Ethical Complementarity

A Complementarian Moral Theory

Paul Nash: Landscape of a dream
Paul Nash: “Landscape of a dream”, 1936-38.

Abstract: The article argues that the principle of complementarity, as employed in quantum physics, is also relevant to moral philosophy. The moral of the heart is complementary to an entropic morality that equates evil with disorder. The Augustinian and Neoplatonic view of evil as privation is identified with modern principles of thermodynamics. Although it is untenable as a monist moral principle, it becomes functional as a complementary opposite of moral evil. This has a bearing on the ideal of Self; the ideal nature and conduct of personality.

Keywords: privatio boni, entropy, disorder, Self, theodicy, Plotinus, St Augustine, Carl Jung, Proclus.

Evil as privation

An issue of central concern to Carl Jung was the theological statement of privatio boni, which implies that evil is merely the privation of good. God is the summum bonum (supreme good). If the good of his creation is the Swiss cheese, then evil is the holes in the cheese. Jung argued that it gives rise to negative inflation in human psychology, in as much as mankind is made responsible for the degradation of God’s beautiful creation. After all, moral evil is not the only consequence of the Fall; also earthquakes follow from our wrongdoings. In Jung’s view, good and evil is solely a concern of psychology, on the grounds that evil is terribly real as a psychic experience. These are equivalent opposites that always predicate one another. Thus, he repudiated the “metaphysical” interpretation of evil. As long as evil is viewed as non-being and an “accidental lack of perfection”, nobody will take his own shadow seriously. Even so, Father Victor White has characterized Jung’s standpoint as “quasi-Manichaean dualism” (cf. Jung, 1973, pp. 539f; 1979, para. 98).

The difficulty arises from a conflation of the Neoplatonic view and the view of moral evil introduced by Jesus. After all, one cannot say that moral evil is relative absence of moral good. Hitler was not “less good”. According to Plotinus (father of Neoplatonism, c. 204/5 – 270 AD), evil is a consequence of the derivation of reality from the original One (the first Good). At each successive stage of emanation from the first spiritual principle yet more imperfection is introduced. The end product, which is inert matter, is manifestly evil, because it represents absolute absence of form and measure. Plotinus, although he also grapples with problems of moral evil, adopts a metaphysical view of good and evil. His notion of evil as privation or absence of good was appropriated by St Augustine (354 – 430 AD). Augustine, who was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism, said that concupiscence does not have true ‘being’. Rather, it is bad quality — the privation of good, something similar to a wound. Concupiscence was for him the central expression of evil. Augustine writes:

What, after all, is anything we call evil except the privation of good? In animal bodies, for instance, sickness and wounds are nothing but the privation of health. When a cure is effected, the evils which were present (i.e., the sickness and the wounds) do not retreat and go elsewhere. Rather, they simply do not exist any more. For such evil is not a substance; the wound or the disease is a defect of the bodily substance which, as a substance, is good. Evil, then, is an accident, i.e., a privation of that good which is called health. Thus, whatever defects there are in a soul are privations of a natural good. When a cure takes place, they are not transferred elsewhere but, since they are no longer present in the state of health, they no longer exist at all. (St Augustine, Enchiridion, ch. 3.11)

John Hick (2007) criticizes Augustine’s view as ‘aesthetic’ rather than ethical. God is like the Artist who is enjoying the products of his creative activity, where ‘good’ is equated with ‘measure, form and order’ (cf. Hick, 2007, p. 53). Directing his words to God, Augustine says: “To thee there is no such thing as evil” (Confessions, 7:13). Evil is not cognizable in the divine mind. Thus, there simply is no reality to evil in the creation as a whole. It seems to privilege the divine point of view and fails to do justice to the personal and human perspective. According to Hick, we must instead make distinction between ‘metaphysical’ and ‘empirical’ accounts of the reality of evil. The metaphysical definition of evil as privation is irrelevant to experiential evil, which is not privative. After all, pain can hardly be described as the absence of pleasure. This is in accordance with the view proposed here, i.e., that there are two complementary accounts of evil. Says Hick:

As an element in human experience, evil is positive and powerful. Empirically, it is not merely the absence of something else but a reality with its own distinctive and often terrifying quality and power. (ibid. p. 55)

In the antique world evil was associated with disorder, understood as lack of form and measure. Accordingly, should a slave abscond, an upstanding citizen would react with moral indignation. Because the slave’s escape serves to undermine order, it is connected with the principle of evil. Today, however, we would view it as exemplary conduct on part of the abscondee. This has to do with the fact that we put emphasis on the inner moral aspect of good and evil, which Carl Jung sees as the only correct measure of morality. I shall argue that he threw the child out with the bathwater. We must retain a metaphysical or Neoplatonic view of good and evil alongside the morality of the heart. The privatio boni is still a valid principle as long as we forgo theology’s conflation of the two standalone moral principles. Augustine struggled to avoid the Manichaean or dualistic interpretation, and that’s why he adopted the Neoplatonic form of monism. However, it becomes muddled when tied together with Jesus’s moral creed, although it is not as bad as Jung portrays it. Stewart Sutherland says:

The idealism and monism of Plato the metaphysician was what was preserved in the various legacies which Augustine encountered in neo-Platonism, and which he used to construct a theological and metaphysical system with which to counteract the forms of dualism to be found in the Manicheism of his youth. (Sutherland, 1995, p. 477)

Augustine’s view of evil is somewhat incoherent. He accepted without question the existence of the devil, and he discusses demonic creatures as though they were objective forces of evil. However, he fails to give a satisfactory account of how a ‘no-thing’ could be a force. The doctrine of the privatio boni, although it was received into the tradition, has had little influence on Christian history (cf. Astley et al., 2003, ch. 3.4). It was regarded as mere philosophy remote from gruesome reality. Christians continued to regard evil as a fact of existence. As a matter of fact, no other religion has created so many depictions of evil; in altarpieces, illuminated manuscripts, and sermons. Christianity has been very occupied with evil. It is only in the modern world that evil has been downplayed, despite the fact that it has come to expression as never before. Maybe Jung is barking up the wrong tree.

Jung has a point however, because what he is really after is the concept of summum bonum. After all, the privatio boni problem remains part and parcel of monotheism. If God is good, then evil is necessarily metaphysically inferior to good. It was different before, in the polytheistic era. In those times good gods were pitted against evil ones, as exemplified by the Asir gods of Norse mythology, always at war with the giants or the Vanir. The Asir-Vanir war resulted in a unified pantheon — a motley crew that included the crooked Loki. So the divine multitude that people worshipped and celebrated could be devious, and sometimes downright evil.

Privation in Neoplatonism

Although Augustine’s theodicy is profoundly influenced by Neoplatonism, the identity of being and goodness was formulated in Christian terms. Whereas Neoplatonic ‘being’ or ‘existence’ is capable of degrees, Augustine tends toward an additional use of ‘being’. It is viewed as plain existence; the creature or thing as occupant of space-time. Failing to distinguish between the two leads to the conclusion that if anything came to lose its quota of goodness it would thereby cease to exist altogether (cf. Hicks, 2007, p. 50). In the Neoplatonic version this does not occur. Rather, utter privation of Good gives rise to a kind of “anti-being”, identifiable as matter void of form. (This, in itself, is connected with serious theological problems, something which Proclus later attempted to rectify.) Plotinus remained true to Platonic theology, according to which Intellect as well as all the undescended beings are entirely free of corrupting influences. It is only with the worldly emanation that evil emerges, which explains why evil must be associated with matter (cf. Phillips, 2007, p. 88). In his concept, privation is something more than mere absence of being. It is really an opposition to the Good, and not a mere “malfunctioning”.

Proclean theodicy allows for the reality of evil as “secondary existence”. Medieval scholars must have thought that it makes sense, considering its centrality in the academic discussion of evil during the Middle Ages. Proclus (412 – 485 AD), while maintaining Plotinus’s view that there is no Form of evil, wants to prove that “matter is neither good nor evil” and cleverly develops the notion of privation (cf. Proclus, 2003, ch. 36). In his treatise On the Existence of Evils, he claims that there are two forms of privation: (1) privation as lack and (2) as contrariety (‘subcontrariety’). The latter is evil proper. It has existence and form, yet only in a secondary sense. Unlike the Forms, it has no telos (purpose) of its own. It receives all its power from Good, because it is a parasitic hypostasis — a parhupostasis (ibid. chs. 50-54).

Proclus concludes that the Good, due to the greatness of its power, empowers also evil — the privation of itself. His point is that evil cannot be a mere lack of good, because mere ‘lack’ cannot have the power to thwart the creative power of the Forms. Accordingly, evil must be the privation of the very Form of Good, but not of ‘being’, as in Augustine (ibid. ch. 40). Thus, Proclus came to reject Plotinus’s notion that matter is the primary cause of sinfulness itself, in the way it lures the soul into immersion in materiality and concomitant sensuality and corruption. Rather, evil is engendered in souls as a secondary existence; it takes on the appearance of what is good and are among things that exist (cf. Proclus, 2003, ch. 61). It sounds like a rather modern view of evil, considering that Proclus thinks psychologically and focuses on the empirical aspect of evil. Although Plotinus and Proclus have the same aim, they solve the theological problems in different ways. Whether Proclus succeeds is a different question. The notion of evil as parhupostasis makes me think of a nuclear power plant, which is good because it creates energy for production. On the other hand, it also produces the most evil substance we know, as a rest product, and charges it with destructive energy that will last for hundreds of thousand years.


The different monist and dualist theories have created much headache for theologians and philosophers alike. In the realms of metaphysics, theology, moral philosophy and psychology, they give rise to problems of a contradictory nature that cannot be resolved. The principle of complementarity, as formulated by Niels Bohr, may unravel many of them. Complementarity implies that two monist theories are both regarded as true, despite the fact that they are mutually exclusive. In consequence, either the one or the other is applicable, but never at the same time. Both models are necessary to arrive at a consummate picture of reality. It is not sufficient to resort only to the one explanatory model, because reality transcends it. In that case, we must change to the other model. (The principle is also applied in a relative sense, according to which one complementary property takes precedence over another, whose measurement is more inexact.)

By resort to complementarity we may rise above both monism and dualism. At any given instance, we do have resort to a monist model. However, as no monist model is totally satisfactory and capable of solving all the problems, it might be necessary to switch to another monist model. The two are mutually exclusive; conclusions drawn from either one contradicts the other. By example, in a recent speech, British politician Nigel Farage said that “we must not allow our compassion to imperil our security” (YouTube, here). Masses of refugees fleeing from poverty will in the end threaten the stability and orderliness of the European countries. The antique dweller would immediately grasp the validity of the argument, i.e., that disorder is the metaphysical equivalent of evil. In the present time, however, we aim to maximize moral good, which is to show compassion to as many refugees as possible. A one-eyed fixation on a monist ideal gives rise to untold evils in another form. Should we adopt the other perspective and rigidly keep to the metaphysical ideal, then society will eventually take a totalitarian form. Fascism and Communism are obvious examples where orderliness is over-emphasized, resulting in untold moral evils.

Jesus said that we must not resist evil (Matt. 5:39), meaning that one must not go to the extremes. One should contribute according to one’s ability, but then one must move out of harms way. He practiced this principle himself. In order to avoid persecution, he left Judea and retired to Galilee. Sometimes we ought to turn the other cheek and abstain from resisting evil. A one-eyed fixation on the ideals of right conduct and moral good leads to harmful consequences.

Evil as entropy

The Neoplatonic form of morality is underestimated today, except perhaps in conservative circles. It is no longer a conscious principle among the average citizen. Instead it has emerged in another form in theories of physics. Modern cosmology has adopted a view of the universe that formally coincides with the Neoplatonic. In Neoplatonic and Gnostic thought, spirit comes first as the highest principle. Its material and cultural manifestations (emanations) are viewed as inferior to the pristine source of spirit, ‘the One’ or ‘the Good’. Enfolded inside the spiritual source is the whole structure of the orderly world, while the latter constitutes a mere reflection of the Forms contained in the Nous. With each subsequent step of unfoldment, disorder increases until no more order remains.

Similarly, according to modern cosmology, in the beginning there was maximum order. Initially, neither space nor matter existed. Since then, disorder has continued to increase in the universal system as a whole, following the second law of thermodynamics. It says that the state of entropy of the entire universe will always increase over time. Mohsen Kermanshahi says:

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that the entropy always increases in any isolated system […] This simply means that if a system is left to itself, its energy distribution will move towards equilibrium or in other words it will move towards maximum disorder.
   If we take the space-time as an isolated system, then Second law of thermodynamics tells us that the universe has had maximal order and therefore minimum entropy in the beginning and is going towards maximum entropy and minimum internal organization as we go on.
   At the surface, it seems that observation is pointing to the contrary. Reviewing the history of the universe, not only denies progress to maximal disorder, but it actually suggests that it is moving to obtain more complex and sophisticated structure as we go along. Universe progressed from creating sub-atomic particles to atoms of lightweight. Second and third generations of stars are creating heavier elements. From there simpler molecules are generated and they further developed themselves to more compound and complex organic molecules and their sophisticated functions.
   But, in reality, many of these phenomena are part of a bigger process. During the main process the amount of disorganization and heat release increases and surpasses the formation portion of the process. Therefore, we cannot consider the formation part as an isolated system. We have to look at the whole system where the disorder prevails.
   Briefly, it means that an isolated system can contain a subsystem that is open to energy flow from the main system […] As such, the whole combined isolated system still obeys the second law of thermodynamics, but it is possible that the subsystem can experience a decrease in entropy at the expense of its environment (the main system). (Kermanshahi, 2007, pp. 108-9)

This represents a conundrum to physicists, however. How could the pristine universe be in a state of maximum order? It is as if the energy itself was structured. An energy that transcends both space and time, and which enfolds all form, is remarkably coincident with the Neoplatonic conception of spirit. It is similar to the Heraclitean notion of the logos; equally universal energy and divine orderliness. The universe will continue to deteriorate until no more manifest forms remain. Fortunately, concurrently with the rise of universal entropy there emerges sublime order in the subsystems, such as galaxies, planets, and biological systems. This, too, coincides with Plotinian philosophy. Dominic J. O’Meara says:

We must distinguish then between the existence of degrees of perfection (relative to the One) and the existence of various forms of evil. Things on a lower level than the One, for example soul, can be perfect at their level (cf. 5. 6-8). The derivation of lower levels from the Good does not seem to necessitate the existence of evil (see also II. 9 [33]. 13. 28-34). And yet it does seem that evil is required by derivation in the sense that derivation must come to an end, beyond which the good does not continue to produce […] (I.8.7.16-23). (O’Meara, 1995, p. 83)

The thermodynamic model, which was once part and parcel of moral consciousness, has instead taken mathematical form in the theories of physicists. It is as if we, in the Western world, take order for granted, and thus it is no concern of the soul anymore. The concept has sunk into the realm of matter and mathematics. Yet it is a fact that a degree of order is necessary in a classroom at school. The introduction of disorder into an orderly system is, generally speaking, a form of metaphysical evil. In Augustinian theology humanity bears a heavy responsibility for this corruption. However, although we are responsible for our sinful deeds, the human soul is not to blame for the deterioration or order, as it isn’t really contingent upon human psychology. Jung is equally wrong in saying that good and evil are always reciprocal factors of psychology. A deepened symbolical understanding of the Fall of Man is required. After all, we know that the laws of thermodynamics were present already at the inception of the universe. Earthly human beings cannot be held responsible for the entropy law.

In fact, evil could be seen as an autonomous power in the form of a divine law of the universe. Entropy will always increase, as long as we don’t take measures to counteract it. The Neoplatonists said that, in order to retain perfection, it is necessary to reconnect with the spiritual Forms — a process called reversion (epistrophê). As long as the “subsystem” opens itself to the light of God, an increase of inner entropy can be avoided. It is clear that the thermodynamic law has also a moral meaning and not only a material meaning. The problem today is that we don’t take the entropic form of evil seriously. Once it was associated with the devil, who made us shudder. Today we shudder at the news story about an abused child, yet are incapable of connecting such phenomena with the ongoing deterioration of order. Instead we focus solely on diverse pathological expressions of the human psyche. Accordingly, the notion of disorder has been appropriated by psychiatry: bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, etc.

Evil cannot be eradicated

Obviously, if evil is like a wound, or even parasitic on good, then evil could be removed so that only good remains. This is what the theological statement implies. Augustine says:

[Even] if the corruption is not arrested, it still does not cease having some good of which it cannot be further deprived. If, however, the corruption comes to be total and entire, there is no good left either, because it is no longer an entity at all. Wherefore corruption cannot consume the good without also consuming the thing itself. Every actual entity natura is therefore good; a greater good if it cannot be corrupted, a lesser good if it can be. Yet only the foolish and unknowing can deny that it is still good even when corrupted […]
13. From this it follows that there is nothing to be called evil if there is nothing good. A good that wholly lacks an evil aspect is entirely good […] Nothing evil exists in itself, but only as an evil aspect of some actual entity. (St Augustine, Enchiridion, ch. 4. 12-13)

