shadowIn honor of this season of representing the essence of Unconditional Love, here’s a diverse look at those parts of us that challenge our abilities to come with love that isn’t about judgments and separation from ourselves and others.

There is no place or space more sacred than any other. The Sacred nature of the shadow and the shadowlands in our personal and communal psyche is for the most part overlooked. Because of this, we feed our energies of resistance into the very manifestations we don’t want to look at and what we don’t want.

The immense amount of disclosure happening at this time is shining the spotlight on some shadows that have been hidden for so long. It’s grow up and show up time for the entire world.

May we find the courage to be whole again, bringing our full consciousness to all of what is being revealed. May we find the courage to take on the ownership and integration of our own shadow spaces as well. May we bring back the many gems we’ve hidden away from even ourselves in these shadows. –  Andrea

Shadow School

(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

You’re a gorgeous mystery with a wild heart and a lofty purpose. But like all of us, you also have a dark side — a part of your psyche that snarls and bites, that’s unconscious and irrational, that is motivated by ill will or twisted passions or instinctual fears.

It’s your own personal portion of the world’s sickness: a mess of repressed longings, enervating wounds, ignorant delusions, and unripe powers. You’d prefer to ignore it because it’s unflattering or uncomfortable or very different from what you imagine yourself to be.

If you acknowledge its existence at all (many of us don’t), you might call it the devil, your evil twin, your inner monster, or your personal demon. Psychologist Carl Jung referred to it as the shadow. He regarded it as the lead that the authentic alchemists of the Middle Ages sought to transmute into gold.

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“The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives.” — Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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“I am superior to you only in one point,” Narcissus tells Goldmund in Hermann Hesse’s novel Narcissus and Goldmund. “I’m awake, whereas you are only half awake, or completely asleep sometimes. I call a man awake who knows in his conscious reason his innermost unreasonable force, drives, and weaknesses, and knows how to deal with them.”

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Astrologer Steven Forrest has a different name for the shadow: stuff. “Work on your stuff,” he says, “or your stuff will work on you.” He means that it will sabotage you if you’re not aggressive about identifying, negotiating with, and transforming it.

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The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to “demonically possess” its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, “evil” behavior.

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“The shadow, which is in conflict with the acknowledged values, cannot be accepted as a negative part of one’s own psyche and is therefore projected — that is, it is transferred to the outside world and experienced as an outside object. It is combated, punished, and exterminated as ‘the alien out there’ instead of being dealt with as one’s own inner problem.” — Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic

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The qualities in ourselves that we deny or dislike are often the very qualities that we most bitterly complain about in other people. So for instance, an old friend of mine named Mark had a special disgust for friends who were unavailable to him when he really needed them. But I was witness to him engaging in the same behavior three different times, disappearing from the lives of his friends just when they needed him most.

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“Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event,” said Jung. If you disown a part of your personality, it’ll materialize as an unexpected detour.

Everyone who believes in the devil is the devil.

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A bright red cardinal had a confrontation with my picture window. For almost 45 minutes, the bird hammered its beak against the glass. With the help of my good friend and research assistant Google, I determined that the bird had probably mistaken its own reflection for a rival that it was trying to attack.

The event suggests three teachings: 1. If you feel the urge to fight others, you’re probably mad about something in yourself. 2. You might want to monitor any tendency you have to get fixated on an image that is at best a distorted representation of a real thing and not the real thing itself. 3. It’s best not to hurt yourself or drive yourself crazy in an effort to chase away an illusion.

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“Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore.” — Sandor McNab

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“As is demonstrated by a wealth of historical examples, every form of fanaticism, every dogma and every type of compulsive one-sidedness is finally overthrown by precisely those elements which it has itself repressed, suppressed, or ignored.” — Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic

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Hypothesis: Those among us who have most thoroughly denied and repressed their own shadows are in the greatest danger of provoking mayhem and doing evil deeds in the real world.

