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Shadow As A Darker Drift of Society

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Low-lying clouds in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Low-lying clouds in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Now, to continue with looking at James Hollis’ book and how it has resonated with me.

“The “personal Shadow” is unique to each of us, although we may share many features with others around us. The “collective Shadow” is the darker drift of the culture, the unacknowledged, often rationalized, interactions of time, place, and our tribal practices. Each of us carries a personal Shadow, and each of us participates in varying proportion in a collective Shadow.” p. 10

It’s interesting to me how the collective Shadow is painted darker than the personal Shadow. I would have thought that light the personal Shadow, the collective Shadow would also contain the unlived potential that we would characterise as perhaps the opposite of evil. In communities it is easy to see how the collective comes together for positive outcomes such as when a community rallies around an individual or family that is in need. But then again, mob mentality is all about darkness and the display of behaviour that would otherwise rarely put in an appearance. With mob mentality we revert to brutality and action without reason, following along in the hunt energised so to speak by the smell of blood. Somehow, the collective has a particular energy to pull in anyone who doesn’t remain alert, those who question and demand answers that can be understood by their own level of consciousness.

But what about the collective unconscious of small groups? I think of staff rooms and how they can become toxic environments where otherwise good people become nasty and surly and perpetually negative within the staff room. Yet, once they are out of the work environment, they revert back to the pleasant and good people of the community.

When we turn to larger groups such as the military, the dark shadow is magnified. How else could we ever explain why good young men willingly shoot unarmed people including children, or drop bombs knowing that the results often demolish schools, homes and hospitals? Somehow, the mindset of fighting against an opposing darkness allows us to visit horror and sometimes death on other ordinary communities. For make no mistake about it, all those villages in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, any other place in the past or conflict place of the future, are filled with mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, the mentally or physically helpless, and ordinary good people. Yes, out of those villages and towns emerge forces that are bent on destruction of their enemies – on both sides of any conflict.

When the bodies are brought back home, heroes every one, our beliefs about the others are reinforced. They are the enemy, forces of darkness. And, our anger is increased. We have no thought that we have journeyed into another country carrying weapons, uninvited. We have threatened with violence, followed through those threats with death and destruction fighting the beliefs of dark evil that we have nursed within us. Month after month, year after year we follow our crusade to bring freedom from evil to those we have convinced ourselves need us to show them the way, even if we have to kill so many of them in the process. We have become the foreign devils, the dark shadow of strangers who come to destroy homes, communities and families. Our inner darkness is projected upon the other and there seems to be no way of bringing this to a good end. It does nothing to lay blame or to ask who fired the first shot, for that first shot was a stone or spear thrown by ancestors too many thousands of years ago before we thought to chronicle our collective insanity.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

September 11, 2014 at 10:32 am

Posted in Jungian Psychology