The shadow itself is not evil and therefore not your enemy. I realize that for many people there is a huge barrier in the form of “the other,” someone outside themselves whose evil is unquestioned.
Sixty years ago “the other” lived in Germany and Japan; thirty years ago it lived in the Soviet Union; today it lives in the Middle East. Such people find evil easier to explain by never losing sight of “the other”–without an enemy, they would have to face the presence of evil inside themselves.
Seeing the shadow in yourself defuses the whole notion of “the other” and brings closer the statement of the Roman poet Terence: Nothing human is foreign to me. Can absolute evil be banished so quickly, however? Polls show that a majority of people believe in the existence of Satan, and many religious sects firmly believe that the devil is loose in the world, secretly changing history through his malignant doings.
It doesn’t seem that good has a chance to conquer evil – perhaps their combat is eternal, never to be finally settled. But you can still choose the side you want to be on. That very fact removes the absolute from absolute evil, since by definition absolute evil would win every time, finding no obstacle in the frailty of human choice.
Most people don’t accept this conclusion, however. They watch the drama of good and evil as if it and not they have the power, sitting mesmerized by pictures of the latest epidemic of crime, war, and disaster.
You and I as individuals can’t solve the problem of evil on a mass scale, and this sense of being powerless magnifies the belief that good in the end really isn’t going to win. But to grapple with evil, you have to look at it, not in horror or as spectacle but with the same attention that you’d given to any problem you are seriously interested in.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).