The Danger of the Unrecognized Shadow


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The Danger of the Unrecognized Shadow

copyright©Anne Baring

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
    — C.G. Jung

This article (an extract from Chapter 12 of my book, The Dream of the Cosmos) is devoted to exploring the shadow aspect of our nature and our propensity for violence, cruelty and war. Shining the light of consciousness on this opaque aspect of our nature is one of the most challenging tasks facing us in this new millennium. It is beginning to dawn on us at this perilous moment that moving to a new level of consciousness is not an optional extra but an imperative if we are to survive as a species and safeguard the life of the planet.
     Jung used the word ‘shadow’ in two senses: in a general sense, to describe the unrecognized dimension of the psyche or soul; secondly, in a personal sense, to describe certain unconscious patterns of behaviour which may affect others, as well as personal complexes, repressed memories of traumatic experiences and unlived or diminished potential which exist below the threshold of our conscious awareness and which may, with insight and recall, become accessible. Over the course of our lifetime, we learn to identify ourselves with our conscious mind and with a specific image we hold of ourselves. We are not taught to be aware of the shadow aspect of our psyche nor how to relate to it. We are not told that consciousness has emerged over many millennia from the matrix of nature and that we are still bound to the latter by certain primordial habits. Through the unconscious shadow we are connected to deeper levels of the collective unconscious where the behaviour patterns of our species are stored in a kind of memory data-bank, ready to be activated when they are called forth by events. Many elements go to make up the personal shadow aspect of ourselves: parental and educational influence, religious beliefs, tribal loyalties, long forgotten traumas experienced in our childhood or the past of our national or ethnic group, various complexes of which we are not aware. But deeper than all of these are the largely unconscious primordial instincts which derive from earlier phases of our evolution.
    For all our remarkable intellectual and technological achievements, we are still, as a species, in a relatively unconscious or pre-conscious state, still liable to be taken over by an aspect of our nature that we know very little about. It may be difficult to grasp the fact that when survival and territorial instincts are aroused they can make us behave in ways that contradict the civilized image we hold of ourselves. We justify our actions, saying that they are necessary for our personal or national survival, yet we do not see how they may, in the long-term, militate against our best interests, engender evil and bring horrendous suffering into being — even the exinction of our species. Jung's comment on this situation is relevant here:

We grow increasingly aware that the nuclear deterrent is a desperate and undesirable answer, as it cuts both ways. We know that moral and mental remedies would be more effective because they could provide us with a psychic immunity to the ever-increasing infection. But all our attempts have proved to be singularly ineffectual, and will continue to do so as long as we try to convince ourselves and the world, that is is only they, our opponents, who are all wrong, morally and philosophically. We expect them to see and understand where they are wrong, instead of making a serious effort ourselves to recognize our own shadow and its nefarious doings. If we could only see our shadow, we should be immune to any moral and mental infection and insinuation. But as long as this is not so, we lay ourselves open to every infection because we are doing practically the same things as they are. (1)

Today, as we witness the shocking violence in many parts of the world, the stockpiling of weapons and the arms sales that can wreak atrocious suffering on civilians, the oppressive regimes controlled by authoritarian despots who torture and murder thousands and keep millions in subjection, and our blind rapacity in relation to the earth’s resources, it is obvious that we are still in bondage to certain deeply engrained beliefs and habits that drive our political, economic and religious agendas. Many of our grandiose plans for a better future rest on the unstable foundation of the separate conscious self and its alienation from the deeper ground of the soul—a separation which ensures that we unwittingly repeat the patterns of the past.

