The crisis in the Middle East between Israel and its enemies is a microcosm of the greater underlying conflict that is wreaking havoc on our planet. Just like any one part of a hologram contains the whole hologram, what is happening in the Middle East is a reflection of what is playing out both on the entire planet, as well as within ourselves. What is playing out in the Middle East is actually reflecting back to us, in full-bodied amplified form, a dynamic going on deep within the collective psyche of humanity. What this means is that we can more deeply understand how to resolve the conflict in the Middle East by understanding what it is revealing about ourselves.
In a previous article, “Shadow Projection: The Fuel of War,” I contemplated how the act of projecting our own darkness outside of ourselves is the psychological act which underlies and animates the human activity of making war. What is playing out in the Middle East is the materialization, in full-living color, of the process of shadow projection that is taking place deep within the human psyche. The more we understand the “inner” psychological act of shadow projecting which events in the Middle East are the “outer” manifestation of, the more we are able to effectively transform ourselves as well as our world. Paradoxically, shadow projection is “pathological” while simultaneously being its own medicine. It is in the act of shadow projection, whose source is the human psyche, that the fundamental cause of war is being revealed to us.
Shadow projection is a process that is playing itself out in our internal psychic landscape (intrapersonally), in our relationships with others (interpersonally), as well as transpersonally (collectively as a species on the world stage). The underlying psychological act of dissociating from our own darkness and projecting it outside of ourselves, whereby we see our enemy as the embodiment of evil, is a process that is happening in multiple dimensions of our experience simultaneously, both within ourselves as well as in the outside world.
In shadow projection, both parties, the projector of the shadow and the recipient of the projection, are unconsciously “re-acting” to their own projected darkness as it is reflected in each other, which just unwittingly feeds and perpetuates the very darkness they are reacting to. In essence, they are both asking the other to do something that they themselves are unwilling to do. For example, both Israel and its enemies want the other to stop attacking them, but they aren’t willing to stop attacking the enemy. This is the convoluted logic of a traumatized (national) soul being played out on the global stage.
It is as if a non-local psychic epidemic that pervades the unified field of human consciousness all over the planet is having a localized outbreak in the Middle East. The Middle East is suffering from an acute inflammation of a collective psychosis that has stricken the planetary body politic (see my book The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis. This is to say that something which is critical for us to understand is being revealed to us by events in the Middle East.
These two roles that Israel and its enemies are both playing- the “projector” of the shadow and “recipient” of the shadow projection- are interdependently co-joined to each other. Israel and its enemies do not exist in isolation from each other, but rather, in co-relation to each other. Both roles reciprocally co-arise together, interdependently conditioning each other and implying each other. They are secretly tied in a timeless embrace, as one is never found without the other, which is to say that they are not separate. The two roles, projector of the shadow and the recipient of the shadow projection, are parts of one and the same process, as if they are two sides of the same coin, contained and united in a deeper unified and unifying field. A deeper process is revealing itself to us as it becomes visible through their interplay. Once we recognize this, we become liberated from being unconscious pawns in the hands of this more powerful energy, and are able to connect with each other and become agents of peace.
Both roles, the projector of the shadow and the recipient who embodies the shadow projection are intimately related to each other, as if they are “family members.” The violence that is happening between these two polarized agencies couldn’t happen without their mutual co-operative antagonism. Each needs an adversary who embodies the shadow so as to confirm their compulsion to project their shadow outside of themselves, and vise-versa. The projector and the recipient/embodiment of the shadow are simultaneously playing both roles, as the projector of the shadow is the recipient/embodiment of the other’s shadow projection, and vise-versa. Each of these roles couldn’t exist without the other. They go-together so deeply as to not be two isolated roles co-joined together, but are inseparably one, aspects of a greater whole.
Shadow projection always shares a mutuality between participants; each is doing the very thing they are accusing the other of doing. Jung said, “As events in wartime have clearly shown, our mentality is distinguished by the shameless naivete with which we judge our enemy, and in the judgment we pronounce upon him we unwittingly reveal our own defects: we simply accuse our enemy of our own unadmitted faults.”[i] We and our enemy reciprocally project the shadow onto each other, as if we are two mirrors endlessly reflecting each other. An infinite regression, this situation is an energetic black hole, as all our creative energy gets sucked into continually reinforcing the shadow projection we are entranced by and reacting to. Just like a black hole, no energy escapes whatsoever for any creative response. As long as we are caught in mutual shadow projection, we are unwittingly creating a closed feedback loop for ourselves which has no “exit strategy.” As long as we are mutually projecting the shadow onto each other, we are perpetrating violence on each other, abusing each other, and draining our vital creative resources in the process. When we are shadow projecting upon our enemies, we are unwittingly investing in and supporting the extreme diabolical polarization in the field. Shadow projection always boomerangs and hurts and impoverishes ourselves, as it is truly a self-destructive act for all concerned.
