Gnosis, Psychology and the Spiritual Journey.

The Shadow: Gnostic reflections on the psychology of CG Jung.

“My shadow’s
shedding skin and
I’ve been picking
Scabs again.
I’m down
Digging through
My old muscles
Looking for a clue.

I’ve been crawling on my belly
Clearing out what could’ve been.
I’ve been wallowing in my own confused
And insecure delusions
For a piece to cross me over
Or a word to guide me in.
I wanna feel the changes coming down.
I wanna know what I’ve been hiding in”[46&2, written by Maynard James Keenan]

How far back do we have to trace our own self-destructive habits before we see the things which have collectively created our “shadow”?

I suppose to answer this question I should define what the shadow is..

“In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. It is one of the three most recognizable archetypes, the others being the anima and animus and the persona. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.”[Wikipedia]

In my previous note I wrote about the lower ego and the higher ego, the base surivial-oriented animal mind and the mirror of the spirit. Between these two there is another layer known as the shadow. This part of the mind operates at a subconscious level, we do not directly recognize it in itself but yet it influences the lower ego to act on everyday situations by situations from the past.

When we analyze the patterns in our lives and our behavior, emotions, etc, we should question ourselves. Why do I feel this way about this thing, why does this scenario/concept make me feel this way, etc. When we start to gain insight to these questions we will inshaallah trace them back and realize the events that placed these behaviors/emotions in us and we will start to identify the shadow, which will in turn create a bridge between our conscious and subconscious self.

I listened to a talk tonight about “removing the mask”. This mask is the persona, the front we create as a result of our survival-oriented ego’s reaction to the input from our shadow. When we identify and resolve these events and create this bridge the mask starts to fall away and the true self comes out.

This true self, I believe, is what is referred to in the Hadith “He who knows himself knows his Lord”. Can any of us go back in time before all the things which formed our shadow took place? Each of us are born innocent, with a Fitra, an essence of our Creator. This is the part of us that causes our search for God and causes us to ask where we came from and what we are doing here. The world causes us to cover this essence, and unless we take this journey inward we will never find it and never know the answer to these questions.

Who was I before I internalized my experiences in the world? Can I return to that original state of clarity? Are the mind, soul, and spirit all linked together?

This is, in essence, the whole point of Jungian psychology, individuation-the self-realization through which we truly become whole beings. When we realize and re-integrate or sublimate the disowned and repressed parts of our psyche we return to that original state of wholeness through knowledge of self. This is also, coincidentally, the same quest of the Gnostic or ‘Arif-to purify the self and find God as a result.

“We shall show them our signs within the furthest horizons and inside their own souls until it becomes clear to them that God is Truth.” [Qur’an 41:53]


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