ILLUMINATED BY DARKNESS
By Paul Levy
(Note: For those of you have read my book, the first few parts of this article might be somewhat familiar, but I urge you to not let this stop you from getting to the meat of the article, as I genuinely try to illumine some new territory. I’ve included these first few parts for those unfamiliar with my work, as it serves as a framework for the main discussion that follows later in the article).
In my recent book “The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis (available on my website www.awakeninthedream.com),” I point out that one of the fundamental psychological dynamics in-forming the crisis that is playing out in our world is the unwillingness to “consciously experience” our own sense of shame, guilt and sin. This turning away from the darker part of ourselves pervades the entire field, which is to say it exists within each one of us in potential at each and every moment. This contraction against our own guilt, shame and sin is an active dynamic that exists “inside” every one of us and is revealing itself to us as it gets “dreamed up” in the “outside” world. This inner psychological process of turning away from our own darkness is giving shape to collective events in our world.
To see what is playing out in our world as a “dreaming process” is to contemplate it as if it IS a dream we are having right now. As in a dream, the outer (what is happening in the world) is nothing other than an unmediated expression or reflection of what is going on inside the dreamer, which in this case is us. The fact that this core psychological process of turning away from our guilt, shame and sin is at work, “fully employed” in-forming and fueling the crisis in our world, is revealing to us that this very same process exists within ourselves. This is to say that the genuine healing and resolution of our world crisis is to be found by looking within ourselves. This is exactly what Christ himself was teaching when he said, “The Kingdom is to be found within.”
Just like a dream, the core “inner” process of the psyche is revealing itself, both literally as well as symbolically, in, as and through events in the “outside” world. We don’t recognize this synchronistic correspondence between the inner and the outer not because it is hard to see, but because it is so obvious, we don’t notice what is staring us in the face. This correlation between what is happening inside of ourselves and what is happening in the outside world is “transparent.” This is to say it is not hidden, as it’s fully apparent, while at the same time being invisible, like a see-thru medium that we are not able to register. This synchronistic co-relation between the inner and the outer is veiling itself in the obviousness of its very revelation. We are simply being asked to recognize what is being revealed.
Seen as a mass, shared dream that we are all collaboratively dreaming up into materialization, what is playing out on the world stage is symbolically revealing to us the core psychological process that is keeping us separate from one another. Any one of us integrating our own darkness into our image of ourselves has a non-local effect on the entire field, which is to say that the way to “fight” evil is by coming to terms with it within ourselves.
GEORGE BUSH IS OUR REFLECTION
We can use the figure of George Bush as an example. As I articulate in my book (in chapter 1), at the bottom of Bush’s madness is his unwillingness and fear to consciously feel and experience his own guilt, shame and sin (which means to miss the mark). In order to hide from his darkness, Bush splits-off and projects his own darkness outside of himself. In projecting his shadow, however, he is lying (both to others, as well as himself), for he is disassociating from and deceiving himself about his darker intentions. Bush then deludes himself into believing his own lies, which is the very thing which feeds his guilt in the first place, creating the very thing he is hiding from. Bush is caught in a self-created, involuted spiral of ever increasing madness, a crazy-making double-bind with no “exit strategy” that he is acting out on the world stage.
This self-reinforcing process of splitting-off from his guilt develops a momentum and a sovereignty of its own, more and more taking Bush over in the process. Bush is being manipulated, victimized and possessed by darker forces that he himself is setting in motion through his refusal to self-reflect and consciously experience his guilt. He has fallen into a self-created and self-creating feedback loop, an infinite regression known in Buddhism as the endless wheel of cyclic, problematic, and suffering-filled existence called “samsara.” Because of his position of power to determine events in our world, however, we are all at risk, as his disastrous, unconscious, fear-based re-actions threaten the well-being of the entire planet.
