Paul LevyComment

Illuminating Dark Times

Paul LevyComment
Illuminating Dark Times

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.