Through a Jungian Lens

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The Collective Shadow, Entitlement and Blame

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Walt Whitman - the grey poet and humanist

Walt Whitman – the grey poet and humanist

It’s surprising some of the things one discovers while engaged in various social media such as Twitter and Facebook. For example, today a link to a small part of Walt Whitman’s journal appeared, one that echoes what I have experienced and have been talking about for the past few years – the healing power of the sun on the unadorned human body. In his journal from August 27th, 1877, Whitman writes about a two year pattern of taking a sun bath, a naked sun bath in a quiet and secluded piece of nature.

“As I walk’d slowly over the grass, the sun shone out enough to show the shadow moving with me. Somehow I seem’d to get identity with each and every thing around me, in its condition Nature was naked, and I was also. It was too lazy, soothing, and joyous-equable to speculate about. Yet I might have thought somehow in this vein: Perhaps the inner never lost rapport we hold with earth, light, air, trees, &c., is not to be realized through eyes and mind only, but through the whole corporeal body, which I will not have blinded or bandaged any more than the eyes. Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature!”

I invite you to click on the link and read what this famous American poet had to say. For me, it was a good way to begin the day with the discovery of this treasure. While I read the essay, it came to me that Whitman was shedding some light on the shadow face of the modern western world – yes, even in his time, the modern western world was at hand. The collective we live in has a shadow just as each individual within every collective has a shadow.

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego personality . . .” [Jung, CW 9ii, par. 14]

Daryl Sharp notes that to “the degree that we identify with a bright and blameless persona, our shadow is correspondingly dark. The persona aims at perfection. The shadow reminds us that we are human.” [Sharp, Digesting Jung, p. 24] We see this identification emerge in others who are quick to lay blame on others, people and societies that see themselves as victims. Politics in Canada and the United States are all about enemies and about attacking those enemies that are found in opposing political parties, in foreigners and anyone that threatens the economic privilege that has become entrenched in entitlement. This is the face of the collective shadow, a very ugly shadow that is denied with loud protestations of righteousness and about the evil intentions of others.



Written by Robert G. Longpré

February 1, 2014 at 6:04 am

4 Responses

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  1. Shadow energy (I would argue) isn’t necessarily good or bad for an individual provided it isn’t unconscious or bloated. A collective Shadow has no good properties of which I am aware; it scares me like nothing else. Whenever I am in a crowd, or see one on TV, my sensitivities shiver sensing it is there and could erupt at any moment.


    February 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    • We can be aware of the presence of shadow, good doctor, but as soon as we become conscious, as soon as we gain awareness/consciousness of the shadow notit ceases to be shadow. Like you, I am very uneasy in the presence of the collective unconscious. Thank you for replying with depth and honesty.


      February 4, 2014 at 9:47 pm

  2. I’m reminded of the death camps in Nazi Germany and wonder what energy could exist alongside of these unthinkable crimes .

    And when the soul surrenders to the collective ; this is really frightening .


    February 2, 2014 at 11:53 am

    • Thank you, David. Yes, it is indeed very frightening.


      February 4, 2014 at 9:48 pm

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