by Marc Gafni
The spontaneous integration of body and mind―for Shelley the “eloquent blood”―tells “an ineffable tale.”
Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page.
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red much
Of thing from my heart.
I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
And carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning
And said, “Comrade! Brother!”
Two images of light from darkness
A Sufi Master
One night, a Sufi master comes across a man intensely searching the ground under a street lamp. “Did you lose something?” inquires the master. “Yes, my keys,” responds the man frantically. So the master bends down to help the man search. After much time the Sufi finally asks, “Well, where exactly did you lose them?” The man’s answer – “Over there in that dark field.” – Confused, the Sufi says, “Then why are you looking for them over here.” His response – I can’t look there – it’s too dark!
Recall the Biblical myth story telling ritual which we described in detail earlier in the book. The night before this ritual takes place an ancient ceremony is performed. European Kabbalist Jacob Lainer called it the Ceremony of Light, for at this time it is said that God enlightens the human being and shows them their soul print. How? According to Kabbalist Luria a person takes ten large bread crumbs and hides them in the nooks and crannies of the house. Then all the lights -except a single candle -are extinguished. A slow candlelight search for the hidden crumbs ensues. A candle is used, explain the masters, because it probes the nooks and crannies more deeply and more gently than a torch.
This is not just your ordinary spring cleaning. Nor is it to make sure there is no bread in the house which according to the biblical myth ritual is not eaten for seven days a year. If the point was just to bring our attention to the little leftovers that get stuck in the corners then the search would have been done in broad daylight, or with fiery torches, or fluorescent lights. But the ceremony is specifically done in the darkness with only one candle.…All of the lights are turned out, the habits that define us by light of a day are suspended – as we gently probe our darkness – searching for growth and wisdom. This journey into the darkness is the symbolic conclusion of spring cleaning ritual. All cultures have intuitively understood that come spring we need to rummage through old closets, clean the forgotten corners of the attics and air out the places which did not see light all winter. The house cleaning however is but a metaphor for a deeper truth. We understand that we need to take time to search our own dark places and that if we ignore them they may become dangerous. More deeply we know that great treasures are often hidden in dark crevices of the souls attic. The probing in the darkness must be deep, gentle. For there- in the dark crevices of our soul- is the way to the light of soul print.
This chapter is about lovingly probing the darkness as a path to soul print.
How do I find my soul print?
We know that all great questions have more than one answer.
In Kabbalah there are five bands in the spectrum of consciousness. They are called the five souls. By five souls we mean really five soulprint paths- five growth lanes which taken separately and collectively will absolutely bring me to my soul print with or without great parents…
These five primary stages of growth are called by the Kabbalists in ascending order Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechida.
Each of the monographs I hope to publish will answer the question at a different stage of growth. These are not contradictory but complementary approaches – all of which taken together will surely bring a person to the joy of soul print.
The first path to the Sapir – the inner light of soul print is the Nefesh way…the subject of our present study.
This has been an enormously important path for me personally and I’m sure you as well will meet powerful guides in this part of our study.
Let me begin in the way of the Kabbalistic masters – with a story.
Moishele was the most successful thief of Mezibuz. They say that what made him so successful was the blessing of the Baal Shem Tov. You see, every time the police were hot on Moishele’s trail, he knew exactly where to run. Moishele would come sweating and swearing through the study hall, rushing to the Baal Shem’s private study. He would confess his crimes and ask the Rebbe to give him a blessing. And the Baal Shem never reproved or scolded him. He would simply listen and bless him. And sure enough, the next thing you know, the police would have somehow forget all about the case. Strange, you may be thinking, for a Kabbalistic pious man to bless a thief but let me assure you- that is the way it was.
One day Moishele pulls off the biggest heist of his life – 50,000 rubles! And sure enough the police are after him. But he’s not worried, he’s got the Baal Shem.
He runs through the study hall and bangs on the Baal Shem’s door. No answer. Again. No answer. Getting nervous, he approaches the students and asks for their teacher. They silently stare at him. One of them finally answers in amazement, “Where have you been? Don’t you know the Holy Baal Shem passed away last night.”
It suddenly became painfully clear to Moishele just how precious the Baal Shem was to him. He felt so alone, with no one there to run to, no one to bless him. “What can I do?” he asks the students, “Isn’t there anyone who can bless me? I need help fast.” “Go to Yaakov Yoseph,” they answer, “They say he may become the Baal Shem’s predecessor – Perhaps he can bless you.”
Moishele flies to Yaakov Yoseph, bursts in, confesses his crime and begs for a blessing. Aghast, Yaakov Yoseph replies, “You must be mad! You just stole 50,000 rubbles and you have the nerve to come into my study asking for a blessing! Get out, you thief!
Moishele, devastated, has nowhere else to turn. So he runs to the newly laid grave of his master. He falls onto the dirt, and in tears calls out, “Holy Baal Shem, You appointed Spiritual masters for all the righteous people of the world, but how could you leave without also appointing a Master for all of us thieves?! Don’t we need blessings as well? Moishele wept himself to sleep right there upon the Baal Shem’s grave…falling into a deep dream.
And in his dream, his master appeared to him, “Moishele, my sweet Moishele, your prayer has pierced heaven itself! Don’t think I’ve left you with nowhere to run. I have designated my grandson, Ephraim, to be the next Rebbe of the holy thieves. It is for you to inform him of his appointment. Every week I would learn with my grandson the weekly portion of the Zohar the way it is learned by the Angles in heaven. I will teach you the piece that we learned together right before I passed away. When you awake, go to my grandson, tell him that I sent you and repeat this Zohar passage to him. He will know that I sent you. Tell him I have appointed him the Rebbe of the Thieves, ask for his blessing and surely he will help you.
The Baal Shem proceeded to share with him a teaching from the Zohar, and as he spoke, the words illuminated the night. For Zohar itself means ‘The Light’. Moishele awoke from his dream and immediately took off for the house of Master Ephraim, the Baal Shem’s grandson. Breathless, he knocked on the door. “Rebbe, Please, open up I have something to tell you.” He proceeded to tell Ephraim the story that had unfolded, the crime, the Baal Shem’s death, the meeting with Yaakov Yoseph, the dream and finally the Zohar’s teaching. And when he repeated the teaching which the Baal Shem had shared with him in the dream, a great light filled the room. “How you could know this deep spiritual secret?” Ephraim asks him. “Your grandfather told me to tell you – because I am a thief.”
In great awe Ephraim gave Moishele a blessing, promising to become the Master of the Thieves, but only on condition that Moishele the Thief become a Master himself. For in his darkness, Moishele had glimpsed the Zohar’s heavenly light, a sight which takes lifetimes of striving to achieve.
And that’s what Moishele did. Every time his hand would ‘itch’ to steal, he would immediately pick up the book of the Zohar. His darkness lead him straight for the light…what’s more, his darkness led him to touch a much higher light than the hand without such an ‘itch’ could reach.
What kind of master calls himself the Master of Thieves?
The Baal Shem was the master of the hidden thief in each one of us. We are all Moshele the Thief, and from our thief point, from our dark ‘itch’, taught the Baal Shem – we can find our way back to ourselves, back to our soul print light.
To begin we need to identify the nature of the Sapir, the soulprint light.
We were all raised to think the light is the force that stands against the darkness. And ultimately we inherited the belief that in the long run good triumphs over bad and light dispels darkness.
There is a famous wisdom text from Biblical myth – “Wisdom is more powerful than folly, as light is more powerful than darkness.” The ancient masters of the Kabbalah, to whose tradition the Baal Shem was heir, interpret this text in a novel and radically different way. (in hebrew the word ‘than’ can also be read ‘from’. The masters replaced each than in the sentence with a ‘from’ and came up with the following equation: “More powerful is wisdom which comes from folly – most powerful is the light that comes from the depth of the darkness. Focusing for now on the second part of the text we see that according to the Kabbalists the highest source of the light is the darkness. Mystical philosopher Schneur Zalman of Liadi goes one step farther when he asserts that this is not only true about light in the universe, it is true about ourselves. Our highest light comes from our darkness.
It is somewhat similar to the power of the light that has succeeded in escaping from a black hole.a
The primary source of this idea comes from a description found in most graphic form in the writings of the 16th century Tsfat Kabbalist Isaac Luria – known in mystical circles as the Lion of Tsfat. It is a description of Shevirat Hacaylim – the shattering of the vessels. In the Kabbalistic creation myth validated by the essential directions of Quantum physics – the world emanates from streams of information encoded in the energy of light.
This light streamed into vessels. Over time, the light which continued to flow into the vessels became too intense to hold and the vessels shattered…
Some of the light folded back into its source. However many sparks of light remained trapped in the shards of the shattered vessels – scattered across creation. For the kabbalists the Big Bang is virtually identical with this Big Crash. These dark shards remain the source of light in our world. The challenge of emotional, spiritual and psychological growth is, in the language of Kabbalah, to raise up the sparks- that is, to free the sparks from their darkened prisons and let them shine again. In this graphic image the world is understood to be a place of broken vessels. Broken hearts, broken promises and broken lives are all expressions of the primal shattered vessels. In finding the light in the darkness we are involved in an essential and primordial fixing what the Kabbalist called ‘Tikkun’ – to heal and repair the world and ourselves.
Holding this image in our mind we can now illuminate several almost shocking Koan-like assertions of the kabbalists:
The first – “Higher is the divine source of Ra (evil) than the source of Tov (good).”
Or in a second – expression by the same master, Dov Ber of Mezrich – “All that is in its original source on a higher plane finds expression in this world on a lower plane.”
Now I translated Tov and Ra in the first Koan as good and evil. Evil however doesn’t quite capture ‘Ra,’ because evil associates in our imagination with a dualistic way of thinking. Most of us were educated on binary pairs – up and down, sure and unsure, order and chaos, right and wrong, good and evil. And not by accident. At many times in history and in our own personal *his-stories we need to act based on these appropriately dualistic understandings. We need to put on our cape and fight for the good against evil. And yet there are personal and scientific breakthroughs of fantastic importance that we cannot make unless we occasionally leave these ideas behind.
Quantum physics shatters the old binary vessels – chaos and order are mixed up, motion and stillness, certainty and uncertainty, are in perpetual Dance. Similarly, teaches Lurianic Kabbalah, Ra – a less dualistic word than evil – is enmeshed in the Tov, in the good.
Indeed the binary illusion is further collapsed in an astounding play of words – the original Hebrew the word root word Ra has a second meaning. It means friend. We need to make friends with our Ra in order to reveal our light.
One of the more accessible images used by the Kabbalists to shed light on this whole idea is that of rocks falling from the top of the wall. When the wall is standing it is clear that the rocks in the upper rows are indeed the highest places. However if the wall is broken by battering rams and eventually becomes ruins the highest rocks fall to the lowest places. So is it in our world of ruins and broken vessels – the highest sources of energy and light are often hidden, having fallen to the lowest and darkest of places.
Emerging from this tradition, in the spring of 1942 in the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto which has been razed to rubble by the Nazis, Kalonimus Kalman suggests a daring and poignant interpretation of an ancient teaching. The third century wisdom masters of Babylonia wrote:
Said Master Jose, “I was traveling on the road. And I entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem to pray. Elijah the Prophet came and stood guard at the entryway until I finished my meditation. When I emerged he warned me that it is dangerous to enter ruins. He then asked me, ‘My son – what did you hear in the Ruins?’ I answered, ‘I heard an echo of the divine voice.'”
The Warsaw Kabbalist interprets as follows. Jose enters the ruins to meditate and seek knowledge of himself. The ruins are but a metaphor for his own darkness. He reaches a meditative state in which Elijah appears to him – somewhat like an apparition of Mary or the Bhudda in Christianity and Bhuddism. Elijah protects him in his descent into darkness even as he warns him of the danger of the path. Jose hears in the ruins what he has never heard in his mainstream synagogue, church or university classroom. He hears an echo of the divine.
The echo of the divine voice is, in our language – soulprint. Recall our earlier conversation where we unpacked the idea that I express my unique divinity by finding my voice.
I can only access my soul print by entering my destroyed places, my darkness.
In the language of Biblical myth ‘And Moses approached the darkness for there is God.”
The biblical image for darkness is “Tzel” – the Hebrew word for shadow. The biblical myth epigram (in the Book of Psalms), “God is your shadow,” paints a picture of a God who, like a shadow, responds to our every movement. But this verse according to our mystical understanding, reveals even more…it reveals that in fact, divinity – i.e. soul print – is hidden in our shadow.
The third section of the Zoharb tells the story of what is referred to as the Idra Raba, the Great Gathering. The Great Gathering was convened by Shimon Bar Yochai, perhaps the most important personae in the unfolding of biblical mysticism. In the beginning of the gathering he says to the ten participants – the only invitees – that the essence of his mystical path is the “Way of the Great Dragon.” The way of the great dragon, sometimes called the “way of the left column” is understood by Kabbalists to mean the way of the shadow. To follow this way is to serve and to grow through the light and energy that emanates from the darkness itself.
For nearly two thousand years, this was considered too dangerous a path to be publicly taught or tread. The masses were considered safer “following the rules” set down by governments and organized religions; better off staying out of trouble. In such a context a person’s darkness or shadow is either ignored, denied, or labeled evil – a force to be eradicated, controlled at all costs. And as long as society at large was driven by rules, and higher consciousness was not a primary value for the average person, this safer way worked.
Human beings, however, are constantly evolving. We want to grow! And grow we will …right out of the binaries’ bounds of good and bad, order or anarchy. We can no longer be satisfied with merely controlling the shadow in response to some static and external definition of what is light and what is dark. We want to grow!
Further, we all know that one of the identifying characteristics of our era is that “following the rules” in and of itself, is no longer deemed identical to a life well lived. We rather view personal growth and consciousness as the holy grail of the seeker of enlightenment. New understandings of light are emerging.
As a result we can no longer ignore our shadows by pretending they do not exist or by trying to crush any seemingly dark impulse which violates the rules. We must serve and grow by unblocking and reclaiming the light that we have pushed into the shadows. This is the way of the dragon. The goal however is no longer to slay the dragon but to make friends with the dragon.
If one casually peruses folktales one notices something very interesting about dragons, monsters and all such motley creatures. Dragons are usually vanquished and killed by male heroes. Female heroines on the other hand usually kiss the beast and it turns into a handsome prince.
The difference is clear and quite extraordinary. In the first approach the shadow energy needs to be destroyed. Since it is uncomfortable to talk about our own darkness we project it onto a dragon, but everyone understands that we’re really talking about ourselves. The princess on the other hand understands that there is another way to dispel the darkness; that is to light a candle. A little bit of light, a candle, dispels a lot of dark. The candle is a kiss – an act of loving. Indeed the beast is not slain, but turned into a prince. The darkness is transformed into light.
In the tradition of biblical myth itself there are two distinct qualities which dance side by side. The first is the text of the bible itself which is an overwhelmingly male energy patriarchal document. Although there is strong female presence the male moment is still dominant. How many of us grew up with the biblical image of God as an old man – white beard, sandals and all? If we had grown up Kabbalists then we would probably image God as a beautiful, sensuous and compassionate woman. For this is the view offered by Kabbalah – she’s called the Shechinah, and she is the feminine presence of God. The feminine qualities of intuition, receptivity and love are the prized qualities of the Kabbalists. Indeed the words Kabbalah itself means receiving.
