Shadow

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(Shyam Sundar:) “How can one use shadow to realise the Light?

(Mother:) Painters use shadow to bring out the light.
         Shadow is the symbol of the inconscient. This is where men rest at night from the effort of the day to become conscious. When consciousness becomes all-powerful, shadow will no longer be necessary and will disappear.”[1]


(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri:)

“To wrestle with the Shadow she had come
And must confront the riddle of man’s birth
And life’s brief struggle in dumb Matter’s night.
Whether to bear with Ignorance and death
Or hew the ways of Immortality,
To win or lose the godlike game for man,
Was her soul’s issue...”[2]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “Every man has a double nature except those who are born (not unborn) Asuras, Rakshasas or Pishachas and even they have a psychic being concealed somewhere by virtue of their latent humanity. But a double being (or a double nature in the special sense) refers to those who have two sharply contrasted parts of their being without as yet such a linking control over them. Sometimes they are all for the heights and then they are quite all right — sometimes all for the abysses and then they care nothing for the heights, even sneer or rail at them and give full rein to the lower man. Or they substitute for the heights a smoky volcano summit in the abyss. These are extreme examples, but others while they do not go so far, yet are now one thing, now just the opposite. If they can convert the lower fellow or discover the central being in themselves, then a true harmonious whole can be created.”[3]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “What you say about the ‘Evil Persona’ interests me greatly as it answers to my consistent experience that a person greatly endowed for the work has, always or almost always — perhaps one ought not to make a too rigid universal rule about these things — a being attached to him, sometimes appearing like a part of him, which is just the contradiction of the thing he centrally represents in the work to be done. Or, if it is not there at first, not bound to his personality, a force of this kind enters into his environment as soon as he begins his movement to realise. Its business seems to be to oppose, to create stumblings and wrong conditions, in a word, to set before him the whole problem of the work he has started to do. It would seem as if the problem could not, in the occult economy of things, be solved otherwise than by the predestined instrument making the difficulty his own. That would explain many things that seem very disconcerting on the surface.”[4]


(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri:)

“Man in the world’s life works out the dreams of God.
But all is there, even God’s opposites;
He is a little front of Nature’s works,
A thinking outline of a cryptic Force.
All she reveals in him that is in her,
Her glories walk in him and her darknesses.
Man’s house of life holds not the gods alone:
There are occult Shadows, there are tenebrous Powers,
Inhabitants of life’s ominous nether rooms,
A shadowy world’s stupendous denizens.
A careless guardian of his nature’s powers,
Man harbours dangerous forces in his house.
The Titan and the Fury and the Djinn
Lie bound in the subconscient’s cavern pit
And the Beast grovels in his antre den:
Dire mutterings rise and murmur in their drowse.
Insurgent sometimes raises its huge head
A monstrous mystery lurking in life’s deeps,
The mystery of dark and fallen worlds,
The dread visages of the adversary Kings.
The dreadful powers held down within his depths
Become his masters or his ministers;
Enormous they invade his bodily house,
Can act in his acts, infest his thought and life.
Inferno surges into the human air
And touches all with a perverting breath.
Grey forces like a thin miasma creep,
Stealing through chinks in his closed mansion’s doors,
Discolouring the walls of upper mind
In which he lives his fair and specious life,
And leave behind a stench of sin and death:
Not only rise in him perverse drifts of thought
And formidable formless influences,
But there come presences and awful shapes:
Tremendous forms and faces mount dim steps
And stare at times into his living-rooms,
Or called up for a moment’s passionate work
Lay a dire custom’s claim upon his heart:
Aroused from sleep, they can be bound no more.
Afflicting the daylight and alarming night,
Invading at will his outer tenement,
The stark gloom’s grisly dire inhabitants
Mounting into God’s light all light perturb.”[5]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “The Asura, the Titan... lives in his own inordinately magnified shadow, mistakes ego for the self and spirit and tries to impose his fragmentary personality as the one dominant existence upon all his surroundings.”[6]


(George MacDonald in Phantastes (fiction):) “But the most dreadful thing of all was, that I now begun to feel something like satisfaction in the presence of my shadow. I began to be rather vain of my attendant, saying to myself, “In a land like this, with so many illusions everywhere, I need his aid to disenchant the things around me. He does away with all appearances, and shows me things in their true colour and form. And I am not one to be fooled with the vanities of the common crowd. I will not see beauty where there is none. I will dare to behold things as they are. And if I live in a waste instead of a paradise, I will live knowing where I live.”[7]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “Fundamentally, all pain and suffering are the result of an insufficient consciousness-force in the surface being which makes it unable to deal rightly with self and Nature or unable to assimilate and to harmonise itself with the contacts of the universal Energy; they would not exist if in us there were an integral presence of the luminous Consciousness and the divine Force of an integral Being. Therefore the relation of truth to falsehood, of good to evil is not a mutual dependence, but is in the nature of a contradiction as of light and shadow; a shadow depends on light for its existence, but light does not depend for its existence on the shadow. The relation between the Absolute and these contraries of some of its fundamental aspects is not that they are opposite fundamental aspects of the Absolute; falsehood and evil have no fundamentality, no power of infinity or eternal being, no self-existence even by latency in the Self-Existent, no authenticity of an original inherence.
         It is no doubt a fact that once truth or good manifests, the conception of falsehood and evil becomes a possibility; for whenever there is an affirmation, its negation becomes conceivable. As the manifestation of existence, consciousness and delight made the manifestation of non-existence, inconscience, insensibility conceivable and, because conceivable, therefore in a way inevitable, for all possibilities push towards actuality until they reach it, so is it with these contraries of the aspects of the Divine Existence. It may be said on this ground that these opposites, since they must be immediately perceivable by the manifesting Consciousness on the very threshold of manifestation, can take rank as implied absolutes and are inseparable from all cosmic existence. But it must first be noted that it is only in cosmic manifestation that they become possible; they cannot pre-exist in the timeless being, for they are incompatible with the unity and bliss that are its substance. In cosmos also they cannot come into being except by a limitation of truth and good into partial and relative forms and by a breaking up of the unity of existence and consciousness into separative consciousness and separative being. For where there is oneness and complete mutuality of consciousness-force even in multiplicity and diversity, there truth of self-knowledge and mutual knowledge is automatic and error of self-ignorance and mutual ignorance is impossible.”[8]


(Sri Aurobindo, Thoughts and Aphorisms:) “Examine thyself without pity, then thou wilt be more charitable and pitiful to others.”

(Mother:) “Very good!
         It is very good, very good for everybody, particularly for people who think themselves very superior.
         But this really corresponds to something very profound.
         ...
         Do not try to appear virtuous. See how much you are united, one with everything that is anti-divine. Take your share of the burden, accept yourselves to be impure and false and in that way you will be able to take up the Shadow and offer it. And in so far as you are capable of taking it and offering it, then things will change.
         Do not try to be among the pure. Accept to be with those who are in darkness and give it all with total love.”[9]




  1. En Route (On the Path): The Mother's Correspondence with Shyam Sundar, p.21
  2. Savitri, p.17, “The Issue”
  3. Letters on Yoga – IV, p.647
  4. Ibid., p.648
  5. Savitri, p.479, “The Parable of the Search for the Soul”
  6. The Synthesis of Yoga, p.116, “The Sacrifice, the Triune Path and the Lord of the Sacrifice”
  7. George MacDonald, Phantastes and Lilith, p.67
  8. The Life Divine, p.622, “The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil”
  9. On Thoughts and Aphorisms, p.121


See also