The Dragon as an Image of Primordial Fear
The dragon personifies the immense power of instinct. Instinct can never be conquered and subdued because it is the creative power of life itself but certain aspects of it can be transformed as we become more conscious of their power over us. The more the fragile conscious self or ego lost the original sense of participation in a sacred earth and a sacred cosmos, the more we became disconnected from our own deepest instincts. As this process developed, and as the human population increased and created ever-larger settlements, cities and tribal groups, the danger of our being possessed and driven by the will to power of the instinct was augmented as we began to see other people, other groups, other religions, as enemies whom we had to conquer and subjugate, or as an evil we had to eradicate. Whole cultures fell under the spell of this pathology and I stress that this is a pathology. Christianity and Islam adopted the ethos of conquest for the greater glory of God with terrible sacrifice of human life. The increasing dissociation between the conscious mind and the realm of what Jung called our primordial soul gave rise to the multiple fragmentations and projections that are at the root of many of the problems that we face today.
     The dragon of myth and fairy tale is an eloquent image, not only of fear but of our oldest instincts which respond to fear and which can arouse fear in others. They may appear in our dreams, not only as a dinosaur but as other animals such as a mammoth, rhinoceros, wild boar, sabre-tooth tiger and lion, representing not only things we may be frightened of but powerful instincts within ourselves that may frighten or threaten others. We bring these primordial instincts with us when we are born, as part of our psycho-physical DNA. We carry them because our bodies have evolved out of nature, with nature’s power both to create and destroy. These instincts are activated, programmed and reinforced in each generation by our experience of family, school and our encounter with the wider world and the values, beliefs and models of behaviour we absorb in different cultures as we grow up.
     In the event of war or tribal conflicts, these instincts and their emotional manifestations can burst through the fragile container of civilization we have painstakingly constructed and run amok, destroying all in their path, much as the dragon of myth does. This pattern has gone on for millennia without our gaining much understanding of what happens when these instincts take us over, or of being able to anticipate and prevent this happening. Potentially, we have access to the priceless treasure the dragon guards—the possibility of freeing ourselves from the unconscious programming of countless millions of years, transmuting these primordial habits into the insight and control needed to throw off our bondage to them.
     The well-known image of the battle between hero and dragon was framed in terms of the battle of light against darkness and good against evil, with the belief that good would ultimately triumph over evil. Within the psyche, darkness was unconsciously identified with the fear of slipping back into the ‘state of nature’. Yet regressing into a state of nature is precisely what we do when we fall under the power of these atavistic instincts or habits of behaviour. With the psychological insight now available to us, we can perhaps realize that the battle is not so much with enemies in the world as with these primordial habits that cause us to regress into unconsciousness and repeat the behaviour patterns of the past.
     The real locus of the battle of light against darkness is the conscious mind and the immense effort of consciousness required to become aware of the moral quality of our own behaviour, to assess whether it is conducive to bringing good or evil into being. Secondly, it is to become aware of the tendency to project evil onto others while failing to recognize the same propensity for evil in ourselves. The image of the fight with the dragon can be re-framed in relation to this dragon lurking in our shadow rather than to the specific threats we encounter in the outer world.

