"Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy,
but not the confrontation with the Shadow and the world of darkness.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.
The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular."
-- C. G. Jung, Alchemical Studies
(Volume 13 of The Collected Works of C.G. Jung), paragraph 335
The middle section of the above quote has become something of a meme in various spiritual circles. I decided to look into it thanks to a realization I had recently and wanted to make sure I could offer commentary.
This sheer immense presence of the middle of the quote around the internet made it slightly more difficult to track down its origins!
Then I had a moment of thought about verifying the quote and trying to figure out its context to make sure it was worth commenting on. The internet is filled with misquotes, misunderstandings, and misattributions, so we have to exercise caution. This one seems to stand.
I don't disagree with the idea of confronting the darkness (Shadow) as part of the path to enlightenment, but I will say that the processes of Adventure in Meditation are bringing in a lot more change than trying to face my Shadow ever did. I don't say that lightly, either.
For years, I avoided books like Adventure in Meditation because they get deemed as being too fluffy, but it really isn't.
Here's a thought about making the darkness conscious: that requires a certain amount of light to do. That requires a certain amount of energetic stability to do. You can't tell cynical adolescents, "Heck yeah, go fight your Shadow, man! That's the real serious stuff! That'll getcha enlightened!" without also equipping them with the very "figures of light" mentioned here.
(As a side note, adolescents shouldn't be involved in Shadow work anyway as they should be focused on developing healthy Ego structures. I wish someone had told me that.)
The point is, the process isn't limited in either direction; one does not enter a cave without a lantern or candle, and good luck stumbling into a dark cave and groping around in the darkness to find one. You will not, and things will probably get messy when you injure yourself.
To be fair, I'm not disagreeing with Jung here so much as bringing my own experience to the table to say, "Look, Jack, making the darkness conscious may be unpopular, disagreeable, and also very necessary, but don't knock those figures of light."
Again, I speak as someone who has been a lot more negative and cynical of a person than I realize until the last several months when I deliberately started focusing on healing, light, and love. Just bringing that to the table.
On the other hand, I've known people who've deliberately avoided the darkness, and focused on only the light, and then I watch their darkness erupt and basically possess them at various points. So, I do get Jung here.
That's enough for this entry.