"The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows you to do evil without calling it evil...Archaic religion and most of the history of religion has seen the shadow as the problem. Isn’t that what religion is about: getting rid of all our faults? This is the classic pattern of dealing with the symptom instead of the cause. We cannot really get rid of the shadow; we can only expose its game—which eventually undermine its results and effects." -Richard Rohr
Yes, it is me. I am the man who conquered his shadow.
How did I do it? That’s the question that I always receive. Finally I am ready to tell you, for I must share my secrets, my vast knowledge, if I am to leave any sort of legacy; and a legacy is all I’ve ever wanted. But, prepare yourself. What I’m about to tell you might reveal that you, too, are on your way to conquering your own shadow. Those who love me will be pleased to see themselves in me. Those who hate me will be embarrassed to see themselves in me. To begin, I worked and worked, accumulating anything and everything that I could, until I no longer had time to think about my shadow, until I had so many pleasures and distractions at my fingertips that I no longer had time to look in the mirror. Everything that I did, each and every day, only reaffirmed the image of myself that I wanted to project to the world. I ran from silence, from solitude, from introspection, from contemplation. That entailed acknowledging weakness. What a waste! Any insecurity, any flaw, any doubt, any blindspot: I masked it with confidence and certainty. People gravitate towards this confidence and certainty because it exudes power. No one wants to follow someone who is unsure. They want a conqueror; a strong man; a savior. Strong men don’t acknowledge their shadows. Strong men don’t apologize. Strong men don’t show emotion. Strong men give answers, even when they do not have them. No one wants nuance these days. Remember this: when you become your own god, ignorance is bliss. Don’t look inside. Look ahead. Notice all the lost, wandering people and give them something powerful, something “sure,” that they can cling to so they do not have to confront their own weaknesses. Notice all the sinners and give them a savior. Destroy every mirror, but mirror every shadow-system, for these were created by the people to begin with; and if you mirror what they created, then you will become their creation. They will follow you anywhere because you mirror what they are following. The people created the shadow-systems, and the shadow-systems created me, and therefore I am for the people and by the people. Some people tell me that I am cold, that I am not a good person—what an outlandish claim! If I were not a good person, then the religious people would not love me like they do. They’ve been looking for a savior ever since theirs was killed. And I will do what he could not do. He gravitated toward the forgotten, the marginalized, the outcasts; I lift up the powerful. He spoke in parables and mystery; I speak with certainty. He lived in a way that shattered every shadow-system of his day—the empire of government but especially the empire of religion—but I partner with both. Hell, I am a reflection of both! Whereas the cross of whom they call “the Christ” blew up every religious construct of that day, opening up the gates of vague uncertainty where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female—only inherent oneness, whatever the hell that means—I have come to help the modern empire to reclaim its religion, to enforce division, to stroke its ego so that I will have another empire on my side, just like it used to be. I cannot wait to see the child that these two empires create. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like religion, especially Christianity. Religion has only affirmed the fact that I am right. That’s why I like religion. That’s why I am a good person. Because of religion. Knowing the “one, true path” and believing it is perhaps the strongest reflection of the most dominant shadow-system: certainty, which leads to moral outrage, which strokes the ego. It affirms those who are “in,” the majority, and rejects those who are “out,” the minority. It is good to be free from unknowing, nuance, and mystery. I began to crucify my shadow when I started to believe, with everything within me, that I had all the answers to life’s biggest questions, which began when I turned a sacred text into a god and in doing so became a god myself. If I am a chess player, then religion is my queen. But I do not allow any queens in my kingdom. Nor does religion. As chess teaches us, queens are too powerful. It’s funny. Even those who say they hate me are a reflection of me! They fan the flames of their dualism, their certainty, and evoke moral outrage among the people. They scare me; not because what they say is true (no one even knows what is true anymore!) but because they are playing the same game that I am playing, the same game that brought me to power. That is why I must take them down, or at least cripple them in some way. And they must do the same to me. It’s a game the shadow-systems created, and we are merely playing along, pointing the finger at one another, making outrageous claims, and in doing so influencing one another’s popularity. If it weren’t for me, where would the pundits be? If it weren’t for the pundits, where would I be? We need each other. Without one another, we are nothing. We are both extensions of the shadow-systems. We only make opposite claims. And everyone is following—one way or another—and following is good because when all are following then no one thinks for himself or herself. The next king might be a pundit. They’re on their way to conquering their shadows. And now maybe you can see that you are on your way, too. How wonderful and chaotic and powerful and maddening a world would be if it had no shadows! We are well on our way. They say that there is a shepherd boy out in the fields who dances with his shadow all day long. What a silly thing! What a pointless life! I cannot even fathom such an existence. What a maddening life such solitude would be—to befriend your insecurities, to manage your ego, to live so simply. Still I cannot help but envy him, for he has something that I do not have. I cannot even tell you the last time I danced.
By Stephen Copeland
This story was first published on www.copelandwrites.com. Read "The man who conquered his shadow (Part I)" here.