Shadow is an essential component to God’s Kingdom, but unfortunately too many Christians avoid it. The Shadow doesn’t care. It crawls on.
When I began The Graveyard Cowboy as a brand image for the podcast, the words were not arbitrary. Rather, the cowboy archetypally represented a more modern Knight, as in a Knight of God that loyally served his King. Graveyard, on the other hand, pointed towards the shadows. This “graveyard,” underground area binds the Cosmos downward, anchoring all the emanations of light into a steadying, infinitely-collapsing, core Void.
But that sounds a little strange, even scary, huh?
Father Malachi Martin, in his embarrassingly, destructive seminal work, Hostage To The Devil, misappropriated the universal process-principle of Negation with Demonic Evil, and in doing so, seemed to lead droves of mainstream Christians into the Satanic Panic of the 80s and countless other ridiculous notions. For all his calm demeanor, and apparent deep presence, Malachi Martin and other well-intentioned Traditionalists, never really direct folks into a more Enlightened Christianity, the way Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr do.
Rather, Martin, like other hyper-traditionalists of the past, favored a good-over-evil dualism, where the world is divided into two halves, and good Christians are supposed to stay on their side of the street. The point here, though, is not to discuss good and evil, but to simply recognize that elements of Shadow, death, non-being, emptiness, and absence are necessary for the religion of Christianity to become whole.
And while we have sources of such shadow elements in our own tradition, especially in Christian mysticism, (The Cloud of Unknowing, Apophatic Theology, Care Of The Soul, etc), we don’t seem ready to acknowledge Shadow as a foundational theological structure. Carl Jung suggested adding the shadow or some sort of fourth element to the Trinity, after a lifetime rich in readings of (and experiences with) the Christian faith. But are the rest of us holding something back?
Perhaps the thought of making the shadow more liturgically and viscerally palpable is a fearful thought these days. The world continues with many serious problems – is now not the time to bear Light and Light Alone? Is now not the time for a redemption-wave to wash over humanity, after having had too many grinding crucifixions?
Maybe, but it’s not really about light winning out over dark: the Cross is the unifier of the many opposites. It’s about balance, equanimity, charity. Balancing joy and anger, balancing life and death. And when we don’t acknowledge the shadow in ourselves, the external shadows in the outer world swell up. And we don’t acknowledge the outer Shadow that haunts our cultural and civilization, the darkness within ourselves cannot breath and festers unconsciously, making us sick. It may be time to make more room for our darker aspects and hidden passions…..
For this reason, I unearth graves of shadows and graves of ancestral Hope in my intro video. The Shadow can be our friend, even Guardians from the past showing up to help us in our journeys.