The problem of evil has been a subject of interest in religion and philosophy. For our purpose here we want to approach the question in a inductive and psychoanalytic way looking at historic persons: Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot: what is evil and what is the cause of it. If we consider them evil – and I do – what criteriums have those in common; was their evilness a process (of their power) or their power a result of their evilness? The article uses a clustering methodology, statistics and C.G. Jung’s Archetypes particularly the concept of the Shadow. Jung describes the shadow as those inferior aspects of the psyche that we (or culture we socialize into) dislike and suppress. The shadow sometimes contains unhealthy (evil) energies that the powers of civilization have apparently quelled but is not a synonym for or necessarily evil. For the most part, the shadow lies beyond the threshold of awareness, saying “…it is quite within the possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil.”
What is evil – can you measure it?
But first, how do we define evil? Webster defines it as morally reprehensible. Some say, there are two kinds of evil: (moral) of men and of impersonal (natural) or wicked powers (demons). Her we look only on moral evil (or sin), such as murder, rape, abuse, terrorism, or genocide. Something may be said to be evil when it takes human life, or if it causes humans to suffer in an inhumane way. Massive killings innocent and powerless is evil. Enslaving people against their will would be evil. One person killing another innocent person is evil. Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot did all of this.
Evil is merely an extension of the baseness of our nature. It is our shadow. Without us, evil does not exist. Evil is simply the absence of good (or god). Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold the absence of heat. Evil can only be defined in (our) relation to the good or (god). Good and Evil are the overarching opposites of all experience. They form a synergy, paired opposites. Each exists only in relationship to the other. Without their relationship, both would cease to exist.
For simplicity I will omit simple political left/right categories and value statements of means and rationalization – simply we assume the more were killed the more evil was and some qualifiers. If evil is measurable, than it has substance. It is a present force like gravity, magnetism, etc… these things were unknown to us before we understood them and could measure them. We’ve taken evil for granted. The time will come when even Non-Christians “discover” that it is as real as anything else in this “physical” world. Is implication can be indirectly seen like Dark Matter.
Correlate evil and power?
There is definitely an affinity of evil and power. If one follows C.G. Jung, power is even is a (reciprocal) function of love.
“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” —The Psychology of the Unconscious, 1943
The psychoanalytic C. G Jung analyzed Hitler and Stalin for the American Government during the second war. To him a complex – and the Shadow is a functional complex – has the capacity to gain autonomy and to escape the control of its creator to rise beyond it origins to reach an independent, and terrifying, reality. An evil complex or (Evil) may take then control both in people and in the universe. Jung’s concept is, however one of an absolute evil which cannot be eliminated even with great effort, but only be controlled by examination of our dark side.
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tse also presents the idea that evil is created by missing wholeness. If there is no concept of good, there would be no concept of evil. Good and evil dependently arise together. Like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle of quantum physics, that two complementary properties of a particle are not at the same time as exactly measurable, it is only the creation of dualistic concepts that allows for the perception of evil. In the whole, or the Tao, there would be no evil, for only that which is natural and appropriate would occur.
“The higher the sun rises, the less shadow it casts” —Lao Tse
Religious believers wrestling with the emotional problem of evil may ask God in desperation, “Why?”. It is my view, that evil originates as a symptomatic expression of disharmony and it should not be attributed to either God or humans exclusively. Just as it is erroneous to blame a patient for becoming ill, it is wrong to blame either God or humanity for the origins of evil, which rises instead from the condition of the cosmos as a whole and as a result of the free will given to us. Both human and divine can cooperate in the evolution of the world and in the effort to create harmony. Harmony of this nature is found in the conjunction between God and humanity. That eases the logical tension in the following three statements: (1) God is all-powerful and all-good, (2) Men are neither, and (3) evil exists.
It occurred to me reading their memoirs, that three definite non-Nazis and intelligible, creative persons who worked closely with Hitler, could all not bring the Hitler of the thirties and of the forties together. His architect, Speer but also the brilliant director Leni Riefenstahl and the economic genius Hjalmar Schacht all asked, “Why?”.
Can even Hitler go to heaven?
A Benedictine monk, did say recently to me “even Hitler could go to heaven if he had confessed”. Highly political incorrect, but within the “concepts” of Catholicism (and C.G. Jung). Confess (or realize) your sins and you will connect to God (to your Self).
