Thursday, 9 December 2010

The dark

Strive for the light, always the light.  We live in a society obsessed with the bright, with the light, with the relentlessly positive.  Within this gleaming bright white perfect world there is no room for shadow, for penumbra, for twilight, for darkness. 

For a long time I relentlessly followed the path of the light.  I chanted positive affirmations until I was blue in the face; I knew I couldn't afford the luxury of a negative thought.  I manifested exactly what I needed - or what I thought I needed.  The message is that our lives should be permanently sunny, happy and joyous; all our relationships loving; all our spirits coursing towards the light. We are expected to be super-people, always up, always cheerful, always bright.

Is this natural? Is it realistic? Of course not. Virtually all of us have times when we feel down, depressed, negative. Times when we feel consumed with less than ideal emotions: anger, hate, jealousy, self-pity. If we were to believe some of the self-help gurus, we would seek to expunge such emotions immediately, drowning them in positive affirmations and self-talk. But is this missing the message? Do we do ourselves a disfavor by ignoring the dark and seeking always the light? Do we miss the subtlety of the moon’s shadows by always craving the clear illumination of the sun? By striving for perfection, for the ideal life, for permanent life, we are setting ourselves up for misery and failure. No-one can live perpetually in the bright sunshine. Life is made up of darkness as well as light. Our emotions too run into the shadows: fear, guilt, depression, anger. We cannot put a veneer over these emotions and simply hope they will simply go away. In fact, the more we disown these emotions, the more harm they will do.

We only have to look at nature to see that there exists cruelty, darkness, death. There are times of growth, times of decay. Sometimes day and light and the upward surge of life hold sway; sometimes we are in the grip of night and dark and the death-hush lies over the earth. We are splitting from an essential truth if we seek to live always in the light. After all, in order to have a peak, a mountain, you must have a trough, a valley. How can we truly know happiness if we have never experienced sadness and gloom?

By denying the dark we also lose the chance for genuine self-understanding and growth. There are many lessons to learn amidst the shadows, much wisdom in the gloom. We can and should sacrifice the idea of perfection because none of us is perfect. We all contain within us both good and evil, light and shade. When we turn and face our darkness, our demons of the night, we may find revelations beyond our wildest dreams. For there is dark energy too…

The ancients knew this and knew it well. In the Qabalah, the Tree of Life has a shadow image, a dark reflection. On it are all the sins and temptations known, the arch-demons of the soul. The qabalists realized that you cannot only see the bright side of life, you have to accept the dark as well. Ignoring the dark, pushing it aside, is to give it power over you. In many cultures the gods and goddesses were not just pure and good but complex creations with as many differing moods and attributes as us humans. Many initiation ceremonies demanded the initiate descend into the bowels of the earth or go deep into the forest or out onto the untamed sea to face his or her demons, to conquer fear, to embrace the dark and come out again, transformed, into the light.

I am not saying that affirmations and positive thought are bad things. They are in fact incredibly useful and worthwhile, particularly if you are the kind of person who constantly dwells on the negative. They are also valuable lessons in the first stages of energyworking. But once you have reached a certain level of skill in this work you no longer need to put a gloss on life. You need to face the dark energy, to plumb the depths: only then can you truly scale the heights.

1 comment:

  1. Jung would agree with every word, as do I, because a person who denies the dark, denies a good half of who they are.
    I get urges to shout and scream at Newagers who sign off love and light all the time.
    My two given names mean Living Light. My husbands two names mean Dark Warrior. I think this may be not a matter of chance.