Modernity’s Shadow: The Dark Side of the Age of Reason

Therefore, I will suppose that, not God who is the source of truth but some evil demon, who is all powerful and cunning, has devoted all their energies to deceiving me. I will imagine that the sky, air, earth, colours, shapes, sounds and everything external to me are nothing more than the creatures of dreams by means of which an evil spirit entraps my credulity. I shall imagine myself as if I had no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, no senses at all, but as if my beliefs in all these things were false. I will remain resolutely steady in this meditation and, in that way, if I cannot discover anything true, I will certainly do what is possible for me, namely, I will take great care not to assent to what is false, nor can that deceiver – no matter how powerful or cunning they may be – impose anything on me.” — Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

The Jungian “shadow” is not just a facet of individual psychology, but of eras, societies, and civilisations as well.  Descartes’ “evil genius” is the Shadow of the Enlightenment and of Universal Reason, which William Blake identified by the name “Urizen” as being one of the four Zoas of disintegrate man. Descartes’ supposition aroused considerable controversy in his time, since this “all powerful and cunning” demon had all the attributes of God — omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence — so that  Descartes was, in fact, accused of insinuating a notion of God as “deus deceptor” — God the Deceiver.

Those who know the legend of the Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree may immediately recognise Descartes’ “evil demon” as the demon Mara, “Lord of Illusions”, “Lord of the Ego” and also called by the Buddha “the Architect”.  In this all too brief and edited scene from the movie The Little Buddha, the legend of Siddhartha’s combat with Mara is masterfully rendered, and all the crimes the Buddha charges Mara with are equally those of Descartes’ evil demon, demonstrating that Descartes demon is, in fact, not a mere fantasy or supposition, but the Shadow, the counterpart to which is Dr. Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde.  In fact, the potent attributes of the “evil demon” are the very attributes to which “pure reason” or Universal Reason aspires, which it desires to become itself.

Laplace’s “demon” obviously owes much to Descartes’ evil demon or deus deceptor.

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

This is, nonetheless, precisely what the intellect (or more precisely, the mental-rational structure of consciousness) aspires to be — all eye, the pure all-seeing eye.

There is a logic of development that leads from Descartes’ demon as the dark side of universal reason, through Laplace’s demon, to Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon. The word — meaning “all-seeing” — is derived from the Greek myth of Panoptes, the demon with 100 eyes who was known as the “watchman”.  Significantly, Bentham’s vision for his panopticon architecture was first for prisons and then for factories.  It was from Bentham that George Orwell, recognising the sinister implications of Bentham’s panopticon, furthered the notion of a prison society of mass surveillance; or, from Universal Reason to Universal Surveillance.

Blake had already recognised the real and sinister nature of Descartes’ “evil genius” as the shadow of the Enlightenment, and as being immanent or latent in its very structure.  “May God us keep, from Single Vision & Newton’s sleep.” Misunderstood, he was charged with “romanticism” and with being “counter-enlightenment”.  His Urizen (perhaps a contraction itself of “Universal Reason”) is the image of the dark side of the Age of Reason, its false God and the spitting image, in fact, not just of Buddhism’s Mara, but of Descartes’ evil genius.

The turning point (Jung might call it the point of enantiodromia or reversal) came with the First World War, when what Gebser calls “the deficient mode of functioning of the mental-rational consciousness structure” — the shadow –probably became dominant.  Disillusionment with the premisses of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason led from “pure reason” to cynical reason, when science and reason started to be applied to developing technologies of social and political control (polling, propaganda, monitoring, even concentration camps) and weapons of mass extermination.  But Descartes’ “evil demon” or deus deceptor is the issue of contemporary “perception management” and of universal surveillance and “total information awareness“.

The evil demon continues to haunt the imagination of the modernity — the evil genius or mad scientist — indicating that it is no mere supposition, but is of the Shadow — the dark side of “Enlightenment” and Modernity becoming increasingly active and dominant, especially during this period 1914 – 1945 in which Gebser saw the growing disintegration of the mental-rational structure of consciousness.  The demonic was always a latent potentiality of the Age of Reason, even in the very name democracy. 

Universal Reason become the “all-seeing eye” of universal and mass surveillance is a further aspect of Gebser’s “deficient rationality”, proof sufficient that we really do live in “post-modern” times, however one understands this. 