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In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church branded cats as “ambassadors of the devil” and called for their mass extermination. The virtual disappearance of felines from Europe was an important factor in propagating the Black Death, which killed 25 million people between 1347 and 1352. The disease was spread by fleas that lived on rats, whose populations had soared in the absence of their natural predators.

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America’s former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky addressed an assembly at my daughter’s high school. He read from his translation of Dante’s Inferno and took questions from students. After hearing Dante’s description of the nether regions, one boy asked Pinsky what his personal version of hell was. The poet said that each of us creates our own hell. The fearful and negative interpretations of reality with which we infect our imaginations constitute curses that we cast on ourselves. They terrify and enslave us so thoroughly that most of the difficult outer circumstances we encounter are mild in comparison.

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“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

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In her book Zen Miracles, Brenda Shoshanna defines the shadow as the unacceptable aspects of ourselves that we dump into our unconscious minds. As we avoid looking at that hidden stuff, it festers. Meanwhile, we project it onto people we know, imagining that they possess the qualities we’re repressing.

The antidote to the predicament, says Shoshanna, is to “eat our shadow” — haul it up from out of the pit and develop a conscious connection with it. Doing so not only prevents our unacknowledged darkness from haunting our thoughts and distorting our relationships; it also liberates tremendous psychic energy.

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In her role as DJ Debi Newberry in the film Grosse Pointe Blank, Minnie Driver defines the term shakabuku as a swift spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever. That’s the kind of jolt you’re more likely to get if you’ve been avoiding the shadow’s entreaties. But if you send it flowers on special occasions, or periodically give it license to blubber its horrible secrets while sobbing on your lap, it might be more inclined to deliver a whoopibuku, which is a soft spiritual stomp on the toes that inspires you to make a course correction.

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“There is no generally effective technique for assimilating the shadow. It is more like diplomacy and is always an individual matter. First one has to accept and take seriously the existence of the shadow. Second, one has to become aware of its qualities and intentions. This happens through conscientious attention to moods, fantasies, and impulses. Third, a long process of negotiation is unavoidable.” — Daryl Sharp, Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms and Concepts; also available here.

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“It is by going down into the abyss that you recover the treasures of life,” wrote Joseph Campbell. “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

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“Suffering can’t be avoided,” James Broughton told Jack Foley. “The way to happiness is to go into the darkness of yourself. That’s the place the seed is nourished, takes its roots and grows up, and becomes ultimately the plant and the flower. You can only go upward by first going downward.” — James Broughton, as told to interviewer Jack Foley, All: A James Broughton Reader

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Modern culture does not have a high regard for the alchemists of the Middle Ages. Most people think of them as lunatics who worked in primitive laboratories at the impossible task of turning lead into gold. What idiots, right? Science has proved beyond all doubt that you cannot transform one metal into another.

But here’s the real story. While there were some clueless medieval alchemists who wasted their lives trying to convert actual lead into actual gold, the authentic alchemists were up to something else. They labored to transmute the metaphorical lead of their own psyches into metaphorical gold. Their flaws, wounds, compulsions, and ignorance were raw materials they used to create light and life and wisdom and love.

Compared to the spectacular hope of creating fantastic riches out of worthless metals, it was a lowly goal. From the perspective of most of the powerful and outwardly successful people in the world, then as now, striving to apotheosize the ugliness within us is about as unglamorous as you can get. The Beauty and Truth Lab does not share that view, however.

P.S. There are many authentic alchemists alive and hard at work in the world at this very moment.

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The alchemists said the magic formula for enlightenment was Visita Inferiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem, or “Seek out the lower reaches of the earth, perfect them, and you will find the hidden stone” — the treasured philosopher’s stone. Jungian psychologists might describe the process this way: Engage in a relationship with the blind and sickly parts of yourself, perfect them, and you will awaken your hidden divinity.

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“The great epochs in our lives are at the points when we gain the courage to rebaptize our badness as the best in us.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

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The shadow is not only the place where we keep the nasty and monstrous underside of ourselves. It also harbors “vitalizing instincts, sleeping abilities, and positive moral qualities.” says Daryl Sharp in his Jung Lexicon. If developed, these unripe aspects might become talents and treasures. Unfortunately, because they are intermingled with the parts of us we don’t like to look at, they often remain untapped. In shunning our shadows, we shut ourselves off from some of our potential brilliance.

