The ‘Shadow’ refers to that aspect within us which resists, opposes and sometimes even imitates the Light. It is the opposite of what we want to realise. This opposition is generally more or less unconscious in most people. It is so because our lives are often lived under the shadow itself with which we tend to be so identified. It is only when we make an effort to emerge towards the Light, towards the Divine Truth that something in us has glimpsed that we experience the resistance and the opposite pull. This opposition though appears too distressing as we increase the aspiration to emerge into the Light is actually an occult arrangement to make our realisation more and more perfect. By fighting against the shadow we grow in strength to receive the Light when it comes. Secondly, the resistance makes the process slow but also more complete by bringing out elements within us that could not have come out if the resistance was not there.
This is a general principle. But the Shadow of the Infinite is itself infinite. To make it easier therefore each human being has to share his own little burden of the shadow. In a paradoxical way therefore the greater the being rises in the scale the bigger the shadow he must grapple. Besides as our being and consciousness expand we begin to include not only our own shadow but also, as a representative of this resistance and the corresponding divine possibility in earth nature. Thus, for example, the man of faith will have in some part of his nature hidden in a corner as it were the snake of fear. The servant of God will carry in some element hidden or prominent the man of ambition who uses his service itself as a means to satisfy his ambition. The man of great love will also hold within him the red flame of lust that will burn at his edges and corners. The strong man will also carry within him the weakness called anger. The man generous to a default will also harbour within him a corner of avarice. So on and so forth.
The way to deal with this shadow is to persistently offer it to the Divine Mother until it is transformed. No human effort can deal with this. In traditional yoga one let it remain while one goes ahead with the inner realisation through whatever door of access. Once realised one lets things fly through the fields of nature either as a witness knowing this is not ME or else one simply sits over them as a yogi on the whirlpool detaching as much as possible from everyday life. But both these methods are denied to the yogin of the Integral Yoga except as a preliminary step when one is still proceeding towards an inner realisation. Later on however one has to return to these fields and take up the challenge of nature and go on enduring the process with faith until one conquers.
Precisely because of the difficulty of this task we are told to rely more and more on the Grace. Yes we must do whatever little effort we yet can but it is finally grace and faith in the Grace that eventually conquers and achieves the seemingly impossible.
WORDS OF THE MOTHER AND SRI AUROBINDO
…Everyone possesses in a large measure, and the exceptional individual in an increasing degree of precision, two opposite tendencies of character, in almost equal proportions, which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing. […] Thus someone who has the capacity of being exceptionally generous will suddenly find an obstinate avarice rising up in his nature, the courageous man will be a coward in some part of his being and the good man will suddenly have wicked impulses. In this way life seems to endow everyone not only with the possibility of expressing an ideal, but also with contrary elements representing in a concrete manner the battle he has to wage and the victory he has to win for the realisation to become possible. Consequently, all life is an education pursued more or less consciously, more or less willingly.
[CWM 12: 18]
You have said: “Everyone possesses… two opposite tendencies of character,… which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing.” Why are things made in this way? Can’t one have only the light?
Yes, if one eliminates the shadow. But it must be eliminated. That does not happen by itself. The world as it is is a mixed world. You cannot have an object which gets the light from one side without its casting a shadow on the other. It is like that, and indeed it is the shadows which make you see the lights. The world is like that, and to have only the light one must definitely go through the entire discipline necessary for eliminating the shadow. This is what I have explained a little farther; I have said that this shadow was like a sign of what you had to conquer in your nature in order to be able to realise what you have come to do. If you have a part to play, a mission to fulfil, you will always carry in yourself the main difficulty preventing you from realising it, so that you have within your reach the victory you must win. If you had to fight against a difficulty which is everywhere on earth, it would be very difficult (you would need to have a very vast consciousness and a very great power), while if you carry in your own nature just the shadow or defect you must conquer, well, it is there, within your reach: you see all the time the effects of this thing and can fight it directly, immediately. It is a very practical organisation.
You haven’t seen in the Bulletin that letter of Sri Aurobindo’s: the “Evil Persona”? It is in the Bulletin. The thing is very well explained there.
