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.