In biblical myth the beast/dragon role is of course played by the snake in the Garden of Eden. For more than two millennium the snake was understood to be the villain. The Bible is after all a primarily male document. However, the intention of the biblical myth itself is that it be further interpreted in every generation. Indeed that is what the biblical mystics, who we refer to as the kabbalists, did. The kabbalists re-read the story.
In their reading the Snake is messianic. Isaac the priest, an important Kabbalist writing in the 13th century, goes as far as to point out that in Hebrew numerology the numerical value of snake and messiah is identical. This is not a mere numbers game. What Isaac the priest is suggesting is that Messiah comes through the transformation of snake energy into redemptive messiah energy. Eight hundred years later, Abraham Kuk, inheritor of the mystical tradition of Isaac the Priest writes that the “Ani,”meaning the “I,” – or in our terms the soul print – is the Messiah in each one of us. Kuk also affirms as a core tenet running through everything he wrote, that the messiah in us – our soul point – is only accessible through embracing and integrating our Tzel, our shadow side.
In Kabbalah therefore the snake energy is received by woman and ultimately transmuted into a higher form. While this is obviously a gross oversimplification of both Kabbalah and Biblical text, the general distinction certainly holds. To the extent that we are struggling in modernity to come face to face with our darkness, Kabbalah has become an important wisdom source for people all over the planet.
The poet Rilke captured the Kabalistic consciousness of the way of the Dragon in a few short lines.
Perhaps all the Dragons of our lives
Are princesses who are only waiting to
See us once, beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in
Its deepest being something
That needs our love.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
The Zohar takes the reader into the depths of the great gathering – to a moment referred to as Tzeluta. Tzeluta literally means shadow. But it’s more – Tzeluta is also the Aramaic word for deep prayer. Thus, the great gathering was in part a journey of prayer into the dark recesses of the soul. Tzeluta – the shadow dancing of prayer. To pray – as in the story of Master Jose – is to descend into my darkness to reveal my light. To raise my sparks from the shards of my broken vessels.
When the ancient masters wrote prayers they used to sign their name on the prayer though acrostics – that is, the first letter of each line would begin with the successive letters of the author’s name. It was not an ego expression – it was a soul print statement. I am embedded in the very fabric of my prayer. To pray is to pour out my deepest self. Prayer is the signature of my soul. Anything less is not prayer.
Many years ago when I was studying in a seminary near Bethlehem in Israel, we got word one afternoon of a possibly impending terrorist attack. Impending of course meant that possible terrorists were spotted several hours away from our base (the seminary also served as somewhat of an army base) and there was plenty of time to do the afternoon prayers. Of course everyone was tense and prayers were said quickly. Before we could leave the prayer hall however the spiritual director stood up, pounded the lectern and said, “Sit!” He then lowered his voice, as if sad, “I looked at the ceiling of the study hall as we prayed and saw many prayers swirling among the rafters. However I could not identify which prayer belonged to which student. You did not sign your names. Tell me, how can an orphaned prayer rise?”
And so, machine guns at our feet, tense, afraid and alive, we prayed again. I’ve never before or after prayed like I did that afternoon.
This is the teaching of the Zohar on prayer. In prayer from the depths I find my soul print. This is true whether we believe in God or not. Agnostics and atheists pray as well. Really any intensely focused outpouring of the heart is prayer. A musician playing, a poet writing, a parent hoping for their child’s well being, a lover declaring his loyalty – all are prayer moments. A life without space for such outpouring is a poorer life indeed.
There was however at the great gathering a second path the mystics paced. This was the path of love. Be-Chavivuta Talya Milta — “It all depends on love” – said Shimon Bar Yochai to his friends gathering there. Love – to perceive soul print in the footsteps of the dragon. Love is, as we discussed earlier,1 a perception / identification complex. Love is to perceive the infinite and unique specialness in another and to identify them with that specialness. Love is a perceptive art.
Modern mystic Abraham Kuk teaches between the world wars in Jerusalem- that the purpose of living is to learn what he calls “the great art of loving.”
The path of the dragon can only be walked in love.
The two paths – of the dragon and of love – are really one.
Sasha finally decided to turn the tangle of his back yard into a flower garden. He cleared the land, bought the seeds and diligently set about the task. And sure enough come spring the land sprouted an exquisite array of flowers. But mingled within the arrangement were the same old dandelions which had always grown in his backyard. “Weeds,” he grumbled, passionately pulling out each one. But no matter how many he pulled another dandelion seemed to pop up in its place. He tried every trick, from pulling to poison, to consulting books on the problem, but to no avail. The dandelions were determined to stay. Finally he consulted the elderly gardener who lived down the street. A wise old woman with a rose garden you wouldn’t believe. She slowly walked with him to see his garden, listening to his lament over the dandelions along the way. By the time they arrived at his gate, she had one look at the yard and said decisively, “I’ll tell you exactly what you need to do….” Sasha nodded eagerly, poising his pen on pad to capture the precious advice. The old woman put her hand over the notepad, looked straight into Sasha’s eyes and said, “You need to learn to love dandelions.”
We all have Dandelions. If we but love them they may well become roses before our very eyes. The way of the darkness must be tread with love.
One of my first encounters with human darkness was when I was twenty-seven.
I was feeling betrayed. My friend Peter and I stayed up many late nights talking through the anger, for Peter himself was part of the triangle of betrayal. At times it was difficult for me to be sure whether he was one of the betrayers or one of the betrayed. Late on a dark night by a moonlit lake I finally expressed my confusion to Peter. “Who are you and where do you stand?” I demanded of him. “It’s all a house of mirrors,” he replied, gazing into the lake’s glassy waters. The dark chill of his voice still echoes in my ears.
What Peter meant to say is that there is no core essence in the world – rather all is a grand joke, an illusion, a house of mirrors in a cruel carnival. For Peter, brilliant, charismatic and gifted as he was – life had become absurd. Nothing really mattered. ‘Absurdus’ means ‘fully deaf’ in Latin. Peter, like many moderns, could no longer hear the calling or see the purpose in life.
I understand Peter. We all have Peter moments which may last seconds, days or even years. In the end however I think he is wrong – tragically wrong.
Life is a decision for meaning. There are only two choices in life. Either everything is meaningful or nothing is meaningful. If choosing to be Mother Teresa instead of Hitler is meaningful then everything is meaningful. If remembering my son’s birthday matters then everything matters.
I do however agree with Peter that the world is all Mirrors. In that conversation so many years ago I shared with Peter an image from Abraham Kuk – an image powerfully germane to our discussion about the path of darkness and broken vessels.
You see, Kuk has his own commentary on the “Big Crash,” the mystical creation myth of the breaking of the vessels. He implies that the original vessels which shattered were actually mirrors.
What I told Peter went something like this:
In the beginning there was a darkness,
and in the darkness hung a mirror.
And into the mirror gazed a light.
A single flame reflected in a vast looking glass.
And as this flame gazed at her reflection
She saw the light that it was good.
And she desired more of herself to be seen.
And so she beamed brighter into the mirror.
And brighter, and brighter
until the intensity of her light
Shattered the mirror!
And sent shards by the billions into every direction.
And the flame gazed into each and every shard
And saw her face multiplied by the billions.
And she saw the shattering that it was also good.
For the broken mirrors magnified the light.
In the beginning there was a darkness…
And in the end, a billion points of light.
Originally there was one great mirror of existence reflecting the light of a single infinite flame. The flame however desired that its light be reflected more widely. So it shattered the mirror into a thousand fragments. Shards of mirrors strewn across the world. True, you have to be careful where you walk…for these shards are sharp- the brokenness can bite. But if held carefully and held right, these very shards can be put to great use – What can you do with a shard of mirror? Simple, you can catch the light…multiply its brilliance, and reflect it into the darkest of corners.
What’s more, the Kabbalists go on to say that these shattered shards are our stories themselves. Our personal stories are the fragments of a larger story – our mirrors are slivers of a larger mirror.
Each fragment has a unique ability to shine light into a particular dark place. The first place that we need to shed light is in the shadow crevices of our own souls, hidden from the light by the twists and curves of each of our stories. Once we do that, then we are able, through living our story, to reflect light into the outer crevices and crannies which we encounter on our path.
1:9 ~ Into the Light
We are searching for soul print light. So where do we find light in biblical myth wisdom?
The primary source of light in Biblical myth and mysticism is the temple in Jerusalem which stood in the time of Jesus and his Rabbinic teachers. In the temple burns the source of all light.
What is the nature of this light? Well, we know two things about the temple which is of overwhelming relevance to our discussion. First the entire temple was actually one great work of art. Second, the physical structure of the temple and its vessels were fashioned by an artist named Bezalel. Now, the name Bezal-el is usually translated as, “In the shadow of God” – as in, ‘the artist works in the shadow of God’. Biblical mystics, however, read his name differently suggesting that Bezalel means, “In the Shadow is God.”
I am reminded of an encounter I once had with a painter. I was taking the hour long bus ride up to Mount Scopus, where Hebrew University sits crowning Jerusalem. The mountain practically hovers over Jerusalem’s old quarters, offering the cities most revealing eye full of Temple Mount, the cherished, and often contested, site of the present day Muslim Dome of the Rock, as well as the place where the Jewish Temple once stood. A site considered by many to be the sacred pulse of the world.
As the bus climbed towards the mountain a young man sat down next to me. I saw his hands were stained with a faint reddish tint, beneath his nails were rusty layers of paint. I leaned over and said, “Painter, right?” He shrugged, and melodramatically answered, “at times…” I turned to my paper reading, but was piqued by his tacit challenge, and decided instead to make small talk. “Bezalel, right?” I asked, referring to the name of the well-known art school that had just been built next to the University. An art school named after our biblical hero artisan of course. “Yeah.” He said with even more melancholic tones. Not to be defeated I continue, “So its a brand new building…You must love it up there, nice facilities, great view…must be inspirational for the artists.” “Actually, I don’t particularly like it. It was much better when we were down in the city, with the cars and the crowds. All that sunshine and fresh air on the mountaintop just doesn’t do it for me…too sanitized, too shiny.”
“Oh, yeah?” I responded nonchalantly, and that was all I needed to say, he was mine. He started listing off all the disadvantages of the new location, the nauseating bus ride, the too cold wind, the too hot sun. “But there is one advantage…the view.” “Oh, sure, you must love the view, the white stonescape of Jerusalem laid out before you.”
“No, just the opposite…it’s what is hidden beneath the view that I like…You see there’s a particular angle I have out the window of my studio. On a clear day, I can see a little door on the eastern side of the walls surrounding Temple Mount. Before I start painting I imagine myself opening that door. I imagine a damp stone staircase, which descends to underground tunnels. When I was a kid I used to play in those tunnels. My father would tell me stories of the maze of passageways that snake under the site of the Temple, tunnels thousands of years old, dating back to the time of King Solomon even. I imagine entering that door, descending those steps, down into those tunnels…and that’s where I paint from, from the cool alcoves beneath the holy of holies, pulling up old prayers like roots with my paintbrush. The best part of the view is what you don’t see.”
I will never look at the view from Mount Scopus the same way. That painter taught me that the sprawling vista is not always the whole picture. Sometimes you have to look beneath the sparkling shiny surface, at the dark, often dirty, underbelly of life. The ‘tunnels of the Temple’ symbolize for the kabbalists the deep inner workings of divinity – where “God is in the shadows.” Often such sacred passageways can only be revealed by insight, imagination and a willingness to enter our darkness even if only for a while.
That painter with his stained hands knew how to touch the dark places. He was a student of Bezalel, versed in the ways of darkness. I look at my own white palms and think of all the times I have avoided the depths. How my hands sometimes flee from the darkness, avoiding being dirty for too long.
I remember that the brilliant flower with her delicate painted petals grew out of the dark soil, nourished by worms, debris, and decay. I remind myself that diamonds are black coal made beautiful by intensity and pressure.
The artist creates from her own shadow and, teach the kabbalists, we are all artists of our own lives, engaged in the ultimate sacred act of self-creation. Nietzsche correctly intuited a core biblical myth idea when he said “the artist becomes the work of art.” Life is self creation- the painting of our destiny on the canvas of our fate.
In biblical myth language the word for ‘creation’ is Yatzar. But this word also has a second meaning…Yatzar also represents primal – even dark – passions. Just as my painter friend created art out of the darkness so do we create ourselves through our own darkness. We reveal our light – our Sapir* – our soul print – from the shadows. The shattered vessels of our personal temple can only be made whole again if we are willing to enter the ruins of our lives and dreams, and from there reveal our soul print. Even during the times when our personal temple feels destroyed – turned to ash and rubble, her tunnels sit silent and still right beneath the surface awaiting our exploration, promising renewal and rejuvenation.
Next time you appreciate the beauty of a flower, remember to look at the bed of soil from which she rose. Remember that the brilliant flower with her delicate painted petals grew out of the dark soil, nourished by worms, debris, and decay. Take the tunnel route down into the soil. See the worms which sifted the soil through their long intestines. Smell the animal tracks which nourishes the deep seeds. See the roots which must suck from the black soil all the nutrients to sustain the life on the surface. The darkness couches intricate systems of tubes and tunnels, all to nourish that which gets to shine in the sunlight.
Remember that behind every bright success is some dark internal process, hard working systems of roots which nourished it to fruition. Beneath every beaming face you meet is a vast soil of debris, decay, broken-down materials.
Have Deep Soil Consciousness – view all bright things with an eye for the darkness that birthed them.
Look for examples in the natural or personal world around you.
Write down a list of all the ‘bright things’ in your life and trace back to their roots:
-the precious relationship with your partner which has been sustained through so much argument, conflict.
-the project at work which you spent long hours and dark nights trying to complete
So we have seen how the spiritual light of Solomon’s Temple is born from the dark – created with the ‘yatzar’ – the passion – of Bezalel’s dark hands.
Two more poignant temple images will take our understanding even deeper.
Three second-century mystics, in search of understanding, question, “What is the source of primal passion? From whence comes the primal surge towards both beauty/goodness as well as sin?”
They meditate upon the question for three days.
As the sun sets on the third day they are graced with a vision.
They stand facing the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the ultimate source of sanctity and serenity. Suddenly, a lion of fire comes tearing through the royal curtains. The mystics are startled. The fiery lion they understand, it is clearly a symbol of primal passion. But why does this raging creature emerge out of the temple’s holy of holies? Is that not the place of ultimate purity – the symbol of ethical, spiritual and psychological perfection?”
The vision reveals to the masters that only by engaging our most primal raging and passions can we find our holy of holies – our soul print.
The Baal Shem Tov, our Rebbe of Thieves, suggests a seemingly strange, apparently contradictory, parable to unpack the essence of the spiritual work of the Jerusalem Temple.
In light of our discussion however the parable will begin to make good sense.
The king has a son who refuses to learn. The king sends him all the great tutors and teachers yet none are able to capture his attention, none can catch his interest. Just as the King is about to give up hope for his son’s growth and learning, he is informed by his horror-stricken advisors that the young prince has developed an interest indeed. He spends his time in the shady courtyard of a particularly scandalous prostitute who is notorious for her brazen sexuality. Much to the chagrin of his advisors the King seems pleased and asks for the woman to be sent to him. The King welcomes her with great fanfare and honors, saying, “My thanks to you for engaging my Son. Your place is here in the palace with my family. I ask of you but one request – do not give yourself to my son until he shows himself worthy through his studies.”
