Evil and destruction
Embedded in an individual’s attraction to evil is the temptation to destroy his self, but this truth comes in the back door. For example, in seeking to destroy evil, man is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than any other organism on the planet. Becker (1975) describes the driving impetus for all forms of evil as “man’s hunger for righteous self-expansion and perpetuation . . . The paradox is that evil comes from man’s urge to heroic victory over evil” (pp. 135-136). In other words, men work evil out of the impulse to do good deeds.
On both individual and collective levels, every step towards progress carries its own evil - its presence announces the next level of order. As Keen puts it,
our desire for the best is cause of the worst. We want to clean up the world, make it perfect, keep it safe for democracy . . . purify it of the enemies of god, eliminate evil, establish an alabaster city undimmed by human tears, or a thousand year Reich.
When looked at in this way, evil takes on a much wider meaning. There is a deep and tragic paradox about civilization. On the one hand, it has been up until now the most life-enhancing innovation mankind has ever created. But the paradox is that it has also increased human violence beyond anything pre-civilized culture could have envisioned. Due to the patriarchal repression of shame, civilization became the most potent force that created the succubus: the agricultural revolution of 9000 B.C. diabolized the Great Mother; the urban revolution of 4500 B.C. sealed the oppression of women; and the industrial revolution of the 1770s, a time when the power to overcome basic human helplessness simply got out of hand, has led to “the ruin of cities” wrought by the Lilith, “Maid of Desolation.” In this “progressive” world, we try to have power over death and yet recreate it everywhere around us on a scale that staggers the imagination. Our attempt to turn from death and destruction has created an even larger form of it which confronts us now. In the past, the primary danger to humanity was nature; today, civilization is the greatest threat to nature (masculinity the greatest threat to femininity).
“Often cultural man kills his natural man and nature replies by making him impotent” (Johnson, 1989); this is our unfortunate reality today. According to Tacey (2007), many of the world’s most serious problems and illnesses can be traced to the distortions of masculinity.
The brutish spirit which rides roughshod over nature, women . . . is largely a product of a heroic and conquistadorial style . . . having little or no room for non-heroic or receptive dimensions of human experience. If humanity is to be renewed, if we are to be saved from the world-conquering aggressive ego and from the heroic complex that drives us to the brink of self-destruction, then clearly masculinity has to be altered in some way. If we are to be saved from the specter of ecological devastation, and from the push that would subdue the entire physical world in order to further the ego’s short term needs, then clearly traditional masculinity has to be checked and restrained.
The heroic in man does not find nourishment and growth, but war and fighting and violence. At this point, the male predilection for violence threatens world survival in countless ways.
Patriarchy speaks for separation, for loss of fusion and omnipotence, for the individuation world of the father that succeeds the symbiotic world of the maternal figure. This rupture creates an inherently negative relation to the concept of mother that requires a male, because of culture’s patriarchal biases, to maintain separation and dominance. The patriarchal demand for a full identification with ego is inherently destructive, however, because masculinity can never really be separate from the maternal and the unconscious. The tension in this polarity will inevitably lead to the triggering of an apocalyptic, ego-shattering experience for a man as well as patriarchal civilization. On an individual level, a man may be plunged into depression unaccounted for by the externals of his life at face value, a depletion of the ego and a process of relinquishing outward trappings and love objects. The meaningful world somehow edges away, slipping out of one’s grasp. The cozy self-justifications that blind a man to his own evil are no longer there. Collectively, we now live in an omnipresent catastrophic environment of terrorism and the real possibility of thermonuclear war, ecological catastrophe, economic disaster, and pathological disorders of containment that cut deeply into the very fabric of our cultural, social and moral lives.
And yet in this depression or catastrophe, a man or mankind is more in touch with himself and closer to the possibility of redemption. Hegel (1967) made the point that it is in blindness rather than self-knowledge that man serves the purpose of the Absolute Spirit. The cunning of this Spirit is that it exploits man’s partial passions to serve cosmic ends. It is precisely in carrying the seeds of his own destruction that there can be transcendence, a concept presented over a century ago in Spielrein’s paper Destruction as a Cause of Coming into Being, the direct repository of Freud and Jung’s shame. Spielrein held that archaic vestiges, pieces in the soul’s memory from an old cosmology, contained the seeds of death and rebirth, and both are discovered through the sexual instinct. This state of destruction is the nature of life itself, a state of tension between creation and destruction, good and evil. The seeds of destruction grow into creation and transcend into another form. The forces of limitation are necessary to balance the forces of dissolution and the return of the formless in unbridled creation. Life breeds death, and death feeds life; this process makes evolution and creation possible.
Her concepts amplify the meaning of destruction in the context of intersubjective theory, and its necessary role towards the creation of recognition. Here, destruction takes shape in an effort to differentiate subject from object, son from mother, in order to develop and balance a subject-to-subject relationship. When the heroic ego tries to stay on top and force the universal and maternal feminine to remain below, a man does not destroy the object, does not experience his insignificance. The psychic energy of the self cannot manifest when a man seeks to experience his feelings while maintaining control of his ego. In this dualistic tension recognition provides the necessary energy for the constant transformation of the toxic sting of shame. In confronting his erasure and absence of the maternal feminine, he reflects on his own presence and plunges into his ego opposite - absolute (feminine) shame, the annihilating, destructive force of nothingness (Ayers, 2003) that subjects human experience to a centripetal pull into a void.