Ying and Yang: Should We Destroy Evil? (Why He-Man Did Not Kill Skeletor)

Prince Adam and The Sorceresses discuss yin and yang. Copyright Mattel/Darkhorse

I came across this scene from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips last night and felt an urge to share and talk about it because it relates to the perceptual wars that humanity engage in.

Philosopher Alan Watts broke down yin-yang for me better than any text books, Wikipedia article, and message board forum I have read about it. Basically, the yin-yang symbol contains two fish which are always trying to capture one another for infinity. It is a game which is necessary for reality to function. For if the black consumes the white or the white devours the black, then the symbol would cease to exist (it would be all white or all black depending on the victor.) In other words, Reality would no longer be in motion.

Watts had much more to say about it at many deeper levels, but one aspect to note here is that opposites cannot exist without each other. What is life without death? Think of a world in which no one has died, yet still they aged- think of the suffering and overpopulation, as obvious consequences. Have you experienced love/hate relationships, or at least realized that to love someone also opens the door for attachment, mourning for loss, possession, and frustration? Or to put it even more simply: you cannot have the back of a door without the front.

To Kill or Not to Kill, That is the Question

So bringing it back to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: He-Man is the ultimate hero and Skeletor is the ultimate villain. In “Attack on Snake Mountain” by Chris Weber, Skeletor manipulates an Eternian duke to advocate a preemptive strike against Snake Mountain. The duke recruits a hero, Clamp Champ to take initiative and attack it. (Of course, this was all a plan to lure He-Man to Snake Mountain so Skeletor could defeat him.)

Later in the story, reminiscent of Filmation episode “The Search”, He-Man becomes tempted by the Heart of Eternia (a magical, godlike force). Taking it more to the extreme than the cartoon, in the comic strip He-Man is about to kill Skeletor when Clamp Champ and Teela talk him out of it. That theme was how power corrupts absolutely, and is related to the ying-yang good vs evil theme.

Now I know a jaded cynic may look down upon using a 1980s toy franchise to help spread the word about yin-yang, but as you could see clearly, all the deep messages are contained within the strip and the cartoon, regardless of the “kiddie” style. In fact, these messages are much more profound than most of other toy franchises. (Feel free to post your examples in the comments.)

The realist may say that children’s pop culture franchises can’t show killing due to government regulations, parents protesting, or loss of revenue (see Batman vs Joker). This is true, of course, but I tip my hat to the writers who actually address the elephant in the room. Yet it does not take away from the overall message of balance in the universe. Using fictional examples, when Squadron Supreme wanted to end all crime and poverty, when Hal Jordan wanted to remake the universe in a good image in Zero Hour, when Adam Warlock’s Goddess personae tried to purge sin from the universe in Infinity Crusade: bad things happen.

But, Can I Defend Myself?

This does not mean that good should not defend itself or prevent evil from getting out of hand. Yet in real life, President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” foreign policy was against yin-yang. If the wars (and reconstruction)in Afghanistan and Iraq actually went according to plan, Bush would have toppled Iran, North Korea, and any other country he deemed to be a terrorist state. But it would have been more trouble than what it is worth. How is Iraq doing nowadays? Could you truly purge every terrorist or wanna-be terrorist? No- the act of wars creates new enemies. I am not being defeatist. I abhor ISIS and 9/11 hurt me.

Buddha already tackled this question long ago and his answer was that there is a price to be paid for defense. That does not mean not to defend, but it means there will be consequences.

Look, regardless of whenever Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, or if the US government had funded Saddam for years and then betrayed him with a miscommunication, or if the U.S. sanctions killed millions of Iraqis: Saddam was a ruthless dictator. But two wrongs do not make a right, or if they do, there are still ramifications (like civilian deaths). If there is some other way besides war, nations should pursue that.

Look, life may seem to be unfair and unjust, and it may seems cruel not to liberate a country which is ruled under a despot, but we do not have the grand perception to see how things could play out. Something which seems to be “bad” may actually be “good”. This is not moral relativism; this is our ignorance of all the details of an event and what the future holds. If you have faith in a Higher Power, it helps to let go out the confusion of trying to “figure out” the world.

Where Do Morals Come From?

My final point: in the world of Eternia, there are gods, magic, super technology, super powers, telepathy, etc. but there is also force of good that He-Man channels through his Power Sword. That force is also contained in each and every one of us, and we could tap into to. Many, if not all world religions, mystic beliefs, and occult systems have similar concepts.

You see, something those Eastern Philosophy text books never made clear was that yin-yang is a Universal Law. Implication: Natural Law has a Governor. Both Alan Watts and philosopher Manly P. Hall were able to articulate better that when humans break the natural laws, things spin out of control. When the forces of evil get too strong or when the forces of good become too powerful, Reality itself begins to crumble. Both men believed in a hidden all-encompassing indescribable force behind everything.

It may be very hard for some of you to swallow, but a Creator is a necessary component for yin-yang. After all, what force is behind knowing if the balance is out of whack? What force sets the rules? You can call it a Creator, The Force, Spirit in the Sky, Conscious Universe, Reality, God, Jesus, Mother Nature, Cosmic Consciousness, It, or whatever name does not have the emotional baggage which closes your mind.

You could look at the ancient texts when humans first put down natural law -which was given by the divine- and see today what happens when humans do not follow it. You could look at history and see where we went wrong, and was because humans drifted from right and wrong.

So yeah, this is a lot to digest. It may be offensive to some who have embraced rationalism, materialism, atheism, science, nihilism, or moral relativism as having all of the answers. Others may believe that their political passion calls them protest and resist. It may be incomprehensible to others. Others may not get over me writing about He-Man. That’s fine. I just hope that parts of this message stimulates you to think about such matters, whether I am right or wrong.

I just want you to know that I do have an open mind and am up to learning new things, so if you’d like to present a different case, please comment!

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