God, Satan, and Carl Jung

 “You are a slave of what you need in your soul.” The Red Book by Carl Jung

I’ve not believed in the idea of Satan, at least in the literal sense for quite some time now. I think Satan is an archetype of evil, a symbol of pure negativity, debauchery, and depravity. Even as a practicing Muslim, I could never fully accept the typical portrayal of Satan as some type of physical and tangible being, constantly whispering to us, an ornery little villain whose main aim is to lead us astray. This notion seems very childlike to me.

Indeed, Islamic thought does believe in the idea of Satan and the Quran is quite explicit in describing him. I don’t think Satan was ever meant to be taken figuratively and most believers don’t see him as thus. Instead, I’ve almost always viewed in him in very psychological terms. He is the epitome everything we view as bad in the world, and especially the evil deeds that take place at the hands of humankind.The waswas, a deep sense of tempation into what is typically thought to be immoral. These weaknesses are our downfall, as is the metaphor of the Garden of Eden.

Carl Jung describes a series archetypical images which pervade the human consciousness, manifesting themselves in art, religion, and myth. Jung viewed the source of the archetype as instinctual. We are born with an inate knowledge of various archetypes. These archetypes exist throughout humanity and throughout all times. A specific archetype may manifest itself in various forms, but with obvious similarities.

So naturally, this got me thinking, if Satan is the archetype of evil, then what does that make God? The natural inclination would be to view God and Satan in dualistic terms; God as the archetype of good, the yin to the yang. But then, I don’t necessarily view God as always being good, at least as he is described in the monotheistic scriptures. I suppose this might depend highly on one’s definition of good, but God is often portrayed as the bringer of hellfire and punishment, he is often described as being quite human in his emotions, a jealous and vengeant god.  Therefore, it might be viewed more as a relationship of tension, an epic battle for the soul, two enemies fighting it out at the expense of humanity. Perhaps a better metaphor would be one of chaos and order; Satan representing the perils of an ammoral society, and God representing order as defined by religious law.

So if Satan is only an archetype and not a physical being, then it might certainly be the case that God is as well.  Our descriptions God and Satan are the stuff of archetype and myth, and these concepts reflect ourselves more than anything.  I have often entertained thoughts of  leaping over the precipice of agnosticm, I do believe there is something to the universe. I’m just not sure we have been able to adequately describe it. Nor am I sure that such a description is possible.

Thoughts?

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30 responses to “God, Satan, and Carl Jung

  1. I don’t believe that God and Satan are opposites of each other, and I’m a practicing Muslim (not sure if other practicing Muslims would disagree with me.) It wouldn’t make sense, because God created Satan, and only gave as much to Satan as what was due to Satan, as with all creations. The way I see it, in order for something to be the true opposite of another, it would have to be a whole opposite–and while Satan is a “whole” as we can define “whole” I believe God is a whole that we are not capable of completely grasping. We can only understand a small fraction.

    Also, on good and evil, since God created Satan, it must be with characteristics that are inherent in God. However, I do believe Satan is evil and God is not evil, even though God may have those characteristics to have created Satan, and that has to do with the way I see evil. I don’t believe someone can truly be evil unless they intend to be evil, and since jinn have free will, they can choose to be evil. Intention includes really truly consenting to be evil–without being pressured or threatened. So, while God may have certain characteristics, those characteristics themselves are not evil–but it is fully consenting to evil that makes a being evil, and I don’t believe God does anything to any soul that it did not deserve.

    That’s my two cents. =)

    • So then, I assume you believe in Satan as an actual physical being, along with jinn? I don’t view them as such but then I have to ask myself why do I view God as such.

      “Also, on good and evil, since God created Satan, it must be with characteristics that are inherent in God.”

