by Bryony Lavery (b. 1947)
Bryony Lavery’s Frozen is about a pedophile, serial killer, an unrepentant murderer by the name of Ralph. “Ralph is a smart, cold-blooded killer who says flatly, “The only thing I’m sorry about is that it’s not legal—killing girls, I mean.”[i] To flesh out the rest of this fearless examination of evil we will continue quoting our Denver Post theatre critic John Moore. “But ‘Frozen’ has little to do with pedophilia. It’s about one woman’s need to forgive, and another’s need to believe malevolent behavior can be—indeed, must be—somehow explained away by science. If heinous acts cannot be ascribed to frontal-lobe damage or chemical imbalances, we might have to live with the fact that pure evil not only exists in this world—it’s living down your street, third house on the left.”[ii]
Alas, it’s worse than that. It’s much worse than that. What we call evil are the reactive behaviors which come from the false self which lives within each one of us and we are looking at it each morning in the mirror. And our reliance on the paradigm of scientific materialism (which is our dominant worldview) to explain away that reality, only makes it worse. Humanity has come to rely on science to solve our problems and to deliver happiness and we are slowly coming to the realization that our hopes are misplaced. Science cannot relieve the two causes of human suffering: craving and aversion. That which we crave and which we think (believe) will bring us happiness is ephemeral and illusory. That which we fear is inevitable and has its own illusory nature. The good news is that evil itself is an illusion and our life-enhancing True self is the only identity we have.
Back to the mirror, but first a definition of “evil,” courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary: “Morally bad or wrong; wicked. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful.” Only human false-self behavior fits the definition of evil but not you of course, my dear, innocent reader. Guess again, you malevolent monster, can’t you see the horns, the bloodshot eyes, and the extended canines in the mirror. Oh no, not me!
We all have a shadow, a false self, a personal and collective unconscious each containing complexes and other autonomous contents that can come roaring out of the dark, dank sub-basement of our unconscious and behave according to the definition of evil above. So look for evil—not “down your street, third house on the left.” We are it and what’s more we don’t want to deal with that reality. As C. G. Jung says: “The greatest obstacle is considered to be the individual’s fear of discovering himself, particularly in the realm of the unconscious.”[iii]
Hope for humanity lies in two directions. First, we must shift to a more profound paradigm that acknowledges the reality of what it means to be human. To explain what we mean in the context of a more deeply understood religious, i.e., Christian context, we would have to understand that “A fourth [after the Trinity] and largely ignored symbol is the first Son or the fallen angel; he is eternal and autonomous. He is the Antichrist; it is the opposition between the trinity and the first Son that makes a whole. This symbol is the realization of evil that completes the self. Individuation requires the realization of the shadow as a part of one’s personality and the integration; it is a formalization of preconscious knowledge valid for the unconscious even if our intellect does not grasp it.”[iv] And, of course, the intellect rarely “grasps” it.
So, two things are required. We must acknowledge this fourth and largely unconscious dimension of what it means to be human and then accept responsibility for integrating it into our conscious personality in a process of Self-realization or what Jung called “individuation.” In this way we are healed and made whole. In this way we begin to transcend evil by transforming it; by making the darkness light.
The final step in this process occurs in an experience known only to mystics and requires the courage to dis-identify with the illusory world from which most of us take our identity. We must stop identifying with the false self that attracts us to the self-destructive desire for power, security and sensations which are the root of our suffering. Evil exists only in the illusion of the old narrative to which most of us are enthralled. It has cast a spell over us and we must travel deep within, to the silent forest, where we can simplify our lives in search of solitude and serenity. Only then will the spell of the old story begin to fade as does the mist before the warmth of the sun and our frozen psyche will awaken.
[i] Moore, John. “Premiere speaks the unspeakable.” The Denver Post. January 20, 2006, no page.
[iii] Jung, C. G. Abstracts of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Rockville, Maryland: NIMH, 1978, page 66.
[iv] Ibid., page 74.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.