When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.
Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and he lets them come;
things disappear and he lets them go.
He has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When his work is done, he forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
He who lives in the light has no shadow, he who lives in the light knows how to recognize what is not in the light because he sees in the darkness. He who lives in the light sees what the light shows in its totality without nuances, in its full reality. He has all things in himself, he is in unity with everything and everyone, and because he neither demands nor rejects, he suffers no loss.
When we say “beautiful”, we separate it. If we say, “not good” and so think, or even feel, we demarcate. And if we say “high” we create low. What is separated creates a shadow. It doesn’t disappear because we exclude it, because nothing can disappear. Where could it disappear to? Isn’t everything a unity? But the excluded then expresses itself in another way: as displaced, enslaved. It is a manifest duality in which the polarity, the opposites are not seen and accepted as the two poles of one reality of one and the same life.
The one who separates due to lack of acceptance loses contact with what he does not accept, however the unaccepted continues to exist, he carries it with him like a shadow. He identifies his personality with what he accepts. This becomes an “image” of himself that does not correspond to reality.
By considering himself righteous, he excludes the possibility of being unrighteous for once. His own righteousness is then judged very highly, and a value judgement arises, calculating and weighing everything for and against. Thus, he places himself on this side and not on the other, because one thing seems to him good and the other not. The tendency to turn away from one pole becomes a habit that soon leads to enslavement and anchors itself in a part of the consciousness and distorts reality.
Whatever we do not want to accept in our identity becomes, for us, a shadow, not in the light, not in life, not in reality, not in truth – just beside it. This shadow arises directly from mental images created by us, images that our “I” imagines, but of which we are not aware.
We call shadows all the rejected possibilities of reality, which the human being does not see or does not want to see. The shadow is his greatest danger because he possesses it without knowing it. Everything that the human being unconsciously hides and what he is most afraid of finding in himself, he projects as an anonymous evil onto the outside world. Thus, what a person would most fear to see in himself, keeps him most of the time in constant motion and makes him always fearful and defensive. At the same time, he does not know and is not aware of the fact that the fear arises from the rejection of his own reality.
In this blindness, in this non-seeing, the human being is enveloped. Until death he will be tied to his identifications and projections and enslaved by them. These projections and identifications demonstrate exclusion and show the shadow, which means that what we do not want to accept in ourselves, we transfer outside to see it and fight it there, on the outside. Then we no longer have anything to do with it, because we have “liberated” ourselves from it. However, this is an illusion, because the “I”, which is formed solely from whatever it identifies with, is responsible for our separation from all existence.
Our self carries this exclusion like a shadow around us. The shadow is dark, aggravating, fear-inducing and, like a chain, binds the prisoner. However, the shadow never exists on its own, it is connected to the light of reality, and if it is to disappear, it must return to the light. It must become light. Therefore, the seeker of light will always encounter his own shadow, he will first have to transfer his own shadow into the light. Such a person will have to accept the vile, take on the excluded, release the unfree, living both poles within himself, not only in spirit, but with his whole soul and his whole body. For when even the slightest notion of good or evil remains in us, we will wither because of our shadow. The shadow leads us to death, which is the shadow of life. The shadow holds us tightly, does not let us go, prevents us from living life to the full. Moreover, even with the slightest idea of a shadow, we will not find ourselves in the fullness of light, nor in the fullness of life, nor in unity. Death, shadow, and evil are then also as closely related as possible and are the dark side of good, and therefore have no difference.
We have loaded the image of the shadow with all that we do not consider good, and what we call evil. What we do not consider good, we do not want to see, we repress it, we suppress it, and what we repress, we expel from our consciousness. We push into the unconscious everything we don’t want and don’t like; then we don’t want to have anything to do with it. We don’t know it. But it is there. As a dark reality that constantly reminds itself, as a tension in the areas of the unconscious. This tension spreads its tentacles outwards, and where we perceive the bad and the unwanted, we will fight against it. Such action is a necessity for us. It seems not only justified, but even ethically and morally necessary, to fight and exterminate this shadow, this evil, wherever, and however it manifests itself. And the human being who experiences it does not see that in others he is fighting his own subconscious, his own shadow, and his own suppression.
It is not the world that is evil, but the perspective of the one who identifies with good and fights against evil. The eyes of the lonely can only perceive separation and division. The human being is under the spell of such a necessary struggle, as it seems to him, against evil, that he does not realize that all his efforts are futile and must constantly fail, because good and evil are two aspects of unity and therefore depend on each other to continue to exist. Good lives on evil, and evil lives on good. Whoever consciously supports good, unconsciously nourishes evil. Fighting against evil allows us to overestimate the good. With this overestimation we often embellish the hypocrisy, the apparent goodness, with which we are so eager to mask our nothingness and our irritability. For it is not a good that can only be good, because it only serves unity, but it is a good that excludes and therefore cannot be good, because it causes tension and strife.
The difficult self-examination that everyone must undergo does not mean incurring great losses, sacrifices, but is always a confrontation with one’s own shadow. It involves the depressing feeling of having to look into the face of everything you once rejected. The face and hands are the only uncovered parts of the body. To look someone or something in the face means to see it in the open, to see it as it is. It means to really perceive and understand. To accept with one’s bare hands means: to reject no more, to unite the separated, to reconcile the implacable. Then love will be kindled, and without love there is no life.
Accepting evil as one’s own polarity and duality requires courage. Courage is strength. However, it is courage without struggle, it is calm. It means acquiring the kind of courage to persevere in balance without redress. Yes, on this path you will be shaken, disturbed and frightened. Your peace and support will be taken from you, and through the loss of this support you will encounter your ego, which has created this base of peace as a surrogate, as a defense against what we do not accept. We are slaves to the blood of these surrogates; they prevent us from seeing the truth. For a time, these substitutes give us satisfaction. They offer us a release in time and duality, and as we are then temporarily liberated, we seek no more. We satisfy our hunger, we are appeased, but there is no real fulfilment, no real freedom. Tension vibrates under the skin, in every fiber, then as an inner pressure that intensifies the reactions of avoidance and suppression, and here it can no longer be discharged except through violence, anxiety, trepidation and vices. Tension also manifests itself from another side, in the opposite direction: when it comes to the struggle for ideals, humanism, virtue, etc., because tension is energy, and energy leads to movement. Energy must flow, and with the help of energy we can realize our ideas, give them form and express them.
The seeker of light seeks life, he seeks only light. Light is everywhere, within and without. The seeker of light seeks only a connection, a connection with light. He is not held back by any other link: money, power, influence, acquaintances, dignities, satisfaction, food, asceticism, religious mental images, common mental images, etc. Every event he sees as an opportunity, an invitation to truth. Through every event, through every person, we can know ourselves, we can observe our reactions as in a mirror.
This is love: turning one’s own shadow into light. To confront one’s own self with its exclusion, so that finally all identification and projection disappears. This is at the same time the end of the self, the end of the shadow. Reality, the true self, then fills the form, the body. The form then connects itself with the source of love and sees in all other forms the same possibility of love. Therefore Lao-Tzu says that the calling fills life because it contains all things.
This is the message of our age. This message vibrates in the ethers of our planet; it is the impulse of life. Let all duality die. At death there is nothing left of the old, nothing! As there is nothing left, there is only life, light, no shadow, no death. There is no more talk of ego-personality, the human being has risen to oneness. The newborn soul and the light are one, there is no more shadow.
* The article is based on the one published in Pentagram no. 3/1986.