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on the Path

By William Carl Eichman

Published in GNOSIS #14 Winter 1990

"If you undertake spiritual practice you will be confronted by your dark side."

If you undertake spiritual practice you willl be confronted by your dark side. This is an axiom. The spiritual quest is dangerous, just as the books say. Seeking truth means experiencing pain and darkness, not just the clear white light.

Practitioners must prepare themselves to deal with the dark underside of life.

This dark side can take many forms. Religious stories personify it in images of devils and dark, angry gods. Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, and virtually every other lesser figure report dealing with the temptations of the "Evil One," prince of the world -- Mara, Satan, lblis. The teaching story of temptation, which occurs before illumination, is more than just another "Hero vanquished Monster" myth -- it is a description of a specific peril of the spiritual path. The Christian and Sufi mystics experienced it more personally, as the obstinate pride and trickery of the ego and the "dark night of the soul." For the modem practitioner the dark nature is even more multi-faceted; our complicated world has many evil faces, and dealing with the dark side has never been more difficult.

Today the dark side is everywhere. We are completely saturated in it. It declares itself in every news broadcast, television show, and tabloid. No one growing up in a society like ours escapes being conditioned by this violence. Every one of us, from the most perfectly civilized to the imprisoned criminal, harbors an inner, festering, neurotic sore, a private shadow of anger, terror, lust, and pain. This shadow, this "dark side," is a miniature copy of the greater darkness of society which manifests in war, oppression, and starvation. We are surrounded, inside and out, by evil and suffering of all description.

When we practice meditation and contemplation the dark side within us is washed to the surface of consciousness by the purifying and energizing effect of these exercises. The ability to deal with these emerging dark impulses is a basic skill which must be mastered by every practitioner. Moral, ethical, and spiritual integrity is required, but accurate practical knowledge is just as important. Without study. our conception of the dark side tends to be a primitive relic of childhood creepie- crawlies and bogeymen. If we attempt to confront our dark side with this programming we are quickly paralyzed. instead, we must gather reliable information, read books, observe and analyze our personal psychology's, and in time develop a more complete picture of the nature of the dark side. An educated and mature attitude toward evil is a necessity for the practitioner.

With study, certain characteristics of the so-called "dark side" become obvious. This darkness is not really a "side." or a shadow, or a persona -- it is a tangled web of complex forces, programs, and effects which we repress from ordinary consciousness so that we rarely see its true nature. It can readily be divided into the following four areas:

(1) the biological dark side:
(2) the cosmological dark side;
(3) the cultural dark side: and
(4) the personal dark side.

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The Biological Dark Side

The biological dark side is the easiest to understand. The attack of the predator and the bloody murder of our loved ones forms the root of our images of darkness and "evil." For eons, biological organisms have been killed and eaten, struck down  by disease, dying broken-legged in pits. The logic of the biological dark side is simple: what hurts me is evil. the attacker is evil, the disease and the storm are evil. Our 'bios', our life, makes us vulnerable. It takes a living thing to experience pain and horror, and we are all living things.

Continued on page Meeting Darkness 2


This article was picked up and re-published in:

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Meeting the Shadow : The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature (New Consciousness Reader)

Connie Zweig(Editor), Jeremiah Abrams (Editor) / Paperback / Published 1991
(Publisher Out Of Stock)
Read more about this title...
"This substantial volume brings together extremely diverse perspectives on this eternally timely topic, citing brief but pithy passages from luminaries like Carl Jung, James Hillman, M.L. von Franz, John Sanford; Harville Hendrix, Marsha Sinetar, Larry Dossey, W.Brugh Joy; M.Scott Peck, Rollo May, Ernest Becker, Sam Keen, Robert Jay Lifton; Ken Wilber, Robert Bly, Joseph Campbell and John Bradshaw. There is much distilled wisdom in these pages, organized in a meaningful, coherent, even entertaining fashion..."


For more on Spiritual Crisis and understanding and integrating the darkside,
try these links:

A review of Stanislav and Christina Grof's book "The Stormy Search for the Self".

Telesterion Letter # 1 "Seeking High Ground", about how to navigate through fears.

Go to the TELESTERION Main Page.




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