THE classic struggle between hero and villain, the “good guys vs the bad guys,” is a staple of our entertainment and literary culture.
Without this persistent duality, there would never have been Hercules, Batman, Spiderman or Superman — or the Lone Ranger on his white horse Silver.
Nor would we be enjoying productions of Macbeth or Hamlet, or any of the riveting psychological dramas of Shakespeare.
Daytime television, also, would be soap-free. (Hey, can’t you leave us with something?)
Biting the Bullet
All popular myths and dramas, soapy or not, share the same fundamental structure, popularized by George Lucas in the original Star Wars saga.
The longevity of these dual forces is what Joseph Campbell explained by the “monomyth” — the journey of the archetypal hero found in mythologies from around the world — which have survived for thousands of years.
Battle of the Minds
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized his monomyth:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
The Matrix Monomyth
Shadow and Light
The immortal significance of the archetypal hero figure resides in the fact that the hero is frequently conflicted. The “enemy” is not outside, paradoxically, but lives within — and the conquering of this inner, darker self requires being ready, willing and able to summon the greatest powers of mind and heart. True Adepts, we are reminded — are made, not born.
(Related post: The Mystic Power)
The Bhagavad-Gita, a shining gem set within the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, depicts a great battle between two opposing armies. The “good guys” are represented by the immortal thinker Arjuna, Krishna’s favored disciple, who must fight off the armies of his worldly self.
Cautioning his disciple, Krishna lays out the reality of the complex engagement:
“The Self is the friend of Self and also its enemy.”
The Dark Side
“Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
Therefore there seems to be a practical, if not a moral imperative for us to bring this shadow into the light of consciousness because, as Carl Jung believed, the shadow functions
“… as a reservoir for human darkness.”
The contents of this reservoir will always avoid the light, as do all creatures secure in the comfort of anonymity. “The projection-making factor [the Shadow archetype],” says Jung,
“… then has a free hand and can realize its object — if it has one — or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power.”
These projections of ours insulate and cripple us by forming an ever thicker fog of illusion between the personal ego and the real world. The “dark side” is epitomized for us by Darth Vader, the central antagonist in George Lucas’ original Star War’s trilogy.
“His sins will raise their voices like as the jackal’s laugh and sob after the sun goes down,” warns The Voice of the Silence,
“… his thoughts become an army, and bear him off a captive slave.”
The idiom “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” is not so much a device of the dark side, as wise advice to avoid restarting old conflicts — of identifying with and embodying them again. If that metaphorical dog is just laying there asleep, leave him be. Don’t go messing with him or he might wake up and bite you.
“One single thought about the past that thou hast left behind,” says the Voice of the Silence, “will drag thee down and thou wilt have to start the climb anew.”
“Kill in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or thou art lost.”
Own Up to Your Thoughts
All this seems paradoxical. How can we begin the process of making our dark side more conscious — collecting and washing our soiled laundry — if we can’t look back? Biologist Bruce Lipton’s explains in practical terms how we might begin approaching those sleeping dogs. Borrowed from What We Believe, we replay it here.
The counsel of ancient scriptures is also available to assist us.
“Concentration, or Yoga, is the hindering of the modifications of the thinking principle,” wrote the wise adept Patanjali, the first principle inscribed in his Aphorisms. He was teaching the system of Raja Yoga, strategies for controlling our unconscious thought field.
Inside the cave
In Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” Socrates begins by describing a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood. Not only are their arms and legs held in place but their heads are bound facing a wall, where they can only see reflected shadows — illusions they must take for reality.
This is a gradual process of self-realization, explains W. Q. Judge, learning “to distinguish between the ‘I’ and the ‘not-I.'” (The Subjective and the Objective: A Lesson from the Cave of Plato – Republic, Book 1). All the great masters offered insights on this perplexity. Buddha began his Dhammapada teaching
“.. all that we are is the result of what we have thought.”
