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The Shadow

There is a concept that has received much attention and acknowledgement over the past century or so, since the advent of Carl Jung's incredible work in the psycho-analytic aspects of human life.

The concept is known as "the Shadow", and it refers to the mass of unintegrated psychic material lying dormant within every man and woman's inner world of mind.

The Shadow, by definition, is that which we cannot see; it lies behind us, and becomes existent only due to the obstruction of the passage of light. When light or consciousness shines down upon us, the body catches its rays and the conscious mind becomes illuminated, but something remains hidden from view. That "something" has no reality unto itself, as it is existent due to the light from beyond. However, this Shadow does have an apparent reality and, as it appears, it seems to have some operative existence. The topic of this discussion today is on the nature and basis of what we are calling "The Shadow" which we have capitalized here to distinguish it as a psychic reality and an extension of the Self, different and of greater importance than the shadows cast on the ground by the waxing and waning light. In this article I will intend to cover my own personal understanding and relationship to the Shadow and also attempt to illuminate how it works, what purpose it serves, and what to do about it. The goal of all my writings and teachings is to bring a sense of understanding, integration and Wholeness to the spiritual journey of the human being, and this subject will be of great importance to those seeking this understanding, integration and Wholeness for their own path. Let's dive in.

This topic would not be sufficient if there were not at least mention of Carl Jung and his monumental, lifelong contribution to our current scientific understanding of the human psyche. I feel that this is a good place to start as it is through Jung's lens and interpretation that we look at the concept of "the Shadow". He was the man that introduced this idea to the Western world and, over 100 years later, we are still unpacking the wisdom from his insights and research. A brief look at Jung's work and life will reveal that this was an individual who spent his life seeking to understand the human mind and the totality of what we know of as "the psyche", which is comes from a Greek word that means "soul". The psyche, classically speaking, includes all parts of the human mind that affects the personality. A multi-disciplinary approach to the word "psyche" (or soul) will reveal it as the impulse of light that enters a fetus at conception and propagates the development of that life-form into a fully fledged human organism. This understanding helps us ground the concept of "soul" or "psyche" as something more than a metaphysical idea but rather a biological impulse; furthermore, this can help us see the mechanics of the soul-and-psyche and its interplay in our becoming as human beings.

A brief segue here into the nature of the soul or psyche may be necessary to further ground this concept, so as to provide context to our discussion around the Shadow.

If we accept the idea that light enters us at birth -- the initial spark of cosmic intelligence that ignites our beating heart and guides the development of our tissue, eventually informing the construction of the neural pathways that lead to our birth-and-growth into adults -- then we are able to see a little bit into the nature of the soul. To accept this idea we may be entering into a mystical dimension of understanding but no less grounded in reality. Here it is important to at least contemplate that there may be a guiding intelligence moving into-and-through us, which happened at conception and is still happening today. This "guiding intelligence" appears and manifests as the impulse of the soul, which is filtered through matrix of our biological machinery and eventually reveals itself as our actions in the world. Since light itself is unstructured energy, it must be held in the physio-chemical matrix of the human body in order produce the forms recognizable in the world we live in. The body (and mind) serve as structurization processes, whereby the infinite cosmic intelligence finds a home to serve its purpose (through the human being). If and when this guiding intelligence or light is obstructed, consciousness (light) cannot enter the world freely. The soul feels trapped inside the body since its full expression is blocked. In contrast to this, when the light flows freely through us, our lives feel aligned with the greater intelligence and things function as if "in flow". This is precisely because they are in flow -- the flow of life and the universal river which is moving us all along.

Where the Shadow comes in here is a topic of great interest for those of us who wish to feel more flow in their lives. The Shadow is the composition of material that, due to its density, obstructs this flow, just like a rock in a river. Since everything is reality is comprised of energy at varying levels of density all the way up to the lightest and most refined substance -- light, or consciousness -- we may be able to see how this works. In Tantra we talk about the importance of bhuta shuddhi, which is the purification of our relationship to the panca mahabhutas, otherwise known as the Five Great Elements. Why would Tantra emphasize this as important? In highly sophisticated spiritual science of Tantra, the idea and accompanying methodology of purifying our relationship to the elements allows one to sublimate the denser energies of consciousness in its descent down to Earth and open up the channels of our bodymind to allow more light to pass through us. You see, as consciousness makes its descent down to Earth, it becomes more and more dense. The orgasmic beginning of our life was an explosion of light, which then entered into a process of descent from the Great Beyond and into more and more structured forms of reality. The light needed a sort of "coding" or "programming" to become bones, tissue, blood, and such like. And as we grow and become adults, the light doesn't just turn off; it is still there, pouring into us from above, through the crown of our heads and down to the root of our body. We are the same as trees in a subtle sense -- light gives us nourishment from above and we draw that nourishment into our bodies all the way down to the root system beneath us. The roots beneath us, if they are functioning well, draw nutrients from the Earth and, through a process of alchemy, integrate the denser substances "from below" with the generative and life-giving nutrient of light and produce growth on all levels of the organism.