Being so taken over by his unconscious as a result of his unwillingness to feel his guilt, Bush is incarnating this (inner) process in full-bodied (outer) form, which is to say he is an embodied “revelation” of this inner process. The figure of George Bush is both literally, as well as symbolically - like a figure in a dream - reflecting back to us the part of ourselves that is feeding and thereby supporting our own darkness, as well as the darkness in the universe. Seen as a dreaming process, in which George Bush is a figure that we’ve all dreamed up into materialization, we have dreamed him up to mirror back to us our own ignorance, madness, and darkness, so as to help us recognize and integrate these pathological parts within ourselves of which he is merely a reflection.
Being an embodied reflection of this part of ourselves is to say that Bush is not separate from us, as we are all interconnected parts and expressions of the underlying unified field. We don’t exist in isolation from Bush, nor him from us, but rather, in co-relation to each other. We are all interdependently co-arising together, which is to say that we are all parts of one another. We are expressions of and contained in a being whose periphery is far greater than what we have been imagining for ourselves. To realize this is to have an expansion of not only our image of who we are, but of consciousness itself.
WE ARE ALL COMPLICIT
Avoiding relationship with our shadow results in having a chronic “guilty conscience,” which is an expression of “unconsciousness,” and is the polar opposite of “consciously” experiencing our guilt. Our turning away from consciously experiencing our own guilt, shame and sin literally feeds and give life to the shadow, both on the personal level (in ourselves), and on the collective, archetypal level (on the world stage). This “turning away” from a part of ourselves is an inner, archetypal, age-old process that has enacted itself all throughout history. This is to say that this dynamic exists in the collective unconscious of humanity, pervading the entire field of consciousness, and is therefore a process in which we all share and participate. To the extent that each of us is not dealing with our own guilt, shame, and sin, we are contributing to and unknowingly colluding with the collective shadow that is playing out in the world.
The evil that is playing out in the world non-locally pervades the entire field, which is to say that we are all complicit. Though he was talking about Nazi Germany, Jung could have been talking about our present day when he said, “Psychological collective guilt …hits everybody, just and unjust alike, everybody who was anywhere near the place where the terrible thing happened.” In our case, because the evil is playing itself out non-locally throughout the field, which is to say everywhere, we are all “near the place where the terrible thing happened (and is happening).” We are all playing roles, to the extent we are acting out our unconscious, in animating the darkness that has befallen our planet. To say this differently: We are all collaboratively dreaming up the darkness in the world, we are all responsible. There is no one in this world who is completely innocent, as we are all interconnected, inseparable parts of the greater field.
When we are unwilling to consciously experience this shadow part of ourselves, we necessarily project it outside of ourselves. This split-off, darker part literally gets “dreamed up” into materialization in the outside world. Once we meet our projected shadow in the outside world, we immediately contract against it, which is the very reflection of our original impulse of contracting against our own inner darkness being played out in the outside world. Paradoxically, this implies that the way to work on our inner process is by actively participating in the outside world, while concurrently, the very way to change the outer world is by looking within and working on our inner process.
THE DARKNESS ITSELF ILLUMINES US
Once we project our shadow, we fall into a vicious cycle in which we are endlessly hiding from and lying to ourselves. In order to justify our shadow projections, we continually have to entrance ourselves into believing the lie that is inherent in our shadow projection. Interestingly, Jung simply refers to “shadow projection” as “the lie.” Etymologically, lying is related to the word “Devil,” who is the “liar.” Shadow projection is intimately related to the evil that is playing out in our world.
We secretly feel a sense of guilt when we shadow project, because we inwardly know we are not in our integrity. This sense of guilt itself is the very feeling from which we split-off. Our guilt does not allow us to feel our guilt, which is what we secretly feel guilty over. To the extent that we don’t consciously experience our guilt, we become caught in an infinitely-perpetuating double-bind in which we project out our darkness, which just perpetuates the very thing we feel guilty about, ad infinitum.
