Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Meeting the Shadow (August 17, 2014)

Reading- from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin

The Island of Gont… is a land famous for wizards. …many a Gontishman has gone forth to serve the Lords of the Archipelago in their cities as wizard or mage, or, looking for adventure, to wander working magic from isle to isle of all Earthsea. Of these some say the greatest, and surely the greatest voyager, was the man called Sparrowhawk, who in his day become both dragonlord and Archmage. His life is told in the Deed of Ged and in many songs, but this is a tale of the time before his fame, before the songs were made.

 He was born in a lonely village called Ten Alders, high on the mountain … The name he bore as a child, Duny, was given to him by his mother, and that and his life were all she could give him, for she died before he was a year old. His father, the bronze-smith of the village, was a grim unspeaking man, and since Duny’s six brothers were older than he by many years, there was no one to bring the child up in tenderness. He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall quick boy, loud and proud and full of temper. With the few other children of the village he herded goats on the steep meadows above the river-springs…There was not much work to be got out of Duny. He was always off and away; roaming deep in the forest, swimming in the pools of the River Ar … or climbing by cliff and scarp to the heights above the forest, from which he could see the sea, ...

A sister of his dead mother lived in the village. She had done what was needful for him as a baby, but she had business of her own and once he could look after himself at all she paid no more heed to him. But one day when the boy was seven years old, untaught and knowing nothing of the arts and powers that are in the world, he heard his aunt crying out words to a goat which had humped up onto the thatch of a hut and would not come down; but it came jumping when she cried a certain rhyme to it. Next day herding the longhaired…, Duny shouted to them the words he had heard, not knowing their use or meaning or what kinds of words they were: North hierth malk man Hiolk han merth han!

 He yelled the rhyme aloud, and the goats came to him. They came very quickly, all of them together, not making any sound. They looked at him out of the dark slot in their yellow eyes.

 Duny laughed and shouted it out again, the rhyme that gave him power over the goats. They came closer, crowding and pushing round him. All at once he felt afraid of their thick, ridged horns and their strange eyes and their strange silence. He tried to get free of them and to run away. The goats ran with him keeping in a knot around him, and so they came charging down into the village at last, all the goats going huddled together as if a rope were pulled tight round them, and the boy in the midst of them weeping and bellowing. Villagers ran from their houses to swear at the goats and laugh at the boy. Among them came the boy’s aunt, who did not laugh. She said a word to the goats, and the beasts began to bleat and browse and wander, freed from the spell.

 “Come with me” she said to Duny. She took him into her hut where she lived alone. …. It was low and dusky, windowless, fragrant with herbs that hung drying from the crosspole of the roof, ... There his aunt sat cross-legged by the firepit, and looking sidelong at the boy through the tangles of her black hair she asked him what he had said to the goats, and if he knew what the rhyme was. When she found that he knew nothing, and yet had spellbound the goats to come to him and follow him, they she saw that he must have in him the makings of power. ..This was Duny’s first step on the way he was to follow all his life, the way of magery, the way that led him at last to hunt a shadow over land and sea to the lightless coasts of the death’s kingdom.

 Reading- Romancing the Shadow

… the shadow, is us, yet is not us. Hidden from our awareness, the shadow is not a part of our conscious self-image. So it seems to appear abruptly, out of nowhere, in a range of behaviors from off-color jokes to devastating abuses. When it emerges, it feels like an unwanted visitor, leaving us ashamed, even mortified. For instance, when a man who views himself as a responsible husband and provider is suddenly taken over by a dream of freedom and independence, his shadow is speaking. When a woman with a health-conscious lifestyle craves ice cream and feels compelled to binge in the dark of night, her shadow is acting out. When a normally kind mother belittles her child, her shadow is showing…

In each of these instances, the individual’s persona, the mask show to the world, is split off from the shadow, the face hidden from the world. The deeper this rift and the more unconscious the shadow, the more we experience it as a stranger, an Other, an alien invader. Therefore, we cannot face it in ourselves or tolerate it in others.” [P. 4]

We suggest that you relate to the shadow as a mystery, rather than as a problem to be solved or an illness to be cured. When the Other arrives, honor that part of yourself as a guest. You may discover that it comes bearing gifts. You may discover that shadow-work is, indeed, soul work.

