Many years ago, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a fictional story about one man whom he gave two names: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This character had two distinctly opposite personalities. Dr Jekyll was a fine upstanding member of the community during the daylight hours, while Mr Hyde was a villain who emerged once the night-time settled in. Dr Jekyll did great service for his fellow man, while Mr Hyde destroyed and pillaged all he came into contact with.
One lived in the light, the other wallowed in the shadow.
Many regard the light and the shadow as the two distinct aspects of man/woman. While it isn’t openly spoken about, each one of us has the light of goodness in us, and also a lurking shadow of darkness within.
We all carry both the light (soul) and the shadow (ego) within us - this is the human condition. Some say that this equates to having both the good and the bad within us; I prefer the terms light and shadow.
Some people can however become engulfed in their shadow, which society would term as ‘bad’ behaviour. Or in cases when the shadow isn’t managed, conditions like bi-polar, schizophrenia, multiple personality, psychopathy and others can develop.
This world is a world of duality: of right and wrong, left and right, up and down, hot and cold, the light and the shadow. Some misguided teachers have told us to eliminate the shadow and promote only the light, but it’s impossible - we cannot have one without the other. The shadow is as necessary as the light. Even if it was possible to eliminate our shadow - which it isn’t - it would make for a very boring world and defeat the entire purpose for living in this three-dimensional existence, which is to learn and grow spirituality.
By being here, we are given the challenge of not only managing our shadow but mastering it, so it then becomes our greatest teacher.
What we need is a balance between the light and the shadow. Too much light and we lose touch with reality ending up with our heads in the clouds (too much selflessness); too much shadow and we become engulfed in those activities which lead us into darkness (too much selfishness)
If we can learn to understand and manage the shadow within, we will have a greater chance of having the shadow work for us, not against us. It's when people ignore their shadow or deny that they have one that an imbalance will result.
Religion has often denied the existence of a shadow self. I myself was taught in my early years while practicing meditation and yoga about eliminating the shadow, the ego. Those who have been ‘hoodwinked’ by such misguided teachings find that if they continue to follow such beliefs, they will become lost in imbalanced behaviours. Take for example monks, priests, nuns placed in positions of celibacy (having been taught sexual desire to be a sin for those who seek deeper understanding). In depriving this aspect of their human nature, the shadow self can end up in control and these individuals find themselves, at times, involved in unsavoury activities. This can lead to being trapped in shame and guilt, two states of being which they have been seeking to become free of. The shadow has deepened and dark activities result.
We begin our journey as a child, engaging in life with an awareness of our true state of being. We know about the light; we have just left it to be born into the world, entering into our journey of life. But as time goes by, we gradually begin to forget where we came from and who we really are. By the age of 7 or 8 years old, we start to go to sleep on our true nature. We have entered the dream state of 'waking sleep’. As we grow older and age, we fall more asleep to who we really are and we live the delusion of who we ‘think' we are. We start to take on an identity and believe it is our 'real' self, when it is actually only a role that we engage in.
I believe our purpose in life is to wake up to who we really are, to come to know ourselves, and discover a life of freedom and fulfillment. To do this, we need to understand and manage both the light and the shadow that resides within our being.
For those interested, I will soon be announcing a weekend workshop based around The Light & The Shadow for later in the year - more details coming shortly.