Commenting on the insidious futility of shadow projection, Jung said, “One realizes, first of all, that one cannot project one’s shadow on to others, and next that there is no advantage in insisting on their guilt, as it is much more important to know and possess one’s own, because it is part of one’s own self and a necessary factor without which nothing in this sublunary world can be realized.”
Jung is pointing at the “primary” importance of getting in touch with our own guilt. It should be noted that getting in touch with our own guilt doesn’t preclude at the same time holding someone like Bush accountable for his criminal actions. Both the inner and outer situations need to be consciously dealt with, without either being marginalized.
Once we consciously access our own guilt, however, we withdraw and dis-invest our projection of the shadow onto others. We recognize that the evil we’re seeing in the other is simultaneously our own evil, thereby realizing we can no longer project evil outside of ourselves and keep it at arm’s length. On the contrary, we discover that evil exists within the very arm that is pointing to it out there. Yes, Bush is guilty. And to the extent that we are turning away from a part of ourselves (whether within ourselves, or as it appears in reflected form in the outside world), so are we. We are all complicit.
Once we withdraw our shadow projections from external reality, we dis-spell and dis-engage from the diabolical feedback loop which we were unknowingly feeding and in which we were imprisoned. Once we withdraw our shadow projection from the outside world and recognize it within ourselves, we are able to snap out of our self-created double-bind and consciously feel our guilt, shame and sin. Once we become fluent and engaged with the darkness within ourselves, we no longer have to hide from it, which is to say from ourselves, by projecting our shadow outside of ourselves. We can thereby take responsibility for our role in perpetuating this cycle of self-deceit and denial, and with our increased consciousness, bring our complicity in this dynamic to an end. We are then able to deal with the “sublunary world” of the dark unconscious, both within ourselves and as it appears in the outside world. Once we are acquainted with the archetypal darkness which expresses itself non-locally
throughout the field, this darkness paradoxically reveals itself to be an expression of the light, as it is the darkness itself that has illumined us.
Becoming “intimately related” to our own darkness empowers us to effectively deal with the darkness in the world in a way that was unavailable to us as long as we were avoiding a confrontation with our own inner darkness. When we were hiding from our own darkness, we were trying to destroy it as it appeared in the outside world (which is merely an “externalized” reflection of our “inner” act of contracting against our own darkness). In other words, the darkness (inside of us) is trying to get rid of the darkness (in the outside world), as if the darkness is trying to get rid of itself, which is the very act that generates and is generated by the darkness in the first place.
WE ARE ALL GUILTY OF BEING INNOCENT
Once we consciously take the shadow back into ourselves, we become an instrument, a flash of light that illumines the darkness in the outside world. Instead of reacting to the darkness in the outside world through the lens of our own unembraced darkness, which simply creates, through projection, more darkness, we are able to see the darkness through the part of ourselves that is separate from it. Paradoxically, seeing our own evil is the very thing which activates the part of us which is “other” than and free of evil. This part of us that is “other” than evil is the only part of us that can clearly see evil (as it plays itself out both within ourselves and in the outside world) because it is not “mixed up” with it, and thus, is not blinded or deceived by it.
At the same time we see the evil part of ourselves, the part of us that is seeing evil is free of it, for we couldn’t objectify it otherwise. For example, if we have jaundice, we couldn’t pick out what objects are truly yellow, for everything looks yellow. The part of us that is seeing the color yellow is the part of us that is “yellow-free.” Paradoxically, it is only in recognizing and owning the evil within ourselves that allows us, by virtue of being the witness of it, to relate to it as “other” than ourselves, which is to be free of it (“evil-free”).
This is a very subtle, but immensely profound point. When we see the evil within us, by owning it we simultaneously witness it as other than and separate from ourselves, which is to get in relationship with it as an “other.” Simply aware of what it is witnessing, the part of us that is the witness of “evil” is free of the attribute that is being witnessed; it is not the “guilty party.” The evil I am witnessing within myself is an aspect of me and I own it but it is not mine. This is the personal/impersonal paradox of the soul: what is most me is not mine.