According to Taoism even in the best possible world evil is necessary for its completion – two sides of a coin – there is no good without evil. C.G. Jung’s concept of integration calls for the integration of the Shadow into consciousness. Evil is real. Even if you consider it not as personal, it is not merely an illusion.
Christians often question whether God is both all-powerful and all good. Evil is a result of people’s’ free will, so God is not accountable for evil. But even though Non-Christians want to think that they are autonomously in charge of everything, as Freud and C.G. Jung discovered their will is free only in the sense that they are only free to act in the conscious realm. According to C.G. Jung Humans are not absolutely free before the work out their shadow and complexes and reach their Self. This models adds to the Christians view problem of evil. Psychology and Religion do convincingly claim, evil is part of everybody.
Religious dimension of evil
Hitler’s, Stalin’s, Mao’s and Pol Pot’s approach had all in common that they all wanted to form new people. Their leadership cult and the state basically asked for religious obedience. If one looks closely we find, that the concepts of totalitarian religions and systems are similar. In their focus is hate, essentially hate religions against clearly defined external groups or simply against everybody, which in the last essence is self-hate.
During an interview with H. R. Knickerbocker, first published in Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan (January 1939), in which Jung was asked to diagnose Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin, later published in Is Tomorrow Hitler’s? (1941), by H. R. Knickerbocker, C.G. Jung remarked: “There is no question but that Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man. As somebody commented about him at the last Nürnberg party congress, since the time of Mohammed nothing like it has been seen in this world. His body does not suggest strength. The outstanding characteristic of his physiognomy is its dreamy look. I was especially struck by that when I saw pictures taken of him in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer. This markedly mystic characteristic of Hitler’s is what makes him do things which seem to us illogical, inexplicable, and unreasonable. … So you see, Hitler is a medicine man, a spiritual vessel, a demi-deity or, even better, a myth.”
In reference to the Nazi fervor that had gripped Germany like a religion C.G. Jung said 1938:
“Hitler’s ‘religion’ is the nearest to Mohammedanism, realistic, earthy, promising the maximum rewards in this life, but with a Moslem-like Valhallah into which worthy Germans may enter and continue to enjoy themselves. Like Mohammedanism, it teaches the virtue of the sword. Hitler’s first idea is to make his people powerful because the spirit of the Aryan German deserves to be supported by might, by muscle and by steel.
Perhaps my reasoning can be seen as biased, but I very much feel what Jung was saying does also relate to the 21st century issue of terrorism and religious extremism. The noted Jungian Psychologist J. Marvin Spiegelman’s stated in an article entitled “C. G. Jung’s Answer To Job:A Half Century Later”: “Jung had mentioned, in passing,that he felt the spirit of Islam in the military passion of the Nazis, without casting any aspersion on the religion of Islam itself. Rather, he sensed that passion, armed with divine mission, something missing from the West for some time, was a primitive invasion of soulless Europe.” One might say, it is quite possible to apply this statement of C.G. Jung (in German it sounds even more prophetic) to the postmodern German romanticism of today’s Left.
Hitlers rise was indeed in line with German idealistic anti-intellectualism of the “Romantic Area” and quite contrary to the materialistic approach of the Communists. C G. Jung foresaw the events “a “powerful eruption” of the collective unconscious, the “awakening of Wotan from thousand years sleep”, and the uprising of the Germanic soul in Nazi Germany against the “rationalism”. C.G. Jung called Hitler in the interview with US-Journalist H. R. Knickerbocker, also “a spokesman of the German soul, whose power was founded not politically, but magically, and… anti-intellectual”. He qualified also Stalin and Mussolini – equally unflattering. While Hitler’s economic success enabled him to better the life of the German’s after he took power, Stalin’s, Mao’s and Pol Pot’s vision (illusion) failed to provide even the most basic items and food. They brought chaos and hunger and needed to create zones of death and violence for all citizens. Certainly it helped Hitler, that he did not come to power due to a bloody civil war, but essentially was voted for and enabled by the elite , which he employed – used – later for his purposes. They thought they would control him. Within a year he controlled them, got rid of his political enemies and even the left wing of his own party. His welfare policies were essentially state subsidies for the lower middle class and (sometimes perfide) support for families. Like the Mao and Stalin regime, he indoctrinated the young and women.
Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot simply had to reign with mass killings and famine – they had no other means. Anyone (former comrades, peasants, workers, common soldiers) could be anytime the enemy. Their regime created permanently enemies because of the huge gap between promises and reality and did not integrate the cultural history of their people but aimed to stamp it out. George Orwell’s iconic 1984 stand as perfect examples of this societal structures Jung warns against. Granted, all dystopian literature set in a totalitarian future could fall into this category, but two of his books are probably the two best examples of the genre. Animal Farm, and Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-four show totalitarian systems and are highly relevant today.
Modeled after the Stalinism, the basic pattern was repeated by Mao’s Big Leap and the Cultural Revolution, by Pol-Pot. It’s about state totalitarianism, and if you look too much to right or to the left you become a road-kill again.
Hitler based his power chiefly upon the lower middle class, workers (if not communists) and farmers (if not catholic). The Germans are highly impressionable and indeed go extremes; are always a bit unbalanced. They desire to cosmopolitan, world citizens; easily lose their national (or cultural) identity. They like to be always to outdo others – the longer Hitler is dead, the larger the Hitler resistance movement grows today. Simply a psychologic projection of teir own shadow. But Hitler became also an international trademark (manifested symbol of the archetype) of Evil, which transcendents cultural borders even more than Mao and even more than Stalin. Everybody shudders and project all (of their) evil on him (and all the choose to connect with him) to feel all good. Why is that so? From a Jungian view, the alleged evils that Hitler saw in his enemies, were none other than his own shadow impulses. A shadow is a functional complex and is energy which can be utilized. Hitler mediated the power of the shadow with a charisma that charmed and swayed a great number of people in an outside Germany. C.G. Jung classifies Hitler as an archetype of a seer or shaman. By integrating our dark impulses, we gain some degree of mastery over them. In the beginning Hitler seem to be dimly aware of his shadow and his intuitive power. With the support of highly capable non-Nazis he definitely improved not only economic and political conditions of Germans. Germany was able to break the chains of her reparation payments and came out of the Great depression induced by the US banking and stock crash. Hitler was admired and politically supported by almost all foreign politicians and his party in the begin even funded by international investors. Himself of inferior taste in art, only a few great artists particularly in the movie industry worked for Hitler visualizing the mystic they felt around him.
Process of Evilness: But when the war began, and after initial successes brought defeats, his the shadow gripped Hitler’s personality. His righteousness and own truth become reality. The war in Russia was a turning point. The Germans entered a zone of in which terror and war had reigned from 1914 with terror from 1919. The Barbarossa campaign became a war with rules Stalin was comfortable with, a war of extinction. Evil fueled (or consumed) itself.
Numbers: From 1942, carbon monoxide was used at the polish death factories and Holocaust spread to the rest of occupied Europe, other Jews were gassed by hydrogen cyanide at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Overall, according to the historians the Germans, with much local assistance, deliberately murdered about 5.4 million Jews an all in all. Such plans, though unfulfilled, provided the rationale for the bloodiest occupation in the history of the world. The Germans placed Soviet prisoners of war in starvation camps, where 3.1 million perished from hunger or were shot. A million Soviet citizens also starved during the siege of Leningrad. In “reprisals” for partisan actions, the Germans killed about 700,000 civilians in grotesque mass executions. There are claims Germans killed about 11 million non-combatant during war. All in all, the figure of 11 million non-combatants rises to more than 12 million if including foreseeable deaths from deportation and hunger.
Intentions: In Hitlers mind he was the grand chief of a supposed master race and everything “other” was to be eradicated including the Germans who failed to prevail. Hitler came to power with the intention of eliminating the Jews from Europe; the war in the east changed this intention to mass killing. Hitler killed civilians almost exclusively in connection with the practice of racial imperialism and when he invaded the Soviet Union with elaborate colonization plans. It has been said by many historians Germany bears the chief responsibility for starting first and second word war. That, besides we are living now in the area of pre-emptive wars, that should be qualified further, if not even urther investigated.
Methods: Under cover of the war the Nazi regime also killed the handicapped and others deemed unfit in a large-scale “euthanasia” program that brought asphyxiation by carbon monoxide to the fore as a killing technique a predecessor of killing by gas. Germans took so many Soviet prisoners of war in part because Stalin ordered his generals not to retreat. The Germans shot so many civilians in part because Soviet partisans deliberately provoked reprisals. As has been said, a lot of death in the occupied zones were also connected with Stalin’s policy to force his citizens to stay in combat or to-be combat zones. Furthermore, the Germans shot more than a hundred thousand civilians in Warsaw in 1944 after the Soviets urged the locals to rise up and then declined to help them.
