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Revised Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Let There Be Light (and Dark)

"I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness. Do not be excessively righteous, and do not be overly wise.

Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked, and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?

It is good that you grasp one thing, and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them." (NASB) Ecclesiastes 7:15-18

What's up with that? "It is good that you grasp one thing (righteousness), and also not let go of the other (wickedness);"

For more years than I can remember, I'd thought about tackling this odd and seemingly spurious quote from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes (traditionally attributed to King Solomon). It's a quote that various Jungian thinkers have long been fascinated with.

First, though... hang in there with me, as we take a slightly circuitous route in order to make it back there...

The Light Constellates the Dark
Being a lifelong fan of rocker musician Neil Young, I not too long ago came across a BBC documentary on Young "Don't Be Denied."

The subject of cult leader Charles Manson came up during the interview and how Neil Young, living in Topanga Canyon, had encountered Manson in the late 1960s. It was when he [Manson] was desperately trying (with some success) to become involved in the late 1960s California music scene.

After Manson and his "Family" committed their horrific crimes, Neil Young had written the, at the time, very controversial "Revolution Blues."

Interviewer Mark Cooper writes of the interview:

"I mention 'Revolution Blues', a particularly bleak, virulent song written as if from inside the dark animus of the Manson Family and Young seems to fix back on Manson...


'Spooky times. I knew Charlie Manson. A few people were at this house on Sunset Boulevard and the people were different. I didn't know what it was; I was meeting them and he was not a happy guy but he seemed to have a hold on girls. It was the ugly side of the Maharishi [Mahesh Yogi].

You know, there's one side of the light, nice flowers and white robes and everything, and then there's something that looks a lot like it but just isn't it at all.'"

Let's Jump Back To Ecclesiastes
There is a long held Jungian depth psychological concept that says overly identifying with "The Light" constellates (brings about) its compensatory opposite, shadow and darkness. Without the light, there'd be no shadow. This psychological (spiritual) principle applies on both an individual and a societal level.

Neil Young just vividly (perfectly) described this spiritual/psychological concept in that interview:

The light side of the peace loving 1960s hippie culture can be archetypally represented by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that introduced Transcendental Meditation to the Western World; the dark side, Charlie Manson. (And yes, the Maharishi had his own personal shadow.)

The brighter the light... the darker the shadow... and on both an individual and a societal level, overly identifying with the light constellates its compensatory opposite, shadow and darkness.

This Jungian principle is more than a wee bit disconcerting and/or downright disturbing in many spiritual (traditional and New Age) circles.

But the fact is that identifying only with "The Light" can shockingly be just as dangerous as identifying only with "The Dark."

On a personal level, when identifying with the light, our personal shadow is projected onto those around us. The "purer" we (and our little group) are... the darker everyone else, that isn't a part of our group, becomes. We true believers are the only ones going to heaven, and everyone else is going to hell.

It's perhaps easiest to see and identify how the principle applies to large groups of people, movements, religions, cultures, and entire countries.

Step Back In Tme
A historical example of overly identifying with the light and with purity is that of the early Christian church desert monks chosing to cut themselves off (often literally with castration) from the sensual, sexual, and seductive archetype of Venus and her fleshly carnal desires.

The further out into the desert (both figuratively and literally) that these holy men moved - and the more fiercely they worked at exorcising and purifying themselves of any, and all, of their worldly and lustful desires for the flesh and for women – all the more these holy men were then plagued and tempted with disgusting, impure, and polluted thoughts that they then attributed to attacks of the "evil one."

Nowadays, the archetype of Venus likewise enjoys plaguing fundamentalist tele-evangelists and celibate priests with desires for sexual acts and/or fetishes that are most often much more repulsive, ugly, and sick than what they so zealously fight, preach, and/or guard against.

"It is good that you grasp one thing, and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them."

Final Word(s)

Oh sure... it's relative child's play to see this "shadow casting" thing while hard at work in others... but it's a downright herculean task to see and recognize it when you're the one engaged in a lttle "shadow casting" of your own... Orthodoxies of all varieties, shapes, and sizes focusing on the light and absolute purity, inevitably cast incredibly long and ugly shadows.

In the spirit of John Lennon, imagine for a moment all peoples everywhere embracing the credo contained in Ecclesiastes 7:15-18?

How does one hold on to one (righteouness) without letting go of the other (wickedness)? How does one stop "shadow casting?" There is no clean and simple formula for how one goes about doing it...

“The goal of life is to be a vehicle
for something higher.

Keep your eye up there
between the pairs of opposites
watching your play in the world.

Let the world be as it is
and learn to rock with the waves.

Remain 'radiant,'
as Joyce put it,
in the filth of the world.”

Excerpt From: "A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, iBooks

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)


A Touch of Evil by Kristen Ohlson at Aeon
Lying, cheating and arrogance might be morally repugnant, but a little dose of nastiness can be a creative thing.

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