We are only able to bear the experience of the evil within us and not fall into overwhelming despair if we recognize the “transpersonal” origin of evil (for a deeper discussion on evil, see the chapter in my book called “Shedding Light on Evil,” chapter 13). Instead of identifying with the evil we have found within, thinking it “belongs” to us individually, we recognize that evil is “archetypal” in nature, in that it belongs to the universe itself. Realizing the archetypal dimension of evil is itself an expression that we are in touch with our intrinsic wholeness, which enables us to not split-off from nor identify with, but rather contain, transmute and liberate evil’s deleterious effects. Becoming engaged with and intimately related to the transpersonal evil within us simultaneously acquaints us with the part of ourselves that is beyond the personal ego and plugged into something greater than ourselves.
Similarly, the part of us that experiences the guilt that is bound up in the evil within us is the guilt-free (innocent) part of us. When we consciously experience our “feelings” of guilt in a “full-bodied way” (compared to an “intellectual” way, in which we only experience the “idea” of our guilt), the underlying guilt, as if released from being stuck in a frozen block of ice, begins to melt, move, and transform. Fully experiencing one of the opposites, our guilt, constellates its opposite, as we become introduced to the part of us that has always existed in primordial purity. This “innocent” part of us has simply been temporarily hidden by our unwillingness to experience our own evil and corresponding guilt. Paradoxically, by consciously experiencing our guilt, shame and sin, and experiencing remorse, we become acquainted with the part of us that is “innocent.”
This “innocent” part of ourselves has never been tainted by darkness. This part of us that is “other” than evil is unstained and undefiled by evil, just like the sands of the Sahara desert are not made wet by a mirage of water. This innocent part of us warrants being identified with divinity. Paradoxically, by owning the evil inside of ourselves, we access the part of us that is untouched by evil, and can genuinely be called “good,” as it is of the nature of “God.”
THE SHADOW IS A TRICKSTER
Jung said, “Consciousness of guilt can therefore act as a powerful moral stimulus…without guilt, unfortunately, there can be no psychic maturation and no widening of the spiritual horizon.” Feeling genuine regret and remorse brings with it a “metanoia,” a refreshing and renewal of the spirit. This is the “remorse of conscience” that the spiritual teacher Gurdjieff considered to be the doorway into genuine spiritual maturation and evolution.
Experiencing remorse involves seeing the times in our lives when we have deceived ourselves and/or others and have hurt other people in the process. Who among us is not guilty? It takes moral courage to shatter our one-sided image of ourselves as “pure and righteous,” face ourselves in the mirror, see our darker half and experience remorse. Humility spontaneously arises as we “feel through” our remorse.
There is a danger however. To quote Jung, “In making the shadow conscious we must be very careful that the unconscious does not play yet another trick and prevent a real confrontation with the shadow. A patient may see the darkness in himself for a moment, but the next moment he tells himself that it is not so bad after all, a mere bagatelle [something of little importance]. Or else he exaggerates his remorse, because it is so nice to have such a wonderful remorseful feeling, to enjoy it like a warm eiderdown on a cold winter’s morning when one should be getting up. This dishonesty, this refusal to see, ensures that there will be no confrontation with the shadow. Yet if there were a confrontation, then with increasing consciousness the good and the positive features would come to light too. We must therefore beware of the danger of wallowing in affects- remorse, melancholy, etc.- because they are seductive.” [Emphasis added]
Until integrated and made conscious, the shadow is always trying to obfuscate itself. Even the part of us that wants to integrate the shadow so that we can be free of it might itself be an aspect of the shadow. The shadow itself is not “bad,” it is a mere “shadow” with no substance. It is our turning away from and avoiding our shadow which is the very act that is both created by and creating the darkness from which we are turning away.
