“There are heights of the soul from which even tragedy ceases to look tragic.” ~ Nietzsche
Most of us are familiar with the archetype of the Dark Shadow: the repressed dark side hidden within us. But we’re probably not familiar with the archetype of the Golden Shadow: the repressed gold hidden within our darkness.
The golden shadow symbolizes withheld courage, hidden talents, repressed passion and stifled creativity. It’s the unfulfilled potential that people fail to see or develop because of fear and a lack of risk-taking.
In the spirit of becoming a more balanced and integrated human, and more authentic in our engagement with ourselves and with each other, being curious about the darkness within is a profound way of discovering hidden gold.
Making the darkness conscious
“Too much of the animal distorts the civilized man, too much civilization makes sick animals.” ~ Jung
Having a shadow is a part of being human. We all have one and we all have a dark side. It was necessary to repress certain aspects of our animality when we were growing up.
In order to fit into our immediate cultural dynamic, in order to be civilized and a healthy, functioning member of society, it was an important and healthy thing to tone down our wildness, our unbridled frenzy, our violence, our unthinking spontaneity and learn some discipline.
This became our repressed darkness, our shadow. Making the darkness conscious is an artform. It’s a precarious endeavor, a delicate and dangerous undertaking. But no other practice is more vital to human flourishing. No other task is as critical for achieving balance and integration.
As Jung famously said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
This is because the shadow is primal. It’s wild and intuitive. It’s umbilical. In our youth it was necessary to repress it in order to achieve discipline; in our maturity, it is vital that we integrate it in order to achieve enlightenment.
It must be reconciled lest it fester and spread and poison us. If we simply ignore the shadow, it will just become stronger, darker, angrier. It will become demonic and domineering, to the extent that it will eventually possess us like mere puppets under a dark unforgiving cloud.
It takes fierce courage to face our darkness and it takes ruthless questioning to get past the comfortable “answers” that we’ve settled for. It takes tender vulnerability to get past the rigid invulnerability that we’ve erected to keep ourselves “safe.”
But nothing is more important than making the darkness conscious, especially when our goal is healthy integration, wholeness, balance, self-actualization and enlightenment.
Mining the gold
“Heroes are meant to be forged golden from the blaze.” ~ Nikita Gill
Once we’ve made the darkness conscious, we can begin the important task of sacred excavation. But it won’t be easy. The only thing harder than mining for gold in the shadow is making the darkness conscious.
This is because the shadow is turbulent and fierce. It’s an unbridled furnace of molten energy where all our repressed anger, grief, shame, guilt and wildness has boiled into a raging frenzy.
Mining for gold in such an environment is not for the faint of heart. A good strategy, going into it, is to harness the archetypal power of the Phoenix (the personified life-death-rebirth process). By pitting one archetype (Phoenix) against another (Shadow), we will be more courageous and adaptable when facing the burning and more likely to gain the resilience of rebirth.
Easier said than done, but the discovery of gold makes it all worth it. For this type of gold reinforces our confidence and courage. It bolsters our self-esteem. It makes us more resilient, more imaginative and more spiritually robust. It reveals hidden talents, repressed passion and stifled creativity.
The interesting thing is that in order to gain the courage needed to mine for gold in the shadow, one must already have the courage to make the darkness conscious.
It’s like George Orwell’s paradoxical quote: “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
The good (and bad) thing about the Unconscious is that it works behind the scenes despite consciousness. If we’re lucky enough to have a life experience that triggers our unconscious into giving us the much-needed courage to make the darkness conscious, in the first place, we’ll be able to bolster our courage through the discovery of our shadow’s gold, in the second place.
In the end, having made the darkness conscious, having been forged by the fire, having resurrected into a mighty Phoenix, we will have excavated sacred gold from the shadows and unveiled our deepest passions, hidden talents, fierce wildness, and innate creativity.
From these sacred artifacts, we can continue the reconciliation of the shadow and the cultivation of our authenticity.
With our mighty shadow by our side, as ally rather than enemy, as wholeness rather than dissociation, as diamond rather than demon, a cloak of antifragility dons our character and the path of self-overcoming and enlightenment widens before us.