The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi could potentially be a landmark event in world history that changes everything. Countries and corporations all over the world, including (or particularly) the United States, are literally killing countless innocent people in a wide variety of ways (from bombs to starvation) every day, and yet many of us have become numb and in our learned helplessness accept this as normal, just the way things are. It’s odd that this one death has had such an effect on the world when a bus full of Yemeni children slaughtered by the Saudis with their US missiles seemed to go comparatively unnoticed. The fact that the torture, dismemberment and killing of one man has sparked outrage all over the world is an expression that Khashoggi’s murder—what The Washington Post calls “an act of pure evil”—has crossed the Rubicon and ignited the conscience of humanity, a potentially historic moment.
Why Khashoggi’s bestial murder is having such a catalytic effect is because it is a living symbol, pregnant with deeper meaning, speaking to something within each and every one of us. Symbols—the language of our dreams and our very psyche—are psychic energy transformers, which is to say that when their deeper message is received, something within the human psyche is awakened. Seen symbolically, Khashoggi’s killing is a looking glass reflecting back to us a deeper, darker process existing within the very soul of humanity itself. A systemic evil that pervades the global body politic has, in Khashoggi’s murder, had an acute outbreak that is visible for all to see – similar to how any fragment of a hologram contains enfolded within it the whole hologram.
Khashoggi’s murder is an act of pure terrorism if there ever was one. Terrorism is not just about the specific act itself, but chillingly, is always meant to send a deeper message. In murdering Khashoggi—who was in essence holding up a mirror to reflect the shadow by speaking truth to power—the Saudis are giving a warning regarding the fate that awaits others who dare express themselves – it is hard to imagine a clearer symbol of evil.
In literally killing the messenger, however, the Saudis are unwittingly revealing a deeper unconscious process that is not only informing and giving shape to the world’s body politic, but are acting out a process in living—and dying—flesh and blood that each and every one of us have to come to terms with in our own lives. The evil that the Saudis executed is on the one hand reflecting a process that plays itself out inside of our own heads—whereby we internalize the authoritarian abuser, enlivening what Jung refers to as “the God of Terror who dwells in the human soul”—a process which invariably results in pre-emptively silencing our own voice.
On the other hand, the evil that the Saudis enacted is reflected in our relationship with the outside world – do we dare speak our voice in the world if we risk being killed? When an event happens that reflects both inner and outer processes at the same time, this is a sign that we are touching beyond the merely personal dimension of our experience, but are accessing the deeper archetypal/transpersonal/universal level, which is why Khashoggi’s murder is touching so many of us so deeply. The process of annihilating dissenting voices is not solely a process unique to the Saudi government, however, but is a deeper archetypal process that is at the bottom of what keeps the darker forces in power in the first place.
In our response to this act of terrorism, we are left with a choice: do we go belly-up, remaining silent, thereby colluding not only with evil—killing our soul even further—but becoming complicit in our own emasculation? Or will this indisputably evil event propel us out of our comfort zone and empower us to have the courage to speak our voice and stand for the good?
In Goethe’s masterpiece Faust, Faust asks Mephistopheles (who represents the devil) who he is, and Mephistopheles replies that he is the “part of that force which would do evil, yet forever works the good.” We should be clear - the Saudi government’s killing of Khashoggi is an act of outright evil through and through, and yet, depending on our reaction (both as individuals and as a nation) to this horrific event, it could potentially serve the good. In killing Khashoggi in cold blood and then covering it up, the Saudis might have unwittingly emboldened his cause. Standing for freedom of expression, Khashoggi, to quote The Washington Post, has become “an international symbol for the cause of free expression.”
Will Khashoggi’s murder be just another in a long line of seemingly unstoppable and ever-increasing acts of evil, or will it be a wake-up call that connects us with our inner voice, catalyzing a collective awakening in humanity? As always, the choice is ours.