Grey Matters

A baby is born with just two fears – loud noises and falling; everything else is learnt behaviour. As we grow, we learn that some attitudes and behaviours are more, or less acceptable than others. Parents, siblings, friends, teachers, religious institutions, as well as the social and political climate into which we are born, all have their effect. They teach us that there are certain aspects of ourselves which are shameful and should be hidden, locked away into closets, stuffed into drawers with a lifetime of accumulated junk, until we forget that they are there at all. However, like all children, these hidden aspects need to be noticed and acknowledged, less they come back to haunt us in the night, and as children, they frequently do.

The face that we present to the world is not the real us, but a plasticized version of what we believe, or have been taught to believe, is acceptable – what we term the outer persona. Many of us find it a great strain to continually live this way, covering our real feelings with a veneer of pleasant politeness, all the time, screaming inside but too afraid to say what we really feel for fear of disapproval. This dark, unacknowledged side is what Jung referred to as the shadow self, the part that contains all our festering and pent up emotions, of hatred, jealousy and rage. This is the part that hacks the clothes of our philandering husband into pieces, the part that dumps manure outside the offices of inept Council officials, or in my case, the part that fires off angry letters to former employers, telling them some home truths.

The Bible tells us that we should do unto others as we would have done unto us. We may want to act positively and do the right thing, but try as we might, our destructive side sometimes lashes out, at the most inopportune moments. The destructive comment, the snide remark made behind someone else’s back, the practical joke that goes too far, these are all examples of our dark side in action. People pleasing is also, surprisingly a symptom of our dark side, constantly deferring to others and putting ourselves down, failing to seize opportunities that life presents us with, through either ignorance or procrastination. Apologising for things that are not our fault, aiming too low, like the school child who stops trying in case he or she is bullied. The shadow side is the niggling voice that restricts and confines, the voice that tries to hold us back and prevent us from moving forwards, in new age terms, commonly referred to as the ego.

This dark or shadow side often manifests in fiction as well as in real life, such as in the well known story of Dr Jeckyl and Mister Hyde. This virtuous Doctor is outwardly the pillar of respectability, but his scientific research with drugs leads him to uncover his own shadow side in the form of Mister Hyde. Once accessed, because it is suppressed, his power grows, and as it grows, Dr Jeckyl is forced to try even harder to cover up his nemesis in order to keep up appearances. Ultimately, both Jeckyl and Hyde are destroyed in the struggle.

We all come across people who think that they are perfect, although thankfully they are rare. Most of us though instinctively dislike these people, as we sense, usually quite correctly, that beneath this shiny veneer is a seething bed of suppressed emotions. The people that we instantly dislike are though usually mirrors of ourselves, as we have a tendency to project our own negative and hidden qualities onto others. We know we are doing this when we over react to what people are saying and doing around us, as this triggers those secret feelings that we have locked away deep inside.

The shadow may contain things about ourselves that we do not like, but this does not make it negative or bad. Many qualities that we repress can be very useful and productive if channelled in an appropriate manner. For example, the positive side of anger is energy, energy that can be used as a great force for change and promoting justice. The positive side of jealousy can also be an impetus to change, and improve the quality of our own lives. The shadow side then can be thought of a block, a block that like any other, starts to dissolve once we begin to work with it.

Without the darkness of the night, if all were bathed
forever in the limitless light of the sun, how would we ever see the stars?


Darkness and light are polarities that form an essential ingredient of life, of transformation, of movement and of change. Change could be thought of as the most powerful force in our universe, for without it there would be no evolution, no progress and no advancement. It may seem something of a paradox, but change is the only constant.

Change is the energy that propels us to move forward through the lessons we have elected to experience during our incarnations, while fear is the motivator that prevents us from accepting these changes. We resist change because it prompts us to look at ourselves more closely, probably more closely than ever before. The events that challenge us are designed to make us look at our most difficult emotions, in
other words, our inner darkness, as this prompts feelings of anger and frustration.

The pain and discomfort that we feel about the changes that we are faced with is entirely due to our resistance. Staying where we are seems like the easy option, for it is familiar, and there is great comfort in familiarity and also great fear surrounding the unknown, fear that what we are stepping into will be even worse than what we leave behind. In reality, experience shows that this is rarely the case.

