Seeking Shadow’s Gold: Putting the “Quest” Into Questioning

“The less people know, the more stubbornly they know it.” ~ Osho

What is Shadow’s Gold?

We are all born inside a cave. This cave is our conditioned mind. It is reinforced by the society we live in and the culture we were conditioned by. The cave is a psychosocial cul-de-sac buttressed by the rigid walls of cultural conditioning and guarded by dogmatic indoctrination. This is the story of our psychosocial enslavement. 

In Plato’s Cave, people don’t know that they don’t know. They are spellbound by the dancing shadows, convinced that is all there is to reality. Only the power of imagination and questioning their perception of reality frees them from the tyranny of a limited reality. 

Similarly, the culturally reinforced cave of our mind is spellbound by the blinding light of society. The light is so bright and convincing that we don’t realize it is blinding us from a healthier, less limited, perception of reality. 

Indeed. Those unaware that they are blinded by the light will never gain the capacity to seek out their shadow. And those without the capacity for shadow seeking will forever be tormented by a limited reality.

Seeking the shadow is a vitally important part of escaping the psychosocial cave and reconditioning our conditioning. The psychosocial cave is like an inverted Plato’s Cave. Where literal shadows prevent the seer from perceiving more holistically in Plato’s Cave, in the psychosocial cave it is the blinding light that does so.

Where the light of day frees one from Plato’s Cave, the shadow’s gold frees one from the psychosocial cave. In both allegories, to become aware of the cave is to leave it. 

Seeking shadow’s gold:

“My abyss speaks. I have turned my ultimate depth into the light.” ~ Nietzsche

The first step in discovering shadow’s gold is to accept that we are blinded by the light. We must accept that we are blinded by the light of our cultural conditioning. That light that’s so incredibly blinding that we cannot even think beyond it. 

Once we accept this, we free ourselves to take a leap of courage out of the blinding, overly comfortable, and oh-so-safe, light of Mother Culture. This is especially important when a culture is profoundly sick as ours is. 

After the leap of courage, the real journey begins. We are ready to “Quest” into questioning. Our imagination unlocks. Creativity becomes a black fire burning at the center of that blinding light. Somewhere in that fire of darkness is our shadow, dancing. 

Why is it dancing? It dances not only because it is fire, but because it is our hidden mischief, our repressed Dionysus, our carefree yet concealed Sisyphus, and our overwhelmed inner child. It dances because it is free to be both fire and darkness, despite fear and light. 

Fear fuels the blinding light of our cultural conditioning. Fear is an abstraction of an abstraction that keeps us trapped in our psychosocial cave. Fear blinds us into focusing only on what we think we know (the cave), while keeping us ignorant to the unknown and potentially healthier way of being human in the world (outside the cave). 

The shadow dances in the black fire of our creativity, ready to transform boundaries into horizons. It is eager to overcome the cave by turning it inside out. It is primed to flip all scripts, turn all tables, push all envelopes, and transform fear into fearlessness. 

This is the power of an awakened shadow. The blinding light is turned inside out like a black hole collapsing in on itself. Even fear is inverted. And now the black hole of our inside out psychosocial cave can, like a piece of coal, be pressurized into the most precious diamond known to man: shadow’s gold.

Cultivating shadow’s gold:

“I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside.” ~ Rumi

shadow's gold

Cultivating shadow’s gold requires maintaining pressure on the “coal” of our inverted psychosocial cave. How do we do that exactly? Through the checks and balancing of a questioning mindset. 

This requires vigilance. It requires a ruthless kind of self-questioning known as self-interrogation. We must remain circumspect in our checks and balances lest the gained harmony of the diamond (shadow’s gold) regresses into the disharmony of the coal (inverted psychosocial cave). Or worse, we de-evolve back into the blinding light of our cultural conditioning.

Fueled by our shadow’s dark fire, we are free to dance and play, to branch out and breathe, to stretch our soul across the interconnected cosmos and realize that we were connected all along, we were just blinded by too much light to notice. 

We are free to love and to fall in love with Being Love. We are free to unite the abyss and summit inside us, to give our roots wings. For we realize that our shadow’s gold is our broken heart, shattered and hurt from a thousand disappointments and setbacks and failures and shortsightedness and covered in scars, yet more alive, more robust, more anti-fragile because of that fact. Indeed. Our shadow’s gold is our sacred wound glowing like nothing else can glow. 

We cultivate our shadow’s gold by dancing with our shadow, by joining our inner light with our inner darkness and casting out a prism of infinite possibilities. We cultivate it by questioning, by keeping the pressure on the diamond. We cultivate it through our imagination, by maintaining curiosity in the face of certainty. 

We cultivate our shadow’s gold to stay ahead of the curve. The curve is the rest of society still stuck in the psychosocial cave. We dance, we question, we create, we maintain our awe, for the pure joy of cultivation, but also as a way of living by example. So that our inner fire, our blazing shadow dance, can be seen from the other side.

So that those still caught in the blinding light can perhaps catch a glimpse of our beautiful darkness. And perhaps they will be hooked by the question mark hidden inside all their answers, answers, answers. And perhaps they will begin to actually think outside the box that they so desperately try to think outside of. So that the harmonizing medicine of shadow’s gold can radiate through all the confusion and psychological static inherent in the human condition. 

In the end, those few of us who have discovered our shadow’s gold empathize with those still blinded by the light of their cultural conditioning. After all, we were once trapped too. We were once without the empowering fire of our shadow’s gold, living half-lived lives yoked to the mindless stagnation of blind faith enforced by an arbitrary black and white uniformity.

But no longer. Now our inner darkness and inner light shine together. Now, with our shadow’s gold at hand, we are beacons of darkness despite the blinding light.

Image source

Seeking shadow

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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