Anatomy of the Shadow

This is a continuation from the Call for Interaction post. Please click here if you missed the beginning.

Excellent! Whatever you wrote is correct. Why? Because magickal people understand that you are the creator of your own universe. No one else has your perspective, your experiences, or your shadows. What you wrote, if you played fair, is a reflection of your truth.

So let’s get a few basic principles under your belt about the psyche and why shadows, plural on purpose, may be sabotaging your efforts to be magickal.

1. You are multiple personalities.

In no way am I suggesting that you’re crazy. Think about who you are with your best friend and then think about who you are with your supervisor or a client you don’t know very well. You have faces, or masks, that you wear with different people and each of them are You. Some of these faces you like better than others. Some faces are so unpleasant that you try not to let them out into public at all.

What makes you different from Sybil?[1] Sybil’s consciousness was so fragmented, she had a total of sixteen different known personalities that manifested. You have that many personalities in you if not more, but they are so well integrated that you only sense the shift as the people in your environment change. These personalities help us to adapt, and when well integrated they form a holographic personality that you know as You.

2. A Shadow is a fragmented part of your holographic personality.

Have you ever heard of shamanism?[2] Shamans are people who achieve altered states of awareness to interact with the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is a structured place (i.e. there are worlds and levels of existence) that receives the knowledge, experiences, and awareness of all creation. Humans access this collective unconscious through their subconscious minds either in dreams or using shamanistic techniques.[3]

Some shamanic traditions practice what is known as soul retrieval. This technique is used to achieve psychological integration. The shaman enters an altered state of consciousness, searches for the missing fragment of the person’s soul, and when he finds it, he tries to lure the soul back home. That missing fragment is a Shadow.

3. Shadows are the flip-side of a desirable trait.

For example, vigilance is a very desirable trait for a soldier to possess, even to the point of ever-present suspicion, especially in combat situations because that vigilance increases the soldier’s odds of survival. But such intense vigilance can develop into a paranoia that is expressed in non-combat situations. Paranoia is often an obstacle to intimacy and can destroy a person’s peace of mind.

4. Shadows are blocked energies desiring expression.

Shadows are not alien beings that must be destroyed before they take over planet Earth. They are energies within your psyche that have helped you cope with less than pleasant circumstances. Often, the energy becomes a Shadow because the circumstances have changed and your psyche hasn’t quite gotten the message yet that the threat has passed. For example, Mr. Wrong, who always put you on the defensive with snide little comments wrapped up in innocuous statements, has been replaced by Mr. Right. Unfortunately, the pattern of searching for Mr. Wrong’s nasty pill of a put-down in Mr. Right’s genuine compliments just might drive the good guy away.

Shadows can express themselves in many ways, often without you realizing what’s happening. Magickal people know to look to their environments because what happens on the outside often reflects what’s happening on the inside. The same situations keep coming up: All your co-workers think you’re an arrogant [insert insult of choice] and it’s affecting your ability to get a promotion. You keep having to extricate yourself from Fatal Attraction relationships because, “She really seemed nice at first.” You keep reliving your source relationship with your mother (or father) with the women (or men) in your life.

Whether you like it or not, that Shadow is going to express itself. The goal is to direct the form of expression it takes.

5. Energy transforms but it does not go away.

In fact, the whole reason why you have a Shadow to begin with is because you tried to send this energy away and ignore it. You can’t banish or eradicate a Shadow.

Shadows are blocked energies and the only way to effectively deal with them is to absorb and transform them. People can argue with me all they want and tell me I’m full of hornswaggle because they’ve banished shadows and blah, blah, blah. Fine, but it is imperative that you, magickal person in training, understand one thing about energy:

All the Power that ever was or will be is here now.[4]

This means that all the energy that ever was or will be is here now, so deal with it. Stop hiding your head in the sand and look your Shadow right in the eye.

Next post: Embracing Shadow Step 1


[1] Sybil is a book about a woman with multiple personalities. This book illustrates a classic example of the dissociative mental illness.

[2] The Foundation for Shamanic Studies was founded by Michael Harner, a well-known and credible expert on the practice of shamanism. You can find good information about shamanism at this site and in his book The Way of the Shaman.

[3] Sometimes altered states of awareness are reached through the use of drugs, but the shamanic training to earn control over the experience is so long and intense that the practice is discouraged in many magickal communities.

[4] The Pattern of the Trestleboard. Courtesy of B.O.T.A.

2 thoughts on “Anatomy of the Shadow

  1. […] Last installment, you discovered that you are a very complex holograph of personalities.  You also learned that Shadows are fragmented pieces of your holograph—blocked energies that will express through your subconscious if you don’t pay attention. Since you can’t banish or destroy energy, you’ll have to find another way to get your Shadows to toe the party-line. […]

  2. […] sure some of you are wondering what I’m playing at, but if you remember from the Anatomy lesson, a Shadow is the flip-side of an admirable trait. You’re trying to get an idea of what […]

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