The notion that evil can be removed is highly detrimental. In this way evil is seen as unreal, as it has no metaphysical existence of its own. Regardless of its metaphysical relation to good, we today know that evil cannot be removed, no matter what we do. Should we make an enormous effort to heal all the “wounds” in existence, it would only create an enormous rise in entropy elsewhere. This entropy increase would be even greater than the order created. So says the second law of thermodynamics. Thus, even if the subsystem itself is whole and good, the evil exported is even greater than the good created. Accordingly, good always gives rise to evil. However, such evil can for the most part be swept under the carpet. One may, for instance, export the waste products to Africa. Or one may redefine evil and say that it is not really evil. Killing more and more animals and appropriating more and more forest land to feed more and more people isn’t really evil. But it is evil, nonetheless.

It seems that a form of privatio boni has become an integral part of the modern soul on account of our “monotheistic temperament”. Alternatively, it is a vestige of the past, inherent in our brain. After all, most politicians seem to endorse a view that evil is like a wound that could be healed. This is highly detrimental, because it is generative of evil as a secondary effect. (Chuang-tzu made this realization already in the 4th century BC.) If we embark on a crusade against evil, then it is certain to bring horrible aftereffects, amply evinced by George W. Bush’s “tenth crusade”.

It seems that most Western people today are thinking in terms of privatio boni. Evil is due to a “mistake”, a “misunderstanding”, a “glitch in the system”, or a “psychiatric disorder”. It can always be remedied. It seems that Jung was correct, then; he had correctly grasped the nature of evil as perceived by the general population. But perhaps he shouldn’t have blamed the Catholics. After all, also atheist humanists subscribe to this notion. Thus, Augustine’s theological statement can hardly be responsible for this deeply ingrained perception of evil. In terms of cognitive science, it has its roots in the instinctual foundation of conceptualization, i.e., the “metaphorical unconscious” (vid. Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). Autonomous cognition, with regard to conceptual metaphors, always operates beneath the level of cognitive awareness, inaccessible to consciousness. At this level we are still animists. According to the animistic “Folk Theory of Essence”, every particular phenomenon is a kind of thing. Every entity has an “essence” or “nature” which makes it what it is (ibid. p. 214). For instance, a peacock has peacock-essence. A more beautiful peacock is endowed with even more peacock-essence than a less beautiful one. The most perfect of all is the peacock spirit who is the originator of the species. He is pure Being.

Thus, it is due to essences that different kinds partake in Being and have existence. It gives rise to the notion of Grades of Being, which means that goodness has Being, whereas evil is a deprivation of its essence. This is how Homo sapiens always reasons subliminally, following the Folk metaphor of Essence of Being. Likewise, illness has less reality than health, because health is the very Essence of Being, whereas sickness is a privation of this very essence. Lakoff and Johnson say that we must realize that most of our thought is unconscious and that we are always thinking metaphorically. If we ignore this fact it will leave us vulnerable to the cognitive unconscious, and it will lead us into cognitive slavery (cf. Winther, 2014, here).

Christianity revoked this traditional thoughtway and declared that all are equal before God (and only before God). No one has more of the divine substance than anybody else, with one exception. It had an enormous impact. Of course, cognitive metaphor soon made an inroad in Christian theology, anyway. Some are more good than others and therefore partake more fully in the divine essence, equal to the Good. On account of people’s natural way of thought, moral goodness became conflated with the animistic thoughtway. Despite the Protestant principle of sola fide (salvation through faith alone) natural man continued to believe that good deeds lead to an increase in human essence. The notion permeates Western political culture in its relation to the Third World.

As a remedy, we must once and for all separate moral goodness from its complementary opposite, the metaphysical Good. Reinterpreted in thermodynamic terms, the latter makes very much sense. Uplifted into consciousness, as a standalone principle strengthened by refined concepts, it allows us to evade the highly damaging “cognitive slavery” of the present day.

The Self

The way in which the problem of good and evil is theoretically formulated affects our ideal of Self; the ideal nature and conduct of personality. Historically, the theological view of God has also affected our ideal of personality. We are shaped in His image and must strive to conform to the ideal. Jung had read Nicholas of Cusa, the Christian theologian and Neoplatonist. To Cusa, the opposites were enfolded in God, which means that they have cancelled each other out. This condition he denoted coincidentia oppositorum. Thus, Cusa denies that God contains a diversity of opposites (cf. Winther, 2015a, here). It coincides with Plotinus’s view of the One, which is simple.

