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Archive for January 30th, 2011

Light and Shadow

“… the Self appears as a play of light and shadow, although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united.”

C. G. Jung (CW  6, par. 790)

On a path I look down and see shadows of tree limbs spread out before me. Light dances around the edges of these shadows as wind moves through the branches. Spread out before me are places of scintillation and deep darkness. I stand transfixed by Nature’s play of light and shadow.

Jung’s poetic description of the Self opens us to experiencing a dynamic relationship of opposites. The Self is often described as the archetype of wholeness or totality, as if differences amidst the wholeness are nonexistent. In the play of light and shadow, we see something more than wholeness. We see the presence of opposites that are so fundamental to life. More than just light and shadow is present. Jung notes that it is the play of shadow and light that manifests as Self. In the interconnectedness of wind, branch, light and path, I am placed in the presence of the numinous. Participating in the interplay among different elements in our lives creates a doorway to the numinosity of the Self. Resting within the interplay of light and shadow is always the possibility of wholeness.

At times, we want to pass over the shadow for all we want is light. Yet, it is being present with both light and shadow that creates a place for Self. When we open ourselves up to the play of these two elements, we become a part of the movement – the play – of these elements. In living an authentic life, we are constantly being asked to allow shadow to define lightness and lightness to define shadow. In such moments, we can dwell on the nuances of both light and shadow. We can take time to see the scintillation of the light, perhaps even discern hues within this light. Similarly, we can take time to sit with shadow. To look for a brilliance and hue within shadow. It is there if we look closely.

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