Knowing the Shadow



*****"Spirit" always seems to come from above, while from below comes everything that is sordid and worthless. For people who think in this way, spirit means highest freedom, a soaring over the depths, deliverance from the prison of the chthonic world, and hence a refuge for all those timorous souls who do not want to become anything different. But water is earthy and tangible, it is also the fluid of the instinct-driven body, blood and the flowing of blood, the odor of the beast, carnality heavy with passion. The unconscious is the psyche that reaches down from the daylight of mentally and morally lucid consciousness into the nervous system that for ages has been known as the "sympathetic." This does not govern perception and muscular activity like the cerebrospinal system, and thus control the environment; but, though functioning without sense organs, it maintains the balance of life and, through the mysterious paths of sympathetic excitation, not only gives us knowledge of the innermost life of other beings but also has an inner effect upon them. In this sense it is an extremely collective system, the operative basis of all participation mystique, whereas the cerebrospinal function reaches its high point in separating off the specific qualities of the ego, and only apprehends surfaces and externals -- always through the medium of space. It experiences everything as an outside, whereas the sympathetic system experiences everything as an inside.*****

(Ed.) The physiological basis for telepathy and concentration.

*****The unconscious is commonly regarded as a sort of encapsulated fragment of our most personal and intimate life -- something like what the Bible calls the "heart" and considers the source of all evil thoughts. In the chambers of the heart dwell the wicked blood-spirits, swift anger and sensual weakness. This is how the unconscious looks when seen from the unconscious side. But consciousness appears to be essentially an affair of the cerebrum, which sees everything separately and in isolation, and therefore sees the unconscious in this way too, regarding it outright as "my" unconscious. Hence it is generally believed that anyone who descends into the unconscious gets into a suffocating atmosphere of egocentric subjectivity, and in this blind alley is exposed to the attack of all the ferocious beasts which the caverns of the psychic underworld are supposed to harbor. *****

(Ed.) Remember how PFC says that even the greatest of adepts spend their ordinary days still within the illusion of separation? Well, as long as we have a cerebrum, if I read this right, we can expect this to be so. However, by doing some form of practice such as hermeticism, we can also be aware of that other side, represented here by the sympathetic system, which unites rather than divides. I like how he says that the personal conscious regards the unconscious as "my" unconscious. Implicit in this is the idea, so often put forth by PFC and others, that the personal unconscious is but one bay on a vast ocean of which "we" are all "part."

*****True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.
This confrontation is the first test of courage on the inner way, a test sufficient enough to frighten off most people, for the meeting with ourselves belongs to the more unpleasant things that can be avoided so long as we project everything negative into the environment. But if we are able to see our own shadow and can bear knowing about it, then a small part of the problem has already been solved: we have at least brought up the personal unconscious. The shadow is a living part of the personality and therefore wants to live with it in some form. It cannot be argued out of existence or rationalized into harmlessness. In the end one has to admit that there are problems which one simply cannot solve on one's own resources. Such an admission has the advantage of being honest, truthful, and in accord with reality, and this prepares the ground for a compensatory reaction from the collective unconscious: you are now more inclined to give heed to a helpful idea or intuition, or to notice thoughts which had not been allowed to voice themselves before. If you have an attitude of this kind, then the helpful powers slumbering in the deeper strata of man's nature can come awake and intervene, for helplessness and weakness are the eternal experience and eternal problem of mankind. To this problem there is also an eternal answer, otherwise it would have been all up with humanity long ago. When you have done everything that could possibly be done, the only thing that remains is what you could still do if only you knew it. But how much do we know of ourselves? Precious little, to judge by experience. Hence there is still a great deal of room left for the unconscious. Prayer, as we know, calls for a very similar attitude and therefore has much the same effect.*****

(Ed.) How much more clearly could CGJ state that we must first face the shadow before we can hear the voice of the Hierophant, or have the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel?

*****The necessary and needful reaction from the collective unconscious expresses itself in archetypally formed ideas. The meeting with oneself is, at first, a narrow door, whose painful restriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well.*****

(Ed.) Narrow is the path and strait the gate...

*****But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this AND that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me. No, the collective unconscious is anything but an encapsulated personal system; it is sheer objectivity, as wide as the world and open to all the world. There I am the object of every subject, in complete reversal of my ordinary consciousness, where I am always the subject that has an object. (Key 12 -- ed.) There I am utterly one with the world, so much a part of it that I forget all too easily who I really am. "Lost in oneself" is a good way of describing this state. But this self is the world, if only a consciousness could see it. That is why we must know who we are.*****

(Ed.) As far as encountering the shadow goes, I like to take it as it comes.
Here's an example: Today, while washing the dishes, I put on an old tape, Bob Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home." While listening, I found some nostalgia creeping in amidst my usual appreciation for BD's lyrics and music. As I watched the nostalgia, I realized that part of it was, not just for that time in my life, but also for a feeling I had back then that I knew everything. This was interesting, so I followed it further (what else is there to do while washing dishes?) Of course, most teen-agers think they know everything, so this comes as no surprise. But what did it mean to me, personally? It always helps me, when looking at such a phenomenon in myself, to ask "What purpose did/does this serve for me?" I can see two: a feeling of superiority (not just knowing everything, but knowing better than _____ -- fill in the blank.) And a feeling of being powerful, in control. Why would I want these things? Well, like most teen-agers I actually felt confused and like I could not really have much effect on anything in my life at all. Come to think of it, these were not just feelings, they were factual, being true for virtually all 16-year-olds, no matter how confident or capable. So then I get to look at the feelings of confusion and inadequacy, which while they are not so pervasive as at that time, certainly do come up. And I get to look at how I still don't like to feel them, and try to compensate for them instead of dealing with them, which is what puts them into the shadow. And then I can go on and look at what archetypes typify confusion and inadequacy, and how these play out in myth and legend, for insight into myself as one expression of the archetypes, and what options I have for doing confusion and inadequacy differently. All while washing dishes.
So you don't have to tackle the whole, big bad shadow all at once. Just take the pieces as they come -- they come at a certain time, in a certain way, for a certain reason, and this can be trusted as the benign process it is.


For some reason, there was no commentary on this piece from the usual suspects.


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