Omar Khayyam (and others) once noted that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. The false is only the shadow of the true. “What is possible to be believed is an image of the truth”, seconded Blake. And in Descartes “evil genius” as deceiver and lord of delusions and illusions is the shadow of the “Enlightenment” itself. That this is the shadow of the mental-rational consciousness is demonstrated clearly by the fact that in the controversy about Descartes’ demon there appeared to be no real boundary or difference between the attributes of the evil genius and those of God.

I just ordered a book online called Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control.  I don’t as yet know its contents, but I’m hoping it might shed more light on how the “evil demon” of Descartes philosophy has become the dominant ideal of the intellect and mode of rationality in our time.


20 responses to “Modernity’s Shadow: The Dark Side of the Age of Reason”

  1. Abdulmonem says :

    There is an evil eye and a holy eye and the problem resides in the mixing of the two and the problem expands as we assign the all seeing to the evil eye, forgetting the holy eye. all that I can say is to repeat with Blake. may God us keep from single vision and Newton sleep . It is surprising there is no evil ear. When the eye becomes the dominant tool of perception, the shadow prevails, that is why I prefer imagination on reason in the field of the infinite.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s an interesting question, Abdulmonem. But when one reflects on the principle figures and characters — the “fathers of the modern age” in Western terms anyway — da Vinci, Copernicus, Galileo, Columbus are all symbols of the space-obsessed and space-conquering intellect, and the intellectual mastery of space is through the focus of (and on) the eye as the organ of knowing.

      How the all-seeing eye of “Universal Reason” becomes finally the all-seeing eye of the panopticon and Universal Surveillance — what a case of ironic reversal. There is a very important lesson here about the law of action and reaction that Buddhists call “karma”. When Pascal wrote that “he who plays the angel plays the beast” he was also talking about ironic reversal at the extremity and the law of karma. An eye culture becomes deaf; an ear culture becomes blind.

      So, perhaps there is an “evil ear” — hearing, but not really listening.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “The false is only the shadow of the true” and that “The demonic was always a latent potentiality……”

    It’s remarkable how this “shadow” and demon that “is always a latent potentiality,” can turn anyone into a tyrant and an evil-doer; and all in the name of righteousness. “Evil genius” is a very apt name for it.

    • Scott Preston says :

      There is some connection here with what the idealist philosopher Hegel recognised and referred to as “the Cunning of Reason”, although I don’t believe he actually saw it for what it was clearly. This “cunning” or “slyness” of reason is, in effect, reason’s “alter ego”, as it were — the shadow side of reason, for it works in the dark. In Hegel’s description, human beings aren’t really aware that this “cunning of reason” uses them and their self-interests as its instrumentalities and agencies, but make up all kinds of stories to rationalise it. Rationalisation is not reason and the rationalistic is not the reasonable, but it resembles it enough to pass as being “rational”. This is Hegel’s “cunning”.

      So, in terms of Stevenson’s novella, the “Idea of Reason” is embodied in Dr. Jekyll, while “the Cunning of Reason” is represented by Mr. Hyde who is, in Jungian or Blakean terms, “the Shadow”. And it is called “the Shadow” because it has not been penetrated by the light of consciousness or illuminated by insight.

      When the shadow is illuminated by consciousness or insight, the shadow (also called “alter ego”) is transformed or integrated. Rumi also refers to this Shadow in terms of the four nafs or beasts — “The rooster of lust, the peacock of wanting to be famous, the crow of ownership, and the duck of urgency…” — the passions.

      The “cunning of reason” thus stands in relation to “the idea of reason” as Mr. Hyde stands to Dr. Jekyll, or as Mara stands to the Buddha, or as the Gorgon stands in relation to Athena, or as Hades stands in relation to Dionysus, as shadow stands in relation to light — alter egos or aspects, but not in fact discrete or separate entities.

      But when a man or woman asks himself or herself when acting out of character “How could I have done that?” “Why did I do that?” Or the whole panoply of unintended consequences, reversals of fortune, perverse outcomes, “blowback” and so on, this corresponds to the effects of “the cunning of reason”. Why did so many Zen Buddhists end up rationalising and justifying the atrocities of Japanese fascism in the name of “Imperial Way Buddhism” or “National Buddhism”?

      Likewise, the study of mass psychology since Le Bon’s The Crowd shows how the man in the mass is a very different character than when functioning as the reasonable individual, and le Bon’s insights into crowd behaviour have formed the basis for the practice of mass propaganda.

