Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Struggle Between Light and Dark, Good and Evil

The world's great religions all speak in some way of a struggle between light and dark, between good and evil. Perhaps this is one of the most pervasive similarities that can unite religions amidst a plethora of differences that can divide religions. I believe that this is due to the reflections of our ancestors on the nature of the process of attaining maturity coupled with their attempts at explaining the nature of reality.

First, as humans we go through many stages of life in our youth, teens, and early twenties before painfully realizing that we are not the center of the universe! This is, as Joseph Campbell points out in The Power of Myth, is the "death to self" and the rebirth and resurrection from which we must come back as self-responsible individuals. In explaining this transformation, religions warn us of evil spirits, demons, or devils. These, of course, we now know are not literal beings, but affects of psychology or biological malfunction. But, they symbolize the obstacles we face in attempts at "losing of oneself" and the "giving of oneself" to others and to things that are larger than one's own individual self persona.

Modern writers deal with these questions as well in their own ways that resonate with our own experiences and culture. I've written in my audio book about Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, and how the "dementers" are symbolic of the obstacles and barriers we face in life that we think we can never overcome. Even Eminem says that you have to "lose yourself".

What is ironic about the so-called loss of oneself, just as Jesus says, is that this process ultimately causes you to find your true and authentic identity. It is when you realize that you even though you are an individual being, you are continuous with and interdependent upon the people and the environment around you.

In Campbell's interview with Moyers during the first episode he speaks extensively about Star Wars, often showing Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Campbell says that Darth Vader and the Death Star are symbolic of "the machine" of modern life that take their tolls upon us. He says that modern times and business have tried to box us in and force us into a particular kind of rigid system. He says that Luke Skywalker refuses to give in to the Dark Side and in doing so he transforms and sublimates its lure and power. He does not know that Darth Vader is his father until later, but he knows that good is stronger than evil and he will not give in.

The Power of Myth Part 1 of 6: The Hero's Journey

By the time this summer is through it will have seen several blockbuster films bring fans into theatres all around the world. Spiderman 3 featured dialog that speaks to the struggle between good and evil quite often. Peter's aunt warns him against vengeance and strives to teach him that forgiveness is the only true power. Peter, as Venom, dabbles in his dark side before finally coming to his senses, and later tries to warn others. The film ends with the admonition that personal choice and personal responsibility at any given moment is what will determine one's fate.

The next one that will hit the theatres is The Transformers. Watch the trailiers and explore this film's own depiction of good versus evil portrayed immediately on its home page in the two options for entering the site, Protect, or Destroy, synonyms for Good, and Evil.


When I was a child, I watched The Transformers television program all the time and played with the toy figures. I even drew my own Transformers comic books.

This series is, of course, based upon the fight between the Autobots and the Decipticons. I don't know the author's intent behind these names, but it's pretty easy to surmise that the "Autobot" is the one who "automatically" performs good deeds out of his own nature, while the "Decepticon" deceives and connives by his own nature.


Twenty years ago there was an animated Transformers film! I went to see this with my grandfather and he fell asleep. I was intrigued, of course, and remembered the most memorable part of the film as the moment when Optimus Prime sacrifices himself to avoid harming Hot Rod, later to become Rodimus Prime.

Megatron and Optimus Prime fight until death:

So, what then should we do after struggling to overcome evil and triumph with good. I am reminded of one of the opening quotes from that same first episode of The Power of Myth:

Joseph Campbell was in Japan for a conference on religion when he heard another delegate from the states in a conversation with a Shinto priest.

"We have been to many of your ceremonies, and seen a good number of your shrines . . . but still I don't get your ideology, I don’t get your theology."
The priest paused as though in deep thought and then slowly shook his head. "I think we don't have ideology, I don't think we have theology . . . we dance."

Just Like Optimus Prime and Megatron Should Have Done Instead Killing Each Other!

"A cute girl stopped me on the way, so I danced." -- Hatake Kakashi

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