What you say about the “Evil Persona” interests me greatly as it answers to my consistent experience that a person greatly endowed for the work has, always or almost always, —perhaps one ought not to make a too rigid universal rule about these things—a being attached to him, sometimes appearing like a part of him, which is just the contradiction of the thing he centrally represents in the work to be done. Or, if it is not there at first, not bound to his personality, a force of this kind enters into his environment as soon as he begins his movement to realise. Its business seems to be to oppose, to create stumblings and wrong conditions, in a word, to set before him the whole problem of the work he has started to do. It would seem as if the problem could not, in the occult economy of things, be solved otherwise than by the predestined instrument making the difficulty his own. That would explain many things that seem very disconcerting on the surface.”
One can see, when one studies oneself very attentively…. For example, if you observe yourself, you see that one day you are very generous. Let us take this, it is easy to understand. Very generous: generous in your feelings, generous in your sensations, generous in your thoughts and even in material things; that is, you understand the faults of others, their intentions, weaknesses, even nasty movements. You see all this, and you are full of good feelings, of generosity. You tell yourself, Well… everyone does the best he can!”—like that.
Another day—or perhaps the very next minute—you will notice in yourself a kind of dryness, fixity, something that is bitter, that judges severely, that goes as far as bearing a grudge, has rancour, would like the evil-doer punished, that almost has feelings of vengeance; just the very opposite of the former! One day someone harms you and you say, “Doesn’t matter! He did not know”… or “He couldn’t do otherwise”… or “That’s his nature”… or “He could not understand!” The next day—or perhaps an hour later—you say, “He must be punished! He must pay for it! He must be made to feel that he has done wrong!”—with a kind of rage; and you want to take things, you want to keep them for yourself, you have all the feelings of jealousy, envy, narrowness, you see, just the very opposite of the other feeling.
This is the dark side. And so, the moment one sees it, if one looks at it and doesn’t say, “It is I”, if one says, “No, it is my shadow, it is the being I must throw out of myself”, one puts on it the light of the other part, one tries to bring them face to face; and with the knowledge and light of the other, one doesn’t try so much to convince—because that is very difficult—but one compels it to remain quiet… first to stand farther away, then one flings it very far away so that it can no longer return—putting a great light on it. There are instances in which it is possible to change, but this is very rare. There are instances in which one can put upon this being—or this shadow—put upon it such an intense light that it transforms it, and it changes into what is the truth of your being.
But this is a rare thing…. It can be done, but it is rare. Usually, the best thing is to say, “No, this is not I! I don’t want it! I have nothing to do with this movement, it doesn’t exist for me, it is something contrary to my nature!” And so, by dint of insisting and driving it away, finally one separates oneself from it.
But one must first be clear and sincere enough to see the conflict within oneself. Usually one doesn’t pay any attention to these things. One goes from one extreme to the other. You see, you can say, to put it in very simple words: one day I am good, the next day I am bad. And this seems quite natural…. Or even, sometimes for one hour you are good and the next hour you are wicked; or else, sometimes the whole day through one is good and suddenly one becomes wicked, for a minute very wicked, all the more wicked as one was good! Only, one doesn’t observe it, thoughts cross one’s mind, violent, bad, hateful things, like that… Usually one pays no attention to it. But this is what must be caught! As soon as it manifests, you must catch it like this (Mother makes a movement) with a very firm grip, and then hold it, hold it up to the light and say, “No! I don’t want you! I —don’t—want—you! I have nothing to do with this! You are going to get out of here, and you won’t return!”
(After a silence) And this is something—an experience that one can have daily, or almost… when one has those movements of great enthusiasm, great aspiration, when one suddenly becomes conscious of the divine goal, the urge towards the Divine, the desire to take part in the divine work, when one comes out of oneself in a great joy and great force… and then, a few hours later, one is miserable for a tiny little thing; one indulges in so petty, so narrow, so commonplace a self-interestedness, has such a dull desire… and all the rest has evaporated as if it did not exist. One is quite accustomed to contradictions; one doesn’t pay attention to this and that is why all these things live comfortably together as neighbours. One must first discover them and prevent them from intermingling in one’s consciousness: decide between them, separate the shadow from the light. Later one can get rid of the shadow.