The Experience of Evil:

Its Archetypal and Sensual Dimensions


A presentation by Dr David Russell
President – Sydney Jung Society

Thursday 1 March, 7:30 – 9:30 pm
Quaker Meeting House,10 Hampson St, Kelvin Grove (park on Prospect Tce)Members and concession $10; Non-members $15

My emphasis will be on the experience, in one’s body, of evil. My hypothesis is that evil anesthetizes the heart. It is as though we take it into our body and, as a consequence, our heart or part thereof, no longer reacts to what it faces.

Evil can be archetypal as when our soul longs for, desires, a divine encounter and meets only a closed-off heart. Evil, in both archetypal and bodily forms, is particularly present when the divine and the sexual are conflated (collapsed into one). While this inappropriate union might well be unconsciously motivated the results are devastating. The experience of evil is akin to a possession, psychic or diabolic. In almost a theatrical manner, the sacred and the profane are sordidly intermingled.

In preparing for this talk I delved into Jung’s Collected Works and found that Jung had an essentially pragmatic view of evil; he understood it to be whatever his patients described it as being. I’ve always found Jung’s existential attitude to be very grounding and I will follow in his footsteps when speaking of the experience of evil in both its archetypal and sensual dimensions. There is a soul aspect to evil and, in the Jungian tradition, we can usefully learn about this in the mythological story of Narcissus. In my day-to-day experience evil is met when I’m confronted, or seduced, by a belief in the certainty of being right. When this certainty is based on an assumed authority, an authority that is above the ordinary-ness and inherent complexity of human relationships, I leave myself open to evil. Authority deadens the heart.

I will briefly illustrate the experience of evil by speaking of two occasions when evil results from the collapsing into one of the archetypal and the sensual domains (the psychotherapeutic exploitation of a patient and the sexual abuse of an adult by a religious person).

About Dr David Russell

David completed both his undergraduate and postgraduate work in the School of psychology at the University of Sydney. After a period in private practice he took up an academic position at the University of Western Sydney and was responsible, as part of a small and enthusiastic group, firstly for the foundation of degrees in Social Ecology and then a master’s degree in Analytical Psychology  (a course-work program based on the works of Carl Jung and the post Jungians). He is currently President of the Sydney Jung Society. Until recently he held the position of Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at UWS. David is currently in private practice in Darlinghurst (Sydney CBD) where he offers psychodynamic psychotherapy.