I Have Seen The Darkness


May 17, 2017

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — Carl Jung

          That we humans can hear something innumerable times but only hear it when it is said by a different voice never ceases to amaze me. At the foundation of Christianity is the concept of acknowledging one’s status as a sinner. Only then can one be “saved” from death and assured of eternal life. I have known of this idea for as long as I can remember; it seems to be encoded in my DNA.
          Said a different way, one cannot truly be good until she understands her evil. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Before I realized that this idea was simply a different side of the same coin, it seemed to me to be newly minted, and I turned it over and over in my mind.
          Only by understanding one’s own potential for horrific deeds and choosing not to perform them can she hope to be a good person. A naive person who sees no horror in her heart, no ability to hate or harm, by this argument, is not good, is not free, because she has no conscious choice but to be as she is. To be good is to choose to be that way, to turn from the other ways of being.
          Perhaps, too, this is the concept that can begin to unify this broken world. If one can see the darkness inside herself, she is one step closer to forgiving it in another. The trick here is first finding the self-compassion to absolve oneself of the wickedness within. Not only must one choose to turn from the contemptible side of her own nature, she must accept it and forgive it in order to be free of it.
          The next step, then, is to recognize in others both that same capacity for good and for bad. If one sees that she is capable of improprieties and atrocities but can opt not to commit them, she will understand that so, too, can others. Her vulnerability becomes theirs. Her absolution makes theirs easier. And so this empathy brings us a step closer to putting the pieces together.
          This post was inspired by Jordan Petersen’s appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience.