the Descent into Shadow
– another metastory –
The grandfathers waited. So did the grandmothers, and the fathers and mothers, and the young men and women, and the children – the little boys and the little girls. They all waited.
Then Teller-of-stories began to speak…“Now we can follow in thought how it is that the Death, and the Resurrection, of Modern Civilization, the change from Winter into Spring, comes to rest in each of us as individuals.
“It is a doorway of sorts, although sometimes a maze and a labyrinth. Its passage is not managed easily, and our encounter with this dark realm is one reason the Hopi Indians of Americas Southwest speak of this Age – this time of Strange Fire, as the Day of Purification. Life is forcing us into dark places, both within and without, and challenging us to reach inside and transform ourselves – to purify.
“The fact is that we are, as individualities – or as some call it I-ams – unfinished. The Mystery has given us much, the very best possible start by the way. But the Mystery has also given us a challenge, and left us incomplete in such a way, that we only become what we choose to become. What we become is also our choice, in much the same way that the moral is our choice.
“In this transition from Winter into Spring, we only go so far. There will be other opportunities to change and grow. The Mystery does not compell us to become all that we could in just one lifetime. Our tasks are simple, and always right in front of us. But in the Descent into Shadow we go as deep as is possible for most in this time – for in this Descent, which is an inward descent, a fall into our deepest natures, we come face to face with the Dark Within, the Shadow.
“Each of us has a dark aspect, something which is really not our I-am, but which is something other – a company of companions. Just as how it is that without dark, from light alone there could be no color, so it is with human beings – our inner light is buoyed up by darkness, so that the soul is full of color, which we see everywhere around us in the beautiful complexity of human nature everywhere. We are not saints, nor are we purely sinners.
“But the blessing of the Mystery is that this darkness is not our essential nature. Our I-am, or spirit, is only of the Light. Yet, in order for us to grow, to become, we have to experience earth existence – we have to be within matter so as to learn by struggle and effort. If we just rest in our given light nature, we cannot change, but will ever be the same.
“Some, of course, would like this – would prefer to be of the given light alone and never exert themselves to change. These will end up just childish beings supported by a loving god, but never mature into the true child-like nature that learns and grows and changes out of is own choices and spontaneous wisdom and insight – having discovered how to stand on its own. Others, will refuse the light, even though they were born with it. They will instead seek to be like the dark, and this too will be easy for all that is necessary is we abandon our humanity, with its moral and spiritual aspirations, and live only in our animal natures – creatures of instinct, of mere appetite and passion.
“What choices the Mystery offers are quite real. We can rest, remain fixed in the given, which in Christian iconography is the choice of Lucifer – that is one choice. Another is to abandon our humanity all together, and surrender to appetite and earthly delights, which is in ancient Persian mythology, the choice of Ahriman, the Dark God who opposed Ahura Mazdo, the God of Light.
“Or we can choose the middle way and find the courage to face the trials offered us in this time of purification. We don’t, by the way, have to go looking to find these trials. They find us. Our biography puts right before us just what we have to face. No one need go to the mountain top to meet the guru in order to obtain to wisdom.
“There are really two main “books” we need to learn to read: the book of life and the book of the own soul. The Mystery cares for us far more accurately than we imagine, with the result that our biographies contain exactly those lessons most needing to be faced.
“How do we know this? We know this because it is precisely our immediate life from which we so much want to turn away. Our job may be boring, or our partner seems to hard to live with. Or the children too difficult, or the parents to intrusive. Everywhere we look are experiences that call to us to meet their challenge and learn. Not only that, but these challenges have a somewhat peculiar nuance.
“They demand we change ourselves. Our usual orientation, just as is the orientation of the drunk or the addict, is that life is wrong, and we are right. We assume that life makes us suffer, and that we can only stop suffering by making everyone else change and adapt to us. Eventually, however, we begin to realize that the outer world is exactly what we cannot change. This is why the real demand of life is that we change.
“Life itself is intractable, although many believe they come to dominate it. Yet, if we are really paying attention, we eventually come to learn that the only thing we really can change is ourselves; and once we make that observation and seek self transformation, then we encounter the Shadow.
“In order to change ourselves, and make a truly creative approach to our individual biographies, we have to face the dark within. Yet, for all its unwanted realities (few of us are willing to admit how much evil comes out of us and into the world), life becomes seen as a mirror of our own soul, and we finally begin to appreciate the lesson Christ tried to teach in the Sermon on the Mount concerning: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
“This is the real gift of the own Shadow. We face our own errors before we seek to change the outer. Only on the basis of understanding our own darkness can we really approach the “other”, the Thou, in a way that is healthy for both of us. As Emerson pointed out: only in descending into the depths of our own mind, do we really begin to understanding all minds.
“And it is very much a descent…an acceptance of the true trials life places before us. We go into our own inward darkness, and from the knowledge acquired there, first really begin to be able to comprehend the light.”