Hell is empty, all the devils are here

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Hell is empty;  all the devils are here.
~ William Shakespeare.

It's a funny sort of coincidence isn't it, considering the narcissism and self-absorption our culture encourages us to dwell in, that it has not yet become an acceptable idea in our Western cultures that your normal everyday Joe or Gina on the street - or you - have a deep, dark, nasty side.  A side that we may see occasionally, but flinch from.  Our shadow sides.

Even more so the idea that contained within that shadow side could be something scary, destructive, diabolical.  Sure, we like to examine the darker depths of those who we perceive as "monsters" or "animals".  Those people we examine under microscopes, horrified and compelled, at the levels that some humans can stoop to.

But just not us.  Or at least, not me.  Maybe you.  Maybe everyone I come into contact with, but certainly and definitely not me.

We find it very hard, almost impossible, to believe that we could be capable of the same sorts of things as those people.  We scrabble to distance ourselves from them because we cannot bear to think about the alternative - that we are all capable of abhorrence.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the storyteller and Jungian analyst, talks about the predator, the part of our psyche which is unredeemable, which cannot listen to reason.  The demonic part of our souls.  Many of us in the nominally Christian West rail at that idea on several different levels.  Firstly, the Devil has been perceived via the childish abomination that is the Christian religion to be something outside of ourselves, some stupid caricature.  It all seems so childish.

But what if the demonic lives in here?  What if the Devil is a part of us all?  It would mean, yes, that we have to face and fight that which we are terrified of, which we almost cannot bear to admit lives in us.  But if the Devil is a part of us all, then for balance and hope's sake could we not also believe (and maybe even experience in oure more enlightened moments) that the God is in here too.  To help us.  Whether you see God/Devil as individual personages or as archetypes doesn't seem to make all that much difference in the outcomes of things, from where I'm seeing it today.  But then that's another story for another time :)

To face and do battle with these elements of our own psyches is, from where I'm sitting, turning into a matter of life and death.  Because if we do not face the dark elements of our own psyches, we will find it harder (or maybe even impossible) to face those same dark elements in the world.  And those dark elements are routinely and systematically destroying our earth, even in the face of climate change, for their own shortsighted ends.

As above, so below.  And as within, so without.  Those destructive forces that I see in my own soul, they threaten to overwhelm me, to destroy me, just like they are threatening in the outer world.  Those same forces are in you.  It is only by acknowledging them, facing them down, learning to not bow to them, learning to not be terrified in their presence - owning them - that I  learn, almost in disbelief, that these elements only have the power that I give them.  And that I can take that power away.  

It is where anger comes into its own.  It is an energy.  It fires itself slowly in your belly, into flame, into the energy that it takes to rouse yourself into productivity, into movement, out of torpor, out of stupor.


  1. I think you have it one when you say that you can 'take their power away', Sue. It's when we wake up to the lies our mind-created self has been telling us... there's still the experience of these things, but as if in a lucid dream, and they no longer have any control over us. This is what being 'born again' really means:)

    Great writing, as ever.

  2. Thanks, Harry. It's sort of a weird topic to write about. I guess it's not terribly palatable.

    It just amazes me, how I go through these phases where ... I dunno what's happening. I wonder to myself if I am "energy clearing" (been doing a bit of that) or just simply fallen back into old patterns without even realising it. It's a bizarre experience. Those spaces feel like they are the ONLY space when I am in them ... and that experience I had for 6 weeks or whatever it's been, where seemingly every fear, every guilt experience, every shame experienced, followed me around and mocked me. Bizarre.

  3. Oh I'm very much in touch with my dark side. I have seen it enough to recognize it when it is arising. I haven't always been able to squelch it, but I have learned over the years that sometimes it is my muse and I have to let it out in a controlled fashion. However, my dark side isn't violent, it is only selfish. Sometimes that has almost been my undoing, but I guess there are worse things.

    Are you speaking of something in particular, or just in general?

  4. When 'junk' hits daylight it ignites spontaneously, Sue. And all this seems to occur with you as a spectator - it's not really happening to 'you', but to this imagined self, the ego if you like. The ego's being unmasked for what it is - a dreamed-up idea - and what you really are is taking over the reins. But there's a lot of kickin' 'n' screamin' before it stops running things. Hope that helps:)

  5. Hey Sue I loved your post. I couldn't help but think of the final scene from the movie Platoon as I read it. The character played by Charlie Sheen(ironically enough) says we did no fight the enemy, we fought ourselves and the enemy was in us...Lot's to mull on. Here's the link...

  6. Here's a link you may find interesting.

  7. Erin - 'tis a good thing to be in touch with that side, though it feels sorta deathlike, I think in some ways. I agree, there are worse things than selfishness. Although it's vaunted a lot nowadays so I s'pose we don't want to narcissistically go too far the other way.

    Am I talking about something in particular? Well, it is an element of myself that tends to come out in certain situations, but it just feels ... it feels redeemable until I remind myself that maybe this is the part of me that is not. Whenever I do that, it's like it automatically puts it into perspective. I know that rather than work on this aspect, it needs putting back in its box where it belongs. I think the inner critic is possibly related to this.

    Gee, I sound a bit mad when I put it out there like this :P

    Harry - I think we are possibly talking along the same lines, I'm not entirely sure. I suspect this stuff works pretty much the same for most people, but I do think we all frame it in different ways to suit our own personalities, I guess, or what speaks most to our subconscious. Or something :)

    Jon - hi there, Jon. How you going, in the long days of short-wearing weather? :)

    I haven't seen Platoon but yeah, that's what I'm talking about (but boy oh boy, those bloody Hollywood movies, they sure pile on the mood music, don't they? Would have maybe sounded more poignant without 1100 violins invading my head :)

    Goodfornowt - hello there, sir. That was an interesting post you linked to. I wonder about that - why do some people give into their horrendous impulses and others don't? I wonder if the person who has acknowledged that they have those sorts of ... if not impulses, at least thoughts (even if not aloud for fear of being locked up, and even not for very long with yourself) would not be better able to deal with impulses if they *did* arise, be less likely to act on them? I'm not sure. We are interesting beasties, aren't we.

  8. Sure, Sue. 'S all words anyway:)


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