A human's roots plug them into the entire network of life "beneath" them, which metaphorically represents everything that happened before. One of the translations of the word "bhuta" is that which has already become, or that which has past. The deeper pointing here is that as we become life, we are building our life, literally, from substances which have already been created. As you have probably heard, we are made of stardust. This is literally true, as is the truth that the hydrogen making up the water in our blood has existed since the inception of the Universe. Since we live in a simultaneously quantum-and-Newtonian Universe, the implications of this are massive. What could I possibly be talking about?

Let's circle back to the idea of bhuta shuddi for a moment. At each level of existence, there are different properties. At the level of Earth, the density is the greatest. If we accept what physicists say about how everything is energy vibrating at different speeds or frequencies, then Earth is the "slowest" moving of the light-energy, God-energy, or consciousness that everything is made of. We move up one level to Water, slightly less dense but still quite solid in comparison to Fire, which then turns into Air, eventually sublimating up to the element of Space. Now you have all five elements in your awareness. In the various bodies of the human, these elements have a place at each level of our biology. At the densest level, we are bones, tissue, and flesh. These denser materials require longer time to transform their state. The light that is creating them has more steps to go through. Do you follow me? At the level of water -- the blood, the lymph, etc -- the time of transformation is slightly accelerated, but not quite as quick as the enzymatic & metabolic processes driven by the Fire element. And so on and so forth.

Where am I going with this? Well, as light makes its descent to become form, it is filtered through this highly intelligent pattern, and might appear visually much like fractal geometry. To reverse the process of the descent of light we turn to practices like yoga and meditation, which are central to Tantra. Why would we want to do this?

As we make our climb back up the "spiritual staircase", or the "latter to Heaven" as it is depicted biblically, we work our way through the layers of density that are obstructing the pure light from above so that we can have a real, authentic encounter with the Creator. Through this process we begin establishing a relationship to the building blocks of life and to the mechanics of Creation. All religion has been established due to one human's ascent back to the Light, and to the subsequent revelations of this encounter with the Great Mystery. When this ascent occurs, divine revelation about the Nature of Reality happens in a self-evident way. No longer are concepts relevant, as even concepts obstruct the flow of light back to Itself. But when the journey upward is complete, there is, of course, a descent back to Earth. Everything that goes up must comes down.

For all of us, us mere humans -- those of us who are not avatars like Jesus or Buddha -- we are also engaged in this process of ascent-descent. The ascension process is the process through which life regenerates, renews and evolves itself. When we make our way back to the Light, we download new information about how to proceed, how to create, and how to contribute to the Earthly realm. Our inspiration is literally like the birth of baby, or a Big Bang -- all the mechanics of Creation are present in the process of us manifesting new ideas, new ways of being, or new actions. When we are struck by true, authentic inspiration, it is like our channel has become clear enough for the constantly descending light energy to find its home in our system, and when we act out this inspiration effectively, successfully, we are building new structures, new hardwiring in our bodymind for that light to take form through us.

To develop a sufficiently purified bodymind that can allow the unobstructed passage of light through us and into the world is to create the vessel that can contain and channel the divine energies of the Soul and God. We become clean enough so that the descending-and-ascending currents of light don't get stuck on the "rocks in the river", to use this analogy. This is the ideal -- the problem is that this clean passage of light is not always the case. Enter: The Shadow.