Primordial Instincts: Predator and Prey
The reptilian brain we carry within our triune brain system came into being about 500 million years ago; the mammalian brain about 120 million years ago. In our human species immensely powerful instincts are carried through into the field of human relationships from these older brain systems: survival instincts, territorial instincts, sexual instincts and the millions-of-years-old programming of predator and prey. Because these archaic instincts function at a deeply unconscious level we, who see ourselves as the summit of creation, may nevertheless be influenced, even possessed by habits formed during pre-human or early human phases of evolution. Fear of becoming prey can swiftly transform us into predators.
     Fairy tale and myth have given us many images of the destructive power of our instincts: the dragons emerging from their caves to ravage the countryside and destroy everything in their path, demanding human sacrifices as their daily food; the Gorgon who turned all who saw her to stone. These images symbolize pre-human instincts which, still overwhelmingly powerful in relation to our fragile conscious selves, can draw us back into a state of psychic inflation where we lose our humanity, our capacity for relationship, empathy and compassion and the priceless attainment of the differentiation of consciousness from autonomous unconscious processes. We revert to becoming ruthless predators, destroyers of the lives of others who become our prey.
     Because we have lived in identification with the tribal, national or religious group for so many millennia, and because we have so little understanding of how the collective psyche works, it is extraordinarily difficult for an individual to stand against these archaic drives, to resist being swept away by the emotion (whether fear, anger or hatred) that can spread like a forest fire through the dry tinder of the group and can transform itself, as tension mounts, into the pathology of a mass psychosis. Then, millions of individuals (the vast majority males) willingly, even eagerly, embrace war and will acclaim a leader whose declared aim is the defeat or annihilation of an enemy. Killing then becomes a patriotic virtue, even a religious duty.
     There is a strange saying of Jesus in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, “Blessed is the lion which the man eats, and the lion may become a man; and cursed is the man whom the lion eats, and the lion will become man.” (logion 8) His words point on the one hand to the danger of the unconscious instinct of the predator ‘taking over’ or ‘possessing’ the conscious mind and, on the other, to the benefit that accrues to the man who is able to integrate the strength and fearlessness of the lion without succumbing to its power to kill.
     Observations about the biological relationship between human beings and animals are unpopular because they conflict with idea of free-will and self-determination. There has been even more resistance to accepting the idea that we may still be controlled by instincts that belong to our primate ancestors and even to the dinosaurs. However, it seems obvious that the predator/prey pattern is a genetic behavioural habit laid down in many species over hundreds of millions of years. We carry this habit in our own biological inheritance and are conditioned to act and react as predator (attacker) and to take avoiding action lest we become the prey (victim) of someone else.
     In our species memory are imprinted the behaviour patterns of all creatures who were predators and all creatures who were prey or food for them. Our own species has been prey to certain animals and predator to many others and it is the imprinting of our species-memory with this age-old experience that is our greatest problem. If we can become aware of how this pattern of behaviour can take us over when we feel threatened or when ethical and moral values that could set parameters for our behaviour are insufficiently developed or have collapsed, we may able to resist succumbing to its power. One of the most perplexing aspects of our unconsciousness is the fact that religions, which should have upheld these values, have frequently betrayed them – even to the present time – by succumbing to the predator/prey pattern of behaviour themselves.
     With the development of the neo-cortex and the frontal lobes of the brain, the evolutionary development of our ability to reflect on our actions separated us from nature as well as from our primordial instincts, putting a space, so to speak, between the immediate response to an instinctive need (for food or to ward off a perceived threat) and the action that, in animal species, follows on from it. The sparrow-hawk doesn't pause to reflect before it falls on the blackbird, nor does the lion hesitate to attack another lion that is invading its territory. We, however, have developed the ability to reflect when we are confronted with a threat, to allow ourselves time to decide how to respond. Consciousness gives us the power to discriminate between two courses of action. When chased by a bull, we don’t stop to reflect; when faced with an enemy or a threatening situation, we may have a measure of choice about how to respond.
     During the millennia of empire building being powerful in relation to others – killing others and seizing their territory or their possessions – became a way not only of increasing one's power but of eliminating the anxiety arising from a fear of future threats and even, (unconsciously) from the threat of death itself. The desire for omnipotent power became a habit, something to be achieved through conquest, territorial expansion and extending control over resources such as gold, oil, minerals, as well as accumulating arms to anticipate future threats. This habit controls our political relationships today: we see the most powerful nations competing with each other for control of resources; to acquire the greatest quantity of lethal weapons. It is this archaic habit, incorporated into government policies, that is one of our greatest problems because it controls the acccumulation of nuclear weapons in the interest of deterrence. Because of the immense power of our unconscious instincts and their control of us, we are unable to see the amorality of developing and storing these weapons in the first place.
     The drive to conquer, to embark on pre-emptive wars, to develop and stockpile weapons, to extend the range of control over others is embedded in instinctive patterns of response to any threat—real or anticipated—to personal or group survival. The male, being physically stronger and programmed to focus on the hunt has, for millennia, acted as protector of the tribal group and the territory marked out as belonging to the group. But, at the same time, he has been programmed to act as predator towards any group or individual perceived as a threat; these become, perforce, his legitimate prey. In a situation of danger, the instinctive impulse of the male is to protect the tribal group to which he belongs by attacking the threat, whatever it may be, by defensive or offensive means—even to the extent of anticipating a danger that might happen in the future. This behavioural pattern has been carried through to our times in the Bush Doctrine which stated that, in the interests of self-protection, America has the right to launch a pre-emptive military strike (on North Korea or Russia for example) and the ongoing right to use colossal sums gathered from the tax revenues of its citizens on preparing for a future war. One-third of the world’s resources today are spent on the development and stockpiling of weapons.