Although Jung builds on the Neoplatonic view, he creates a psychological version of it. To this end God (or the Self) is pictured as a complexio oppositorum — an entirely different concept, which implies that God is not simple. Rather, the opposites are held in tension, as if keeping each other in check. In consequence, opposites are always ready to fly apart, and conscious personality must hold them on a tight leash. (He attributes this view to Cusa; but this is incorrect.) Thus, Jung’s Self could easily become ambivalent. Nevertheless, his ideal of Self is arguably “good”, albeit in a more obscure sense.

The Plotinian ideal of Self is spiritual, which means that it involves worldly denial and the striving after simpleness, i.e., to become like the One. Jung imitated this model and created instead a psychological ideal of Self which involves the integration of opposites, keeping them in suspended animation in consciousness. He rejected the trinitarian ideal of climbing the spiritual ladder to achieve union with God. We are not to become simple and unworldly but to become complex and worldly. I believe that Jung is closest to Iamblichus’s form of Neoplatonism in which the “horizontal striving” after wholeness becomes identified with the vertical striving (the Plotinian ideal). However, it is not certain that Iamblichus’s system holds up to scrutiny (cf. Winther, 2015b, here).

I have argued that we must endorse both models, both Jung’s and Plotinus’s, despite the fact that they are mutually irreconcilable. They are complementary opposites, and thus either one is relevant to a person during different periods in life. Adequately, the Self remains one in practice. The spiritual Self is a coincidentia oppositorum whereas the worldly counterpart is a complexio oppositorum. In accordance with the complementarian model of morality, I have proposed a complementarian model of Self (cf. Winther, 2011, here).

Monotheistic theology has no other choice than to regard evil as miscreation or as non-being, because God cannot be ambivalent. It would be like being married to a person who one day is good to you and the next day evil. Ambivalence is characteristic of psychopaths, narcissists and criminals. It won’t do as an ideal of personality. That’s why the Self cannot be ambivalent either. We know this, because people heavily dislike two-faced people. It is much easier to deal with people who have a constant personality. A routinely evil person probably does less damage than an ambivalent person.

However, it is questionable whether Jung really saw the Self as ambivalent. Rather, he viewed it as a complexio oppositorum, not unlike the Norse pantheon where Odin has “integrated” the forces of evil, which he has under firm control. This makes sense; but the notions of an ambivalent God and an ambivalent Self are both absurd. In that case the psychopathic personality would be an ideal image of God. Because the notion of one God having an ambivalent personality doesn’t work, and because Jung rebuked the notion of God as summum bonum, he in effect advocated a return to polytheism, or to Manichaean dualism, or to an impersonal God, like the Indian Brahman. Of course, if one proposes such a thing to a Catholic priest, then it leads to a break in relations.

It is obvious that there is a limit to the amount of opposites that can be integrated in personality. At some point consciousness cannot stand the tension anymore. We don’t have the energy and time for such a project, anyway. I cannot become equally much extraverted as introverted, or equally much feeling as thinking, or equally much instinctual as rational. I can only better myself to a degree, and take away the worst imbalances in my psychology. Only by adopting a more modest ideal can one avoid becoming ambivalent. At a point in time we cannot go further on the path of psychic integration. It is then that the spiritual Self becomes the goal, at the point of reversion (the Neoplatonic concept of epistrophê). The conclusion is that the Jungian Self needs to be downsized, because it is overbearing and exaggerated. There is no such thing as an overpowering, ambivalent and multifarious Self that incorporates all the opposites.

In his autobiography, Jung accounts for the dream about Akbar and Uriah (Jung, 1989, pp. 217-20, here). Jung associated the sultan Akbar with the “lord of this world”. Uriah represents the vertical striving, considering that he lives far above the mandala in a solitary (hermit’s) chamber; a place “which no longer corresponded to reality”. He is “the highest presence” and Jung is compelled to bow before him. But he could not bring his forehead quite down to the floor. It never clicked; the coin never dropped. In the dream he is portrayed as an “idiot” who cannot understand his father’s brilliant biblical lecture. His father, the minister, is a representative of the vertical path. From this analysis we get an entirely different picture than Jung’s conscious view.