Every occurrence in time that has ever been buried, repressed, or locked away to be dealt with "later" creates a form of density that sticks to the human psyche. The infinitely unfolding present moment, where light energy is descending and coming into the world of form, has one job to do: become. When the becoming of light is obstructed, it is obstructed by those densities that have been unresolved from the past. The present moment gets gobbled up by power-hungry structures that need the light to maintain their form. This is where patterns, habits, and conditioned ways of thinking block the future from actually unfolding. Instead of a future, our past is on repeat. The light energy that created the structures of "the past" is still caught in loops. The "loops" of light energy are geometries of spacetime. Unless and until this frozen light is liberated from its tightly bound, geometric state, newness cannot occur. Spiritual transformation occurs exactly when light is liberated from its structured, dense state and moves towards a less structured, more subtle state. Furthermore, the transformation is complete when that light ascends and then descends back into a new form. Hence the word "trans-formation" -- the change formation. When this process is engaged with consciously, old structures are dismantled and new structures are installed. Therefore the process of life continues, albeit in a new form.

The densities that stick to our psyche as unresolved material from the past and nothing more than supreme intelligence bound up in a configuration, waiting to be liberated by the light of consciousness. This needs to occur because somewhere, buried in that density, is a nugget of wisdom that is necessary to be integrated by the consciousness of the individual. The individual engaged in this process of integrating the past is engaged in the evolutionary process. This person finds, in themselves, the current of life and works to clear it of any obstructions. They locate the Shadow in their own psyche -- the hidden and repressed parts of the totality of the mind -- and, through a process of conscious attention, brings flow and thus sublimation to these densities. The past, when felt, melts into the present moment. A truly present moment, unobstructed by projections from our history. Feeling is the key word, as the process of feeling engages the biological machinery of our senses and bodies, which then directs the light energy towards the obstruction. When or if we disconnect from feeling, we leave the density behind and float up to a higher or subtler realm, oftentimes the realms related to cognition & thinking. Viewed evolutionary, we must remember the order of operations and look back at our chart of bhuta shuddhi or elemental purification. What I mean is this -- cognition or thinking happens much later and on a less-dense dimension of reality. Sensation and feeling are denser. The light has to descend aaaalll the way down to the root before it can actually begin to ascend again, you see? When that light energy coming in illuminates something that is uncomfortable, the instinctual impulse is often to reject or rebound the energy out again. The sensation is uncomfortable, and because our bodies are very good at diverting energy, they automatically default to this. Remember from physics class: objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The Law of Inertia, which is also the Law of Karma (for those who have an understanding of Karma). To break a chain of pattern or activity, one must inject into the system a countering energy that is strong enough to change the trajectory. What is this "countering energy"? If you're following my reasoning here, I would say that feeling is the countering energy.

When we allow the light in and down, we open ourselves up to illumination. If parts of us are still afraid of being illuminated, we will feel it. If we reject this due to it being uncomfortable, parts of us remain "in the Shadow" -- dormant and locked away for later review. But when is "later"? When do we actually sit down and take a look at what within us is obstructing the flow of light through us?

This is Shadow work, and it's not easy, because it requires that we look into our past -- and not only our past, but our families past, our ancestors past, and the collective history of life -- and we bring light to the ugly, disgusting, or denied parts of life. Why? Because Love wants to be understood. Love wants to be known by us. And not just cognitively ... It wants to be experientially, somatically, and completely known by us. Love wants to be loved by us.

Love IS the Light energy; it is the truth of our existence. It is the impulse that gave us life and continues to give us life. It's in every cell in our body at every level of our existence. Love gets trapped when humans try to control it, because there are so many parts of our biological machinery that are trying to control it. Locked in their ignorant embrace of the past, holding on to some idea or concept we have about "the truth" of things, we obstruct the infinite flow that is happening through us in every moment. The capital T Truth does not need a story to be affirmed. There are no structures that can sufficiently hold It, for It encompasses and envelopes All, and still remains beyond.

Truth and Love are synonymous. Light is Truth, Consciousness is Truth, and the Present moment -- the truly, unobstructed Present moment -- is where the infinite expansion of these "concepts" become Reality. Where Love becomes. And when we learn to Love it All, we have succeeded in our Creator's divine wish, which is to realize Who We Are -- to know Love. Nothing is left out, and ALL parts of us find their home, Here, in the beautiful and mysterious Now, where nothing is hidden, and nothing is blocking the flow of the Love that We Are.

This is the process of integrating the Shadow so that we can become Whole and complete human beings, opening ourselves again and again to the Mystery of Love which is creating all of our lives.


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