When shadow-work is neglected, the soul feels dry, brittle, like an empty vessel. Then, people suffer depression rather than embark on a fruitful descent. When shadow-work is denied, the soul feels banished, exiled from its habitats in the wilds of nature … or in the sacred objects of art. Then, people suffer anxiety and loneliness, cut off from a sense of place, the mystery of the Beloved, or the beauty of things.

But when Shadow-work is attended to, the soul feels round, full, sated. When shadow-work is invited into a life, the soul feels welcomed, alive in the gardens, aroused in passion, awake in sacred things.” P. 9

Sermon- Meeting the Shadow

I am so happy to be able to introduce you to one of my all-time favorite Authors, Ursula LeGuin. Have any of you read her books or stories before? I recently re-read The Wizard of Earthsea, published in 1968, and realized it is a perfect parable about the Jungian Shadow archetype which I had been studying in my Spiritual Directors Training program. So in celebration of summer reading, I propose that we use a fantasy of wizards and magic to lead us deeper into our own souls.

 As we heard in the opening story, Duny did not receive a lot of attention as a child. His mother died in his infancy, his aunt kept her distance. His father was stern and abusive. Each of us is raised in a unique family system that nurtures some parts of us and discourages others. For our own survival we become the person we have to be to gain attention and approval in that family, in school, in society. Even in the most loving, healthy family, there will be parts of our self that we disown, that we “repress” as the Jungian’s say, in order to fit in.

When Duny reaches the limits of what his Aunt can teach, he goes to study with a local Mage called Ogion who performs the ritual of coming of age, giving him his true name, Ged. He is frustrated with his studies because while Ogion is trying to teach him about patience and restraint, Ged wants to learn showy spells of great power. After about a year of study, his teacher offers Ged a choice:

“If you wish, I will send you to Roke Island, where all high arts are taught. Any craft you undertake to learn you will learn, for your power is great. Greater even than your pride, I hope. I would keep you here with me, for what I have is what you lack, but I will not keep you against your will.” [ 24]Ged chooses the Isle of Roke , because much as he loves and respects his teacher, “other cravings were in him that would not be stilled, the wish for glory, the will to act.”

So Ged boards a boat bound for Roke, and once there an upperclassman is assigned to give him a tour.
… he was met by a tall youth who greeted him very courteously, bowing his head. “I am called Jasper, Enwit’s son of the Domain of Eolg on Havnor Isle. I am at your service today, to show you about the Great House and answer your questions as I can. How shall I call you, Sir?”
Now it seemed to Ged, a mountain villager who had never been among the sons of rich merchants and noblemen, that this fellow was scoffing at him with his “service” and his” Sir” and his bowing and scraping. He answered shortly, “Sparrowhawk, they call me.” [p. 37]

Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone who immediately dislike, before you really even know them? This is a perfect example of projection. A new person we meet is like a blank screen on which we project our own shadows. The next time you are among new people, notice- whom do you imagine would be fun to get to know? Who rubs you the wrong way in just the first few moments of sharing a room? Since I started thinking about my shadow this past year, I have taken to really noticing these strong, unfounded reactions, positive or negative. I even have a little list I am making in my journal to see if I notice any patterns.

We project on all kinds of things all day long. When you are watching the news or scrolling through your Facebook feed, notice what are the issues that really push your buttons, that fill you with righteous indignation? (Not that sometimes our indignation isn’t justified- as Jeremy Taylor says, just because something is a projection doesn’t mean it isn’t true, and just because something is true doesn’t mean it isn’t a projection)

I’ll give you an example for Unitarian Universalism. What are we as a people knee-jerk intolerant of? Religious intolerance! Oh that makes our blood boil. But as soon as we focus our righteous indignation on “them” this is a clue that we are dealing with our own shadow. As soon as we identify an external group, or person to wag our fingers at, what we are really doing is projecting our own shadow. Like the strange monster Ged saw lurking in the corner, we identify it as “whole-ly other.” As Dr. Zweib explained: “the more unconscious the shadow, the more we experience it as a stranger, an Other, an alien invader. Therefore, we cannot face it in ourselves or tolerate it in others.”

