Behaviour Good and Evil

Do-Gooders Do Bad?

Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. We don’t kiss and hug our coins and notes.

Love they neighbour as thyself. This is also misunderstood. We cannot love our neighbour until we have learned to love ourselves.

Forget all this rubbish about original sin. In fact I think I dislike the word “sin” more than any other word except “sacrifice”. It began as a means for the powers that be to take it on themselves to tell others what to do and so this has happened since we first learned to talk.

Love is just about the most misunderstood word in our vocabulary. The opposite of love is hatred. This explains why, throughout history, so many hideous murders began with a “love affair”.

“I cannot live without you” is another excuse. Closer to the truth is I can’t live without myself. No-one can disagree about that. Q.E.D. My theme today is that if we try too hard to be “do-gooders” we are barking up the wrong tree.

It is a good idea to start children off reading fairy tales. Remember that these stories were made up by people trying to categorise different capacities of everyone around them. Jung called his categorising archetypes : characteristics that we are all born with to a greater or lesser degree. Part of every child’s education should be to learn what people can be like. Categorisations are useful ways to size up strangers quickly. However we can only make our own judgements out of all we know about ourselves and others. This is why the best of the classics in literature is a great help in understanding human nature. Studying the people around us is not enough.

I have often asked myself why certain kinds of literature are much more popular than others. I have in mind detective stories, which include much of the darker side of people and horror stories that thrill us and frighten us at the same time. Much of the more popular literature in the western world of Victorianism and earlier is full of injunctions to “be good”. It was late in the 19th century that the passionate interest in detective and horror stories began, at a time that more and more people could read.

I believe that this strong interest which includes an obsession with anything to do with “sex”, drugs and food is very understandable. This a time when we are beginning to hear more about the taboo side, that was avoided for so long.

I keep trying to find more suitable words for “good” and “evil”. I cannot do better than “positive” and “negative” because they are not saturated with strong emotions.

The trouble with “do-gooders” is that much of what they do causes harm. Look at what has gone wrong in the social services. We can see the results by the increasing number of negative actions. That is bound to happen if you don’t try to understand the dark side as well. Maybe, as someone has said, it is better to focus on “trying not to do harm”. Once we begin to think of ourselves as “good” we become overbearingly smug and hypocritical.

Good and Evil

Good and Evil

Ever since our ancestors learned to develop and use words, our species made up stories, poems and plays to help them to understand the mysteries of nature. Carl Gustav Jung, one of the greatest psychologists, spent years travelling to remote groups of people to study what kind of fairy tales and folklore he could find. To his surprise, however remote the tribes might be and at whatever times the stories emerged there were strong similarities between all of them. Can you imagine how terrifying the forces of nature must have been to people who knew nothing about how the world works? Since they only knew live, talking beings and the rest of the animal kingdom, it must have seemed obvious to them that there must be much bigger and stronger versions of themselves hidden away in the skies, who caused all the phenomena of such events as thunderstorms, lightning and fierce winds that could help them or hinder them.

“Jung claimed that all religious systems contained a hierarchy of different gods, each one of whom had powers to oversee certain aspects of human nature. All systems contained a heaven and an underworld.

All gods required to be worshipped and to be offered sacrifices. All gods reflected human beings’ ideas about themselves. They were capable of all kinds of human feelings and responses: love, anger spite, jealousy, revenge and mercy. They were capricious and unpredictable. Failure to worship and sacrifice would incur their wrath and bring down punishments on the offender.” -Quoted from my book “Not Just Talking”

Thus gods and religions came into being, but could not be seen, which must have made them even more frightening. What could they do to get into these creatures’ good books? Why, they must make sacrifices to please them by delivering to them what they valued including some of their own people.

Jung made a great discovery; that the same stories turned up again and again and the same characters. Every distant tribe recognised the same kinds of people and habits everywhere Jung went. The same selection of stereotypes turned up everywhere: wicked stepmothers, cruel people of all kinds, witches and giants on the side of evil and good fairies, nauseatingly beautiful children being ill treated by the envious, on the side of good. Everything had to have a happy ending. Everything was black and white. Jung gave these categories the title of archetypes. Some are female and some male. They are useful because they can be used for benchmarks when we are trying to understand what kinds of people there are in the world. Each archetype represents a particularly strong human characteristic. It is a rule-of-thumb way of getting some kind of idea of someone we don’t know.