Issue 20;

Book Review

‘Meeting the Shadow The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature’, - edited by Jeremiah Abbrams and Connie Zweig

By Francis Checkley AnRyu ChiU

In a collection of 65 wide-ranging articles, ‘Meeting the Shadow,’ offers an overview of what Jung has referred to as the dark side of human nature; and how it appears in families, intimate relationships, sexuality, work, spirituality, the New Age politics, psychotherapy and creativity. Essentially then, it is a book about rage, jealousy, lying, resentment, blaming and how  such forbidden feelings and behaviour arise from the dark, denied part of ourselves, our personal shadow. This shadow, the book asserts, develops in childhood as a result of repressing negative feelings in order to build a proper ego.
We meet our shadow when we feel an unexplainable dislike of someone, when we uncover a long buried, unacceptable trait in ourselves, or when we feel overwhelmed by anger, envy or shame; but the shadow is not only an individual problem. Groups and nations have a collective shadow which may lead to racism, scapegoating, enemy making and ultimately war.             
One writer speaks of meeting her "Devils" during a mid-life crisis, when her well nurtured  and well-coiffed saint within, met the "sinner".
At this time, she remarks, her fascination with the light, her eager optimism, her implicit trust of others, her commitment to meditation and the path of enlightenment, were no longer a saving grace but a kind of subtle curse which brought her face to face with the heartbreak of failed ideals, the plague of her naivety with the dark side of God.
Jung and of course many post-Jungian therapists are quoted throughout the book as in the following:
                                 "  One does not become enlightened"
                                      by imagining figures of light, but
                                      by making the darkness conscious".                   C.G. Jung
In section 28 of the book "Meeting the Dark Side in Spiritual Practice by William Eichman, he says:

                 " When we practice meditation the dark side within us is washed to the surface of consciousness by the purifying and energising effects of the  exercises" and "this personal repressed evil" is released and must be examined and integrated by the practitioner as a necessary part of the meditation process".
The following section 29 is entitled "Encountering the Shadow  in Buddhist America by  Katy Butler In this, Katy, herself a practicing Buddhist of some 13 years, speaks of the many crisis of leadership in which she has seen:
                   "Black-robed Japanese Roshis and their American heirs exposed for having secret affairs,
                     misusing money, becoming alcoholic and indulging in eccentric behaviour".
She goes on to say that despite her heartache and puzzlement over such matters she knew that the teachers involved were not charlatans but thoroughly trained spiritual mentors dedicated to transmitting the Buddhist Dharma to the West. Nonetheless, now that the shadow side had come
to light, certain common elements within the communities became apparent.
These included:-
            - Patterns of denial regarding alcoholic and incestuous families.
            - Soft-pedalling of basic Buddhist precepts against the harmful use of alcohol & sex.
            - an unhealthy marriage of Asian hierarchy and American license that distorts the the teacher-disciple relationship
            - A tendency, once scandals are uncovered to either scapegoat disgraced teachers or blindly deny that anything has changed.
Had this "Lineage of Denial" as she refers to it, only happened in isolated incidents, it could possibly be explained away by individual villainy. But it didn’t! It gained hold and flourished widely in spiritual communities of many kinds, and I would venture to say, the potential for such misfortunes still exists, because all community members, however unconsciously play a part in keeping hidden emotional wounds as shadow material.
I thoroughly recommend    this book to anyone involved in the practice of making the unconscious, conscious and for everyone participating in community development, whatever their level of involvement.  In this way, maybe those of us who unknowingly may have hoped to find sanctuary
from the wounds of painful childhoods and from the loneliness of our consumer society, will not replicate unconscious patterns we hoped to leave behind.

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