The Gold and the Shadow
Written By: Joe Pugh (Posted May 2008)
World-renowned psychologist Carl Jung wrote about two contrasting aspect of human personality that he dubbed “Gold” and “Shadow.” In his terminology Gold represented the highest ideals, the noblest aspirations common to humanity. Shadow, on the other hand, represented our inwardly-focused desire for self-preservation and protection, which often expresses itself in our tendencies to isolation, addiction and anti-social behavior.
These concepts are mirrored in traditional Jewish thought, which is expressed as our naturally conflicting tendencies toward our good inclination, the Yetzer Tov, or evil inclination, the Yetzer Hara. It is worth observing that the concept of Yetzer Hara is generally not depicted as the desire of man to pursue evil for its own sake but rather represents a difference in means to often accomplish the same end as does the Yetzer Tov. For example, the shadow or Yetzer Hara may push people away and isolate oneself in order to not expose the individual’s shame while the Yetzer Tov will work to overcome the shame and isolation by authentically connecting with others. In its broadest sense, the evil inclination may be seen as an expression of a misguided and G-dless attempt to seek that which may initially appear pleasant or even good to the individual, but uses means that are ultimately destructive to the individual in some fashion. This concept can be illustrated when an individual abuses drugs or alcohol or uses sex as a means to avoid feeling pain. It is with this subtly discerning lens that we are encouraged to understand the Shadow within ourselves.
The following three poems were written in an attempt to illustrate, in highly symbolic language, the relationship between the Gold and Shadow in our own hearts, and to suggest a redemptive approach to dealing with both at the practical level of our actions. Here follow the “Songs of Gold and Shadow,” by Joe Pugh:
I am the glory to which you are called.
I am your North Star that never sets.
I am the pinnacle of your aspirations.
I am the Hero yearning for birth within you,
The heir who sees the crown that awaits.
I am the story that awaits your pen,
The burning bush that will utter your calling.
You can access my power
When you pass through your shadows,
When you embrace your emotions
And release your shame
And confront and forgive
And face your fears
And express your anger
And give voice to your grief.
With your loins girt,
And shoes on your feet,
And your staff in your hand,
and begin your journey.
Get on your mark.
Step up to the plate.
Light the Fire.
Unsheathe your sword.
Advance on the Enemy.
Enter the Fray.
Your people stand in need.
Your ancestors call your name.
The Shadows’ Song
We are the Shadows that haunt your dreams
We are the echo of your footsteps,
The afterimage of your hopes.
We are the voice you hear when falling asleep
The eyes that you feel on your back.
Our names are Fear, Anger, Grief
Shame, Resentment, Anxiety and Depression.
We will haunt you
You cannot escape us,
You can redeem us.
If you face us.
This is our curse: We must speak in reverse.
When we shout “Run!”, you must stand.
When we say “Hide!”, you must emerge.
When we cry “Revenge!”, work for justice.
When we whisper “Avoid”, you must take risk.
When we offer to take your pain away,
You must embrace it.
When we tell you that you’re worthless,
You must own the great worth of men
Who are yet not guiltless.
We are the lead, you our Alchemist
Transform us into Gold.
Our power can fuel your glory.
Our strength will be holy fire in your veins.
Oppose us, so we can become your allies.
The Gold and the Shadow
You are traveling by foot,
on a long, dusty road.
The road forks before you.
Twin roads diverge.
One will take you to Paradise,
The other to Gehonim.
Two guides stand before you:
An Angel, clothed in shining gold,
And a Demon, wrapped in darkest shadow,
which is his name.
The angel points truly to Paradise,
toward a path marked with obstacles.
the demon touts the safety of Gehonim,
at the end of a gently sloping road.
The Angel and the Demon are one.
If you hearken to the Shadow,
following the sloping path,
into the safety of the tomb.
The Shadow will grow.
And the Angel, your Gold,
will shrink, fray and fade,
In the end to become
No more than a star.
A star which will shine
Even into the window
of your dark cell in Gehonim.
If you follow the Angel of Gold,
up the arduous path,
As you face each obstacle
And overcome your darkness,
The Shadow will shrink
As the daylight grows.
His darkness will be transformed
into the glory of the Angel,
who will dance with you
on your shadow
In the light of the noonday Sun.