tribal Eros (taboo-breaking, god-disrespecting, atheism, heresy, etc.) evil . . . but today, we usually better see the tribal relativism in these "sins".

If the Demon is or typically exhibits evil, where does its evil come from?  The danger I mentioned above of seeing evil or other negative and destructive traits as inherent and biological/instinctual should be reexamined as we delve into this issue.  Does the Demon adapt its propensity for evil from some primal instinctuality in us?  Unlikely, since (again) we don't see the aggressive and un-empathic behaviors of animals as "evil" (traumatized and "neurotic" animals, notably, could be considered capable of evil at times) . . . and our instincts are not significantly different than those of other primates (or mammals in general).  Where then does the evil of the Demon come from?  The obvious alternative to instinct is, of course, society.  But this is a complex matter and, mishandled, it can lead us to a utopian naturalism with its neo-primitive pitfalls and romantic noble savagery.  It is too simplistic and ultimately unfair to call society "evil" . . . and the way in which it can be seen as "evil-making" is extremely complex.

Still, that is the very basic position I will take.  But before I explore that in more detail, I would like to bring back into focus the idea that morality is relative, and that we do not exhibit universal morality, but rather, selective morality.  What we consider "wrong" to do to members of our own tribe, we might not see as amoral when committed against a member of another tribe.  If not tribe, than species.  We do unspeakable things to other species that we would not find conscionable to do to other human beings.  Also, we often lose all sense of our morality when acting within complex systems.  We tend to treat our environment, ecosystems, and planet as if they can abide all the destructive waste we throw at them.  Or else, we mistreat an ecosystem that we live in in a way that doesn't affect us directly, but has severe effects on our neighbors or the other species involved in that ecosystem.  I am not simply wagging my finger at us.  I mean mostly to say that morality is not innately universal . . . and the empathy and ethicality we reserve for others is entirely a product of how "like-me" they are (or we can imagine them to be).  We have evolved to behave ethically only toward those we consider "like-me".

So there is a kind of precedent in our psychic makeup for evil-doing.  But this evil-doing must develop indirectly as a product of our restricted definition of what constitutes an Us (or a Me) and a Them.  We set these arbitrary restrictions based primarily on our socialization and experience of Otherness.  If we grow up in a tribe where people of a certain ethnicity or skin color or social demographic or religion are deemed Other, then we will probably fail or at least struggle to apply our full sense of empathy and ethics to them.  But if we develop a sense of Otherness that is more empathic and can conceptualize others in a way that is "like-me", then our ethics can be applied more universally.  The primary human ethics-making factor, then, is conceptualization.  And the Demon is likely to strangulate this ethical conceptualizing as much as possible, exploiting the loophole of our innate tribalism.  The problem, after all, of seeing many different kinds of others as "like-me" is that we must then have more complex and far-reaching relationality with these others.  They must be allowed to affect us . . . and the Demon hates to be affected by any Otherness.  So, universalizing movements of conceptualized ethics are themselves anti-Demonic . . . and will therefore be resisted by the Demon.

This characterization of the Demon suggests that the introjected socialization or Demonic meme that civilization presents individuals with is inhuman and unempathic ("evil") . . . which would make it a rather startling contrast to our "intuition" that civilization deconditions innate and instinctual predispositions toward evil ("original sin").  If it is the case that civilization is the major force behind evil-making, how is it that civilization becomes so evil?  Or how is it that the net of culture that feeds back into us seems to catch the "evil" dispositions more so than the "good"?  I don't mean to suggest that all good is absent in modern society . . . but it is evil and the Demon I am presently concerned with.  The simple answer is that we have not been constructing our culture very ethically . . . and that this lapse of ethics in cultural creation has been going on for a long time, gradually compounding the lack of ethics.  Why this might be the case is very complex and open to substantial argument.  My take is that this is part of what I've been calling the Problem of the Modern.  In short, we no longer live in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness and the kind of tribal culture we co-evolved with and within.

Demon as Patriarchy

In the modern environment, we no longer feed culture with enough of the behaviors and attitudes that facilitate a model of the tribe as Self-system.  I don't think this is really some kind of degeneracy.  It is merely a side-effect of the increasing complexification and emergence in our cultural formation.  I associate much of this cultural transformation with what I'll (perhaps provocatively . . . or else muddily) call patriarchy.  Therefore, I associate the rise of modernism with the rise of patriarchy.  We have heard the patriarchy-bashing arguments a great deal over the last decades, especially from left-leaning, university-stationed humanists of "postmodern" bent.  Even as I will go on to very literally Demonize patriarchy, I don't wish to entirely align myself with the brand of quasi-feminist, purportedly "multicultural" so-called liberalism that has been a dominant elite cultural dogma in recent years.  I'm not saying I see it as wholly wrong-headed or corrupt, but it is largely superficial, unpsychological, and inadequate.  Primarily, it misunderstands the "complex" behind patriarchy, and fallaciously tries to disown patriarchy's Demons onto designated others (who must then be labeled as offenders).  Regardless of the offenses (both legitimate and projected) of these "patriarchs", I see the real problem as lying in patriarchal acculturation . . . a thing to which we are all subject . . . and not in the abuses of "a few bad apples".  The problem, in other words, is systemic . . . and it is perpetuated just as much by "feminists" as it is by "masculinists".  We would do well, I feel, to avoid the tribalistic trap of such anti-patriarchal postmodernism that allows unexamined tribal hostility at the Other to be projected on specific demographics and mindsets.

