There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
~ Carl Jung
For quite a while now, the energies around us have been bringing a lot of things up to the surface, at times in a rather radical way. The tragedies of the world have forced themselves like uninvited guests in the collective awareness, putting in our faces what we thought we could keep ignoring. You may have felt it also in your personal life. And, yes, it can be and has been extremely painful, individually and collectively. And I wish that the awakening of our consciousness could be softer. Carl Jung rightly wrote: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” It may sound harsh but it is true. Life has a way to give us whichever experiences are most helpful for the evolution of our consciousness. We may try to avoid them but they will keep coming at us.
The paradoxical role of illnesses and disorders
In shamanic practices, illness is understood not only in medical terms but also as a way the patient’s spirit is trying to communicate. Therefore, in treating illness, the shaman works to understand what the spirit of the patient is calling for. Most traditions also recognize that the disease itself has a spirit as well; therefore they would ask: What does the disease need? Why did it come? What is it teaching the person? The same is true at the societal level.
Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and best-selling author who explored the brain’s strangest pathways, wrote that illnesses and disorders “can play a paradoxical role in bringing out latent powers, developments, evolutions, forms of life that might never be seen or even be imaginable in their absence.” The stories Dr. Sacks (who recently passed) told in his books underscored not the marginality of his patients’ experiences, but their part in the shared human endeavor and the flux and contingencies of life. The first “fiction” I read by him is called “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” It is hilarious and I highly recommend it. The stories are so odd and touching and resonant, a full bowl of human kindness and tenderness for all our limitations and pains. It is a so needed reminder that what we often feel as illnesses and disorders, handicaps and anomalies, can also be the breeding ground for amazing transformation and beauty. In many ways, it is what “making the darkness conscious” means: looking at the disorder as a sign of what needs to be transformed and is to come.
The threatening beast whose name was Asterion (Star)
In similar ways, the Greeks told the story of the Minotaur, the bull-headed flesh-eating man who lived in the center of the labyrinth. He was a threatening beast, and yet his name was Asterion – Star! I often think of this paradox as I sit with someone with tears in her eyes, searching for some way to deal with a huge loss, a death, a serious disease, a depression, etc. It is a beast, this thing that stirs in the core of her being, but it is also a crack to bring her closer to her innermost nature and to open to more Light.
The same is true of the more systemic forms of darkness and violence in our world. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t underestimate the huge pain that I witness everyday, in the healing room and in the world. I don’t try to “excuse” the violence and craziness in any way either. I am just suggesting that it is possible to see beyond the illnesses and the disorders, how something is calling for a higher level of consciousness and deeper healing. And that we need to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger at the beast, we do not overlook the star.
Beyond the illusion of separation: rising together to higher consciousness
This shift in consciousness cannot occur if we think ourselves in isolation. The reality of life is that we are not only connected to all there is; we are one with all that is being constantly created. Our lives proceed from the exact same principles as all forms of life on earth. In Albert Einstein’s words, “our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.” This means that separation has a purpose. The ego has a purpose: it allows every single one of us to become embodied and to start expressing our uniqueness. Without it, there would be no “I”. But the paradox of our lives is that this uniqueness cannot express itself if it is disconnected from the source of our existence – our divine essence – or split off from other expressions of the divine. You, as this body, I as this body, are born in the intention of the totality; each of our body is life expressing itself and experiencing physicality. And that expression is imperfect. It is the beast and it is the star. It is the light and it is the darkness. And that expression keeps changing and evolving – because to stop evolving would be to stop living. But your evolution and mine are interconnected.
We raise our individual and collective consciousness by bringing to awareness what needs to be healed, and then by actively working at transforming it, together, because there is no other way. This is what allows us, as one species, one expression of life, to keep evolving. This is what allows each of us to experience The Light in our life.
Béatrice | Contemporary Shamanic Healer
Allowing The Light