In order to connect with our light, we have to be able to recognize the forces that are stopping us from doing so. If we are busy affirming the light while turning a blind eye towards the darkness and its operations, we are unwittingly feeding and giving free rein to the powers of darkness in our avoidance. We are tasked at this critical point in our history to come to terms with the darkness, a process which can only start by becoming acquainted with and familiarizing ourselves with the way that the darkness functions within our own being.
Throughout history, whenever genuine spiritual realization flourished in our species were also the exact times when the activated invisible forces of darkness were consciously recognized, which is to say that these are not two separate processes—waking up and seeing the darkness—but are one and the same process, two sides of the same coin that always go together. Be it in the old or new dispensations (The Old or New Testaments), both Moses and Jesus recognized—and were demanded to deal with—the powers of evil. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Surely we do not wish to accuse Jesus of ignoring the reality and power of evil! Why, the whole of his life was one long conflict with the devil. He calls evil evil.” In dealing with evil, we have to be able to recognize it and call it by its right name. Conversely, when these darker powers aren’t recognized are the times in history when destruction plays itself out most flagrantly in this world of ours.
According to the Kabbalah, divine sparks, psychic/spiritual treasures—threaded throughout the very fabric of the universe—were encoded both within us and hidden throughout the physical universe as well, waiting to be discovered and liberated. According to the Kabbalah, the extraction of the light requires an acknowledgement of, and sojourn into the realm of darkness, which psychologically speaking, can be thought of as making a shamanic descent into the underworld of the unconscious, what in Kabbalah is referred to as a “descent on behalf of the ascent.” Going inward is going upward in consciousness, dimensionally speaking.
Seen symbolically, the process of descent—as universally exemplified in the myth of the hero—reveals that only in the region of danger can we find the alchemical “Treasure Hard to Attain.” To quote Jung, “The descent into the depths will bring healing. It is the way to the total being, to the treasure which suffering mankind is forever seeking, which is hidden in the place guarded by terrible danger. This is the place of primordial unconsciousness and at the same time the place of healing and redemption, because it contains the jewel of wholeness.”
It is only when we are compelled by sickness, extremity or (an inner or outer) crisis to come to terms with our own nature that the opportunity arises to experience the somber power of the shadow as a messenger from the creative potential which lives within our own psyche. Just as evening gives birth to morning, the light chooses the shadow so as to reveal itself. The figure of the shadow bears the good news of the treasure hidden in the depths, what scholar and a colleague of Jung, Erich Neumann refers to as “the herb of healing which grows in the darkness.”
I love the image of something natural and organic—an “herb of healing”—growing in and emerging out of the darkness. This is analogous to how it is within the darkness of the earth that a seed germinates, for as the Kabbalah points out, it is the darkness itself that gives birth to the light. What this means is that in this time of overwhelming darkness that we are passing through we can keep our eyes open for the herb of healing that arises in our midst. This is not necessarily a physical herb, but could be conceived of as being an immaterial, regenerative force, something akin to a spirit which emerges within our psyche and potentially spreads out into the world through our actions – a redemptive and transformative essence that could only have revealed itself through the darkness that we have chosen to become aware of within ourselves.
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