The Shadow
Typography

Our reflections on ourselves and on the universe are mirrored back to us in a palette of colors we could never have imagined even a decade ago. We are hurtling through multitudes of realities. Like Alice, we have fallen down the rabbit hole and entered the parallel world on the other side of the looking glass. What we encounter makes no sense. Perception bends and changes direction. It can go inward, outward, up or down. All things are possible. We are on a wild and magical ride carrying us we know not where and our only allies are trust and surrender.

 

This essay first appeared in Depth Psychology in the Digital Age, Bonnie Bright (ed.), 2016

Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.

—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?

—Seth Godin 

Traveling through the hi-ways and byways of the Internet, we inevitably stumble on a full spectrum of perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs. Through our aloneness, whether it be in the guise of wrenching loneliness or its cure, solitude, we ultimately bump into one another. We are souls traveling side by side. Technology developed the highway; we are the ones who are creating the threads that weave us together into a global tapestry. We are not alone as we feared; rather, we are mirrored. It seems that new bridges are being formed between the realms of spirit and matter. We are spinning and extending Soul through the airwaves, the galaxies, and back into matter. Our bodies and hearts and minds and souls are linking us and catapulting us into higher frequencies. We are as though quickening, evolving, and the Internet may be our manifest vehicle. Surely this is a Renaissance unprecedented in our history.

Our reflections on ourselves and on the universe are mirrored back to us in a palette of colors we could never have imagined even a decade ago. We are hurtling through multitudes of realities. Like Alice, we have fallen down the rabbit hole and entered the parallel world on the other side of the looking glass. What we encounter makes no sense. Perception bends and changes direction. It can go inward, outward, up or down. All things are possible. We are on a wild and magical ride carrying us we know not where and our only allies are trust and surrender.

Consciousness allows for an awareness that we are still standing in darknes and merely peering into the light, blinded by its glare. It is the yearning towards love and for reunification to a source we no longer remember that draws us forward. It is our saving grace as humans that we long for a way home. We may find it in each other, in our world and in the galaxy. Everything is reflected back to us; all that is, that was, and that will ever be exists in the imagination to the ends of nowhere and back again.

“If the world has absolutely no sense, who’s stopping us from inventing one?” wondered Alice in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice’s adventures, both in Wonderland and through the looking glass, have renewed depth of meaning, almost as though Carroll had a glimpse into our current reality. We are reminded that without imagination, we are lost; with imagination the universe can be recreated. Imagination is that which points humanity towards creating the future out of the torn fabric of yesterday’s mistakes.

Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung insisted that loneliness “does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”1 Loneliness and isolation inevitably permeate our communication in a world engulfed in consumerism, propaganda, and violence. In the midst of this unprecedented expansion in technology, we are forced to reinvent the shape and design of communication. Perhaps, this global linking in consciousness is the answer to the grief and devastation that engulfs both us and the planet, even as it seems to widen in scope, endangering life on earth. In the bubble of theworldwide web, we can see the edges of microcosm and macrocosm blur and shift as we bump and bounce off each other like atoms in space. Cosmos and matter are merging through thought in space and time.

New Beginnings

Although we live in an era of historically unprecedented change and cataclysm, although our very existence on this planet is endangered, and although we may already have passed the point where a way back is possible, there is still the “transcendent third” that Jung2 invoked, describing the apex of the triangle, where the magnetic tension of the opposing poles splinters the system of security that has become outworn and transports into an entirely new reality. This is our destiny and the place it will deposit us can only be our rightful home. T. S. Eliot’s profound and prophetic words resound more clearly than ever: “We will return to the place where we started and know the place for the first time.”3

The biblical story of the Tower of Babel is appropriate to our current crisis. Once upon a time humans spoke one language; the implication is that it was a language of the heart and soul and this is that which we yearn to reclaim. Humanity’s course as conscientious stewards of the earth was interrupted when the God Yahweh (whose traits have much in common with the Greek god, Saturn) shattered the Tower of Babel and unleashed a force of division that erupted in “babble,” a nonsense language, incomprehensible and bereft of meaning and incapable of being understood. This resulted in a scattering of humanity across the earth. This division in language without the inclusion of metaphorical, symbolic understanding leaves us lost and wandering in a banal universe, bereft of soul.