Shadow projection is never one-way, as it always evokes a counter-shadow projection, just as a “transference” always evokes a “counter-transference.” Throwing an activated unconscious content onto someone, in Jung’s words, “…constellates the corresponding unconscious material in him [the recipient of the projection], owing to the inductive effect which always emanates from projections.”[ii] To shadow project is to attract a shadow projection onto ourselves from the recipient of our projection as surely as the moon is reflected in water. Jung elaborated by saying, “For all projections provoke counter-projections when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject.”[iii]
We are intimately connected with those upon whom we shadow project. Jung said, “All projections are unconscious identifications with the object.”[iv] When we project the shadow onto someone, we are secretly identified with them. On a deep subconscious level, we are fused with them, which is to say we have not fully differentiated from them nor entered into genuine relationship with them, but are co-dependently entangled. The people projecting the shadow and the ones holding their projection are compulsively tied to each other by their mutual projections. Jung pointed out that this situation “…consists of mutual projecting into each other and being fastened together by mutual unconsciousness.”[v] They are bound together via the unconscious, and mutually feed off of and into and get triggered by each other’s unconscious shadow. Jung pointed out that the unconscious content projected outside of ourselves “…is only apparently severed from its context by projection, there is always an attraction between conscious mind and projected content. Generally it takes the form of a fascination.”[vi]
Both parties, the projector of the shadow and the recipient, will co-ordinate themselves and behave in such a way so as to provide the convincing evidence to each other that their shadow projections are “objectively true.” Because of the self-entrancing nature of shadow projection, both Israel and its enemies, for example, believe that the other really has the attributes they are ascribing to them. To quote Jung, “Every projection is simply there as an uncriticized datum of experience, and is recognized for what it is only very much later, if ever.
Projecting the shadow onto each other, like Israel and its enemies are doing, becomes a self-generating and self-fulfilling feedback loop, as the more we project the shadow onto someone, the more they embody the shadow we are projecting, and the more they embody the shadow, the more we project the shadow onto them, ad infinitum and vise-versa. Once we experience the evil outside of ourselves, we have all the evidence we need to further strengthen our shadow projection.
The people (or nations) we project the shadow onto simultaneously embody and play out the very shadow we are projecting, and it is impossible to tell which came first or caused what- their manifesting the shadow, or our projecting it. In a circular, synchronic, cybernetic feedback loop, our adversaries are concurrently pulling the shadow projection out of us by embodying the shadow, while we are evoking out of them the very shadow we are projecting. This acausal and non-linear process is beginingless in time, with no first cause. It is an atemporal process that exists outside of time itself that is manifesting in time. All parties are reciprocally evoking (dreaming up) and being evoked by (dreamed up by) each other in a self-generating feedback loop that Buddhism calls interdependent co-origination.
Once the reciprocally co-arising nature of our situation is seen, the argument of who “started” the conflict reveals itself to be beside the point. A much more relevant question is who is going to step out of the vicious cycle and “stop” the endlessly self-perpetuating violence. Any one of us stepping out of the cycle of violence literally invites our enemy to do the same. Rather than being an expression of weakness, our surrendering is an expression of genuine strength, the strength of wisdom. This is the essence of Gandhi’s, Martin Luther King Jr’s., Buddha’s and Christ’s message of non-violence.
We are so accustomed to the linear, causal, temporal and mechanistic view of classical physics that we are not trained to recognize a process that is atemporal (exists outside of time), synchronistic, and circular (instead of linear). The old paradigm view of classical physics views the billiard ball-like interactions of what it imagines to be separately existing parts, whereas quantum physics is articulating a higher-dimensional universe which is seamlessly whole, which is to say that it is impossible to separate it from itself. When we develop a more holistic view, we step out of viewing our universe through a lens where we exist separate from each other, and, on the contrary, recognize that we are related to each other. Re-cognizing that we are all appendages of a greater “body” that contains us and of which we are expressions, we realize that there is a deeper process that is collectively animating us so as to make itself known to us. Developing a more holistic view in which we recognize the deeper, underlying formative template which is in-forming and giving shape to events in our world through us is the very expansion of consciousness which empowers us to engage with events in our world so as to transform them. This deeper underlying process originates and is to be found in the unconscious psyche of humanity.