That said, there is a very good reason that most (but certainly not all) representations of the Demon (in men and in women) are male.  This more common maleness in the Demon has led to a great deal of Jungian nonsense about an archetype of the "negative animus".  This "negative animus" idea (still so prevalent in Jungianisms of all stripes) is not absolutely without basis in data, but it fails (as Jungian anima and animus theory always has) to effectively differentiate cultural associations from instinctual/biological representations.  The Demon is usually a man, because the Demon is characterized by patriarchy.  It is an introject of patriarchy (or a specific aspect of patriarchy).  But to understand what this really means (or why it is), we have to have a better psychological understanding of patriarchy than we generally do today.  The study of the Demon can, I would argue, help us understand the psychology of patriarchy (and modernism) because the Demon is patriarchy distilled into an agentic personification.  If everything that differentiated patriarchy from pre-modern, evolutionarily adapted tribalism was extracted, magnified, and given personhood, we would have the Demon.

An interesting parallel to the introjection of the Demon as its own personified agent can be seen in the subject matter of the the 2004 documentary film, The Corporation.  The filmmakers examine the issue of giving corporations in American legal rights that are normally only extended to human individuals.  They then catalog a list of "personality traits" of these corporate "individuals" (who are prohibited by law from behaving ethically when such ethics contradict the financial interest of the corporation's shareholders) and submit this to a DSM analysis of psychopathology.  The conclusion is that corporate individuals are sociopaths who are legally protected and empowered to be sociopathic by law.  This is a fairly clear example of how an introjected Demon, given agency, becomes "evil", even without that being the original social intention.

This is a huge topic and I don't intend to even attempt to do it justice here, but some more reflections are in order.  One of the primary things that characterizes patriarchal psychology is its emphasis on the conquering, "heroic" ego (always male) that rises above its instinctual means and limitations to subdue wild nature and convert it into sustaining resources (for patriarchy).  Again, I will have more to say about this in the article on differentiating the hero.  The myth of patriarchy is that nature is "dumb", is raw material to be used, and Man is semi-divine.  He is the great User, the inheritor of the earth.  He has divine right to take and change at whim . . . for his will is Good and Just.  Sometimes he has a god who sanctions this and other times he overthrows a god to triumph.  The great enemy (and victim) of patriarchy is the "Dark Feminine" . . . which essentially amounts to all that has the potential to castrate egoic man and quell his perpetual rise to power.  Patriarchal man has a very severe puer/senex dissociation in which "successful men" are senexes while "failed men" are usually puers.  But really, the whole patriarchal program is a puer flight that is tied to the Maternal Breast.  That Breast is a natural resource, the sense of providence and entitlement that sanctions patriarchal ascent and transcendence.  Natural resource can be almost anything used by patriarchal man to obtain and increase his power.  It could be lumber (Gilgamesh), or might (Hercules), or it could be the subjection or colonization of other peoples (Roman Empire, Britain, United States, and numerous other colonial powers).  The conceptualization of these "natural" resources shares a common mentality, which is that any suffering or damage caused in the name of employing these resources is justified by the end result: the empowerment of the conquering patriarchy.

I am painting in broad strokes here that emphasize the negativity of the patriarchal mindset, because these are the characteristics distilled into the Demon.  For the Demon, all "natural resources" in the personality should serve its perpetuation.  The ends (Demonic perpetuation as stasis or "perpetual erection") always justify the means, because Demonic colonization is the divine right of the Demon.  What is weak (by patriarchal standards) warrants abuse . . . and the victim is therefore to blame from the Demon's perspective.  Its sadism is part of its divine right.  The power and glory of the Demon must always be increased (to compensate for a lack of genuine strength), and its desire to bring stasis to the psyche is also like the erection of a vast monument to Demonic power . . . meant to strike awe and fear into any resistant bit of psyche.

I could go on and on about the terrible traits of patriarchal psychology, but I think we could fill in the blanks without assistance.  What matters is that this Demon is a monstrosity of our own (unconscious) creation.  And it creates all of us just as we have created (and continue to perpetuate) it.  We may not identify with the full blown Demon of patriarchy, but it is not hard to see how we are all subject to its introjection.  Of course, the female patriarch, who is both master and backstage uber-patron of the patriarchal Demon can also serve as the representation of the Demon.  We should not fall into the trap of thinking that the Demon only wears the male disguise.  There are many constructions of femininity that serve to perpetuate patriarchy just as much (and often much more invisibly or insidiously) as the full blown construction of the infantile king and patriarch sadistically dominating his subjects.  These Demonic constructs reside in all of us.  It is not just the "other guy" causing the problem.  We are carrying and perpetuating the Demon simply by being unconscious of patriarchal psychology . . . or simply by being modernized.