For example, I have heard many good UUs talk about evangelicals as embodying the opposite of all that is good and noble about UU. In making this kind of gross generalization, we are projecting our shadow on them, instead looking at our own complex attitudes and unexamined behaviors about tolerance and intolerance. Our shadow stalks us, each one of us, as individuals, as families, as organizations, as cultures. 

This is what happened when Jasper’s first words to Ged awoke something of Ged’s own shadow. Over the next few years of Ged’s studies, it becomes apparent that Ged has a natural talent and a drive to learn. He yearns for power and devotes himself whole heartedly to acquiring it. But Jasper, an older boy further along in his studies, is unimpressed. 
Standing there with rage in his heart, looking after Jasper, Ged swore to himself to outdo his rival ... He would prove himself, and humiliate Jasper. He would not let the fellow stand there looking down at him, graceful, disdainful, hateful.
 Ged did not stop to think why Jasper might hate him. He only knew why he hated Jasper. The other prentices had son learned they could seldom match themselves against Ged either in sport or in earnest, … Jasper alone neither praised him nor avoided him, but simply looked down at him, smiling slightly. And therefore Jasper stood alone as his rival, who must be put to shame. [p. 45]

The animosity grows between them, and one day when Ged is 15 Jasper challenges him during an argument about who is more powerful to “Summon up a spirit from the dead.” To everyone’s shock and fear, Ged complies.
 “In a great slow gesture he stretched out his arms, the gesture of welcome that opens an invocation. He began to speak.

He had read the runs of this Spell of Summoning in Orion’s book, two years and more ago, and never since had seen them. .. But now he understood what had read, speaking it aloud word after word, and he saw the markings of how the spell must be woven with the sound of the voice and the motion of body and hand…

The shapeless mass of darkness he had lifted split apart. …, and a pale spindle of light gleamed between his opened arms, a faint oval reaching from the ground up to the height of his raised hands. ..

Then the sallow oval between Ged’s arms great bright. It widened and spread…, a ripping open of the fabric of the world .Through it blazed a terrible brightness. And through that bright misshapen breach clambered something like a clot of black shadow, quick and hideous, and it leaped straight out at Ged’s face.

Staggering back under the weight of the thing, Ged gave a short, hoarse scream. .. Ged fell, struggling and writing, while the bright rip in the world’s darkness above him widened and stretched. ..

The intolerable brightness faded, and slowly the torn edges of the world closed together. Nearly a voice was speaking as softly as a tree whispers or a fountain plays. [p. 60]

This was the voice of the Archmage Nemmerle. The effort of closing this rift and saving Ged’s life is too much for him, and he dies from the effort. Ged, however, lays in the infirmary for many weeks, and wakes weakened, ashamed, and with “Deep, ragged, and evil wounds” on his face and through and shoulder.”

Ged is humbled and the course of his life has changed forever. Not even his great and powerful teachers are sure of the nature of the thing he has loosed into the world. Ged stays at the school for several more years regaining his strength, protected from this nameless thing by the powerful magic of the place, until he decides it is time for him to go out in the world and make his way.

 His teacher, Gensher of Way, says to him “You have great power inborn in you, and you used that power wrongly, to work a spell over which you had no control, not knowing how that spell affects the balance of … good and evil. And you were moved to do this by pride and hate. Is it any wonder the result was ruin? ... Uncalled it came from a place where there are no names. Evil, it wills to work evil through you. The power you had to call it gives it power over you; you are connected. It is the shadow of your arrogance, the shadow of your ignorance, the shadow you cast.” [p. 66]

So Ged sets out on his own, leaving the protection of the island, and always his shadow chases him, coming closer and closer. Finally when the thing is almost on him, Ged changes himself into a hawk and flies home to Gont, to his first teacher. He almost forgets himself, is almost unrecognizable to his teacher, but with his teacher’s help comes back to himself.

This again parallels the meeting of the shadow in our own lives. It is usually in young adulthood, or perhaps in midlife, when the structures that protected us in childhood begin to chafe, or limit the expression of our souls.

