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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Spiritual Sport of Shadow Catching – CREDO L

Jung defined the Shadow as the unconscious complex in the human psyche that holds its negative aspects. We project these outwardly onto others in a judgmental and critical manner. In layman’s terms, “It takes one to know one!”

There are three things to remember about the Shadow:
   1) Shadows prove a source of light. A YES must come before a NO can deny it!
   2) There is a collective Shadow as well. Bush projecting an ‘Axis of Evil” onto other countries is a good example.
   3) If you are mortal you have one. Every one of us also has a physical “blind spot.”

In psychology, the term “light Shadow” is sometimes used to describe the projection of untoward admiration of positive qualities unconsciously inherent in the admirer himself/herself. This can occur in the so-called ‘transference’ in the analysand/analyst setting or in the disciple/guru relationship. And here is a way to tell a good Guru or Teacher from a bad one. The good Guru will only hold up a mirror to help you see that what you recognize there is already in yourself. The fake one will accept the admiration and become increasingly inflated until he comes to a sad or bad end. There have been any number of these tragedies in recent years. I call it the Guru disease.

One of the things that has struck me is that the Shadow sheds light on Christ’s advice to love our enemies! An enemy carries the mask of our Shadow projection. The very thing we abhor is what we deny having in our own selves so, in that sense, we should be grateful for our enemy carrying that particular projection! Ah, but what if the enemy really is evil? Well, Jung provides the answer. If you are projecting your own shadow, you get “hot under the collar.” One might add that if you are not, you might even have some compassion because of the karmic suffering surely awaiting the person.

I, myself, tied myself in knots with the following: I was only intolerant of intolerance! I projected this especially onto Cardinal Ratzinger when he was acting as Defender of the Faith! I learned my lesson when I was rebuked in meditation with the advice that rather than get angry with him, I should pray for him. The end result has been that ever since he has become Pope, I actually am almost charmed by him and rejoice that as my own intolerance has diminished, so – it seems to me! – has his tolerance of other faiths increased. Please understand that all this has taken place within me and my own past judgmental projections. I have never met the man nor had any influence whatsoever on the Vatican! The closest I came to trying was when I wrote to protest the excommunication of Matthew Fox many years ago, when my collar sure was hot.

Sixty-four years of astrology has taught me that no two people process experience in the same way and has convinced me of the wisdom of “To understand is to forgive.” So now I am more tolerant even of my lapse of intolerance! And I caught that particular aspect of my own Shadow. I made it conscious.

Jung has also reminded us that as we illuminate the smallest bit of our personal Shadow, we are also withdrawing that much darkness from the Collective one! So perhaps the task of the coming Age is to attempt to do this more collectively. This is the archetypal task of Pluto/Hades. The god was the ruler of Hell. Both the Latin and Greek names mean “riches,” and the redemption of the Collective Shadow implies the redemption of all the crimes and cruelty in history – the Herculean task of the Cleansing of the Augean Stables. There is gold hidden in that nigredo. Nature calls it (ahem ...) fertilizer!

So how do we make these bits of our Shadow conscious? By non-judgmental self-observation of our ego reactions. The Sufis have a word for those petty negative things we think and do. They call them nafs. At almost eighty-six years of age, I don’t seem to have the energy to break those Ten Commandments, but I am a whiz at Sinning-on-the-Installment-Plan! And the sum adds up. The Sufis also suggest:

Before you speak, put your words through three sieves:
    Are they true?
    Are they kind?
    Are they necessary?

That’s a good place to sign up for the spiritual sport of shadow catching. Just start observing yourself reacting in your thoughts and why you are thinking them and what you are doing as a consequence. It’s an application of that First Reader “See Spot Run!” “Watch me finding fault!” After applying this a while, you suddenly ask yourself, “Who’s watching?” Aha!

I realize, by hindsight, how my mother prepared me for this game. I remember how when I was three years old and was having a royal screaming tantrum, she would drag me in front of the hall mirror and force me to watch myself! After a short time, I would start to giggle at the spectacle and be ready to surrender. Fast forward to my forties, I remember looking out my window on a grey November day, heartbroken, despairing with years of unrequited love, utterly hopeless ... when an imaginary violinist appeared playing a tragic melody and softly singing “Woozoo, woozoo, WOOZoo!” Aaaargh! But despite my utter misery, I discovered a level of consciousness that was observing me suffer! Then, thanks to Jung, I realized in a flash of insight that it is the ego that is suffering, and I grasped the words of Christ in the Gnostic Gospel of John counseling us “to learn to suffer and not to suffer”! So it becomes gradually possible, on occasion, to watch ourselves identifying with our ego. At least it is a first step to a higher level of consciousness. No, it did not solve my problems right then, but I glimpsed a new way of finding a solution. For me, it was finally to find the Beloved within, which may have made it possible for the miracle of meeting and wedding my “Polar Bear” Walter, and for our living eighteen precious years as white-haired Philemon and Baucis.

I cannot conclude without adding another glimpse of my mother in her old age. I was in one room about to enter the one in which she was struggling at her desk to tie a string around a package. It was a very frustrating attempt and she was clumsy. I watched her shaking her head and sighing, “Poor dumb beast!” Aren’t we all!


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