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..:: The Shadow ::..


Alan Schneider


              The importance of the Shadow in Jungian psychodynamics cannot be exaggerated.  This primary archetypal symbol is the Gatekeeper of the unconscious, and is inevitably encountered at some stage of the psychic exploration of that region of the mind. This sub-state of consciousness exhibits both personal and collective expressions – with the realization (as Jung termed the psychological assimilation process) of the personal Shadow representing the key to working with this most challenging psychic manifestation.

            As the term implies, the Shadow is a personified region of the unconscious that can best be described as the dumping ground of the darkest and most negative elements of repression. All that we find most onerous and unacceptable becomes incorporated in the embodiment of the Shadow, which literally is a black, menacing figure that has a tendency when first encountered to attack the ego, lunging and screaming in the process! It is no wonder that the faint of heart avoid any subsequent encounters by avoiding the darker places in the unconscious. This is ultimately a mistake, however, because the Shadow can be reconciled to our full consciousness, and become a powerful psychic ally in the process – the collective Shadow can only be accessed by the realized personal Shadow. And that collective manifestation is the net expression of all human suffering and repression, indeed of all suffering in the universe. Thus, the realization of the personal Shadow assumes the highest priority in the spiritual growth of initiates who would perform light work in the dark realms.

          The steps involved in the realization process of the personal Shadow involve containment, appeasement, negotiation, and reconciliation. I will briefly describe my personal realization process. 

            After the initial attack (which was typical in character) a violent struggle ensued in the context of something like a dungeon. I was eventually able to wrestle the Shadow into a cell of that dungeon, and lock it in. I became quite bloody in the process, as did my adversary. I interpret this mutual bloodshed as a shared symbolic sacrifice, and the first step towards realization. My Shadow remained extremely and explosively violent in the cell, raging and snarling in confinement, but was not able to escape. Thus, the step of containment was accomplished. For many nights (in dream states) and days (in structured fantasies), I kept a vigil by the cell, until the caged figure eventually became more relatively calm (although remaining menacingly hostile in its gestures and deportment). I also began to feed it through the bars. The first attempts at this resulted in the offered food – simple bread and water – being violently thrown back at me by the prisoner (a symbolic rejection of the Communion), but it eventually morosely dined on the Spartan fare I offered. So did the appeasement process begin – through very basic behavior modification techniques. 

            At a certain point, the Shadow’s eyes differentiated from its uniform black presence. These were initially glowing red slits without anatomical differentiation, and were, of course, very angry, piercing expressions. The Shadow continuously glared at me with those red orbs that represented so much hatred, anger, and resentment – all built up over the years (lifetimes?) of its psychic abandonment.  

            As the appeasement phase of realization progressed, the Shadow continued to exhibit more anatomical differentiation. The black appearance metamorphosed into a brown, furry integument, the pupils and irises appeared in the eye sockets, and teeth and lips appeared in the mouth region, although these former were still fangs, to be sure, and the whole structure was frequently snarling at me through the bars. Feeding cycle or none, the creature frequently lunged at me, crashing into the cage in the process. What eventually resolved out of this process was a primate figure with the head and facial features of a baboon, and the upright posture and appendages of a human being. It eventually became calm enough to cease attacking the cage, and sit on the wooden bench which was the only furnishing therein, still regarding me with obvious malice and hostility, however.  

            Attention is the magic elixir of consciousness. As I continued to attend my Shadow, rather than attempt to reject it back into the depths of my unconscious, a healing slowly took place in that forlorn and desolate entity, and the malice that had typified its bearing eroded away, first into mistrust, and then into suspicious curiosity. This transition made possible the initiation of the negotiation stage of realization. At a certain point, I opened the door of the cell and entered to initiate emotional bonding transactions with the occupant. The result was another wrestling match (one of many more), but eventually an understanding was forged between us that it could not successfully attack me, and I would not abandon it again. It is noteworthy that we never have exchanged even one spoken word to this day – rather, there is an emotional link between us that has always transcended speech as a means of communication.  

            As the hostility subsided from our relationship, I was able to show my Shadow the world of my perception and feelings through my personal senses, which were, of course, its senses as well, advancing the realization process to the reconciliation stage. We finally formed a deep bond between us that has lasted to this day, and what was once a desperately savage entity trapped in unconscious darkness became a tall, upright white (although still fur covered) muscular figure, still with the head and face of a baboon, but having a high forehead and intelligent human eyes that no longer glared forth with red malignancy. Rather, they regarded the world from the peaceful, grateful perspective of the completed realization process in a reintegrated Psyche.  

            My shadow became my guide, assistant, and occasional guardian in the dark realms of the personal (and later collective) unconscious, as we carried the healing light into those nether regions together. This is what it means to have the realized Shadow as a psychic ally – a powerful friend in consciousness who will always stand by us.  