We flee this stranger, this monster but still it pursues us. It sneaks up on us at the strangest times. As Zweig says in their classic book about how ordinary people can recognize and work with their shadow: “When a woman with a health-conscious lifestyle craves ice cream and feels compelled to binge in the dark of night, her shadow is acting out. When a normally kind mother belittles her child, her shadow is showing.” And like Ged sometimes we transform ourselves into a form that is not our true form to hide from our shadow, to survive in the world.

 It is Ogion that finally suggests a solution not only for Ged’s dilemma, but for ours as well.
“There is no safe place,” Ogion said gently. “Do not transform yourself again, Ged. The shadow seeks to destroy your true being. It nearly did so, driving you into hawk’s being. No, where you should go, I do not know. Yet I have an idea of what you should do. It is a hard thing to say to you.”

Ged’s silence demanded truth, and Ogion said at last, “you must turn around.”

“Turn around?”

"If you go ahead, if you keep running, wherever you run you will meet anger and evil, for it drives you, it chooses the way you go. You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunger.”…

 “You returned to Gont, you returned to me, Ged. Now turn clear round, and seek the very source, and that which lies before the source. There lies your hope of strength.”…

“If I turn,” Ged said after some time had gone by, “if as you say I hunt the hunter, I think the hunt will not be long. All its desire is to meet me face to face.”… [p. 127]

This is the nature of shadow work. This is what I am asking you to consider today, that instead of running from our shadow, avoiding our shadow, externalizing our shadow, we turn around and meet it. And as Ged and Ogion acknowledge, this is not a process without risks. But continuing to hide from our shadow has risks as well. As Ged’s teacher tells him on Roke: “the thing you loosed would find you at once, and enter into you, and possess you. ..”

If we don’t turn and meet our shadow, it has tremendous power over us. Whether it lashes out in a harsh word, or in addiction, or our repression of it keeps us trapped in a muted life, a life where we miss some part of our true self, some depth of our soul, or our relationships, because we do not turn and face it. 

Let’s also notice that Ged wisely sought the help of a teacher, one who cared about him and knew him. Remember that if you ever feel lost or afraid in trying to meet your shadow work.

So Ged and his friend sail off deeper and deeper into the unknown seas, far past land, and finally Ged meets this monster who has haunted him since he was a boy.
In silence, man and shadow met face to face, and stopped.

Aloud and clearly, breaking that old silence, Ged spoke the shadow’s name in the same moment the shadow spoke without lips or tongue, saying the same word: “Ged.” And the two voices were one voice.

Ged reached out his hands, dropping his staff, and took hold of his shadow, of the black self that reached out to him. Light and darkness met, and joined, and were one.” [p. 179 ]

  “look,” [says Ged returning] “it is done. It is over.” He laughed “The wound is healed,” he said, “I am whole, I am free.” Then he bent over and hid his face in his arms, weeping like a boy. [p. 181]

For Jung and those who follow him, the work of a lifetime is to come to know your shadow, to meet it, and then to integrate it into yourself, because the self is partial and incomplete. The shadow, it is said, carries the gift. As Zweig says:
“When the Other arrives, honor that part of yourself as a guest. You may discover that it comes bearing gifts. You may discover that shadow-work is, indeed, soul work.” 

This is my offering to you this morning, as you go about your ordinary life, devoid of dragons and enchanted islands: the next time you experience something either in yourself or in the world as “totally other” as so completely “not- you” that it effects your emotions, pay attention. Just notice what you feel. Maybe that stranger can point you towards your shadow. See if you can catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of your eye. It may bring strong feelings- that means you are close! So be kind to yourself, don’t judge, just breathe into whatever you are noticing. The more we become conscious of the inner forces that drive us, the more deeply we will know ourselves. The shadow which first appears in terrifying intensity may someday reveal a gift that will enrich our lives.

This was true for Ged. It was because he turned to meet his shadow and said it’s true name that he gained the wisdom , the restraint and the power to become the Archmage and to defeated an even greater evil- the shadow of the whole culture of Earthsea. But those stories, as they say, are for another book, for another day.

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