Illuminating Dark Times

Follow by Email


Truly, I live in dark times! An artless world is foolish.”

- Bertolt Brecht

We are truly living in dark times. More accurately, we are living in times where the darkness is emerging from hiding in the shadows and is becoming visible. It is easy and very seductive to become overwhelmed with pessimism, despair and depression during these times of darkness, which would sadly be to unwittingly feed and collude with the darkness. And yet, to quote a popular saying on the French left, “the hour calls for optimism; we’ll save pessimism for better times.”

Since the recent election, there has been a powerful awakening—politically, spiritually and creatively—in so many people that might not have happened if the results had been different. It is a primordial idea—expressed in Alchemy, Gnosticism and Kabbalah—that hidden in darkness is a light that, to speak in anthropomorphic terms, is waiting to be redeemed. In other words, encoded in one of the opposites is the seed of the other.

Jung writes, “The great problem of our time is that we don’t understand what is happening to the world. We are confronted with the darkness of our soul, the unconscious.”[1] It is as if we live in a time—both individually and collectively—where there is no postponing dealing with the seemingly omnipresent darkness that lives both inside and outside of us. We tend to think, however, of shadows as the absence of light instead of one of its manifold manifestations. Shadows are the expression that light is nearby, for light informs, gives shape to and is itself the projector of shadows. To quote Jung, “not only darkness is known through light, but that, conversely, light is known through darkness.”[2] We tend to think of illumination as seeing the light, but seeing the darkness is itself a form of illumination.

Jung writes, “in man’s own darkness there is hidden a light that shall once again return to its source, and that this light actually wanted to descend into the darkness in order to deliver the Enchained One who languishes there, and lead him to light everlasting.”[3] Jung is expressing a mythological, archetypal idea that light, by its very nature of being light, wants to illumine darkness. For if light doesn’t shed itself, penetrate the darkness and expose what is other than itself, then what is light’s ultimate value? It is no accident that we—each and every one of us—have chosen to incarnate during these dark times, as if we have been preparing over multiple lifetimes, maybe even from the beginning of time itself so to fulfill our cosmic mission of freeing “the Enchained One.” Who is this enchained one but the part of us that is “in the dark,” which is to say the part of us that is unconscious.

It is an alchemical idea that the microcosm and the macrocosm—i.e., what is happening within us and what is happening collectively in the outside world—are not separate, but are interrelated reflections of each other. Jung recognized that whenever evil appeared in an individual person’s process, some deeper good always came out of the experience that would not have emerged without the manifestation of evil. Could the same thing be true on a collective scale? Might there be a parallel? Just as in a single individual, the emergence of darkness calls forth a hidden light, does the manifestation of a more collective darkness call forth a helpful light in the psychic life of a people? Is the dark shadow befalling our planet the harbinger of a great light?

Jung writes, “We assiduously avoid investigating whether in this very power of evil God might not have placed some special purpose which it is most important for us to know.”[4] The evil that is incarnating in our world simultaneously beckons and potentially actualizes an expansion of consciousness, all depending upon our recognition of what is being revealed through the darkness. Lucifer, “the bringer of light,” is the necessary dark side of life, of shadow revealing light by contrast, who was indispensable for the unfolding and completion of the divine drama. Maybe the darkness is the light in disguise. To quote poet Theodore Roethke, “In a time of darkness, the eye begins to see.”

Speaking of darkness, the word “daemonic,” etymologically is related to our inner voice and guiding spirit, which, if not consciously related to, becomes truly “demonic,” i.e., self-and-other destructive. In other words, the demonic darkness of the times we live in is an expression of the not yet realized and unexpressed creative in all of us. As Brecht reminds us, “An artless world is foolish.”

[1] Jung, Letters, vol. 2, p. 590.

[2] Jung, Aion, CW 9ii, para. 92.

[3] Jung, Psychology and Religion: West and East, CW 11, para. 380.

[4] Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12, para. 36.