Not the type of parable one would expect to emerge from the bearded mouths of tradition. But its wisdom reaches beyond misplaced prudishness and grasps for a human truth. The parable suggests that the place of primal shadow passion is within the very sanctum of the king…not in some dark corner outside the palace walls. Further, it indicates that for the passion to be sacred it must be an integral part of the rest of the personae. If shadow passion hijacks, overtakes us, only in the banished outskirts of our life, then it is not integral. It has not been integrated…and ultimately will lack integrity.
2:1 ~ In the Shadow is the Go-l-d*
Modern psychologist Carl Jung has done much to share the idea of shadow with the world and to suggest that we cannot be whole human beings without recognizing and incorporating our shadow energy. Jung has a rather mystifying expression which he uses constantly to express this idea. “In the Shadow is the Gold.”
Which means to say of course is that most of that which is valuable in the human personality – the gold – the wealth of what we call soul print – can only be mined in the depths of the personality, in the shadow.
As we saw with the young prince, one of the most important parts of growth is to incorporate my shadow, utilizing its lionous strength…
2:2 ~ To Not Grow Up
A nursery’s open window. A girl in blue nightgown. A fairy. A boy in search of something he’s lost. These are the familiar ingredients of the delightful child’s tale – Peter Pan. But Peter Pan is more than delightful and speaks to more than just children. Much of Peter Pan’s power of enchantment comes from the ingredient of darkness which is thrown into its mix of adventure and sing-alongs. It is essentially a story of shadow.
Indeed the story opens with Peter Pan darting around Wendy’s room in search of his shadow. Peter, in search of his depths, finds Wendy, the one who has the loving thread to sew his dark side back on. Wendy is the feminine side of Pan…the one with the ability to kiss the beast into a beauty! While Peter’s natural masculine dissociates from his shadow, Wendy is able to sew it back on- a process of integration – stitch by stitch.
It’s the ultimate soulprint-receiving story – Wendy is able to see and receive Peter for who he is, his lights as well as his darks, and through that perception she helps him to integrated his shadow side, to become fully himself…the first step into adulthood. For Peter to grow up he needs to grow down into his soul print.
The image of growing down is one of the central images of the Kabbalah. It is graphically expressed in the Picture of the Tree of Life, the tree of the ten Sefirot. The word Sefira derives from the biblical myth words – Sippur, meaning story, as well as Mispar, meaning number.2 These two words taken together constitute our soul print. As I have pointed out in earlier work, Mispar represents my unique calling and Sippur represents the unique narrative of my life. Taken together the ten sefirot are a symbolic map of all the dimensions necessary to form what the mystics call Komat Ha’adam – literally translated “the full stature of Man” – what moderns call the Personae. What is most interesting and ironic about this tree of the full stature of man is that it stands upside down. Its roots are grounded on high while its fruits ripen in this earthly realm. It grows down instead of up!
For the Kabbalist the image conveys the idea that my soul print is formed from top down, not from bottom up. I am born with a soul print – my life is the process of revealing and then bringing that soul print to fruition. This is most definitely not Freud’s vision of the human personality which is formed in the crucible of infancy and early childhood, building up into our lives. Of course there is some truth in Freud’s picture. Clearly early childhood impacts to some real degree on our lives. It may even be an important catalyst in revealing to us the contours of our soul print. But it does not form our soul print. We start at the top, with a full blown soul print and work our way down, as we grow, revealing more and more of its design. My soul print is the higher unique essence of my soul which I am born with much as I am born with a palm print. Like the palm print the soul print unfolds and reveals itself as we grow. Growing up is all about growing down into our soul prints.
This happens only when we are willing to embrace and integrate our shadow into our personae. This is what the Peter Pan in each of us never wants to do. In the words of Peter’s anti-growing up song, we never want to “wear a serious expression in the middle of July”. We don’t want to ‘get serious’ about our dark side…which sometimes you have to do even in the middle of a bright July. It is easier to think of ourselves as fully pure; always right noble beings of light. However, insist the Kabbalists, the light that comes from the darkness is more powerful than the light which comes from the light. “More powerful is the light which comes from the darkness.”
It is only when Peter owns the Captain Hook inside himself that he can stop projecting him as an outside figure. Only when Dennis realizes there is menace in him than he can begin his process of growth.
We have been throwing the charged words ‘darkness’ and ‘shadow’ around without having fully explained them. Yet, you the reader probably have a good general idea what we are talking about. Shadow automatically associates certain images feelings and ideas.
When Shakespeare talks about “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine” we understand he is talking about shadow – yet we are not fully sure what it means.
Indeed we need a lot more definition and depth to really understand the shadow idea.
So let’s together proceed step by step and try to understand just what this all-important concept of shadow means and how it operates in the world.
Our shadow includes all of the parts of us that we do not want to publicly acknowledge. It is our ‘dark side’ that we hide away – afraid to expose it to the light of day. We are all partial creatures of the night. However we usually sleep through the night…closing our eyes to our own darkness…dreaming out its dramas instead.
Our night virtues include our jealousies, our pettiness, and our pathologies. Now here is the big deal. If we do not realize, relate to, understand and integrate the root of these shadow qualities then we are lost. In the image of the mystics – we destroy the ‘temple of our souls’. The Jerusalem Temple is the symbol of integrated shadow. The destruction of the temple is therefore understood mystically to be connected to a refusal to own shadow.
It is in this light that we offer a new interpretation to a strange story – the story given in the biblical myth sources for the reason why the temple was destroyed.
It is the year 70 CE, Jerusalem.
Someone is throwing a party and sends out an invitation to his good friend Kamtza. A mistake is made along the way, and somehow instead of his good friend Kamtza receiving the invitation, his greatest enemy, Bar Kamtza, receives the invitation. Bar Kamtza shows up to the party. The mistake is revealed: he has not in fact been invited. Despite his desperate pleas to be allowed to stay and save face, he is publicly humiliated and thrown out of the feast.
How often do we throw parties: weddings, bar mitzvahs, confirmations and the like, where the holiness of the event is marred by the invisible tears and humiliation of the guests not invited? Often we have good reason for not inviting the guest. Bar Kamtza, as the rest of the story will soon reveal, wasn’t such a wonderful fellow. But he didn’t deserve to be publicly shamed. When we use our fifteen minutes of stardom – our power of hosting our ‘event’- to degrade the dignity of another then the food at our affair is not “kosher”…and Temples are destroyed.
Bar Kamtza feels terribly aggrieved at the way in which he has been treated by the community. No one at the party, including the many spiritual teachers present, defended him: They didn’t want to risk their communal standing, and seeing as the host was a powerful man they didn’t want to lose his potential support of their institutions. Bar Kamtza plots a terrible vengeance. He persuades the Roman Emperor to send an animal to the Jerusalem Temple to be sacrificed. He then makes an imperceptible blemish on the animal, knowing full well that this kind of blemish, although invisible to the untrained eye, will, according to the symbolic law of the temple, disqualify the animal for sacrifice at the temple.
When the animal arrives the Rabbis understand the quandary Bar Kamtza has manufactured for them. If they sacrifice the animal they will violate the letter of the law; if they refuse the animal they will incur the wrath of the Emperor. After a tortured debate the decision is taken not to sacrifice the animal: the Emperor’s gift is rejected. The Emperor is indeed enraged, and a series of events are set into motion which ultimately bring about the destruction of the Temple, the massacre and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of people.
The hidden mystical understanding of this legend is that Kamtza and Bar Kamtza are really one person. The similarity in names is more than a theatrical device to explain the confusion. The similarity is to hint at the fact that these are really two different sides of the same person. There is a side of us which we don’t let live. We hide it. This is the side of us that we don’t want to bring to parties. As with all secrets, we are desperately afraid that something will happen and it will be revealed…we fear our Bar Kamtza just might show up. When that does happen we often react impulsively and with great cruelty to ourselves. We do all we can to disassociate ourselves from him and to throw him out of the party.
This is of course precisely what happens in our story. In the mystical interpretation, the host of the party, Kamtza and BarKamtza are all one person. The host wants to show his respectable and upstanding side…and so invites Kamtza, his best friend. Something happens, an unexpected twist of life, and his Bar Kamaza side shows up instead. He feels exposed and vulnerable. The party host behaved just as we often do when our shadow side is accidentally exposed. We explain our Bar Kamtza away as a mistake, we got confused – it is not really part of our story – and throw him out the door.
The spiritual teachers at our party, like the spiritual teachers in attendance at the host’s party when Bar Kamtza showed up, are of little help. They often counsel in ways which reinforce our need to hide Bar Kamtza. They teach the way of control but not the way of transformation. They do not know or are afraid of the way of the dragon.
We still do not fully understand shadow. The shadow expressions are perhaps jealousy, anger and all sorts of pathologies. But what is the root of shadow that we discussed above as so vital to understand, in order to grow?
Sitting at a publishers office several months ago I flipped open a book sitting on her desk. In the table of contents I saw an entry on shadow which I was thinking about intensively so I turned to that page. This is how it understood shadow:
The spiritual practice of shadow encourages us to make peace with those parts of ourselves we find despicable, unworthy or embarrassing- our anger, jealousy, pride selfishness, violence and other evil “deeds”. The practice aims at wholeness by unifying the dark and the light…Take responsibility for your actions particularly those with unfortunate outcomes. By owning your shadow you embrace you full humanity.
This is all very nice and good, and the book I saw it in is an absolutely lovely book, but again its all sort of vague, fuzzy and ill defined. It still does not take us to the root of the shadow…and from the root, as in the kabbalists tree of life.
So at this point I want to begin to get at the root of the whole shadow idea.
At core, shadow is the distortion of my soul print light – my unlived story.
The shadow manifestations are all the traits of darkness that we posses in varying degrees which come to the fore as a result of our unlived life which we have relegated, stuffed and hidden in the shadows. Although these traits are usually called the shadow, it is vitally important to understand that they are not the shadow. They are but manifestations of the shadow. Shadow itself is the exclusive result of my disconnection with my soul print light.
A person who is not living their story cannot possibly feel worthy. Not only do we not feel valuable when we live the wrong story, we feel like we do not even fully exist.
Our most primal cry in the world is “I exist!” I am special and unique. When we feel that this cry may be false we begin pathologizing. This is the prime cause of shadow formation. That means that shadow at its root is the result of “unlived personal story.”
We are told by all the literature to integrate the shadow. Virtually no one however really knows what that means.
To integrate the shadow DOES NOT MEAN to become petty, jealous or mean.
It DOES MEAN to allow my shadow to be my teacher.
My shadow is my teacher because it is a distorted reflection of my soul print. Growth happens when I follow my shadow back to my light, to soul print. What that means in specific terms is that it is part of the inner work that every person must do with themselves. We will discuss it at greater length a little later.
For now, two somewhat simple examples may be of help in wrapping our minds around the idea.
One person I knew several years ago told me that in the early years of her marriage she was a kleptomaniac. The strange thing was that she stole only blank notebooks. Her explanation – Her soul print was calling her to write. In effect she did not just focus on the guilt created by theft and try to crush this desire to shoplift. Instead she listened to it. She honored the kleptomania as a teacher who was trying to teach her something essential about her soul print. After much listening she understood is riddle. She needed to write. Had she merely tried to control the shadow manifestation – i.e. her stealing – then chances are that the impulse to steal would’ve eventually overridden her self-control mechanisms. She may well have continued stealing and this would have probably created serious disruption of her life. By honoring and listening to her shadow manifestations she not only reclaimed an essential part of her soul print – she also never stole again.
A second story is one that I met in my counseling practice. A man from southern Israel came to me because he had a terrible problem with anger. He was angry at his kids, his wife and himself most of the time. By profession he was an accountant. He was also a man who had from early in his life a deep passion for social justice. After several weeks of talking I shocked him by telling him I thought he should leave accounting and run for mayor of his small town. His wife was particularly aghast at the prospect…He made a good, stable living as an accountant…was home (if angry) for the kids. Why give this up for the vagaries of political life?
I shared with both of them an intuition – which I could not prove in any way. I sensed that his anger was not based on old childhood issues or the like. Rather it was the sublimated anger of protest, of a leader and revolutionary trapped in an office adding up numbers for other people.
Now, being an accountant is a wonderful, honorable and vitally needed profession – But not if you are a revolutionary! A few years and many ups and downs later, he in fact became the mayor of his town.
In this model the anger itself was re-channeled and vitally transformed. It remained passionate but lost its bitter and sometimes mean sense and took on a cleaner and even compassionate quality.
My shadow is my surest guide to my soul print. To ignore my shadow is to deepen my estrangement from my soul print.
At this point we are ready to take our final plunge into the deep waters of shadow understanding. On the simplest level we want to clarify precisely how the soul print distortion produces shadow. You will see how the lack of a deep grasp of this process can cast its gray and confusing hues over every decision you make.
Our springboard for this part of our study will be Jung’s phrase which began our discussion, “In the shadow is the gold.” Truth be told, the phrase itself is both aesthetically as well as psychologically compelling. For it is a paradox of the most powerful sorts. It is an aesthetic contrast of dark and light, where the glittery gold is the light, and the shadow is the dark. And psychologically, it takes that which conceals and mystifies and that which reveals – and connects these two opposites. Suggesting that one births the other collapses the binary nature of our understanding of darkness and light, good and evil.
Consciously Jung probably drew the image from the world of the Alchemist which he spent much time studying. The symbolic goal of alchemy is to turn lead into Gold. Lead in alchemy is one of many images for shadow.
Of course for those of you familiar with Jung you understand that he did not draw the fascinating phrase out of his conscious self alone. It came to him, as with the alchemists before him, from the Collective Unconscious – that reservoir of truth, image and life force from which, according to both Jung and Kabbalistic teachers, all of humanity draws creative inspiration and direction. Each individual or group of peoples may have their own unique bucket, pipeline, or tributary but the waters are the same.
I would like to unfold here a gorgeous hidden teaching which I believe is the source in the collective unconscious source for Jung’s wonderful phrase. I believe this is the first time the source of this phrase will have been explained. More importantly however is that in the explaining we will accomplish our major goal – explaining how soul print distortion fosters shadow and often blocks our ability to make clear decisions.
“In the shadow is the gold” – we can look to a little known but fascinating biblical myth.
You may recall from the beginning of the book the story of the slaves leaving Egypt. We unpacked the mystical tradition (based on a kabbalistic interpretation of the word for Egypt, ‘Mitzrayim’, as narrow straits) – that the slaves in question are all of us. To be free is to leave our narrow, constricted places in order to walk “in the wide places” – to move from personal psychological exile to redemption and wholeness.
We pick up on this story again with a thread of gold.
This story has a golden lining…that is, one of the prime biblical myth images here is none other than Gold. The image of Gold appears in four separate but related references. Each reference represents a distinct stage in the formation and ultimately integration of shadow energy.
