As World War I was drawing to a close in 1919, a German army corporal named Adolf Hitler was temporarily blinded in a gas attack and was sent to a military hospital, where he first had a vision of himself as Germany’s savior. In this vision he was told his sight must be restored so that he could lead Germany to glory. Hitler considered it highly significant that his mission of salvation came at the age of 30, when Christ’s ministry started. He believed his destiny was to complete the work Jesus began when he drove the moneychangers from the temple. As Europe was once again engulfed in war, Hitler increasingly saw his mission in apocalyptic terms. “Often it seems to me as if we are all being tested by the Devil and Satan,” he said, “and we must pass through Hell together until we finally obtain ultimate victory.” There was no doubt who was behind Germany's tribulations. He said, “The Jew is the personification of the Devil and of all evil.” To rid Germany of this evil, he reasoned, it would be necessary to kill them all.
How is it that a man who is now himself regarded as the personification of evil could be identified so strongly in his own mind with its opposite? Psychologically, Hitler was incapable of acknowledging any weakness or shortcoming in himself. The preening bully who strutted across the world stage was largely a pose. Cowering in front of his own reflection in the mirror before a public appearance, he would fret to his valet, “Do I look like the Führer? Do I really look like the Führer?” As much as he tried to externalize his self-hatred by demonizing the Jews, he could never escape his unconscious identification with those he vilified. “The Jew,” he said in an unguarded moment, “is always within us.”
Evil is incapable of recognizing its own reflection. To be possessed by evil is to see it everywhere except within oneself. This was the context in which Jesus made one of his more cryptic statements: “Resist not evil.” He did not mean to suggest we should surrender to evil; he merely warned against giving it more power over us by wasting our strength against shadows. He understood that the very thing we struggle against is only energized by our opposition to it. Hitler's mistake was in thinking he could ward off evil by identifying himself with Christ. Carl Jung wrote, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." In shining a blazing light upon himself, Hitler only cast a deeper shadow. And so it was that a blind man's vision of light plunged the whole world into darkness.