A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father(Awaken in the Dream Publishing, 2015), Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013) and The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis(Authorhouse, 2006). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. He is the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. Please visit Paul’s website You can contact Paul at; he looks forward to your reflections.

Follow by Email

17 Responses to Illuminating Dark Times

  1. Think of space. It seems dark. But the light of the sun is being reflected in all planets, stars, all matter. Thinking again, it is only logical that light exists everywhere in between the sun and the stars etc as well. It just is not reflected. We can only see the light when it is reflected back to us. But it is everywhere.

  2. I found the quote I was referring to in my previous post.

    “][The God] appears at first in hostile form as an assailant with whom the hero has to wrestle. This is in keeping with the violence of all unconscious dynamism. In this manner the God manifests itself and in this form must be overcome. The struggle has its parallel in Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at the ford Jabbok. The onslaught of instinct becomes an experience of divinity provided that man does not succumb to it and follow it blindly but defends his humanity against the animal nature of the divine power. C.G. Jung, CW 5 Symbols of Transformation, §524.”

  3. The world enters what Jung called, “The Age of the Holy Spirit” which is briefly amplified on in this video Like this Christanity, Judiasm, Islam, Buddhism, etc. will all fade away as individuation and the winning of an inner presidential United State ensues. Then one becomes their own inner highest religious authority – a new young pope so to speak because one learns directly from the Wisdom of the World Soul.

    The activity of this Holy/Infernal Spirit is an expression of the Wetiko archetype conundrum metaphor Paul Levy likes to use in his writings it seems to me. But as Jung says, “At first the unconscious appears as an adversary…” (exact quote I cannot find on the Internet). The point seems to be that when trying to integrate the shadow one is faced with a divine demonic being because its knowing has been so denied by one’s consciousness it has taken on an angry denied reaction and portrays this frustration in the imagery used in one’s dreams. Such is the state of affairs in the psyche of modern humans. I hope this is helpful in coming to terms with the inner imperative in dealing with our shadow problems – like this the center will hold.

  4. Personally,I harken back,again and again,to something I read,(years ago),supposedly attributed to an Australian aboriginal view.This concept I’m referring to caught me,and resonates in my psyche like no other.Its that “god is dreaming the universe and we are the dream dreaming”.Wherever the hell it came from I like it.I’m guessing Paul means this when he refers to “lucid dreaming”.Is this what you mean by it Paul?
    If so,then maybe existence is no more than just a throw of the dice,by a god who has nothing to lose by becoming everything else,(in the field of space and time),and “separate” beings such as ourselves will rack our brains out in endless elaborate guessing games as to what this all means.The Hindus think its “gods play”.Play needs no reason to justify itself.Kids are experts at it.I remember how it felt.Its very clear to me even at the ripe age of 66 that the fun of being a kid was just all about wonderful,pure, nonsense.The nonsense of childhood play might be the greatest clue to the meaning of the universe, the reason for existence itself.The liberation of this would be in not taking yourself seriously.”Don’t take it serious,its too mysterious” a dying old man used to say to me.

  5. Admin,

    You comments on Jung’s “Answer to Job” citation are helpful – so thanks for taking the time to respond.

  6. I think Jung is pointing at how the deity is incarnating through humanity – that different people, groups and our whole species are instruments through which God (or in Jung’s words – the imago-Dei, ie. the God image) is revealing itself. Elsewhere Jung talks about how in modern times God is revealing/incarnating itself not just through one man, like he did through Christ 2000 years ago, but is incarnating through the unconscious of humanity – and that unlike Christ (who was all light), creaturely man has a darker side (the shadow) and that God is revealing itself through the shadow (both personal and collective) – this has to do with the idea of the revelation of the deus absconditus (the dark or hidden God), i.e.., that light is revealed through the darkness. I hope this is helpful.

  7. Thank you for this Paul. I see that there are enough people doing their inner work, which has created a container strong enough which is by it’s nature, allowing for the depths of the shadow to be brought to consciousness. If there wasn’t, I think something disastrous would have already happened.
    It would be interesting to see through people’s dreams what the Self is wanting to express.