Stage One: Shadow Formations
Stage Two: Shadow Manifestation
Stage Three: Shadow Control
Stage Four : Shadow Transformation
2:10 ~ Bags of Gold
Stage one: Deflected light, shadow formation, and hidden soulprint distortions:
“And the People borrowed from Egypt vessels of silver and vessels of Gold…and they despoiled Egypt.”
When the people leave Egypt, the symbol of darkness, the text is very careful to tell us that they take with them vessels of gold which they have “borrowed” from their Egyptian neighbors.
Indeed the Hebrews have been enslaved for more than two hundred years. They are certainly owed some back wages. Yet the use of the word “borrow” is clearly tinged with sarcastic critique – after all the people have no intention of returning the gold vessels. Further the clause ends with the judgment “they despoiled Egypt”. Both of these textual hints suggest to us that gold and silver vessels are somehow associated with shadow qualities. These vessels represent their continued attachment to the darkness of Egypt. Although they have been physically freed from slavery they are still connected to the spiritual umbilical cord of Egypt.
Deeper still, the gold vessels represent ‘old baggage’ – the carry-ons we take with us from place to place even after we appear to be free. One of the places we carry old baggage from is early childhood – from the time of separation from the primary oneness with the mother.
Egypt is ‘Mitzrayim’ which, we noted above, means narrowness. In the Kabbalah it represents everything from the birth canal to the unspeakable words stuck in our throat, to all of the constricted places in our emotional lives which constitute attacks on our hearts. This is the unconscious distortion of soul print.
Let’s start with the birth canal. We really leave the womb and the birth canal not when we are born but several months later. Mum’s ever-presence and free flowing nourishment is the equivalent of the Garden of Eden. The design of life however is constructed in a way which preordains our unwilling exile from that garden. The fall of man is not really a fall – it is more like a final thrust out of the birth canal. And that’s good – We need to leave the birth canal and form an identity independent of Mum.
So at some point several months into life, maybe even later, we begin the process of finding our own self. And – being imperfect – we never do get it quite right. We always leave behind parts of ourselves that are crucial to our “name.” Now what did he mean by that you are probably asking?
It works like this. We need to form a Personae. However, that personae needs to be true to ourselves while also pleasing mother. Mum doesn’t fully understand us. How can she – she’s not us. Invariably in trying to fit into the four walls of her image of us we leave stuff, parts of ourselves, behind. Parts of our divine self, of our soul print, gets pushed into the hallway, into the closet, into the shadows.
Disapproval causes us to hide those parts from the light of scrutiny in the crevices and shadows our psyche.
Now here comes the absolutely critical point. We all know that there is some sort of powerful primal life energy that courses through the cosmos. That is why we all identified with Star Wars and its trademark phrase “May the force be with You.” The Force is precisely that primal cosmic elixir-of-life energy. There is however only one gate through which we humans, frail and fragile, can access that energy. That is through the gateway of the Self. The ultimate I of the human personae participates in the Divine I. That is probably the most important idea in the magnum opus of Biblical mysticism – the Zohar.
My soul Print is fully connected to what the mystics called the Soul of all Souls. When I leave part of myself behind or when I ignore a part of myself – that gateway of the self is opened a little less wide, and less, and less, of that force can find its way through. So by denying a part of my self I give up an essential part of my ability to access the primal life force of the universe.
Further, the stuff I leave behind is often my most potent and powerful stuff. I may have particularly strong sexual energy, rage, or a little anarchist in me who defies all authority. Perhaps it was the showman or the exhibitionist, the tycoon, or the clown in me that got disenfranchised for their faults. It may have been some daring quality which was thought to be, and maybe was, foolish or reckless. This is all soul print stuff…Each a grain of sand which irritates the clam to create the pearl.
When these parts of me are relegated to the shadows – shadow energy is formed. Not surprisingly then shadow energy is enormously potent and explosive. Accessing and integrating shadow energy is no trifling matter and are not ideas which should be tossed around lightly. When I seek to enter the force through the portal of my shadow psyche I need to make sure I am ready for the journey or I may wind up like Darth Vader.
The appropriate relation to shadow must always be that of horse and rider. The horse can get me to places that I would never go on foot. In both biblical and Platonic myth the horse represents vital energy. In dream analysis the horse symbolizes sexual energy. We sometimes call it horsepower…and it is one of the most powerful forces we can access. But lest we get ‘carried away’ by the horsepower, we must be the rider. If the horse is prone to take off on a wild gallop we must be prepared to either enjoy the ride, artfully regain control and direct the horse in the right direction or…jump.
Usually, the relationship between a horse and rider (you and your shadow) needs to be fully clear – you, the rider, need to be in charge. One of the most well-known images of Messiah is of a man riding into Jerusalem atop a donkey. Indeed the image of Messianism throughout Biblical myth sources is that of a horse (or donkey) and a rider. The point not that horses and donkeys are the preferred mode of transportation for Messiahs. It is rather that personal redemption takes place when I become the rider in relationship to my horse.
Shadow energy is created when in order to control my horse I begin to beat my horse. Beating takes many forms. All involve denying my horse’s essential needs, either by driving it too hard, not giving it sufficient nourishment, or neglecting its care. In all of these instances, although the horse may be tamed for a while, in the end, it will buck and throw its rider. Sometimes you’ll get off with a scrape, other times an injury, other times you may even lose your life.
The optimal reality is for the rider not only to control the horse, but to develop a deep and loving relationship with the horse. It is a paradoxical control which, although occasionally needs to use force, for the most part moves the horse through the power of relationship and love.
The most dangerous scenario is when the rider is afraid of the horse. I learned to ride a horse, strangely enough, in Manhattan’s Central Park. The first thing they taught me was to be afraid of muggers – BUT NOT YOUR HORSE! If you’re afraid of the horse, the animal will sense it immediately, and never obey you. If you’re simply afraid of your shadow its energy can never serve you, and ultimately it will engulf you in darkness.
There are even times when you need to let your shadow energy, your ‘horse power’, be your guide. They don’t happen every day and are only effective in the context of a horse-rider relationship in which the rider is usually in charge. However, on occasion, it is only by following your deepest animal instincts that you can find your way home.
I was eighteen years old studying in a Seminary in Israel. The schedule was a 17-hour a day intensive study program. I loved the schedule and the study, and was considered a particularly good student. That was until I would disappear from the Seminary for several days. And the rumors would fly as to where I had gone…little did anyone know, I went horseback riding. No one in the school could understand how this star student could take off several days from study. This pattern repeated itself throughout the year. This kind of pattern actually characterized my entire ten-year period of study in the Seminary world. Everyone had a different explanation of the pattern, some more complementary, others less so. It was thought to be related to factors as diverse as my parent’s recent divorce, general irresponsibility, or a hidden tendency towards anarchy. In fact it was none of the above. I didn’t see it as taking off from study, I simply saw it as a different course of study…in fact, a course complimentary to seminary studies. For after days of intensive intellectual concentration I could think of nothing better than letting lose the reins on my mind, letting my spirit get carried away at top speeds on the back of a steed.
One afternoon, horse and I ran faster and farther than usual. It was an unparalleled adventure and I was in rapture, that is until I realized that I was also in trouble. For as I looked at the sights around me, stunning as they were, none of them were even vaguely familiar. I frantically started hunting around for signs of direction home. I must have searched and swirled in circles for an hour or more, pulling the poor horse this way and that, admonishing him for the predicament we were in.
The sun was beginning to set, I was scared…finally I just gave up, throwing down the reins in frustration. And with that, the horse gently turned around and started trotting through the forest. He seemed to know what he was doing, and was doing it in quite a hurry. So I figured, what have I got to lose, and let him lead. Sure enough I started recognizing the path back to the stables. The closer we got to home the faster that horse ran till we were smack dab in front of his food corral. The horse, his hunger and his long-trodden habit, had led us home.
Sometimes you need to trust the (animal) instinct inside of you. Your passions, hungers and darker impulses may just have the strength and know-how to lead you home.
These dark clods of unclaimed self – our potential pearls – are the shadow baggage that both biblical myth and Jung refer to as the Gold.
It is however critical to understand that definitive soul print distortion can virtually never take place in childhood . This is because – in biblical myth – the essential soul print formation precedes childhood. Our soul print is stamped at birth…or even way before.
The inability to show that stamp fully in the light is what creates shadow energy. Parents then are prime contributors to shadow energy…however they do not create our soul print – they merely allow us, or block us, from expressing it freely.
Yet this parental situation is in no way tragic, as writers like psychologist Alice Miller in her book Drama of the Gifted Child, have tried to claim. It is natural and expected. Parents are there to create maximal health conditions which will give us the security in life to live our story. They do not and should not be expected to claim our soul print for us. Even if our parents appear to be blocking our soul print –in reality they may well be fostering its development. In fact, it may well be the case that for some people the soul print can only emerge through rebellion against parents the soul print emerges.
Now we have made this point before and will surely return to it – I raise it again here however to point our the great disservice done to us by all the Jungian writers who describe self as something that is formed during childhood. I will cite one such explanation by Robert Bly. Though I am a fan of his poetry, his explanation of how the self develops, with its excessive emphasis on the wounds of childhood is, to my mind, wrong and horribly castrating, both spiritually and psychologically.
Here is Bly’s description:
“When we were one or two years old we had what we might visualize as a 360-degree personality. Energy radiated out from all parts of our body and all parts of our psyche. A child running is a living globe of energy. We had a ball of energy, all right; but one day we noticed that our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball. They said things like: “Can’t you be still?” Or “It isn’t nice to try and kill your brother.” Behind us we have an invisible bad, and the part of us our parents don’t like, we, to keep our parents’ love, put in the bag. By the time we go to school our bag is quite large. Then our teachers have their say: “Good children don’t get angry over such little things.” So we take our anger and put it in the bag. By the time my brother and I were twelve in Madison, Minnesota, we were knows an ‘the nice Bly boys.’ Our bags were already a mile long”.
The problem with the explanation is that it gives enormous power to parents and the past. The inability of early teachers and parents to see us is understood to be a great traumatic tragedy that we spend the rest of our life trying to undo. As I have already said, parents are not obligated to see us. They cannot be expected to totally see us. It is actually virtually impossible for the ones charged with sustaining us physically and emotionally to also be responsible for fully seeing us. Car pools and a thousand details of living are sometimes all that one person can handle. The job of soul print seeing belongs to friends, lovers and mentors. Parents are supposed to sustain us and give us enough love that we will believe that we have a soul print and will be motivated to search for it.
Freud left a legacy of looking into the past for the root of present problems. And indeed, many of our problems probably are well rooted in our childhood. But so what! Many of our issues have nothing to do with our childhood but are rather pathologies that result from us not living our soul print. Further, let’s say that a whole set of issues are parent related…that doesn’t mean that the cures are. Just because the antecedent is in the past, does not mean the solution is. Soul print psychotherapist, Milton Erickson, to cite one example, was a huge proponent of letting go of the past and focusing on the future.
Most critical however is to internalize the pull possibility that parents do not create children. Rather, in a psycho-mystical way Children create parents. (this paragraph in SP 1…also add in bit about foundling child creating own parents* – in some sense we all need to create our myth of creating our parents – great expectations*)
Until you free yourself of the castrating idea that parents determine our destiny you cannot claim soul print. One of the place that biblical myth makes this most clear is in the Jacob/Esav myth which we talked about earlier and will come back to later in the book.
For now though one thought is especially important. Jacob had a difficult childhood. His dad Isaac loved his brother Esav…he did not love Jacob. Jacob was the second son, he desperately wanted his father’s blessing and could not get it. Though his mother loved him she was also quite overpowering and controlling…she moves him to steal his brother’s blessing…his brother winded up hating him. Not a great childhood. Biblical myth, however, after going to great pains to paint his childhood in all of its pathos and complexity – tells us two crucial things about Jacob. He is responsible for his choices and he can choose greatness. And indeed – from a checkered career riddled with falls and misjudgments, Jacob does manage to emerge as a great man. Moreover, as we have seen and will see even more deeply in the closing section of the book, he is the model of a person’s ability to choose the destiny of soul print over the fate of childhood.
Now, I wrote the proceeding paragraph the evening that I flew to the United States for a lecture tour. I wrote it hesitatingly because I know that to claim that parents don’t determine our lives is against much conventional wisdom, and although I know it to be true, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to say it so clearly yet. Perhaps, I thought to myself, it should wait till I do a separate book on Soul Prints and parenting. I was looking for some indication from the universe – should I keep in the parents stuff or take it out?
Now, I generally don’t read too many things that are not a couple of hundred years old. For me a mystical text from the 19th century is modern reading. However since I was writing a non-academic public culture book I thought I should see what was out there. My way of doing that was to buy a whole bunch of books at the airport and skim them on the flight to the States. Admittedly not a rigorous scientific process but I got the idea.
As the God of synchronicity would have it, the first book I picked up was written by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. As I always do I looked first for an Afterward or Introduction, because that is where throughout history, authors have given us a sense of who they are in a more personal way than sometimes appears in the book. Imagine my surprise when the following was in the first paragraph I read. “My Grand father had early on engaged me in the search for what is real…He was an Orthodox Rabbi…who spent much of his time studying the texts of mystical Judaism…The books of Kabbalah…” Well I was delighted, felt right at home, so I opened at random to one of the early chapters in her book.
At the time images of Jacob and Esav were still playing in my mind from that evening’s writing- so you can imagine my incredulity when I started reading the selection.
It was about a man named Max who came to Naomi at age 63 after having been diagnosed with a serious cancer. This is how she described him based on their first meeting. “His father had been a cowboy, his mother the only daughter of the town banker. He had been close to his mother. His older brother, a robust and fearless child, had been close to their mother. Their father had loved him he said, and looked away”. Of course I knew that I had not gotten to his story by accident. It is a precise modern replay of the Jacob and Esav myth.
But that is not all. Remen relates a sentence that he overheard his father say to his mother during a violent argument. “If that little runt was one of the calves I’d have put it out to starve.” Max spent the rest of his life walking on the edge brushing with death more than once because he was not quite sure he deserved to live. After all he was the little runt his father wanted dead. What Remen was able to intuitively do in their first meeting was to provoke in him a will to live. Until he was able to almost inaudibly choke out – “I want to live.” At sixty-three he was able to deal courageously with, and overcome a terribly traumatic childhood. He claimed his right to self and soul print- apparently for the first time in his life.
The details are of course different than the biblical myth. Isaac did not wish Jacob dead, However it was a good enough sign for me. For the principle validated precisely what I had written with so much trepidation that evening. Parents cannot determine our lives. They can make things pretty crazy for a long time but in the final analysis we can choose life. We can claim soul print. Even if we don’t do it until we are sixty-three. Against all odds Max lived for many more years after his initial encounter with Remen. I would venture to guess that they may have been the most important years of his life.
For the rest of us Max and Naomi are enormously important teachers. We don’t have to wait till we have cancer at sixty-three to reclaim our lived from our childhood. We can do it today. It is in our hands.
That is not to say that soul print distortion does not take place in childhood. It does as we described previously. However as we stated earlier that is not a tragic process. It happens to all of us. And that distortion is paradoxically part of what soul print needs to express itself. The way we react to the distortion is far more important then the distortion itself.