      In Nietzsche’s terms, this “cunning of reason” is most evident in moralism, or in doctrines that promise to emancipate and liberate the personality but, in fact, act to entrap, enslave, demean and debase.

      Basically, the Modern Era is over because the ideals of the Age of Reason and the early modern period no longer correspond to the social and political realities that have emerged since the First World War — since 1914 – 1945 overall. Lip service is still paid to high ideals and values of individuality, but these are practically unrealisable and impertinent in the context of mass society — the “urban jungle”, the “rat-race”, the “social bee-hive” and “ant-hill” is the reality. Thus there is a kind of “cognitive dissonance”, which is just another fancy term for “dis-integrate” state. And this state of dissonance is what has moved those authors like Pitrim Sorokin, Erich Kahler, Gabriel Marcel, Nietzsche, William Irwin Thompson, Gebser, and so on to write of a “crisis of the modern era”.

      So, the sense of ironic reversal at “the end of history” — how the Enlightenment has become, instead, the threat and fear of a new Dark Age; of how the happy optimism of the Age of Reason for “the infinite perfectibility of man” has become, instead, the reality of personal, social, and biological engineering. The Enlightenment contained the seeds of its own self-negation, which is the gist of Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism — All higher values devalue themselves. That is, the higher and lower become inverted. The “cunning of reason” and the “evil genius” of Descartes were the form of the negation of the value of the individual, of the “Idea of Reason” and of the “infinite perfectibility of man” as the meaning of “modern progress”. They continue only as spectres of their former selves, as lost causes in the context of mass society and the reality of the techno-corporate state.

      The threat of a new Dark Age was, in effect, the ever-present Shadow of the Enlightenment. The “cunning of reason” has revealed itself in the fact that the “all-seeing eye” of Universal Reason has become, instead, the all-seeing eye of Universal Surveillance. And in that fact, the ideals and values of the Modern Era have negated themselves.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Just occurred to me how the “cunning of reason” and Descartes “evil demon” intersect as the image of the Buddhist “Mara”, Lord of Illusions and Delusions.

        The deviousness of rationality is expressed as “the cunning of reason” (as rationalisation) when reason pretends to seek truth, but in fact is in pursuit of domination and power. Descartes’ evil demon, (or Laplace’s demon) comes wearing masks when it claims to be “disinterestedly” pursuing the truth but is, in fact, power-seeking. And this tension between truth-seeking and the pursuit of power is the basic tension we find between Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so that Jekyll and Hyde are not simply characters of fiction, but real totems of the contradictions that pervade the mental-rational structure of consciousness.

        Truth and power are the second and third enemies of the man of knowledge, in Castaneda, where they are called “clarity” and “power” respectively. So the very things that are the rewards of effort on the path of knowledge are also the very things that become hindrances and obstacles to knowledge. So, fear, clarity, power, and old age (or death) — the “four enemies” of the man of knowledge — do have some corresponding connection to Blake’s four Zoas in their conflictual or disintegrate state. So Blake’s “fourfold vision” is the effective conciliation of the Zoas, and this is the same conciliation of the enemies of fear, clarity, power, and old age (or death) when they are balanced in “the man of knowledge”. In other words, the “man of knowledge” in Castaneda’s terms is Blake’s “Albion restored”.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          “The deviousness of rationality is expressed as “the cunning of reason” (as rationalisation) when reason pretends to seek truth, but in fact is in pursuit of domination and power. Descartes’ evil demon, (or Laplace’s demon) comes wearing masks when it claims to be “disinterestedly” pursuing the truth but is, in fact, power-seeking.”

          Wonderfully said, as I have been to the place where “reason pretends to seek truth, but in fact is in pursuit of domination and power.”

          Fortunately, I neither gained domination nor power – even though those were exactly what I was craving in order to restore what I thought was righteous. Instead, I found myself more isolated.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Much profound and meaningful thoughts and much for me to try to ponder.

        Meanwhile, “human beings aren’t really aware that this “cunning of reason” uses them and their self-interests……”

        Indeed. It took decades to spontaneously dawn on me one day as to how this aspect of my ego takes over and pushes me into a false sense of self-aggrandizement defined by an unmistakable feeling of isolation. It’s nice to be rid of that particular enemy. But I always feel that I have to keep watch lest it might return.

        “It is called “the shadow” because it has not been penetrated by the light of consciousness or illuminated by insight.”

        Very meaningful.

