The Evil that Produces Good
"When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate ." - Carl Jung
Enantiodromia is a big, fancy word for a concept that might shed some understanding of what’s going on right now and give us a little hope. I know I could sure use some of that. Thinking about this has helped me find a little light in this dark time.
Enantiodromia is the concept that anything that becomes strongly one-sided is about to flip into its opposite. The word originated with Heraclitus in ancient Greece, from enantios: opposite, and Dromas: running course. Heraclitus used it to designate how the play of opposites in public events runs its course, each movement eventually turning into its opposite.
Carl Jung later used the term to describe the way the psyche can become one-sided, relegating huge parts of itself to the unconscious. What is repressed then returns to us as fate. Until we own and understand this fact, we can’t change anything.
Jung says: “The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil.” 1
In looking at today’s frightening political situation, enantiodromia is obviously at play. What is repressed in the national psyche — the “under the radar” racism, sexism, xenophobia, materialism, and narcissism that has been at play in the American psyche for a very long time, is now grossly visible for all to see. If the country were healthy in regard to these things, this fateful take-over of our government could not have occurred.
The one-sidedness is plain. In Trump’s inaugural speech, he said, “"From this day forward it’s going to be only America First.”His insistence on building a wall between the US and Mexico, banning all Muslims, putting a gag order on anyone who might disagree with him, and resisting diversity at almost every level that it exists, shows just how one-sided he is. White, male, and rich, he surrounds himself largely with people who are the same.
But already it’s turning into its opposite. His blatant assault on women, minorities, poverty, and freedom is creating an unstoppable movement for our basic human rights. The Women’s March last weekend drew nearly three million people worldwide, with marches in all 50 states and 32 countries. It wasn’t just women of course, as men were there also, but it was at leastpro-women. This is a first in a country that has never had a female commander in chief in its 240 years of history and has only a 20% female representation in the House and Senate.
In Jung’s view, enantiodromia also plays out in the dynamic between the concept of the Christ figure and the Antichrist. He saw that the wholly one-sidedness of the goodness of Christ would eventually produce a figure of an Antichrist. This counter figure is everything that Christ is not. Divisive, rather than unitive. Base rather than holy. Hateful rather than loving. Immature, rather than spiritually evolved.
Until we hold the values that integrate light and dark, we are destined to ride this dialectical seesaw. Jung did not believe our political leaders would save the world. They do not have the answers, the perspective, or the wisdom. It will only come from the people who rise, slowly, into maturity, which Jung defined as the ability to hold the tension of opposites.
So fasten your seatbelts — we’re going for a wild ride. Do your inner work to find your own balance. And then, get out there and do something to lead this country — and our world — back into wholeness.
1. "The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales", Collected Works 9i, par. 397.