Descending into one’s own shadow is initially only unpleasant, and the results are not funny at all, but it has a great advantage: the more you know your badness, the more you can protect yourself from that of others. The evil within us recognizes evil outside. If I remain naive, I fall victim to that of others … the idealistic fool who lets himself be cheated by everyone can be helped not with pity, but by leading him to his inner shadow.
Marie-Louise von Franz, The female in the fairy tale, 1979
The good and the bad, the shadow and the light. What is right and what is wrong. How to define these values? Which coordinates to follow? Which codes to refer to? It seems impossible to find a satisfactory answer in a general sense, the task too difficult, infinite readings that intertwine in the cultures and stories of the world. The reasoning for ideas and concepts, in this case, would lead to inextricable conflicts and inevitable divisions.
One could rather use imagination. I wake up at dawn in an apartment on the top floor of a skyscraper. I could be in one of the many metropolises on planet earth, maybe in London. I open the curtains of the large window, the very first light of morning enters the city, the light and dark mix, we are on the border between night and day, it is a matter of shades and points of view. I take a sip of water and activate my gaze, a gaze without judgment, as neutral as possible. I see the Thames, the Clock Tower, Westminster, Hyde Park, houses, skyscrapers, squares, streets, cars, buses, street lamps.
From up here, I struggle to see people, but I guess. What could have happened in the dark, deep and abysmal night? What truths, what mysteries? Everything is the opposite of everything. Loves, sex, violence, pains, joys, passions, anxieties, dances, songs, silences, alcohol, drugs, deaths, births, diseases, healings, disappointments, desperations, happiness, shady deals, prayers, accidents, meetings, perditions, redemptions, desires, fears, dreams, nightmares, magic. All these things, facts, situations, experiences, and events happened together, perhaps not at the same instant but certainly in a rather short time. This, perhaps, could mean that the dividing line between good and evil is very thin, very thin, almost invisible, tending to disappear. What is good is confused with what is bad, right and wrong are interchangeable. Such a speech can be valid especially when we look within ourselves, suspending the judgment, without saying anything to us. We can think of our interiority and our soul as a large city and night theater, where different emotions and situations emerge from time to time.
Sometimes the various characters that populate our psyche coexist peacefully with each other, other times they clash fiercely and warlike, giving rise to real conflicts that can tear and devastate our soul. And this is where I would dwell for a moment. I wonder if the conflict and the clash, many times, do not arise precisely because of the preconceived idea that we have made ourselves, especially mentally, of good and evil. If sadness appears on our inner stage, we immediately define it as ugly and wrong, we try to drive it away, instead of welcoming it we immediately oppose it with logical and rational happiness, so inevitably conflict comes. The same goes for anger, resentment, fear, jealousy, intolerance, envy, hatred and so on. A whole range of moods is considered ugly, dirty and bad. It would perhaps be more effective to try to suspend the judgment and to give, precisely, the right of citizenship to all emotions, to let them freely enter and leave our soul. Just as in the outer city many things happen at once, pleasant and unpleasant, the same happens in the inner city. Understanding this energetic dynamic, this multipolarity of the soul means becoming less conformist and moralistic. Less moralistic because if we give up judging ourselves, we will inevitably tend to be less severe with others too.
As for conformism, however, we will avoid thinking in an approved and unilateral way, our opinions and our views of the world will be less peremptory and authoritarian, they will be rather subtle and light. Life, exterior and interior, simply flows and in this flow alternate shadow and light. It is necessary to welcome them both, without assuming artificial and pre-packaged attitudes of value, we must take note of them and evaluate each time what to do, without referring to static and definitive ideas, and in doing so we will also be able to encounter the true freedom that as Krishnamurti says is always freedom from the known.