Jung, in a dream, also encountered the notion that there is a limit to the integrative path. He concluded that the Liverpool dream depicted the climax of his current psychological progress (ibid. p. 198). The dream brought with it a sense of finality, since one could not go beyond the centre. This did not result in a reversion in the vertical sense, however. Instead, he continued on the horizontal plane and chose to revert the ideals of integration and withdrawal of projections. He began, tentatively, to entertain notions of “anti-integration” in order to achieve the re-enchantment of the world along lines of Neopaganism and Postmodernism.

The theodicy problem

The question is whether the modern concepts of complementarity and entropy have a bearing on the theodicy problem. David Hume formulates it thusly:

Epicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then evil? (Hume, 1779)

In the Augustinian account responsibility for evil rests on created beings who have misused their freedom. Natural evil is the inevitable consequence (punishment) for their moral evil. It appeals to the metaphysical view of evil as non-being and therefore belongs in many a Catholic and Protestant account. It is fraught with many problems and has little appeal in modern theology. In the Irenaean view God has deliberately put natural evil in the world to create the best environment for “soul-making”. Moral evil is the fault of human beings, who are by God permitted to sin. It appeals to many a modern liberal theologian. The rationale is that suffering is necessary if the world is to be a place where we can grow up morally (cf. Astley et al., 2003, pp. 60-61). Dostoevsky, through the towering figure of Ivan Karamazov, criticizes this view:

Listen: if all have to suffer so as to buy eternal harmony by their suffering, what have the children to do with it — tell me please? It is entirely incomprehensible why they, too, should have to suffer and why they should have to buy harmony by their sufferings. Why should they, too, be used as dung for someone else’s future harmony? (1968, p. 251)

On the other hand, if the moral universe is complementary, it means that a monistic model is insufficient. The principle of compassion is not always applicable, as evident from the example of mass immigration above. It will lead to increased entropy (disorder) in society, which in turn will lead to immense human suffering. But nor can the principle of orderliness always give a satisfactory answer to all moral problems.

According to Christian theology the Godhead has a complementary nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If God created the universe in his image, it means that complementarity is an essential condition that we must always take into consideration. We are forced to navigate between the opposites and avoid monist solutions. Do not inflexibly resist evil! God is indeed good, but when the transcendental Form of the world became manifest in reality its complementarian nature must needs give rise to the problem of evil. An omnipotent God could indeed have imposed either of the monist models to eradicate evil and, for example, make all people compassionate. But it would lead to untold evils in its aftermath.

In a complementarian world no monist solution will quite suffice. The model presented here allows for a God who is good, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Yet, He has no other choice than to navigate between the opposites. Creation means the generation of order at one end and the generation of disorder at the other. In the present universe one plus one is two. God could revoke this mathematical law, but it would lead to the demise of the universe as we know it. It would be nice if one plus one were three — then nobody would have to starve. So why does God not impose this law on the universe? Undoubtedly, it would lead to destructive consequences. As physicists have revealed, to get this universe to work requires a very delicate and fine-tuned adjustment of all its parameters.

But why did God have to create the universe in his own image? The answer would be that he had recourse to no other image, because he was this image, and creation took shape as an emanation from God. According to the Neoplatonic emanationist model, creation means deterioration, a declension of the original image. From a complementarian standpoint, this holds true, in a sense. There is no problem of evil in the transcendental state of the complementarian Form. But its implementation in reality brings with it problems that are not present in its unrealized state. Worldly creation is not possible without an escalation of evil and disorder. Good always leads to evil consequences, at least in the long-term perspective. To build a cathedral creates more disorder (in the way of waste-products, deforestation, injured workers, etc.) than it creates order in the form of a splendid cathedral. To subsidize the expansion of humanity through Third World aid is seen as the epitome of goodness. Yet it leads to severe environmental consequences, such as pollution, extinction of species, overfishing and deforestation. We are in the wake of an enormous tragedy. What could God do about it if He is supposed to be good?

Whereas God the Father is associated with orderliness (as evident from the Old Testament) God the Son is associated with compassion. The Holy Spirit mediates between the two and humanity. It is logical to associate the Paraclete with a principle of complementarity that may side with either orderliness or compassion. Since he is involved with creation he acquires something of its ambivalent complementarian nature. “[W]hoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29). A this-worldly spirit must needs take part in the nature of this world; its creative as well as destructive sides. The wind blows wherever it pleases. It is up to us to follow its guidance, rather than resorting to moral fundamentalism, if we are going to escape damnation.


© Mats Winther, 2015 (revised 2023).


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