It is the result of this symbolic dismemberment that has been responsible for encasing human beings in cages of loneliness and isolation. We have forgotten that we once shared a resonance that transcended speech. Without the skill to understand each other, humanity cannot attain unity and return to the original blueprint of our destiny as gods and stewards of consciousness. If we are the offspring of gods, does not our legacy lead us to become as gods ourselves?

In this myth of the Tower of Babel lives the echoes of the original exile from the Garden of Eden. This separation seems to have been essential in our subsequent wanderings across the earth, and is evident in that self-reflection is needed to integrate shadow; that which is “other.” This is the only path open to us if we are to attain wholeness or individuation, in C. G. Jung’s terms. In fact, the Internet is both friend and impediment to loneliness, depending on how we choose to use it.

At this pivotal juncture in time, we are encountering a tear in the fabric of our known reality. We are at a turning point of consciousness on our little planet. We have an opportunity to link back towards a unification of mind through our diversity. The Internet is a tool that is of our own making, and we can use it to whatever ends we choose, to evolve or to devolve. Logos as Mind and relatedness as Eros, dancing together, can weave new patterns of existence. The resulting design is as yet unrevealed, but it is clear that we have been called to “re-member” the original universal language we once shared.

A new language is being formed that may encompass feeling as well as thought; image as well as sound. The metaphorical and the literal must live side by side. We are seemingly being catapulted into a new frequency that transcends our three dimensional reality. We are linked to one another; intricately interdependent with all living beings and plants. This planet has graciously provided us with a temenos (sacred container) which nourishes us, providing sustenance, tools, and beauty for our well-being—perhaps to encourage our evolutionary journey and potential awakening to our role as creators and sustainers of life, or else to be destroyed.

Our destiny allows for choice. Will we choose the path of creativity or destruction? This is the end of the long childhood of humanity. We must grow up. Language is a tool, and social media its messenger, allowing us to remember that we were once born from the same source and we shall return. It is our destiny.

There are many theories referring to the origins of human language. In creation myths, as in Genesis, the implication is that language has existed as long as humans have walked the earth. In his article entitled “The Origin of Language,” historical linguist, Edward Vajda describes one such evolutionary theory, suggesting that “as soon as humans developed the biological, or neurological, capacity for creative language, the cultural development of some specific system of forms with meanings would have been an inevitable next step.”5 This may have happened millions of years ago. What we know now is that language and society co-exist and one is intricately connected and sustained by the other. Humans are essentially social beings. We are ultimately dependent on each other for survival and our ability to make to understand one another renders this possible.

However, communication in the form of the spoken and written word, does not necessarily translate into understanding. Jung spoke of the language of the dream as being ancient and pre-verbal.6 He suggested that we possessed images and symbols long before we had language. The dream speaks a language of the “unconscious” and is thus outside of the realms of logic and the linear format of language. It prefers to dance and play in realms of image and symbol and metaphor. Poetry and dreams are the language of soul. We inhabit these realms as technology and planetary crisis collide, and we seek one another. Without this reflection and the embracing of the Other, we are doomed to destruction.

The Rabbit Hole

The Internet and social media are perhaps the mediators that usher in this new emerging transformation, wherever it may lead us. They point us to a road that leads us into rabbit holes, through dark underworld passages and up again through sunlit meadows. But, if an inherent telepathic linking of mind through image and symbol provided a primal form of communication before language and speech developed, then the current difficulty in comprehending one another  may be further complicated by the Internet communication. Nowhere is the result of the destruction of the proverbial Tower of Babel more evident than on the highways of the Internet. The Internet is still, even well into the twenty-first century, limited to those who have access to it and can use it, thus leaving out vast segments of society. This also creates a further divide.

