Forces of light and forces of darkness

By Matsyavatara Dasa - 21.4 2016

Forces of light and forces of darkness in the Bible and the Vedas

In the great myths of Bhakti-vedantic and biblical tradition, as in many other millenary civilizations, even before the creation of the human being, the divine mind manifests special beings who immediately play different roles in the good and in the evil.

The biblical tradition tells about angels and demons existing before the world, before the creation of man. These two sets of archetypes (the archetype of light represented by the angels headed by Michael, and the archetype of darkness represented by the demons headed by Lucifer) come in direct conflict and immediately engage in a cosmic war between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The Bible explains that Lucifer (literally his name means “the bearer of light”) was originally created by God as the most glorious of angels: he was a protecting cherub and God awarded him with goods and beauty. But Lucifer proudly aspired to become similar to God, and the pride and corruption of his heart led him to his fall as Satan, a Hebrew term meaning “the opponent”.
Once humans are created, the furious battles between the titanic forces which represent the good and the titanic forces which represent the evil, is already running. As the myth reports, these two different energetic fields have their cosmic value and have always been present in the human psyche. Let’s translate in modern psychological terms the ancient language of myth and its symbols: angels are the luminous archetypes of the good and demons the dark archetypes of the evil, but both represent functions of the personality.

Also the great Vedic myth portray the fight between good and evil as occurring between two categories of beings which manifest in the cosmic mind: the devas, celestial beings led by Indra, and the asuras, dimmed beings headed by Vrtra. Very similarly to the biblical myth, also these two different categories of beings represent the archetypes of the good and the archetypes of the evil respectively in ethic-moral terms or, in psychological language, the evolved or unevolved functions of the personality.

The great myths we made reference to, describing the origin of the cosmos and of life with images and metaphors, explain that man was created on some sort of battlefield, where good and evil are raging. Man is called to choose between good and evil from the very beginning.

Man seems to be in an extremely difficult condition: he has limited power to face and fight against forces which appear unlimited. In fairy tales this concept is portrayed with the image of the child against the ogre: a depiction of the powers which tower above man, like a twig in a hurricane.

In Bhagavad-gita, Krishna explains to his friend disciple Arjuna the nature and the characteristics of the mind, governed by universal psychic laws, and exhorts him to learn to manage and dominate his mental contents. After listening to Krishna’s words, Arjuna looks confused, bewildered, and declares himself unable to control the mind: “The mind is flickering, turbulent, obstinate and very strong; I think that subduing the mind is more difficult than controlling the wind” (VI.34).

What does it mean, subduing the mind? It means discovering and learning to manage one’s unconscious dimension. In the West, Sigmund Freud was the first to elaborately theorize on the complex concept of the unconscious, in the 19th century, whereas in the East this psychic dimension had been known for millennia to sages and scientists of the Vedic, Upanishadic and Pauranic cultural world. In their description, the unconscious comprises thought objects and psychic charges, in Sanskrit termed samskaras, which remain unknown and inaccessible to other ones of the same nature, at times forming complexes or causing other personality disorders. We are all influenced and badly conditioned by our conscious, that unexpected and unwanted guest who acts as the master in our own house.

From the unconscious rise impulses, energetic drives that the individual didn’t even know he had, and which often clash with the plans, desires and perspectives of the conscious self. The subject finds himself torn from within by this intra-psychic conflict, not produced by external agents but by sordid forces, which rage under the level of consciousness. Sometimes, the emergence of unconscious contents in the shape of impulses can have an overwhelming effect over one’s willpower and the lifestyle that the conscious self had deliberately chosen.

Albeit by a different language, the masters of Indovedic tradition agree with great Western psychologists in explaining that man has to deal with formidable forces which roam about its psyche, and he has to fight them in a long series of battles, not seldom throughout his whole life. A life of struggle, but not against an external enemy: the enemy is within.

As Krishna well explains in Bhagavad-gita (VI.6), he who fails in educating his psyche has lost the battle and the mind becomes his most terrible enemy, a ruthless tyrant, the great condemning inquisitor, the jailor who inflicts pain until one is bleeding. But to he who has succeeded in dominating the psyche, it becomes his best friend, an instrument for liberation, through which one can experience bliss in this world. Between subduing the mind and being subdued by the mind, there lies the same difference separating heaven from hell, in psychological terms well-being from malaise, happiness from pain. There is no need to wonder now whether hell exists as a physical place; for sure, there exists a hellish state of mind, by which the person seems to have lost all hopes and is slave to a depressive state, chronic bad moods, caused by a lack of vision and planning. In these conditions, the subject can’t see and does not even seek out solutions, he just attributes all evils to external causes, without having the dignity or the strength to understand his mistakes and stand responsible for them. The dark archetypes dominate his personality, chain it and oblige it to rotate around the orbit of the ego, as in a sort of obsession without exit.

In the biblical myth, the prince of the angels, the most beautiful and luminous angel, decides to betray God. This is the beginning of the combat between the luminous and the dark archetypes, between good and evil, because one group of angels decides to support Lucifer while another choose to continue the maintenance of order, the source of their strength, joy and beauty. In the myth, the archetype of faithfulness wins over the archetype of betrayal: in the Vedas Indra defeats Vrtra, and in the Bible Michael defeats Lucifer.

In the Vedic and Pauranic cosmogonical perspective, the dimmed beings, asuras, are always depicted engaged in planning to conquest and dominate the universe, just like in Christian theology Lucifer or Mephistopheles keeps on hatching plots and setting traps to assert his power. In both traditions, the archetypes of the good bring order and justice, represent enlightening forces which give high inspiration and allow to see beyond mere sensory perception, overcoming the ego conditionings. Alone, man cannot succeed in this endeavor, he cannot compete against the appalling evil forces, against the powerful dark archetypes, yet he possesses the strength to transcend the conditionings implied in his “humanity”, by connecting to a higher source of love, life and knowledge, which is his very origin. All great spiritual traditions describe man in the image and likeness of God, not for his external appearance, but in his essential divine nature, which is an emanation and a part of God Himself.

Bhagavad-gita (XV.7) explains that originally living beings are eternal manifestation of God, infinitesimal expansions of his infinite potency. In the incarnate condition, they nonetheless live as if encapsulated and trapped inside a psychophysical structure which limits and heavily conditions them, once the living beings (jivas) identify with it. Due to this identification, the subject progressively loses awareness of his divine essence and entailed powers. This awareness can be recovered, reawakened, so that in man the forces of the good can once again predominate on the forces of evil, and the higher functions of the personality can defeat and disrupt the negative ones, regaining and properly redirecting their energetic charges.

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