Soul print distortion of course is not limited to childhood. There is stuff we take with us – and not all of it is good – throughout our entire lives. We leave a relationship or a job and we think it is over; especially after time goes by and we are fully involved somewhere or with someone else. Yet there is baggage which still sits in the trunk of our vehicle – often heavy baggage, weighing us down and throwing us off balance along our path. “Why was I rejected?” we ask ourselves. By chunking our emotions over our shoulders, never looking back to see where it landed we often move our truer passions even deeper into the shadows. “Why did I reject it, him or her?” we ask ourselves and shove a few more passions into the backseat, developing new shells of inauthenticity – further soul print distortions – to validate what may now appear to be mistaken decisions. The stuff that is thrown into the trunk as we drive away from a person or place is the raw material of shadow.
These are the things we do behind our own backs, in the dark places our eyes won’t reach, where our shadow stretches out behind us.
Modernity teaches us the toilet bowl theory of living – you just flush the toilet, take out the trash, clean the counter tops, and all is well.
But as the environment is teaching us…you can’t just throw your left-overs over your shoulder and think that they disappear. All of that garbage goes somewhere, whether to landfills, dumps, or waterways, wherever it is it will need to be dealt with at some point, lest it poison the very soil and air from which we live.
For your life is your environment.
Environmental solutions can just as well be applied to our lives.
Make yourself a recycle bin, whether it be art or political activity, transform your garbage to something beautiful and useful. Then start to do it in your inner life as well.
I was on my way to speak in Munich Germany, I noticed a particularly striking green hill with an enormous modern aerodynamic windmill on top. It was an impressive sight so I asked my host about the hill’s significance. He told me how that hill had once been a garbage dump which city had covered with earth, planting fresh grass on top, not to mention a monument of sorts, to the modern era, a sharp aerodynamic windmill. They turned their trash into their finest terrain, a park.
Sometimes its not only about sifting through the garbage…sometimes it is advisable to gather it together and efficiently cover it all up with soil and seeds for new growth.
For your life is your environment.
The stuff we never worked out in the light festers in the darkness, often metamorphosing into insecurity, fear and anger. It moves our personae to develop armor – what the kabbalists called kelipot – the shells of protection that separate us from ourselves. It may be the armor of false self-perception, dogma or ideology. Often we are willing to kill – figuratively and literally – to prevent that armor from being pierced.
Now it is real important to remember that in our understanding of shadow often good stuff gets pushed into the shadows. Shadow is all unlived life. That may mean unexpressed primal passions or angers or it may be talent, goodness, purity, vision or any other natural born soul print quality which gets pushed into the shadows.
There is a great farmers ceremony which the ancient Israelites used to perform called the ‘confession’. After the farmer had completed his harvest and fulfilled all of his financial obligations to the community he would make a public declaration: “I have done all that you have commanded – I have done it all perfectly.” This declaration – strangely enough – is called by biblical myth master, “The confession.” It would of course seem to be the very opposite. A confession connotes having done something wrong. But the farmer is claiming to have done a fantastic job – “I’ve done it all perfectly!” he declares.
Why then would this victorious declaration be called a confession? The master Simcha Bunim explains. If I have never achieved greatness, if I have never experienced a high moment – then it is not at all easy for me to believe that I will in the future. However if I have tasted my own greatness, if I have experienced, even once, my ability to soar, then I know it’s possible. That knowledge – that I did a great job once – holds me obligated in the future. ‘I was once great’ is the greatest confession – because it means that I could be great again! Intuitively, every human being understands this to be true. So what we often do is push our moments of greatness into the shadows. The shadows of memory and the shadows of consciousness.
The Gold of Egypt is thus shadow material. Yes – on the outside we appear to be free but on the inside we are festering with anger, old patterns of manipulation, deep insecurities about our essential value as well as unlived grandeur and beauty – all primary ingredients in the shadow’s composition.
At this stage the soul print distortion is still hidden. These processes are by and large unconscious with only occasional flashes of revelation which usually go unnoticed and rapidly fade. It is only a matter of time however before the simmer of soulprint distortion erupts in one of the empty moments in our lives and causes us to make sometimes small and other times larger mistakes in our decisions and life choices. The Good news is – this is the way it is meant to be; we know that, because this is the way it is – for everyone. In the shadow is the Gold.
Raging from the Fire
3:1 ~ Where the Gold Rears its Head
Shadow Eruptions and Revealed soul print distortions: What happens to the unconscious baggage- the gold of Egypt – which we are carrying with us?
As long as all is well it remains unnoticed. In general we don’t learn much about anything from tranquility. It is in the time between times, in the space between the cracks, when all is out of kilter that we begin to understand things deeply. When something goes wrong, when our illusions of stability are punctured, the shadow comes raging out of the fire. Indeed what comes leaping out of the fire of the freed slaves is the Golden calf.
The storyline is simple. The people have left Egyptian slavery and arrived with their trusted leader Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai. They go through the incredible synesthetic ecstasy of revelation, receiving the Ten Commandments. Moses then leaves them, ascending the mountain again to receive instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the miniature temple of the desert. He promises to return by a specific date.
While he is gone they are overcome with a burning need to worship something…anything. So they take the gold earrings out of their ears, off their wrists, out of their tents, and throw it into a great fire. Within the flames, the gold forms into the shape of a calf. They raise the statue up and worship it. In a Bachanelian frenzy they circle dance around their new God, drinking and feasting.
But wait! What’s wrong with this picture? (other than the obvious) Where did the gold come from, ask all the biblical myth readers? How could slaves in the desert possess sufficient gold to be melted down into a golden calf? The answer of course is clear – this is the very gold that they took with them upon leaving Egypt. In our symbolism it is the shadow gold, the old baggage of fear, insecurity and anger left over from the trauma of the nation’s childhood in Egypt. The golden calf is no less than the unconscious non-integrated shadow rearing its head – as it always does – in a moment of fragility, when the abyss opens up beneath us, when we feel deeply vulnerable and threatened.
To understand what happened we need for a moment to understand what the slaves must have felt that day at the foot of the mountain when Moses had not yet returned.
Forty days is the key. Moses has been up the mountain for forty days and forty nights. The text reads that, “The people saw that Moses tarried in coming down the mountain…” this moves them to make the golden calf. Rashi, medieval myth reader, examines the word ‘tarried’ – boshesh – and splits the word into two: ba-shesh – meaning, ‘the sixth hour had come’. According to the people’s calculation, Moses promised to return from the mountain by the sixth hour of the fortieth day, and he is late.
They are left waiting.
The story of the Golden Calf is about the exhausting torture of waiting for someone who is late. What happens when you wait for someone important to show? What happens during that uncertain period when only time will tell whether you have been kept waiting, or whether you have been abandoned? Life in space of that sort of “maybe” can be unbearable.
Several years ago, I was going out seriously with a woman, we’ll call her Alison. We planned to meet on Friday night at the ‘Breslav’ Chasidic synagogue in Jerusalem after services. Uncharacteristically, I arrived on time. Alison was not there yet. At first, I was quite pleased with myself: I am not usually the first to arrive. But as the minutes passed, I started to feel nervous. I started to worry. The last stragglers were filing out of the synagogue, and then the doors were locked. The streets once full of people began to empty.
What could have happened? Pushing down the rising panic, I decided she must have fallen asleep for a few minutes and she would undoubtedly arrive any second. After an hour had passed, it became clear that something was seriously wrong. What could it be? Maybe some friends of hers had persuaded her I wasn’t right for her. Perhaps she’d lost interest in me or was angry with me for some reason? Maybe she was having second thoughts about our relationship? Or what if she were ill? Victim of a freak accident?
I spent the next four hours looking for Alison in a state of near hysteria. I went to her house, to her friends, and to any other place I could think of. She was nowhere to be found. The various scripts I came up with explaining her disappearance could have made me a Hollywood millionaire. At about midnight, I walked to her house for the final time. And there she was, calmly drinking tea at her kitchen table. (It turned out that there were two Breslav synagogues in Jerusalem in two different neighborhoods. Neither of us knew about the existence of the other synagogue, so when we scheduled to meet at the Breslav synagogue after services, we each had different places in mind.)
When I hadn’t shown up, she had gone to her parents’ house and calmly had Shabbat dinner. But when she didn’t show up for me, I had gone crazy. Alison had a fairly clear idea of who she was. Her parents lived a block away from her house, and she felt secure and clear about her identity. Although she loved me, she was able to live in the uncertainty of not knowing what had happened. Without me, all was not lost for Alison. I, on the other hand, was at an extremely uncertain time in life. I was after a divorce. My kids weren’t living with me. I was temporarily out of my chosen occupation. There was no family around to offer any framework of clarity. At that point, the most certain thing in my life was probably Alison. When that core certainty was shaken, it seemed like all of existence had been called into question.
Those are the times when we are most likely to build Golden calves. These are the times when our shadows flare up leading us often to express the darkest sides of ourselves. Existence had been called into question.
A soul print distortion
Let’s return to the scene at the foot of the mountain.
Moses is late coming down the mountain. This is more than a technical problem. At this point, Moses is everything for the people. They have been slaves in Egypt. After several generations of oppression, slaves risk the total loss of any internal sense of self: the master provides both security and identity. When the people of Israel leave Egypt, Moses replaces the Egyptian slave-masters as the people’s source of identity and security: Moses makes them feel safe. And so when Moses leaves them to go up the mountain, the people are afraid. But he has promised to return, and so they wait for him in trepidation until what they assume to be the appointed time.
And they wait. And they wait. But Moses does not appear. It is into this terrifying uncertainty of waiting, that in the biblical myth image, “Satan came, and confused the world.” Satan here is not a man with a pitchfork but a psychological symbol of the deep existential insecurity which the people experienced while waiting for Moses at the bottom of the mountain.
The people, unable to bear living in the bewildering uncertainty, fearing they may have lost their only anchor in the world, desperately need a replacement, even if that means the making of a Golden Calf – a false certainty. In waiting it often seems like a false certainty is better than no certainty at all. Hence, only a few short months after Sinai’s great Revelation, they build a Golden Calf.
False certainties are a primary source of shadow in the world. Whether it be in the realm of religious dogma, ideology or a false certainty about the source of my value – false certainties always arouse the shadow in us to defend them. Of course they always need defending because they are not true. “To thine own self be true” says Polonius to Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. That is to say, truth is only available in my own self – when I have owned and integrated all of my selves.
So let’s bring it together now. In the first stage shadow means the disowned self, relegated to the closets, the backseats, the shadows. At this stage the shadow is invisible and unconscious.
In the second stage, which we are now discussing, the shadow becomes visible, though not yet conscious. In the “waiting time” – which is our term for the times when the external trappings which we use to anchor our identity our torn from their moorings – the shadow becomes visible, roaring out of the fire. The idol-like image of the golden calf is the concretization of the shadow. At this point the soul print distortion of stage one is hardened, becoming a shell, a klipah, the mystic symbol of impurity. We ossify the hints of false identity into a more concrete mold in order to protect ourselves from the uncertainty.
Waiting time is a general state of identity confusion. When I jettison part of myself into the shadow I create insecurity. This is the insecurity of waiting time. Often however it is provoked by an outside event or challenge. Therefore only shadow methods can defend the legitimate attack on their authenticity.
How many times have we felt the ugly side of us emerge as we defended all too passionately a cause or position we had taken which in our gut no longer felt was true? Or in another classical waiting time – Divorce. We all know that divorce – particularly the time between the decision to get divorced and the final settlement – can be enormously ugly. Now it is true that financial issues and divorce lawyers are often less than helpful for one trying to hold inner center. However, a dynamic far deeper is in play. It is waiting time. Both partners have for a time- often a long time – used the other as an essential part of their identity formation process. The soon to be former spouse served as a Moses like figure in their lives- an anchor of security, stability and identity. When that security is undermined, before there has been time for a new identity to be formed, all of the shadow energy comes into play. We harden our negotiating positions, become inflexible, even mean, often saying things we wish we hadn’t.
Three very different images of waiting served to make clear for me the formative nature of waiting time in our search for soul print.
The first was in the person of John Mulherne- a wonderful and passionate man who was and may still be a trader on Wall Street. I met him when I was in my early twenties. I asked him like I used to ask almost everyone I met in those days- to what did he attribute the secret of his success. Without batting an eyelash he responded – “I am able to wait the extra day.” What he meant was that he was sufficiently connected to his soul print to not need the deal so badly that he couldn’t wait to close. In the extra day – new variables emerged and the special wisdom which comes from waiting always helped him to make a better decision.
The second image comes from the autobiography of Nikos Kazantzakis author of Zorba the Greek. He shares an incident in which he saw a cocoon resting in the bark of an olive tree right as the butterfly was making its a hole to emerge.
Unable to wait for the process to unfold Nikos bent over and heated the cocoon with his breath. This heating accelerated the process, causing however the butterfly to emerge too early. Its wings were sadly crumbled, still wrapped around on its weak body. Not having experienced the gradual warming of the sun, the wings were deformed and after a pathetic and desperate struggle the butterfly died in the palm of Nikos hand. He wrote in his autobiography – “that little body is the greatest weight I have on my conscience.”
We are all familiar with “that little body” in our lives.
Our emergence as individuals involves a process of patience…we must allow the sun to warm our wings. Most of who we become is determined by our ability to wait.
The third image is a story I heard when I was seventeen years old from one of my first spiritual teachers.
Old Lady Carver and her two grandchildren moved to a lazy Mississippi delta town. Every day the children would go down to the riverside and sit staring out at the rolling waters. Passers-by would call out to them, “What’re you doin?” and they would answer back, “We’re waiting for our Papa.” The townsfolk would shake their heads and with a sad smile say, “Aren’t they sweet, the poor things…” But as time went by, the townfolks’ “Isn’t that sweet” turned into “Isn’t that strange!” For many years rolled by, and though the Carver kids were starting to grow up, they never grew out of their naive faith in their father’s return. Every day they made their way down to the riverside. And come seventeen…eighteen…nineteen…they were still waiting. Old Lady Carver even past away and they were still waiting.* The townspeople, convinced that the two were mad, had given up being civil to them a long time ago. They mocked the pair to no end, chunking snide remarks and an occasional stone at them whenever they got the chance.
One Sunday afternoon a magnificent riverboat edged her way towards the little delta town. It was painted a pearly white, with colorful streamers tied to its rails. The smell of barbecue drifted out over its deck and music from its windows came dancing upon the shore. Word spread through the streets that a first-class riverboat was comin to town. The townspeople, dressed in their Sunday best, rushed to the waterside to see the sight. The mayor himself pushed through the crowd to be the first to greet the important visitors. The Carver kids, who had been sitting there all afternoon, were pushed to the side in all of the excitement.
The riverboat docked and out stepped a most distinguished gentleman. He stood scanning the crowd. He was broad of shoulder, bright of eyes, and stood as proud and tall as the mast* flag of the ship. The Mayor stepped forward to shake the man’s white-gloved hand, but the gentleman brushed right past him. The people parted before his path as he strode towards the back of the crowd. With open arms and a smile as wide as the Mississippi, the man took his children into his arms. Amidst the gawks of the crowd and the tears of his children, he exclaimed, “Thank you so much for waiting!”