Through our compulsion to mutually project the shadow onto each other, a darker archetypal power that exists deep inside of everyone is seizing us in its iron grip and giving shape and form to itself through our unconscious inter-action. A deeper, up-till-now hidden shadow is materializing itself and making itself visible through our interplay. Subsumed into this more powerful archetypal process, both Israel and its enemies have become “drafted into the service” of unconsciously acting out and incarnating onto the world stage the darkness that exists deep in the soul of humanity.
By projecting out our shadow, we will be assured to meet the darker part of ourselves as it gets “dreamed up” in the outside world. The unconscious, dis-associated part of ourselves always gets projected outside of ourselves and “dreamed up” into materialization in the environment. Jung commented, “It is therefore not surprising if the unconscious appears in projected and symbolized form, as there is no other way by which it might be perceived.”[vii]
Just like in a dream, the unconscious approaches us from outside of ourselves, as what we project out always gets dreamed up in an objectified, personified and solid-seeming form, appearing to be separate from ourselves. When we project the shadow, we have so split off from the dark part of ourselves that the carrier of our projection will convincingly appear to exist in the form of an “other.” If Israel and its adversaries are dissociated from their own evil, we can be sure that the other is embodying it for them. Just like in a dream, when we split off from and project out our own darkness, this waking universe will supply all the convincing evidence we need to justify our shadow projection, endlessly feeding the self-regenerating feedback loop which we have fallen into. When we fall prey to the seductive power of shadow projection, we have become entranced by our innate power of co-creators/co-dreamers of reality in a way that not only doesn’t serve us, but is (potentially) destroying us.
Shadow projection is the circuitous route by which we dream up into materialization our unconscious, darker half so as to (potentially) recognize it and integrate it as a part of ourselves. In the co-related interaction between the two polarized-parties of shadow projector/recipient, a core psychological process that exists within each and every one of us is symbolically being revealed to us. Both Israel and its adversaries are playing out, in full-bodied form, a dynamic that exists deep within the collective unconscious of humanity, as if they have been dreamed up into materialization to reveal to us this unconscious part of ourselves. Recognizing this initiates the process of integrating this heretofore unconscious dynamic in ourselves. It is only when we project out, dream up and objectify a content of the unconscious do we begin to “see” it and become conscious of it, which is the very act which initiates its integration.
In their interplay, Israel and its adversaries are playing out and revealing to us the unconscious part of ourselves which splits off from our own darkness, projects it outside of ourselves (where it gets dreamed up into materialization in the form of an “other”), and then, as if spellbound, tries to destroy its own reflection. It is as if we have dreamed up Israel and its enemies to reveal to us, in full-bodied form, the inner psychological act of shadow projecting, which happens to be the root cause of war.
The more we understand how the inner psychological act of shadow projection plays itself out both within ourselves, as well as outside in the world, the more we, both individually and collectively, can become agents who help to metabolize the collective shadow of our species. Any one of us assimilating the unconscious darkness into the light of awareness non-locally lightens the load of the shadow for the entire body politic. When enough of us become lucid in the dream together, we can heal and transform the psycho-spiritual disease which exists deep within the collective psyche of humanity and is at the root of the violence in our world.
Paradoxically, shadow projection is the unmediated expression of the negative aspect of the shadow, while simultaneously being the vehicle through which we can (potentially) assimilate the very shadow of which it is an expression. Shadow projection reveals to us how we are secretly tied to, interdependently connected with, and ultimately not separate from our worst enemies. Paradoxically, shadow projection is both a severing from a part of ourselves, while simultaneously being the very way in which we become conscious of the part of ourselves that we are dissociating from.
The paradox of shadow projection is that on the one hand it is divisive and creates separation and conflict, but on the other hand it is revealing to us how we are secretly united with our enemies, and hence can be (potentially) the very way in which we learn how to make peace. Shadow projection, the psychological act which is the root of war, is simultaneously the very medium through which we realize that, ultimately, we are all on the same side. We don’t want to shadow project onto shadow projecting. Shadow projection is a natural function of human consciousness, with both a divisive and reconciling potential. Shadow projection is the very means through which we (potentially) realize our wholeness within ourselves and our oneness with each other. How utterly paradoxical, the root of all of the destruction in our world is itself the very thing that is (potentially) waking us up. It all depends upon if we recognize what is being revealed to us.
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis,which is available on his website www.awakeninthedream.com. (See the first chapter, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis). Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2010