      It’s interesting that you write that because this is almost the way I see God these days; God has very human characteristics and emotions because he was created by us. Or if he wasn’t created by us, religion was and the way we view God (and Satan) are purely reflections of ourselves, because we simply have no other frame of reference. Occasionally a great thinker like Jung (and many others) will give us different tools to look at ourselves and our condition. Religion does that too, but I think it’s outdated 😉

      Of course, our view will be very different since we are coming from very different theistic (or in my case lack of) perspectives. And I like that and appreciate the dialogue 🙂

      • Yes, I do see Satan as an actual physical being, but I don’t believe that Satan is limited that way. If Satan can sway us, I don’t think we’re as inherently good and innocent as we believe we are.

        God has very human characteristics and emotions because he was created by us.

        I don’t believe God was created by us, but interesting note on this: when reading my comment, you may or may not have been thrown off in a literary sense with how many times I repeated God instead of replacing the noun with a pronoun–I don’t believe in using pronouns to describe God, and definitely not masculine pronouns, because I believe that God originally gave us more information about God’s nature than we understand today, and through patriarchal practices we’ve picked and chosen to accept only masculine characteristics. So while I disagree with you completely, I can settle tentatively for the idea that we’ve deluded ourselves into believing and perhaps even creating a certain inaccurate image of God by dismissing/overlooking/under-emphasizing/and even erasing God’s feminine characteristics, which tend to be more positive–loving, considerate, forgiving.

        • (Yes, I do realize this is almost self-defeating, because “God” itself is masculine since there exists the word “Goddess”.)

          • I don’t think it’s defeating, I think even our very language entraps our thinking into viewing much of life in patriarchal terms. I must note that as far as I know, the monotheistic religions always refer to God as Him and never Her.

          • I think that has everything to do with the languages used by societies based on patriarchy and nothing to do with the religion itself. *shrug* God in Islam doesn’t have a gender, so I would have no problem using Her in English and in any language but Arabic (since in Arabic the original must be preserved so that it can be referred to for interpretation) and neither should any Muslim man if he really believes his own claim that the pronoun is arbitrary.

  2. “So if Satan is only an archetype and not a physical being, then it might certainly be the case that God is as well. Our descriptions God and Satan are the stuff of archetype and myth, and these concepts reflect ourselves more than anything. I have often entertained thoughts of leaping over the precipice of agnosticm, I do believe there is something to the universe. I’m just not sure we have been able to adequately describe it. Nor am I sure that such a description is possible.”

    I do think that both Satan and God are notions that were created by humankind long, long ago. Like very many folktales, they are notions borne out of man’s attempts to understand and explain the inexplicable. The notions are comforting because they make us feel less alone in the universe, they allow us to believe there is a purpose to “all this,” that ultimately there is justice, and that someone is in charge. These notions have also served in some respects to control the masses.

    None of this, of course, makes any of it real.

  3. SOLIDSOUL

    God says shaitan is invisible. Whatever bad done selfishly or doubtful thoughts are –also- considered as act of “invisible shaitan”.
    Slandering, abusing, un necessarily doubting god or anything, beating, killing, illegal or forceful occupation, false propaganda of negative minds, genocide, rape, oppression etc..were some of the hidden” evil” acts which becomes visible after its occurrences.
    God has given a “little but amazing brain“ to human being to understand these acts to mould their behavior as a test in here and reward here after.
    A negative mind creating Fitna in blog with their evil ideology to create havoc and disorder among believers is also one of the shaitans acts.
    There are several definitions about shaitan. I have mentioned a few about him/her/that.
    For believers, creation of shaitan from Allah is a test in many senses from immoral acts morality, “cruelty to kindness” and so on…
    To protect from these unjust acts of evil from self to others or vice versa, either from blog posts, media, enemies of Islam and any type of mental, emotional or physical torture etc…
    God asked the believer to recite:
    Audhu Billahi Minashaitanir Rajeem
    Meaning: ‘I seek refuge from the accursed Satan’.

