If you’re at all familiar with discussions in contemporary spirituality in general or Integral Spirituality in particular, then you know that “spotting the shadow” and “integrating the shadow” are essential aspects to obtaining the sought-after goals of integration and wholeness.
Integralists didn’t invent this concern with the human shadow (credit there goes to the Jungians who used the term to refer to an unconscious portion of the personality or collective). What they did, notably, was insist that the psychological process of incorporating the shadow needs to be honored within any path of human development that deserves the evaluation of “integral”.
Although this point seems common sense to many of us today, it was a bold assertion at the time. The streams of wisdom that go by the names of psychology and spirituality have often flowed down entirely separate sides of the mountain. Religious thinkers and philosophers had been opining on the nature of the human good for thousands of years without having formulated an elaborate theory of the unconscious mind.
To say that 20th century depth psychologists starting especially with Freud had created something so important and enduring in significance that it needed to be elevated into the very definition of good spirituality was tantamount to heresy for many people. After all, the tradition of psychoanalysis apart from the Jungians was not known to be friendly to religious belief (Freud having notably damned religion as “the future of an illusion”).
So anyone today who steps into the Integral Spirituality lineage inherits a complex array of influences that don’t obviously go together: Buddha and Freud, Yahweh and Jung, psychoanalysis of the shadow and the Cosmogenesis of de Chardin. In developing coherent theories to merge psychological and spiritual insights, several new ideas had to emerge: the spectrum of consciousness, the pre/trans fallacy, the quadrants, the shadow 3-2-1 process, the unique shadow, shadow in trauma theory, etc., in a constantly emerging process (Ken Wilber, the leading integral theorist in our day, has gone through at least five major periods of evolution in his philosophy).
One of the most important ways that psyche and spirit meet in Integral Spirituality is in the notion that the psychologists and sages are both pointing us towards the need to reconcile polarities of human experience. In No Boundary, Ken Wilber wrote:
If you disregard the technical jargon of any shadow therapist, and just listen to the overall drift of his conversation, you will find that what he says follows a certain pattern. If you say you love your mother, he will say you unconsciously hate her. If you say you hate her, he will say you unconsciously love her. If you say you can’t stand being depressed, he will say you actually court it. If you say you hate being humiliated, he will say you secretly love it. If you are passionately involved in a religious, political, or ideological crusade to convert others to your beliefs, he will suggest that you don’t really believe in them at all, that your crusading is merely an attempt to convert your own disbelieving self….
This starts to sound silly, but under all the apparently convoluted logic, therapists, whether they realize it or not, are simply confronting you with your own opposites…. Since the opposites cannot exist without each other, if you aren’t aware of both of them, you will send the rejected pole underground. You will render it unconscious, and thus project it. You will, in short, create a boundary between the opposites, and thus generate a battle. But this is a battle that can never be won, only perpetually lost in way after painful way, because the two sides are actually aspects of each other.
The shadow, then, is simply your unconscious opposites.
Now if I wasn’t basically on board with all that, I wouldn’t be writing a blog about Integral Spirituality. And for sure, I’ve spent many hours in shadow work containers and men’s work groups listening to feedback that helped me to spot my shadow. Looking into the psychological shadow when it shows up to cause problems is necessary and valuable. I don’t feel a particular need to reinforce this point, nor do I want to attempt to add to the considerable high-quality psychological theory on the subject from Jungian and Wilberian angles. If this is new territory for you, check out “The Shadow Series” on Ken’s blog and the chapter on shadow work in Integral Life Practice.
Instead, what I want to do is tell you a new story about the human shadow that I have found useful in my own life. As with many of the stories I tell, it is derived from an analysis of Lingua-U and The Kalendar, the Integral Konstructs that I am bringing into the world. It does not necessarily align with what others have told you about shadow. If you find that it is a bit shocking, don’t be distressed. It took me a while to get used to this story and allow it some room to dance as one of the dancers on the dance floor, one possible perspective to take.
Here goes. I realize you don’t have the benefit of seeing the entire Konstructs laid out before you at this time, but there is no reason not to show the cards I’m holding. So just take what works for you and leave the rest behind.
If you are obsessed with psychodynamic shadow work, you are dwelling in the dramas of The Golden Egg, probably in a stuck place at the Week of the Shark (see the fin! it was here a minute ago, now it’s gone! bet you can’t see the whole shark!) In terms of the Integral colors, this is the §4.6 perspective, near the beginning of “Teal” in the STAGES model (although in my model it’s still the tail of the Green dog). The first-person: “I”. The second-person: “you”. The third-person: “it”. The fourth-person: “the system”. But now that system is in eclipse, half hidden by the emergence of a fifth entity, unseen and unknown. That is the shadow.