        • Scott Preston says :

          You might recall a passage from Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense” that speaks of the shadow as that which is unilluminated by consciousness or insight

          “What, indeed, does man know of himself! Can he even once perceive himself completely, laid out as if in an illuminated glass case? Does not nature keep much the most from him, even about his body, to spellbind and confine him in a proud, deceptive consciousness, far from the coils of the intestines, the quick current of the blood stream, and the involved tremors of the fibers? She threw away the key; and woe to the calamitous curiosity which might peer just once through a crack in the chamber of consciousness and look down, and sense that man rests upon the merciless, the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous, in the indifference of his ignorance—hanging in dreams, as it were, upon the back of a tiger. In view of this, whence in all the world comes the urge for truth?”

          As mentioned in an earlier post, Nietzsche’s “crack in the chamber of consciousness” is the ego-consciousness, and this is identical in meaning with Blake’s “Selfhood” as he put it in his passage about Man having closed himself up into a narrow cavern (which is the narrowness of perspectivising perception — the pyramid or cone of vision characteristic of the mental-rational consciousness which he calls “Single Vision” and symbolises as Newton),

          “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
          For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

          Gebser refers to this enclosure as “the cave” which is, of course, a position of defence, but also a womb-like or cocoon-like structure. In Castaneda, this is referred to as man’s “shields”.

          Both Nietzsche and Blake, curiously enough, refer to this shadow as the “tiger”, as in Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger burning bright/In the forests of the night”. This “forest of the night” is the unilluminated — and especially the repressed or inhibited — parts of the human psyche. Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde is the Shadow of Dr. Jekyll, who is the mental-rational consciousness. Hyde’s name refers not just to an animal “hide”, but also to the “hidden”. Rumi’s poem about Light and Shadow is also a reference to what is hidden in the darkness of the soul or psyche, but which is transformed when illuminated by insight — “darkness is your candle”, and so on, which reminds me of one of Tolkien’s poems (the riddle of Strider) from Lord of the Rings,

          “All that is gold does not glitter,
          Not all those who wander are lost;
          The old that is strong does not wither,
          Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

          From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
          A light from the shadows shall spring;
          Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
          The crownless again shall be king”

          In some ways, this poem is a description of what Jung calls (after Heraclitus) enantiodromia or reversal at the extremity.

          The Anti-Christ in the book of the Christians is the shadow of Christianity as Descartes’ evil genius is the shadow of the Enlightenment. The Shadow is not a thing separate, but is the image of the object, which has the appearance of the object (in this case what is called “Truth” or “Reality”). The “cunning of Reason”, for example, has the appearance of intelligence. It is an imitation. Nietzsche speaks of man as being “the ape of his ideals” in much the same way that Christians speak of Satan as being “the ape of God”, and Hyde and Mara are depicted as having simian features, too.

          This is also Mara, Lord of Illusions, and who the Buddha, once he recognises Mara, calls “Lord of my own ego”, otherwise what I’ve been calling “the foreign installation”. Mara is dispersed only when Siddhartha gains insight into nature of the shadow as the author of illusions and delusions, and who is himself “pure illusion”, that is to say, anything that has no “self-nature”. A shadow has no self-nature.

          Mara, who is the shadow, is the source of what the psychologists call “the projections”. “Withdrawl of the projections” comes about through insight into the projector, who is “the great and terrible Oz” of the mind. The fearsome wizard is shown to be a pussy-cat when the curtain is thrown back. “Withdrawl of the projections” is the meaning of Castaneda’s “stopping the world”, or Buddhism’s “stopping the wheel of time and space”.

          Mara is deus deceptor. Oz is deus deceptor; and Descartes’ “evil genius” was also deus deceptor. Blake’s Urizen is deus deceptor, too. Plato’s Cave is about deus deceptor. This “deus deceptor” has been called “Prince of Lies” and also the “demiurgos” but also Anti-Christ and so on.

          There is no self-overcoming without fully penetrating insight into the shadow and its workings. For this one needs the mood and discipline of a warrior — the very qualities Siddhartha demonstrated in his combat with Mara.

          In effect, Descartes’ “evil genius” or deus deceptor has now become dominant, and this is what Gebser ultimately means by “deficient rationality”, or what was otherwise called “the cunning of Reason” in relation to Hegel’s “the Idea of Reason” in history. The cunning of reason is, as it were, the ape of reason, or its shadow. For behind all such terms as “managing the optics” or “perception management” or “propaganda” is Descartes’ deus deceptor.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            I still have the link you posted to “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense.” It is a truly enlightening piece, though, I have yet to finish reading it. 🙂

            A very insightful poem by Tolkien, too.