Even after reading a few books Stalin is still emotional remote to me. I was only once in Russia on business and my connection to it is merely through my father who fought them. Emotional impressed I was of the story of “Hotel Lux” and of Trotsky murder in Mexico City. I once even visited Trotsky’s house there, which is a little private museum run by his grand son.
In “Diagnosing the Dictators Hitler, Stalin, Mussalini, 1938” C.G. Jung saw Mussolini and Stalin, as chiefs or strong men in their own right. To him Stalin as destructive force: Lenin, created; Stalin is devouring the brood. He is a conquistador; he simply took what Lenin made and put his teeth into it and devoured it. He is not even creatively destructive. Lenin was that. He tore down the whole structure of feudal and bourgeois society in Russia and replaced – it with is own creation. Stalin is destroying that. Mentally, Stalin is not so interesting as Mussolini, who resembles him in the fundamental pattern of his personality, and he is not anything like so interesting as the medicine man, the myth—Hitler. Anybody who takes command of one hundred and seventy million people as Stalin has done, is bound to be interesting, whether you like him or not. No, Stalin is just a brute—a shrewd peasant, an instinctive powerful, beast—no doubt in that way far the most powerful of all the dictators.
Numbers: For the Soviets during the Stalin period, the analogous figures are approximately six million killed non-combatants rising to almost twelve million including starvation. This total figure of civilians deliberately killed under Stalinism of six million one must add indirect deaths of Stalin’s own people during the war. Million of Russian civilians would routinely left to starve in battle areas the Germans would invade after destroying any infrastructure and housing (scorched earth policy) even city battle areas like Stalingrad.
The Russian soldiers were not better off. Political commissars and NKDW in their back would shot them if they retreated. About two million ended up prison battalions, often used for human wave front assaults where their survival rate was a few days. After the war Russian POWs were screened and often sent to Gulags or shot.In pure numbers Stalin’s regime killed far, far more people than Hitler and less than Mao. Discussion of numbers, however, can blunt our sense of the horrific personal character of each killing and the irreducible tragedy of each death.
Judging in detail and from the Soviet records, the number of people who died in the Gulag the total figure for the entire Stalinist period is likely between two million and three million. In 1937, as his vision of modernization faltered, Stalin ordered the Great Terror in 1930s. At the war’s end the Soviets killed tens of thousands of people in their own “reprisals,” especially in the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. Some 363,000 German soldiers died in Soviet captivity. The Great Terror and other shooting actions killed another million people.
The largest human catastrophe of Stalinism was the famine of 1930–1933, in which more than five million people died. Of those who starved, the 3.3 million or so inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine who died in 1932 and 1933 were victims of a deliberate killing policy related to nationality. In early 1930, Stalin had announced his intention to “liquidate” prosperous peasants (“kulaks”) as a class so that the state could control agriculture and use capital extracted from the countryside to build industry. Tens of thousands of people were shot by Soviet state police and hundreds of thousands deported. Those who remained lost their land and often went hungry as the state requisitioned food for export just like Mao did 1958. The first victims of starvation were the nomads of Soviet Kazakhstan, where about 1.3 million people died. Stalin requisitioned grain in Soviet Ukraine which ensured mass death.
Intentions: Beyond the numbers killed remains the question of intent. Stalin killed civilians almost exclusively in connection with the practice of eliminating large numbers of its own citizens particularly the elite and peasants. Mass murder in the Soviet Union also involved national and ethnic motivations, disconcertingly close to the Nazi ones. Indeed it was Stalin, not Hitler, who initiated the first ethnic killing campaigns in interwar Europe. Until World War II, Stalin’s regime was by far the more murderous of the two. Nazi Germany began to kill on the Soviet scale only after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in the summer of 1939 and the joint German-Soviet invasion killing 200,000 Polish civilians, each regime responsible for about half of 200 000 deaths.
Methods: Most of the Soviet killing took place in times of peace, some related more or less distantly to an ideologically flawed vision of modernization but mostly class warfare, one might say warfare against its own citizens and any human standard and nature.
Mao is more present in my generation than Stalin. Furthermore I worked in China and Asia on many occasions, this causing a desire to understand culture and history of China. I observed, that Mao is an icon, which still deeply influences Chinese emotions. When I worked in Beijing during the late nineties I got invited by a local resident consultant (an expat) to a dinner party at a very chic ethnic event restaurant. Expats and local people from all over China would dance after work together. The open spirit, however, became immediately sober when a Mao Zedong-double entered the stage.