The Origin of Evil
Evil has its origin in this deeply unconscious predator-prey pattern of behaviour. I think that, in the context of the harm we are capable of inflicting on other human beings, evil may be defined as the act of inflicting terror, suffering, humiliation, torture or death on an individual or group of individuals, ranging in degree from the atrocities still taking place in Syria (2018) to the viciously cruel attacks on others on Facebook and Twitter. One of the most difficult things to recognize is that each of us is capable of acting in a hateful, cruel or evil way, or to be complicit in these ways of behaving, whether as an individual or as the member of a government, institution, corporate body or nation. These traits may emerge when we feel threatened and may cause us to act in ways that, in the context of our individual lives, we would find unacceptable.      We may remember the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica ordered by the Serb Commander Ratco Mladic—the worst atrocity to take place on European soil since the Second World War. The fact that thousands of Serbs rallied to support him as a war hero when he was apprehended in 2011 and extradited to stand trial for war crimes in The Hague, shows how difficult it is to change collective habits of behaviour when tribal loyalty is involved. What the world recognized as an atrocity was seen by the Serbs as a noble defence of their nation. The fact that an International Court of Justice now exists to try those who commit such crimes against humanity, is evidence of collective progress in moral awareness. But this progress requires perpetual vigilance lest we slip back into old unconscious habits.

The Danger of Corporate Thinking
Membership of a national, religious or corporate body tends to draw the individual’s allegiance to that body as the primary moral directive. This may lead to situations where loyalty to the corporate body overrides the capacity for empathic, ethical behaviour, and respect for the individual as well as for people in general.
     The Canadian philosopher, John Ralston Saul, in his book The Unconscious Civilization, describes the danger of this way of thinking, which is rooted in the long-term behaviour of religious institutions as well as in the instinctive pattern of group bonding. (2) It has spread throughout modern society into many of our institutions including those of government, the banking system, the media, international corporations and, above all, the military. (To give one example: at the time of writing five biotechnology firms own the vast majority of all seeds worldwide, controlling which seeds – including many that are genetically modified – are available to farmers to purchase). This corporate allegiance is also found in the drive to extend control over markets and commodities, ignoring the suffering and poverty of the people working to extract these valuable resources that benefit giant corporations and corrupt governments but never themselves. Commercial rivalry is exacerbated by economic and political rivalry between the most powerful nations. In a different context, it may be found in the corporate allegiance of any public body, such as the police, unions, banks, local councils, social workers, health and safety executives etc. Any such body may lapse into authoritarian behaviour, exhibiting a lack of empathy towards the unfortunate people who happen to fall under its control or are sacrificed to its agenda. George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four brilliantly described the helplessness of citizens when confronted with the power of the corporate state and its insidious methods of surveillance and control.

An Example of the Corporate Mentality
One of the most revealing examples of the dangers of corporate mentality has been described by Carol Cohn, a woman teacher who, with 47 other teachers, spent the summer months of 1984 in an enclosed environment with a group of “defence intellectuals”. (3) Because it is so relevant to an understanding of the shadow, I have extracted the main features of her article at some length. There is no clearer example than this paper of the danger of unbalanced left-hemispheric thinking that has been brilliantly described by the psychiatrist Iain McGilchcrist in The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. (4)
     The remit of the group Carol Cohn joined was to teach a course on nuclear weapons, nuclear strategic doctrine and arms control and to explain and defend the strategy which justifies nuclear weapons as a deterrent. What most shocked Carol Cohn as she listened to the men passionately discussing nuclear war and weaponry, was the abstraction from reality of their thinking — the arcane language, the total absence of any sense of empathy, revulsion or moral outrage in the scenarios they were contemplating and discussing. She was also struck by the euphemistic language used by these experts, for example their referring to the deaths that would result from the use of nuclear weapons as “collateral damage” — a term used by Donald Rumsfeld during the Iraq War. Other terms used were “escalation dominance”, “pre-emptive strikes”, “sub-holocaust engagements”. She also found that the sexual imagery used in the descriptions of the effects of these weapons was striking and shocking, yet the men themselves seemed unaware of the implications of the language they were using: deep penetration, holes, craters, the orgasmic effect of an explosion, a country “losing its virginity” when it developed the bomb. As she listened and learned their special terminology until she too felt herself to be an ‘insider’, she saw that the entire nuclear bomb project had become associated with the male power to give birth. Like Oppenheimer’s original bomb, all future bombs were described as the nuclear scientists’ and atomic strategists’ ‘babies’.
     The conclusion she drew was that language and imagery that domesticates and describes these weapons in human terms distances those speaking about them from emotional affect and makes it possible for them to blank out their horrific power to destroy human lives, pulverize human bodies and bring about a 'nuclear winter' in the planetary environment. “The entire history of the bomb project seems permeated with imagery that confounds man’s overwhelming technological power to destroy nature with the power to create — imagery that inverts men’s destruction and asserts in its place the power to create new life and a new world.” (italics mine) Even the first atomic bomb test was called Trinity — the unity of the triune male forces of Creation. The progenitors of this atrocity were a new male priesthood, a new Brotherhood possessed by the desire for technological mastery. The language they used, she writes, precluded the intrusion of values, of empathic concern, even of the word ‘peace’.
     Carol Cohn found that she became indoctrinated into the language and way of thinking of this priesthood, eventually becoming inured to the effects of the weapons they were discussing. Like them, she too became removed from reality, coming to think that only the pre-eminence of the weapons and the ‘strategy’ mattered— intent like them on achieving the technological and political goal with no sense of responsibility for its effects. Fortunately, she retained enough objective insight to observe what was happening to her. Her paper is a devastating critique of the dangers of corporate or institutionalized thinking and can be applied to the banking industry as well as all departments of government and powerful corporations.

