“The dread and resistance which every natural human being experiences when it comes to delving too deeply into himself is, at bottom, the fear of the journey to Hades.” — Carl Jung
IN-SHADOW was written, directed, and produced by Lubomir Arsov and, before you read any further, go ahead and watch it first. It’s only 13 minutes, and you can catch it here.
The subtitle to IN-SHADOW is “A Modern Odyssey.” On its homepage, it further elucidates this point, “dare to embark on a visionary journey through the fragmented unconscious of the West.” So it is about the West, or more acutely, techno-capitalist, consumerist, hyper-mediated media machine that engulfs our world.
Western culture is bereft of the initiatory vision quests. The ritualistic encounters with numinous, powerful realities that rocket us into contact with the Other, with sublimity, forging our souls in the fires of transformation. Giving us purpose. Opening our hearts.
But, as Jiddu Krishnmurti famously wrote, “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Perhaps that best explains IN-SHADOW better than anything I could do here.
Carl Jung famously described the shadow as the aspect of ourselves that remains unintegrated. The parts of ourselves that we’d rather not address, and seated in the murky and dimly lit waters of the unconscious. So it was up to the initiate, in traditional societies—and as a kind of archetype of personal transformation—to descend into the underworld, integrate the shadow, and move forward in wholeness. To become holy. The Greek world for this descent is “katabasis,” and you can see it happening in many archetypal lore (Luke’s descent into the Cave and confrontation with Vader-as-himself on Dagoba, for example). IN-SHADOW acts as a kind of mediated descent into the underworld, literally in-shadow, revealing all the profoundly dark structures of power, illusion, emptiness (not the Buddhist kind), and counter-initiatory violence on ourselves. At its darkest, in-shadow, the world we’ve built works to belittle and demean our spiritual nature.
The film opens with strange priests hoisting up red, translucent red squares that constrain individuals true self-expression—the “Black Iron Prison” of Philip K. Dick and the gnostics, perhaps? Depressed people put on masks with fake smiling faces. Talk show hosts regurgitate the black smog of politicians and bankers. Pharmaceutical companies blast people with pills, while their doctors serve as arbiters and priestcraft of newspeak. Fragmented animal body parts imply the vast underworld of horror and suffering at the other end of our chicken dinners and cheeseburgers. Drug laundering is pushed on us by the same government that outlaws it. The left and the right are pitted against each other by the same powers-that-be.
IN-SHADOW hits every beat of hypocrisy that the West has built up to shape the modern world. You feel a bit gloomy by the end, but seems to be intentional, and that’s also why I appreciate how the film decides to wrap up: the purge (very reminiscent, perhaps intentionally so, of Ayhausca’s la purge).
A politician spews the black sludge out from his gut. The light rips through the artifice, the red archon cubes of power dissipate. People become bodies of light, transformed by the alchemical flames, awakened through the heart, and open their eye of illumination—the eye of the Buddha—implying that to go through the underworld and to see all of our shadow is to awaken. Despite great suffering, there is greater realization. Darkness rendered unto light.
GLOBALIZATION IN SHADOW TO PLANETARY INITIATION
IN-SHADOW invites the viewer to participate in a mediated initiatic journey—it is an odyssey, after all—and go through some of this process themselves.
This process of descent into the underworld is necessary for the next phase of human civilization. Jung writes on the shadow:
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore,. as a rule, meets with considerable resistance. Indeed, self-knowledge as a psychotherapeutic measure frequently requires much painstaking work extending over a long period. (From Aion: Phenomenology of the Self published in The Portable Jung, edited by Joseph Campbell, Penguin Books, 1976, p. 145.)
In order to initiate our species — and thereby our global civilization — into some higher planetary and awakened state is a daunting task that requires all of the shadows to be rendered to light. All boundaries diffused into transparency—looking glasses into the churning underworld.
But, it is perhaps also important to recognize that underworld has its own life.
The shadow, the sidereal realm of night and dream, has its own language. Its own formulations of world and reality. Archetypal psychologist James Hillman reminds us of this when he writes, “it is a consciousness that stands on its own legs only when we have put our day world notions to sleep.” So we must remind ourselves that this journey into the dark has its own merits… It must be revisited, again and again, at different moments in our lives. When we render the darkness transparent, it will have a more helpful place in us. As Jung so often pointed out, the dark and the light together help us to individuate. To become whole. To realize the self.
With the eye of the Buddha — the Bodhi, the awake one — at the end of the film, we should remember that Buddha consciousness sees through the dark and light and renders the world transparent (turiya). This kind of consciousness, capable of profound light and the utter depths of shadow, wakefulness and dreaming, is the lotus of consciousness finding its home amidst the trials and tribulations (the mud) of an awakening planetary human species.
May this be true in us now. May it bloom tomorrow.