The faces of the Chinese colleagues, of all Chinese, froze and some timidly touched the fabric of the actors costume, 20 years after Mao Zedong’s death, as if to make sure that “he” will not come back. Recently, more than ten years later, I read the book of Frank Dikötter Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe .
Numbers: Somewhere near the Stalinist ledger must belong the forty million or more Chinese starved during the Great Leap Forward, as Mao followed Stalin’s model of collectivization and industrialization. In pure numbers Mao’s regime killed far, far more people up to 78 million.
Intentions: Mao’s popularity grew into an unbreakable faith in him around the time of Cultural Revolution. The people’s image of him became less like a great leader, but almost like a god. He was always right to the people and they gave in their complete trust. Through posters, school, media and personality, Mao was successful in creating the cult. His little red book became more a bible like than a piece of political philosophy writing. Even I own one. The failure of the Great Leap Forward was caused by unmanageable goals ignoring local problems and situations but foremost basic economy even logic. Shoddy quality wasted rare resources. Of course it is hard for government to control centrally a big country. Like in Russia feedbacks to correct policies did not exist, because the terror and pressure inside the regime was to high and delegated top down. The cult of personality with Mao set free an evil autonomous complex in the masses. With total belief in Mao, especially the young Red Guards, like Pol Pot’s followers later, did not doubt their actions during the Cultural Revolution. The violent and cruel class struggles against intellectuals labeled rightist became a Shadow of revolutionary spirits.
Methods: Most of the Chinese killings took place in times of peace, and was also related more or less distantly to an ideologically flawed vision of modernization and class warfare. During the Cultural Revolution organized starving as a mean of getting rid of segments of Chinese intensified. It was highly centralized mismanagement that can lead a country to disaster. All checks like tradition, family and religion were swept away leaving everybody, particularly the weak, exposed without restraint to cruelty, pure arrogance, boundless ignorance and a merciless disregard of farmers, workers and even party members. Between the years 1959 and 1961, 30 to 45 million people were starved, killed or worked to death as a result of Mao Zedong’s failed attempt at industrialization in this period of the great leap. Research of using newly opened local archives makes his estimate all too credible that the death toll of this famine alone reached 45 million people. The Chinese cultural revolution caused the death of another 30 million people (according to the current Chinese government).
The assumed special quality of Nazi racism and evilness is diluted by the historical observation that Stalin’s motivations were often similar national or ethnic. The starving caused by failed industrialization policies or flawed visions can never be seen as a price to pay to enlightenment or to create a new man. Stalin evilness was intentional violence as its own purpose. Mao was equally untouched by the death of double-digit millions of Chinese. Both fought a war against the nature, reason and their own people. The Nazis planned to eliminate the Jews in any case, but their evilness was fueled by the war against Stalin. Hitlers, Mao’s, Pol Pots, Stalin’s illusion of new societies, new men and totalitarian state religion crashed. A talk in NYC from Dikötter, which gives insights who the Hong-Kong history scholar is and what general conclusions he derived you find here. When human beings are deprived of any means to own their living they reduced to numbers and seen as livestock – result versus costs: anyone who is old, weak, sick, unwilling or just inconvenient would be starved to death or killed. It is Dante’s hell – the opposite from imago dei.
Were these dictators Archetypes of men’s inherent evil or absence of God? Both. Do numbers explain evil? No, not alone. Never forget: “History is the story of the Past, told at present for present purpose”.
- Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79) 1,700,000
- Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,000 (around 40 million during the great leap) – Numbers disputed
- Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1933-1945) 12,000,000 (5.8 million jews killed in concentration camps, plus non-combatants killed during WWII plus 2.6 million Russian POWs to die from hunger)
- Jozef Stalin (USSR, 1932-53) 20-11,000,000 (the gulags plus the purges of the Great Terror plus Ukraine’s 5 millions famine) – Numbers disputed
- (Japan, 1941-44) 5,000,000 (civilians in WWII)
(Germany, 1933-1945) Civilians killed by Allied Aerial Bombardment 635 000 and Expulsion/Deportation Civilian Dead/Missing 1,260,000
- (Turkey, 1915-20) 1,200,000 Armenians (1915) + 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks (1916-22) + 500,000 Assyrians (1915-20) – Numbers disputed
- (Belgium Congo, 1886-1908) 8,000,000