We all sit at the riverside, searching the rolling waters of our lives, waiting for the fulfillment of a promise, waiting for the arrival of something wonderful…and though we may be mocked for our naivete, called mad by the masses, be frustrated by the passage of time, the wait may just be worth it in the end. If we leave our riverside seat, undermined by the waiting time, we risk losing real important dimensions of soul print.
* (Waiting for a miracle – greatful dead tune* find words) chaya
How often have we taken positions from a place of insecurity because we were unable to wait? How often have we gotten lost in a blackhole of the spirit where our light could not shine?
Serene I fold my hands and wait,/nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;/I rave
no more ‘gainst time or fate,/for lo! My own shall come to me.
-John Burroughs, waiting” 1862
Where No Stranger Shall Enter
One more sentence is necessary. Moses, during the whole Golden calf eruption, is on the mountain communing, or according to some, chatting, with the Divine. From a thematic literary perspective it must be that way. Moses cannot participate in the Golden calf. Moses is the ultimate paradigm of soul print in Biblical Myth; Moses who is called and responds to his call.
The place where Moses encounters the call of divinity, his soul print, is called in Biblical Myth – Ohel Moed. Literally translated it means the Tent of Meeting. This is the place where Moses meets himself. An even more nuanced reading of the Hebrew, however, would render it as ‘The Tent of Destiny’. The most important rule governing the sacred space of the tent is “No stranger shall enter”. The whole point of creating sacred space where I meet myself and hear the call of personal destiny is to leave my stranger behind.
By contrast, the Golden calf in biblical myth is the classic archetype of idolatry. The biblical myth readers have a wonderful term for idolatry. They call it Avoda Zarah – literally “strange work.” The deeper meaning of this ‘strange work’ is living, working and worshiping through the stranger in me. Idolatry is when I am not doing my work – I am doing the work and living the life of a stranger. I myself have become a Golden calf – an idol – estranged from my divinity – my soulprint.
To put it all together in one sentence, the Golden calf is the concrete symbol in biblical myth for our shadow qualities that rise out of the fire at pivoting points of insecurity.
Stage Three: Shadow Control
4:1 ~ Jewelry and Discipline
The Golden Calf shatters the people’s relationship with God and with their highest selves. It is a betrayal of relationship to the self and her best intuitions. It is a betrayal of trust and love.
In the ensuing story Moses functions as a sort of marriage counselor, seeking ways to heal the damaged relationship. Again Moses represents the soul-printed self; he is a bridge figure whose role it is to repair and to heal. The people regret their betrayal and seek reconciliation and forgiveness. The key gesture of their genuine desire for health and healing is when they remove their jewelry. At first glance it seems like a strange act of rapprochement. What, after all, is wrong with jewelry? A closer look of course reveals that this is the gold Jewelry they took from the spoil of Egypt.
The gold jewelry of course represents that old shadow baggage from the Egyptian trauma. It is from the same gold source as the golden calf. When they display a genuine willingness to control the shadow – symbolized by the gold jewelry – then Moses knows they may well be able to commit to love God, and most critically to love the God in themselves. Without a willingness for real discipline and control they cannot move to the next stage of shadow integration.
Indeed in stage three of the biblical myth the relation to the shadow gold is marked by discipline and control of the most difficulty kind. The first response of Moses upon seeing the golden calf is to “burn it in fire.” He melts it down, grinding it to a powder which he then casts over water and demands that the people drink.
It always reminded me of one of those terrible tasting diet foods or medicines that culture has always taught us we have to swallow if we are to be healed. In this case I think the perennial wisdom of culture is right. There is no way to grow without at some stage drinking the bitter medicine. Today one needs but open any magazine of a certain kind to find an abundance of diets, cures and healing programs which promise fast results in return for little effort. That is the bargain we are all looking for. Indeed our very definition of a bargain is that we give less value than the value of that which we are acquiring. Why do people all over the world play the lottery? It is simply the seductive thrill of bypassing the laws of the universe which require discipline before reward.
Several weeks ago I was being driven back from a lecture in a settlement near the town of Jericho. Jericho is now under the rule of the Palestinian authority and they have built a large Casino complex in the center of the town. Interestingly Palestinians are not allowed to enter the Casino other than as workers. It is directed towards Israelis. The point of course is not that the Palestinians are discriminating against their own people – rather they view the ban as protecting themselves against the seduction of the casino. The Casino itself is viewed by the Arab leadership as a wonderful money making venture with the fringe benefit of hitting the “weak underbelly of the western enemy.” But to our point…Since I am the “western enemy” I was very curious as to why people went to the Casino. So as we passed it at one in the morning and I saw that the parking area was packed to overflowing I asked the driver if he would mind stopping for a bit. After much hesitation he relented and even accompanied me. I didn’t have proper ID but some of the staff watch my television show so I was graciously received. I spent two hours there walking table to table talking to people. After the people got over the shock of seeing the ‘Rabbi from Television’ in their Casino in the middle of the night, they spoke very openly.
My question was – why are you here in the middle of the night – throwing out money on semi-fixed games? I expected the answer to be- excitement, fun, the dazzle of the casino and the like. It wasn’t. There were two overwhelming answers. The first was “to beat the system” and the second was “loneliness.” Both of those needs become intense, often out of control, at night – so they get into their cars and do the Casino thing. Now I have to be honest. If the games are run honestly, and there are spending limits so people can’t get hurt unduly then I would view the Jericho Casino as harmless. Tragically there are no limits, there are even loan shark types who hover around if you need some extra cash in the middle of a play.
What causes shadow to emerge and hide our soul print from ourselves is a deep and gaping feeling of emptiness. We feel like we are waiting for Godot and that black hole of waiting may just swallow us up. As the Yiddish proverb goes, “It is good to hope, it’s the waiting that spoils it.”
It is to avoid getting swallowed up in the apparent emptiness of waiting that our shadow appears. If we are not willing to address that core pit of emptiness, then the shadow will keep reappearing and block the Sapir, the light of our soul print.
The Casino in Jericho plays on the dark emptiness that we all feel. There is no one who does not experience dark nights of the soul. We are all creators by day- and to varying degrees creatures by night. The Jericho Casino says you can beat the system. You can skip stage three. You can light up you darkness without the pain of discipline. To be seduced by the overwhelming need to beat the system is to succumb to a metaphysical urge to laziness. And as sixteenth century Kabbalist Chaim Vital points out – laziness and depression come from the same root. The emptiness saps my strength – I need a fix – no effort, no discipline, I want the Gold for free.
Moses melts down the Gold. The people take off their gold earrings. Biblical myth affirms that before moving to step four – the stage of integration that is so vital to Biblical myth and to Jung alike – there needs to be a stage of discipline. Discipline means taking the gold earrings off and getting rid of them, at least for a time. Discipline means work, it means ethical self-control…it is a medicine hard to swallow, but crucial for our healing. Discipline suggests that first I have to control the shadow at least to some degree before I can integrate it. Stage three, discipline, is about goodness and stage four, the integration stage, is about wholeness.
Now I realize that I may sell more books without this section. Yet in the end people would correctly realize that I was lying to them. Indeed a good litmus test for whether a teacher is real and honest is wither he or she is willing to talk unabashedly about stage three – the discipline stage.
The students came to the Baal Shem and said, “Master, after you have passed away into the world of truth – how will we know which masters are true?” To which the Baal Shem responded, “Ask him if he can give you an incantation which will banish shadow thoughts at the time of Prayer.” The Baal Shem paused and the students marveled at the thought of a master who could teach them pure prayer. The Baal Shem then continued. If he tells you he has such an incantation know that he is a false master.”
The Baal Shem taught that the goal of service is Hamtaka – meaning ‘sweetening’. In this sweetening is the magic of transformation. It would not be inaccurate to say that Hamtaka for the Baal Shem is shadow integration – the stage we are about to explore. However, says the Baal Shem – hamtaka never happens by waving a magic wand or putting a quarter into the slot machine. For whoever seeks to by pass the first stage of Hachna’ah – roughly approximated as discipline – will never make it to Hamtaka, the sweetness of integration. Furthermore, suggests the Baal Shem, to attempt sweetening or integration without the discipline stage can yield great evil. ~ Do not trust the teacher who does not demand discipline.
This is vitally important because to misunderstand this path or to teach it without the requirement of stage three’s discipline can unleash or support horrible evil. Every great idea has its unique shadow. That includes the idea of shadow integration instead of repression. We can be so seduced by the final image of integration that we lose sight of the core need for goodness along the way.
At this point I need to add some words which weigh heavily on my heart. It would seem that Jung himself may have fallen prey to this shadow. It was Jung who said “I would rather be whole than Good”- a frightening and dangerous statement by any person at any time, but particularly by Jung. One is reminded of William Blake, one of my favorite poets who uttered a similar unfortunate sentence, “I would rather strangle a baby in its cradle, than not act on a passion.”
One hears similar ideas from contemporary teachers who talk about aliveness as a value beyond ethics, and repression of the life force as an ultimate sin. These contemporary teachers are for the most part students of the Jungian school and, as far as I can tell, are true to Jung…as well as enormously dangerous.
I say that as a person who has lost most of his family…murdered in Nazi Europe by those who refused to repress the ‘life force’.
Tragically Jung’s ideas must be heard together with other public pronouncements he made…pronouncements which constitute clear-cut racism. For in the years before WW II he made public statements and even Radio Broadcasts in support of Hitler and the Nazi Regime. Apparently, Hitler and his storm troopers represented to Jung the reclaiming of myth and wholeness. Because the charge is so grave I will let Jung speak for himself. It is an extensive quotation because the matter is so serious:
“The State of Psychology Today” in the journal of the German General Medical Society for Psychotherapy – A Nazi Publication* 1934
“Freud and Adler have beheld very clearly the shadow that accompanies us all. The Jews have this in common with women; being physically weaker they have to aim at the chinks in the armor of their adversary, and thanks to the technique which has been forced on them through the centuries, the Jews themselves are best protected where others are vulnerable.
…As a member of a race with a three-thousand-year-old civilization, the Jew has a wider area of psychological consciousness than we. Consequently it is in general less dangerous for the Jew to put a negative value on the unconscious. The “Aryan” unconscious, on the other hand, contains explosive forces and seeds of a future yet to be born…The still youthful Germanic peoples are fully capable of creating new cultural forms that still lie dormant in the darkness of the unconscious of every individual – seeds bursting with energy and capable of mighty expansion.
The Jew, who is something of a nomad, has never yet created a cultural form of his own and as far as we can see never will, since all his instincts and talents require a more or less civilized nation to act as host to their development.
The Jewish race as a whole – at least this is my experience – possesses an unconscious which can be compared with the “Aryan” only with reserve. Creative individuals apart, the average Jew is far too conscious and differentiated to go about pregnant with the tensions of unborn futures. The “Aryan” unconscious has a higher potential than the Jewish, that is both the advantage and disadvantage of a youthfulness not yet fully weaned from barbarism.
In my opinion it has been a grave error in medical psychology up till now to apply Jewish categories – which are not even binding on all Jews – indiscriminately to Germanic and Slavic Christendom. Because of this the most precious secret of the Germanic people – their creative and intuitive depth of soul – has been explained by a morass of banal infantilism, while my own warning voice has for decades been suspected of anti-Semitism. This suspicion emanated from Freud. He did not understand the Germanic psyche any more than did his Germanic followers. Has the formidable phenomenon of National Socialism, on which the whole world gazes with astonished eyes, taught them better?”
The first time I saw this my eyes went wet with remorse. I do not understand how he could write this way – using Nazi rhetoric of Jews as parasitic on their ‘host’ countries, as well as presenting what clearly must have been to the Nazi ear an affirmation of all of the worst beliefs of the Nazi racism which was fully public in 1934. Indeed he wrote this after being fully aware of Hitler’s announced genocidal intentions in Mein Kampf and in all of Nazi literature. He understood that the shadow is in the Gold but did not understand that the gold could only be integrated after full commitment to discipline – to taking off the jewelry of Egypt had been made. The seduction of the mythic archetypes seems to have been to much for Jung to resist at that time.
This shadow in Jungian thought seems paradoxically to have been all but ignored by much of the Jungian community – at least inasmuch as I have been able to ascertain. I would be happy to be proven wrong. I am aware of the fact that Jung is supposed to have apologized. I am not in a position to judge Jung and do not pretend to do so. I am aware that he apologized for this and other statements after the war, and I do not suspect him of actually being a Nazi during the war. I have had great love for Jung my entire adult life and have read him intimately with great intellectual and emotional attachment. I have not removed his quotes from the book. And yet Jung’s own shadow always reminds me that the shadow which does not submit to discipline can never be reclaimed and integrated without destroying the person to which it clings.
I wish to point out to all readers the potential shadow trap that lurks on this path without a commitment to some form of discipline along the way. Discipline does not mean repression – it means a fundamental commitment to the proposition that wholeness sometime needs to be sacrificed for Goodness and that only when this is realized can wholeness be obtained.
(Story shadow laughter – Shlomo discipline stage**…add)
Stage Four – Shadow Integration
5:1~ Rebirth – Renewal – Climbing Higher
All of this is still insufficient for full healing. Yes we need to take off our Egyptian earrings and to melt down the calf. But that is not enough.
Discipline and denial by themselves never create a golden person. Integrity and therefore the shimmering beauty of gold is only accomplished through integration.
The Gold Overlay:
In the fourth stage of the biblical myth, the gold
which was taken out of Egypt – (shadow formation)
which erupted as a Golden calf – (shadow manifestation)
which then melted down, as the golden earrings were removed (shadow discipline)
is now INTEGRATED into no less than the place of highest sanctity for the people.
How is it integrated? – It is used to create sacred space.
After the golden string of events described above, the text goes on to tell us of the building of the tabernacle…the portable desert sanctuary. How was the sanctuary built? In an outpour of love and generosity, all of the people bring forth their finery, their gold, in order to construct the tabernacle. It’s as if their gold just never runs out, shadow energy is virtually limitless…and it’s a good thing, because when we are finally prepared to put it to good use it’s the most precious substance we have. Indeed, for the people, the entire temple and virtually all of its vessels are made of gold.
After the golden calf story it seemed like the relationship had been shattered. It is viewed by the Kabbalistic writers sources as the lowest point in the history of the people. There is anger, fear and mistrust in the air. Discipline may have ensured that all was not totally lost – the people and God did not get divorced, but the old intimacy and trust are sorely missing. Only by going in to the shadow – exploring its root, wading through the emptiness and void and emerging on the other side – can trust and intimacy be restored.
The Gold must be recast as holy vessels. Indeed the shattered vessels, the broken hearts and broken lives are reconstituted in the golden vessels of the temple. True blessing can only come from within the shadow itself.
The Kabbalists view the story of the Golden calf as a form of adultery. The people have had an affair. Can a relationship be emotionally re-constituted after an affair? The answer is yes but only on two conditions. The first is a radical commitment to discipline (our stage three). The second is a willingness to touch the root issues, that which caused shadow manifestation. The root cause is always soul print distortion of one form of another. And soul print distortion is always somehow connected to the unlived life, the unique unlived life of one or both of the partners. Only when the process of integration begins- that is, there is a commitment to reclaim soul print – can integrity be achieved, trust and intimacy restored. The vessel of relationship can be repaired.
The difference, teach the kabbalists, is that theses re-paired vessels made from the re-collected fragments are stronger than ever before. These vessels have integrity, fashioned as they are from the integration of the shadow- the gold – into the light of soulprint.