    • I’m pretty sure in Islam, the believer is supposed to avoid all acts which might lead him astray. Therefore, you must immediately desist from visiting this blog ever again in the best interest of your mortal soul. Signed, Satan’s minion.

      • You are so funny 🙂 Didn’t know Satan’s minions had such great sense of humour and wit!

        • SOLIDSOUL

          @achelois,
          Sister Stephanie has great soul of kindness and brave heart, but temporarily surrendered to Satan, still great battle between “terrorist Satan” and “her soul” going on right now.
          We all pray for her soul to win against the Satan that illegally occupied her thoughts.

          • Are you serious? Really?? Wow.

          • In your opinion, Solidsoul, what is the difference between a long thought out position and the temptation of Satan. Frankly, it’s a bit of an insult to speculate that this entire process I’ve been through, one which I’ve put so much thought into and continue to contemplate on a daily, if not hourly basis, is simply the work of some invisible being that I don’t even believe exists.

            I would also speculate that it is easier for a person such as yourself, to believe that this is the work of the great evil whisperer himself, rather that believe that one could inspect, honestly appraise the religion, and find it false. Because if you really allowed yourself to think about the posts I’m writing, it might take you to some very uncomfortable places leading you to thoughts that are counter to evey thing that you thought you believe in. But then, it would be easy for you to blame “shaytan” and again you’d be able to take the easy road and continue on with blinders.

            Several Muslims comment on this blog, and although we may not see eye to eye, they bring something to the table and engage in the discussion. However, you rarely do. It seems your main goal on this blog is to spout the ideological party line that we’ve all heard before. It’s nothing new. I really don’t understand your purpose of continuing to comment here. What are you getting out of it?

          • SOLIDSOUL

            stephanie,
            Everyone thinks they are smart enough to discuss certain topics. the topic which you want to discuss was buried long before Carl Marx, Lenin, moa, Stalin and other elements…dawkins is the main notorious and digger of dead body which is already buried and decomposed (DECONSTRUTION?) long time ago. The problem with you and me is, there was no internet to fight each other with words which we are doing right now. It is utterly waste of time for those who discuss this matter over here. ME Included..
            I think this is also the act of SHAYT -TEN. There is no way escaping from him/her or that.(smile)
            No offense, as per your own conjecture, it’s just for a” discussion”, .you may think my argument is irrelevant to this post. I don’t think so. If it is really about SATAN, ..HE is representing me on behalf of you. You must also know I allowed a petty shaitan to accompany to argue with you.
            When you point a finger on others, you must know three fingers are pointing toward you. I myself included in this category.
            Our life and argument s are really battle between evil and good. We both are right coz we think we are right. we both are wrong coz we don’t agree with each other.

          • I’m not sure if it is a language barrier or not, but frankly I can’t understand much of what you just said…dead bodies and Carl Marx and such.

          • Stephanie is my friend and I find it both annoying and insulting that you try to analyse my friend’s psychology (clearly sucking at it anyway) and address me while doing so. I don’t know you from Jack and you are not leaving a good impression on me to ever concur with you. Please stop.

  4. When I was child I once asked my dad what God is like and I still remember his reply. He said, “any one says they have God all figured out is fooling themselves.” Now I understand his reply completely. Agnosticism is that you can never understand God. Atheism is to be sure there can’t be a god. I don’t know why but atheists have always come out as too sure to me; just as sure as fundamental theists … like the dualistic terms, God and Satan.

    There are actually scores of Muslims who believe that Satan is only a metaphor used to symbolise our hidden inner evil that ‘may’ or ‘may not’ reveal itself. We all have a darker side to us that whispers to us from time to time which we suppress with our moral side (Black Swan, anyone?). There is actually a translator of Quran (I forget his name now) who dismisses jinn and Satan completely replacing it with our inner dark side. I was highly influenced by his work because although I grew up hearing stories about Jinns (aka imaginary friends that happened to have met both my parents when my parents were children) I thought one had to be really paranoid to see a Jinn following them and dissuading them. It was a relief to find more Muslims who didn’t believe in a physical Satan.

