Practical Shadow Work: A Quranic Prescription

In the world of creation, everything is created in pair, Everything has an opposite, everything has a contrasting other. Only God is without opposite, without comparison, without contrast. Other than God, everything that God created, is created with dualistic nature.

So is that which is CONSCIOUS - and it comes with its opposite pair, the UNCONSCIOUS.

The shadow, a term originally coined by Carl Jung, is the unconscious.  It is all of those things we don’t know about ourselves. In Jungian psychology, the "shadow", "shadow aspect/archetype" may refer to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself, or the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. In short, the shadow is the "dark side". Dark not necessarily as evil, but dark as in hidden because of lack light of awareness. According to Jungian analyst Aniela Jaffe, the shadow is the ‘‘sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life’’

The shadow can be either positive or negative. For instance, a positive shadow in an individual with low self-esteem or anxiety may be unaware of their self-worth and their capabilities. A negative shadow may be described as someone who identifies themselves as being calm and collective but expresses passive-aggressive behaviour or is suppressing their anger.

Contrary to a Freudian definition of shadow, the Jungian shadow can include everything outside the light of consciousness and may be positive or negative. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is."

In order to live our soul's purpose which is to align ourselves to our original Divine Nature, to become wholesome as God is Whole, there is a great need to become more conscious of that which is unconscious.

Stephen Diamond, Ph.D., a clinical and forensic psychologist in Los Angeles, says, "Coming to terms with the shadow and constructively accepting and assimilating it into the conscious personality is central to the process of Jungian analysis." In psychology, to become aware of our shadow and to integrate or embody them in our conscious life is referred as Shadow Work. Thus towards the journey of become a complete human being, becoming aware of our shadow, bringing them to our consciousness and to transcend them is an indispensable function. If we don't do it consciously, we might be forced to become aware of them with heavy price and suffering. Thus it is obviously better to do it willingly and consciously.

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." ~ Carl Jung

As I was studying the Qur'an which I believe to be Revealed Words of God in the similar fashion as Torah was revealed to Moses and Gospel to Jesus, Quran confirms and validate the previous Scriptures. In studying of the Quran, a particular statement caught my attention. It seemed to be a very practical practice of shadow work, doable by everyone and anyone. It doesn't need expensive and time demanding appointments with psychologists or psychotherapists. And it is something that is prescribed and practised in almost all faith traditions - and known as night vigil and a particular practice with it.

Here is the part of the Qur'an as translated in plain English:

Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire - of opposite sex and children, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but God has with Him the finest goals. 
Say, "Shall I inform you of [something] better than that? 
For those who are in awe of God will be gardens in the presence of their Lord beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and purified partners and approval from God. And God is Seeing of [His] servants - those who say, "Our Lord, indeed we have believed, so forgive us our shortcomings and protect us from the punishment of the fire," 
The patient, the sincere, the devout, the charitable, and those who seek forgiveness before dawn- The Quran, Chapter 3: 14-17

The context of this particular section talks, first about general desires and natural attachment of human beings, then it goes on to remind that such attachments which are naturally attractive to people are temporal, and what is with God in the afterlife is more enduring and finest.

In the afterlife, in the presence of God, eternal abode of man is waiting along with the approval from God.

Then it goes on to teach a particular prayer which has to do with becoming conscious of our shortcomings / sins / our behaviour stemming from our unconscious shadow self.

And finally it says, such people have certain characteristics such as: they are patient, sincere / truthful, devout / obedient to God, charitable / generous and they should have a particular practice - which is that they seek forgiveness to God at the last hours of the night or before dawn. Its important to note that some of these characteristics is about being, while others are about doing.

How this is Practical Shadow Work?

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

- Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion (1938)

Facing one’s Shadow involves the conscious process of acknowledging, accepting, letting go and healing one’s very own hidden aspects as they arise.

Seeking forgiveness to God presupposes that we are already becoming conscious of our shortcomings. This is the first part of the shadow work. We can only ask for forgiveness, inherent in this is the fact that before doing that we must become aware of that for which forgiveness need to be sought.

And since mostly by default we are either blaming others and / or we stay in victim mode. This way we see the problem in others, but very neglectful in turning to ourselves. The practice of night vigil before dawn or towards the late part of the night help us become conscious of our shortcomings (zunub in arabic, sins or falling short or wrong actions in english) and this is the foundational work of shadow work, i.e. become aware of the deeper places from where our wrong actions come forth, the mistakes are committed. To discover the why of our doings that doesnt make us proud, something which we don't want to repeat if given a second chance and definitely don't want to be ashamed with in front of God on the Day of Judgment.

If we analyze the prayer we find that it has 3 parts:

Rabbana innana amanna - Our Lord, indeed we have believed

Faghfirlana zunubana - therefore, forgive our sins

wakina azaban nar - and save us from the punishment of fire.

The last part of punishment of fire generally understood as the punishment of hell, which can also mean general suffering. When we are not aware of our shadow, such as guilt, shame, blame - it is also a recurring source of suffering, hence azab an-nar. And punishment of fire is the archetype of suffering.

From Nar (Fire) to Nur (Light)

Then through asking forgiveness before dawn, one projects light, nur in arabic. So instead of nar (fire), one illuminates one's unconscious. By asking forgiveness, we also psychologically prepare ourselves to forgive ourselves first. It makes us more open to forgive our own wrong doings coming from our shadow and opens us up for divine illumination of ultimate forgiveness.

In the realm of God's vast forgiveness, nothing remains as unacceptable. Thus by asking forgiveness to God, we are opening the possibility of making even the most unacceptable part of ourselves acceptable, for some of God's Attribute and Name are at-Tawwab, the One Who Accepts, al-Mujib, the One Who Responds, al-Ghafir, the One Who Forgives.

The assimilation of the shadow, leads to self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Hence asking forgiveness having its connection to acceptance and forgiveness is significant in the process of shadow work.

This is the practical shadow work - to summarise, you become conscious of your shadow at the deep dark hours of the nights and seek forgiveness to the One Who Forgives, and then go on focusing light (become conscious) on the shadow within at the early hours of dawn through asking forgiveness for them. Many illuminated souls thus at the end of the day, at night used to contemplate on the day and any mistakes they might have made in their day to day transactions. This way they became conscious of the self's wrong doings and then in early dawn they used to pray for forgiveness, and renew a new day with resolve to become a better person, a better version of their selves. This if done consistently it is guaranteed to produce a superior human being who is aware, awake and wholly integrated.

This is the Quranic prescription of shadow work of the psyche or the self (nafs).



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Technology of the Heart: Practical Shadow Work: A Quranic Prescription
Practical Shadow Work: A Quranic Prescription
You become conscious of your shadow at the deep dark hours of the nights and seek forgiveness to the One Who Forgives, and then go on focusing light (become conscious) on the shadow within at the early hours of dawn.
Technology of the Heart
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