One of the most challenging and difficult choices on our journey inward is embracing the dark side. Whether it be on a personal or worldly level, it is a step many of us would prefer not to take. We would rather shrug, criticize or condemn, thereby distancing our precious selves from the disquieting tremors quaking above and below.
Whether it be NATO’s rather-more-veiled-motivations-than-they-would-have-us-know in Libya, the denials and evasions of millionaire bankers facing Congress, the appalled innocence of jet-set executives answering Parliament, or the affectations which embroider the sleazy and underhand in our personal manoeuvrings in either the ‘present’ or ‘past’ of our lives, the denied and ignored darkness must be explored and then owned. We cannot live as fully in the light as we would like until we gather up those shadows and illuminate them with our own lamp.
As a guide and facilitator of the many avenues of uncovering what might well be called ‘the hidden treasure’, I am well aware of those on the path who, while enthusiastically embracing other modalities of the mystic and psychic, will postpone exploring their past lives, for fear of what might be revealed. Encountering the jealous murderess; the ruthless pirate; the cold, judgmental chaplain; the chaste, manipulative maiden; the demanding, controlling patriarch; the vain, competitive boss; the lusty, contemptuous Viking; and all the others on that road to ego gratification at the expense of others, can be a chilling experience. But if you face up to it, and embrace this selfish child with love and forgiveness you can move forward in your understanding of how our education is completed and graduation assured.
Let the love of Jesus wash away your sins. Allow the smile of Buddha to illuminate the petty pieties and perjuries of your performance. Meditate your way into that dark wood in the middle of life and feel the waves of thought and emotion which rock your boat about. Then feel the calm that comes after. Maybe it’s sleep, or the dream of sleep, or the dream within sleep. Who knows? And who is the who that actually knows?
Embracing the shadows within can, of course, assist in embracing those without. Each villain in the public sphere can be seen not only as a child nakedly acting out fear and desire but as an embodiment of all that we shun in our striving for goodness. They are pursuing attainment and gratification in ways which appall us, but their attachment to desire and ambition gives us another actor to understand and another tragedy with which to empathize. The sleazy and shameful are merely more ways to explore the territory of incarnation, and embracing them wholeheartedly can help us see why they exist and are pursued. All paths lead to the same place, – the end of the journey. Or at least a place to look back and take stock, and maybe see where your deviations allowed others the space to enter and ameliorate the damage you had done in the grip of determination.
I shall never forget meeting, on a flight from Toronto to Paris many years ago, two church-going Christians who told me they never read the newspaper as it was only filled with the doings of Satan and his minions. While deflecting further debate with sociable niceties, I mused on my own pleasured anticipation, after a week in Paris, of squandering a morning or two in London over lattes, croissants and that day’s Independent, surely one of the best English language newspapers anywhere. As a citizen in my community I can see them now as only two more of the many I’ve encountered who would rather not be troubled by the world’s events as they might poison their purity/shake their stability/provoke their passions/ruin their day/infringe on their family/shatter their innocence/imprison their pleasures.
Contemplating the many ways lifepaths can lead us I am reminded of a great quote from the gnostic gospels collected in The Nag Hammadi Bible: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you” (Gospel Of Thomas). As we move along our journeys, learning to embrace more and more of what we used to abhor, we can be lead to an understanding of the infinite complexities of incarnation and its aftermath, that busy cross-town traffic of the planet, of which Jimi Hendrix once memorably sang, Tire tracks all across your back baby, I can see you’ve had your fun. And that understanding, raised by our continued yielding, can be connected to as the music of the spheres, that cosmic neighbourhood in which one day we shall all live and have our being.