     Primo Levi, one of the few survivors of Auschwitz, urges us in his last book, The Damned and the Saved, not to forget the horrors man has inflicted on defenceless people: “It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow, could overwhelm us and our children. One is tempted to turn away with a grimace and close one’s mind: this is a temptation one must resist.”(5) He asks us to bear our capacity for evil constantly in mind because the opportunity for it to take hold is always a latent possibility in any society.

The Shadow of Religion: Atrocities Committed in the Name of God
Wherever immense power is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals or an institution, there will inevitably be shadow: the greater the power, the greater the shadow. There are three main areas involving possession by the will to power of the shadow which invite our attention: religion, politics and science. The shadow in religion can be recognized in the desire of a religious leader or institution to draw vast sections, if not the whole of humanity into one belief system named as superior and the sole purveyor of truth. Religious institutions do not acknowledge their archaic shadow, reflected in their need for power and control over those who belong to their particular faith and their repudiation of the value of other faiths.
     We see today how unspeakable atrocities are perpetrated by people who claim that the elimination of an enemy or the suppression of certain ways of behaving is a religious duty. Faith can be used as a tool of oppression because people have for centuries been programmed to accept the conquest of territory and the elimination of enemies in the name of Yahweh, God, Christ or Allah and have been trained unthinkingly to obey the dictates of their spiritual and political leaders. The power of the patriarchal father still holds immense influence over the immature or pre-conscious psyche. When one religion is pitted against another, or even one group within the same religion against another, predatory instincts may be aroused as people are exhorted to kill their ‘brothers’ with a barbarity too sickening to detail, as in the quagmire of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the brutally repressive regime in Syria where the Alawite minority controls the Sunni majority.

The Shadow of Politics
: Militarism
The shadow in the political sphere is most easily observed in the military-industrial complex of the most powerful nations. Since this is not a subject I would normally have any knowledge of, I have been greatly helped by two books, the first detailing the power and extent of the military empire of the United States and offering a critique of the militarism that threatens to destroy that nation from within: The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic by Chalmers Johnson (2004) The second is Vijay Mehta’s survey of the nature and ramifications of world-wide militarism in The Economics of Killing: How the West Fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World (6). Mehta’s book offers a comprehensive analysis of the military-industrial complex which, like the tentacles of an octopus, has come to spread over much of the world. He explains how it is supported and perpetuated by the most powerful nations on the planet in order to increase their own power and how it also acts to impoverish the nations of the developing world. Their sale of arms to regimes which use these same arms against their own people is one of the deplorable features of this system. Few people outside governments are aware of the nature, extent and dangers of this complex. Mehta’s book is a timely wake-up call to concerned citizens who wish to see a better, more equitable world come into being, no longer controlled by a system ostensibly designed for defence, yet which acts like a spreading cancer on the body of the planet.
     In his farewell address to the nation in January 1961, President Eisenhower gave this stark warning to the people of America:


In the counsels of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Eisenhower’s warning, far from being taken to heart, has been ignored by subsequent governments which spend ever greater sums on the insatiable demands of the military and the powerful industries that supply it.
     The United Nations Secretary-General has announced in February 2018 that there are currently around 150,000 nuclear weapons worldwide and the arms trade is flourishing more than at any time since the Cold war, with $1.5 trillion spent on it annually. In the United States, spending on arms has increased hugely since 2001, with global military spending on the arms trade reaching an all-time high. The example of the United States has been followed by other nations – China, Japan, India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, Russia, Iran, Saudi-Arabia and North Korea among them – many of whom are adding to their own arsenal of weapons and, at the same time, selling armaments and combat aircraft to other governments, often with corrupt and oppressive leaders. These nations comprise a global military elite whose dark shadow is reflected in the escalation of the arms race and the impoverishment and suffering of the billions whose needs are neglected. In addition Mehta writes, “More than 36.4 million people in more than 120 countries have been affected by militarism. Refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons and stateless people flee from fighting or are forcibly driven out of their own countries as a result of internal disputes.”
     This information is now becoming more widely available to the public through the Internet and such research institutes as SIPRI. In Mehta’s view, “It is collective activity that offers the best hope for ending the military-industrial trading relations that have kept half the world in a state of war, misery and starvation. It is public unity that will divert tax revenues from the pockets of military companies into the human and economic development that provides lasting security.”(7) It would be interesting to know how much of the aid given annually by Western nations to Indian, Pakistani and African governments is actually  used to lift people out of poverty rather than spent on purchasing weapons and combat aircraft from the donor nations or lining the pockets of government officials.
     As people become more aware through researching details on the Internet of this whole duplicitous scenario, they will slowly gain the power to dismantle it. We can see why militarism is the corrupt and corrupting residue of an outworn view of reality (see The Dream of the Cosmos) even though we can understand why it has come into being and why it believes it has to perpetuate itself.

The Hubris Syndrome
This phrase, taken from a book of that title published in England in 2007 by Dr. David Owen, who became Foreign Secretary under a former Labour Government, is a character trait that is often found in leaders, particularly leaders or corporate groups involved in military ventures or who have sudden access to immense power. (8)
     David Owen’s book, gives a clear definition of the pathology of leaders who display traits of grandiosity and psychic inflation – hubris or god-almightiness – and heightens the need for awareness of how easily leaders of nations can persuade individuals as well as whole peoples to perpetrate and accept as ‘normal’ and ‘patriotic’ acts of immature folly as well as extreme barbarism.
     The biggest danger in the sphere of both politics or religion comes from the mythic inflation of leaders: their unconscious identification with the archetypal role of the hero or saviour or, in the case of someone with a strong religious belief, the role of being the vehicle of God or some new Utopian ideology. Leaders may believe they are being guided by God or Allah in the moral task of getting rid of an opponent whom they name as evil. They unconsciously fall into grandiosity and omnipotence and their speeches take on a demagogic, even a messianic tone.
    David Owen concludes his book with the words, “It may be that the hubristic syndrome never has a medical cure or even a proven medical causation, but it is becoming ever clearer that, as much as or even more than conventional illness, it is a great menace to the quality of leadership and the proper government of our world.”(9)
The Shadow of Science:Grandiosity and Omnipotence
The shadow in the sphere of science can be seen in a Promethean tendency to omnipotence and the belief that the aim of science is not so much a quest for an understanding of how nature works but the ‘conquest of nature’. Scientists describe science as a methodology but science can easily fall under the control of the power drive of the shadow and morph itself into an ideology or belief system. Like other political ideologies, it may demand a free hand to do whatever it wants in the name of scientific progress: nothing and no-one must be allowed to impede that progress. It may proclaim with dogmatic certainty that it is the sole purveyor of the truth. It may attack as heretical any new scientific hypothesis, any therapeutic approach to healing or belief that it chooses to reject— such as the practise of homeopathy or acupuncture, thereby imposing a kind of rational ‘Final Solution’ which aims to eliminate whatever it designates as non-rational or unscientific.
     An illustration of the unconscious power-seeking drive of the shadow was reflected in the events following the creation of the atomic bomb. Robert Oppenheimer, brilliant theoretical physicist and director of the Manhattan Project which developed the atom bomb, was appalled when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet he was drawn into the train of events which led to this atrocity by his fascination with the technology of the bomb and being unable to intervene in the political process once the bomb had been tested which led to the creation (under Teller) of the hydrogen bomb: “It is my judgment in these things that when you see something technically sweet you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only when you have had your technical success. That’s the way it was with the atomic bomb.”(10)
     When the scientist’s shadow drive for technical success is drawn into the wake of the power-seeking shadow of governments in time of war or involved in the military-industrial complex, events are set in motion which may culminate in catastrophe, as with the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the hydrogen bomb detonated over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, or in the accumulation of vast stores of chemical and biological weapons in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
     Harnessing science to serve a government’s agenda for defence is considered praiseworthy and legitimate. Many scientists work for governments and for the military. But science that is co-opted to serve the military arm of government can be taken over by the shadow when it develops weapons that have become a danger to humanity as well as capable of devastating vast areas of the planet. We need to challenge the ideology of scientific progress and observe where it is in thrall to the power-driven tendencies of governments and corporate bodies and where, in relation to what has been explored above, it acts to engender and promote evil.