  8. Thanks Paul.I do find great meaning in your writings to help sustain me in these despairing wrote..”some deeper good always came out of the experience that would not have emerged without the manifestation of evil”…I wrestle deeply with this one,and remain unable to reconcile my heart to it.The “problem of evil” has been wrestled with for centuries,(as you well know).
    Presently,I’m reading “The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead.”It moves me greatly.There is much to ponder,(as in your writings).I don’t know if Jung goes too far or not.I might be too thick to get it.I’ll have to keep pondering. David G

  9. Paul,

    The following comment by Jung could require books to be written about its implications. I was wondering if you could share with us your understanding of this comment in regards to how it applies to our shadow (our avoidance of a counter-balancing point of view).

    “The imago-Dei pervades the entire human sphere and makes mankind its involuntary exponent. Answer To Job, C. G. Jung, § 660”


  10. True, Paul, yet collectively do we truly learn from darkness? Does deeper good always come out of evil? As I was reading the article, thoughts of the horrors of WW11 came to mind. Human evil was in full view then. Yet, how often since then has the depravity of human beastiality been played out on helpless innocents.

    Richard Matzkin

  11. Thanks for this Paul…suggest you add Facebook and Twitter click throughs to this post and futures so your readers can repost to maximize exposure of your wonderful insights…

  12. The concept of light is entombed in the bubble of a very small paradigm for most people. Because most people experience “light” as a discreet tiny signal from the entire electromagnetic spectrum, they miss the point and the higher concept. If we think of light as the creative intent of Prime Source, our conclusions about light vs dark change dramatically.

  13. …..beautifully cleanly succinctly named and illuminated and illuminating……and enhearting……..blessings good man…..thankyou………….elanra

  14. this article is very accurate but it does raise a question in me , if light is in the seed of darkness then shouldn’t we be more compassionate towards evil ? wouldn’t humanity be better off showing compassion to extreme groups and instead of dropping bombs on them feed them knowledge to awaken the unconscious in them , enlighten them, the same tactic for all criminals perhaps the ticket here is not punishment or hatred but enlighten them with knowledge as the more you hate evil or reject evil the stronger It gets it seems that knowing light is trapped in darkness (uconscious) the only way to transform it and release its light is to enlighten it ….teaching alchemy an philosophy would be a good start

  15. Paul, Enlightening as ever. Since Trump was elected instead of nose diving into complete frustration and depression I decided to stay above the fray and “watch” what was really going on. It’s interesting in this demoralizing phase of our evolution I have seen friends and family suddenly change. Something is different. A couple of examples in the simple world of “pop culture” that is blasted in bad bass and is a natural concealment and might seem trivial rose up in glaring light coming from shadows to me: Kanye West, on his slow slide down the egomaniac fire pole in a tirade claims his semi-allegiance to Trump but says as an after thought – that he is glad Trump is president because it embolden the real evil to show themselves (and perhaps give their real names). This is happening! Secondly, George W. Bush, after his scourge in office has become a humble truth teller and is painting in a frenzy. This evolution and hearing him speak puts me in mind of a man that was once possessed and then released from a darker force. A shadow that moves to hosts that serve it best but in this movement becomes recognizable and defeatable. These examples are broad strokes but are happening more subtly as legions of other demons feeling comfort or discomfort of their realities are giving up the ghost and showing themselves. Of course these shadows are deeply entrenched and won’t give up their power without a fight it seems in my eyes they have a cannibal nature and with their confidence waxing are enlisting light against them so they will finally devour themselves or run in a suicidal dive off a cliff. We have the weapons to fight and they are as non-violent as a tiny flame of recognition.

    Thank You for all your insights and knowledge .

  16. Thanks, Paul. An excellent and insightful, let alone, timely post.
    I couldn’t agree more.

    Be well.


Leave a reply