    I think both Satan and much about God is created by humans but while we can find Satan hiding somewhere deep within us, God is still above and beyond us. Maybe we will never know God. Maybe God is just the Universe. Maybe He is more. Maybe He is a She. I’m finally peaceful not being able to figure God out.

    • (Sorry for spamming your comments section Stephanie, this topic really interests me. Let me know if I’m getting annoying.)

      We all have a darker side to us that whispers to us from time to time which we suppress with our moral side (Black Swan, anyone?).

      You know, I was taught that Iblis assigns a devil to each person, to sway him or her to the dark side (because all that work must be exhausting to do yourself =P )–so basically, everyone has their own personal devil. I think that can be interpreted however the person wills.

      • Again, I can see truth in this if it is taken purely metaphorically. I just can’t believe that in a literal sense. However, it’s interesting that morality shifts from time and place. That’s why I don’t view much of what might be considered immoral by Islamic standards as such.

        • “That’s why I don’t view much of what might be considered immoral by Islamic standards as such.”

          I never thought about that. This is interesting. Certainly then if there were matters that were seen as moral then but are considered immoral now why is it that we are stuck at what was seen as immoral then but is acceptable behaviour now?! Thanks for that thought, S! I’ll have to think more on that.

    • SOLIDSOUL

      @achelois,
      let me paste this again :Sister Stephanie has great soul of kindness and brave heart, but temporarily surrendered to Satan, still great battle between “terrorist Satan” and “her soul” going on right now.
      We all pray for her soul to win against the Satan that illegally occupied her thoughts.
      I think i didnot offend anybody over here.I am surprised why you are so harsh with me?.
      no more comments, but before leaving both of you, let me say

      Audhu Billahi Minashaitanir Rajeem
      Meaning: ‘I seek refuge from the accursed Shaitan’.

  5. SOLIDSOUL

    @Achlois,
    how can i reach your blog please?.

  6. Again, I can see truth in this if it is taken purely metaphorically. I just can’t believe that in a literal sense.

    Oh, I know Stephanie. Please don’t think I’m trying to sway you or anything. It’s the last thing I care about and the last thing any respectful person would do (*glares at solidsoul*) I was just expressing my POV. =)

  7. Helene

    Stephanie,
    Have you seen a copy of _The Red Book_? Do you own a copy? I’ve always wanted to look at it, and I hope I will someday.

    And BTW, there are reasons why a person with the outlook of SolidSoul comes to a blog such as yours, it’s just that one doesn’t know what the reasons are.

    This is like the Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to my door about every 3 months. The reason they keep coming back is because I let them in and listen to them. I try to see beyond the condescending little questions like “Have you thought about God?” to their basic raison d’etre. Once the tape recording, which I’ve heard already, starts over, I usually let them go and move on.

    Now why did I say all this? It was to avoid speaking out the other side of my mouth which would goes something like this:

    “Oh SolidSoul, I love it when you talk dirty.”

    • No, the red book is rare and expensive, I thought of buying it until I looked it up on Amazon.

      Regard commenters such as the aforementioned, my comments policy has always been that all opinions are welcomed unless one is hostile or deliberately combative. I’ve considered revising it and I may have to eventually with the intention of not publishing comments that are nothing more than spam and not at all related to the post. I don’t know.

  8. Steph, there is an excellent chapter on Satan and evil in this book, Life, Sex and Ideas by A.C. Grayling.

  9. Talib

    The improper use of the Will is santanized thinking and living. The proper use of the Will is God consciousness. Self Will is what causes so much agony and misery. When the Will is properly used, “How can I best serve Thee, Thy will not mine be done” I find meaning and purpose in life. The constant thought of others and I can best meet their needs.

  10. Anonymous

    Why do we need to describe God? God defies description because the god concept epitomizes Faith and knowing

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