            “There is no self-overcoming without fully penetrating insight into the shadow and its workings.”

            Precisely. This is why Seth says that “Three-dimensional experience is an invaluable place of training.” – From page 23 of my abridged PDF file of Seth Speaks.

    • Scott Preston says :

      If you are familiar with Robert Pirsig’s famous autobiographical book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you will see how Pirsig’s mind embodied (and became the battlefield for) the contradictions of Modernity and Age of Reason and actually took concrete form, for you should ask the question — who or what is this alter ego he calls “Phaedrus”, and what event initiated the conflict that resulted in his breakdown.

      Blake, Goethe, Wordsworth, John Donne continue to fascinate and be relevant because they saw the sinister lurking in the shadow of the Enlightenment, and how close were the good and the evil. Wordsworth’s “we murder to dissect” — an objection to analytical method more generally — highlights how close this relation of the sinister and the enlightened really was, as did John Donne’s poem “An Anatomy of the World”. Wordsworth’s line has been interpreted as an objection to vivisection, but that’s not the whole meaning. It’s more generally the dissection and vivisection of the whole leading to dis-integration — as we find also in Yeats’ “The Second Coming”. Blake, Goethe, Wordsworth, Donne, Nietzsche etc recognised the implicit devilry or nihilism in the Age of Reason and the mental-rational consciousness. (Morris Berman also takes up the cudgel in his book “The Re-enchantment of the World”). The sinister side was already pre-figured, in a sense, in Descartes’ projection of the all-powerful “evil demon”, as precisely that which the intellect or mental-rational consciousness secretly wished to become — all-seeing, all-powerful.

      Consequently, I really dislike when people divide these groups into simplistic terms as “romantic” versus “classical” or “Enlightenment” versus “Counter-Enlightenment”. Blake’s objections to Enlightenment thinkers like Locke, Newton, etc is not based on an aversion to rationality, but to its blindness to its own limitations. His “fourfold vision” is set against what he considers the sleep of “Single Vision”. The scientific description of reality is valid, but not the scientistic — that is, when it pretends to be the exclusive or whole of the truth, for then it has generated, instead, the Shadow.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        I, for one, certainly hadn’t heard of the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” It’s now on my list of books to read – eventually 🙂

        • Scott Preston says :

          Pirsig’s book isn’t really about Zen and doesn’t say much about motorcycle maintenance. These are references, rather, to the qualitative and the quantitative, or the intuitive and the discursive. Pirsig himself uses the terms “romantic” and “classical” consciousness for these, and how these two modes set themselves up in his psyche as practically separate personalities.

          The book is personal autobiography, in a way. But more importantly, it is an autobiography of the contradictions of the modern mind itself focussed in one man. That is how it should be appreciated.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            An autobiography. Even better 🙂

            I cannot believe that the small library I have subscription to has it. Woohoo ! 🙂

  3. Scott Preston says :

    By the way, the whole of the fascist period represented this danger of the modern project becoming completely swallowed up by the Shadow of the Enlightenment, which was Descartes’ “evil genius” or Hegel’s “cunning of Reason”. So, let none hold that the Shadow is a fiction that represents no real danger or threat, for this soothing in itself is the cunning of the Shadow itself.

    Historians and others are still perplexed by question of how Nazism and fascism and “the politics of unreason” and darkness could have emerged in the most cultivated nations of the European Enlightenment. Their perplexity is due to a lack of deeper insight into the Shadow and the demonic aspect of the Enlightenment that was already prefigured in Descartes’ “evil genius”. When Hitler proclaimed “Let these ‘well-bred’ gentry [of the parliamentary democracies] learn, that we do with a clear conscience the things they secretly do with a guilty one.””, he was fundamentally speaking truly, and he was speaking of AND AS the Shadow which, in Nazi Germany, became fully manifest. It is built or braided into the structure of the mental-rational consciousness itself. It is not the case that fascism represented an alien intrusion into modernity. It has its roots in modernity and the modern project itself.