Similarly, The Voice of the Silence, wrote B. P. Wadia, begins by advising disciples that “the mind is the slayer of the real, let the disciple slay the slayer.”
The Mundaka Upanishad teaches that errors, like hairs on the Monk’s head, are removed by means of using a “shaving” process to remove old repetitive errors of thought one by one. The First Mundaka is the beginning of the process for removing error, writes W. Q. Judge in the Path Magazine.
A Stupid State?
“There are some skeptical persons who may think that when the mind is not moved by many thoughts, it will be in a stupid state,” writes Lama Khenchen Rinpoche in Everyday Consciousness and Primordial Awareness.
“But stupidity does not arise just because the mind relaxes a little. On the contrary, the mind usually thinks too much. We are used to thinking uninterruptedly and continuously. If we look at these thoughts more closely, however, we discover that we seldom think meaningfully at all, and that most of our thinking is rather senseless.”
“Such senseless thinking happens frequently and repeats itself over and over. In this way our many endlessly occurring thoughts are continuously going around and around in circles.”
“If we are able to decrease this senseless thinking, meaningful thoughts will naturally increase all by themselves. And this is exactly the reason for the meditation on calm abiding: when the mind relaxes, senseless thinking will effortlessly diminish.”
Eckhart Tolle: The Tao Te Ching
“What grace to see that the very thing that looked so heavy in the world of form, the very thing that seemed to be limiting me on all sides, that very thing is the doorway into the formless and into who I am beyond form. What grace to see that ultimately they are one. Form is emptiness — emptiness is form. They are one.” -Eckhart Tolle
The Ultimate Goal: Harmony with the Tao
The goal for Wu Wei is to get out of your own way, so to speak. This is like when you are playing an instrument and if you start thinking about playing the instrument, then you will get in your own way and interfere with your own playing.
It is aimless action, because if there was a goal that you need to aim at and hit, then you will develop anxiety about this goal.
Zhuangzi made a point of this, where he writes about an archer who at first didn’t have anything to aim at. When there was nothing to aim at, the archer was happy and content with his being. He was practicing Wu Wei. But, then he set up a target and “got in his own way.”
He was going against the Tao and the natural course of things by having to hit that goal.
Taoist philosophy recognizes that the Universe already works harmoniously according to its own ways; as a person exerts their will against or upon the world they disrupt the harmony that already exists. This is not to say that a person should not exert agency and will. Rather, it is how one acts in relation to the natural processes already extant. The how, the Tao of intention and motivation, that is key.
Eckhart Tolle: Not Reacting to Content
Tao Te Ching, Ch. II, translated by Priya Hemenway
The Sage is occupied with the unspoken
and acts without effort.
Teaching without verbosity,
producing without possessing,
creating without regard to result,
the Sage has nothing to lose.
Eckhart Tolle: Transformation
Consciousness is Not an Object
“… only an object can be subdivided, and consciousness is not an object. We are not entitled to superimpose upon it the limitations of an object. If we do so, it becomes a mind, which exists only as a concept, as an assumption, but is not found in our direct experience.
“The problem is that we can visualize only objects, and that any attempt to visualize consciousness is doomed to failure. We have to understand this fully: unfortunately, we cannot visualize consciousness, because it is not a specific object —
“… thank’s God we don’t have to, for we are it. Don’t try to think the Unthinkable. Just be it.” –Francis Lucille
The Next Great Frontier
The Mystery of Consciousness, from both scientific and mystical perspectives. Selections from Peter Russell’s DVD, From Science to God.
People who meditate show signs they are surprisingly alert, the first study of its kind has found.
Report ABC News: Here
The Way of the Heart
“Search for the Paths. But, O Disciple, be of clean heart before thou startest on thy journey. Before thou takest thy first step learn to discern the real from the false, the ever-fleeting from the everlasting. Learn above all to separate Head-learning from Soul-Wisdom, the ‘Eye’ from the ‘Heart’ doctrine.”