An evening with ‘Jekyll and Hyde’

Rev David Clarke.
Rev David Clarke.

I spent an intriguing couple of hours last week becoming reacquainted with ‘The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’.

Even those who have not read Robert Louis Stevenson’s short novel will be familiar, from the screen or from popular parlance, with the idea of an individual, or a group of individuals ---a football team perhaps---being excellent one day and appalling the next.

Dr. Henry Jekyll was of an inquisitive mind, endlessly experimenting with chemical properties, often to the exasperation of his more traditional colleagues.

He was aware of the lure of evil in his own heart, and eventually found a concoction which gave full play to his vile intentions, turning him in fact into a different person, to whom he gave the name of Mr. Edward Hyde.

With the aid of another potion he was able to transform himself back into the respectable citizen that was Dr. Henry Jeykll.

Unfortunately, the freedom with which he thus indulged his lower nature enabled that aspect of his being gradually to triumph over his better self, and he found himself in a position where suicide was the only option.

Stevenson’s novel is a parable of the depths within each one of us. Abraham Lincoln once spoke about ‘the better angels of our nature,’ which itself implies that there are other demons there.

His words were consistent with the Bible’s view of human nature.

We are made ‘in the image of God’ with the capacity to know and love the good.

But we are also fallen creatures, not as good as we should be. The apostle Paul spoke truly when, even as a Christian believer, he spoke of a civil war within. ‘

When I want to do good, evil is right there with me’(Romans 7; 21).

How is this civil war to be won?

Certainly not by pandering to the lower nature, Henry Jekyll style, but by suppressing it. As C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you into something a little different from what it was are slowing turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature.’ R.L.S would have agreed.