            And this has been well for me, because the Collective Shadow is a menacing force of Primordial Darkness that has caused untold harm throughout human existence, and that force is the root of external Chaos in the world that also must be confronted by each individual human being as we struggle through life. This entity cannot be realized as the personal Shadow can. It has been given many names in history, but I prefer the name Lucifer – literally the light bearer. I prefer this title for many significant reasons – let’s look at some of them. 

            In the mythology of Cabala, Lucifer was one of the original, and primary, Angels (or Angelic archetypal symbols, if you prefer this more scientific classification) – an Archangel – of God at the time of Creation. He had a definitive hand in the fabrication (under the direction of God) of the universe and this planet. Regarding our Earth, he apparently did not find God’s theory of construction objectionable, right up until He decided to create a replacement for Lucifer to tend to things, thus maintaining order, in Eden, following the completion of construction – Adam, the First Man. Why a supernatural, archetypal being like Lucifer should have been offended by Adam is anyone’s guess – but he argued with God about the need for, and wisdom of, Adam’s creation. Perhaps he simply was accustomed to his role of Right Hand Man to the Absolute, and didn’t appreciate retirement when the task of Creation was complete. Lucifer’s obstinate attitude eventually got him ejected from Paradise into Hell, and the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, the only realm in which the omnipotent, but still merciful, Creator was willing to allow him to reside. 

            If we equate Hell with the Underworld, and then take the analogy another step into the realm of psychological science, we find that the personal and collective unconscious regions of the total Psyche are very analogous to the Judeo-Christian Hell – dark, hot, uncomfortable areas of unperceived conscious expression that tend to be populated with all manner of rejected psycho-spiritual content. The personal Shadow has already been noted as one of the Primary Archetypal Symbols present, and there are many others as well, along with a multitude of lesser expressions of consciousness. All of these are valenced as well – they exhibit either benevolent or malevolent dispositions from the point of view of the ego, which must determine to what extent these are present, and act accordingly for the benefit of the organism that it must protect and enhance for the sake of the survival of both of them. So we can say that there is a tendency for conditions to become quite dark in the unconscious regions, and that more so in the collective than even in the personal, personal traumatic reactions being an exception.  

            The physical organism is the temple of the spirit. And it is also the prison of that same spirit for the duration of incarnation. Do what we will, we remain anchored to the Material Plane of expression by the physical body and senses. Because it is essentially a condition of limitation for the Soul, the body is inherently dark, as are the senses.  These latter are an adjunct to existence, but a distraction from noticing the essential truth of our imprisonment. Following the spiritual analogy, God certainly created Adam – through instructions subsequently carried out by Lucifer, who then built himself into this last piece of Creation right down to the foundation! It is no wonder that Adam was so willing to be duped by his senses – symbolized by consuming the Apple – he was bound to fall into the trap eventually. Yoga calls this Fallen condition the Mind Trap – equating it with the personal ego, which we nonetheless must have at this point in evolution to survive in the world. Yes, Lucifer did his work well, and here we all are. 

            Since Lucifer was built into the human expression, that is where God sent him for his confinement, specifically into the basement of the temple, to be exact – the collective unconscious – where he still presides, wreaking havoc on the world through disturbances of awareness that he thrusts up into conscious recognition. He may very well yet succeed in destroying the Creation he helped to build, which seems to be his goal, in any event. For this reason, any travel into the deep collective unconscious should be regarded as extremely dangerous, and the assistance of the realized personal Shadow is invaluable for those who feel called forth to make the attempt. 

            To be sure, there are also many positive aspects of many of the archetypal symbols of the collective unconscious, and this is the motivation for exploring there in the first place – there are exquisite pearls to be found by the diver in that realm, just so long as watch is kept for the sharks and moray eels that hunt in those depths. And awareness must be constantly be maintained that our existence is ultimately the result of God’s gift of Karma – however limited this gift may be, and whoever built the temple sustaining it – an awareness that must include a clear perception of the essentially temporary nature of the human condition, pearls and personality notwithstanding. We are here as an expression of the evolution of the Soul – this is the meaning of life. The realm in which Lucifer and the rest of the archetypal forms is contained exists beyond space and time as we know it, and he will eventually destroy the personal sensory temples of us all, freeing the Soul to continue on Its cosmic journey back to God, the ultimate source of Creation, including all the of the Angels and Archetypes as His subordinate expressions. Even Lucifer himself is still subject to God’s will.  The Physical (Material) Plane that we experience in the senses is the workshop wherein the Soul is refined by the limitation imposed by those two conditions, acquiring the subtle moral perception that represents the Path back to The Divine Source of all perception, within and beyond the flesh!  


                                                                                - With Love, Alan -

                                                                        (CR2007, Alan Schneider)


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