Spiritual/New Age practitioners who are endlessly affirming their innocence are another example of falling under the spell of the shadow. Many metaphysical practitioners are actually caricatures of genuine spiritual practitioners, as in their affirmations of their guiltlessness they are unwittingly avoiding conscious relationship with their feelings of guilt, shame and sin. Overly identified with the light and trying to be pure, they become self-righteous and one-sided, which guarantees that they will unconsciously act out their shadow destructively in the world. These “light-workers” generally run the other way screaming in horror when someone has the temerity to even mention the word “evil.”
There is also a danger of identifying with, getting absorbed into and caught by the shadow, where we feel possessed by it and act it out unconsciously. Once we develop a strong enough sense of self, however, we can not only become more intimately in relationship with the darkness as an “object” other than ourselves, but we then experience the darkness “subjectively,” as we experience ourselves as the source of the darkness. This is to realize that it is our contracting against the darkness, a form of clinging and grasping, which is the very act that generates the darkness against which we are resisting.
OUR BURDEN IS LIGHT
As Christ said, “resist not evil.” There is a radical difference between fighting evil and loving God. Loving God is to embrace unconditionally both the light and dark sides of God, which is to say of ourselves. Snapping out of the self-created and infinitely-regressing feedback loop of fighting against our own darkness is to realize that our very grasping itself is the origin of the problem of evil. This realization allows us to receive the blessings of the “dark God.” As alchemists, we are then able to transmute the darkness into light. As Christ said, “My burden IS light.” Could this statement by Christ mean not only that his burden is “not heavy,” but that his (and our) burden IS (in disguised form) the “light” of the Godhead itself?
We are confronted with a paradox: No one is innocent, as we are all complicit in the darkness that is playing out in the world, while simultaneously we are all innocent. A genuine “coincidentia oppositorum,” a co-inciding of the opposites, a complete and utter paradox where both opposites are true simultaneously. Consciously experiencing this co-joining of opposites challenges us to snap out of the spell of our bifurcating, dualistic mind which separates this seamless universe of ours into alienated fragments that seem to be at “odds” with each other.
The only way to directly realize this union of opposites is to have an expansion of consciousness in which we recognize our interconnectedness and interrelatedness, and develop a more complete and holistic vision of our inseparable relationship to each other and the universe as a whole. Entertaining both opposites being true simultaneously is an expression that we have become united with ourselves (which is reflected both within ourselves, as well as in the outside world), while at the same time we ourselves have been united by the opposites. Not merely the “subjects” of our inner process, we have become the “objects” of a deeper, mythic, archetypal and divine process that is incarnating itself through us. We are the conduits through which the universe is becoming consciously aware of itself. The universe is waking itself up through us.
Just like the darkest thunderclouds are themselves the unmediated expression of the sky, not separate from the sky in one iota, as they come out of the sky and unfold back into the sky when they dissolve, evil can be recognized to be related to, not separate from, and a revelation of our true nature. Just like the darkest thunderclouds don’t dirty the sky, evil is recognized to have no power to taint our true nature, but rather, in some very peculiar way, helps us to realize who we are in a deeper, more ultimate sense. Evil awakens in us the recognition of our true nature, similar to how we would never notice the surface of the mirror without its reflections. Interestingly, it is only by allowing himself to be completely bound by darker forces on the cross does Christ actualize true freedom. Paradoxically, by binding us, evil can potentially enliven the part of us that is truly free.
Just like a mirror can reflect back the vilest image and not become sullied by the darkness of the reflection, when we become truly acquainted with our true nature – which embraces both light and dark and is simply aware of what it witnesses - our “original sin” dissolves back into the empty illusion that it always was. Acting from the living experience of our basic goodness and primordial purity, we can then truly be of benefit to the world.
Paul Levy is an artist and a spiritually-informed political co-activist. A pioneer in the field of spiritual awakening, he is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are awakening to the dream-like nature of reality. He is the author of “The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis,” which is available at his website www.awakeninthedream.com. Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2006.
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