    So, even today when many authors still speak of the threat of an impending “Dark Age”, or that we are in a new Dark Age already, this “darkness” is the darkness of modernity’s shadow. For Descartes’ ‘all-powerful evil demon’ or Laplace’s “all-seeing” demon, or Bentham’s panopticon — these were the very thing that the intellect secretly wished and willed and intended itself to become, but which it could not truthfully admit to itself, but is still partially recognised when it is referred to as modern man’s “Faustian bargain”. And the consequences of the lopsided structure of Enlightenment consciousness was the very thing Blake had warned about as “Single Vision”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Also by the way, and as an example of how the shadow of the Enlightenment pervades all….

      We all know that controversy that exists presently between religious fundamentalism and scientific reductionism, and how this conflict is usually simplified as a dualism or opposition of “creationism versus evolution”.

      None of this is true.

      Religious fundamentalism is as much a child of the modern era as Newtonian mechanics and scientism — a case I have argued before. Religious fundamentalism attempts to reduce the truths of religion to a handful of unassailable “fundamentals” — four or five in all — and this effort mirrored the intentions of Newtonian science to account for all reality — the Newtonian “Frame of the World” — likewise in a handful of unassailable physical laws. Thus, both fundamentalism and reductionism arose from the same root in the mental-rational consciousness structure, and the applied methods of analysis. Fundamentalism and reductionism are the exact same process.

      Blake recognised that, and he assailed “bricks of religion” as vigorously as “Single Vision & Newton’s Sleep”, and called both the fruits of the demonic god “Urizen”. Urizen is, in effect, the “evil demon” of Descartes.

      So, the controversy and conflict of fundamentalism with reductionism is a false controversy and a delusion, for they are identical in spirit and intent, and both represent the “deficient” aspects of the mental-rational consciousness structure. In broader terms, this was Wordsworth’s complaint, “we murder to dissect”. Scientism (or reductionism) and fundamentalism both belong to the shadow side of the Enlightenment.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Outstanding post.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Rummaging about in the internet this morning, I came across this image that speaks of the Shadow as the inverted mirror image of the ego-consciousness, is identical with the ego consciousness but as its polar side, as it were,

          The Shadow

          This polarity of the ego consciousness (and ego consciousness can exist only through this polarity) is why the fearsome Hades is also Dionysos, or why the Gorgon/Medusa is the polar complement of Athena/Minerva, or why Rumi insists, in his poem “Shadow and Light Source Both”, that one must have both,

          How does a part of the world leave the world?
          How does wetness leave water?

          Dont’ try to put out fire by throwing on
          more fire! Don’t wash a wound with blood.

          No matter how fast you run, your shadow
          keeps up. Sometimes it’s in front!

          Only full overhead sun diminishes your shadow.
          But that shadow has been serving you.

          What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is
          your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.

          I could explain this, but it will break the
          glass cover on your heart, and there’s no
          fixing that.

          You must have shadow and light source both.
          Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

          When from that tree feathers and wings sprout on you,
          be quieter than a dove. Don’t even open your mouth for
          even a coo. — Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

          Likewise, Gurdjieff speaks of “feeding the wolf in man”, and that is a reference to the Shadow as well. There are plenty of examples of the Shadow at work I could give — the strange dual life of the quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, for example, as recounted in Arthur Miller’s “Deciphering the Cosmic Number“. Robert Pirsig’s “Phaedrus” in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

          The problem with the Shadow is not this polarity. Polarity is not dualism, but complementarity. The Shadow becomes a problem only because of dualism. When the Shadow is recognised as existing in polarity, it is recognised, and this recognition and acknowledgement is its integration. When it is conceived in dualism (as the “evil” opposed to the ego’s “good”), dualism is a denial of one side of the polarity, and so the Shadow remains un-integrated or unacknowledged. Then it works mischief, both at the individual level and at the collective or social level.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            “When the Shadow is recognised as existing in polarity, it is recognised, and this recognition and acknowledgement is its integration. When it is conceived in dualism (as the “evil” opposed to the ego’s “good”), dualism is a denial of one side of the polarity, and so the Shadow remains un-integrated or unacknowledged. Then it works mischief, both at the individual level and at the collective or social level.”

            Indeed. Recognition, I think, is most of the battle. If one can “see” and “recognise” the shadow for what it is, the integration will be a much easier process.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    It occurred to me this morning that once the self has been fully overcome by the “penetrating insight into the shadow and its workings,” then, not only we can say that the ego-consciousness has been overcome but also whence the shadow can be used as an ally.

    It may be that one important quality of the integral consciousness is its ability to manipulate and use the shadow and the ego-consciousness.

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