A great deal of what is available to us on social media is noise and distraction. It takes a finely tuned sensibility to tap into what is hidden beneath the screech and clang of consumerism, sensationalism, and propaganda. However, on the positive side, the Internet may be another rung on the ladder that leads to an evolutionary leap in human global consciousness. These are the building blocks of human imagination and the tools of social media at its best.

As philosopher, visionary and, in my view, psychopomp (in Greek mythology, a guide of souls to the place of the dead), Terence McKenna noted, “The Internet is the global brain, the cyberspacially connected, telepathic, collective domain that we’ve all been hungering for.”7 Social media extends through myriads of channels, each constituting its own world, including Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Scoop-it, Pinterest, and Instagram, among others, and new channels seem to appear on a daily basis. Facebook, which arguably played a significant role in ushering in this revolution in social media, has been the most widely used with over 1.3 billion users in 2015—although this is also changing. It has been called “disingenuous” by some, even as its calculating and manipulative side progressively shows through in its increasing efforts at commercialization. In a 2014 Mic magazine article, psychologist Robert Simmermon, a psychologist who deals with mass media issues, is quoted as saying that Facebook is “psychological theater.” Simmermon writes, “In a way, it’s similar to reality TV, that it’s not really reality and we know it. The pictures can be reality, certainly, but they’re very carefully edited and chosen before they’re put up,” continuing, “In every facet of life, we choose to present ourselves in certain ways. But on Facebook, ‘the world’s most disingenuous social network,’ we have increased control over our curated identities, actively deciding to post certain photos over others.”8

Yet, in many ways, social media sites such as Facebook have created a new plane of interaction and friendship. The world of social media, its mazes and passageways has been a journey of continuous incredulity for me, I embarked on it with no idea where I was headed as did we all. We, like Alice, stumbled into a parallel universe where nonsense seemingly is possessed of its own wisdom. We are all traversing wonderland. As an experiment, while incubating this writing, I began to post images and quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The affirming nods from my own Facebook depth community, confirmed to me that we have crossed the bridge into a metaphoric language. What was once nonsense has become social wisdom.

Where social media will lead remains unknown. Whether we initially entered this strange land to connect with friends and family, to make professional connections or simply to explore the worldwide web, finding like-minded souls on the highways of the net has been an unsought but welcome bonus. Our Internet exploration may have taken us to unfamiliar but resonant territory, or we may have found ourselves completely lost, arriving like Alice, through the looking glass, in strange realities. One daily meets oneself on the path, one is led astray by white rabbits and bustled along by Mad Hatters, occasionally makes the acquaintance of wise caterpillars, strange unicorns, bumbling and pretentious royalty, while continually finding ourselves stuck, unstuck, inflated, deflated, confused while wandering down strange passageways, rooms, path and encountering differing viewpoints unexpectedly at every turn.

So, in many ways, we are left wondering: Where are we? Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Perhaps, in times of unprecedented change, it is an appropriate response to adversity to surrender to being lost. At the least, it is place from which to begin the journey. Sometimes, as Alice demonstrates, anyplace is a good beginning if one trusts one’s curiosity and one’s instincts. The virtual world of the Internet may invite both skeptics and hopeless addicts to its charms and bedevilments, but one thing is certain: It is here to stay, presumably, at least, until it evolves into a form more organic and ethereal. It is paving the way to a potential linking into global consciousness.

As yet, the possibilities of the Internet are untraveled and the global linking leading outward although still is in its infancy, inevitable. Luddites—and even

those who have ultimately adopted technology—may still protest the many problems it has unleashed—not the least of which is the invasion of our privacy. It is not mere paranoia to feel we are being observed. If we are looking, then we can be certain that we are also being looked upon, watched, judged, and looked into as well.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Internet allows for the creation of communities that could never otherwise have been formed. It connects old friends and introduces new ones. The outcome of using social media may be unknown and perhaps it is more related to journey than arrival. The words of the award-winning sci-fi novelist, Ursula K. Le Guin are apt: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”9 