Recognizing the Shadow
In today’s world, the shadow is becoming easier to see, not only in the behaviour of our enemies but in our own. Things are being brought to light about the conduct of government that people had no idea of, such as the dubious justification for the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, lying and corruption in high places and the general tendency to obfuscation, manipulation and ‘spin’ of politicians. People can see that the escalating sale of arms to unstable and persecutory regimes is morally corrupt because however much it increases the GNP of a nation, it fosters the conditions that promote war and the suffering of unarmed civilians. When nations engage in this trade, they are complicit at one remove in causing the suffering that follows. Financial scandals such as the Enron fiasco and the lack of honesty and responsibility of major banks in their corporate greed and relentless pursuit of wealth have been revealed for all to see. The sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy as well as deeply held prejudices against women and homosexuals in Christianity and Islam are coming to light. All this is a revelation of the shadow.
     Uncovering the shadow aspect of religious, political and scientific agendas is of great value if it can help to free us from bondage to unconscious habits of behaviour that lead to the suffering of others. But there is a massive amount still to do if we are to become more aware of how easily we can be manipulated by the shadow behaviour of governments, religions and science. If we are to become capable of resisting the drive for omnipotence in any of these fields, we have to be aware of our own shadow and where it may draw us into compliance with or acceptance of shadow tendencies in all three domains. At the same time we have carefully to distinguish between negative projections and the reality of evil in the form of a mass psychosis (such as the threat offered by Hitler to the whole of Europe) that may confront us in a specific situation. It is only by developing a greater power of discrimination that we can gain the power and the insight to deal with the shadow by recognizing it in ourselves as well as in others.

Redeeming the Shadow of the Solar Era
Lord Rees, the Astronomer-Royal, says in a book called Our Final Century, published in 2003, says that we have a 50-50 chance of surviving this current century:


Our choices and actions could ensure the perpetual future of life (not just on Earth, but perhaps far beyond it, too). Or in contrast, through malign intent, or through misadventure, twenty-first century technology could jeopardise life’s potential, foreclosing its human and posthuman future. What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter. (12)

