Category Archives: Jungian Psychology

The Light and the Shadow

The recent headlines about the death of Osama Bin Laden has become a rallying point for the debate on right versus wrong, the Light versus the Dark, and who owns the truth. The nature of religion is defined both by the shadow and the light, to articulate behaviours around the person who would choose the path of light, and so by definition proscribing a path that leads everyone else to some form of hell.

You and I do not need to consciously choose either path.  Those who with zeal adopt any such religion will soon identify themselves and their followers as being “in the light” and everyone else as condemned and being on a path to hell of some sort. In this place the righteous mind soon forms with a sense of being special and often rigid in their views.

The problem is always with such identification that the person adopts a closed mind and becomes inflexible and not open to new ideas.  Their world is viewed only through the lens of the religious and ethical ideas of that belief system and invariably they fall on the side of right, and everyone else is viewed with suspicion of being on the side of wrong, or at least as being ignorant.

Eastern thought has traditionally viewed these twin forces of good and evil as an interdependent yin-yang principle that recognises that both natures flow into each other, and wisely should not be viewed in isolation.  Such thought realises that each extreme contains the other in an eternal embrace and it is wrong to isolate and judge either as right or wrong.  The great Mythologist Joseph Campbell states “anyone unable to understand a god sees a devil”.

It is from this place that many reasonable people see through the hypocrisy of those who claim to stand only “in the light”.  Reasonable people notice that righteous people often invoke shadow based condemnations of disbelievers with rules and justifications such as kill them, persecute them, oppress them, and subjugate them.

The righteous fail to see how they act out their shadows under the guise of a spiritual mask of self-justification and attempts to fight evil.  The real evil is invariably bound up in their own natures that they refuse to see, and by disowning any such idea, then project such shadow or evil onto others, and persecute others as the wrong or evil one’s.

Advanced spirituality of all traditions sees the dual nature of man as an inner struggle that we all must face and deal with internally within ourselves.  The spiritually young or ignorant make it an outward facing obsession and struggle with everyone else.  The wisdom about good and evil is a personal struggle that we must face which the mystical Sufi poet Rumi notes in his writings “If thou hast not seen the devil, look at thine own self”.

Even today we see New Age spirituality hiding behind “the light” and refusing to acknowledge and address the shadow self that we all possess.  New Age practitioners try to emulate a spiritual form of the Monopoly game via transcendent practices and wisdoms which give them a “Go straight to Spiritual Go and bypass Jail (The Shadow) and collect Enlightenment ($200 in Monopoly game terms). This is just another form of shadow rejection and avoidance that does not work. We cannot rid ourselves of our duality, but we can embrace and integrate it into a whole inner state, that which denotes the spiritual term “holy”.

When people and society divorce their shadow then we will see such religious conflict and personification of good and evil played out in our leaders.  The Osama versus Obama is but one more example of how this principle is playing out in the world.

Mankind arranges itself in many ways around the theme of light and dark, from art, literature, to our laws and social groupings and associations.

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