Imagine a person who conceives herself as mild, polite, and dignified, but who is in fact repressing a mother lode of anger. She clamps down hard on herself, never expressing her barely conscious grudges and irritations, since to do so would be at odds with her self-image. Meanwhile, in squelching the dangerous potency inherent in her rage, she inadvertently disallows other disorderly powers, like longing and exuberance and spontaneity, that if expressed would also make her spin out of control. They aren’t negative like rage, but they are just as unpredictable.

The result is that all of her intensity is buried. If she could strike up a negotiation with her shadow, if she could admit to her anger and allow it an outlet, she might also access the valuables that have also been locked away.

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Jung again: “The shadow is merely somewhat inferior, primitive, unadapted, and awkward; not wholly bad. It even contains childish or primitive qualities which would in a way vitalize and embellish human existence, but convention forbids!”

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In the best-known version of the Greek myth, Persephone is dragged down into the underworld by Hades, whose title is “Pluto.” But in earlier, pre-patriarchal tales, she descends there under her own power, actively seeking to graduate from her virginal naivete by exploring the intriguing land of shadows.

“Pluto” is derived from the Greek word plutus, meaning “wealth.” Psychologist James Hillman says this refers to the psyche-building riches available in Pluto’s domain. Hades, he says, is “the giver of nourishment to the soul.”

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The goddess Hecate also lives in the underworld. According to poet Robert Graves, she is the mistress of sorcery, “the goddess of ghosts and night-terrors, of phantoms and fearful monsters.” On the other hand, he notes, Hecate “presides at seed time and childbirth; she grants prosperity, victory, plentiful harvests to the farmer and rich catches to the fisherman.”

How can a single deity embody such seemingly contradictory archetypes? Graves: She symbolizes “the unconscious in which beasts and monsters swarm. This is not the living hell of the psychotic, but a reservoir of energy to be brought under control, just as Chaos was brought to cosmic order under the influence of the spirit.”

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Neuroscientists at Britain’s Bristol University have concluded that playing in the dirt can make you feel really good. That’s because most soil is crawling with species of bacteria that interact favorably with the human body, strengthening the immune system and stimulating the brain in the same way antidepressants do.

Let’s hypothesize that this is an apt metaphor for playing in the dirt of the shadow.

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Jung: “Whoever loves the earth and its glory, and forgets the ‘dark realm,’ or confuses the two (which is mostly what happens), has spirit for his enemy; and whoever flees from the earth and falls into the ‘eternal arms’ has life for an enemy.”

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Where exactly is Hell in relation to Heaven, anyway? Is it, like, the equivalent of a billion light-years away? Or are they located within shouting distance of each other? Lots of ancient religious texts suggest the latter. Yalkut Koheleth, a Jewish commentary on the Biblical book Ecclesiastes, claimed the two domains were just “a hand-breadth apart.” In Greek myth, the blessed Elysian Fields were situated right next door to Hades. “The doors to heaven and hell are adjacent and identical,” wrote Nikos Kazantzakis, “both green, both beautiful.”

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Maurice Krafft made a career of filming places where hot lava is flowing. National Geographic described him hiking across the crater floor of Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano that’s sacred to the Maasai people in Tanzania. The ground was not erupting in torrents of fire and burning liquid rock, but was constantly bubbling and exuding. Through long years of experience, Krafft knew exactly where to walk so that his shoes didn’t catch on fire.

Some shadow masters have learned to perform similar feats as they weave their way through the shadow’s simmering landscape.

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Ambergris is a foul-smelling excrement that sperm whales vomit. After years of exposure to the sun while floating on the ocean, it transforms into an aromatic, waxy substance that’s used as a major ingredient in perfume.

Some modern alchemists say they’ve performed comparable transmutations of the miasmic ooze that they’ve gathered in the shadow’s underground lagoons.