Emily Dickinson said it like this:
The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree –
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –
Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.
It is the bravest ones who set out in the darkness, their own darkness. They may often hit trees or other obstacles along the long way, but ultimately gain sight, learning to see in a deeper way. And what, according to Dickinson, happens when one sets out into the darker regions…What is the result? An integration! Either the darkness itself alters…becoming less dark, or our way of looking, ‘something in our sight,’ adjusts itself to the dark. And despite the dark we are able to see. What’s more, life becomes a little bit straighter because of the effort.
The text has suggested a fourfold process of soul print unfolding.
1) Shadow’s Formation – First we begin the journey out of Egypt the place of our greatest pain and debasement. Inevitably we take with us the gold of Egypt – a lot of repression, aggression, anger, lost luster, insecurity, untapped potential, all pushed into the shadows – basically a lot of baggage. The soul print we bring into this world is distorted. This is not bad or tragic or insurmountable. Quite the opposite it is the ways things were meant to be. Our work is the reclamation of soul print. By reclaiming our soul print, suggest the Kabbalists we make it our in a way that it never could have been had we not been challenged.
2) Shadow Manifestation – At some point this old baggage weighs us down, trips us up, interrupting our progress and threatening our ability to continue the journey. This is the shadow gold erupting in the open, rearing its head. Just when you were trying to put on your best face, your Kamtza face, your security was threatened and your shadow face reared its head for all to see…
3) Shadow Control – At this point we have an opportunity to begin to reclaim our soulprint. First we need to jettison our old baggage, often giving up dimensions of ourselves that up till now we believed were integral to our identity. It is a stage of discipline and control.
4) Shadow Sweetening or Integration – Finally stage four requires that we reintegrate the gold hidden in the shadow into the tapestry of our soul’s unique weave. Only from the shadow can true blessing come.
6:1 ~ The Master, the River and the Highwayman
These four biblical myth stages became the foundation for a series of compellingly relevant fourth century teachings on Soul Print reclamation.
The biblical myth wisdom masters of that time had a word for the process of integrating the gold – what we call soul print reclamation. They called it Teshuva. More specifically the mystical masters who wrote the Zohar -the book of Splendor – the magnum opus of the Kabbalah – called it Higher Teshuva.
Of course if there is a higher there is also a lower. The conceptual difference between higher and lower Teshuva is enormous. It is also of vital concern to our lives. Most organized religion and western society in general has been based on Lower Teshuva. The key to personal breakthrough and expanded consciousness is to take the high road – that is Higher Teshuva.
Let’s look at two original texts together to unpack this stunning and important idea.
The first text:
Yochanan – the Master – was bathing in the river.
Reish Lakish – the bandit – leaps into the river after him.
Yochanan says to his assailant, “Your strength should be for the light.”
Reish Lakish quips back, “Your beauty should be for women.”
Yochanan responds, “I have a sister more beautiful than I
If you channel your power to the light I will introduce you to her.”
Reish Lakish agrees, eventually marries the sister, and becomes a great master.
A comic and profound teaching.
Yochanan is bathing in the river – a universal symbol for renewal and
purification. He is also in a particularly vulnerable position. Remember how it felt at camp when you would steal away to go skinny-dipping and someone took your clothes. Reish Lakish, jumps into the river, fully armed, to rob and, according to some, to rape and kill Yochanan. And you must understand, Reish Lakish is no petty thief, he is ringmaster of a band of highwaymen, a massive figure who invokes terror in the eyes of all who see him.
However, Yochanan, scholar and mystic, nude and defenseless in the river, does not respond with terror. Rather he deflects the highwayman with ironic humor.
‘Yeah, yeah, you’re pretty powerful,’ he says without flinching, ‘Sort of shame that it all goes to waste.’ Reish Lakish is taken aback! ‘Don’t you think your primal passion and beauty is wasted sitting in study,’ he blurts out to Yochanan. Responds Yochanan – ‘if you truly develop spiritually then your primal passion is not quashed- quite the contrary – it finds it’s fullest expression. Particularly in the passion and love you will experience with my sister’.
Reish Lakish believes that Teshuva – which is literally translated as return or, in the classic religious formulation, as repentance – entails the quashing of all of his primal passions and drives. Primal drives which emerge from the depths of self are the source of shadow energy. The vessel of Society was unable to contain Reish Lakish’s primal energy…so the vessel shattered. He became a criminal – for the constricting narrowness of “the rules” could not hold him.
We all have a Resh Lakish in us that we try our best to keep hidden. If we didn’t, then Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid, the Godfather and Pulp Fiction wouldn’t have become blockbuster hits whose protagonists become cultural heroes. The master of transformation and rebirth – Yoachnan – says to him from within the water – a universal symbol for raging passion as well as purification – that there is another way. Higher Teshuva. In higher Teshuva the shadow energy needs to be fully accessed in order to allow a person to reclaim their soul print which was distorted, repressed and even abused along the way.
To state in crystal clear terms Lower Return is a return to the rules.
Higher Return is a return to soul print.
In the language of one philosopher mystic, the master Abraham Kuk:
When we forget the nature of our essential soul
When we forget the importance
Of reaching into our inner self lives
All becomes confused and uncertain
The primary transformation
Which reveals the light in the darkness
Is that a person to return to himself
-To the root of his soul
And that in itself
Is to return to God
Who is the soul of all souls
All of this now allows us to look at the second passage involving Resh Lakish…and now it should make perfect sense to us. In this passage several years have gone by since his initial encounter with Yochanan and he has become a great master himself.
There was an argument in the academy.
One opinion cited Reish Lakish as saying:
“Great is the power of Teshuva for through it our intentional Zedonot – (pathologies sin, intentional shadow violations, mess ups) are considered by God to be un-intentional.”
A second opinion disagreed as to what precisely Reish Lakish said.
No, rather Reish Lakish said:
Great is the power of Teshuva
For through it our intentional mistakes become
The source of our greatest merit.”
One is by fear
The other by love.
The question at stake- did Reish Lakish teach that intentional shadow violations mistakes are counted as unintentional or are intentional violations transformed into much more – into merits!
The Solution: Resh Lakish teaches that if you are motivated by fear – such as fear of punishment or getting caught – then you will be moved to Lower Teshuva –
That is, a return to the rules. The most you can hope for in this scenario is to have your Zedonot forgiven by an act of grace.
If however you are motivated by the passion of love – by a desire, in symbolic terms, for the beautiful and erotic sister of Yoachnan- then you have the opportunity to walk the path of higher Teshuva. In this way the mistake is not forgiven but transformed into the Gold. In the shadow is the Gold. The primal soul print energy which was denied and therefore went into hiding in the shadows is now released and used for personal power and transformation.
One is the rubber-band effect.
Here the motive power is distance. The farther away you get from soul print the more the longing and yearning increase. Much like a rubberband drawn farther and farther back which, when finally released shoots forward with incredible force – denied or hidden soul print when released from the shadow into the light, is enormously powerful. Soul Print is reclaimed.
There is however a second way to understand Higher Teshuva and it is this way which lies at the heart of what we are trying to get at in this teaching.
In the path of higher Teshuva I access the core shadow energy.
This energy – rooted as it is in my most primal and essential self – is far more potent than the more staid and bland energy of the disconnected light. (When I say disconnected I mean non-integrated with shadow.)
A simple illustration makes the point. Let’s say I have something nice I want to say about a friend. I call a mutual acquaintance to tell them. Their line is busy. “Oh well,” I say to myself, “I’ll tell them tomorrow.” Now imagine one has an incredibly scandalous piece of gossip about an acquaintance of whom they are not particularly fond. One calls a mutual friend to share the gossip. The line is busy. A Person may call back ten times until they get through.
A second example. Someone needs our help. A friend. They need us to show up at a meeting or to make a call to help set something right. We may do it – however it’s so easy for so many things to get in the way. “I’ll make the call,” we say, “but it may take a few days – I’m really busy…”
Now imagine that the same call needed to be made to help, say, fire the clergyman of my church who I intensely dislike. I will make that call immediately – and although I may hide it – with no small amount of satisfaction and even relish…
The difference is simple – the second instance in both examples involves accessing shadow energy. Points out 19th century myth reader Tzadok the Priest – shadow energy is rooted in the most pristine light sources of the spirit and is thus always more powerful than the more benign desire for the good.
Kabbalist of the nineteenth century called these two kinds of Teshuva (higher and lower) Itcafya and Ithapcha. Itcafya means to bend – as in to bend to the rules – to return to the “right way.” Swallow the bitter pill and yield to a higher will or authority. While Ithapcha means to transform – in the language of the Zohar – “the bitter to the sweet.” This is the move beyond the bitter waters of melted gold which we described in stage three to the sweetness and joy of integrating the primal and powerful shadow energy. The second path allows us to reclaim the sweetness and Joy of soul print light.
Ithapcha is the way of the Dragon. It is serious business and far more that just making peace with your “dark side” as was suggested in a quote on shadow that we cited above. It is about living your unlived life which has become your dark side because you pushed it into the shadows. One of the people who really got the shadow idea was the philosopher Nietzsche. He writes in his maddening and wonderful work Thus Spake Zarathustra:
Of all the evil I deem you capable
Therefore I want the good from you
Verily I have often laughed at weaklings
Who thought themselves good because they had no claws.
Nietzsche believed that the good can never gain the upper hand unless it is infused with “the energy generated by murder.”
There is a wonderful story about the greatest murderer in Biblical myth – Moses. Now you may ask why Moses is called a murderer. True, he killed an Egyptian slave master at the beginning of Exodus (remember the Steven Spielberg movie-Prince of Egypt) but that was only to prevent him from beating a slave to death. An alleged seventh century Moses myth fills in the details.
A spy was captured outside of the Israelite camp in the desert. Who sent you asked his interrogators? “I meant no harm,” he said – “I came only to draw the face of Moses for my King. He knows the secrets of reading faces and wants to decipher the nature of your great leader.” The spy is brought before Moses who to the chagrin of the security people consents to let the spy draw him. With one condition though – the spy must return and give a full report of what his King saw in the painting. “And you must swear on the life of your king to be fully honest.” And so it was. A full year later the spy, true to his oath returns…trembling. “Tell me,” commands Moses. The spy stutters – “I am sorry – My drawing must not haven been accurate….for my King says that Moses is a Murderer.” A murmur went up from the assembled and some of Moses’s guards wanted to slay him on the spot for his insolence.
Moses stayed their hands with his quiet response. “Your king is wise…he reads truly. Indeed the rage of murder animates my inner soul.”
The gathered assembly were stunned into silence. Moses waited for the silence to say its piece and then continued. I will tell you a story to take back to your King – and, as befits him, it is a story about a King.
This King loved art and possessed the finest collection of many lands. One day he was taken with a burning desire to paint the most beautiful and virtuous man in his kingdom. His messengers went forth – the job was not easy, for there are many who are beautiful and not good or vice versa – nonetheless they found some very suitable candidates. The king chose the finest of them all and after several months the painting was completed. It was beautiful in a way that took one’s breath away and was hung in the throne room of the palace.
Several years later the king was once again struck with a burning whim- this time however it was to paint the ugliest and most wicked man in the kingdom. Again the messengers went out – again it was not easy, as many seemingly ugly people are indeed very good. But in the end they found several suitable candidates and as before the King chose one. They painted him for several months and when finished the second was horrific and magnificent all at once. The king fell in love with it and ordered it to be hung next to the first so that his ministers would see the startling contrast between good and evil.
Meanwhile the evil and ugly man who was totally unkempt with a growth of beard and hair twisted in knots asked the painter for one request – a hot bath and a barber. Of course they consented, thinking nothing of it. You can imagine the kings surprise when he found out that…both paintings were of the same man.
The tale tells us that shadow energy resides in all of us. Virtue means that I integrated the shadow energy into the my light, my Sapir.
Evil means that I deny my shadow pushing it into the shadows where it may eventually erupt and greatly distort my soul print and darken my light.
(could take this out)*
Saul in biblical myth is the first king of Israel. His monarchy began and ended with himself. The monarchy was then transferred to David and the House of David. The myth masters struggle to understand the core difference between the two kings. Saul makes a few mistakes but on the whole is depicted as a pretty decent and sincere guy. David by contrast makes huge moral blunders and comes across very often as a manipulative, power wielding personage.
The fifth century masters offer a terse epigrammatic Zen-like explanation for this discrepancy. They say, “Saul falls because he has no imperfection”. It would seem of course to be a rather strange explanation for the fall of a King. The point, I would argue, is that Saul makes no room for his own imperfection. He is not comfortable enough in himself to be imperfect.
Saul is a great case study in the in the first two stages of the process of shadow unfolding. He loses his monarchy because he never gets to the second two stages of discipline and integration.
His essential insecurity stems, according to the Book of Samuel, from a Dad who didn’t much believe in him. Saul, like all of us, desperately wanted what a good friend of mine, Peter Pitzele calls “the blessing of the father.” When he couldn’t get it he tried to remake himself in the image of his father. This takes us back to the four-walled room which mother wanted to fit us into, where the parts which weren’t allowed inside, were pushed to dark hallways and stuffed in the closets. We can never stand tall in the image of another – especially our father. So Saul, the language of Biblical myth, shrinks – he is “small in his own eyes.” This is Biblical myth’s first stage of soul print distortion…the formation of shadow.
The second stage – when shadow emerges, warping our essential being – is provoked by a waiting period. (Recall that the shadow manifestation stage with the people in the desert was the result of an inability to wait for Moses’ return.)
Saul is King. He has led the people in a successful campaign against the arch enemy of the people- the Amalekites.
His spiritual mentor, Samuel, has told him that the people should not take any spoil from the battle. It is dangerous to profit from war. After the battle Saul waits for Samuel. Like in the Golden calf story there is a confusion about times. Samuel does not arrive when Saul expects him. The people pressure Saul to allow them to take booty from the spoils of battle. In the end – with Samuel nowhere in sight – Saul succumbs to the will of the people.
Saul is meant to be the leader. Part of the essential definition of true leadership is the ability to transcend the opinion polls – to be able to wait to act until the time is right. Saul cannot wait. He is too disconnected from his own story – his soul print. Saul’s greatest problem in his desperate attempt to receive the blessings of the father is that he tries to be what he is not. He tries to be the king his father would’ve wanted him to be. He is forced to deny the unique contours of his soul which are expressed most sharply by his very imperfections. When the Biblical myth masters say that Saul made no room for his imperfection they mean to say he left no room for himself.
Tragically, Saul never completes the shadow cycle, leaving out discipline and integration. As a result, his kingship is lost.
The theme runs deeper still. In Kabbalistic consciousness a second reason that Saul loses the Kingship is that he is not connected to the temple energy that needed to unfold in the world. What in the world does that high sounding sentence mean? Simply put it means that the temple – which would be associated with the house of King David and actually built by David’s son Solomon, was an idea that Saul just did not understand. This lack of understanding on Saul’s part is actually directly related to his inability to recognize and integrate his shadow. This made Saul a King without a clear soul print, who as we saw could be to easily swayed by the Mob.
At this point perhaps a deeper look at the idea of temple energy that we have been flirting with this entire chapter is in order.