The Golden Egg is just one of Nine Months! Shadow work is not central to any other month of the entire sacred calendar, just this one. But every month has something similar in its make-up: a point around the §X.6 perspective where the month’s most threatening disruption has just appeared (at the deep end of §X.5, usually at the Majestic at the Seat of Motion) and sent everything haywire. Now, at this perilous moment, the month’s essential drives reassert themselves at the Seat of Actualization. If the story of each month were a screenplay, the Seat of Actualization would be around page 60 or 65, probably tied to the fullest-yet appearance of the villain in the story.
In The Black Stone, the purest yang of any month, at §1.6, the Throne of Agency, the Protective-Mind has experienced its Personhood and sensed the emergence of Polarity within itself, thus given rise to Passiveness and awareness of the Past in view to the Present. Before §1.6, you might say that the Passiveness was basically the shadow of the first major consciousness structure. The Passiveness is the yang to the yin of Power, what it secretly desires and fears. It was hidden behind a mask of pure yang, but it had not yet arrived at mature Agency. At last, the implicit “I” emerges, but the “you” is veiled from sight. Shadow isn’t really the best term, is it? This is a story about the Body and its Primordial drives and impulses, its finding its own perspective and place, and not complex psychodynamic maneuvers.
In The Red Jewel, with yin at the second mark giving an intellectual air, at the deep end of §2.5 the Formal-Mind experiences a focus on Theorizing, Theosis, and Theology in response to even more primordial Fear drives. In turn, this gives rise to §2.6, the Throne of Thaumaturgy, which comes face to face with death (Thanatos). Thanatos takes the role of a villain who can wipe out the Faith and Theology. The “I” and “you” were known, but now “it” has shown itself with the roar of Thunder and it seems formidable and unknowable. It is basically the shadow of the second major consciousness structure, though really what we are talking about here is not a highly complex psychodynamic process of repression and projection. We are talking about a growing awareness of the Fragility of life and the need for Thaumaturgical (magical, ritualistic) responses in order to Synthesize an adequate response.
In The Brown Sword, with yung at the second mark, the deepest crisis — at the deep end of §3.5, is suggested by the words Torque, Torah, Torture, Torn, and Toll. Basically what we are talking about is the pain linked to self’s obligations to society and various dualisms including deity/devil, creating a twisting and turning motion that threatens the integrity of the self. Thus, at §3.6, the Throne of Truth, the villain of Tabulations and Taxes and Tallies and Tangents appears. In a world which had been dominated by three perspectives only — the “I”, “you”, and “it”, there is now obviously something else that is keeping score. It holds cards at the table as an unseen player, and it can be… terrifying and tormenting. The fourth-person perspective is coming into awareness now, leading to the awareness of Trinities and Triune realities through the pursuit of Truth.
Arriving at last at The Golden Egg, the deepest crisis is suggested at §4.5 by the words Showing Up, Shogun, Showmanship, and Shoulders. Picture, if you will, the actor starring in an ad for a pharmaceutical designed to treat social anxiety disorder. Or, like the Atlas of Greek myth, he feels that he must carry the burdens of the whole world on his Shoulders. She or he is us, at §4.6, beset with the need to manage our lives amidst increasingly complex social relationships perceived in both inner and outer dimensions. In response, the villain appears in a new guise, not Passivity, not Thanatos, not Tabulations/Taxes, but Shadow. What lies beyond the “I”, “you”, “it”, and “system”? It is the awareness that systems are arranged in a pattern matching the spirit of Evolution. The “meta-system” is stalking from the future.
Nothing the Systemic-Mind has known has quite prepared it for addressing a thrilling force that threatens to make everything Shambles, razing it to Shunyataa with the force of 10,000 Shambhala Warriors. The fifth-person perspective is on its way now. The wizard Gandalf has called for Shadowfax, but the White Horse is nowhere yet to be seen.
They’ve told you that shadow is simply your unconscious opposites. That explanation worked for a while, but it’s too simple, isn’t it? That’s the concept of shadow only, not shadow itself. Or, shadow as it feels like in this particular measuring-spoon, anyways.
Shadow is better described, I feel, as the Shunting of Additions Which Have Not Yet Been Dualized.
Shadow Work is not really making the unconscious conscious. It is better described as a Shagging of Dualisms Through the Ethos of Shambhala, the Spiritual Warrior.
Shadow isn’t really the universal phenomenon as depth psychologists and Integral theorists alike have made it out to be.
Yes, shadow work is central to resolving the crisis at §4.6 in The Kalendar model of human nature; it is key to the work of the Archetype of The Evolutionary.
Before the rise of The Evolutionary, it was not an important concern to any one of the three major Archetypes or nine minor Archetypes.
After this station, The Polisher/The Educator, in the other 5.33 Months of The Kalendar, and the remaining five major Archetypes and 16 minor Archetypes … well … we’ll see, won’t we?