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During 2003’s monsoon season in Sri Lanka, floods caused landslides in and around Ratnapura, the “City of Gems.” As devastating as this natural disaster was, it dredged up many raw gems from their hiding places deep in the earth. After the heavy rains stopped, sapphires and rubies were strewn across the landscape for any passer-by to pick up.

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The Bible quotes the radical first-century religious activist Jesus Christ as follows: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Sounds like he had a good strategy for working with his shadow.

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Here’s a corollary to Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbor as thyself: “I will love the dark, difficult side of my neighbor — not just the attractive, friendly side — and I will encourage it to express itself in constructive ways.”

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A friend of mine, Allen, was evaluating the spiritual progress of a mutual acquaintance, John. “Twenty years of Buddhist meditation and he’s still an insensitive jerk,” Allen concluded with a flourish.

I didn’t respond except to say, “Hmmm.” It’s my policy to refrain from participating in the popular sport of bad-mouthing, which for so many of its practitioners is a way of projecting the unacknowledged content of their own shadows.

But I did actually agree with Allen’s assessment. Like many seekers I’ve known, John hasn’t translated his high-minded religious principles and rigorous devotional practices into the way he treats people in his daily life. That’s mostly because he has neglected the less glamorous work of wrestling with his shadow.

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It’s a great privilege to live in a free country. You’re fortunate if you have the opportunity to pursue your dreams without having to ward off government interference or corporate brainwashing or religious fanaticism.

But that’s only partly useful if you have not yet won the most important struggle for liberation, which is the freedom from your own unconscious obsessions and conditioned responses. Becoming an independent agent who’s not an unwitting slave to his or her shadow is one of the most heroic feats a human being can accomplish.

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In the New Earth, it won’t be your material wealth that will win you the most bragging points. Nor will it be the important people you know or the deals you’ve swung or the knowledge you’ve amassed or your mate’s attractiveness.

What will bring you most prestige and praise in the civilization to come will be your success in transmuting lead into gold — how thoroughly you have integrated your shadow and tapped into its resources.

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“The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.” — Carl Jung

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Ancient legend says that a giant cobra — normally a fearsome predator — shielded Buddha with its expansive hood as he meditated in the wilderness during a terrible week-long storm.

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In his song “Get Behind the Mule,” Tom Waits tells us to “Never let the weeds get higher than the garden.” That’s good advice. But maybe you shouldn’t go overboard and become a fanatic who acts as if weeds are evil demons from the ninth level of hell.

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It turns out that some weeds are good for flowers and vegetables, protecting them from predatory insects. So say horticulturalists Stan Finch and Rosemary Collier, writing in Biologist magazine. When the bugs come looking for their special treats — the plants we love — they often get waylaid by the weeds, landing on them first and getting fooled into thinking there’s nothing more valuable nearby.

So for example, when cabbages are planted in the midst of clover, flies lay eggs on only seven percent of them, compared to a 36 percent infestation rate on cabbages that are grown in bare soil with no clover nearby.

This could be a useful metaphor in working with your own versions of impurities and interlopers. Make sure there are always a few chickweed or henbit weeds surrounding your ripening tomatoes.

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Divine subversion. Taboo justice. Unauthorized healing. Reverent insurgency. Guerrilla splendor. Ethical mischief. Sacred transgression. Freaky purity. Rebellious kindness. Friendly shocks. Sublime convulsion. Outlaw sacraments. Insurrectionary beauty. Illegal truth.

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“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” — Carl Jung

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Working with your dreams can help you stop colluding with the global genocide of the imagination.

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Is it possible that in trying to repress some of the things you don’t like about yourself, you have also disowned potentially strong and beautiful aspects?

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SACRED ADVERTISEMENT

“Shadow School” is brought to you by seed rain, the fertilizing shower of seeds that the bats of South America’s tropical forests poop out after eating fruits that can’t propagate any other way.

Original article: Free Will Astrology (Truth and Beauty Lab)

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