This post is a little bit cerebral, so bear with me, my darlings. Today I am writing about the philosophical “Light” and “Dark.” It’s a somewhat difficult topic to go over because there’s nothing tangible about the Light and the Dark, and as such, they are hard to define.
There are four definitions I can pin down of Light and Dark. The easiest are the scientific ones. Light is simply energy by which we see, and darkness is the lack thereof. That’s simple to comprehend, but when we apply the concepts as a metaphor, things get a little muddled.
Light and Dark (more commonly referred to as Shadow) are concepts which belong to Jungian psychology, which I have written about on this blog before. I am, of course, talking about Jungian shadow integration – Dark being a close enough word to shadow that it works here. Light is the side of ourselves that we present to the public – our conscious selves – and Dark/shadow is what we hide – often considered the subconscious, but not necessarily. For example, for a gay person who has not come out to anybody, their sexual orientation would be a part of their shadow, whether they are aware of their preferences or not. People who do not understand Jungian psychology might consider their shadow the bad parts of themselves and the light as the good parts, but that is not true either. Being gay isn’t a bad thing, but certain traumas, remembered or otherwise, would push that aspect of themselves to their shadow.
Jungian psychology is often utilized in witchcraft, particularly practitioners following what is called the left-hand path in the occult. Both the right-hand path and the left-hand path are represented by Light and Dark. Light represents the right-hand path, and Dark represents the left-hand path. The difference between the two, according to Stephen F. Flowers, is how the subjective universe interacts with the objective universe. For those unfamiliar with these terms, the subjective universe describes the self, and the objective universe describes the observable laws of nature and/or God. Those who follow the right-hand path strive to identify and submit to those laws. Not so much with the followers of the left-hand path. We embrace the independence of the subjective from the objective. Neither path is inherently good or evil, though the left-hand path is often maligned, likely due to the association with the Dark.
The last definitions of “Light” and “Dark” are “Good” and “Evil.” These concepts are familiar to everybody, but if you ask somebody on the street for a definition, they will often be hard-pressed to offer a clear one. This is because most people have their own definition of good and evil. A Christian might tell you that “Good” is anything that follows God’s plan, and “Evil” is anything that goes against God’s plan. Even that definition will vary among Christians because there is such division in thought over what their God’s plan even is and whether it can be determined by mere mortal brains. No one person’s definitions of “Good” and “Evil” is going to be the same.
My definition of “Good” is an action, thought, or belief that either directly or indirectly creates a positive experience for oneself or another person; my definition of “Evil” is an action, thought, or belief that directly or indirectly causes harm to oneself or another person. Even then, as clearly as I’ve been able to define these concepts for myself, not everything is cut and dry. What creates a positive experience for one person can harm another. A negative experience can lead to a positive one, and vice versa. Gray areas are more common than many people who like to put such labels on things like to think.
When asked whether I am of the Light or the Dark, my response is usually Dark, but that isn’t necessarily true. I do both good and evil (as do we all), and my Jungian light and shadow are fairly well integrated. I am firmly on the left-hand path, so I suppose there is a grain of truth, but I think it is more accurate to say I am of Shadow. Shadow describes something the Light does not entirely illuminate but isn’t completely enshrouded in darkness. My brand of Shadow might be a little darker than others’, but it is where I am most comfortable and where I flourish.