Dying in the Light: Why We Need to Acknowledge Shadow (Updated)

Above is the Devil card from The Witches Tarot – one of my favorite Tarot decks

Shadow work brings out the best and worst in us.

Some run away from it, and go to great lengths to avoid it – for obvious reasons.

Others recognize the necessity of facing the shadow in order to recover the spiritual light that is imprisoned within it.

But regardless of whether you embrace it or run from it, the fact remains that shadow work is essential in the process of self-knowledge and spiritual illumination and evolution.

We cannot be free from darkness unless we go through it, like a shamanic dismemberment, and die to the parts of ourselves that are connected to darkness — that are perhaps even enslaved by it — so we can be reborn to the part of us that is free and consciously connected with the source of Divine Creation; to the Great Mystery.

I think the most succinct justification for shadow work was given from Carl Jung: “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell”. (Andrew Carmargo – Modern Soul Science)

I have yet to find in today’s spiritual teachers that kind of deep exploratory experience and revelation that only shadow work will give you. It seems that many people offering spiritual help either want to sell you sunshine and lollipops and tell you that everything’s as good as you want to believe it to be….or they want to sell you some charm, spell or enhanced card reading to get rid of that nasty person, or spirit or financial problem plaguing you. They may even resort to telling you that you are God (or a Goddess) and while you desperately want to believe it you still find yourself struggling with earthly problems. The reality of life, despite what you might spend, tends to seep in and it sets up a cozy nest in your mind.

The idea that you needn’t feel discomfort, or animosity, or self loathing, or inadequacy or shame, or guilt, or hatred, or have thoughts of murder or perversion or cruelty is very appealing and so it is no wonder that people actively seek feel-good solutions in the form of self-help books, certification courses, megachurch healings, seed money blessings and Tarot/Oracle card readings. With the world as it is, it is not unreasonable that we want to feel better, it’s just that my anger gets a little piqued when people pay to relieve their suffering under false pretences and are no better off. Sometimes, though all you need is to just take a course, visualize yourself being healthier and having more money, or recite an affirmation to love yourself more. Sometimes you really are what you think. For people looking inward to change themselves, the payoff for what they spend is much more rewarding and long lasting. Heck, we all need someone to teach us the things we didn’t know before. I just don’t think that what can be learned can stem only from the rays of sunshine and happiness that some authors claim will fix your life problems. I think you need to see where your discomfort comes from, where your ego can get you in trouble and that is a very personal introspective journey that is unique to each individual wanting help. Psychotherapy has had it’s foothold in this realm and has a myriad of ways to make lasting changes and improvements in a persons life. Mentally it only goes so far, and in my estimation fails to hold hands with spirituality often enough to provide sustainability to those changes we are trying to ‘think’ into being. Spirituality alone doesn’t seem to cut it either.

To clarify, there is nothing wrong with taking a course, using visualization and reciting affirmations or wanting to better your life in any way. I am currently taking a course on Archetypes and Shadow work. I often use visualization when I have anxiety before doing anything new and affirmations are good mental practice to help us see the positive in life and I use Oracle cards that give me a script I can use during the day to keep my perspective on the right track. But for the real deep life-changing work (my shadow work) I use Tarot cards to delve into my thought patterns and behaviours that want to get in the way of deep and meaningful change in my life. Shadow work with the Tarot cards, in particular the ‘bad guys’ of the Tarot deck, grounds me in a humble frame of mind and draws my roots down into hell, just as Jung intoned.

For instance:

The Tower Card: Reminds me that when I place myself, my life, my priorities, on a pedestal, I can always expect that those things are there temporarily and if taken for granted, can suffer utter destruction with absolutely no consideration for my feelings whatsoever. My sense of security and superiority over others is always ready to come crashing down, seemingly by the hand of God, and my ego is humbled because of it.

The 10 of Swords: Acknowledges those moments of complete and utter hopelessness in my life where I realize that I’m in NO WAY in control of how bad things can really get. No efforts will have a good outcome, no opposition will yield a victory. It’s my “being kicked while you’re down, salt to an open wound and complete and utter ruin” kind of card. It reveals who my true worst enemy is and who my true and valued friends are who still love me through it all.

The Devil: Reminds me that I am constantly challenged by my self created illusions/delusions and addictions. It is a card that often tells me to face those aspects of my past and personality that I hide behind a mask. In The Witches Tarot, the Devil card is aptly renamed “the Shadow”, showing two terrified people hiding from what appears to be their worst nightmare. Yet, when I look closely, the source of light that reveals the ‘devil’ appears to have a slightly human form. Who is radiating the light from behind the demon? Is it God? Is it us? Are the people afraid of the light as well as what it is revealing? All good questions for my own shadow work!

The Devil Card (#15)

Lucifer. Mephistopheles. Satan. The Prince of Darkness. No matter what we call him, the Devil is our symbol for what is bad and undesirable. From our human perspective, we see the world as a struggle between light and dark. We want to vanquish the bad so the good can prevail. In fact, good and bad cannot be separated, just as you cannot separate a shadow from its source. Darkness is simply the absence of light, and it is caused by errors that hide the truth. Card 15 shows us these errors.

First is ignorance – not knowing the truth and not realizing that we do not know. Second is materialism – the belief that there is nothing but the physical. As spiritual beings, we long for the Divine, but we lose contact with this source of truth if we trust only our senses. There is also hopelessness, which robs us of our joy and movement toward the light.

Traditionally the Devil stands for evil, but it does not have this rather frightening meaning in a reading. This card lets you know that you are caught in an unhealthy, unproductive situation. You may be in the dark about something – ignorant of the truth and its implications. You may be obsessed by a person, idea, substance or pattern that you know is bad for you (or maybe you don’t!). Sometimes this card reflects back the negativity that has made you doubt yourself and your future. We are prone to many errors in life. Card 15 lets us know when they are serious enough to require attention. When you see the Devil, examine your assumptions carefully. Make sure you are not working from a false picture of yourself and the situation. Hold fast to the highest vision of who you are. From: Learntarot.com

This article is a re-work of what I actually wrote yesterday.

I had written it on a bad day for me mentally……a Scorpio feminine anger revenge PMS kind of day. I took my frustration out on two public personalities which served no purpose other than to give me some perceived superiority over others. When I posted it to Facebook I got a few likes, but what struck me most was some comments that really put me into a proper perspective. What I’d failed to learn from my own words was that I could not claim a holier than thou stance when I was attacking and fearful instead of loving. I’d failed to see the lesson in the very card I was attempting to describe in my article. It made me just like them, and I realized that as messed up as some of those ‘guru’s’ might seem, we are all really the same inside and share the same kinds of dysfunctions of thinking and belief and action as everybody else. In essence I WAS the people depicted in THE SHADOW card.

I’m grateful to my friends at Tarot Rebels who were unafraid and eager to point out the error I was committing. As promised, this revised article aims to do justice to the real intention I had in mind before I let my shadow get the best of me. Without their comments I might have perpetuated the illusion I was coming from a place of light and been content to ‘die’ there.

Thanks to Rhi and Claire for calling me out on the Rebel carpet…..

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