The principle dangers he cites are terrorism, the impact of climate change, the misuse of nano-technology, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as the dangers presented by nature such as the catastrophic devastation that would be caused by asteroid impact and the eruption of calderas. To this warning I would add the danger of nuclear reactors.
     Many of the human-induced threats arise from our survival instincts as well as our addiction to long-established patterns of territorial expansion and the accumulation and extension of power in different fields. This new century asks us to take on the mammoth task of recognizing the habits of behaviour that have been justified for millennia as necessary and right from the perspective of achieving national, territorial or religious supremacy. We need urgently to move from a national to a planetary perspective and this can only be done by an increase in the number of individuals who hold this perspective.We have the innate intelligence and capacity to change but we do not have much time in which to accomplish this momentous transformation of consciousness:
     The paramount moral challenge of the nineteenth century was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was totalitarianism and the revelation of the holocausts of people sacrificed to the lethal will of psychopathic dictators. In this century, it is the challenge of climate change and the need to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction so that the earth is no longer polluted by their presence and our survival is no longer threatened by their existence.
     Jung’s insight into the nature of the shadow is one of his greatest legacies to us. But, as he wryly commented, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”(13) Making the darkness conscious involves sacrificing the mind-set that would continue in the same tracks as before, ignoring the evils and the dangers that our shadow behaviour constellates. Our survival as a species may depend on our ability to accomplish this Herculean task.

1. Jung, C.G. CW 18 (1977) The Symbolic Life, par. 562
2. Saul, John Ralston (1995) The Unconscious Civilization, House of Anansi Press, Canada, and (1998) Penguin Books Ltd., London
3. Cohn, Carol (1987) Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals, Signs, Journal of Women in Culture and Society, University of Chicago Press
4. McGilchrist, Iain (2009) The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, Yale University Press
5. Levi, Primo (1988) The Damned and the Saved, Abacus Books, London
6. Mehta, Vijay (2012) The Economics of Killing: How the West fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World, Pluto Press, London, p. 33. This book contains a most helpful Appendix listing the names of Global Peace Organizations in different countries.
7. from his article on The Arms Trade in Resurgence Magazine, autumn 2012
8. Owen, David (2007) The Hubris Syndrome, p. 31, Methuen Publishing Ltd., London
9. ibid, p.134
10. quoted byTodorov, Tzvetan (2003) Hope and Memory, Reflections on the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 234 from J. Glover, Humanity (Cape 1999). See also Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus, The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Alfred Knopf, New York, 2005
11. Hoffman, David (2009) The Dead Hand, Reagan, Gorbachov and the Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race, Doubleday, New York and Icon Books, London, 2011
12. Rees, Sir Martin (Lord Rees) (2003) Our Final Century, William Heinemann Ltd., London
13. Jung, C.G. CW13 (1967) Alchemical Studies, par. 335

What could we do to transform this situation?
– We could help the children of the world to become more aware of shadow projections and shadow behaviour, drawing their attention to the dangers of political and religious indoctrination and the practise of demonizing others, calling them names like “dogs”, “pigs”, “vermin”, “scum” or “kaffirs”.

– We could set boundaries in schools, businesses and institutions for bullying and sadistic behaviour that will not be tolerated—such as posting cruel messages about others on Facebook and Twitter.

– We could extend awareness that the roots of pathological behaviour in adults may lie in childhood suffering and self-hatred, much of it caused by inadequate education and poor parenting. Condemnation changes nothing but hardens the resistance to change. Understanding that the aggressor was once a former victim can become the first stage of healing and transforming a destructive pattern of behaviour. This does not mean that crime is condoned but that punishment is not seen as the only solution.

– At a national level, we could learn to recognize the shadow in the portrayal of brutal and sadistic behaviour on television, videos and films and acknowledge that these constant images of male violence have a brutalizing and desensitizing influence on the fragile psyche of children as well as adults. There is no question that watching violence over many years conditions an individual and a society to view violence as an acceptable, even a heroic way of behaving.

– At an international level, we could learn to recognize and name the shadow of giant corporations that are seeking ever greater control over the resources of the earth, such as plant seeds, which should be the common heritage of every inhabitant of the planet. The moral irresponsibility of the industrialized nations towards the non-industrialized ones may not be recognized as evil but it gives rise to evil and great suffering. Evil can take many forms and predatory patterns of behaviour can be concealed in the profit-taking of giant corporations, in competition that destroys rivals, in seeking lucrative investment returns for shareholders that may bankrupt a nation and deprive helpless populations of their means of survival.

We can make every effort to to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons and to challenge the theory of deterrence which encourages the 9 nuclear nations to maintain and increase their nuclear arsenals. A book by Professor John Scales Avery, Nuclear Weapons: an Absolute Evil, gives a brilliant overview of the history, dangers and amorality of nuclear power.

the book is available from and

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