Let me try and summarize this section with, a question: What do we know about God? Really not a lot. Indeed Nachman of Bretslav writes – the highest knowing is to know that we do not know. And yet there is one piece of information about divinity which is absolutely clear in the bible. God creates – whether in six days or in six billion years is fundamentally besides the point – the attribute of God that is most clear is that God is a creative God.
In Biblical Spirituality information about God is relevant for one reason only. Information about God is information about us. We are commanded to be little Gods – to imitate God. Just as God stood at the abyss of darkness and said let there be light, so are we commanded to stand at the abyss of our darkness and say let there be light. A little bit of light dispels so much of the darkness. Further just as God is a creator – creating, sculpting painting a gorgeous physical world so to are we invited to create, to sculpt to paint and to make music.
Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Rembrandt and Michael Angelo created. And yet creativity is still viewed as suspect by much of the religious community. Art per se and Artists to be sure are suspected of being amoral at past and more probably immoral. Acting, Painting Sculptor Song are held in both high esteem and moral disdain. Why? The answer which we have already introduced in our earlier discussion emerges from an understanding of the deep linguistic and conceptual relationship between the biblical myth terms Yetzer and Yetzirah. Yetzirah means creativity – Yetzer is best translated as primal instincts, (including but not limited to libido (Freud), the drive for power (Adler, Nietche) and the need for meaning (Frankel)). In Hebrew language, which is the ultimate source of all biblical myth thought – the two – Yetzer and Yetzira are the same word, linked etymologically and conceptually. The point: I cannot create without connecting deeply to my most primal instincts.
In my earlier twenties I attended for a short time, a prestigious drama workshop in Greenwich Village in New York. When we would be preparing for a murder scene in a play, we would do exercises to help us access the murderous rage lurking untapped in the corners of our souls. I cannot create drama about murder without unlocking the murderer in myself. To create anything – and certainly, for the ultimate creation – the creation of myself, I need to be able to access the most primal passions of my being. Herein lies the attraction and the danger. My primal instincts when not integrated into my fully developed self are often not channeled properly and can potentially destroy worlds. Witness Germany- My mother who was there, told me almost every day as I was growing up, that the same people who gassed Jews in the morning, listened, with great primal passion to Mozart in the evening.
In response to this psychological reality Biblical myth spirituality taught – “who is heroic, he who is (Kovesh) conquers his Yetzer.” And if the price is also to sacrifice certain forms of creativity – so be it. Better to be moral, holy and not creative – than creative and immoral.
And yet having to choose between the primal passion of creativity and morality is far from satisfying!!
Is there another model which allows for the full depth of Yetzirah with all of the Yetzer it requires but which does not teeter on the brink of depravity. Is there a way to unleash Yetzer without it consuming us.
The answer is yes and is of absolutely critical importance in our attempt to develop a new world spirituality.
The model is Mikdash – the temple in Jerusalem. All through this chapter we have been flirting with temple energy. The temple was a place of pristine aesthetic beauty – sculptor, music, painting and almost every other form of human creativity came together to build Gods house. Indeed a careful reading of the biblical myth text – sees Bezalel – the architect/artist of the Mikdash – as parallel to God, the architect/artist of the world.
Why is creativity so central to the Mikdash period and so feared in later religion and thought?
Why were the spiritual masters at the time of Mikdash not afraid of being overwhelmed by Yetzer? In the answer to this question lies what the Kabbalists called the Secret of the Temple – and the deep understanding of holy creativity.
The Mikdash far from its popular image as a huge slaughterhouse of Animal sacrifice, is understood by the Zohar as being the seat of passion, creativity and eros. The wisdom masters teach that the innermost sanctum of the Temple called the holy of holies was the seat of two primary Yetzarim- Passions. The first was the Yetzer for idolatry and prophecy, the second the drive for Eros. The secret of the temple was that Idolatry, Eros, and Prophecy are at their core all the same!
They are all different expressions of the primary human drive to uncover the spiritual essence in every dimension of reality. They are in the words of the Kabbalists all drives to love. Love – which we discussed in our chapter in friendship- to perceive the soul print in every person and ultimately in all of reality. Here we add a new and critical component to understanding of love. Love is not only the perception of essence, of soul print. Love is also the erotic desire for that perception. Every tree, every wave of the ocean, every person and every experience is uniquely divine. Both the idolater and the prophet are in the teaching of Tzadok the priest – erotically driven to the spirit. They are unwilling to compromise and to live life on the outside. They are unwilling to leave huge arenas of their inner person unlived.
The idolater however is a more of a Jim Morrison kind of figure whose erotic drive for the holy, tragically overpowered his sense of boundaries and ethics tragically destroying him and many around him. The prophet on the other hand was someone who was able to harness the infinite beauty of his direct connection to the divine, and use it to grow, to see deeply, and for the privileged few among the prophets, to teach the generation. In the music metaphor something like Stevie Wonder – who my wife calls a “prophet” of our generation.
Post Lurianic sources teach that because the love of truth was so intense and erotic – because it was not the kind of “hobby spirituality” which we all know so well – the mikdash artists were able to engage in deep creativity (Yetzira) without being overwhelmed by Yetzer (primal instincts). The Yetzer for sexual Eros was encompassed and directed by the more powerful erotic passion for spirit and truth.
As long as our spirituality is vapid and empty we indeed need to repress Yetzer lest it overwhelm us. This however is not the way it should be.
In the biblical myth dream of the rebuilding of the Mikdash – the major issue is not to put up another building on the temple mount in Jerusalem. It is rather a universal spiritual dream of all people who dream and work towards a time when the erotic drive for truth and goodness will be so powerful that they will raise up the primal passions their highest level of erotic beauty and morality. We need to re-read the source cited above, not as Kibbush Ha Yetzer in the sense of conquering, but as Kibbush in the sense of the Hebrew word – Kibbush Yrakot, the treating of vegetables to bring put their hidden tastes and qualities; – through care and attention – we “Kovesh the Yetzer.” We transform and raise our passion into a powerful drive for the sensual and the holy – realizing that in a redeemed world they are one and the same. This secret of creativity is actually contained in the name of the person who was the artist-creator par excellence of the vessels in the temple: Bezalel. Remember our discussion in the beginning of the chapter. In Hebrew Bezalel has two meanings. The first meaning “in the shadow of God.” Like the shadow ever drawn after its source Bezalel is pulled to God. The second meaning “in the shadow is God.” Because or primal passions sometimes threaten to endanger us, engulf us or otherwise expose our lack of control and vulnerability we push them into the shadows. There they fester. Primal Passions unrealized is soul print destiny unrealized. If you remember from our earlier discussion Passion is an essential prerequisite in uncovering soul print. Un-expressed passion is life unlived. Life unlived develops a life of its own in the shadows and ultimately may become our undoing. Only by moving through the darkness of Primal instincts – by embracing Yetzer and redeeming its sparks of light in the shards of the shattered vessels can we engage in the ultimate act of creativity – the formation of an spiritual persona of integrity depth and true greatness.
Saul avoids Yetzer – he avoids his own imperfection and so he cannot create himself. He therefore loses the Kingship to David whose entire life is about integrating his primal shadow passions and uncovering the full beauty and complexity of his soul print lines.
One more point needs to be made to pull together the threads of our shadow tapestry.
What condition is Saul missing to access his soul print. He is missing father’s love!
Remember the story of Reish Lakish we studied together; where he taught that Zedonot – that is all of our intentional shadow violations – through higher return are not merely forgiven – but transformed into our greatest merits. He states only one condition for the transformation – love.
Love is unique because it allows room for imperfections even as it nurtures us in a way to transform our shadow into light.
I want to share with you a story about a modern day Reish Lakish bandit- which captures the necessary condition of love for soul print revelation in an provocative, original and beautiful way.
It is a story told by Milton Erickson. Milton Erickson tells an amazing story of a modern day Reish Lakish bandit. The story captures the necessary conditions of love for soul print revelation in a provocative original and beautiful way:
Joe, at the age of twelve, a farmer’s son and only child, had been expelled from school because of brutality and beating up the other children, his vandalism, his incorrigible behavior…and he had stabbed his father’s hogs, and calves and cows and horses with pitch forks. And he several times tried to set the barn to fire and the house afire. Well, at the age of twelve his parents took him to court, had him committed to the Industrial School for boys. At the age of fifteen the Industrial School paroled him. On the way home Joe committed some burglaries and was picked up by the police and promptly returned to the Industrial School, where he had to stay until he was twenty-one years old.
By that time his parents were dead and they disposed of their poverty leaving Joe without any inheritance. And when he was discharged at age twenty-one he was given a suit and $10 and he headed for Milwaukee…was shortly arrested for burglary and sent to the Young Men’s Reformatory in Green Bay. He served every day of that sentence – in other words, no time off for good behavior. He was released from the reformatory, he went into the town of Green Bay, and committed some more burglaries. The police picked him up and he was sent to state prison. And when he completed every day of that sentence he was released, went into the village and committed some more burglaries and was arrested by another policeman and given a second term in the state prison.
Now, during these terms in Industrial School and Reformatory he had been kept in solitary confinement most of the time from the age of twelve to twenty-one. Joe displayed such combativeness he served most of his two years at the State prison in what was called the dungeon. The dungeon, eight feet by eight feet, was totally sound and light proof. Once a day, usually at one or two a.m., a tray of food would slip quietly through a slot in the door. When they did take Joe out of the dungeon they locked him in a solitary cell. It was after years of such experiences that Joe finally returned to the village nearby Erickson’s childhood home. Erickson was about ten years old at the time and this is how he continues the story:
That day I arrived in the village it was his fourth day in town. Each of the three previous days he had spent standing beside the cash register estimating the day’s take of the merchants at three different stores. And all of them knew that Joe had broken into their store and stolen a lot of things. A man who owned a motorboat had found his motorboat was missing. And the morning I arrived, Joe was sitting on a bench under the story awning staring into the distance.
Now it happened that there was a farmer about three miles from the village. A farmer who had three hundred acre of company land. He was a very rich man, had beautiful building, and to work three hundred acres it requires a hired hand. And his daughter Susie had graduated from eighth grade, she was about five feet ten, and she could work alongside any man in the community. She could pitch hay, plow fields, help with the butchering…any task she could handle. The entire community felt bad about Susie. She was a good-looking girl, she was famous for her housekeeping, her dressmaking and for her cooking, and she was an old maid at twenty-three years. And that should not be. Everybody thought Susie was too choosy.
On that particular day when I went to the village one the errand, Susie’s father’s hired hand quit because of a death in the family and said he would not be back. And Susie’s father sent her into the village on an errand. Susie arrived, tied up the horse and buggy, came walking down the street. And Joe stood up and blocked her pathway. And Joe looked her up and down very thoroughly, quietly…and Susie with equal poise looked him up and down very thoroughly. Finally Joe said, “Can I take you to the dance next Friday?” now the village always had a weekly dance on Friday nights for all the young people. And Susie was very much in demand at those dances and she regularly drove in and attended the dance. And when Joe said, “Can I take you to the dance next Friday?” Susie said coolly, “You can if you’re a gentleman.” Joe stepped out of her way. She performed her errand, went back.
And the next morning the merchants were very glad to find boxes full of stolen goods at their front doors. And the motorboat had returned. And Joe was seen walking down the highway towards Susie’s father’s farm. Word soon got around that he had asked Susie’s father for the job of hired hand, and he was hired. And made a magnificent wage of $15 per month. He was allowed to have his meals in the kitchen with the family. And Susie’s father said, “We’ll fix a room for you in the barn.” In Wisconsin when the temperatures are down to 35 degrees below zero you really need a well-insulated room in the barn. Joe turned out to be the best hired hand that community had ever seen. Joe worked from sun up to long past sun down, seven days a week.
Joe was six feet three, a very able bodied man and, of course, Joe always walked to the village on Friday nights to attend the dance. Susie drove in to attend the dance. And much to the ire of the other young men Susie usually danced with Joe every dance. And Joe’s size made them wary of pointing out to Joe the error of his way by appropriating Susie. In just about a year the community was buzzing with gossip because Susie and Joe were seen going out Saturday evening for a drive, or ‘sparking’, as the term was used. And there was even more gossip the next day – on Sunday – Susie and Joe went to church on Sunday. And after some months of this Susie and Joe were married. And Joe moved from the barn into the house. He was still the best hired man imaginable and Joe and his father-in-law, with some aid of Susie, ran the farm. And Joe was such a good worker that when a neighbor got sick, Joe was the first one to show up to help with the chores. And they soon forgot all about Joe’s history of being an ex-convict…
Not only that, but Joe’s reputation blossomed. He was elected the president of the school board repeatedly. He was THE advocate for education in the community, and an especially strong voice urging students, Erickson included, to continue their education beyond the normal rural grade school. He made a point of going to the state reformatory to hire ex-convicts to work on his farm – over the years rehabilitating quite a number of ex-convicts. And this is in unbelievable contrast to his past. A past which painted the picture of someone beyond the reach of society.
It was the promise of a woman’s love that transformed him. In effect the very same thing that transformed Reish Lakish. Not the promise in the sense of a prize to be had for good behavior but something far deeper. It was the revelation for Joe and Reish Lakish that they were worthy of being loved. That love was a possibility for them that brought them back from the brink and allowed each of them to transform and integrate shadow- each in their own way becoming significant and powerful spiritual masters.
Erickson concludes, “All the psychotherapy Joe received was: “You can if you’re a gentleman.” He didn’t need psychoanalysis for several years…all he needed was a simple statement…’you can if you’re a gentleman’. Psychotherapy has to occur within the patient…You have to leave the problem of psychotherapy to the patient. Your patient has an experiential language all his own and it is different from yours.
a. For those of you who love physics like I do here is a brief explanation of how light emerges form darkness in the physical world of the A black hole is a mass so dense that nothing that gets close enough can escape its gravitational pull – not even light. For an ordinary object trying to escape the pull of e.g., the Sun, the closer it is to the Sun the faster it must go to escape. Now nothing travels faster than light. Imagine then having so much mass in so small a volume of space that even light cannot escape. The distance from the center of the hole beyond which light can escape is known as the “event horizon”. Now, here is the interesting twist. The “classical” theory of Black Holes is based on treating them with Einstein’s theory. But if you apply Quantum Mechanics it all changes.
There is still no good “unified theory” that totally incorporates both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, but they can be patched together somewhat. A rather astounding result is that the gravitational field near the event horizon is so great that it can cause the creation of particle/antiparticle pairs right out of the vacuum. Some of these that are just outside the event horizon recombine in a flash of light that can escape. Hence, light from darkness.
b. pages 25 to 48
c. See Phaedreo and biblical…
1. For a discussion of love as a perception identification process see our first chapter on the path of loving.
2. Both words related to our core soul print word – sapir – light.
3. The exception may be families where the children are subject to horrible abuse. Even then, however, soul print destiny precedes childhood, and can triumph over the worst childhood. Indeed, this is the most important source of hope for victims of abuse. One can draw on the primary soul print energy to move beyond ‘victim-hood’.
4. Later in our study we will see that the word ‘blessing’ itself was understood by the Kabbalists based on its Hebrew etymology – as requiring a descent into darkness. See pg…*
5. I will discuss the David archetype more fully in a different book.