Social Shadows and Slants

Social media cannot replace living intimacy but it is certainly imitating it. It is not a destination, but a steppingstone into untraveled realities. I often feel nostalgic for the Seventies, an era that now seems so simple in retrospect. Time seemed to move more slowly, even luxuriously. Telephones had solid weight and substance. They were attached to a wall socket. When they rang, we answered them in person, or if we called someone there was no answer, we simply called back later. There were no answering machines, no computers; instead there were books, television, radio, phonographs, and tape recorders. Social interaction meant you spoke on the phone and arranged to see each other in person, seeming to engender a more authentic connection to the Other. We made eye contact, read body language, tuned into facial expressions of others. I think this fostered emotional intelligence and compassion. Virtual reality existed in dreams, daydreams and visions. That was all. We must redefine a sense of boundaries. What is privacy? Where are boundaries? What image are we presenting? Is it true? Who is looking at us? We are perpetually “on stage,” often caught up in an effort to be seen—or perhaps, to hide? On Facebook, some people share intimate troubles, the big events of our lives, and details of trips, meals and time with friends. The introverts tend to hide and peek out more warily.

As all things in our time, social media delivers a collision of the pernicious and the beneficial. The mythical apple offered to Eve in the Garden of Eden has been offered once again, and we, once again, have eaten of the fruit of knowledge. Curiosity ever encompasses the paradoxical curse and saving grace of humanity. Social media offers each of us a blank page from which to begin again. We can communicate a fabrication of ourselves or an image of what we hope to become. The possibilities range from a sales opportunity to a soul’s opportunity. Depending on our intention, either and both are possible, and woe to the one who cannot discriminate between the two!

In the larger view, we find ourselves on an entirely different wavelength, a new frequency, traveling along at lightning speed, along this technological highway in our own human-made Milky Way. We bump into each other. Whether friend or foe, new connections emerge that transcend time and space that otherwise would not have been possible. Friends, colleagues, soul connections that were perhaps always there move through new realities as we access each other via direct synchronicity; via love of language, symbol, image, poetry, idea, music, and mutual thirst for knowledge. We link together through what are called “threads” in this global web of humanity, and we begin to feel the hum of many voices, many directions on the highways.

John Wyndham’s science fiction novel, The Chrysalids, is about a post-nuclear Holocaust society split in two—a rigid fundamentalist community, and those “others” who are deemed “mutants” because they have a physical deformity from what was once the “norm.” The mutants are the disenfranchised, and they are exiled to “The Fringes” of society.10 In this story, we are introduced to two children who communicate in “thought shapes.” They are warned to keep this “gift” hidden from view for, if discovered, they are in danger of being exiled to The Fringes. Their strange gift is perceived as curse through the lens of the old worldview, yet it is this new ability to communicate in “thought shapes” that holds the key to a new story about an evolutionary shift.

Terence McKenna imagined that the Internet would perhaps link the human race together telepathically, creating such an evolutionary shift.11 Computers chips become smaller and may eventually evolve into tools that have been integrated by body so that psyche will no longer rely on them. We will learn to connect in new ways. We are evolving. We, as humans, continue our journey between stardust and earth matter.

Depth psychologists, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, dreamers, and spiritual seekers may now meet and dance together on their own frequency and create new worlds. We who have traveled through the universe on parallel journeys never imagining we would meet are suddenly traversing the skies and airwaves intersecting, sprinkling stardust and laughter and tears. We do not shy away from a search for meaning, hope and solutions in this world gone mad, in the throes of a revolutionary atmosphere unprecedented in recorded Western History. We share news, jokes, poetry, and events. This is the bright spark.

The dark is equally as black. We hear of Internet stalking and facile access to pornography, including that produced through trafficking and the manipulation and abuse of innocents. We are daily exposed to stories that overwhelm us by amplifying the horrors of war and climate change and its impact on us all, and which provide very few solutions. The dark underbelly of the world wide web is as surely at our fingertips as much as its gifts. We are wise to travel with caution, to heed signs and warnings from instinct, intuitions, signs and synchronicities along the way. We choose where we tread as we may in all of life, especially if we are aware and conscious of life’s unfolding mystery.