A Course in Miracles says that the closed mind believes that the past and the future will be the same. The path of change is thus for many, a difficult choice to make, and so we choose to stay were we are surrounded by pain, until the pain of where we are becomes greater than the pain of change itself.

The future may be vague and indefinable, but it is what we choose to make it. The trick is therefore to acknowledge the voice of fear, or the ego, but not to allow it to rule over us. It has its place, as it prompts us to look at and work through our fears. We must not though allow our fears to cripple us and prevent us from reaching our full potential. It must be balanced with love and compassion towards ourselves and for the achievements that we have accomplished.

When the universe came into being, polarities were shaped, fashioned and moulded to foster and nurture change. Just as there is love and fear, light and dark, hot and cold, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, it is these differences, these polarities that allow motion to take place.

For current to flow in an electrical circuit, there must a potential difference. This difference is created by both positive and negative charges permitting current to flow. With an increasing potential difference, there will be an ever larger current.

This simple analogy hints at the role played by both the darkness and the light. The greater the differential, the greater the amount of change that occurs. The similarity ends the moment we realise that darkness is neither positive nor negative but just is.

Christians equate Satan, or the Devil with the powers of darkness, and God and Jesus with the power of light, but this is really an over simplification. We are taught to view the Devil as an opposing force, external to ourselves, that must be kept in check. This force though is not external but emanates from both within and without, just like God himself. The Devil or the darkness is therefore a force which is both equal and opposite to God.

We are led to believe that Lucifer and Satan are one and the same. The name Lucifer however means light bearer. He is therefore the nemesis of Satan, his light twin, as Satan is Lucifer’s dark twin. As Satan stands in the light keeping it in check, so Lucifer stands in the darkness keeping that in check, striving to maintain balance.

The Devil, or darkness is the voice of fear, or negativity, the voice that tries to throw us off track, the niggling voice in our heads that coaxes and cajoles, telling us that we are weak and unworthy, that we are not good enough, not successful enough, and others are better than we are. It is the voice that acts as our saboteur, preventing us from moving forwards on our path.

Many on the spiritual path love to whitter away about love and light, as if this is all that there is. Ignoring our dark side though, does not make it go away, in the same way that pretending our problems, whatever they are, don’t exist, doesn’t make them go away either. All that happens, is that they come back to bite us on the bum later on! We need then to acknowledge and work with the darkness as well as the light, in order to create balance.

The darkness is not a force to be conquered into submission, but a force to acknowledge and work with. It is a force which exists in each and every one of us, whether we choose to admit it or not. Ultimately the only way to transcend the darkness is to embrace it. This does not mean that we must ignore our light side and work only for the dark, for all this does is create a state of further imbalance. What it does mean however, is acknowledging that it exists, for by failing to acknowledge that part of ourselves, we are merely giving it more energy. Pain does not decompose when buried, but continues to fester beneath the surface, waiting for an opportunity to express itself, and burst forth. Ignoring this aspect of ourselves is therefore a very dangerous and selfish thing to do, for everyone around us, as when it does burst forth, others have to bear the brunt.

Darkness and light exist in equal measure in every being. This is perfectly illustrated in the Yin Yang symbol, which shows the speck of light within the dark sphere, and also the light within the dark. It is a mistake to label either darkness or light as positive, negative, good or bad, for they are what they are. Neither one is intrinsically evil, they are simply striving to maintain balance.

Before we can return to the Source, we must be balanced. Therefore we must strive to incorporate both light and dark aspects of our being, reaching a point of neutrality. If we work wholly for the light, and ignore our negative emotions, we will be unable to return to the Source. If we work wholly for the dark, then the same thing happens.

If there is too much darkness then the light will have to build in order to maintain balance. Likewise, if there is too much light, the darkness will have to build in order to redress that balance. The darkness cannot hold sway over the light; equally, the light cannot hold sway over the dark.

If perfect balance is achieved, the universe will simply vanish. Perfect balance will mean that the light and dark energies have reached equilibrium and will effectively cancel each other out. If one succeeds in defeating the other, there will no longer be any evolution. The universe will have served its purpose and will vanish, to be born again in a different form, beginning the process again in a never ending cycle.