In a video interview captured for the documentary film, A Matter of Heart, Jung said that “the world hangs by a thin thread: the psyche of man” and that the hope of the world lies in this.12 If we can connect in mind and heart, perhaps it will lead us back to our deep embodiment and ensoulment in nature toward a Utopia that some of us have always dreamed may be possible. 

The shadow lurks behind social media in more insidious ways than in life because it peers into our living rooms with judgments and yearnings and whatever disowned material rises to the top. We are caught between the yearning to be seen and the fear of being exposed. The witness in us reels crazily between judgment and the yearning for relatedness—between Saturn and Eros. Being reflected accurately is a rare thing: such is the trickster aspect of projection. Yet it is the nature of the soul of humanity to long for relatedness and for wholeness. It is our source and beginning and to it, we will return in one form or another.

As social media develops and emerges into a new phase of its existence, the vision of Terence McKenna of the Internet as a potential vehicle for linking the human mind together telepathically, begins to seem more real. Perhaps we are indeed creating a ship that carries us together to the same star, and with conscious cooperation, our star may continue to flourish and thrive on Earth. Where the trajectory of the Internet and its social implications will lead us we have yet to discover for certain. We, as humanity, are its sole architects. We are a grand experiment. If we remember our source, the path on which we travel may once again become visible beneath our feet and we may return to our birthright and sit side by side with the gods.

French Philosopher and Jesuit Priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s words illuminate the inborn hope of humanity for this possibility future: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”13

Image Credit: © Agsandrew | Dreamstime.com - Evolving Thought Network Photo

Notes

1 C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1989, 356.

2 Jung, “The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche’, CW 8, 1969.

3 T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding V, 1971, 47.

4 Jung, 1989, 356.

5 Edward Vadja, The Origin of Language, n.d., para. 6. Eva Rider 242

6 Jung, 1989.

7 Terence McKenna, Interviewed in Podcast 351 – “What Is Truth?”, 2013.

8 Robert Simmermon quoted in “There’s a Reason Engagement Photos Irritate Us” by Ellie Krupnick, Mic Magazine, 2014.

9 Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969.

10 John Wyndham, The Chrysalids, 1959

11 McKenna, 2013

12 Jung, in a video interview captured in A Matter of Heart, 1986

13 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Writings in Time of War, n.d., 143-4

Bibliography

Chardin, Pierre Teilhard de, Writings in Time of War. New York, NY: Harper & Row, n.d.

Eliot, T. S. Little Gidding V, Four Quartets. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1971.

Jung, Carl Gustav, “The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche”. Edited by R. F. C. Hull. The collected works of C. G. Jung, Volume 8,, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Translated by R. Winston & C.

Winston, Edited by Aniela Jaffe Ed. New York, NY: Random House, 1989.

Krupnick, E. (2014). “There’s a Reason Engagement Photos Irritate Us—And It’s Not Because We’re Bitter”. Mic magazine  Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York, NY: Walker & Co., 1969.

McKenna, Terrence. Podcast 351: “What Is Truth?”, 2013

Vajda, Edward. The Origin of Language, n.d. 

Whitney, Michael. Matter of Heart. Written by Michael Whitney Produced by Kino International Corporation, 1986.

Wyndham, John. The Chrysalids. New York, NY: New York Review Books, 1955.

Through the Looking Glass

 

Eva Rider MA, LMFT, is a Jungian depth psychotherapist, workshop leader and lecturer. She holds a BA in History from McGill University and an M.A. in Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, where she taught as adjunct instructor. Eva is a graduate of the Marion Woodman BodySoul Rhythms™ Leadership Training, a certified hypnotherapist, and dreamwork teacher, exploring personal and archetypal dream processes using fairy tale, myth, music, art, poetry and movement. Eva’s passion is a journey of unveiling the feminine through correspondences between Jungian theory, alchemy and Psyche/Soma as revealed through the glyph of the Hermetic Tree of Life.

She can be reached at www.reclaimingsoul.com

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